Of Guns and Drums

August 16th, 2014




























Of guns, and drums, and wounds—God save the mark!—

And telling me the sovereignest thing on earth

Was parmacety for an inward bruise,

And that it was great pity, so it was,

This villanous saltpeter should be digged

Out of the bowels of the harmless earth,

Which many a good tall fellow had destroyed

So cowardly,


Henry IV, William Shakespeare



Though burnt, cut, and smashed, these reclaimed guns from the New Orleans Police Department possess a potential power. Covered in soot and oil, heavy to hold, mute, they have a “sinister resonance”, to borrow a phrase from writer David Toop. We are caught between the last echo of their discharge and eternity, an echo away from the startling moment a gun is fired.


So what to do with these accursed objects? How do we cleave this “confiscated evidence” from the crimes that they have been used to commit?


I think of a famous photograph, Bernie Boston’s “Flower Power”, which depicts a hippie placing carnations in the gun barrels of military policemen during a 1967 anti-Vietnam protest at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.. The act of adorning the guns with flowers symbolically strips the MP’s power to intimidate.


As an artist, I traffic in sound and imagery. As a musician, I am always concerned with evoking meaning through music.

As sound effects for films, drums and percussion have often been used by Foley Stage artists to represent the sounds of war. A snare drum might be used to enhance the sound of a machine gun, a de-tuned kettle drum an explosion.


In a lecture on editing sound for film, Oscar winner Walter Murch(Apocalypse Now, The English Patient, Cold Mountain) says, “You think about it, every language is basically a code, with its own particular set of rules. You have to understand those rules in order to break open the husk of language and extract whatever meaning is inside…Sound, in this case, is acting simply as a vehicle with which to deliver the code…Music, however, is completely different: it is sound experienced directly, without any code intervening between you and it. Naked. Whatever meaning there is in a piece of music is ‘embodied’ in the sound itself.”


Instead of flowers, I place drum mallets into the barrels of guns, with the hope that by repurposing them as musical instruments, I can is some way channel the echo from when the guns were fired into something constructive, something creative.


As drum and bugle corps throughout history have led soldiers to battle, the trope “drums of war” has been in use from Greece to the Civil War to Syria. What of turning weapons into musical instruments instead of ploughshares? Can we imagine these symbols of violence as instruments of music and by doing so imagine peace?



The Coffin of a Constellation

June 6th, 2014


They can steady the coffin
of a constellation on their shoulders.
They can wreck
the air like furious birds,
blocking out the sun.

But not knowing these gifts,
they enter and exit through mirrors of blood,
walking and dying slowly.

And so,
one cannot forget them.

an excerpt from Roberto Sousa’s The Poor


I hid at the edge of the porch next to the seated ranchero with lustrous spurs. A group of sorority girls crowded my view of the boy whose grandmother had begged us to visit. He lay on a blanket, legs splayed apart in the impossible arabesque of cerebral palsy.

We volun-tourists were getting our money’s worth in the dusty red mountain village of Nuevo Paraiso, and I felt all the paradoxical emotions, the condescension, the prejudices, the impossible empathy of a 1st Worlder with 1st World concerns dunked into this foreign reality. I felt the ingrown ache of guilt as it curled back under my skin, and for those first few moments, I was ashamed. Ashamed, until I saw what the boy was doing.

Partially blind, he was compulsively twirling a red plastic coffee lid in front of his eyes, like some desperate senior trying to read the fine print on a life saving prescription bottle. The light refracting through the spinning lid was his Rosary, a kaleidoscopic meditation. In that instant, I, the Figurative Realist, understood Color Field and Abstract Expression.

“Life is but a dream…” the girls sang. Row Row Row Your Boat was the only song they could come up with after they balked at a familiar hit by Adelle. I felt like I was dreaming, or was this sensation an eerie dis-temporal epiphany that I was in the chorus on the edge of someone else’s dream, the glowing red hypnogagia of a poor disabled teenager on the side of a mountain in Honduras.

As a second and then a third round of that old minstrel song intertwined, so did our waking dreams enmesh.


September 21st, 2013

I’m proud to announce the release of a new limited edition of HOLYMAN’s double album opus called Things We Can’t Untie. The record was recorded live in my living room, and has become one of my favorite pieces of music. I like to describe HOLYMAN as John Cage meets Mogwai with a pedal steel soloist.

Pat Foley, the composer behind the project, writes, “Things We Can’t Untie attempts to delve into the depths of self-consciousness and take the listener on a journey of realization. The ominous pedal steel melodies and roving-and-converging drum work drag you along, as if blind folded, toward some unknown destination, causing your mind to wander to the edges of possibility. The swirling banter can absorb you if you let it, and you can easily forget about the ghostly net created by the spare repetition of the guitar and bass, holding you afloat in a sea of thoughts.”

You can download the full album for free(or make a donation) on Pat’s Bandcamp page.

The double album features artwork by my dear friend Jeff Beebe made specially for this record and printed as a giclee on cotton rag paper. Every record comes with a small baggie of record off-cut from the session, 100 percent pure groove.

Currently we have one copy left. So if anyone wants to purchase the last available album email me at neverrecordsnewyork@gmail.com .

HOLYMAN Things We Can’t Untie is an edition of 10 with 2 artists proofs.
Musicians: Patrick Foley-Guitar, Alex Lambert-Drums, Tim Reardon-Bass, Philip Sterk-Pedal Steel

Special thanks to Jason Wyche for the photography.
[bandcamp width=350 height=470 album=2618759906 size=large bgcol=ffffff linkcol=0687f5 notracklist=true]

SJ Downes Never Records film Tour diary.

July 16th, 2013

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Its been two years now since New York artist Ted Riederers’ NEVER Records came to these shores for the 2nd installment in Derry, Northern Ireland. On this occasion in May 2011, he was joined by friend and photographer Jason Wyche who felt that this project might provide the perfect platform for an exploration into film making and video, and together over the following weeks they set out, Ted recording the community and cutting the sounds and audio to vinyl and Jason documenting the proceedings and performances in visual form. Over the following time till now they have lovingly edited all the footage and created a film documentary, detailing the process, effect and joys that NEVER’s visit to Derry had, entitled ~ NEVER Records “You Are Not Listening”.

After premiering the finished film in April 2013, Stateside at the Victoria Film festival in Texas, winning ‘Best of Fest’ award, the guys deemed it only right to return to the U.K to reconnect with friends and collaborators and show the film at choice venues along the way. With a lack of funding available the guys bravely decided in true DIY spirit, to just come across anyway and what came about in the planning of a few independent screenings, then became whats best described as a mini-tour road trip. With film screenings and live shows planned at Liverpool, Derry and Belfast, we arranged to meet at Manchester airport and make the journey, 5 man strong including girlfriends/wives, in my small trusty motor from town to town via ferry to Ireland.

First up, was Liverpool. This was where NEVER Records first touched ground in September 2010, cutting records after an initial display in New York’s abandoned Tower Records building, and was also where i first met Ted, whilst living there. Andrew Ellis (samizdat) who helped so much in making the original visit a success, arranged for the screening and live sets at the ( in my words ‘epic’) Camp & Furnace bar/project down on Greenland Street and our talented friend Helen Weatherhead who works as assistant producer at Radio 6, and interviewed Ted first time around for a great article, arranged for some great promotion in the form of an interview and radio ad which went out the next day on the airwaves.

Click here for Stu’s full post.


June 18th, 2013

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

T.S. Elliot, from Little Gidding, Four Quartets.

It is impossible to accept that Arturo is gone.

Two weeks after his death, I am stumbling through my memories of him. I catalog them and try to refresh each one in the hopes that by doing so they will last longer, that I can somehow prolong the afterglow of remembrance. I go through a hard drive of photographs searching for his face, and wish that there were more images.

Rose told me not to read his obituaries, but I can’t help myself. I’m searching for the man I knew, and through it all I have this urgent need to testify, even though I’m afraid I won’t get it right, afraid I won’t be able to articulate how special he was.

“Ramones Logo Designer”-The Ramones was only one expression of the man I knew. I have a feeling Arturo gave them the same nurturing love that he gave the dozens of young artists he adopted in the last ten years. We were so lucky to have him believe in us. As we aspired to earn his faith in us we became better artists, and better friends. I would visit the loft, and over the course of an hour, become reacquainted with an old friend, catch up on all of the projects of another, or even meet someone new, another orphan Arturo had adopted.

New York makes orphans of us all. It dazzles us, confuses us, and hammers us, skews our sense of what truly matters, sucks our time and energy away from those who love and need us. Through it all, above the din of this wretched and beautiful city, Arturo was a beacon of love. In spite of the fact that he had loved and lost so many friends and family members, he was adamant that we must love each other more. His mural on the side of Oliver’s shop near the Bowery, declares, “Life Isn’t Tragic. Love is just being ignored.”

It is impossible to accept that Arturo is gone.

He was one of my most vital and vivacious friends. One night in London, when I wanted to sleep, he dragged me to a barge on the Thames at three in the morning where we salsa danced, and sang, and drank tequila. Hours later at sunrise, back at our hotel, he jumped on his bed and exclaimed, “let’s stay up late, I want to enjoy this trip.” ( He was one of my fittest friends, he started mountain climbing when he turned sixty. )

His art career was energized. With shows in England, Europe, Mexico, and New York, in the past few years he was getting the attention he deserved, not just as The Ramone’s designer, but as an important artist who was a contemporary of Hambleton, Haring, and Basquiat, an artist who still had so much to teach us all.

The second to last time I spoke with him he begged me, “Enjoy your life.” It was shocking to hear that from him, I think I was in denial about how sick he had become. In retrospect, I think he was coming to grips with the gravity of his situation, but also trying to teach me one last lesson, because he so passionately wanted us all to love life.

Heartbroken and afraid, I responded, “My life has been so much more enjoyable because you are in it.”

Joe Reyna

April 20th, 2013

Joe playing a lock groove of one of his screams.

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The amazing Joe Reyna, one of Victoria’s greatest treasures. So lucky to have him a part of Never Records.

Never Records Texas, Kevin Gant

April 12th, 2013

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The inimitable Kevin Gant. Check out Kevin’s documentary, it is truly inspiring(available on Netflix).

Never Records Radio, Episode 2, Part 1, Liverpool

March 27th, 2013

Listen to Never Records Radio

Barry and Alan Live

The Tintypes

February 21st, 2013

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Recorded on a rainy sunday in New Orleans. We put a mic on the mail slot of the front door so we could get the sound of the rain and cars driving by. Check out The Tintypes website.
Photo by Ryan.

Never Records Radio

February 17th, 2013

Intro (Contains clips from Conor O’kane, Alex Camero, Anna Paige, SJ Downes, and Whiteman)
And Then – Stef and Sammi Rose https://soundcloud.com/stef-rose
Club Desportivo De Mouraria
Art In General presents Jason Losh’s Chinese Take Out
Lúb na bóithre- Ciarán Mac Giolla
A Letter Home – Mouth 4 Rusty
My End – Gardenia Moon
I Love You