eBay - Content
Meet the Sellers
eBay needed a new way to reach new audiences. Everybody is familiar with eBay but they don’t tend to know much more than the auctions they see.
We gave eBay an emotionally anchored strategy and rolled out a social campaign introducing the sellers, and telling their stories.
Virgin - Editorial
Commissioned editorial for Virgin.com on adventure and business.
Say 'adventure' and most people will associate the word with travel, an activity which, once upon a time, was only afforded to the wealthy and privileged. Fast forward to present day and not only can you adventure with your eyes as you scroll through Instagram, but you can also build a life of adventure as a permanent business traveller - or digital nomad - freeing yourself from the shackles of fluorescent lighting, a monotonous route to the office and the same desk day in and day out.
However, as this relatively new model of flexible working becomes more mainstream; are we losing our sense of adventure by marrying travel with business? Or rather, are we economising our lives, and maximising our levels of enjoyment by attaching business to our adventures?
Quoting Fight Club’s Tyler Durden ("Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need") Matt Sclarandis - a remote UI/UX designer, art director and photographer - began life as a digital nomad just two years ago, curious and inspired by his father’s (Piergiorgio Sclarandis) adventurous and nomadic lifestyle some decades earlier, "at 23, he quit his job, bought a 150cc Lambretta scooter and set out alone from his home in Italy to travel all the way to India and Nepal. Just a year on the road determined the rest of his life as a journeying cameraman... he spent the next 53 years photographing for the likes of Forbes, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Vogue and more."
While Piergiorgio would have to use special post and wait 24 to 48 hours to deliver an urgent image, our current age of connectivity means that so long as there’s an internet connection/WiFi, deadlines can be met and images submitted immediately, even if we’re camping in otherwise remote areas. The ability to be online and always available has its advantages, however, it also assumes that people have the discipline to self-monitor and switch-off or 'unplug', which is not necessarily easy behaviour to adopt after being handed virtual keys to the endless scroll. The nature of being always accessible has also changed the way we adventure and travel, and it begs the question, how many of our adventures are we fulfilling for curiosity and pleasure, versus 'doing it for the gram'?
"It (social media) has changed the way I experience my travels," Matt explains, "since I have an Instagram account, I sometimes get conditioned to go to a certain place instead of another because of its photographic appeal." However, Matt doesn’t see this shift as entirely negative and he draws a parallel to his father’s work and photographic adventures, "it’s pretty much the same way my dad used to do it... he had to photograph certain things and certain places that he was commissioned to photograph. Of course he also had spare time to wander around and take pictures for himself, or sometimes even leave the camera in the hotel room for some experiences he wanted to keep for himself."
Social media strategist and Gothic Gardener, Syd Hargis, invites the access and knowledge that social media affords, and describes working in the field as being in constant flux, enjoying the influence connectivity has on our modern-day adventures, "I am more informed about what is around me… I want my travels to have a layer of information and recommendation to them, from others who have been or who know better."
As the lines between travel adventures and business continue to merge, and nine to five presenteeism is lost on the road, the success of a digital nomad rests largely on their ability to self-manage in terms of time and projects, suggesting a particular personality type that would be suited to such a lifestyle. Matt’s decision to mix adventurous travel with work was a carefully mapped-out decision, and while his day-to-day provides freedom in terms of hours and location, he does have his own version of the grind. "You can’t just live from one day to the next, you have to meticulously plan it. I don’t make money out of a travel blog or anything like that. I have to actually spend a good amount of hours during the week in a quiet place with good internet connection, in order to communicate and deliver my work to clients around the world."
Our world has changed significantly since the Industrial Revolution and its 40-hour week movement, and given the rise of the Internet and its subsequent windows into different ways of living/being, it makes sense that we’re questioning existing working models and institutionalised methods of conducting business. While this digital age is pushing our productivity levels further and faster, we’re also more conscious of enjoying ourselves and living full, adventurous lives (and projecting said enjoyment and adventure through social media). As our definitions of adventure and business grow ever more fluid, perhaps the distinction between the two is less of a divider and more of a connector, thanks in part to our digital landscape and our desire to share what we see while working and travelling, "to travel isn't to necessarily plan disappearance from all responsibility for an amount of time", Syd said.
TECH WILL SAVE US | Content
Tech Will Save Us (TWSU) is a unique start-up that creates STEM toys and coding kits for kids, ensuring they’re an integral part of the play experience rather than passive consumers.
Launching a Kickstarter for their newest tech-toy set – Dough Universe – TWSU wanted to reach their Kickstarter goal by reaching new audiences and connecting with their existing community.
We simplified the story of Dough Universe, built a social media strategy, worked with TWSU’s US-based PR team to ensure all copy and messaging was compelling and true to the TWSU’s TOV. And fun too - we used an in-house animator to make claymations that we used on social media to communicate thank yous.
We successfully reached the Kickstarter goal, spilling over target by $20,000.
#HelpFeedYemen | Content + Social
Working with a creative team, I crafted content that reflected brand TOV and the campaign message, while simultaneously building relationships with targeted influencers to raise awareness of the food crisis in Yemen, and encourage donations via the DEC.
The online campaign and hashtag - #HelpFeedYemen - was shared thousands of time and featured by key influencers including Lizzie Loves and Eric Lanlard. To date, the DEC has raised £17 million for Yemen.
Image credit: @disastersemergencycommittee
World Factory | PR Consulting
Contracted by ArtsAdmin, I created and executed a communications and PR campaign for the 2016 season of METIS’ immersive production, World Factory, as it prepared for its tour across Cambridge, Brighton and Manchester.
The focus of the campaign was to raise awareness of World Factory and attract attendees that may not have previously engaged with contemporary theatre.
The body of work included (but was not limited to) creating strategy documents, social media consultation, crafting press releases and biographies, building bespoke lists, liaising with artists, venues, local/national press and NGO groups.
The tour was a success – World Factory sold out in Cambridge, and was covered in over 20 publications spanning online, print and radio including The Guardian, BBC Radio, The Observer and The Big Issue.
Image credit: David Sandison
Central Saint Martins | Project MGMT
Brought on as project manager by Central Saint Martins, UAL (CSM), I worked across two festivals – CURIOUS? Futures and CRXSS PLATFXRM at Cubitt Sessions – managing the communications, timeline, budget and deliverables for the installations and performances that took place at both events.
Liaising with students, academics and production staff, CURIOUS? Festival was an opportunity to showcase CSM graduate work via a virtual reality experience and installations inspired by quantum physics, while CRXSS PLATFXRM at Cubitt Sessions saw a celebration of British Street Culture with three nights of dance, film, art and technology, curated by choreographer Ivan Blackstock.
Image credit: Ivan Blackstock
Loud & Quiet | Live Review
Live review of Kendrick Lamar at British Summer Time Festival for Loud & Quiet.
In what felt like an overdue promise, the sun finally bestowed its gilded goods upon the denim shorts of British Summer Time Festival, the bulk of the day-trippers sat mostly in circles on the grass, gazing adoringly at Cat Power while she seduced with dulcet vocals and red aviators, emoting heavily through two microphones and purring through ‘Lord Help the Poor and Needy.’
Sitting in docile circles is fine for songstress worshipping but not for Jamie XX, whose DJ set has everyone on their feet as he works through ‘I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)’, ‘You’ve Got The Love’ and Paul Simon’s ‘Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes’. And then it started hailing, not that the downpour shooed anyone away from the now full main stage, as it was clear that everyone was holding their positions for Kendrick Lamar.
And so the skies cleared (because Kendrick’s force has such influence) and the giant screens became emblazoned with ‘SHE JUST WANNA GO OUTSIDE AND PLAY?’ before two guitarists, a drummer and a keyboardist emerged, taking phone photos of the crowd and generally sending everyone into a frenzy before the rapper had even appeared.
Strutting slowly and quietly – and carrying his mic stand – Kendrick made it to centre stage, wearing a red, white and blue Boy London sweater, standing in silence with a fixed gaze, as the crowd roared. He opened his mouth, pretended to start, and then stopped, teasing us. His hands went up, encouraging more applause and only then, when we had become complete putty in his hands, did he say “this dick ain’t” before turning silent again and making the crowd finish the lyric with a unified “free”.
Kendrick’s confidence is a pleasure to witness because his performance strikes the right balance of restraint and animal abandon; his rap rhythm had the soul of a preacher one minute, as he stood still with a thousand yard stare, and the next minute, he had all of Hyde Park with two hands in the air, bouncing energetically to ‘Backseat Freestyle’, ‘Swimming Pools (Drank)’, ‘Complexion (A Zulu Love)’ and ‘m.A.A.d. City’ “You think I’m bullshitting but I’m not,” Kendrick said, pointing to faces he recognised and recalling being in smaller London venues before performing ‘King Kunta’ and closing with ‘Alright’ – “let’s take this to church!” he demanded.
BST was then left to Florence Welch and her Machine, the latter of whom were dressed in black, making the barefoot bohemian further stand out in a flowing blue dress, all vermillion hair and wild as she sang ‘What the Water Gave Me’, ‘Rabbit Heart’ and a stunning a cappella of ‘Shake it Out’. There was the tambourine, her running around, choreographed body jolts timed perfectly with thunderous drums and the almost possessed dramatics that we’ve now come to expect from Florence. And it’s brilliant and it works because my goodness, that voice, those lyrics and the swell of emotion that everyone connected with; dancing and smiling to the big, blue skies as they screamed along to ‘You’ve Got The Love’.
Image credit: Mas Phythian
#Collab4Good | Outreach
We produced #Collab4Good as an opportunity for YouTubers to come together and collaborate (with drinks and cupcakes) whilst simultaneously learning about the DEC, and considering how they might use their platform during a future appeal.
Managing outreach and communications for the event, I looked after messaging and secured attendance from high profile YouTubers and social talent agents, facilitating introductions between the guests, The DEC and The Distillery on the night.
LCC, UAL | PR Consulting
Working with both the Business and Communications teams, I advised on and created press and social media strategies to maximise coverage for Degree Shows and increase the College profile.
As part of a social media strategy, I created an Instagram campaign, which increased both followers and engagement, ensured the completion of contracted projects, provided communications counsel and managed relationships between academic staff and external clients/businesses.
Feminism & Beyonce | Column
LIVING LYRICALLY, LITERALLY
In which we (I) apply human-like scenarios to popular songs, which may or may not have been written with said philosophical intentions in mind.
In which we apply human-like scenarios to popular songs, which may or may not have been written with said philosophical intentions in mind.
Rebellious analysis at its most ludicrous.
Aretha Franklin’s version of ‘Respect’ is an unquestionable feministic war cry, and while much of the song’s dominance rests on Aretha’s vocal power and personal charisma, the real dynamism stems from its inherent message, which has been inverted.
Written by the golden-pipped Otis Redding, ‘Respect’s original lyrics and story relay that of a man pleading for a certain kind of ‘Respect’ (ahem, kisses, cuddles and other…) from his woman when he gets home. Aretha’s version paints a different palette of strength — make no mistake, Redding made an appeal, Aretha makes an assertion, which is what helped steer this male-penned, two-minute ballad into an emblematic anthem of female endowment during the swinging sixties.
Fast forward to present day and feminism as a term — fortunately or unfortunately – is a fashionable word to claim, as evidenced by many top-selling female pop artists. Historically speaking, pop stars go through a rebrand every time they drop a new album; meaning that the Madonnas, Britneys and Pinks of the world have a new look, new tour theme (circusesgot a good workout, didn’t they?) in addition to newly adopted beliefs andinterview mantras.
These strategically carved out campaigns are not necessarily evil or false, and just like regular humans; pop stars also grow and develop. However, when musical brands turn into beliefs, pop stars run the risk of morphing into Superhero-like figures, and when those beliefs — like feminism — carry the heavy weight of history and human suffering, there is a duty to consistency, at least with regard to messaging.
Cue Beyoncé aka Queen Bey aka Yonce. She of the BeyHive decided to ‘change the game’ last December with her visual album. The powerhouse entertainer with many a moniker, digitally cannonballed herself back into the pop-culture stratosphere with her latest incarnation. It’s honest Beyonce, it’s gyrating Beyonce, it’s family Beyonce and it’s feminist Beyonce.
The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour is a loud and visually stunning spectacle littered with album-themed merchandise featuring t-shirts emblazoned with ‘FLAWLESS’, glow sticks and flashing Minnie Mouse ears so that all attendees can pretend that they too are Beyonce, dancing around Coney Island while Terry Richardson films them, much like the instagram-ish ‘XO’ video. And therein lies a pickle of a problem with feminist Beyoncé.
Mrs. Carter recently penned an essay on gender equality for The Shriver Report, spoke out about the negative attribution of the word BOSSY and she makes a bold statement by incorporating quotes from Nigerian author and activist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie into her videos and as part of the Tony Robbins-esque audio-visual presentations at her epic show. So why then has she used controversial fashion photographer, Terry Richardson, as part of her rebrand?
Richardson is a serial sex-pest with a history of sordid behaviour – he is about as close to feminism as vegetarianism is to Beef Carpaccio. Granted Beyoncé is not responsible for Richardson’s antics but aligning herself with him creatively, sends an implicit message of complicity, to some extent.
This cognitive dissonance has also filtered into her music, most notably onDrunk In Love, where hubby, Jay-Z has a rap cameo. “Eat the cake, Anna Mae, eat the cake”, Jay exclaims – a direct reference to the abusive relationship between Ike & Tina Turner as portrayed in What’s Love Got To Do With It. Again, most may hear this line as a throwaway, but what is an allusion to abuse doing in a song, performed by a self-described feminist?
Feminism has been successfully used in music, especially when said artists are whole-heartedly in sync with the messages they are selling singing. An obvious example is Bikini Kill’s Rebel Girl. Integral members of the Riot Grrrl movement, Bikini Kill were feminist trailblazers who wanted no part of the mainstream, especially if it highlighted their relationships with other well-known musicians, a paradigm not commonly seen in today’s landscape of leveraged relationships and ‘curated’ lives shared across instagram, tumblr and other.
Queen Bey’s meteoric rise in music has been and continues to be an impressive sight to behold — her growth as a woman, wife and mother is having an obvious influence on her work and that in itself is shaping her persona and character. The decision to throw feminism into the mix as an addition to her brand is noble however; I can’t help but be led back into the Superhero-like thinking…
“With great power, comes great responsibility.” Beyonce has the power, which means she also has the responsibility to carefully select directors who are not on the cusp of sexual allegations, and song content, which lifts women instead of referencing harmful relationships and turning them into catchy sound bites. That is the true power of feminism; a woman at the top of her game, handpicking her team and keeping an eagle eye on her image, and staying true to her message because as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said, “stories matter.”
Stumped Studio | Copywriting
I worked with Zoe Tynan-Campbell of Stumped Studio to create and edit copy that accurately reflects her brand’s unique personality.
Frank Ocean | Thought Piece
A thought piece on pansexuality, hip hop and the music industry for clashmusic.com
A world without labels?
Frank Ocean won two Grammy Awards and Chris Brown didn’t stand up. Adele reportedly told Brown off for his behaviour as media, blogs and entertainment television continued to join the poisoned conversation. However, a subject more interesting circles around Ocean’s cult-like following – an allegiance combined of fans, music insiders and hip-hop royalty; a genre that has never been particularly embracing towards same love, which makes Ocean unique considering his online admission regarding his first love being male. Hip hop and homosexuality have not always sat side-by-side however, Ocean’s way with the pen means that he has created a world without labels for himself (and for others)… but there is a label, and it’s called Pansexuality.
Pansexuals, also known to be gender-blind, are not the same as bisexuals who are attracted to both men and women – the former are open to experiences/relationships with all humans, regardless of whether they themselves, identify as a man or woman. This basic premise begins to connote a free-spirited nature and almost harps back to the Woodstock era, which ironically enough is being mimicked (if only through style alone) in the current hipster generation. So then, it’s no surprise that this sexual-sociological trend has crept into the music industry and is being used as currency in the market. Cue Azealia Banks.
Foul-mouthed and full of energy, Banks’ 2012 hit, ‘212’ fireballed into the YouTube stratosphere because the beat was infectious and her language was well, colourful. Banks has not since shied away from injecting sex into her lyrics, her persona and her photoshoots; which have included bananas, hot dogs and many other items from the food pyramid. This in itself is nothing new, the adage “sex sells” has and will be used time and again, however, the problem lies when somebody like Banks (a self-identified bisexual and pansexual), displays behaviour that is incongruous with omni-love. The most recent example was a twitter feud with fellow pansexual rapper, Angel Haze, which escalated into a Twitter feud with celebrity blogger, Perez Hilton. Banks typed a tirade of grotesque insults towards Hilton, including labelling the blogger a “faggot”. There was slight backpedalling from Banks who addressed her critics by explaining that her definition of “faggot” was different from theirs. This was obviously not a substantial apology and it sadly highlighted how labels are often frivolously used – sometimes for marketing and sometimes for targeting.
In the late nineties, there was another sexual-sociological shift, which saw porn (and its lexicon) become mainstream subject matter for discussions; celebrities were being photographed without underwear (and the images were published) and pole dancing as exercise was de rigueur. Ariel Levy examined this raunch culture in her 2005 book, ‘Female Chauvinist Pigs’ and discussed the need to make room for a range of sexual options in order to be liberated instead of “mimicking whatever popular culture holds up to us as sexy.” That need is still current and thankfully, we live in a more sexually progressive culture than say, twenty years ago. However, if the music industry is our barometer, then that progression is being threatened. For every eloquent Frank Ocean tumblr post, there is a trend-infused press release presenting a popstar as Pansexual.
Loud & Quiet | Feature
Observations and thoughts on PJ Harvey for Loud and Quiet, following the premiere of 'The Wheel' on Steve Lamacq's show on BBC Radio 6 Music, in anticipation of 'The Hope Six Demolition Project'.
The celebrated singer has returned with the first taste of new music from her forthcoming ninth album ‘‘The Hope Six Demolition Project’ out in April.
‘The Wheel’ opens as an unapologetic musical call to arms; pairing grand, rock guitar riffs that move like a locomotive with soulful horns and a relentless rhythm driven by percussive claps. Premiering on Thursday on Steve Lamacq’s show on BBC Radio 6 Music, it’s the first single from PJ Harvey’s forthcoming album, ‘The Hope Six Demolition Project’.
While the production is an unashamed sonic wall of strength, Harvey offers a narrative that is far less celebratory. Opening with lyrics that match a visual in her album trailer – “a revolving wheel of little chairs, hung from chains, squealing” – Harvey then moves into darker territory singing “hey little children, don’t disappear” while a chorus responds with “I heard it was 28,000”, a line that is repeated throughout the track.
It can’t be an accident that Harvey has coupled anthemic music with pleading and concerned lyrics (she was announced this week as a headliner for Primavera Sound in June and will be playing European festivals from April until November) considering a strong lyrical hook from ‘The Wheel’ repeats the line “watch them fade out”; a line that festival crowds will be undoubtedly chanting as they watch her perform. The choral production continues throughout the track with an almost aggressively styled nursery rhyme delivery on the lyric, “now you see them, now you don’t”.
‘The Hope Six Demolition Project’ is an 11-track album that was previewed to the public via two very curated experiences in 2015; the first was through ‘Recording in Progress’, an art installation at Somerset House that afforded audiences with the opportunity to watch Harvey record her ninth album.
The second preview was a multimedia show that saw Harvey take to the stage at Royal Festival Hall – with previous collaborator and photographer Seamus Murphy – to launch ‘The Hollow of The Hand’, a book that married Harvey’s poetry with Murphy’s images, following their joint travels to Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Washington DC during 2011 and 2014, the content of which is injected into this album.
Judging by ‘The Wheel’ alone, the music is almost as juxtaposed as the creative process; Harvey has used two very modern, London locations to record and tell stories of war-torn and poverty-stricken regions and the people within them, much like her music is using a bluesy and brazen rock landscape to accompany stories of pain, sadness and loss.
In an interview following Harvey’s 2011 Mercury Prize win, she talked about her sensitivity as an artist and the need to absorb, articulate and process what she sees, thinks and feels. It should then come as no surprise that her travels to Kosovo, Afghanistan and Washington DC with Murphy, manifested because she “wanted to smell the air, feel the soil and meet the people of the countries” that she was fascinated by.
Harvey’s artistry continues to evolve well beyond what is safe and commercially predictable – she has instead chosen to watch, and then engage with certain aspects of the world, using her songwriting to assign weight and attention to her chosen subjects and observations.
Harvey’s musicality has always been prominent, impressive and discussed but it is through her reportage-style songwriting, featured on ‘The Wheel’ that we see great art at work – art that uses talent as a vessel to shine a light on universality and stories that are otherwise unseen.
Borkowski.do | PR Consulting
Whilst working as a Principle Consultant for Borkowski.do, I created and implemented high-level communication plans, wrote brand audits, blog posts, secured media coverage and provided counsel for clients including Ticketmaster UK, the Criminal Bar Association, MusicQubed and the Government of South Australia.
I managed the public relations and event logistics for the renaming ceremony for the Clipper Ship, ‘The City of Adelaide’, which was attended by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and covered by BBC News London, ITV and The Guardian. I also collaborated with The Mayor of London’s office and Solace Women’s Aid to coordinate a client’s speech at City Hall.
Songwriting / Singing
Penning and performing original songs, I am releasing my debut EP in 2017. The first single, 'Good Intentions' premiered on CLASH Music following the sold-out single launch, which was held at a converted warehouse in Hackney.
And here are some 'good-on-paper' details:
- Featured artist at Sunday at the Apartment showcase
- Semi-finalist in the International Songwriting Competition
- Runner up in the ASA's annual Australian Songwriting Contest
- Honorable mention in the 16th annual Billboard World Song Contest
- Number 1 and 2 on the Triple J Unearthed charts
- Two-time NA2R (New Artist to Radio) finalist
- Shortlisted in the Vanda & Young Song Competition
- Selected by Ralph Murphy and ASCAP for performance and songwriting masterclass
Get Lucky | Column
LIVING LYRICALLY, LITERALLY
In which we apply human-like scenarios to popular songs, which may or may not have been written with said philosophical intentions in mind.
In which we apply human-like scenarios to popular songs, which may or may not have been written with said philosophical intentions in mind.
Rebellious analysis at its most ludicrous.
Thanks to Daft Punk’s comeback hit, ‘Get Lucky’, many of us can now be accused of quasi-sexual dance-moves and over-emphasised articulation as we sing along to Pharrell’s sweet coos about being “up all night to get some”. Only Daft Punk (and Pharrell) (and Nile Rodgers) could pull off this kind of sonic heist, I imagine them sitting them around a Philippe Starck kitchen, drinking high oxygen mineral water as they discuss world domination in their helmets, only before using Spielberg-friendly technology to mastermind their next musical collaboration. Moving into reality (and outside of said imaginary kitchen), and ‘Get Lucky’ has been on the charts (and lips of people) the world over. It even managed to engage a supermarket-shopping, soccer mum I recently spotted, who was mouthing the lyrics whilst simultaneously trying to lure her son away from the shelf he’d just climbed upon (making him appear to be detergent on sale for $4.95) – I couldn’t help but wonder if she was giving any thought to the words she was pseudo-singing whilst reaching for her mini-male.
When I hear phrases like ‘getting lucky’ or ‘picking up’, I picture loud groups of college football teams, aggressively slapping each other on the back for ‘scoring’, ‘closing’, or some other such affectionate term for achieving sexual success, and with Pharrell singing about it (who we would all assume has little difficulty ‘getting lucky’), I’ve been wondering just how much ‘luck’ comes into play with regard to successfully ‘picking up’.
Cue Alex, owner of The Art of Suave: a company specialising in coaching men seeking to improve their confidence and social skills, specifically with women. If you’re starting to visualise Will Smith in ‘Hitch’, please allow me to take you back a step to when the rock star of journalists, Neil Strauss, penned his book ‘The Game’, which was a detailed journey into the world of professional pickup artists (PUAs), where ‘negging’ and ‘sarging’was coded jargon for men who would systematically pickup women using considered techniques instead of unplanned social banter.
Alex read ‘The Game’ and test-drove some of the techniques whilst at university, but thought there was a better way. “Their focus was solely of women and the goal being seduction… In the process, I had seen that many ‘pickup artists’ soon become obsessed with getting phone numbers of women and having sex. No effort seemed to be on that of overcoming anxieties.” Alex is quick to separate himself from the sleuth-like sex “artists”, and he doesn’t believe in pre-rehearsed scripts or gimmicks to meet and attract women. So what does a man whose expertise lies in social dynamics think of luck’s role in romance?
“Chance is a factor but not luck… the two of you being in the same place at the same time giving you the opportunity to meet, this is chance.” Granted, I don’t think Daft Punk and Pharrell would’ve been nearly as successful if their song’s hook was a philosophical question of chance (the theme song to 80s film ‘Chances Are’ springs to mind but seems wrong on a multitude of levels), but the sheer nature of the song’s success suggests that its content (and implied actions) is common and acceptable. “It’s a reflection on how girls go to nightclubs with the goal of having fun and they call that a successful night. Guys don’t just do that. A successful night for a man is when they ‘get lucky’ ”, says Alex.
So what then of the proud dad wishing his son ‘good luck’ prior to his math’s exam, or that well-heeled lady with a giant upside-down-horseshoe necklace, or that sleepy man at the pub whose four-leaf clover tattoo creeps frighteningly north (near his waistband if you know what I’m saying) when he sits a little too far forward on the bar stool? Do these symbols mean nothing at all if luck is not in fact luck, but instead chance?
Surely, gambling will solve this query – lady luck must be hiding somewhere in a poker den! “You don’t have to be lucky to win a game of poker, you don’t even need to have a good hand” says mild-mannered (but cashed-up-due-to-poker), Larry*. “I don’t see it as different from any other profession – in order to be good, you need to study the subject and study people – it’s not unlike a salesman trying to sell product by reading the person he’s targeting in order to get the desired result.”
Even though Larry’s demeanor is gentle and unassuming (or is he), I imagine him engaging in some sort of ritual to get into the best headspace for being ‘lucky’ — ‘American Psycho’-style masochistic exercise regime anyone? “I think the only way to feel lucky is to be in a certain mood, and when I dress a particular way, that can definitely be code for putting myself into the right frame of mind,” says Larry. Ok, so not quite the idiosyncrasy I was looking for but he does have insight into the song; “when they sing ‘we’ve come too far, to give up who we are’, that speaks to perseverance – keep going until they get lucky.”
Rest assured you can now go back to listening to the peachy, sensual masterpiece without being any closer to the certainty of luck however, Pharrell is a mystical creature who has said the song also refers to the fortune of meeting with and immediately connecting to someone. I do wish he hadn’t used the word fortune because Baby John Burgess just immediately appeared in my mind’s eye, but the word fortune does imply an unknown element… call it a fluke, fate, or luck
Patti Smith | Review
Report for Clash Magazine | Patti Smith in conversation for Guardian Live Event
Punk poet talks M Train, Just Kids and more...
It was with wonder and a very uncool-bordering-on-anxiety-type of anticipation that we ambled into the monolithic Emmanuel Centre, prepared to see the musical and literary luminary that is Patti Smith. I freely admit to only discovering Patti through her award-winning book, Just Kids, rather than through her Punk-rock heritage and the subsequent coterie of New York cool that followed.
As such, I expected to bear witness to a conversation that was weighted with thoughtful prose and requisite pauses, the kind one expects from the intellectually gifted. So imagine my surprise when we were in fact confronted with a charming lady who managed to discuss life’s mysteries with a smile and a consistent element of lightness. “There’s so much to do and so much to see” Patti said with a smile, when talking about life, expressed with the kind of enthusiasm you would see from a child rather than from a woman in her 60s who has been seemingly surrounded by her fair share of death and loss.
Interviewed by Andrew O'Hagan on behalf of the Guardian before answering a string of questions from the audience, Patti discussed her writing process for both Just Kids and M Train and mentioned the amount of “responsibility” she felt with the former, namely because Robert Mapplethorpe asked her to tell their story the night before he passed away. Staying with the theme of people she loved/loves that she’s lost, (husband, Fred Sonic Smith, her brother, mother and Mapplethorpe), Patti explained that while these things have been difficult to deal with, they haven’t happened to her, but rather to people she loved – an elegant and selfless distinction that she used to emphasize how many wonderful things she’s experienced.
She discussed her experiences of illness as a child, and joked that she alongside friend, William S. Burroughs, created their own “Scarlet Fever club”, which nobody else could join unless they too had experienced the hallucinations it causes, in addition to its possible assistance with the formation of a creative mind.
Patti spoke of detectives being the new poets (she’s a huge fan of Wallander), likening the search to get their man to her search for words and a punch line when writing poetry. She sprinkled her sentences with words like “unfettered” and “free” and admitted to being faced with her chronology for the first time when she turned 65, and started writing M Train, saying that it forced her to look at the consequence of time and to consider how much of it she had left.
The evening was concluded with a performance of three songs with her long-time friend and guitarist Lenny Kaye, the highlight of which was 'Because The Night' as everyone in attendance rose to their feet, and clapped and swayed for the woman that has continued to hold steady, smile and share her beautiful mind with the world.
Originally published at clashmusic.com.