Heading to Northern Climes

There is a common misconception about people from the North of England, especially those from Yorkshire…

Glum, dour and particularly tight-fisted with a reluctance to part with their money. Granted, there is rarely a misplaced or dropped coin on a bar or the floor of a pub which doesn’t get lifted moments after it departs the owner’s pocket, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.

Yorkshire folk hate being ripped off and being conned. They especially don’t like the wool being pulled over their eyes. An Artisan filo pastry filled with cured Iberian chorizo and hand-grated Parmesan will set you back near a tenner in the Big Smoke, but a ham and cheese pasty would raise eyebrows if it was over the £3 mark outside the M25.

Notorious for being ludicrously expensive, Norway is one of my favourite places to perform and to visit without the instrument. There is little getting away from paying insane amounts of money in bars and for eating out. This country really tests these Yorkshire roots.

Trondheim

Trondheim city

I start this tour blog half way in Trondheim….

Having performed in Oslo, Klokkarstua, Elverum so far, we perform my favourite city in Norway. A real music city which is laced with moonshine, wide-eyed tourists on a budget and crazy alternative folk. The Svartlamon area is where we perform which is a squatted neighbourhood with an Anarchist bookshop, pub, a couple of shops and what was once Europe’s largest self-built wooden structure, now a living space. The city feels to me like a second home and its people are as welcoming as ever and the show in the bookshop was fun, intimate and rewarding. Later that evening we visit the UFFA, a squat venue which is a large building hosting a benefit show for the Karlsøyafestivalen, our final destination for this tour in Northern Norway. As ever, the UFFA is hosting a show with a number of noise/hardcore/metal bands which are punishingly loud in the small room. The noise was fantastic.

After a small break in Trondheim, we prize ourselves away on a late evening overnight train to Bodø, arriving in around the pleasant enough time of 9:15am. The journey was better than expected but still cramped and tedious but made slightly more comfortable with the offer of blanket, eye mask and self inflating pillow from NSB, the Norwegian rail company. This was only part of the journey to the next show on the remote Lofoten Islands, now within the Arctic Circle. Lofoten is a series of islands linked by roads which jut out into the North Sea 150 miles from the mainland. After a three hour boat journey we had to get two buses lasting around 4 hours in total from the Western part to the Central part of the islands. It took around 18 hours in total to get to this show.

lofoten

Lofoten Islands

The next day would beat that time-wise but it would be way more comfortable. After another couple of bus journeys we meet the Hurtigruten at Svolvær port. Hurtigruten is the boat that serves the jagged coast line of this country. I’m not a fan of long boat journeys, especially overnight ones but this has more of a pleasant and relaxed vibe than ferries with commercial purpose such as Hull-Zeebrugge which comprises of tired and pissed off lorry drivers and pissed up Brits on Lads weekends. This has the feel of a cruise boat for tourists wishing to see Norway with the safety of not getting too close to its changeable weather. As expected the scenery was phenomenal and the storm she navigated through made for good photos. This would be a 24 hour journey to Tromsø.

The festival itself has been promoted along the way with venues stocking posters and word of it has spread as we meet people along the way attending. Another boat awaits to the island which is hosting the festival. Since the late 60s the island has been a haven for a myriad of folk seeking an alternative life and the island seems to be pretty well-known across Norway. There is even a folk song about the island. After putting our tent up which seems to be missing pegs, we source some twigs to hold it down and hope for the best. An announcement was made by one of the people who have been involved with the island and the festival and now with the event in its 50th consecutive year, this is a tremendous achievement for any festival, let alone one so remote. We’re reminded this is an event that is anti-Capitalist, anti-corporate and continues to push for an alternative. One thing that shocked me with this politicised event is the amount of whale meat for sale. This is a culture clash for sure and I am reminding myself that this is a far cry away from Northern England. Also speaking to some of the locals there was more of an anti-EU sentiment than what would be from a young British left, which I gather is to do with fishing regulations and of course, whaling which is banned by the EU.

karlsoy 2

Leaving Karlsøyafestivalen at the ferry port

The festival seemed to run smoothly and as far as I could see, a real DIY ethic was present and everybody seemed to muck out one way or another (weather permitting) and the music was eclectic, exciting and unique. From Sámi pop music to noise bands. Sámi are the last indigenous’ peoples of Europe who span Northern Sweden, Norway and Finland who still have their own cultures and traditions, though now they live in houses and have ‘real’ jobs…definitely not a roaming tribe image that is portrayed by the tourist board. Even road signs in certain areas are in Sámi. Myself and Jørgen, my tour buddy, stood out as the solo performers and I was one of the few who sang in English…I think there was more Sámi than English sung there.

From 7am beach raves and catching the midnight sun on the island’s highest point, Karlsøyafestivalen is a unique festival. The location is enough of a draw regardless of its vibe and musical offerings. If you’re up for a festival that has a DIY ethic and you want something very unique, it’s pretty hard to beat. ’til next time, Norway.

Johnny x

My tour buddy Jørgen Dretvik is well worth checking out. Here are his links:

Music page: www.facebook.com/jorgendretvikmusikk/

Video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ypywt7liJI&t=9s

If you wish to support me, as an independent musician I don’t have financial backing from labels or otherwise, I survive through merch sales and performing. You an be involved by ordering merch or albums here: http://www.johnnycampbell.bandcamp.com

And you can also keep up to date with my tours and more here: http://www.facebook.com/johnnycampbellmusic

What Next for British Culture?

 

Britain was THE great exporter of the world from the Manchester cotton mills which were reputed to plume with smoke and factories that were deafening to work in, Sheffield would lay claim to the steel industry and London, the centre of the Empire, was and still is a bustling hotbed of creativity and innovation.

Being the first industrialised country, Britain was ahead of many of its counterparts and many flocked to the country for work and to be part of this dynamic part of the world, and where the action lie.

dole queue

Dole queue in Northern England

Elected in the late 70s, Thatcher went ahead with her notion of exporting as much of the industry that created Britain’s wealth overseas, or just dismantling it. This time will be noted for posterity by the bands that emerged from this era such as The Smiths, Joy Division, The Pogues and the like. They all painted a picture of a gloomy Britain, one that was oppressed by Thatcherism and council estates ran rife with poverty. You can still see the remnants of this past in many S.Yorkshire areas which still haven’t recovered from the era of the Miner’s Strikes in the mid 80s. The songs and the culture surrounding that decade defined Britain at the time and when I go abroad performing shows and tell them I’m from England, people are still enamoured by the songs and culture of this era.

There were many things that Thatcher wouldn’t dare try to privatise, some of which were the dole (welfare) and the NHS. The bands from this era, up to The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays in the late 80s/early 90s, have all mentioned that they wouldn’t be where they were if it wasn’t for the dole. The dole at that time offered some sort of respite for artists and musicians who were between jobs or even touring as you could sign on at any jobcentre across the country. I’ve even heard personal accounts of organising tours making sure you could sign on in a jobcentre along the way.

In ’97 there was a new wave of optimism in Britain and after nearly two decades of Tory rule, a Labour government rose to power.

noel and blair

I was only 10 at the time and I remember a sense of optimism in the air, briefly. Such things as child tax credit, minimum wages were introduced transforming the lives of everyone. Or everyone who lived on my street. It seems ludicrous to think back that Noel Gallagher entered Downing Street to speak to Tony Blair about launching a new type of benefit which if you were a musician, it enabled you a certain amount of flexibility and freedom whilst getting your benefits. This is the first time a government has accepted that there isn’t such a thing as an apprenticeship into the arts, just hard graft and time. I’ve encountered a couple of people who are 10 years older than me who have benefited from this.

Blair’s government began to export culture as Britain’s new identity. ‘Cool’ Britannia was the new image, where we exported a notion that Britain was where it was ‘happening’, and it was. Where once we made ships and cars for the world we would now flog Britpop and Lara Croft.

I would be one of the last generations of people to make a living out of music by building myself up from the dole, as times were easier 5-10 years ago. I make no bones about this or hide this fact, you need a certain amount of time to create, which a ‘normal’ job wouldn’t allow for a full-time creative project. I wonder where the flourish of British music will come from now as it’s impossible to juggle the benefit system with a music career. Even Arts Council grants are being slashed. I read an article once where in the early 90s around 70% of music in the charts were musicians from working class backgrounds, in the mid noughties, under 40%. There is a definite correlation here. Times aren’t so optimistic as they were in ’97 for creatives.

But perhaps in these times of immense uncertainly under Brexit, the idea that hard times bring great art might be the only silver lining…however, that’s if we choose to make it.

Johnny x

The best way to support an independent musician like myself, is through merch. You can download, get physical copies, t-shirts etc from my site below.

http://www.johnnycampbell.bandcamp.com

http://www.facebook.com/johnnycampbellmusic

Coming Out Into The Cold…

Heading back out into touring in late January is one of my favourite times to get back out there…

It was quite a laid-back flight to Nürnberg in terms of the flight schedule time around the 5pm mark (17 Euro time) on another Ryanair flight. I do my best to try not to fly with this company, not just for their exploitative attitudes to staff but also their unprofessionalism during the flight. My last flight from Nürnberg to Manchester started with an announcement from one of the staff (before the safety demonstration) talking about his mother selling some meat on the plane as she is a pig farmer and if you don’t buy it ”she will be very upset’…but when the alternative is 6x the amount of Ryanair, (excluding instrument) there isn’t much choice in arriving in relative comfort.

I meet my tour buddy Jan (The Black Elephant Band) and we’re going to be on the road for around two weeks across Germany, Czech and Austria across places old and new. I’ve not toured with him before, merely spent a drunken night together in Nürnberg where from then we solidified the tour details.

On this tour I am performing 18 shows, not all with BEB as I head to Finland two weeks later. For me, one of the highlights of the German part of the tour was Leipzig as we meet up with Thomas who is organising a house show for us. Thomas brought us together as when I was at his last time where he played some BEB to which I had to ask ”Who is this?” and checked him out when I got home. In many ways it was the perfect house show, and why I like doing them. All the people there because they WANTED to be there and quiet in the right moments and raucous in others. If you’ve not been to one, go. And then start your own.

But instead of me writing why the tour was so cool (which is pretty fucking boring) and tour life isn’t ALL sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, I wanted to mention why I like touring at this time of year.

czech brno

Reading a satirical cartoon in Czech. The humour was lost on me. 

By late January, we’re all quite sick of the cold and the constant drip-feed of tabloids claiming an ice age will wipe out Britain. The slushy snow and misery. For me, I might as well be out there gigging so it takes my mind off the weather. But I was really interested to see Finland in February. Known as one of the most miserable and gloomy folk, (stereotype…perhaps) with a high proportion of dark and disturbing metal bands, I last toured Finland in June 2016. The weather was breaking records in the high 30s. This time they were having snowfall like they knew when they were kids.

I got off the plane and waited for the bus at Helsinki airport. I remembered it vividly from the previous time….there was a playback of birds tweeting in the toilets at the airport…

This false sense of security of some deafening Dawn Chorus outside with the sun blazing quickly became a childish notion as the biting wind seized my hands up as I brushed off the fresh snow from the faded timetable. I stared and peeked in a confused fashion at the Finnish timetable, almost like looking at the can at the percentage of a cheap Polish lager after the seven pint mark. It was needlessly complicated and I asked the person waiting for the bus when it was due to arrive. Finns can typically give a little bit of time before answering a question (if they want to answer) and I got a sufficient reply. The culture here of those little bits cultural differences and manners is different to the UK. Whilst we are polite in an obvious and sometimes over-bearing way, you may have to look in a different way for obvious politeness here.

The shows in Helsinki, Turku and Jyväskylä were all different but typically Finnish. Folk up for good craic but not the most forthcoming. Slack Bird and Lifelong Hangover who were my tour buddies for the shows pointed out how folk aren’t the best at instant responses or jokes, but perhaps at the end they might give you something. Being an isolated country in the depths of Winter most of the year influences your attitudes.

finnish forest

Afternoon yomp before the final show in Tampere.

What I love about touring around this time is the adversity of gig goers, and especially in Finland, where obvious weather can impede the day. But more than that, I find that it lends a certain atmosphere to the music. I noticed watching Slack Bird perform (who if you’ve not heard them, check it out) the droney, long, dark songs seem fitting to the background and lend themselves well to each other.

As I leave Helsinki after spending a couple of days filming a video with friend and fellow musician Onni, part of what I like about touring around this time is seeing places when they are the most ‘real’. When the cities aren’t putting on a show for the Summer tourists and the lack of tacky tourist nonsense festooned across busy high streets with holidaymakers all searching for the real experience. The REAL experience is off-season where you hit the towns off the beaten track and the folks there ask ”Why are you here?”

Sometimes I ask myself the same question.

Johnny x

You can order my albums and merchandise on the link below. This is one of the best ways to support a fully independent musician. 

http://www.johnnycampbell.bandcamp.com

All info: http://www.johnnycampbell.co.uk  

5 Questions in 5 Minutes: Quiet Loner

Quiet Loner (AKA Matt Hill) is a songwriter who has had rave reviews from Uncut, Maverick, Rock n Reel comparing his Americana influenced songs with Elvis Costello. Having seen Matt perform three times, his most powerful performance in my opinion was the ‘Battle for the Ballot‘. As songwriter in residency at the People’s History Museum in Manchester, Matt embarked on a journey to write an album about this subject and took his audience on a chronological journey in story and song about the events that made Britain’s struggle for the right to vote for all.

matt hill 2

Johnny: How did this project first come to light and can you tell us more?

Matt: I love the museum and I’d done a couple of gigs there so I approached them with the idea of residency. I spent a year in and out – reading, researching and writing the songs that tell the story of the fight for the right to vote.

Johnny:  The setting of the People’s History Museum lends itself well to such a show and of course, Manchester’s rich political history runs through the whole building. Was this the obvious choice to set up such a show?

Matt: It’s a national museum but it’s apt that it is in Manchester as many important parts of the story happened in Manchester but the battle for the ballot was fought right across Great Britain and Ireland.

Johnny: One thing that I’ve always felt about your songwriting is delicate wordplay which has been crafted I feel quite naturally over time. The process with Battle for the Ballot is a little more unorthodox than what is perceived as the normal creative process of editing over time. What was your approach to this?

Matt: Yeah it was different to other things I’ve written. My method was to do the research. I read a lot about the subjects and tried to draw from contemporary accounts where possible. Then I used some creative techniques for coming up with hooks and lyrics ideas. Then there was a lot of editing. Most songs started out with about 20 verses and were gradually whittled down to 3-4 minute songs.

matt hill 3

Johnny: Women were only allowed to vote in the UK 99 years ago, which I know you write about such events…therefore it can seem the right for the ‘Battle for the Ballot’ may be over, but new battles are always fought on people’s rights for equality…the ‘Battle for the Ballot’ is not over yet in the UK…is it?

Matt: Absolutely not. I think voting is important but our democracy is about much more than that. I think the vote could be made a lot fairer. If you’re young and poor you’re unlikely to vote so although there is no legal bar to your involvement like there was a 100 years ago, there are barriers. We need to work to get more people enfranchised. I support the campaign for proportional representation because I think the present system is just not delivering a Parliament that represents the public’s views.

Johnny: What can people expect from your show at the Red and Green Club?

Matt: I hope it’ll be fun and enjoyable. I describe it as a entry level history lecture with songs. I know that on paper a gig about the fight for Universal Suffrage might not sound like a top night out! But I try and make the story accessible and I think the songs stand up. It’s a bit unusual too, so I hope folks will come along and see what it’s all about.

Matt will be performing the Red and Green Club in Milnsbridge, Huddersfield on 15th December. Support will come from myself, Johnny Campbell. 7pm doors, 8pm start with aiming to finish 10:15-10.30pm. The show is unplugged in an intimate setting of the country’s oldest Socialist Club with real ale and more.

This is a Pay What You Feel event between £5-10 to support creative and inspiring projects at the Red and Green Club.

http://www.quietloner.com

https://www.facebook.com/quietloner/

Milnsbridhge

Avalon: Behind the Album and Inspiration…

 

This album began life properly in June 2015 on a long tour from the north of England to Istanbul.

Five weeks and around thirty shows in almost a straight line to the edge of Europe. I was travelling with James Bar Bowen until his part of the tour finished in Sofia, Bulgaria. A week beforehand Cosmo joined on the trip in Salzburg. The tour had been as lovely as it always is in the middle of June, though I’m not particularly one to like the heat and heading further South-East to the start of Asia is no picnic for a miserable Northerner.

Netherlands, Germany, Austria had been great as they always are but heading into Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and finally Turkey, aren’t the usual tourist routes we were taking let alone major gigging routes. Whilst we hit the capitals in all of these countries, it was the shows off the beaten track that provided the real ‘adventure’. Dilapidated public transport older than myself with tatty seats, creaking mechanics and a driver breaking practically every regulation we have in the UK. I recall one driver with three pictures in his cab of things he cherishes in life. A cheesy torn picture of a half-naked woman from a cheap porno next to a promo shot of a Volkswagen Golf and next to some rosary beads, a pristine Mary Magdalene painting on card. Life is different here, especially in rural Eastern Europe where families sell crops by the side of the road in makeshift stalls and Ladas adorn each driveway.

Places like Niš, Kraljevo, Plovdiv were places I’d never heard of before and crossing in and out of the Serbian border, outside of the EU, the border is daunting for a Brit but by birthplace, residence and family, we are offered the luxury of travel without much hassle. Serbians aren’t offered such with expensive Visas to enter the UK.

The route from Zagreb, Croatia to Plovdiv, Bulgaria passing through Belgrade, Kraljevo, Niš and Sofia for shows became the beginning of the inspiration of the album.

Before the news hit the UK on the mainstream about refugees fleeing the Middle-East, we saw first-hand the desperation of these people. Painted in the media as ‘benefit tourists’ or ‘scroungers’, nothing could be further from the truth. Walking 1000 miles crossing borders with what little possessions you have and your kids in tow is hardly a thing you’d do unless you were desperate.

Throughout this journey, meeting Roma families, seeing Roma camps outside of large cities with little sanitation as the folk who live their life as travellers are pushed away as they have been done for centuries, you start to see the full scale of the problem of borders first hand, for refugees and for travelling peoples. And whilst we were travelling ourselves (with the privilege of a British passport) our existence and movement was made with comparative ease due to an arbitery thing such as a birthplace.

This inspired me to write an album around the topic of migration and all topics encompassing the word. There are many songs out there in the folk genre that lament migration and it felt to me I was doing nothing new so I needed to adapt and play with the original form. There are a number of Traditional songs I chose for the album which took me a while to find suitable. Whilst I’d sometimes look far from home to find something interesting, these two songs are ones from my own doorstep. ‘The Dalesman’s Litany’ and ‘To the Begging I will go’. Yorkshire and Lancastrian songs about economic migration, hard cotton mill life and desperation. Another is Arthur McBride, a staple of Irish anti-war storytelling. I feel these songs are still very relevant and whilst they are both very old, these stories are still echoed today.

I hesitated to write a song from the perspective of someone who has felt the real hard end of migration.

Instead I wrote one song about travelling from a personal perspective. As an economic migrant, I felt it important to relay that image isn’t just the image we see in the papers which has become a tainted word. Another song I felt compelled to write was one about Brexit. Possibly the thing that will affect ALL Europeans wanting to live, work and study in the UK. Something that is affecting UK citizens economically at the moment.

Avalon:  /ˈævəˌlɒn/ noun

  1. (Celtic mythan island paradise in the western seas: in Arthurian legend it is where King Arthur was taken after he was mortally wounded.From Medieval Latin  insula avallonis island of Avalon, from Old Welsh aballon apple.

 

The ten tracks on the album are a collection of originals and Traditional numbers, influenced and written across the Balkans to both sides of the States, influenced by the spectrum of ‘migration’.

I will be releasing my album in Norway 24-26th November in Halden and Trondheim. Norway to me, is a place I feel very comfortable doing shows and signifies the end of overseas touring for 2017 starting up again late January. More info on that at the end of 2017! In the meantime, you can pre-order Avalon here:

http://www.johnnycampbell.bandcamp.com/album/avalon-pre-order-album

And more information here:

http://www.facebook.com/johnnycampbellmusichttp://www.johnnycampbell.com

Here is how you can help; donation points for refugees across the UK. There is usually one in every major town. https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1vk51vJck4RWCcWVw1VES3qTvtLQ&hl=en_US&ll=54.614328056323046%2C-1.1719020000000455&z=5

Johnny x

5 Questions in 5 Minutes: Efa Supertramp

5 Questions in 5 Minutes. I interview Efa Supertramp. Hailing from Wales, Efa proudly informs us of the plethora of bands who sing in Welsh, how to find hope and optimism in current times and inspiration through Angela Davis…

 

1. How has speaking Welsh as a first language politicised you?

I guess speaking a minority language puts you in a minority, which automatically makes you question the majority? That would be the simplest way to put it. It’s also great to know that if people fight for something it can be saved and that we can resist the English Government’s desire to have everything it’s own way. At the beginning of the 20th century there were a million Welsh-speakers but that declined because of industralization and people being told speaking Welsh was backwards and wouldn’t get you very far in the world – people stopped teaching their children Welsh. Later in the 60’s, there was a revival and protests in favour of the language, they were largely inspired by the spirit of protest of the 60’s (Civil Rights Movement, Anti-Vietnam War protests etc) – according to censuses it continued to grow up until the last census in 2011 when it had decresed by about 2%. I didn’t fill in the last census because of its links to Lochead Martin, who are America’s largest arms manufacutrer – so it’s hard to know what the truth is, because I think a lot of Welsh-speakers are also anti-war, because of course modern warfare is largely profit-driven and is the leftovers of an empire mentality. Either way, I would say that minority languages around the world are under-threat because of mass-media influence, but now our patterns of media consumption have shifted from television to be more on-demand and internent based, we do also have the potential to create our own digital media, connect to other Welsh-speakers online and even Facebook has a Welsh-lanugage setting! Obviously these are all benefits of being a minority language within a European and digital setting, where we have access to this equipment and tools of survival…. then again it’s also important not to be Eurocentric and so focused on ‘modernity’, and to value that things don’t have to be digital to exist, they don’t even have to be written to exist, we just have to keep speaking them, thinking in them and passing them on to the next generation and not making the dominant language the normal one. For me English is just a tool into a wider world context; I am a Welsh-speaker first and foremost, it is the language of my home, my dreams and my identity.

I find it completley laughable when anarchists and leftists question the point of speaking a language which you can’t travel or ‘use’ abroard, I mean seriously, that is an argument for imperialism and a homogenous society – if you want everyone to speak English, Spanish or Chinese, isn’t that the same as wanting only Tesco, Primark and BP on your high street? Diversity is beautiful, and equal rights also means language rights and should equate to speakers of minority-languages around the world being able to use their language to live their lives. Every language has it’s own character and it’s own identity – currently, every 14 days a language dies, globalization and capitalism are to blame for this in my opinion. I don’t want to live in a world where everything is the same, we have to fight for the rights of minority and indigenous languages around the world, before it’s too late!
In saying that, I also have my problems with Welsh-language world and the Welsh-language music scene too, because of how it segregates itself based on language. I think music scenes make a lot more sense when they are based on politics, style or genres to be honest – that’s the great thing about music, you don’t need to understand the language to enjoy it. Welsh-language gigs are quite well attended, I feel there is a kind of conservatism that exists within it, most of the bands are just clean boys playing guitars their middle-class parents bought them, and to me it just didn’t satisfy the desire for pushing boundaries, questioning gender roles and being expressive. It’s too normal and boring for me to be honest. Across the years there have been loads of amazing bands and labels that have created underground music in the Welsh-language, which totally challenged this – Datblygu were one of John Peel’s favourite bands and they had the most spot-on critique of middle-class Welsh culture backed by awesome 80’s post-punk vibes, Anhrefn were a great Welsh-language punk band who toured across Europe pre-internet (they also had their own record label which released loads of greats), Y Fflaps were a female-fronted punk band, Y Tystion were a great hip-hop group and more recently Peski records released some great electronic acts pushing boundaries, including Gwenno who released a sci-fi inspired feminist electro pop record a couple of years ago. We also set up ‘Afiach’ to release radical Welsh music, which included Radio Rhydd, Lembo and myself.So yeah, I guess it’s quite complicated battling both with your English-centric left friends who tell you your language is pointless, whilst being way too weird and inspired by the underground scene to be able to relate to most Welsh-speakers who make music. I’ve always felt like I don’t really belong anywhere…. Too Welsh for the underground scene, too underground for the Welsh scene!

Efa 2
 

2. From listening to your debut record I feel there is a conscious effort to sound fresh and optimistic. Sometimes I feel protest music can often focus on the negatives. What is part of your songwriting approach?

I’m glad it sounds like that, it was not conscious at all, I guess that’s just how I was feeling at the moment and as it was my first album it was an accumulation of songs written over 5 years from when I was 18 to 23, and you can probably hear the difference in the songs from when I thought freedom was refusing to get a job and live ‘freely’ (i.e. squatting, dumpster diving, travelling, hitch-hiking etc), to realising that that was actually a privileged point of view and that freedom means a lot more than that. Nobody is free until everyone is free, and therefore me living my life outside of society is actually not that radical at all, we have to be involved in campaigns and activism which are focused on ending unjust things such as detention centres and inhumane prison sentences such as I.P.P (Indeterminate Sentence for Public Protection). I guess this is the difference between just being a lifestyle anarchist, and actually participating in projects and direct action which can make a positive impact on the world.

Whilst writing my second album, I’ve actually scrapped lots of ideas because they were too negative and that is purely because of my own state of mind. After losing one of my best friends in November 2015, being homeless and sofa-surfing with friends for a while, and seeing the UK vote for Brexit and the US vote for Trump, I was finding it kind of hard to stay positive and be able to write anything with any ounce of hope in it. I don’t want to release some emo record about how sad I feel, and I don’t want to write about a dystopian nightmare (I’m saving that for my side project, Killdren) – as a political singer-songwriter, I do feel some kind of duty to lift people’s spirits and although when I started writing acoustic songs I was definitely just doing it for myself, when I’ve seen people’s reactions to some songs, and their enthusiasm just for me saying what I think in a song and them being able to relate to it, that’s what’s inspired me to keep writing. The next record will definitely include a song or two about deteriorating mental health, and losing my friend, but it won’t be all it’s about. It’s taken me longer to write than I intended, mostly because of this internal battle with myself, thinking everything’s shit and that I’m shit and that everything I write or think is shit – but I’m coming out of that now, I feel more focused and optimistic for the future. I went to an amazing talk with the activist and writer Angela Davis, and it was literally the best thing I’ve ever heard – she has been an activist since the 60’s with the Black Panthers and Communist Party in the US, she’s been framed by the C.I.A, she’s lost countless friends to the struggle and yet she is still optimistic, she is really one of those greats and I cried 5 times during the talk because it was so beautiful, to have a well-thought out arguments which still believed we can win – she said that activists have a “duty of optimism” and it really struck a chord with me – things can be better, things will be better and things don’t change over night. Sometimes it can be hard to keep going because it feels like we aren’t making any gains, but we are – it’s neo-liberalism that has convinced us that our individual lives are important when really they are not, everything we do is part of a bigger picture and a bigger process towards change. Anyway, I’m going off on one now – but I guess related to that, for me writing music is not to make a career, or to make any money or anything, it’s part of a bigger picture – reflecting what’s going on in the world, participating in activism and underground culture, and hopefully inspiring people to get involved themselves; whether it’s participating in protests or making some form of art that says “fuck you” to the right-wing governments!

Efa 3
3. Touring the DIY scene across Mainland Europe we all know things are very different there in terms of how spaces are used (like social centres, squats, etc) operated and supported. Something we have lost in the UK for a number of years. What do you see is possible in the UK to emulate this or even could be adapted to fit as a model in the UK?
I have toured and visited a load of mainland squats and spaces since 2012, and it’s really inspiring to see an alternative mode of operating actually working. It’s anarchism in action basically, communities running themselves, taking responsibility for themselves and creating safe, creative and radical spaces for people to enjoy. I think it is becoming harder for people everywhere to run spaces because of gentrification and change in squatting laws, and so on – I know that even in cities like Amsterdam and Berlin some really great and prestigious spaces are under serious threat of closure (ADM in Amsterdam, Köpi in Berlin) – it is very concerning because these are spaces which have existed since the 80’s and 90’s and once they’re gone, I’m not sure what will happen. They are the remnants of a very radical generation who took things into their own hands and lived their lives as protests. I don’t think this energy exists on such a large scale across Europe at the moment – it’s the same as what I hear from ex-squatters in London, it was a ‘time and a place’ kind of thing and it’s really heart-breaking to think we might be at the end of that. There are still people doing awesome actions with squatting in the UK, in the past couple of months Sisters Uncut Bristol have occupied public buildings to protest cuts to domestic violence charities, Loose Space in Manchester squatted a cinema to provide a creative art space, ANAL in London have squatted a load of millionaires houses and Temporary Autonomous Art London created a squatted art exhibition in the heart of hipster London, but all these squats are relatively short-term, and so I guess are more ‘actions’ than long-term ‘spaces’. I guess that’s why we really do need to fight and support these spaces which do still exist in mainland Europe, they are a testament to the squatting-spirit and the ethics of DIY and alternative living.

Regardless of what happens in terms of these squatted venues, I guess it’s important to focus on the possibility of things working differently – we don’t have to work with a hierarchical top-down structure, even if we have to ‘legally’ acquire and pay for spaces (like the awesome DIY Space For London have done), we can operate as co-operatives and collectives. They might be able to take away squatters rights, but they can’t take away these systems of operating and thinking, so I guess optimistically we have to look at the potential this can give us. Money sucks, and I have never tried to get a lease on a venue (and I imagine it’s pretty difficult) – however the benefits of not squatting can include: being more accessible (i.e. lots of squats are not wheelchair accessible because of weird entrances; people without status might not want to risk being somewhere which might get raided by the police etc) and knowing how long you have to work within that space (not facing violent evictions etc).

In my own experience of running spaces in the UK, I feel there are a few problems which seem to be reoccurring –
excessive use of drugs and alcohol, narcissistic characters, sexual assaults (and complicity in this behaviour) and a lack of self-awareness or self-responsibility. In the Netherlands it’s so inspiring when you visit the squats, because everyone is working on a project and wants to make the environment around them better – they do drink, and they do smoke, but it’s this kind of ‘work hard, party hard’ attitude which I think is all-round much better and fulfilling. In the UK the drinking and drugs so often overtakes the projects, it becomes and all-day, all-night thing, and I just think – this is not the world I want to live in, this is not utopia, this is not what I’m fighting for – there is more beauty, diversity and complexity to life than drinking Special Brew and listening to shit punk bands. Again, it’s this lifestyle anarchism thing – just because you don’t want to work within the capitalist system, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t contribute to the world around you. It’s this lack of responsibility for yourself and your community, and I think all these things feed into each other – the alcohol makes you not care, which makes you distance yourself from sexual assaults when they happen, which essentially is refusing to take responsibility. It is a very destructive form of existence, and maybe that’s the main difference is this focus on destruction rather than construction. In terms of sexual assaults within the activist and punk community, I am just sick to death of people making excuses for men’s fucked-up and predatory behaviour, this is one of the main things which has made me lose faith in alternative spaces in the UK and has actually made me question whether I would want to be part of a long-term project again. Rapists need to be scared, and rapists’ friends need to stop making excuses for them.

4. The zine ‘Give Me Space’ which you released about your 2015 European tour which gave an insight into your life on the road, the people you met and the places you performed gave a frank account of your experiences on the road. Currently you are releasing a new zine…can you tell us more about the upcoming zine?
 
The next since is continuing on the theme of space, and is going to be called ‘Taking Up Space’. It is a contributor-based zine, which will be interwoven by my own thoughts, rants and articles – I’m aiming to get it out by DIY Cultures on May 14th in London so *fingers crossed* ! The zine explores different ways of taking up space, including looking at mental health, gentrification, autonomous and free spaces and squats.
5. It’s been a while since you’ve done a collection of shows around the UK…what can people expect from this upcoming tour and in particular, the show here in Huddersfield?
 
Same old Efa Supertramp. I don’t really make plans or think things out……

Efa will be performing at the Red and Green club, Milnsbridge, Huddersfield on the 28th April 2017 supported by Hello Mabel, Acoustic/Folk/Punk from Warrington. Door 7.30pm and it is a Pay What You Feel entry show.

http://www.facebook.com/EfaSupertramp

http://www.facebook.com/hellomabelband

The Year’s Round-up: 93 Shows / 30,000 Miles / 1 Blog

Perhaps of my reserved English-ness, my artistic self-confidence or otherwise, I’ve found the process of blogging sometimes quite self-congratulatory, tedious and a bit pretentious…

I do my best not to talk about myself but instead about experiences, the culture of places, amusing accounts and so forth. Here is a round-up for 2016; UK, Ireland, United States, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands, Germany and Iceland condensed into this blog. Stories, the people encountered, tour buddies and more…

UK, Ireland Tour / Tim Holehouse:

I started off the year with a few UK shows before the tour with Tim, supporting performers like David Rovics, Attila the Stockbroker with a few sporadic local shows. Tim is one of the hardest working people I know on the scene knocking out near enough 300 shows a year across the world. We decided to hit a few UK shows in England and Northern Ireland plus three Irish shows. Landing in Dublin’s fair city and doing an impromptu show in a popular Dublin bar was great craic. What was prevalent was the fact it was 100 years to the month of Irish independence of 1916. I’ve always admired the Irish spirit, generosity and welcoming attitude these folks have and it was no different in Northern Ireland.

northern-ireland-sunset

Northern Irish sunset

There was a fair bit of ‘action’ going on in Belfast due to this anniversary and being driven round the Shankill estate and Falls Road was really some place. Murals adorn the sides of properties showing the tensions but also the creativity these people can express in hard times. I heartily recommend visiting Belfast and Northern Ireland for hospitality…and good banter.

Now entering the Republic passing through Derry, Donegal and through to Sligo on the west coast treated us to a picturesque bus ride with wild mountains, green fields and the ever dwindling reception on our mobiles. Ireland is still a wild place and to tour a place with so much of a musical history is a privelge. The UK / Ireland tour was only a week and a half but a great little experience to tour N.I. and the Republic.

 

United States Tour / James Bar Bowen:

A short gap of a week before hitting the United States. ‘Bar’ had already toured the country a couple of years previous, this would be my first time touring it with a guitar performing in NYC, Pittsburgh, Newark, Wilmington, New Brunswick with brief stopovers in Boston and Philadelphia. Kicking off in NYC we met a number of people who we would come across again on the tour, this was the perfect start to the tour, a Saturday Matinee show in downtown Brooklyn. For those who haven’t been to New York, not to play it down, it’s like a bigger London in my eyes…and the scale is immense. Every street is either a film set, a historical account of a music scene with so many familiar places you have seen on the telly box. The fast paced life of Manhattan was a bit much for me.

nyc

Madison Square Garden

All along this tour we came across great American hospitality in places like Boston with Jason Bennett and Wilmington DE. Jeremy and Gayle in Wilmington from Gable Music Ventures sorted us out a couple of shows, a committed music-loving group of people committing to putting on many events in Wilmington and beyond…this is what American hospitality was about, taking chances and putting your heart and soul into them which they did!

In Pittsburgh the hospitality was equally welcoming meeting up with Bryan McQuaid, country-punk musician and all-round dude showed us round the best eateries and dive-bars.

Overall, performing the USA is quite an experience and although only travelling along the East Coast, the scale of the whole country is equally as generous as the hospitality and dare I say it, the portions in some bars!

Finland, Sweden, Norway Tour / Efa Supertramp:

I left Manchester Airport to Helsinki 7 degrees Celsius arriving into Helsinki around 35 degrees. This continued heat wave for about a week or two was breaking Finnish records. On this tour I was touring with  Efa Supertramp and a number of others along the Finnish dates like Slack Bird, Lifelong Hangover and Ozzmond. Efa arrived a few days later than planned because of a throat infection but me and Ozzmond met her at the second Helsinki show. Finland is vast swathes of trees and water and in certain places the midges were as bad (if not worse) than the Scottish ones.

efa-sweden

Efa in Sweden

A loooong 12 hour boat trip from Turku to Stockholm for the next leg of the tour to do five Swedish shows was great to see across the farms, lakes and forests of this country. Sweden felt very futuristic with barely anybody using cash, only Swish, a mobile banking service where you exchange currency. This became a small hindrance selling merch.

Leaving the EU to Norway we were treated to Norwegian squat life in Oslo, under eviction, these squats seemed barricaded, on guard, but defiant. After the show in the bar linked to many of these squats, we head on an 8 hour journey through the mountains to Trondheim. A beautiful city on the coast with mountains beyond. The quaint brightly coloured wooden houses form part of the backdrop of this city. Two excellent shows in Trondheim with the midnight sun disorienting our heavy drinking.

 

UK, Netherlands, Germany / Fabian Maddison

A couple of shows in Bristol and Lewes and we head into continental Europe on a 12 hour journey to Hengelo. Massive shout-out to Fabian who put in a slog on this driving for this particular journey! The Dutch shows were a mix of new ones and ones I’d performed before and meeting up with Jan, Eva from the band ‘Shoe Eating Rabbits’ was a great pleasure in Groningen, as was meeting Shireen in Amsterdam.

amsterdam-at-night

Amsterdam at night

 

We had a collection of great shows in Germany and it was also my first time going to the eastern bit of the country like Dresden, Leipzig and Berlin. It did feel different but the hospitality was still of the high standard! Meeting up with an old friend Robin from UK (claiming asylum from Brexit Britain) it was great to see multicultural Berlin and what an inspiring city it is. Uboquitous art, music, activist projects spread across the city. It would be very hard to miss something creative in many streets.

The final show in Hamburg and Vita who plays Accordion joined us in Dresden for the remaining shows in Berlin and Hamburg. This was the end of a 7 week tour of UK, Netherlands and Germany for myself and I am now very much looking forward to bed. Not before our host Snel created his home-made Sauren (a strong but sweet alcoholic blue beverage) and sent me off into the morning light to catch a flight home.

FULL ICELANDIC TOUR BLOG: https://johnnycampbellmusic.wordpress.com/2016/11/14/icelandic-tour-why-iceland-is-much-more-than-volcanoes-and-bjork/

MASSIVE thank you to all the tour buddies, those who put us up, put up with us, fed, watered and even carried us to our shows. You know who you are.

Johnny x