Saturday, 4 February 2023

The Howling in ‘The Clown House’ @ the Horse Hospital







On Thursday 9 February at London’s most prestigious arts venue, The Horse Hospital in Bloomsbury, The Howling are pleased to present their first new work of 2023. 

 

The Clown House is our latest performance for spoken word and reel-to-reel tape – and Howlround and I are delighted to be sharing the evening with the fabulous Tears | O V. Together we are presenting a bill of clown-based horror and absurdity to celebrate the Horse Hospital’s latest exhibition ‘Drole’, a selection of mind-blowing archive material and curios torn from the history of clowning.

 

I have always, like any sane person, looked upon clowns with a mixture of fear and loathing. They always think they’re so goddamn funny, for a start. However, working with material or themes with which you have no natural connection can often be extremely productive. 

 

Hence, The Clown House, our latest performance, which reveals all you need to know about The Clown Inside – a neurodivergent condition with which I have been feeling a growing sympathy.

 

The Clown Inside is always crying. The Clown Inside isn’t there for your amusement. The Clown Inside keeps you in your place. The Clown inside wants to be your friend.

The Clown inside is always angry. 

 

The Clown Inside knows how to bear a grudge. The Clown Inside knows what you did. The Clown Inside remembers everything.

 

Combining media samples, field recordings, spoken word and analogue tape effects, Howlround and I take you inside the Clown House, letting you to hear everything that’s going on in there – everything the Clown Inside hears and sees.

 

The Howling is a collaborative project started I started with sound artist Howlround devoted exclusively to our shared love of text, audiotape and trash aesthetics. Our debut album All Hail Mega Force, released by Tapeworm in the summer of 2022, was described by The Wire as a ‘mesmeric disorientation.’ And who are we to argue?

 

The Howling + 

Tears | O V

Thursday 9 February

7.00 pm to 11.00pm

The Horse Hospital

Colonnade

Bloomsbury

London WC1N 1JD

For tickets and more details click here.

 

Pictured above

KH and Howlround at the BFI, photographed by @lahollings

HH at the HH

Grilled Cheese 30 seconds

HH at the HH

Clown Graphics by Tears | O V

 

 

 

Sunday, 15 January 2023

‘As Above, So Below’: Literature, Divination and Lisa Marie Presley









I cannot remember the exact sequence of events that led up to it, but I had been invited by Mar A Rodrigues, who runs a podcast series out of Portugal called ‘As Above, So Below’, to be interviewed by her for a new episode. MAR had approached me because she wanted to talk about my book The Space Oracle, which had inspired her to create the podcast series in the first place. We were finally able to meet online and talk on the morning of Wednesday January 11, and it turned out to be an absolute pleasure. Lisa Marie Presley hadn’t been part of the story at that point.

 

MAR and I discussed literature and the divinatory arts, history and science fiction, plus some of my earliest memories of space, astrology and magic. Other topics covered in no particular order included:

 

Destroy All Monsters, the Gulf War and 9/11

The Bright Labyrinth, science, magic and eroticism

Dante, The Divine Comedy and The Trash Project 

Purgatory, alchemy and the planets

Strindberg in Paris, the events of May 68 and Mario Bava’s Danger Diabolik

Comic books, spiritualism and clairvoyance

 

I enjoyed it all very much – especially when we went on to astrology, a subject about which MAR knew a great deal more than I did. Overall, the conversation lasted about an hour and a half, which has resulted in the first episode of ‘As Above, So Below’ to be broadcast on Spotify in 2023. You can find it by clicking here.

 

Or if you prefer, there is also a video version of our conversation on YouTube, which can be found by clicking here.

 

And then there was Lisa Marie. I am currently finishing Paradise: the third and final part of my Trash Project for Strange Attractor Press. I’d reached the point of compiling a Glossary of Names and References, as I have done for the previous two volumes. These compilations of entries cover all of the individuals mentioned in the text. As a large part of this new book is devoted to Elvis Presley, there were a lot of references to both him and his family entered under ‘P’. I took time away from working on this to record the interview with MAR. I did a little more work on it the following day and managed to complete all the Presley references, except for one. I didn’t really know what I wanted to say about Lisa Marie, so I had deliberately left her until the end. I rose very early on the morning of Friday 13 January, around 5.50 am, specifically to complete the glossary entry for her. As I was preparing to start work, I had the phrase ‘with a heavy heart’ running through my head. I switched on the computer, checked the news headlines, and the first thing I saw was a statement from Priscilla Presley that began ‘It is with a heavy heart…’ announcing her daughter’s death. 

 

To discuss the relationship between writing and divination is interesting enough in the abstract. To go from that to the intuitive foretelling of a death in a couple of days is matter for further conjecture. MAR and I swapped some fascinating messages over the course of the morning, extending the correspondences between writing and divination further still – as if they were ever going to stop. ‘There,’ as Karlheinz Stockhausen once said to me regarding an equally strange connection. ‘I leave that with you.’

 

 

Pictured above

 

MAR

The Space Oracle (2018), available from Strange Attractor Press

MAR and KH on the mic

Purgatory (2022), available from Strange Attractor Press

 

Wednesday, 9 November 2022

Purgatory Launch Event at the Horse Hospital November 17

 




On the evening of 17 November, Strange Attractor Press is holding a launch party for my new book Purgatory at the world famous Horse Hospital in Bloomsbury. This is Volume II of The Trash Project which I began in 2020 with the publication of Inferno. There will be movies and music, and copies of both books will be on sale, along with some choice items from my Strange Attractor back catalogue.

Following my reading from Purgatory at Iklectik in September and my recent lecture at the BFI, this will be the main event to welcome the second part of The Trash Project into the world. All are welcome, so I hope you will come along and help me celebrate.  I will present a reading from Purgatory and signing copies over the course of the evening. Join me and the wonderful people from Strange Attractor Press and The Horse Hospital if you can.

You can find more details from the Horse Hospital website by clicking here. But here's the basic information:

Where: The Horse Hospital, Colonnade, Bloomsbury, London WC1N 1JD

When: from 19.00 until Roger gets tired of the whole thing and kicks us all out

Pictured above: Strange Attractor invite to the Horse Hospital event (Tihana Sare); copies of Purgatory and Inferno on sale at the BFI bookshop; KH concluding his lecture at the BFI's Reuben Library - Thank You

Monday, 24 October 2022

Purgatory, Beauty & Trash at the BFI

 




On Monday 31 October I will be giving a lecture in the BFI Reuben Library to introduce my latest book – Purgatory: Towards the Decay of Meaning.

 

Published by Strange Attractor Press, Purgatory is the latest addition to the three-part Trash Project in which I take a personal look at Trash and Trash Aesthetics. From Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray to Tony Hancock’s The Rebel and from the decadent artworks of the late nineteenth century to the early years of cinema, this sequel to Inferno examines the complex relationship between ‘beauty’ and ‘trash’.  

 

I will be looking at how a renewed interest in alchemy and a stern cult of beauty met in Paris in the late nineteenth century and how together they reflected a hierarchy of values that would shape the social unrest of the late 1960s. Consequently, in the wake of May 68, I trace the emergence of a uniquely European form of Trash cinema devoted exclusively to beauty, sex and despair.

 

The talk will begin on Monday 31 October at 18.30 and will last around 90 minutes, so you will have plenty of time to go home afterwards, change into your Halloween costume and scare your neighbours. 

 

The BFI is located on the South Bank within spitting distance of Waterloo Bridge and National Theatre – but I wouldn’t recommend that as means of finding the place. The Reuben Library can be found in the same part of the building as the box office and NFT3.

 

Tickets for the event are £6.50, and they’re selling fast, so be sure to book in advance.

 

Details can be found here.

 

Pictured above: Cover art for Purgatory by Tihana Sare – Tony Hancock Irene Handl and George Sanders register their unalloyed delight at the prospect of being featured in Volume II of The Trash Project

 

Friday, 23 September 2022

Paul Verhoeven’s American Futures on BBC Radio 4







I’ve spent a lot of the past few months working on an hour-long programme for BBC Radio Four’s Archive on 4 slot on the subject of Paul Verhoeven and the three science-fiction movies he made in America at the end of the twentieth century: Robocop, Total Recall and Starship Troopers. Taken together, this loose triptych of grim fantasies lays out a disturbing archaeology of the future. Seen from the perspective of today, these movies offer startling insights into the hyperreality of the world we now encounter on a daily basis.

 

My producer and I were fortunate enough to interview some of the writers that worked with Verhoeven on these movies, notably Ed Neumeier, Michael Miner, Gary Goldman and Ron Shusset. We also managed to have a word with producer Jon Davidson and actor Kurtwood Smith, who brought a certain gleeful nastiness to his depiction of Clarence Boddicker in Robocop – I will never forget him delivering during the course of our interview such classic lines as ‘Can you fly, Bobby?’ and ‘Just give me my fucking phone call’. It really gave me the chills.

 

Over the summer we also had the opportunity to visit Paul Verhoeven and his wife Martine at their home in Holland. They were very gracious and hospitable; and we spent a wonderful afternoon with them, chatting about movies and comic books. I also recorded about two and half hours of an interview with Paul, extracts from which are featured in the show for Archive on 4. There were some amazing moments, especially when he spoke about his experiences as a child during WWII, his early movie experiences and his obsession with the life and death of Jesus. I’d been preparing a long time for this interview, pulling together details and references from Robocop, Total Recall and Starship Troopers. At the end of the afternoon, Martine, who’d known Paul since they first met in high school at the age of 17, said that I had been quoting Verhoeven ‘the way Paulus quotes Jesus.’ So Martine definitely had the last word on that.

 

For those of you unfamiliar with Verhoeven’s work, here are some details on the films featured in my programme.

 

Released in 1987, Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop brings an outsider’s eye to post-industrial, premillennial America. It’s no accident that the film is set in Detroit, once of the beating heart of the US automobile industry, but a city already dying on its feet as the factories shut down and their workforce migrated to the suburbs. The central character may be a cyborg cop, brutally gunned down by a street gang and then reassembled using advanced technology, but the film’s real focus is the shift in economics during the late 1980s away from manufacturing and towards purely monetarist strategies. The company responsible for this, ‘Omni Products Corporation’, represents the rise of outsourcing and the privatising of public concerns (healthcare army, urban development space exploration…). ‘Good business is where you find it,’ corporate predator Dick Jones boasts. ‘Hell, we practically are the military.’ The fact that it takes a creature that is half-human and half-machine to police it all is a message that was not lost on the people of Detroit, who have been agitated to have a statue of Robocop raised in their city for over a decade now.

 

Based on a short story by science-fiction legend Philip K Dick, ‘We Can Remember It for You Wholesale’, Verhoeven’s Total Recall (1990) goes deep into corporate control of perceived ‘reality’, anticipating the ‘post-truth’ gaslighting of the Trump era and the rise of media controlled ‘smart cities’. 

 

Starship Troopers (1997) is also based on the work of a major West Coast science-fiction writer, Robert Heinlein. Its bugs-versus-teen-soap-stars narrative is the opportunity for a biting, deadpan satire on authoritarianism and its impact upon individual lives – a perspective that seems all the more relevant in the current political climate. Behind its depictions of media propaganda and military discipline is a movie that Daniel Ellsberg considered one of the most politically interesting films of the 1990s

 

There is also a wider narrative linking all three of these movies, and this is specific to the decades in which they were made. Each, in their own way, registers the first tremors of premillennial anxiety concerning the future, as ‘postmodern’ society prepared to leave one century and enter another. Using a palette that embraced comic-book violence, noir plotting, bloody violence and science-fiction imagery, Verhoeven and his scriptwriters managed to paint a shocking but thought-provoking picture of what was to come in the twenty-first century. 

 

Paul Verhoeven’s American Futures goes out on Saturday September 24 at 20.00 BST and is repeated in a slightly shorter version at noon on Friday September 30. It can also be accessed via BBC Sounds – for more information click here.

 

You have twenty seconds to comply…

 

Pictured above: Paul Verhoeven and KH gaze into each other’s eyes as if they are in love; Paul and Martine Verhoeven at home; Paul Verhoeven making love to the camera


Kurtwood Smith as Clarence Boddicker says you can keep the gum 

 

 

Friday, 15 July 2022

Incredible Night Creatures of the Midway!

 







There’s no calm or easy way to say this: on Wednesday July 20 The Howling will be performing at the BFI, presenting a special set to introduce a 4K restoration of Ray Dennis Steckler’s 1963 trash classic The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living And Became Mixed-up Zombies?! Get your tickets now! 

 

Howlround and I are back again, working with spoken word and analogue tape technology to pay tribute to a film that has had a deep influence on our embracing of Trash and Trash Aesthetics. Steckler was a key character in Inferno, the first volume in my three-part Trash Project, and is also listed among the damned and the fabulous in The Howling’s ‘David Gest, Liza Minelli, Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor’, a piece we like to revisit and reinvent in our sets. Get your tickets now!

 

The performance and screening will take place in NFT3 at the BFI on Wednesday July 20. 

The the whole thing starts at 18.15. 

You can find out more and book a seat by clicking here.

 

Get your tickets now!

 

Pictured above:  Ray Dennis Steckler (AKA Cash Flagg) in a scene from The Incredibly Strange Creatures; a detail from the movie’s original poster art; Howlround and KH rehearsing in NFT3, photographed by roving shutterbug @lahollings 

 

 

 

Thursday, 26 May 2022

Debut Release from The Howling - 'All Hail Mega Force'







Imagine your worst fear a reality. All Hail Mega Force is the first full-length release from The Howling: a collaborative project I started with sound artist Robin the Fog, aka Howlround. Our work is inspired exclusively by our shared love of text, audiotape and trash aesthetics. Ken Hollings + Howlround = The Howling. Our first performance took place at the Iklectik in September 2019 as part of a special programme to celebrate Tapeworm’s 10th anniversary.

 

During the pandemic we managed to continue working and conferring since then, sharing sound files, texts and mixes online, and one of the main results has been this release for Tapeworm. The two extended tracks contained on this audiocassette reflect our shared interest in Fluxus and how informal rules and permutations can be set up to work themselves out through loops and repetitions. The idea of instant, disposable one-off creations appealed to us a lot at the time, particularly as both pieces were conceived and developed during different phases of Covid lockdown in the UK. A straight line connects Terry Riley’s tape experiments in Paris from the early 60s with our experimental recordings in the Wimpy Bar on Streatham High Road, one of our favourite meeting places. 

 

The title and source material for these two pieces are derived from the 1980s kid’s adventure movie MegaForce, starring Barry Bostwik and Michael Beck. Designed to sell a range of Mattel hi-tech action toys, MegaForce tanked at the box office but lives on in the collective consciousness of those who share with The Howling a special love for Trash and Trash Aesthetics. 

 

‘All Hail Mega Force’ was created by reading combinations of the words 'All Hail Mega Force' into a voice memo recorder, transferring it to tape, cutting the whole thing as a single long loop and then stretching it across three reel-to-reel machines simultaneously, using two pencils and a pint glass full of loose change to try and maintain sufficient playback tension. Over time the loop started to degrade, which accounts for the increasingly slurry and unpredictable playback, plus frequent ruptures caused by the tape becoming jammed and having to be tugged through the machine workings by hand. Twenty-four minutes later and the result was a completed new work and a slight backache.

 

 

The text for ‘Are You Man Enough For Mega Force?’ was recorded live in the Wimpy Bar on Streatham High Road, 28 November 2021. It was cut to tape and looped on 3 December 2021 at Warrior Studios, Loughborough Junction. Dragged by motor and then by hand across two tape machines with copious amounts of closed input feedback provided by a third rushing in to fill the gaps. One take with no effects or overdubs, but one tiny edit in the middle when something fell over. 

 

 

Cover art is by the fabulous Deborah Wale of Tears/Ov, design and layout is by the amazing Philip Marshall, who was also responsible for The Howling’s Burger Bun Logo. Mega Mastering was by Steven McInerney. We are indebted to all three of them. Further details on this fine Tapeworm release can be found here.


‘The result,’ according to the  music blog Further, ‘is like an updated take on Alvin Lucier’s “I Am Sitting In A Room”, except that Hollings wasn’t at home but at the Wimpy Bar on Streatham High Street. After listening to approximately 360 brilliantly evolving iterations of the b-side’s single enquiry – “Are you man enough for Mega Force?” – pushed through Howlround’s macho manipulations, I can confirm, regrettably, that I’m probably not.’

 

Robin and I have continued working together since the completion of All Hail mega Force. There is a new album of text/tape/trash compositions, plus a couple of very exciting performances coming up later in the year, including any absolute barnburner at the BFI over the summer. With The Howling, you can be sure that your worst fear is a reality.

 

Pictured above:

 

All Hail Mega Force cover by Deborah Wale and Philip Marhshall

Pack Shots by @lahollings

The Howling recording in Streatham High Road Wimpy Bar by Beth Arzy