The Friday Dispatch
Garth Marenghi, Clockenflap, Latin GRAMMYs, Bummer, and SUDS
Former Duke of Darkness, now Arch-Duke o’ Darkdom, Garth Marenghi has put pen to panic-stricken paper with his latest volume of three novellas, Incarcerat. I meet Marenghi in the setting of his latest novel: an escape room styled as Nulltec, the shadowy research facility where Incarcerat’s protagonist Nick Steen finds himself imprisoned. Like Shakespeare, Garth Marenghi writes words. Having personally written 436 horror novels, he is one of the few authors who has written more books than he’s actually read. His latest instalment, volume two of TerrorTome, sees Steen wrestle with Dr Barbara Nullman as she experiments on his mind with terrifying consequences. Each of his nine songs drip with the melodrama of his crimson prose. Icons of trad rock are interspersed with the obscure, and, naturally, the sex bomb himself, Sir Tom Jones.
Marenghi’s mastery of the macabre frequently bleeds beyond the printed page; most notably in Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, his 1980s hospital horror “dramamentary”. Around fifty episodes were made but, according to Marenghi, it was "too subversive, too dangerous, too damn scary" and was suppressed by MI-8, an organisation so secret that it is three levels above MI-5. Six episodes were recovered and aired in 2004 where Marenghi starred alongside Richard Ayoade, Matt Berry and Alice Lowe. Although we never got a second season, we were treated to a spin-off Man to Man with Marenghi’s one-time publisher Dean Learner. If you don’t snort with laughter during Dark Place Horrificata Illuminata I would venture that you yourself are probably undead.
Although the soundtrack to Darkplace was credited to Stig Baasvik, it was based on melodies originally whistled by Garth Marenghi. When I ask him about his former collaborator he replies, “He’s dead I’m afraid. He died scandalously. I’m not allowed to say.” Sensing a touchy subject, I try turning the conversation to his own early musical influences. “Hmmm. Skiffle. Skiffle was around, but I didn’t like it. So that’s not an influence. I didn’t really pay much attention to music. It was only later in life that it had an influence on me and largely because it’s an aid to the writing.” He pauses to sip from a can of rhubarb lemonade. “I mean, there was music when I was in my mother’s womb I suppose. I heard certain beats that probably influenced me. I wrote my first story in there I believe. Often you need music to get your head into a certain space.”
“During Darkplace there were times where ire and anger got the better of me,” Marenghi says. “I do think for the greater good, I think the show improved as a result. We were very limited on Darkplace. We had such limited time to get what we needed in the can, and if I had to deck a few people to get them to do what I needed to do, it would be done. Luckily, I had Dean Learner’s backing on that. If anyone threatened me back or said we’re going to take this to the authorities, he’d have a quiet word and that would be that.”
Clockenflap is all about the experience. The coming together of all we hold so dear: music, art, people, silliness and so much more, and all set against HK’s iconic skyline in the heart of the city. The experience is heightened by the fact that events like ours don’t happen very often here, so there is a collective joy that permeates the grounds and is palpable to fans and artists alike. There truly is nothing else like it, and in many ways, we mirror the best traits of the city - the melding of East and West, and the juxtaposition of the new generation of cutting edge artists alongside the older, legendary masters of their craft. In terms of Asian music, it is exciting times as across genres and generations, there are more artists exploring the outer and inner regions of the spectrums, taking more risks creatively and being rewarded with genuine career success.
Equally, whilst the Asian pop world often dominates the headlines, there is parallel growing international interest in other genres from the region too. There’s never been a time where so many tours with Asian acts have done so well in the West and that bodes well given it really is just the beginning.
Taking over Seville in Andalusia after a €19 million deal (with the city expecting profits of over €500 million), the small streets and windings passages are playing host to some of Ibero-American music's titans and newcomers, and their gaggles of fans waiting outside of hotels for a small glimpse. While there may be some disgruntlement amongst the Latin music followers that the ceremony's European placement this year ignores the South American bulk, the overall feeling throughout the event is one of celebration – with a healthy dose of ambition.
For the first ceremony to be held outside of fabulous Las Vegas, the Latin Grammy's trip to the richly historical city marks an opportunity for acts to come together in the name of celebrating their heritage and their future under a European sky. It's also a move meant to develop the Latin market on a global scale – the event being held on the International Day of Flamenco (November 16th) is a prescient marker of its intended symbolism. While everything is indeed rooted in tradition, the future-facing element is embracing all facets and genres of music the Latin touch embraces.
"I strongly believe that we've always had the elements, ingredients, and the sounds to seduce the entire world and connect with it," says Pedro Capó. A longtime feature of the Latin Grammy's, the Puerto Rican singer's position is one that speaks from both experience and wisdom. With millions of streams and social media followers, his first nomination came in 2015, but long before this, his grandparents were fixtures of Latin America – his grandfather was treasured singer Bobby Capó and grandmother was former Miss Puerto Rico Irma Nydia Vázquez – not to mention his musician father Bobby Capó Jr. If anyone can reflect the standing of Latin music in 2023 it would be Capó.
Likening this year's event as a "good breather from Vegas," Capó urges that he "Really wants to embrace" the ceremony. "I mean, you walk around and talk about art," he says gesturing outside of the hotel he and other artists are stationed in for the day, "you know, I feel like we've forgotten about architecture in these times, we just make things that are practical and functional. You have to breathe it in every step, and my mind goes into the past – I imagine what was going on here centuries ago, and to celebrate Latino music in the motherland, you know, it's quite a thing."
The Line of Best Fit is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Three things to get excited about this week
The premiere: More than just a summation of her recent tour, Renaissance: a Film by Beyoncé – released today – also picks apart the DNA of its star’s success. Beyoncé Knowles shines the spotlight on the people around her - familial and professional – in a second act reflection that never feels disingenuous or manipulative. While she’s firmly in the driving seat as narrator, writer, producer and director, the documentary paints a story of depth and nuance that adds candour and context to her story, setting up a blueprint for the next part of Knowles’ career.
The venue: Matchstick Piehouse, the beloved Deptford venue, is battling a possible closure amidst a dispute with their landlord. Set up in 2018 as an “anti-capitalist music and art space,” the venue started as a volunteer project but has since expanded to employ and feature local South Londoners. The space features a diverse portfolio of events, which range from queer cabarets and anarchist performance art nights to folk jam sessions, all the while prioritising representation for historically under-represented groups. To stave off closure, they’re now looking to raise money on a crowdfund.
The book: Whether it’s a girlband reunion or it’s Saltburn, nostalgia for the 90s and early 00s is back in full swing. Michael Cragg’s REACH FOR THE STARS chronicles these two decades in British pop music. The book uses an oral history format, combining hundreds of interviews to dive beneath the surface of the “bubblegum” genre.
What’s the deal with…. AI music distribution?
On Wednesday it was announced that Boomy, a generative AI music startup, inked a distribution deal with Warner subsidiary ADA. The terms of the deal will give select artists from the Boomy roster, hand-picked by the Boomy A&R team, access to ADA’s suite of distribution and promotion tools. Boomy, if you haven’t heard of it, is a platform that claims to be able to “create an original song in seconds.” Simply click a few buttons and a fully-formed beat will be at your fingertips, even if you have never made music before. Oh, and there are basic editing functions, too. And if you don’t like the song you get, the “try again” button will let you try again infinitely. The site also allows artists to release those tracks via their own distribution infrastructure and earn portions of any streaming royalties as well, but it makes clear that it does not train models on copyrighted work without permissions from rightsholders. If this all seems obscure, think again. Over 400k songs have already been made with the software. The Boomy-WMG partnership signals a foray into a new frontier for the music world. While the startup’s founders and WMG execs call the tool’s users “AI-empowered artists,” there are obvious questions to be raised about artistic integrity, not to mention what a tool like this means for current working artists. Nonetheless, WMG’s embrace of Boomy signals that, whether critics like it or not, the AI era is well on its way. If you can’t beat it, join it?
Something Old, Something New
Every week, one of our writers or editors share their recommendations of two records they love - one from the past, one from the present. This week, Steven Loftin on Bummer’s Dead Horse (2021) and SUDS’ The Great Overgrowth (2023).
Choosing an album from two years ago for the ‘older’ entry always feels a bit wrong. But given the sheer explosion of music that happens each year, it’s impossible to keep up with *every* release, even when your job is literally to scope out most albums for coverage (Hi, Albums Ed). Which means that sometimes a release might reach you a bit too late, which is exactly what has happened in the case of barnstorming US Midwest noise-rockers Bummer.
After creeping through on a recommended playlist, I was enamoured with the rollicking, runaway train-blazing-inferno they tote (though wield like an electro-shock mace feels more apt). Instruments create a maelstrom that swallows anything and everything in its path, and when you need music to just take you over, there’s no one that does it quite like Bummer. And, I’m not going to lie, the title “JFK Speedwagon” is part of the reason I paid attention (also see: “I want to punch Bruce Springsteen in the dick”). It’s absurdist, unapologetic and, alas, to remain in 2022 when they disbanded but thankfully Dead Horse will forever ride like the apocalypse is nigh.
Twinkling with the subtle embrace that being aware of everything going on in your life offers you, SUDS’ The Great Overgrowth is a bright autumnal breeze that sings with an emo-candescence that feels refreshingly familiar. It’s an album that I find rooting around inside me and gleefully bringing out a nostalgic feeling making feel brand new, even when singer Mae Cater proclaims “It feels like I’ve wasted my whole life again” on “Freckles”. It’s also Cater who unspools her inner-most thoughts with dexterity and fearless honesty which gives SUDS a rambunctious edge. Delivering the same earnestness as Ratboys and a latter-day Tigers Jaw, it’s impossible to spin The Great Overgrowth and feel dishevelled – it’s music that sticks you on the right track with a gentle hug. All killer, no filler, the Norwich based band lay it all out there with joyous, ambitious aplomb.
Dropping at midnight every Thursday, follow our 20-track playlist for a taste of the best new music from the most exciting breaking artists.
These are the songs our editors and writers have on repeat right now, taken from the hundreds of tracks released in the last seven days. Leading the selection this week are new tracks from Bb trickz, Yarden, yunè pinku, kwn, Unflirt, and coverstar PHIA.
The Line of Best Fit is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support our work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.