Saturday, 9 June 2012

Two weeks as a pigeon

If there's anything of reasonable importance that I have to attend, it's pretty much a given that I'll be late. I honestly don't know how I manage it. I don't enjoy letting people down, and I'm pretty fast on two legs. But in the corner of my mind, there's a very dozy nerve that is in charge of a large chunk of my brain. As opposed to suggesting that I should get my shoes on and brush my teeth, it urges me to watch a mediocre episode of the Simpsons, or pick my nose, or make a sandwich that I end up choking on as my body awakens in a jolt of panic causing my legs to leap forward and my throat to splutter up half digested chunks of hovis and branston pickle.

My name is Duncan James Graham, and I was born in 1991. I have an 'online persona' sort of thing known as 'Calamari'. This is because I am incapable of being witty or funny in the flesh. If someone approaches me in person I'll awkwardly mumble something about my top five favourite Steve Lillywhite produced albums and stare at the ground as they turn back to their friends and discuss Mumford & Sons and their trip to H&M, or whatever. I felt as if I should reintroduce myself because of yet another long absence from the blogging world. This blog to me is like the baby in Eraserhead (a film I recently watched whilst under the influence, which is not an advisable thing to do). Every time I type in 't...' into my browser, '' comes up as a suggestion, and I dare not look at the site to see the wheezing, sickly state it has been transformed into. I have yet to take the scissors to this son of a gun and watch it spew fake blood and porridge. But it was still a sad sight to see. So this week, I am doing a blog post based on my experiences as an intern at a publication, known as the Stool Pigeon. The Stool Pigeon is a great little music newspaper/website that I have enjoyed reading for years, but I'll not garble on, because the content speaks for itself and people have short attention spans.

So yes. I'm late for just about everything. And the Stool Pigeon was not an exception to this rule. Thinking London was much like Glasgow, in that you can walk around the corner and you'll probably see some sort of familiar building, turned out to be a very ill-fated assumption. My phone decided it couldn't handle Google maps, so after phoning the editor of the Stool Pigeon and asking for directions, I set off in a direction that seemed to be vaguely correct. I did not see that area ever again during my two-week trip. After walking/running for half an hour in what turned out to be completely the wrong direction, the editor recommended that I take a black cab. Being a little smart-arse, I thought I could rescue the situation by taking a bus, which would be cheaper. When the bus took me even further away from the office, I finally decided to stop being an idiot and I took a taxi. The driver was an exceptionally friendly chap who was bursting with pride about having the Olympics in London. He played tour guide as he waved his hands like an opera conductor, and talked about the first man to bring peanuts to Britain. My general feeling about the Olympics being held in London is total indifference, truth be told. I cannot relate to people getting excited about it, but each to their own, so I lied about my enthusiasm, and did a lot of smiling and nodding because he could barely understand me.

Because of one of my Journalism lecturers, I imagine editors to be large, dour faced, gruff, red faced chaps that bark across the office when someone incorrectly uses parenthesis. Phil Hebblethwaithe, the editor of the Stool Pigeon, was big, but not in the way I imagined. He was built like a daddy long legs and his knees practically came up to my head. But he had a smile that could melt butter, and he paid for my taxi fare.

Stour Space, the location of the Stool Pigeon office, was somewhere that I became completely enamoured with instantly. There was a nice little café below that served home-made soup and things in that sort of vein that I never managed to try. Upstairs were a whole load of studios, filled with polystyrene bodies, boxes, abstract paintings and attractive hipster girls. The building overlooked a canal which shimmered green on sunny days. The entire place had a warm sort of charm. Phil often referred to the place as a 'shithole' and yearned for a sleek office in Soho with an attractive secretary. That was probably because of the mice, which often shat around the new releases which were mailed to the office (a premonition for the majority of the content, one could say), the ants in the shared kitchen which swarmed around any stray crumbs of food, and the screaming baby that seemed to be permanently camped outside the window of the office.

But I'm definitely not one to complain. Sometimes Phil handed tasks to me which he described as tedious, and I really didn't mind. Even the most mind-numbing tasks were interesting. Sifting through and sorting out press releases and CDs was insightful to the sort of content that got in, and it was fantastic to listen to music that wouldn't see a public releases for months in some cases. The most draining task was interview transcribing, which I only really did once. The band was called 'Beach House' and I had a very mixed opinion of them by the end of it. Having listened to some sections over and over again for mumblings, I became very critical of the interviewees. I thought they had some interesting opinions and ideas, but it really boiled down to them being a couple of hippies that said things like "We didn't choose the songs, the songs chose us" and that they spent most of their time "chasing the energy". They seemed nice, but I couldn't take them very seriously.

My most common job at the Pigeon was to post stories for the website. Some of it came from press releases, some of it essentially came from other websites. It just really involved typing it up quickly before it went stale, and also put a little of the publication's humour in. One of my favourite things about the Stool Pigeon is that it doesn't take itself too seriously, ever. It doesn't really care about who it pisses off, and it isn't wrapped up with insecurities and who it can appeal to. So the articles always have a sense of humour, and it isn't necessarily under pressure to reprint hype and press releases.

And I got a gig review put up on the site which I was very pleased about. Trust were an absolutely fantastic band, and their album has to be my favourite release of the year so far (with the exception of maybe Visions by Grimes). Seeing the group perform live was an odd experience, because up until that point, I thought the description of a 'hipster' was something everyone grossly exaggerated for comic effect. I quickly  found this wasn't quite the case. Never in my life have I seen such a strange assortment of hairstyles and personalities. Most were incredibly self concious and barely moved throughout the throbbing pulse the live band produced. 90% of the audience stood motionless with folded arms throughout the set. One of the hipsters sported a large beard and a finely waxed moustache that curled at the tips. I know there's something incredibly wrong when someone starts looking at me for dance tips. I had no money for booze, so I tried to flail around like an idiot under the influence of nothing but good music. The beard hipster bounced around a little bit, actually turning his head and looking at the way I moved my arms for inspiration as if I knew what I was doing. I think he gave up in the end. The gig itself was excellent, although the venue was so new that they couldn't hang up my coat because they were still building the cloakroom. You can read my review here if you fancy.

I absolutely loved my time at the Stool Pigeon, and it gave me a real confidence boost for my future path. A lot of my memories of the place are unfortunately of me getting a feverish cold in the last week, snorting and sniffing my way through the ridiculously hot weather. But hopefully, the positive memories are going to shine through in time; chugging tins of cold tomato soup while churning out stories, eating a malteaser ice cream in the sun on my break, looking out towards the canal, and once again getting told off once again for constantly running everywhere.

What I'm currently listening to > \Visions - Grimes/

Thanks for reading!