Tuesday, April 28, 2009

In Defence Of The Car

Ferraris at Silverstone 1992

I said I would write a bit more about my liking for the automobile and so here we go.
I was insane for cars - and specifically Italian cars - in my youth. I dragged my parents and my mates round to many car events. I even met Nick Mason from Pink Floyd once and I didn't give a shit about his day job back then, he was famous to me as a collector and racer of Ferraris.

Author, philosopher and social commentator Jeremy Clarkson once described his love of cars as a sort of admiration for someone's desire to make an object that exists for no really good reason other than to make people's lives a bit more enjoyable. It's a good way of looking at the car and particularly fast, extravagant cars that might get the 'eco-mentalists' (as Clarkson calls them) up in arms.

I'm as appalled as anyone when driving along down the M1 looking at a procession of very large, expensive, uneconomical BMWs, Mercedes' and the like bomb past me with one person sitting inside. Motorway driving isn't fun. Sure, it should be comfortable but buying a flashy car to do the daily commute is exceptional twattery. Same goes for vulgar displays of wealth - gold plated Lamborghinis bought with oil money that will never venture beyond a lap of the block round Harrods are equally aggravating. And don't get me started on tenuous, personalised number plates. If you want to write your name on your car, just write it on it. Maybe put a price tag on it too.

They say the automobile will successfully end the world within 150 years of it's invention. Not necessarily through pollution but through other knock-on effects, the main one being obesity in it's drivers who take a 3 and half litre saloon car a half a mile round the corner to pick up a takeaway.

However, things weren't always this way. Ferrari (like a lot of sports car makers) started life as a racing team. The road cars were a sideline to fund competition. And the early road cars were literally beaten out of metal by some guys in a shed. Extravagance didn't come into it. What mattered was speed and efficiency. Usually at the expense of attention to detail, comfort and reliability. What matters about those cars is what occurs inside them, between the driver and the machinery. If that all sounds a bit POWER and homoeroticism then think of it as a contrast to modern supercars - where what matters is outside them, between the driver and the people looking at him or her.

The 1980s changed all that. The classic car market experienced a boom so colossal that it was possible to make a 100% profit on a brand new Ferrari just by driving it out of the showroom. It changed people's attitudes to older cars. Rather than being charismatic machines for racing and for fun, they now became investments. It also gave people a motive to dig up the rusted remains of pretty much anything and rebuild it, meaning long-lost cars were suddenly re-emerging in perfect condition and giving a perfect real-life example for the metaphor of "Grandpa's Broom". It culminated in Lord Brocket, who played polo with Prince Charles, pulling an insurance scam by dismantling and burying some of his classic car collection in order to fake a robbery. Classic cars back then were currency.

In the 70s if you drove a Ferrari you obviously had a bit of money. But the cars could be a pain in the arse so it was assumed that, by sacrificing a bit of reliability and comfort in the name of style, you at least had some taste. The 80s changed that because suddenly the most vulgar display of personal wealth available was a classic car. It also seemed to infiltrate the Ferrari designs of the time too. The Testarossa is undoubtedly a striking icon of the 1980s but is it beautiful? Nope. Compare it to it's predecessor, the Boxer, in it's original 365 BB form and it's like comparing a marathon runner and a bodybuilder. Because I grew up in the 80s I still find cars like the Testarossa or the Lamborghini Countach exciting but as pieces of design they're going to need a few decades yet before they can be separated from the money-grabbing era that spawned them. For me, the last truly beautiful Ferrari was the 308 GTB. And even that grew bulges and wings over time.

Anyway, it's perfectly acceptable for a chap of my age to know plenty about guitars (for example). I know plenty about guitars and whilst it's jovially referred to as geeky from time to time, it's accepted as being OK. Same goes for records. You can identify a first press from a re-press and as long as you don't get too 'real ale' about it you're OK. But mention cars and you're fucked. Somehow, it's not cool in the circles I move in. They represent crass displays of money and macho one-upmanship.

I want to make a stand for the automobile. Not the modern automobile. Not four wheel drive people carriers. Not German limousines. Not hot hatches. They have their place but they're not for me. I want to defend cars built for no other reason than it would be great to build them. Individual, sometimes unique objects of design genius. Built for a purpose but never at the expense of beauty and sometimes made worse as a machine because of it. Silly items of extravagance and joy that take on personalities of their own and are treated by people not as investments but in the same way they might affectionately treat a family pet. Cars owned by people who are quite possibly mental for doing so. Old Italian cars seem to have these characteristics in spades and it's what drew me to them as a pre-pubescent.

So there you go, I like cars and I'm proud of it.

So much so that I scanned in over 100 old pictures I took with my first camera, a Canon Sure Shot, in the late 80s and early 90s. They're all here:


If you've read this far you're obviously not completely opposed to the idea of the car so here are a few to look at:

Ferrari 250 GTOs

Ferrari Display at Silverstone 1992

Ferrari 250 GT SWBs

Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spyder

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Lords Live

Back in November 2008, on the arse-end of a particularly knackering tour, we did a live session for XFM at Dubrek Studios in Derby in front of an audience where we proceeded to play everything wrong for about 3 hours. However, we cut out the duff takes and endless faffing and snipped it all down to bite sized chunks that actually sound pretty passable. We're working on making the whole thing available as a live album, but in the meantime there are 4 songs up to listen to at our obligatory Myspace page: www.myspace.com/lords

Friday, April 24, 2009


Flickr is a strange thing. It's a great idea and a brilliantly designed website that successfully turns the internet into a photo album. I am a big fan.

However, it's also a wanking hotspot. Seriously. I don't know if people don't realise that there is real pornography (anything you can imagine too!) on the internet for free or maybe it's just that people prefer things that are more 'real'. I dunno.

I was discussing this the other night. I use Flickr quite a lot to research images for illustrations for my work and so I have a fairly varied range of topics that I might do a search on. With the safety filters off I can guarantee you that within 2 pages of any search you will find a) photos of a transvestite or b) a man having a wank. Try it. Not at work though. We tried it and sure enough, there was Helmut (it's mainly Germans it seems) in a pair of tights with his balls out.
Some of the images you find will burn themselves onto your retina forever. You've been warned.

Now, one look at my favourites will show you I like a picture of a lady as much as anyone (as well as a disturbing amount of pictures of cars - don't judge me) but I like good photos, photos that are meant to be looked at for their appeal or attractiveness and are taken and presented with that in mind.
Not everyone does though and you can be left with the slightly souring thought that someone, somewhere (Germany, let's be honest) is hunched double over your holiday photos.

You can see, through Flickr's Stats application, how many people are looking at your photos and why - it shows what people search for and how they arrive at your page.
I recently went to Ireland to visit Elvis and Jo and I took a barrel-load of photos there. They're all in a set here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sumlin/sets/72157614797613499/
They all have an average number of views. Maybe 5 or so each. Some of the more attractive ones have 10 views but nothing really sticks out. Apart from a few. Here are some of them:

Standing In Clouds

Orange Sunlight


Chris' House

Can you see a pattern between them? Apart from each of them having over 100 views (and one having closer to 300). I can't. Or rather I couldn't until Flickr user Kinkywelies added this comment to one of them:



Wellington Boots? I like ladies' footwear as much as anyone but wellies? And adding a comment to a photo that's blatantly a holiday snap? Isn't that a bit weird? Only one of my pics is even tagged with anything that would alert the wellie-watchers but yet any pic from that set that even looks like it has wellingtons in it has 100 views which means, worryingly, that people have actually looked through all my holiday pictures for things they can... I don't even want to think about it.
You think that's weird? How about this photo of the legendary stuffed gorilla (they shot it in the groin and when faced with reconstructing a gorilla's penis, looked at evolution and opted to give it a human one instead) at Wollaton Hall in Nottingham?

Gorilla's cock

At last count it was at 3,681 views. What about this one:

Day 3: Wooden pecker

Joe Mask with broken umbrella handle out of his flies. Hilariously funny. Flickr user sdw970 thinks so. He added a comment "Cool!". Which it is. It's got Joe Mask in it. But then you look at his favourites. I'm not going to link it. If you want to see it then you can find it. But don't do it at work. In fact, just don't do it.

Be careful out there.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Eugene Robinson


Bit of a good one this. We're putting on Eugene Robinson from the mighty Oxbow at The Jam Cafe in Nottingham on April 29th. He'll be doing a spoken word show based around his recent book FIGHT (Or, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Ass-kicking but Were Afraid You'd Get Your Ass Kicked for Asking). You can read about it here: http://www.harpercollins.com/books/9780061189227/Fight/index.aspx
Our friend Chris Killen is reading from his first novel The Bird Room (Canongate) and Jack Lantern from Human Hair is doing some spoken word too.

While you're at it, read what happened when Capsule and Oxbow messed with Texas in 2007 ,with some pictures by me... http://www.capsule.org.uk/projects/capsule-at-sxsw/the-oxbow-incident

You can confirm your attendance at the above event in the virtual RSVP world of Myface here:

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


March saw a little spasm of gigs for Stage Blood. Much comedy ensued. Vital life lessons were learned. Such as, avoid the Nottingham branch of the Discharge fanclub at a service station at 2am, even if you know them. Phew. Talk is already afoot of future outings and we managed to record 3 songs with Vaselines sound-doctor Kenny MacLeod at the helm which will see release of some form in the future.
The Nottingham gig was filmed in some sort of multi-camera shoot but I'm not sure who by and what for. This You Tube footage wasn't part of that...

We also spent a grand getting a professional photo shoot done for the glossies.

Zomes Tour Photos

Kogumaza had the good fortune of opening up for Zomes on some of their first UK tour last month. We had much fun. Neil drove Zomes for the whole of their tour and has photos of his own but there are a few pics and videos from Leeds, Nottingham and Liverpool over at Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sumlin/sets/72157616873388290/


Turn The Place Over


Monday, April 20, 2009

Professional Rock Band


Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Jandek's Got A Brand New Bag


Saturday, April 04, 2009

A Nightmarish Vision

Zun Zun Egui

Kush & Elvis

Some photos and video of the truly excellent Zun Zun Egui and the equally pleasing Bilge Pump over at Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sumlin/sets/72157616278499300/

Friday, April 03, 2009

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Ferrari 308 GTB

I need someone to loan me £35,000. Or give me it, that'd be better actually.

I'll get round to writing about the full depth of my closet petrol-head-ness some other time. Put simply though, I love cars. Not all of them I might add. Modern cars do nothing for me (with the possible exception of the recent Maserati GT). But the mid 1960s to late 1970s work by Italian design house Pininfarina made my 10 year old self go all funny and it still does now. Leonardo Fiovaranti's work for the company represents a pinnacle of design for me and out of the amazing shapes he dreamt up, the Ferrari 308 is still the top of my list.

It was conceived as a replacement for the "junior Ferrari", the Dino. Like the Dino, it wasn't even meant to be badged as a Ferrari until a last minute change of plan came about.

I think I could draw one of these in side profile with my eyes closed. As time went on (and also as more of these relatively cheap Ferraris wound up in the hands of people with more cash than taste) the 308 grew unsightly bulges and appendages, but the first version - the fibreglass-bodied 308GTB - is still the high point of sports car design to my eyes. Even now, most mid-engined sports cars follow the 308's flying buttresses and curved flanks as a blueprint. Ferrari themselves have based all of their 'entry-level' cars on the 308 in some way since and even the 'super-Ferraris' of the time, the 288GTO and F40, were based on the humble 308.

Concious that it wasn't the fastest or most spectacular car they'd ever produced, prototypes and 'press' cars at the time were always in subtle colours like silver, blue or brown to accentuate it's pretty lines. The 308 was a rarity - a Ferrari that didn't look best in red. That hasn't stopped most of these cars ending up 're-sale red' over time though. Blame Magnum PI.

When I was a kid I had lots of pictures of Ferraris on my walls. The 308 I wanted most though was the demonstrator model from the photos of the time when the car was launched in the UK by importers Maranello Concessionaires. It was a silver fibreglass-bodied car with a deep red interior.

Which brings me on to why I need £35,000. The very same car is for sale: http://www.classiccarsforsale.co.uk/classic-car-page.php/carno/54920

Exactly as I remember it. NPA900P. No one has thought to add a picnic table rear wing, re-paint it red or put some 'bling' alloys on it. It's exactly as it left the factory and went onto my wall.

I accept Paypal or cheque.

As an aside, if anyone out there lucky enough to own a 308, or in fact any interesting car, wants to swap letting me have a go in it for a one-off illustration of their car printed on heavyweight paper stock then get in touch. I'd love to draw some cars again, though I would wager I was better at it when I was 10:

Snowy Wollaton Park, Nottingham


Katy and me avoided the winter shutdown at the start of February and watched England grind to a halt on a news report from the comfort of a bar with hot coffee and sandwiches in Leenaun, Ireland. We got back just in time for the thaw. Good timing eh?

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Circus Lupus, Prague 1993

Wojtek the Feckless Pole, I salute your foresight.


At the end of January, Katy and me went to visit Lordy drummer Elvis and ladyfriend Jo in their new home in County Mayo, on the West Coast of Ireland. It truly was like being on Mars. What a bonkers place. There are loads of photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sumlin/sets/72157614797613499/

"What's the sea like?"



Whalemeat Again


Elv, Wade and Katy


Guitar For Sale

If you like guitars that look amazing, are the size and weight of the average horse and are a sonic nervous-breakdown then my financial disaster is your gain. "Thomas" is for sale:

Beware The Hound