Teamwork is opposed to art

For the artist, who does not deal in surfaces, the rejection of friendship is not only reasonable, but a necessity. Because the only possible spiritual development is in the sense of depth. The artistic tendency is not expansive, but a contraction. And art is the apotheosis of solitude.”

Samuel Beckett.

Years ago, I started a band in London.   It lasted about 6 months.  We wrote a couple of songs, and even got as far as recording a demo in a studio.

The other people I recruited were decent people. Socially, I got on well with them. One of them, the guitarist, was musically very talented, in a technical sense.

But we had no shared musical vision. 

We all loved music, but we all wanted to do different things.

Sure, we could have cooperated, and did something to accommodate everyone.

But I realised that I didn’t want that.

I’m pretty relaxed about most things, but not about art.

For instance, I could not under any circumstances jointly write a book with someone.  Their stale prose would cause me an almost physical pain.  Even their dewy prose would fill me with gloom, anxiety, and hatred. 

At the risk of sounding like a total prick, when it comes to words on a page, it’d have to be my way or the highway. 

And it’s pretty similar with music. 

Unless I had met a few clones of myself, with a very similar vision, it’d have been nothing but compromise or conflict.

One obvious solution is just to hire session musicians as necessary.  They’re usually talented, and can turn their hand to any style.

However, their positives – talent and experience – are also negatives.  They’re good.  They can’t help but sound polished.

And if your oeuvre prioritises rawness, and wishes to dislocate and to unsettle, then proficiency’s comforting effect is a problem. It causes complacency.

Which was why the late Mark E. Smith of The Fall continually hired inexperienced musicians and kicked them onstage with minimal training.  He wanted that rawness, that panic, that sense of imminent breakdown.  As soon as they became too proficient, something primal was lost.  Hence Mark’s infamous attempts to fuck things up, by e.g., starting fist fights with band members, and seeking to unsettle them by messing about with their amps and instruments onstage etc. 

There was a method to the seeming madness.

Smithy had a singular artistic goal, and he’d stop at nothing to achieve it. 

This week, I see that Smith’s family have fallen out with the House of All, a musical collective of Fall survivors.  Some serious Fall stalwarts in it, especially bassist Paul Hanley – seen here to great effect on “2 x 4”:

There’s something nostalgic about the row.  It’s what Smith would have done, expect he’d of course have been a lot less tactful.

Listen, kudos to the ex-members, all of who were responsible for some of the defining sounds of my formative years, and I’ll give it a listen for old time’s sake. 

I don’t doubt for a moment that they’re a great bunch, and a damn sight better company than the frequently appalling Smith. 

But my gut instinct is that, as far as serious art is concerned, something started on such a warm-hearted and inclusive basis is fucked from the start.

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