Monday, 14 May 2012

Mind On Fire take over PYC Sessions' 10 Tracks

PYC Sessions asked us (Mind On Fire) to pick ten tracks for their website. Normally one artist gets to pick all ten but we only got to pick one each (for once I wished that our crew didn't roll so deep), making the decisions really tough. I was lucky enough to have such a Road to Damascus™ Experience with my track otherwise I would have had a total melt down choosing.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

My Totally Radical Indian Adventure- DayTrippers

The previous evening, I’d been drinking alone in my hotel’s rooftop restaurant when I was joined by a young chef. In no time we were talking about religion, girls, education and Kerala’s unfortunate position at the top of the Indian suicide charts. I mentioned a waterfall I had seen a photo of, and without any prompting Rastham offered to skip work the next day to show me , if I rented a motorbike.

We set off early, the motorbike turned out to be a pink Honda Moped due to my financial constraints, but it would do. Rastham told me of a forest, not too far past the falls, where he had seen wild elephants while hanging out with his friends. “We were very fast reversing, not stopping. If they run at us, we would die for sure.” Sound reasoning. So exactly why we decided to go out looking for elephants on a town scooter is beyond me, but at the time it seemed like the sensible thing to do.

Although I had rented the bike, I wasn’t too keen on taking on India’s highways without getting warmed up first, so Rastham took the first shift. I was glad he did,the roads were even more harrowing than I’d imagined. We swung in and out of traffic without looking, blaring the horn all the while. Glued to the white line, we passed a large highway maintenance truck just as an even larger vehicle came hurtling towards us in the oncoming lane. Inches separate successful maneuvers from human jelly here. Rastham shouted back to me, “My friend, I feel that you are very much afraid of my driving. Relax!” I was reminded of a conversation I’d had on a bus a few days earlier, as we fished tailed around a dusty corner a gentleman smiled and said, “Indians are experts at bad driving... you don’t need to worry.”

Perhaps the expertise was not equally distributed after all, we soon encountered a car crash. In India, it seems, drivers are not content with a single voyeuristic glance while passing by a wreck. Instead, where ever humanly possible, drivers pull over to gawk at the carnage. A motorways worth of bikes had come to a halt on- and on both side of- a bridge, leaning over the barrier to get better looks below. An unfortunate soul had swerved off, landing upside down in a field about 15 feet below. The car was twisted, the top crumpled in completely. Rumours of the cause of the accident and the extent of the injuries had begun to circulate among the ever growing crowd. For my part, I maintained that surely no one could have survived. Rastham beckoned for me to get on the bike, and drove us around to where we could get a better view of inside the window. A little uneasily, I followed him to vantage point, but still could not see anyone in the car. We exchanged words with a man who said he’d been there from the beginning. He pointed out two old men stood next to the wreckage, staring philosophically while holding the hems of their lungis- “They escaped ok, only minor injury.” Choosing to believe this fantastical explanation, we left the scene.

Now it was my turn. I started slowly, determined to bring my famously calm and measured approach to life to these hostile roads.It was in vain. Within minutes, I was honking, speeding, swerving, cursing, tailgating and undercutting. I could get used to this.

I drove for two hours, until Cochi’s sparse palm trees were long gone and we had begun to climb winding mountain roads. Rastham wanted me to try the local coconut beer, so we stopped off at a local tavern. Now, this was out in the sticks, and midday drinkers in outback bars are fairly similar the world over. An old man swayed in the door way, smiling broadly at me. He started to shout to his friends who had already seen me. “They don’t see many foreigners here,” Rastham explained. Taking my first sip of the thick warm liquid, I noticed all the men in the bar had turned their chairs to watch me. Once you got over the smell, it wasn’t actually to bad, a little salty perhaps but they assured me it was much sweeter in the monsoon season. Either way, it washed down the goats liver I had been served (so much for being a Vegetarian while in India!) rather perfectly. We enquired about elephants and the owner rushed to show us his copy of the local Malayalam language newspaper. “3 House Broken,” read the headline, with a picture of elephants below. They had charged, destroying everything in their paths, exactly where we were headed.

The waterfalls in Athirapally are stunning, three powerful torrents of water cascade down the stark rock face into a pool before setting off along the valley in a wide formation, interrupted by countless tree covered archipelagos. A sudden transformation from pure force to serene tranquility. We climbed over boulders to get a better view, watching in awe as the river’s full force landed in front of us.

At the top of the falls crowds of swimmers and paddlers took a welcome respite from the afternoon heat. Athirapally is inexplicably off the Western tourists’ map, and hope it stays this way as it would be a shame to see the innocence of local holiday making bullied out by European bikinis and the obligatory law enforcement to protect them. My favorite days here have been at similar locations, popular with Indians with only the rare European face. Crowds of swimmers and paddlers tackled the clear moving waters. Families splashed together, fathers and mothers taking turns holding infants above the water. The men were bare chested in lungis or shorts, the women fully clothed- saris no obstacle to fully submerged enjoyment. Young lovers flocked here for a brief embrace out of the gaze of the morality police. Crowds of teenage boys swagger with bravado, high on good times. Girls giggled and pretended not to look at the guys flexing for them. A group of pretty-boys in trilby hats and polo shirts wanted to borrow my glasses for a their photo shoot (they had brought at least 6 photographers with them, so perhaps they were famous), I consented and they asked me to get in some pictures. I wondered if I’d ever find out if my image appeared in their calender.

Rastham and I dove into pools and clambered up rocks, sitting in perfectly carved seats in the a small waterfall. The cold water poured over us, head to toe part of the river. I told him that next time I came back, I would buy a Royal Enfield Bullet and ride up and down the continent for as long as I could, and my friend agreed to come along. Thus I began my first biker gang.

Refreshed, we rode further up the mountain pass, watching as the river became thinner closer to its source. When we reached the gates to the Kerala state forest, Rastham had an animated conversation with the guards- it was only much later, in Fort Cochi Hospital, that I found out they were trying to convince him it was too dangerous to enter the woods on a moped. When they reluctantly opened the gate, we jumped onto our 100cc safari scooter and sped off in pursuit of elephants.

Broken trees and brutal clearances indicated that they had been near by, but the piles of dung on the road were sun dried and old. We drove for a long time, nearly to Tamil Nadu, and didn’t see anything. A jeep came from the opposite direction, it’s driver leaning out to yell at me. “He shouted Sype at you, that is Malayalam for foreigner.” Rastham explained. I wondered what had given me away.

Beginning to concede defeat, we pulled over and stood on a bridge, listening quietly- perhaps the angry wasp buzz of the Honda was scaring away the beasts. The wind rustled through the bamboo, the air was full of bird calls. I would estimate that I heard between fifteen and twenty different species of birds, or at least different bird songs. Monkeys howled across the forest. Something moved in a bush. It was just after 5 (the point when the guards stop letting vehicles into the forest due to increased wildlife activity) and I was suddenly anxious to start back. We had quite away to go and I didn’t want to be in the forest after dark.

In the dim early evening light,everything had changed. Monkeys jumped in the tree tops above us, brightly coloured birds swooped onto the road . Peacocks and roosters were everywhere, stupidly waiting to be eaten. The forest was alive.

We came to a small fallen tree which hadn’t been there on our outward journey. Next to it was a beautifully moist pile of mammoth shit. Eureka! An elephant had been here with in the last half hour, we were close! Eyes and ears pealed, on full alert we began to consider our position if we did encounter one or more elephant. Run. That’s what we decided. Swing the bike around and head into the heart of darkness. Our scooter would be unlikely to out run stampeding elephants (let alone a tiger) but it seemed our best bet.

As we rounded a corner, our heads full of hypothetical threats, we came across a real one. “SNAKE!!!” we screamed in unison. He was big and crossing the road right in front of us in pursuit of those suicidal peacocks. It was too late. If I tried to stop we would come to a halt right next to it and I didn’t like that thought. The snake was about 6 foot long, but at the time seemed to be twice that, his scales somewhere between khaki and clay in colour. He looked poisonous. Real poisonous. I hit the throttle and tried to get as far from the head as possible on the single track road. The snake turned square on with us and seemed to be keeping pace. is head- big and solid with black beady eyes and the meanest looking mouth I’ve ever seen- was getting closer to my ankle. He had the meanest looking mouth I’ve ever seen. He began to raise his head, inches from me now, was this it?

That’s the last I saw of him. I was flying. The problem with keeping your eyes glued on an attacking snake (it’s impossible not too, they are hypnotizing) while riding a bike is that your gaze is suddenly down and to your side instead of where it should be. The Road.

I was sliding along the gravel, in flip flops, shorts and a t-shirt, picking up half of the stones with my skin along the way. Above me I could see Rastham, who had been thrown, feet high above his head. He landed hard on his chin and rolled. I was still sliding.Instincts prevent us from getting into these kind of situations through the fear of pain, but what instincts don’t ant you to know is you don’t feel anything at first. Later, it hurts a it at a time until everything aches and burns and throbs- but in the moment it pure adrenaline stops all sense. I leapt up straight away, more concerned about the where abouts of the snake than our condition. It was gone. Perhaps frightened by the crash or maybe not wanting to waste any of his venom on two injured idiots.

We took stock of our situation, there was a lot of blood but we seemed ok. In someways this was the best possible result. It seemed that the crash had quickly propelled us up and out of the snake’s range. We had been very fortunate to be thrown onto the road, if we had been launched down the steep incline slope to the side, our best case scenario would have been tryouts for our respective nations’ Murderball squads.

We rode in stunned silence, dust from the road clinging to our wounds. We met a crew of work men, the foreman approached us and on hearing our story shook his head. “Sype, he said sadly, “Sype”.

At the gates, our bloodied return was greeted by “told you so” laughter from the guards. When we described the snake, however, they stopped laughing. We hadn’t dared guess what it was, but they told us for the first time- in Malayalam, but I saw Rastham turn pale. They directed us to a shop that provided first aid, a couple of miles away by the temple.

The shopkeeper was a kind old lady with a weary smile. She sat us down and applied several liquids (each significantly more painful than the last) to our wounds. Drums beat frenetically in the temple, and from all directions local people emerged from the forest to attend the ceremony. My impression of South Indian people has been incredibly friendly and always inquisitive, and this proved to be so here. Everyone who walked by came up to see the sorry spectical of the two battered riders. I heard it in English then. “what you saw was the King Cobra,” a man told me. Apparently, National geographic a had visited the area recently as that stretch of woods had so many of them. A pretty young lady, who had just arrived on the back of her boyfriend’s bike scolded me in sing song English, “You will see snakes every where in Kerala, Drive Carefully!”


Rasthad's cut was bad, so when we got back to Fort Cochi we visited the hospital. It looked a lot like a WWII era British clinic, which I guess it was. The nurses listened wide eyed to our story , but I would be flattering myself to say they were impressed. Not fully familiar with the terms of my hastily arranged travel insurance I declined all medical assistance. While Rastham was being attended to (6 stitches to his a chin and a large stone had to be removed) I went to the pharmacy and bought supplies: Rubbing Alcohol, Iodine, Tweezers, Cotton Wool, Gauze and 20 Valium.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

My Totally Radical Indian Adventure- Day 2: Circles

3AM. As far as these things go, it’s an unfortunate time to land. After collecting my bags and exchanging my money at an extortionate rate, I stumbled out of the airport into a crowd of people hell bent on hustling me. I hadn’t thought about it until about half way to India, but landing in the middle of the night raises a number of problems. I jumped into a rickshaw, but it son became apparent that the driver had marked me as an easy target. “We need 200 rupees to exit the airport gate” he says after we had just passe d the gate with out paying a paisa. “Drive on you chancer, if the guard wants my money he can ask me himself.”
And we did, towards Kovallum beach stopping at a string of hotels where the driver knew the owners, all of them charging over 1000 rupees for a night. We drove through dark streets on the edges of Trivandrum, where old men sat smoking on door steps paying us no mind. Dogs looked up momentarily from the piles of rubbish they were inspecting, the rickshaws headlight reflecting in their wild eyes before they resumed their work. From the darkness emerged an elephant, lead slowly by a sad looking man in a longi, and ridden by another. I found out later that they worked for the temple and took care of the elephants as required, including 3AM walks.
Rickshaw drivers here have a very special ability to ignore everything you say once you get in their ride. It took a while, but finally I managed to persuade the driver to take me back to the airport where I would wait for the sun to come up. I told him I’d catch a bus in the morning. “No bus. No hotel. No taxi... at 7am all is closing.” He didn’t elaborate further, so assuming this was another one of his tricks, I payed him for the back street tour and jumped out. A crowd of departing passengers were sat on the pavement outside the airport so I went to join them. A business man I spoke to explained that they had all arrived very early, as the National Strike would start at 7am and there would have been no way to get there after then. He assured me I’d be able to get a hotel in the morning, but that seemed to be it as everything else in the city would be closed.
For a few houirs I sat in the in the hot night air, swatting at mosquitos and chatting with passengers. At half 6 Iran over to the stall for prepaid taxis and ordered the last cab of the day. The man behind the counter put up a closed sign and led me to his car. I checked into the Jas hotel, hauled my bag up to my room and passed out on the filthy mattress.

I woke up late in the afternoon, staggered out of the building and down the hill towards the city. I came to a junction and had absolutely no idea which way to go. The streets were nearly empty, but a strike breaking rickshaw driver pulled up next to me and asked me where I was going. I told him Manorama Road, he nodded and we set off. He weaved in and out of cars and trucks, narrowly missing old women and children along the way. Down twisting alleys, with no regard for treacherous potholes or mangled dog carcasses. We drove past several government sponsored signs warning: “There is a quicker way to meet death: CARELESS DRIVING”. Finally he slowed down, turned around and with a sheepish look admitted he had no idea where Manorma road was. Having acknowledged his failings, he began asking every one he came to if they knew. After sever cross examinations about the restaurant I was heading to, we were back on track. Dodging death with every turn we raced towards Manorama with new found conviction. We stopped. This was It. Wait. I was standing 15 yards from where he had picked me up. I paid the man and went inside for my thali.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

My Totally Radical Indian Adventure- Day 1: Transit

Approaching Abu Dhabi, I opened the blind- carefully at first, all previous attempts having left me dazzled by the sun. After this failed to blind me, I went for it. Closing my eyes and flinging up the flimsy plastic shutter with enough force to jolt man behind me from his noisy slumber. I’m not sure if he’d agree, but it was certainly worth it. As I gazed through my tiny peephole in the middle of the sky, I was staggered by the fullness of the Arabian sunset. All along the horizon a blood red band magestically lay, haloed by lighter shades of red, orange anfd finally green.  As if resting on the sun’s solid foundation, the night sky  rose up light blue emerged from the bruise green shades in bands, gradually getting richer and darker until nearly purple.

I was reminded of the Egyptian myth, where Shu the sky god, rested on the Earth’s (Atum) back and in turn supported the heavens (Tefnut, Atum’s sister). Right then at that moment the story made perfect sense. I was looking at a sight which had given birth the first myth, from whcih all others grew. An ancient and unwritten of people must have been the first to translate this from vision to though form and passed it forward in time; The Egyptian, Sumarians, Mesopotanians, Babylonians, Hebrews, Greeks, Romans and Arabians. Each spreading their truth (which started as the sun setting over an ocean or shimmering desert air) to the lands they conquered- mixing and matching as they went along, appropriating intriguing deities and Holy days (what is your Ishtar egg really about?) until the world (Western at least, although I imagine Eastern thought has a similarly simple beginning) could be split into different belief systems that have the same beginning.

The moon was in a crescent but resting on it’s side, with Jupiter directly above it- exactly like the flag of Mauritania. Venus was shining (brightly!!!) below. Lucifer is what the Romans called her,translating to Morning Star (another example of our cultural hodge-podge one size fits all watering down of mythic language). She is held by the sun on a tighter leash than ours making her only visible for for a few hours before dawn and a few in the early evening before following The Master into unknown depths of darkness (which was later discovered to be the Americas)

Back on earth after 7 hours of uninterrupted philosophical musics, Abu Dhabbi airport made me feel uneasy. There is little to write about it except as an ornate temple to consumerism. A mosaic dome covers stalls selling overpriced goods.”New Smirnnoff gold, with real edible gold. Please try, sir”. From the rather striking ceiling hung at least ten camera, you ARE being watched. As I logged onto the wifi connection a warning came up making me aware that accessing any material viewed which is illegal in theUAE law will lead to the fullest extent of prosecution. All around me, men and women flailed in panic as they realised they had forgotten to close the Live Jasmin window that had popped up when “browsing” on their phones the previous night.

When I boarded the next plane, Venus was gone. I’d see her again in Thiruvananthapuram.

This is a song I heard on the plane.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Danny Drive Thru 7" Launch/ Mind on Fire's 7th Birthday

7 years. It's hard to believe it's been 2 years since I wrote about the party at Islington Mill, yet so much has happened since then. Like the mother fuckin record label. Pow. After last year's Great Minds compilation (which really packs a few heavy punches if you ask me), the next vinyl release is Danny Drive Thru's new 7 inch Psychedelia Smith. It's sick.

On Friday 14/10/11 at the Soup Kitchen we'll be celebrating both our 7th birthday and the release of the single, with sets from all the residents and Drive Thru. I probably don't need to tell you how good that's going to be.

On a side note:  two big 7's happening on the 14th is the kind of faux Kabalistic parallel that I tend to get excited about (but probably doesn't mean very much other than that we're all going to have a lot of fun). In the meantime check out  of Danny's Violence Makes The World Go Around (Naive Machine Remix).

  Danny Drive Thru - Violence Makes (Naive Machine Remix) by MindonFire