Write On – Mark Stewart

The Pop Group’s founder on the nature of ideas as contagion

“I see ideas and ideals as kind of viral contagions which are transmitted/mutate through contact/our syntactic memory banks continually hyperlinking between this and the other. The working title of this project/my new album was ‘Fountains’, and I was riffing on that concept of memes and tropes of infectious idealism or idealism as infection.

It’s been my amazing good fortune through life to hang out with some amazing people big and small. From taking high tea with Sun Ra to debating ‘the apocalypse’ with Allen Ginsberg, and for this hors d’oeuvres I have assembled a fascinating freak circus with me cast as ringmaster/master of ceremonies – at times I felt like I was directing The Wizard Of Oz on mescaline, like those idiot savants who absorb whole pieces of music on a single hearing, composers who hallucinate entire compositions, psychics who take dictation from long dead writers, or victims of brain damage who can move only when they hear music.

Me and Kenneth Anger bonded over a shared love of Lautreamonte and it was fun to hear his stories about Paris in the Nineteen Forties when he hung out with Jean Genet and Jean Cocteau – all huge inspirers to me, breaking the spell of the spectacle. Kenneth, ‘the king of juxtaposition’, I see as an arching influence on these ‘spectacular’ times.

Richard Hell, together with my old friend Judy Nylon, seem to be the fountains in New York from which punk first sprouted, like ghosts of the near future, coming back to reclaim their past. Hell’s work with the Neon Boys and Television (their song ‘Little Johnny Jewel’ literally blew my mind) and The Heartbreakers is as seminal as Keith Levene’s early experiments with The Clash and Public Image here in the UK. For me, Keith Levene is one of the true heroes of the English music scene and his mad skillz and alchemical powers as a catalyst have never been truly acknowledged.

Bobby Gillespie dedicates the song ‘Autonomia’ to Carlo Giuliani, a protestor who died at the G8 Demonstrations in Genoa. The feral rock ‘n’ roll of Primal Scream has always conjured up to me images of John Sinclair and the MC5, battling the zombiefication of society.

I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing Lee Perry’s voodooisms in the studio, with his shamanic incantations against the Gang War of the military industrial complex – those who wander are not always lost – dubbing it up with On-U supremo Adrian Sherwood and bashment/digital dancehall legend Jazzwad (who’s worked with some of my ragga heroes like Turbulence and Ward 21) in a Black Ark stylee.

In this age of celebrity crucifixions, enhanced interrogations and war porn, these illuminoids bounce off the walls, off me, and each other like neutrons in a charm factory, modern day Count de Saint Germaines exacting experiments in time and space. For the last three years of my life I’ve travelled from the old quarter of Lisbon through Baroque Vienna via a volcano literally in the middle of nowhere, guided by light into realms of flesh and spirit, laughter and terror, magic and mayhem, and the whole journey has had a profound effect on me.”

This feature appears in issue 74 of Clash magazine, out 3rd May 2012. Find out more about the issue HERE.

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