The Foundry’s Last Gasp

June 28th, 2010

I have a nagging, niggling, pesky question that keeps me up nights – how do I sustain myself by making music in this golden glorious age of communications.  It’s a waking dream.  Je cherche the teenies version of The Manual.  You remember the glorious KLF guide to ‘…How to Have a Number One Hit The Easy Way’?  It needs an update.  Since it was 1st published in 1988, we’ve endured the mobile phone, an explosion of social networks inc YouTube, TheirSpace, Farceberk, Twatter, internet radio, GarageBand.  To counterbalance:  filesharing vs music industry backlash, the almighty video game, Big Brother & Pop Idol/X-Factor.  I’ve a hunch that, tho there’s a greater chance of upping musical profile and gaining exposure, making money or at least sustaining one’s self by making music is not any more facilitated, in fact maybe even a whole lot more difficult than it was in the late-80s.

For starters,  exposure has improved for musical creators across the board – thus flattening any previous competitive edge defined by say … talent.  It really is about how many loud mouthed friends vie for a place at your dinner table because you are marked for success.  Success has now been defined by raunch culture & reality TV.   Fine, but what has been lost in the negotiation but music that defines a generation or an era, even.  Instead it’s “Oh that music would so work for The ‘Baby’ Gap” or “Can’t you just hear that song on a Starbucks compilation?” or “That track has I-pad written all over it”  We all seem to fancy ourselves as ad execs.  The big record label players (who shall remain nameless, because they don’t deserve to be tagged and I will not be oppressed into association) play hardball, possibly because they can hear the death knell louder than the dinner bell.

Of course the music industry’s not the only culprit.  Other corporations – who feed off the fringe of musical appeal  through  say sponsorship or product placement – are operating from point of extreme privilege.  Since all corporations have been granted and aggressively flex their human given/ceded rights – grrrreat – it seems there are only so many of those rights to go around; so individual humans are to swap their human rights for the joys of commodification.  I may not be valued but at least I have a value..


Suppose an urban property, having lain fallow for so long that it threatens to generate social deprivation in its very neighborhood, has been rescued by inhabitants according to an arrangement with an owner or in fact squat the property.  The property becomes a hip hangout for a site specific community cultivating their own culture of musical, visual, spoken, written art which strengthens and integrates that neighborhood.  It then becomes a draw to outsiders thus increasing and circulating capital from the outside to within that community.   What allows a corporation to swoop in, wipe that community and its efforts aside, buy out the negligent owner and start to boss around local government to exile the people who’ve contributed to the upgrade of that community.  The idea that a corporation represents a remote group of shareholders and consumers whose desires for what to do with a space are more important than the ones who’ve saved and upgraded the neighborhood as well as actually inhabit that space, makes my blood curdle.  As if to say, move over little dog cause the big dog’s movin in.  Why do they do it?  Because they want to target an expanding new market and Capitalism is dependent on an ever expanding market/product/raw material (also the reason why it is destroying this planet since nature may overprovide but she does so consistently) and a substantial body of consumers to work for less than their market worth.  What a double whammy.   It is in big dog’s interest to deprive and displace people, pretending life is just one big game of monopoly – and they’re playin it all out on your street.

It would seem that the natural response would be to form a group and appeal to a local council for protection.  Surely that local group should have priority because the members have improved their own neighborhood and can be trusted to carry on doing so.  What exactly does this giant corporation have to offer the neighborhood?  Why is there no protection or reward in place for what has already been created?

Traffic Conch

Of course this story belongs to THE FOUNDRY in London.  It was one of the first places that I went to party in London when I first arrived 17 years ago.  A friend of mine introduced me to my (now ex) husband there.  I was also introduced to Phil Dirtbox who was hosting one of his glorious crooner cabarets – pre-pre-pre Colony Rooms.  I got some of my first gigs there as a musican.  The stewards, Tracey and Jonathan, were chucked in the most sneaky and sordid fashion – real live proof of taxation without representation.  The Foundry was banned from holding music gigs by the local council for about 2 years, and on that basis were evicted.  My Foundry was determined to be an establishment with no cultural value.  Ye olde bait & switcheroo.  The bailiffs finally homed in a coupla months ago, and guess what?  The new owner started to drag its corporate paws.  Some younger revolutionaries resquatted the space and had a party last week, during which the cops were called and fresh threats of bailiff invasion were wage, the date set for this morning at 7am.

My friend Annabel, whom I also first met there last Winter, invited me to last night’s vigil.  When I arrived from another gig it was about midnight and there were probs about 75 people outside, no sound system, BYOB.  They were lounging on couches and chairs.  Someone had set up a tent.  Apparently the new boss was keeping the inside space exclusive for his/her inner circle – identity not immediately obvious – with no explanation.  I found it disheartening, but perceived it marginally better than being held hostage by a global hotel chain.  I chatted, bid my beautiful friend Annabel goodnight and went home to where I’m currently camping for some beauty sleep, returning just before the scheduled eviction at 7am.  A few were up drinkin a breakfast of champions (and yes I did get panhandled by one of the youngsters), but most were crashed out cold – all in their 20s to 30s.  Some folk were singing and playing guitar.  One gent picked up a traffic cone and began to host a live chatshow, interviewing passersby on the street, beckoning applause from the awaking revolutionaries.  I was told that the CCTV cameras were defiantly covered up by The Foundry squatters and the cops soon arrived, arresting someone after a brief skuffle.  The one who claimed to have covered the device bragged and acted out how he evaded the cops, but no one had an explanation for why it was cool for someone else to take the rap (arrrf).   The cops never showed by the time I left for the mcjob, and the new elite were sleeping soundly inside, whilst the great and growing unwashed on the street drank themselves awake.

Wakey Wakey

Damn, I’m not impressed with this!  When are we going to vie for one another and reclaim this planet for peace?  How are we going to do it, whilst we are vying for commodified glory, whilst we abuse ourselves and play Animal Farm, whilst the true gangsters carve up this world like a giant enclosure and chip us up on remote control?  I’m trying to stay calm and remind myself that love is the answer.  In the meantime my waking dream seems more and more like a deluded wake.

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