Friday, September 28, 2007

Bat for Lashes is the doppelgänger band ego of one of the leading millennial lights in British music, Natasha Khan. Caroline Weeks, Abi Fry and Lizzy Carey comprise the aurora borealis that backs this haunting, shimmering zither and glockenspiel peacock, and the only complaint coming from the audience at the Bowery Ballroom last Tuesday was that they could not camp out all night underneath these celestial bodies.

We live in the age of the lazy tendency to categorize the work of one artist against another, and Khan has had endless exultations as the next Björk and Kate Bush; Sixousie Sioux, Stevie Nicks, Sinead O’Connor, the list goes on until it is almost meaningless as comparison does little justice to the sound and vision of the band. “I think Bat For Lashes are beyond a trend or fashion band,” said Jefferson Hack, publisher of Dazed & Confused magazine. “[Khan] has an ancient power…she is in part shamanic.” She describes her aesthetic as “powerful women with a cosmic edge” as seen in Jane Birkin, Nico and Cleopatra. And these women are being heard. “I love the harpsichord and the sexual ghost voices and bowed saws,” said Radiohead‘s Thom Yorke of the track Horse and I. “This song seems to come from the world of Grimm’s fairytales.”

Bat’s debut album, Fur And Gold, was nominated for the 2007 Mercury Prize, and they were seen as the dark horse favorite until it was announced Klaxons had won. Even Ladbrokes, the largest gambling company in the United Kingdom, had put their money on Bat for Lashes. “It was a surprise that Klaxons won,” said Khan, “but I think everyone up for the award is brilliant and would have deserved to win.”

Natasha recently spoke with David Shankbone about art, transvestism and drug use in the music business.


DS: Do you have any favorite books?

NK: [Laughs] I’m not the best about finishing books. What I usually do is I will get into a book for a period of time, and then I will dip into it and get the inspiration and transformation in my mind that I need, and then put it away and come back to it. But I have a select rotation of cool books, like Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés and Little Birds by Anaïs Nin. Recently, Catching the Big Fish by David Lynch.

DS: Lynch just came out with a movie last year called Inland Empire. I interviewed John Vanderslice last night at the Bowery Ballroom and he raved about it!

NK: I haven’t seen it yet!

DS: Do you notice a difference between playing in front of British and American audiences?

NK: The U.S. audiences are much more full of expression and noises and jubilation. They are like, “Welcome to New York, Baby!” “You’re Awesome!” and stuff like that. Whereas in England they tend to be a lot more reserved. Well, the English are, but it is such a diverse culture you will get the Spanish and Italian gay guys at the front who are going crazy. I definitely think in America they are much more open and there is more excitement, which is really cool.

DS: How many instruments do you play and, please, include the glockenspiel in that number.

NK: [Laughs] I think the number is limitless, hopefully. I try my hand at anything I can contribute; I only just picked up the bass, really—

DS: –I have a great photo of you playing the bass.

NK: I don’t think I’m very good…

DS: You look cool with it!

NK: [Laughs] Fine. The glockenspiel…piano, mainly, and also the harp. Guitar, I like playing percussion and drumming. I usually speak with all my drummers so that I write my songs with them in mind, and we’ll have bass sounds, choir sounds, and then you can multi-task with all these orchestral sounds. Through the magic medium of technology I can play all kinds of sounds, double bass and stuff.

DS: Do you design your own clothes?

NK: All four of us girls love vintage shopping and charity shops. We don’t have a stylist who tells us what to wear, it’s all very much our own natural styles coming through. And for me, personally, I like to wear jewelery. On the night of the New York show that top I was wearing was made especially for me as a gift by these New York designers called Pepper + Pistol. And there’s also my boyfriend, who is an amazing musician—

DS: —that’s Will Lemon from Moon and Moon, right? There is such good buzz about them here in New York.

NK: Yes! They have an album coming out in February and it will fucking blow your mind! I think you would love it, it’s an incredible masterpiece. It’s really exciting, I’m hoping we can do a crazy double unfolding caravan show, the Bat for Lashes album and the new Moon and Moon album: that would be really theatrical and amazing! Will prints a lot of my T-shirts because he does amazing tapestries and silkscreen printing on clothes. When we play there’s a velvety kind of tapestry on the keyboard table that he made. So I wear a lot of his things, thrift store stuff, old bits of jewelry and antique pieces.

DS: You are often compared to Björk and Kate Bush; do those constant comparisons tend to bother you as an artist who is trying to define herself on her own terms?

NK: No, I mean, I guess that in the past it bothered me, but now I just feel really confident and sure that as time goes on my musical style and my writing is taking a pace of its own, and I think in time the music will speak for itself and people will see that I’m obviously doing something different. Those women are fantastic, strong, risk-taking artists—

DS: —as are you—

NK: —thank you, and that’s a great tradition to be part of, and when I look at artists like Björk and Kate Bush, I think of them as being like older sisters that have come before; they are kind of like an amazing support network that comes with me.

DS: I’d imagine it’s preferable to be considered the next Björk or Kate Bush instead of the next Britney.

NK: [Laughs] Totally! Exactly! I mean, could you imagine—oh, no I’m not going to try to offend anyone now! [Laughs] Let’s leave it there.

DS: Does music feed your artwork, or does you artwork feed your music more? Or is the relationship completely symbiotic?

NK: I think it’s pretty back-and-forth. I think when I have blocks in either of those area, I tend to emphasize the other. If I’m finding it really difficult to write something I know that I need to go investigate it in a more visual way, and I’ll start to gather images and take photographs and make notes and make collages and start looking to photographers and filmmakers to give me a more grounded sense of the place that I’m writing about, whether it’s in my imagination or in the characters. Whenever I’m writing music it’s a very visual place in my mind. It has a location full of characters and colors and landscapes, so those two things really compliment each other, and they help the other one to blossom and support the other. They are like brother and sister.

DS: When you are composing music, do you see notes and words as colors and images in your mind, and then you put those down on paper?

NK: Yes. When I’m writing songs, especially lately because I think the next album has a fairly strong concept behind it and I’m writing the songs, really imagining them, so I’m very immersed into the concept of the album and the story that is there through the album. It’s the same as when I’m playing live, I will imagine I see a forest of pine trees and sky all around me and the audience, and it really helps me. Or I’ll just imagine midnight blue and emerald green, those kind of Eighties colors, and they help me.

DS: Is it always pine trees that you see?

NK: Yes, pine trees and sky, I guess.

DS: What things in nature inspire you?

NK: I feel drained thematically if I’m in the city too long. I think that when I’m in nature—for example, I went to Big Sur last year on a road trip and just looking up and seeing dark shadows of trees and starry skies really gets me and makes me feel happy. I would sit right by the sea, and any time I have been a bit stuck I will go for a long walk along the ocean and it’s just really good to see vast horizons, I think, and epic, huge, all-encompassing visions of nature really humble you and give you a good sense of perspective and the fact that you are just a small particle of energy that is vibrating along with everything else. That really helps.

DS: Are there man-made things that inspire you?

NK: Things that are more cultural, like open air cinemas, old Peruvian flats and the Chelsea Hotel. Funny old drag queen karaoke bars…

DS: I photographed some of the famous drag queens here in New York. They are just such great creatures to photograph; they will do just about anything for the camera. I photographed a famous drag queen named Miss Understood who is the emcee at a drag queen restaurant here named Lucky Cheng’s. We were out in front of Lucky Cheng’s taking photographs and a bus was coming down First Avenue, and I said, “Go out and stop that bus!” and she did! It’s an amazing shot.

NK: Oh. My. God.

DS: If you go on her Wikipedia article it’s there.

NK: That’s so cool. I’m really getting into that whole psychedelic sixties and seventies Paris Is Burning and Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis. Things like The Cockettes. There seems to be a bit of a revolution coming through that kind of psychedelic drag queen theater.

DS: There are just so few areas left where there is natural edge and art that is not contrived. It’s taking a contrived thing like changing your gender, but in the backdrop of how that is still so socially unacceptable.

NK: Yeah, the theatrics and creativity that go into that really get me. I’m thinking about The Fisher King…do you know that drag queen in The Fisher King? There’s this really bad and amazing drag queen guy in it who is so vulnerable and sensitive. He sings these amazing songs but he has this really terrible drug problem, I think, or maybe it’s a drink problem. It’s so bordering on the line between fabulous and those people you see who are so in love with the idea of beauty and elevation and the glitz and the glamor of love and beauty, but then there’s this really dark, tragic side. It’s presented together in this confusing and bewildering way, and it always just gets to me. I find it really intriguing.

DS: How are you received in the Pakistani community?

NK: [Laughs] I have absolutely no idea! You should probably ask another question, because I have no idea. I don’t have contact with that side of my family anymore.

DS: When you see artists like Pete Doherty or Amy Winehouse out on these suicidal binges of drug use, what do you think as a musician? What do you get from what you see them go through in their personal lives and with their music?

NK: It’s difficult. The drugs thing was never important to me, it was the music and expression and the way he delivered his music, and I think there’s a strange kind of romantic delusion in the media, and the music media especially, where they are obsessed with people who have terrible drug problems. I think that’s always been the way, though, since Billie Holiday. The thing that I’m questioning now is that it seems now the celebrity angle means that the lifestyle takes over from the actual music. In the past people who had musical genius, unfortunately their personal lives came into play, but maybe that added a level of romance, which I think is pretty uncool, but, whatever. I think that as long as the lifestyle doesn’t precede the talent and the music, that’s okay, but it always feels uncomfortable for me when people’s music goes really far and if you took away the hysteria and propaganda of it, would the music still stand up? That’s my question. Just for me, I’m just glad I don’t do heavy drugs and I don’t have that kind of problem, thank God. I feel that’s a responsibility you have, to present that there’s a power in integrity and strength and in the lifestyle that comes from self-love and assuredness and positivity. I think there’s a real big place for that, but it doesn’t really get as much of that “Rock n’ Roll” play or whatever.

DS: Is it difficult to come to the United States to play considering all the wars we start?

NK: As an English person I feel equally as responsible for that kind of shit. I think it is a collective consciousness that allows violence and those kinds of things to continue, and I think that our governments should be ashamed of themselves. But at the same time, it’s a responsibility of all of our countries, no matter where you are in the world to promote a peaceful lifestyle and not to consciously allow these conflicts to continue. At the same time, I find it difficult to judge because I think that the world is full of shades of light and dark, from spectrums of pure light and pure darkness, and that’s the way human nature and nature itself has always been. It’s difficult, but it’s just a process, and it’s the big creature that’s the world; humankind is a big creature that is learning all the time. And we have to go through these processes of learning to see what is right.



Friday, May 13, 2005

German parliament’s lower house, the Bundestag, passed the European Union Constitution yesterday, with 569 yes votes, 23 against and 2 abstentions. Two-thirds majority was required to pass it.

The Constitution still needs to be passed through the Bundesrat, the upper house, before it is officially ratified by Germany.

The overwhelming support did not come as a surprise, since Germany, one of the founders of the pact, is one of the biggest EU supporters amongst all members. The German Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, was quoted by Der Spiegel as saying: “Whoever wants more democracy in Europe must vote for the constitution.” The Bundesrat is expected to pass the Constitution with similar ease on May 27.

All 25 Union members must ratify the European Constitution before it takes effect.



Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Apple have released several re-designs of their popular iPod range. In addition to the iPod Classic, Nano and Shuffle, they have announced the brand new iPod touch, a media player which mimics the iPhone’s touch-screen capabilities.

The new iPod Classic design features a larger memory space of up to 160GB or 40,000 songs, and has a new all-metal design. The iPod nano is now smaller and squarer, adding video playback to its features for the first time. The 4GB model is cheaper than its predecessor at $149/£99, but the 8GB is available in five colours at $199/£129. The iPod Shuffle is identical in design to the previous model, but is now available in a new range of five colours, with the same price of $79/£49.

The iPod touch also features in-built wi-fi technology, enabling users to access the internet and download music from Apple’s market-leading on line iTunes music store to their handset. It was announced that Starbucks would offer free wi-fi access to all users of the iPod touch in its cafes. The screen layout, similar to that of the iPhone, offers access to music, video, photos and the iTunes store. There are currently two models, at 8GB and 16GB of memory capacity.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs also announced that the price of Apple’s iPhone, currently only on sale in the US, will be cut by $200 to $399. He described the new iPod range as ‘one of the seven wonders of the world’.



Monday, January 1, 2007

A crowd of approximately 1 million has welcomed the new year in Sydney overnight. Many of the crowd had camped out since 6 AM AEDT (7PM UTC) to ensure they had the best vantage point for the fireworks displays at 9 PM and 12 AM. Earlier predictions of rain failed to dampen enthusiastic revellers and fortunately did not eventuate.

According to police, vantage points were Circular Quay and Sydney Opera House closed around 7 PM.

This year’s theme was “A diamond night in Emerald City” and celebrated the Sydney Harbour Bridge’s diamond anniversary of 75 years which will fall in March.

As usual, the bridge became the centre piece of Sydney’s celebrations with a question mark turning into a coat hanger during the 9 PM fireworks show before a diamond appeared at 11 PM.

Entertainment was held in the city throughout the day, culminating in a spectacular fireworks display at midnight. Revellers counted down the final seconds of 2006 with numbers on the side of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The festivities are estimated to have cost AUD $4 million and organisers claim their fireworks display is “the largest in the world”. Sydney’s celebrations were broadcast on television live around the world as other countries prepared their New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Despite the large crowd, police made only 58 arrests for offences including offensive conduct, stealing, assaulting police, goods in custody, assault, drink driving and affray.

Ambulance officers were called to 1,139 incidents in Sydney with another 900 in country areas.



Friday, April 18, 2008

Police have been given seven days to question the suspected terrorist who was arrested in Bristol, United Kingdom today.

After the seven days, the suspect will have to be released or charged, unless an extension is granted.

The BBC has reported that the person who was arrested is approximately nineteen years old. He has been named as Andrew Ibrahim.

A representative of the Bristol Cultural Muslim Society commented on the developments, “We hope the individual concerned is innocent and that this turns out to be a false alarm.”

It has also recently been confirmed by the police that a suspicious object was found at the scene.

He was arrested in Bristol, United Kingdom on suspicion of terrorism earlier today. There was also a controlled explosion. Parts of the city were evacuated.

Avon and Somerset police have also recently said that “It is anticipated that due to the nature of the offences believed to have been committed, work at the scene may take a number of days.”

Rod Hansen, from the police force commented on the arrest. “This has been a large scale operation and we have called upon the expertise and professionalism of staff from CID, Operational Planning, Air Support, the Hi-Tech Crime Unit and our Community Engagement Team to name but a few. It is right that I acknowledge their fine efforts also,” he said

A Wikinews reporter visited the nearest main road, Henleaze Road in the hours after the arrest, to report on the incident. It was noted that there was a significantly higher number of police vehicles in the area, compared to the usual figure.

The Wikinews reporter also noted that there were several reporters gathered around the local police station. A large police van was also noticed outside the police station.



Monday, October 1, 2007

Brian Jackson is running for the Ontario Liberal Party in the Ontario provincial election, in the Oxford riding. Wikinews’ Nick Moreau interviewed him regarding his values, his experience, and his campaign.

Stay tuned for further interviews; every candidate from every party is eligible, and will be contacted. Expect interviews from Liberals, Progressive Conservatives, New Democratic Party members, Ontario Greens, as well as members from the Family Coalition, Freedom, Communist, Libertarian, and Confederation of Regions parties, as well as independents.



Saturday, October 6, 2007

Brett McKenzie is running for the Green Party of Ontario in the Ontario provincial election, in the London North Centre riding. Wikinews’ Nick Moreau interviewed him regarding his values, his experience, and his campaign.

Stay tuned for further interviews; every candidate from every party is eligible, and will be contacted. Expect interviews from Liberals, Progressive Conservatives, New Democratic Party members, Ontario Greens, as well as members from the Family Coalition, Freedom, Communist, Libertarian, and Confederation of Regions parties, as well as independents.



Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Stockholm —A well-known Swedish doctor and researcher at Gothenburg University has been prosecuted, together with the Vice-Chancellor and the President of the University Council, for failing to hand over sensitive data on patients to outside critics.

The Parliamentary Ombudsman, an official appointed by the Parliament, decided to press charges against Professor Christopher Gillberg, MD, Professor Gunnar Svedberg, (Vice-Chancellor) and Arne Wittlöv (President), for failing to comply with a court order from February 2003.

The court had ordered Gillberg and his colleagues to hand over sensitive data on patients and their relatives to two critics of their research: Eva Kärfve, a sociologist, and Leif Elinder, a pediatrician. The basis for the court’s decision was the section of the Swedish constitution relating to freedom of the press. Since the university was a public body, it was obliged to turn over any documents to any citizen upon request unless the document was protected by a specific paragraph in the Secrecy Law.

The university argued that the material should be protected by a paragraph referring to the confidentiality of information about patients. The courts decided, however, that they could hand over the data (about 70 shelf feet of documents) if they specified a proviso that would preserve confidentiality. The university was thus ordered to first write a proviso (set of conditions) for Kärfve and Elinder and then hand over the data.

Gillberg and the other members of the research group refused to comply. They referred to the promise they had given to the participants in their studies that all the data would be kept completely confidential. They also argued that the data was particularly sensitive since the research concerned psychological and psychiatric disorders among children, and that it was impossible to anonymize the data beyond possible identification. When they had pursued all legal avenues without success, someone apparently destroyed the documents in May 2004.

The Gillberg group received considerable support from other medical researchers and from their university. They felt that important clinical research could be jeopardized unless complete confidentiality could be promised to the patients.

Eva Kärfve stated that she was happy with the prosecution and that it would “strengthen the protection of research in Sweden.”



Thursday, May 13, 2010

Wikinews reporter Iain Macdonald has performed an interview with Dr Isabella Margara, a London-based member of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE). In the interview Margara sets out the communist response to current events in Greece as well as discussing the viability of a communist economy for the nation. She also hit back at Petros Tzomakas, a member of another Greek far-left party which criticised KKE in a previous interview.

The interview comes amid tensions in cash-strapped Greece, where the government is introducing controversial austerity measures to try to ease the nation’s debt-problem. An international rescue package has been prepared by European Union member states and the International Monetary Fund – should Greece require a bailout; protests have been held against government attempts to manage the economic situation.



Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne delivered the budget today, an annually-held audit of the country’s finances deciding how taxpayers’ money should be spent. He set out plans to boost the housing market in his fourth budget, as well as stating the economy will grow by 0.6% — half his prediction four months ago.

George Osborne revealed plans to improve the housing market, including a “Help to Buy” shared equity scheme which would offer buyers who can place a 5% deposit on a new house, a 20% loan to buy it. He said: “This is a budget for those who aspire to own their own home”. He also offered a new Mortgage Guarantee, created in conjunction with mortgage lenders — the scheme would allow them to offer loans to homeowners without the need for a large deposit and offer guarantees to support up to £130bn of lending for three years beginning in 2014.

As a measure to attract investment to the British economy, he announced to reduce corporation tax from 21% to 20% taking effect from April 2015. The rate of corporation tax has fallen from 28% in 2010 to the current level of 21%. The United Kingdom is to have lower rates of corporation tax than the USA at 40%, France at 33%, and Germany at 29%.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) stated the government debt reduction programme to reduce the budget deficit will miss its targets. The government has forecast the total public sector debt will begin to fall by the financial year 2015/2016, while OBR says national debt will reach a high of 85.6% of GDP, £1.58 trillion, in 2016/17. Osborne defended the government efforts to reduce the deficit and said: “Our judgement has since been supported by the IMF, the OECD and the Governor of the Bank of England.”

In response to the Budget speech, the Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband said: “At the worst possible time for the country. It’s a downgraded budget from a downgraded Chancellor […] Debt is higher in every year of this Parliament than he forecast at the last Budget. He is going to borrow £200 billion more than he planned.”

The Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Ed Balls said to The Independent, “They are borrowing £245bn more in this Parliament, we said all along …said this two years ago, if they had moved more quickly with a sensible, targeted package of measures to kick-start the economy, which would have meant at that time more borrowing for a VAT [Value Added Tax] cut to bring forward housing investment, then we would have got the economy growing and the deficit coming down.”

The Business Secretary Vince Cable told the BBC in an interview, the “age of austerity” would probably end within the current decade, but made no more definite forecast.

The head of the British Federation of Small Businesses, John Walker, said: “The Budget opens the door for small businesses to grow and create jobs. The Chancellor has pulled out all the stops with a wide ranging package of measures to support small business. […] [W]e are pleased to see the scrapping of the 3p fuel duty due in September”.

Len McCluskey, the General Secretary of Unite the Union, criticized the budget for not helping working families. He said: “This is a Budget for the few by the few that attacks the many. Millionaires are days away from getting a £40,000 tax cut from the Tories, but George Osborne is using the budget to attack hard-working public sector workers. The worst chancellor in British history has gone further by giving big business another tax cut while staff caring for the sick get pay cuts. […] [H]e should have raised the national minimum wage by £1 and drop the senseless plan to give millionaires a tax break in a few days’ time”.



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