I share mutual friends with anarchistwood. Friends such as illustrator Shaun Histed-Todd, who is one of the owners of Wicked Spins Radio that airs my Blackout Radio Show and also puts together the festival Alice’s Wicked Tea Party.
The other mutual friend is Steve Brunton of Jesus Hooligan and formerly of the English hardcore band Gout / Lager Louts.
When I first met Frank (aka funkcutter) and Paul, her husband, (aka Candi’s Flipped Blackwood), we were talking for many hours.
They are not your usual couple and I think they are lucky to have found each other surrounded by the “commonality” of the English system. Two very creative people who constantly want to make art – right in the heart of bustling London.
They get parts from the unseen material of our world, pieces that many of us don’t see and they make movies, edit videos, create visuals and, of course, write music with their band: anarchistwood.
(interview by Mike Pougounas)
“Candi and I met in the seedy world of London nightclubs as club VJs” says Frank and continues “Both of us had been creating visual art separately since the 90s and started making short films as well once we got together. Our first production was a tale about a jilted woman called Phyllis Gash and the broken vibrator her dastardly ex-flame has left her with. It’s called ‘One Useless Prick’ and was screened at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts in 2005 as part of a women in visual arts season.”
In 2018, Frank co-wrote the script and co-directed the short film “Fear is the Mind Killer”. I asked her how this idea came about.
“anarchistwood played the 50th birthday / wedding party for our dear friend Pink Charlotte and her new spouse Lindsey S. Lindsey works as an editor and suggested to us that she would like to make a pop video for anarchistwood. The only idea concrete she had at the time was to have the band on a bouncy castle. This sounded like a lot of fun and we said we were in. We fixed on ‘Bomb in a Luggage Rack’ as the track, a version of which had come out as a split single on Grow Your Own Records, as well as on The Nasty Album. I asked Lindsey if she had any ideas about a story. All she had in mind was a kidnapping of some sort. Once I had the theme, I wrote with gay abandon, and the story came out like shelling peas. It wanted to be out there. Lindsey changed fixed up parts of it, organized the shot lists, booked the crew. We both gathered costume, props, and actors. We were stuck for a lead actor to play ‘The Man’ until about a week before the shoot. We were most fortunate to involve a mutual friend and big fan of anarchistwood Nik Llawr to play this role. It was his first experience of acting. We thought he did a fantastic job. We also used our friend Pete Kopinski’s gorgeously dilapidated house in Surrey as the location. Pete plays several roles in the video. For the next project, which was ‘Fear’, Lindsey and I collaborated a lot more on, as we realised we worked really well together. Probably due to our similar sick sense of humour. We started trying to make a pop video for a short track – “Fear is the Mind Killer” but as things went on, we realised we had so many ideas and shots, that it would have to turn into a short film. Candi supplied music from his electronic project ‘Maelific Jester’ as well as three anarchistwood tracks.”
And you ended up with Best Music award of “Portobello Film Festival 2018” I added after a sip from my ice cold Guinness.
Frank answered “Well, we continued with our ensemble cast idea, including The Amazing Mouse, Jan Daniels (who is also our prop maker), Pete Kopinski and band members who appeared in Bomb, and added Star Wars actor Sobriety Twist, the unforgettable Sexton Ming and wife Stuckist artist Ella Guru, artist Lily Mars Morrow, Jeff Freeman (drag king personality of Jemma) and our lead psycho Dr Raef was played by none other than Jenny Runacre who is impossibly cool having played Bod and Queen Elizabeth in Derek Jarman’s punk classic, ‘Jubilee’”
“Jubillee” was released in the UK in February 1978 as the first punk rock movie. Apart from Jenny Runacre, appear some well-known musicians such as Toyah, Wayne/Jayne County and Adam Ant, the “Rocky Horror Show” actress Nell Campbell (who also appears as a groupie on Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”) and Richard O’Brien, the great Riff Raff character from “Rocky Horror Show”. Jenny Runacre appeared also next to Jack Nicholson on Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Professione: reporter”, on “The Lady Vanishes” starring Elliott Gould, Cybill Shepherd, and Angela Lansbury, “The Witches” with Anjelica Huston, “The Edge of Love” with Keira Knightley and other movies.
“Lindsey and I co directed and edited, whilst Lindsey and Nigel Camp executed the camera work and drones. Lindsey and I have now started a film production company Black Triangle Films and are currently working on a wicked story for Jemma Freeman and the Cosmic Something.”
The first time I watched “Fear is the Mind Killer” the message to me was crystal clear: our society is trying to get rid of people that are different. I asked her if I was right, if she believes that our world is turning into a conservative, fascist world that wants to eliminate those who think out of the box.
“Yes – I think it’s getting that way sometimes. In other matters (e.g legalisation of gay marriage, gender neutralisation! abortion rights, racial equality – or at least admission there hasn’t been for a long long time!) life is getting better for a lot of people but there are still injustices, judgements, cultural rules people follow blindly.
I think the ‘west’ Europe, North America (ok -just the USA!) is getting more judgemental and I feel that many African and South American nations are becoming more enlightened and happier. Many people want to shut you down if they feel threatened by difference. It’s pure tribalism which is fine if you are accepting and welcome change and evolution but not if you tell them they are wrong just for looking out of the ordinary. Do what thou wilt, an it harm none.
I’m sure I’m not the only punk who has grown up feeling like an outsider, being earmarked as ‘the other’, part of the freak show. we wear it as a badge of honour, but narrow minded people still make day to day existence a fight. I’m lucky as I live in a big city, but I have always dressed up as long as I had a choice. Some people say ‘strangely’ but if different was bad, now where would we be? still cyanoabacter under the sea?”
Anarchistwood is going on stage wearing make up and colourful clothes. How much time is needed to get prepared?
“It takes me a good two hours to get ready for a gig. One hour on makeup at least. Often this has been done in the car on the way to a gig, but it usually looks better if I do it before I set off. Depending on road conditions, the wonkiness can be enhanced! We have been wearing our clown make up a lot at festivals, particularly after winning the award.
When we went to see Joker recently, we were really sorry we hadn’t gone in clown makeup. We very much identified with the character and felt it was extremely close to the message ‘Fear is the Mind Killer’ portrays. Except with a multimillion dollar budget! This weekend I am looking forward to getting made up as a clown, with renewed vigor.”
Anarchistwood play live pretty often. Have you been playing out of the UK? Would you like to? Where do you play next?
“We have played in Berlin, Cork in Eire and on several occasions at the Dragon Festival in Orgiva Andalucia, Espana. We’ve also played in Scotland and that might devolve out the UK if pollitricks work out in that direction. We would love to play more abroad. We also love performing out of London as audiences out of the smoke seem to let their hair down more! Particularly in Bristol and Braintree, where crowd surfing in low ceilinged venues seems to tickle the punters. Our favourite festivals have to be Griffstock and anything Convoy Cabaret are involved in.”
Convoy Cabaret is an Alternative Anarcho DIY Festival that’s been around for about 10 years. It’s a gathering of bands, DJs, dancers, acrobats, and poets.
“These humans look out for you and yours and are responsible anarchists” adds Frank “Just the way we like it.
Our next gigs are in Southend, Basingstoke, our home venue Overdrive Studios in Deptford that we love very much for our own promotion Subterfuge. In 2020 we already have gigs lined up in Bristol, Southend, London and Manchester. Getting over to Europe again before it gets too difficult to cross is high on our agendas. Countries that still use the Death Penalty and are homophobic are not places we want to play (which is very sad for the USA – stop the killing!)
Death Penalty is a subject that anarchistwood deal with in their lyrics but only there…
In the lyrics of their songs “Door Part 1” and “Door Part 2” from their 2008 album “Blessed Are The Cracked, For They Let In The Light” Frank wrote about Death Row victim John-Joe “Ash” Amador and his phone discussions with the Treatment Rooms team an hour or so prior to his state execution in Huntsville in August 26 2007.
Amador was sentenced for shooting dead 32 year old cab driver Reza Ayari in 1994.
Frank and Candi have an artistic connection to Amador.
“Artist Carrie Reichardt went to Texas to witness his execution…” explains Frank.
I did a Google search to find out about the “Treatment Rooms” and who is Carrie Reichardt. It wasn’t hard to find information of her site on which she mentions that in 2000 she was working on a cooperative mosaic when she saw an ad by the Human Writes charity calling people to become penpal friends with death row inmates. Reichardt applied and started writing to Luis Ramire. Their friendship inspired her to make a mosaic on the outside wall of her house turning it into a graphic cave and this is from where the name The Treatment Rooms came. The execution of Ramirez from the state of Texas convinced Reichardt to dedicate her creativity to raise awareness regarding the death sentence. Later Reichardt got in touch with John – Joe – Ash Amador.
Frank explained their connection:
“Candi filmed the process where Nick Reynolds made a death mask for Ash a few hours later, which was exhibited in the UK by The Treatment Rooms, eventually in the V&A. Candi brought the footage home and I edited it to present an AV documentary film, #402. Ash was victim number 402 executed in the State of Texas alone since the death penalty was reintroduced in 1976. #402 won the audience award at the Portobello Film Festival 2008.”
Nick Reynolds is a British sculptor who specializes in death masks. He is also the harmonica player with the Alabama 3, a band famous for their “Woke Up This Morning” track that opens the TV series The Sopranos.
One morning I was listening to the classical “Summer Wine” by Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra and it came to me that I should do a cover version of it with New Zero God. We entered the studio that same afternoon and did it our way. Two weeks later I met Frank and Candi and while farting around it came to me to ask Frank if she’d like to take the place of Nancy Sinatra and do the lyrics on our version. Soon after that, we found ourselves in the studio discussing the attitude that she had to have. The song is about a cowboy that falls into the trap of this woman that makes him drunk with her “summer wine” and steals all his money. It wouldn’t be square enough to have a song about fucking in the 60s. I never liked how un-nervous Sinatra’s singing was on this track. Too flat for my taste. She sounded like a robot who repeats an erotic song. Frank was in charge for a sexual teaser in order to launch the song to a XXX stratosphere.
So what does anarchistwood mean, how did you come up with the name and when did you form the band?
“The word came from me naming the wife’s ‘morning glory’ – Candi (Paul) is an anarchist, so that became his ‘anarchist wood’. He said hey – that’s a really good name for a band. Back in the Noughties, we were heavily involved in electronic music and video mixing. We were working for Love Music Hate Racism in a pub in North London projecting the visuals and saw a few really good bands – particularly a band called Data Panic from Scotland. They were so good that Candi was inspired to start writing tunes again. He hadn’t picked up his guitar for quite a few years, since being in post punk bands in Leeds, and mostly made -at that time – electronic music, visuals and was a resident DJ in a big nightclub called Turnmills. This was around 2004 – 2005.
When we first started the band I was making visuals and playing keyboard. I was also triggering visuals from the keyboard at one point. We went through a few different members to try and get something going, including a writing and singing session with Gob$au$age, noodling with Handsum Pete and always wanted a visual element to the shows. One of our first performances was with Devillia de Dallas – Candi playing guitar and me controlling the keyboard, visuals and backing track. Devillia sang whilst doing a strip tease that ended with her fire tittie tassling to great effect. We took that show on to some fancy places – as part of the BurlyQ Revue that ran for 6 weeks at Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, the first Latitude festival and also within the Big Chill as part of the Lost Vagueness crew. We all got banned at that one, which was an honour.”
When they came to Athens, the couple started searching in the record stores. Candi was very happy with some rare psychedelic albums that he discovered. Which artists influenced the band?
“We have very far reaching music tastes. As Duke Ellington said… There are simply two kinds of music, good music and the other kind
Huge influences are Zappa, Butthole Surfers, ACDC, Black Sabbath, Alice Donut, musicals such as Cabaret, Singing in the Rain, The Wizard of Oz, Calamity Jane, MC 5, Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead, Patti Smith, Peaches, Mel Brooks, Ella Fitzgerald, David Bowie, Roxy Music, Billie Holiday, Love, Hawkwind, Black Flag, Minor Threat, Shostakovich, Parliament, Funkadelic, Diamanda Galas, Lou Reed, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Gong, Fela Kuti… where do we stop? Contemporary loves include China Shop Bull, Natterers, Sanction This, Armoured Flu Unit, The Crippens … Candi has a great penchant for Scandanavian folk music, so this is blasting out in the Labiatory quite regularly.”
Ex Gratia Recordings started in 2008 to release your album “Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light”. What is your connection to Ex Gratia Recordings? How important is the DIY ethos to you? Would you sign to a big label?
“Ex Gratia literally from Latin means ‘from favour’ and effectively to us means ‘do it for the love’ and therefore is not about making a profit, a business, an industry. We have poured money into releasing our own material with no backing and also released actual vinyl records by other bands Rude Mechanicals, Wonk Unit, Sexton Ming and CDs and downloads of many other often obscure artists, like Handsome Pete, The Dutchess, the rising Jesus Hooligan and countless more on compilation releases. The DIY ethos is very important to us. We hand print all our album covers and stencil the vinyl versions, so they are all unique. I really enjoy sending merch and handwritten notes to people who purchase. We enjoy packaging and sending all over the world to the freak family we have found ourselves a part of. The only thing missing is the distribution powers and so if another label wanted us, the main reason we would go for it, is if they could distribute on other continents, so the postage prices wouldn’t be so high for our fans. Obviously we would scrutinise this label, which would have to be free of war investment, be ethical, and not politically opposed to our own ideals. Like that’s going to happen, eh?!”
After this last joke we discussed the necessity for punk rock in our days, more than ever. What exactly is “punk”? Is it the sound? The attitude? The lyrics?
“Punk is a way of life. It’s an attitude, it’s freedom, it’s bravery to be one’s self. Maybe it’s foolishness too, but I guess it’s how far you take things and what you can get away with. I don’t think there is much that we do is particularly controversial. But apparently it is – well Candi points it out to me regularly. Our first full band gig took place in Brixton Jamm at Outlaw – an event put on by Alabama 3. Punkvert were engaged to put on the visuals and book DJs, cabaret and assorted freaks for the event. Our first gig with six piece line up plus dancers and guest vocalist Devillia de Dallas started with the band arriving on stage in pink Kinky Kunt Klan outfits with anarchy symbols and badges from the Huntsville Correctional Unit AKA Texas Death Row. I didn’t think how the Klan outfits would be interpreted at the time locally. The event was a cracker.”
How about now that things in the UK are a mess? Do you think that new punk rock bands will emerge?
“Yes! Tories bring creativity. I remember people saying that years ago, but I didn’t really understand it until the rose tinted glasses of the Labour Government were smashed and trodden into the ground by the real Nasty Party.”
They liked the colaboration we had for ‘Summer Wine’ so Frank told me one day, “I made a video for the track Mr cowboy. It’s fun/ I am sending it to see it and if you like it I will upload it on YouTube.”
Yes, it’s fun and I liked the video. Gives a humoristic note to the song compared with other versions I’ve heard.
Do you have a favorite subject for your lyrics?
“Initially we realised that most lyrics were about sex, drugs, inequality and war. It’s not a favourite topic, but the horrendous situation in the Middle East has been hugely influential in my writing. Feeling for the people who suffer at the hands of their dictators particularly in Syria gave rise to ‘Wake Up Marie’. It’s about the journalist Marie Colvin dying trying to get the news out to the world about how the people in Baba Amr district of Homs were being bombed by their own government.
American journalist Marie Colvin was working for the Brittish newspaper The Sunday Times from 1985 until her death. She died while covering the siege of Homs in Syria. Marie Colvin was killed by an “improvised explosive device filled with nails on February 22 2012, alongside photojournalist Rémi Ochlik. In July 2016, lawyers representing Colvin’s family filed a civil action against the government of the Syrian Arab Republic claiming they had obtained proof that the Syrian government had directly ordered her assassination, leading to a judge finding the Syrian government guilty of her assassination in early 2019, awarding Colvin’s family $302 million in damages.
“Responsibility for our actions is another theme – ‘Bomb in a Luggage Rack’ in which I put in all pronouns to prevent the ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality. When people are affected by terroism by frustrated, disowned people or by the state itself, this pain is felt by globally – we are all human beings, we can all behave atrociously or we can act for the common good. Covering Minor Threat’s ‘Straight Edge’ led me to re-write the lyrics and Candi to slow down the verses and put in lots of Middle Eastern twangs to produce ‘Despot’, with the chorus still the double time assault Minor Threat fans know and love but the words are ‘I’m. No. Despot.” We are honoured to have Ian MacKaye’s blessing for this one. In huge contrast, the ‘Answer to War’ is about ‘my little pink button!’ can you guess what it is yet?
Other tunes discuss the banking crisis of 2008 – ‘Supercrash’, lack of rewards from living a so called normal life ‘Eat the Rich’, getting totally wasted ‘StaggerFactor’, my beautiful muse ‘Mouse’, an infamous triple XXX rated performer at London’s Box who is known across the world, people who can’t think for themselves and judge you on what they are told to approve of by magazines, music press, allegiances to alleged punk dynasties (the 1977 brigade) ‘what comes next’ ‘body’ politics and rights over how you present yourself and Lucifer ‘Morning Star’. I’ve also written tunes about my eldest daughter, particularly to wish her into a strong adulthood and forge her path ‘Horse’ plus rambling thoughts about living life in modern day uncaring selfish society ‘Vertigo’, ‘Rat Live on no eviL staR’… so much more I haven’t said yet. Candi wrote about the evils in Yemen ‘For the Unforseeable Future’, where people are ripped to shreds by cluster bombs projected onto their innocent villages by US special forces. The UK and US arms trade makes them complicit in continuing the suffering of people in many places by making a business out of death and destruction. My first lyrics that appear on vinyl are for ‘Snake’ – about lovers who let you down – on the compilation album ‘Specialisation is for Insects’.
One day the couple came with a present for me. The album they put out in 2016, titled, “The Nasty Album”. I asked them if they are vinyl junkies and if they have a big record collection.
“We love vinyl. We have a lot of it! Candi is most definitely a vinyl junkie, beautifully assisted by working in All Ages Records and Rock n Roll Rescue – two music shops in Camden. We also have a lot of our own Ex Gratia vinyl merchandise stored in the Labiatory, which is our home studio. The walls are closing in.”
What is the current line-up of the band?
“Line up has been from the start funkcutter and Candi. We have been through several guitarists, bassists and a tin bath full of drummers over the years. The current line up is Kris ‘T-Red’ Stazaker on guitar and vox, who is also in T-Bitch and a solo artist in her own right, David ‘the Wasp’ Kahl on violent guitar (also in Brown Glove and Old Ernie), Mitch J Flacko (Hagar the Womb) on bass and vox, Scarlett ‘half goy, pussy-magnet’ Carsen (Bug Central) on drums, vox and more cowbell, Candiflip Blackwood on guitar, vox, backing tracks, funkcutter on vox, trumpet, high kicks, Lindsey S is our videographer and is currently learning drums too. We also have a Peggy Bop Becket (P.A.I.N.) as a dancer at many festivals as well as a variety of others plus Tanzi and Luka as live Punkvert VJs on the festival circuit.
Candi writes the majority of the music and some lyrics and funkcutter has written the majority of the lyrics since 2008. We are working on a track Mitch has written at the moment, which is great, as he is taking lead vocal. It’s brilliant and makes an inspiring contrast to the rest of the current set. We have material from David the Wasp to work on too.
We have released four albums, but the first one ‘Blessed’ we do not sell. It’s a double album. After the release of ‘Situationist Normal’ home life was pretty wonky with addiction and mental health overriding normal service meaning the third album took so long to make it turned into two albums – ‘The Nasty Album’ and ‘Sine On, Mr Lovely’. Maybe that was the most difficult (mainly due to my impatience!), but we are very proud of them.”
Are you up for another movie? What are your next plans?
“Yes. A horror film. With more dialogue. I am writing the story at the moment. We hope to shoot in March in Oxfordshire, at Shaken Oak Studios, where we are recording our fifth album. Very much looking forward to getting these fresh tracks out and start on the sixth. anarchistwood only has a tenure of eight albums, so we are more than halfway done. Then it’s over. Enjoy it while you can!”
Thanks for the good times, the music, and friendship. Hope to see ya.