Iain Cameron's Diary
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2004-02-06 - 4:44 a.m.

Gordon Brown has been entertaining Bill Gates and I have been rifling through the leftovers to find some promising morsels. Another party is planned in March.

I have annoyed quite a few Permanent Secretaries in my time. One of the bigger clashes was with Norman (or do I mean Normington) who is now the ubermeister at the Department for Education and Skills. The issue was a service which the College contracted to provide him with after a proper open competition. The delivery event didn’t go too well but as part of the service I carried out some novel research work. The Department had a skills matrix that they wanted their up and coming people to use as a guide.

We took the skills matrix and developed about 100 behavioural indicators from it. Then we asked the client group to assess themselves on the indicators and we got their people to do the same assessment. So in aggregate we had a lot of data about the organisational culture – what the organisation wanted, what the potential leaders thought of themselves and what those who are led thought of them. This data was on a common basis and could be processed and analysed.

So, to cope with the fact that the main event hadn’t gone well, I explained that the client group had a set of very unhelpful attitudes as evidenced by what they thought about themselves and what others thought of them. They were for example, ambitious, task focussed, self opinionated, arrogant, poor at standing up for the people who worked for them etc.

Anyway this ploy managed to convert a weak situation into a score draw but I am unlikely to have earned Norman’s undying esteem as smoothly worked his way up the hierarchy.

This is of more than historical interest. One of the people I saw on Monday has refined the technique which I used with Norman in a way that enters a new logical space within the skills and productivity policy arena. Although he has delivered this methodology to a client (not us) he is not sure that the client understands the novelty and power of what they have got. Not a position I share – having used the technique to get the chestnuts out of the fire ten years ago. This is an example of the knowledge based economy at work – and the key discipline knowledge management.

I had wondered about going to see the Motown band but decided it was too difficult. The reviews suggest it was a wonderful concert. I’d especially like to see Joe Messina.

Gavin had mentioned Joy Division in a e-m in January and I listened to my CD of the singles on the way to work. Some people think that JD are the bridge between punk and Madchester. (James Young book about Nico also leads to Madchester. Her manager Alan Wise was one of the sponsors.) Nico was supported by punk femmes like Siouxie and Patti Smith – so I suppose there is a general gloomy cultural drift along the ship canal.

New Order’s management owned the Hacienda and I have a 3CD retrospective that I got in a second hand record shop in Farnham which I ought to listen to again. It has that extraordinary Derek May piece on it.

The grand theory might be that – as the rock brands globalised in the 70s – weird forces configured creativity in unlikely locations – Manchester, Sheffield, Coventry, Detroit – but the overall cultural tone was mostly extreme – noise, gothic horror, self destruction, chemicals. Coventry besides throwing up two tone was the heartland of UK conceptual art. Electronic music took over in the 80s – in all kinds of ways – Miles and his DX7 – his interest in Prince, the Eurhythmics, House and Techno.

Meanwhile in NYC the successful pioneers of the 70s were hooked on technology and had to play the art market to finance their leading edge creative aspirations. This resource flow tended to reinforce conservative creative roles. Reich and Glass became “composers” and Anderson and Sherman became “artists”. Zorn bucked the trend and helping to keep performance alive and well on the downtown scene but finally he too succumbed to the temptation to be a “composer”. At the other extreme electronic music became “global pop commodity” forgetting its radical origins. In terms of UK arthistory that would almost bring us to YBAs in 1988 as they used all that history to build a platform of self promotion. – not least the dismissive “punk” posture.

Anyway here’s a bit of evidence that googled up today:

1. First do you want to generally introduce yourself?

My name is Cath Carroll, which wasn't always my name. I took the last name of Carroll in honour of Kay Carroll, The Fall's manager, a woman of great spirit and some mystique. She once pulled me and my partner Liz Naylor out of our seats at a gig to reprimand us, quite correctly, for being purveyors of cheap shots and bad vibes. I played in a couple of all female bands in Manchester, England (we were very conscious of this at the time), Property Of... and Gay Animals. Liz and I worked on a fanzine called City Fun and later wrote for the NME, mostly as Myrna Minkoff. I had a band called Miaow, made a couple of singles and a solo album for Factory and then made some more once Factory was no more (# 2 was True Crime Motel (1995) on TeenBeat/ Matador and # 3 was called Cath Carroll and came out on Heart & Soul in 2000).

2. What projects are you currently working on?

Album # 4, which should be out in Sept (The Gondoliers of Ghost Lake) with my musical partner and husband Kerry Kelekovich. Also, LTM are re-releasing the Factory album, England Made Me - thru Darla in the States, and maybe they'll do some Miaow stuff. I am writing a semi-memoir novel based on how Liz and I experienced punk rock in Manchester as 19th century males. There's not a jot of theory in it, not much about music although that was what was keeping us going, and there's a lot of whinging, lots about buses, and being chased out of public lavatories.

3. What was the first rock show you saw?

I went to see Mud, this rocknroll revival/70s pop band some time in though. I think the first rock band I saw was a Christian band doing tributes to Free and Bad Company and that was an accident.

4. How did you first get involved with the Manchester "scene" in the early 80's? Did you see yourself as consciously getting involved in "a scene" or did you just kind of naturally fall into it?

I saw myself as consciously getting out of my dreadful high school life- when punk rock came along and I actually heard it, I realised I wasn't alone and so I put an ad in Sounds, looking for other people who just owned instruments as opposed to people who played them. That approach kind of filtered out the people who didn't need to put sticky numbers on their fretboards and piano keys. That's how I met Liz. We didn't really do much musically for a while, we compared alienations and formed our own scene and hung out at jumble sales and The Russell Club (which was occasionally The Factory when it had T Wilson sponsored gigs on and the West Indian Busman's Association at other times).

5. What was your impression of Joy Division and New Order? Initially?

I saw Joy Division sitting at a table at the Russell Club and was quite fascinated because they looked very understated, like bank clerks born out of time. They got up to play, which was a shocker, I wasn't expecting that Joy Division sound . I think I saw them as Warsaw because they were at Rafters (a small club in Manchester) a lot, but being alienated took up a lot of my attention and energy and they were a little more boisterous, more Sham 69 than anything, which would've been fine if I hadn't played that first Sham 69 LP to death. As the bands evolved I saw their first gig as New Order and it was stately and compelling so naturally me and Liz went home and whinged a lot. We really grew to take them for granted.

6. Any particular stories about gigs or the bands that you want to share?

We once shared a rehearsal space in Lower Broughton,Manchester, with The Fall, The Passage and Joy Division. I used to bump into Ian Curtis on the way to the bathroom and he was extremely polite and pleasant. Hmm. Is that exciting enough for you? Here's another. We had gone to London to see our flatmate Pip and her band The Distractions play with Joy Division. We were sulking on the dressing room floor, actually I think Liz was vomiting, and Ian Curtis came over, so nice and polite and said to Liz, 'Excuse me are you Liz Naylor?', no mention of the vomit on the dressing room floor which I thought was a nice touch. She'd written this piece about Manchester for City Fun which had been turned into a Super 8 video by this man called Charlie Salem, and Factory had used it alongside a Joy Division track for a super 8 short. Ian was nice enough to acknowledge this. I'm sorry I am not talking about the band's artistry, but they were always very pleasant to us, especially considering how much we whined about them. Oh, I'm on a roll now. I interviewed New Order for the NME and Barney was quite truculent. The others were extremely tactful and made an effort to make up for his lack of enthusiasm, not that I blame him. Oh here's another one. I belonged to the same health club as Peter Hook about the time Blue Monday became a hit in the UK. We used to do aerobics to it, in another room and I'd see Peter Hook scuttle past on his way to the men's gym looking mortified at the sight of a roomful of sweaty Mancunians doing donkey kicks to his bass lines.

7. Do you feel that Joy Division and/or New Order and/or the people in them had an influence on you as an artist?

If Joy Division/ New Order hadn't been as successful as they were, I wouldn't have made England Made Me. Well, I would have, but it would have been quite a different story. I went to a couple of accounting meetings at Factory, and the late Rob Gretton would be there, clearly not enthused about my work but since Tony Wilson was so keen, he didn't make things hard for us. He would lie on the floor and say, in this droll, sarcastic way, as some budget figure came up, "Oh, not bad. It's not bad , that, is it? What do you think Tony?" I think he thought we were being given too much money. So did their accountant.

8. Did you find the scene to be male dominated? Were people receptive to you as a woman making music?

It was and a good amount of people were receptive to us making music - except for the audiences. They really didn't care for us much. This is a question with a much deeper answer than the one I'm about to give...it wasn't so much the music scene we couldn't take, it was living as a woman in Manchester. Liz and I came from small towns where women danced around their handbags in a circle and we always felt out of place. People would preface sentences with "When you're married and have kids" which drove us crazy, what a terrible presumption we thought. Actually, it wasn't our parents who did this, it was everyone else. When punk happened, we cast off our awful skirts and clumpy shoes and wore suits and aftershave. This didn't go down too well in the North of England. We found life a lot easier in London. In Manchester we would often get attacked by men, in twos or in bigger groups, their girlfriends would look on (and I certainly understand where the girlfriends were coming from). But there were a lot of people on the scene who supported us, Tony Wilson, Richard Boon at New Hormones (the Buzzcocks label), and Bruce Mitchell, from Durutti Column.

9. When/Why/How did you and Liz start your fanzine?

City Fun was started by a man named Andy Zero, I think Sniffin' Glue was a big influence. Actually, in a contemporary context, it would have been an emo-zine in its early days, a lot of soul searching, streams of consciousness, and it had a hippy vibe, not much in the way of bitter criticism, until we came along. Liz used to contribute stuff, she was obsessed with The Fall at that point. Then about the time I came along, it sort of evolved into a collective and we would bring it out every two weeks. We eventually rented an office over a curry house in Lower Broughton and would have these gruelling 24 hour type and paste sessions. Then at 10 am. one unlucky soul would have to take the giant layout pages over to Rochdale to get them printed. City Fun ran from around 1978-83. Liz and I took sole care of it from around 1981-3. We sort of cast out all the sensitive stuff and filled it with a lot of camp, some earnest stuff about women's theatre, lots of self-indulgent record reviews, and some really delightful pieces from outside. We had a few regulars who would write really interesting constructive stuff. Morrissey deigned to write a couple of pieces, mainly about Sandy Shaw. We also got some great illustrations, Liz's sister Pat was at the Royal College of Art in London, so she got a lot of her friends to contribute illustrations. As a concession to reality, we ran a gig guide, but managed to infect that with our outsiderness. One Christmas, Liz scrawled across the whole of the listings page; 'stay in and read a book instead'. Being in the northern provinces at the age we were, and where we were in our sense of being women, just didn't suit us. But in retrospect, the experience was so valuable.

10. Do you feel like the Manchester scene was well documented by people within at the time, for example, were there many other fanzines around?

I honestly don't remember any- when we began at City Fun the first wave of fanzines had already passed thru. The were a lot of fanzines about Manchester that probably had more musical content than us but they tended to be French or Japanese. Of course, there was a lot going on in the towns around Manchester but that might as well have been Japan.

11. How was your fanzine received? Again, how did your gender figure into that ? Was doing a fanzine considered participating in "the scene" on an equal level like being in a band, running a label, promoting shows, etc.?

It was received remarkably well, The Hacienda, New Hormones and the local colleges gave us regular advertising, which kept us going. We used to go to gigs and sell City Fun out of carrier bags, for 10p, and I think being peculiar young women helped distinguish us. But we also devoted all out time to this bloody fanzine, we used to put on shows and skulk out a 3:00 am to flypost, in order to stay out of the way of the local poster Mafia. It really wasn't considered the same as being in a band, as Kay Carroll pointed out when she took us to task: "you're fookin' crows, man! You don't do anything, you're just crows!". When she found out we were in a band, she and Mark Smith used to let us glom on to their gigs, so I think we had all angles covered. When we moved to London on New Years Day of 84, we gave the fanzine to this friend of ours called Nigel Chatfield and so it had an entirely new existence after that. Richard Boon at New Hormones let us have a desk in his office in 1982-3, so that was fun. He shared space with this outstanding character called Alan Wise, a local promoter who also acted as Nico's manager for a while. Nico used to wander in to the office and we would be staring at our typewriters, pretending not to be listening in to the goings on in the other room. When she left the office, we would make sure the door was closed, then run around the room, shrieking silently at each other and playing air harmonium. When we got back to our flat, we would reenact the entire encounter. Our favourite local characters all had voices we had assigned them and we'd spend entire days talking to each other in these personas. Some people we didn't really know, so we'd make up a personality and signature voice for them. We were pretty broke and this passed the time. END

Jan04tag didn’t sound so bad today.

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