When deciding on a location for a photo shoot or interview for the magazine, I often turn to the city’s urban landscape for inspiration. Not only are we surrounded by tonnes of stunning settings – from the grand and obvious to the quirky and hidden-away – there’s also a plethora of stories and connections tied up in the city’s dense historical web. It never ceases to amaze me how perfect a backdrop Liverpool is, not just visually, but in the context of it being a great place for creativity to flourish. There’s no doubt that I am biased in this view, but it impresses me nonetheless.
Another thing that I’m interested in is a sense of place – how a location inspires an artist to create the work they do, either consciously or subconsciously. Beautiful landscapes, sweeping vistas and bleak architecture will always have an impact on a creative process, as will rivers, the sky and people; but what interests me more is the intangible essence of a specific location, the vibe it gives off, and how artists tap into it. I’ve probably bored more musicians than I remember in looking for answers to these questions, but it’s a line of questioning that regularly throws up some pertinent insight. In his interview with us in this month’s issue, Lee Southall tells us how he’s become attuned to “the way place influences me creatively” now that he’s moved to his new home of Hebden Bridge, paying particular attention to the way the sound moves about the valley. Similarly, the three members of All We Are (from Ireland, Norway and Brazil) sang the praises of their adopted home during our recent interview, and totally understood the significance of undertaking our chat on board the Mersey Ferry. As the river churned around us and the city’s landmarks fanned out in front, the sense of Liverpool as a place of great dynamism and flux was striking. With the huge volume of ideas that our inventive, defiant port city has welcomed over the past hundred years, it’s no real surprise that we’ve seen so much creative ingenuity spring from its midst.
There’s a school of thought that all locations are shaped metaphysically by the events that occur in them, and that the recounting of myths and legends is humanity’s way of understanding physical space in some kind of spiritual way. This overlaps with the notion of psychogeography – that the behaviours of individuals are tied up with the shape and flow of urban environments, and that the best way to study these effects is to drift about cities and towns and see where they take you. Now, I’ve never considered myself a psychogeographer, nor a student of the Situationist International movement that the approach came from, but I’ve often drawn inspiration from the nooks and crannies of an urban landscape, and the peculiar features associated with them. There’s a mass of energy to be drawn from walking the city and noticing its (seemingly) random points of convergence, where buildings cluster and the layers of myth and legend run deep. Excavations and scientific research will never truly be able to tell us why certain buildings were built where they are, or why a road runs in the direction it does, because reason doesn’t live in fortifications or fossilised remains. These gaps in our knowledge are the key, cavities where conjecture, folklore and character flood into. These are the things a city is built on.
If you’re willing to allow for the possibilities of synchronicity, you can open your minds to a trove of potential insight that extends beyond this. For example, there’s a point in Liverpool where three ley lines intersect, a place which has long been venerated – by those who believe in such things – as a vortex of energy. Marked by a manhole cover at the point where Mathew Street and Button Street merge, this place of psychogeographic alignment is the supposed site of Carl Jung’s “pool of life” and Peter O’Halligan’s spring, just a stone’s throw from The Cavern, Eric’s and the School Of Language, Music, Dream And Pun. Ley lines are purely arbitrary lines connecting points of spiritual interest, but the lack of hard scientific evidence in explaining their course is no reason to discard their importance. There’s no denying the power of a thought, and what it inspires you to do.
Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty are two people who, in one way or another, were brought together by Liverpool’s synchronous diagrammatic fluctuations. The city’s pull on them remains strong, as, in 2017, they prepare to return for the latest chapter in the Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu story. Their remarkable, baffling career has been characterised by an ability to stay one step ahead of expectation, enabling them to survey artistic expression from a heightened perspective, and occasionally toss of the apple of discord into a stratum of the arts they believe has become too obsessed with its own importance.
There are many stories that connect Drummond and Cauty to Liverpool, and their presence has imprinted greatly on the city’s self-image. One of my favourites concerns Drummond’s last act at manager of Echo & the Bunnymen, an almost Situationist event that traversed the city for what was, ostensibly, a gig. On 12th May 1984, the Bunnymen hosted an event for their hometown fans titled A Crystal Day, which began at Brian’s Café on Stanley Street for the ceremonial stamping of tickets. Then followed a banana fight on the Mersey Ferry, hundreds of blue and yellow balloons being released, a bicycle ride around the city on a course in the shape of a rabbit (with the rabbit’s navel centred on a certain manhole cover), before, finally, a sold-out show at St. George’s Hall. There was even room for a broadcast from The Tube, with Jools Holland darting between barber shops and a Yates’ Wine Lodge (which Mac referred to as “those pastel-coloured trouser bars”) on a Hesketh motorbike. It was pure Drummond in its theatrical flair, designed purely to mess with the audience’s heads.
On 23rd August 2017, the next chapter of the Justified and Ancient story will be written into the fabric of the city by Drummond and Cauty. Want to know what the FUUK is going on? So do we.