I've had a vast number of strange coincidences popping up over the last few days, but I thought this was interesting enough to share. I was reading an old interview with Russell Haswell this morning, whose Second Live Salvage I've been enjoying recently. I did a double take when it mentioned that he grew up in Coventry, going to the Coventry School of Art in the late 80s (now part of Coventry University under the rubric of the School of Art and Design) - and that, moreover, his interest in the artists who worked there in the late 60s, and formed the Art & Language movement, was a major catalyst in his approach to music-making.
Strangely, I had no idea about this connection, which wouldn't in itself be odd, except for certain facts. When I was trying to decide where to go to university, I was sorely tempted to go to Leeds, mainly because of the historical kudos attached to the place: the miners' unions, the anarchist and Maoist groups who had such a powerful presence on campus in the 70s, the psychogeography of an industrial city, and the post-punk groups who emerged from the city Polytechnic's art department - The Mekons, Delta 5, Gang of Four, the latter of whom were associated with (you guessed it) the Leeds branch of Art & Language. And, just this weekend, I found myself suggesting Gang of Four to a friend as a bulwark against the evils of Valentine's Day. I've wandered past the School of Art and Design in Coventry city centre a couple of times - it's set slightly to the east of the main campus, close to Gosford Street, an area of major Socialist Party support, and home to Gosford Books, the only secondhand bookshop in the city, and the Cats Protection League shop, probably the best charity shop. Across the street from the main building (complete with some public art which, I believe, is the work of my former poetry tutor, David Morley) is an old cinema redone as the 'Ellen Terry Arts and Media Building' (in a font exactly recalling that of the London Underground). Just down the street is the 'William Morris Business Centre' (another person who figures largely in the book), and I'm sure there was a 'John Ruskin Building' a bit further on.
Another point of interest to Leeds was, of course, the proximity of Sheffield, and the legacy of bleep 'n' bass, jungle, acid house and dub (the SubDub nights at Leeds' West Indian Centre still include soundsystem clashes; the same venue was the home of the first DMZ events). Then, I read this in the Haswell interview: 'Haswell's evolving musical appetites through the 90s set him off in pursuit of various kinds of hardcore sonic intensity, from extreme Metal to techno. "When I was 20 I was going to see Confessor or some other Earache band in Birmingham, and the same night going to see Altern8 in Coventry"'. As far as I know, bands of that nature and calibre rarely appear in Birmingham these days - the last band I went to see in Brum was Wolves In The Throne Room, and that was some weeks ago - and nothing of that kind ever happens any more in Coventry. The closest thing Cov has to a music scene that I know of revolves around The Tin Angel and Taylor John's House, who import some very good musicians, but almost all of the decidedly small-scale variety; the closest thing I've ever seen to LFO in Cov was Justin Mitchell's Satori. One of my initial regrets about coming to Warwick was knowing that I was going to live in a place where nothing had ever happened, or would happen (as opposed to the thriving music community of Leeds.) As it is, it turns I've arrived at the motherlode after all - only years after it all disappeared.