Monday, October 16, 2017

LICHFIELD INTERROGATES: Sean Bw Parker

Sean Bw Parker is a writer and musician who has released several solo albums as well as collaborative works and albums by others via his label, Seraglio Point Productions. After spending a decade in Istanbul, he returned to England in 2014. His written work has been published by Time Out, Cosmopolitan and USA Today to give just a few examples, and he was formerly a director of the arts venue SeaFiSh in Bognor Regis. He has presented a TED talk called ‘Stammering and Creativity’ at the Kadir Has University in Istanbul. The talk has since become one of the most-watched videos on the topic of stammering.  ‘Stammering and Creativity’ will be toured around the UK shortly. 
  • What can we expect from the ‘Stammering and Creativity’ tour? 
It’ll be an extended version of the TED talk I was asked to give at the Kadir Has University conference in 2013, with Q&A encouraged throughout. This became one of the most viewed videos on the subject online. It revolves around my personal experience in that mature acceptance of the condition is key to harmonising it into your life, beyond more basic or subjective assumptions of a ‘cure’. It’s laced with glitz and humour too, as most things in life should be I think.

Stammering is something we do, and can be modified, so discussion of its being a disability is vibrant and ongoing. This tour is an attempt to educate, entertain and inform, like the BBC were once meant to do.
  • Can you tell us about your decade living in Istanbul? What were the most memorable moments? 
I met a group of Turkish people just after I’d finished my MA in fine art at the University of the Creative Arts in Farnham in 2004, and was working as a chef in Kingston-Upon-Thames, pondering my future. They went home to Istanbul, and I missed them so much – one in particular – that I decided to take a holiday there. 

I actually thought Turkey was part of the European Union, but realised my mistake after a few months living and writing there, and found the fine was too much for my limited resources, so decided to keep working until I was rumbled in 2014 after an altercation with a friends’ neighbour, and was deported after two nights being kept in a cell next to about 100 Syrian freedom fighters in ‘transit’. That was on top of being in a bomb explosion in Bakirkoy, being attacked by a pack of dogs in the middle of the night in Besiktas, glassed by a fellow teacher, taking down a street self-mutilator (broken bottles down a naked chest) and being mugged twice in Taksim – all explored in ‘Salt in the Milk – Ten Years in Istanbul’.
  • How would you describe the character of Anthony H. Wolfstadt from your books to a newcomer? 
Wolfstadt is a young(ish) relic of the Empire, who looks at the East through ‘orientalist eyes’. He does whatever he wants, is a proud alcoholic, and criticises the natives of wherever he is living with what he likes to think is wit and panache. He is loosely based in Richard E. Grant’s ‘Withnail’, and the cover of my second book ‘Genuflecting Before the Pork-Barrel Demagogues’ suggests the appearance of Nigel Havers. 

He is every middle-class Englisher’s licentious dark side, struggling to drag himself into the 21st century, until deciding not to bother. I voiced some of his stories on the ‘Ninja Lit’ album in 2015, with music by the genius Ettuspadix.
  • You’ve interviewed a wide range of well-known figures. Who is your most memorable interviewee? Who else is on your wish list? 
The most memorable would be David Stubbs, being as he is The Finest Living English Writer. That was full of wit, wisdom and observational brilliance. Ian Broudie of The Lightning Seeds was pretty memorable for his evident lack of patience with my questions, leading God Is In The TV to label the post ‘tetchy seed’. I regret asking Ed Harcourt if he minded being referred to as posh, as he disregarded the question, but as he later put it ‘you asked, I answered, that’s it’. 

David Bowie would have been on the wish-list if I hadn’t fabricated an interview on a lonely, drunken inner-Wolfstadt moment a couple of years ago, leading to my grovelling apology and justifiable sacking from God Is In The TV. This was before the announcement of ‘The Next Day’, when everyone including The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne thought he might have died already. Would love to speak to Russell Brand or Stephen Fry, from the living.
  • Can you tell us the story of your label, Seraglio Point Productions? 
I was examining an old map of Istanbul in my bedsit in Norbiton as I was contemplating flying out there, and amongst the very difficult Turkish names was the more tongueable Seraglio Point, the name for the promontory on which old Stamboul was built. I later realised it was also shorthand for the harem that successive Sultans would keep in Topkapi Palace, built there. 

I signed a distribution contract with Believe Digital in the early 10s to release my band Scorpio Rising’s recordings, and my own solo stuff, and set up Seraglio as the label vehicle for doing so – then realised we could get my favourite fellow artists work out there under the same umbrella. I started using it to promote the shows I would organise under it too, and books, and here we are seven years later. The Seraglio Point Productions facebook group makes me smile on a daily basis.
  • You been part of several bands and recorded as a solo artist – of which musical moments are you most proud? 
Song-wise, ‘Skin Match Version’ by Scorpio Rising is still my favourite, due to its very live, in the moment nature, and the first time I’d successfully used stream of consciousness/cut-up method in a lyric. Regarding albums, this year’s ‘A New Jerusalem’ is my favourite as it sounds very complete to me, journey-like, from Will Blake to Scorpio Rising to Ettuspadix. 2014 single ‘Bananafingers’ is the most popular with the public, still being played all over the East and the USA. 

The video documentary Dutch Gumbo is a bit long, but tells a story and most bits are covered in there. The most memorable show was with SPB (Sean Parker Band) at the French Days Festival in Gezi Park, Taksim in 2011. A couple of years later I was tear gassed along with about 3000 fellow injured in the Gezi riots, most losing eyes due to rubber bullets fired by Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s police.
  • What are your thoughts on the current UK political climate? How much do you feel UK life changed whilst you were away? 
A contributing reason of my self-exile was Tony Blair’s Alan Partridge-esque ‘modernisation’ of Britain. Though I like most sane people voted him in in 1997, he immediately introduced tuition fees just as I was returning to university, and was busy finding excuses to invade Iraq as I left. 

For years it seemed you couldn’t tell the difference between party and policy, and Jeremy Corbyn has refreshingly changed that, returning the debate to humanistic ideals, when all I can see in the south east is people scowling suspiciously at each other. Daily life seems a constant struggle for everyone I know under 40 to get by, on top of being vocally hamstrung by an increasingly virulent political correctness.
  • What is the current situation with SeaFiSh? Will it return? 
I will always be proud of being ‘ideas man’ and co-founder of Seafish, it was my CBGBs and Hacienda all rolled into ten months in Bognor Regis. It was incredible being able to put on Eat Static, The Members, Attila the Stockbroker, Deborah Rose and Speech Painter to name a few, before Arun District Council made it impossible to continue. 

My agnosticism was called sharply into question by an actual poltergeist, who/which we dubbed Pete, Pete the Poltergeist. For months I was only able to sporadically sleep in my own room, the amount it banged about. I’m a rationalist, and could honestly find no explanation for clearly human consciousness-originated actions, from multiple sources, clocks and pint glasses flying from shelves, a cacophony of physical doors slamming  – neither rats nor pigeons, nor the age of the building. It started when I had the carpet pulled up, interestingly, but when it subsided the real trouble started. 

The Fish ended really sadly in around Christmas 2016, and I see no scope for any return, on my part anyway – it would be good to see Bognor have a great cultural venue again, but it certainly won’t be with me heading it up.
  • What are you currently watching, reading and/or listening to? 
Books that I have open are The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde and the Essential History of Art, but the truth is I’m far more enamoured with my friends’ facebook updates than either, and of course the attendant political theory/conspiracy theory (delete as you wish) links that often go with them. I’m editing ‘Empire of the Mind 3’, final part of a series of south coast-originated poetry and prose, so that takes up a lot of my eye/brain time at the moment.

As a younger man I had a list of albums that I had to listen to if I got the chance. Online made that possible a few years ago, so now listening is a daily voyage of discovery from friends’ recommendations - to mixed results. The problem is so little of it sticks – but that’s probably because I don’t have the emotional and mental plasticity of of a fourteen year old brain anymore. The new Antidote songs are incredible, as is Stage Van H’s new traditional Greek-inspired work, and can’t wait to hear David Devant and His Spirit Wife’s ‘Sublime’ album.
  • What are you currently working on aside from preparing the tour? 
Apart from editing ‘Empire of the Mind 3’ as mentioned above, I’m releasing my own ‘A Cacophony of Indifference’ album, both before the end of 2017, and planning a sixth book for publication next year. As artist liaison for Brighton’s Real Music Club we’re organising a Crayola Lantern show after a successful Zofff one at the Prince Albert last month, and I’m continuing to contribute to the Liverpool-based Getintothis, now the UK’s premier must-read music and culture site. 

We’re opening a Hove Skeptics at the Pub group, further to the work I do for the Worthing chapter – which will see guest speaker spots from (RATM number one chap) Jon Morter and artist (and son of Lucien) David Macadam Freud next year – and the Seraglio Open Stage at the Brunswick in Hove continues the first of every month, after the brilliant WildeFest 2017 in October. 

Thanks, Sean!

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