The nineties internet was like the Tao, a passage through which miracles arrived. As well as the Krautrock Message Board (KRMB), I had built the first iteration of my iotacism website. Websites were less pragmatic than there are now. Back then they were follies and cathedrals of light. Another cathedral of light that had come to my attention was The Dreaming Satellite, which was the homepage of an entity known variously as Septimus Warren Smith, Septimus Warren Peace and Septimus 7. There was an online forum connected to this site, called Narcotic Transmissions, which was less rigidly defined in purpose than KRMB. On there Sep, Lilly Novak and various other characters wrote tangentially related stories.
Another miracle that arrived through the Tao was Parasol Post. This was actually a physical zine; several pages of photocopied ephemera on utopian, psychogeographical and situationalist themes, collated irregularly and connected with the Association of Autonomous Astronauts (AAA). Rob Parasol had contacted me via my iotacism site and I had started writing short pieces for the zine. Rob also photocopied a collected edition of my Art, Muzak, Poetry & The Land of Four Stilts stories which had originally appeared on KRMB and which formed the basis for many of my narratives on Narcotic Transmissions.
The cover art for Paddington Hardstare first appeared in the pages of Parasol Post: Photoshopped Zali-Paddingtons gliding on umbrellas over French watertowers. The sleeve of the cassette claims that the Entropy Circus consists of Zali Krishna, Maurice Donne, Luther Blissett, BG Ramachandra and Craig Moulinex. Donne and Ramachandra were recurring characters in my Narcotic Transmissions posts, Luther Blissett was a multi-user persona deployed by Italian anarchists, AAA operatives and the like. Craig Moulinex was a pseudonym from the Medway era. Paddington Hardstare was a persona of this new milieu.
Three new acquisitions were important to shaping the sound of this album: a Danelectro DC-59, a Casio SK-5 and a Casio RZ-1. A few years earlier the Evets Corporation had bought up the Danelectro brand and was putting out classic 50s and 60s Danos at low prices. The DC-59 was a replica of the 3021 made famous by Jimmy Page, mine is “peachy keen” and has its action set very low both for speed and tone. I still use this guitar regularly. The two Casios that I acquired this year were an RZ-1 drum machine, to replace the one that I had sold five years before, and an SK-5 sampling keyboard. The SK-5 is like the keyboard equivalent of the RZ-1; small keys, lo-fi PCM sounds. I had recorded short samples of favourite keyboard sounds from the Amiga onto the minidisc so that I could access them easily for sampling. I liked the inexactness of its looping and how it would glitch the flow of the notes. My other favourite technique with this machine was to run it through the autowah settings on the Korg Pandora multi-effects unit to make dirty gurgling noises. I’ve never heard anyone else using this technique.
I some ways Paddington Hardstare might claim to be a concept album. It is bookended by two tracks which suggest that it chronicles the rise and fall of the Blackhorse Lane flat and the cyclical nature of nomadic metropolitanism. The first track, Reconstructing Home, opens with the line “it seems this town is not built on solid ground/ I know a place where we can go”; the final track, Piece o Shit, was recording while I was packing to move out of the flat, and in response to the disarray of boxes around me I wrote “there’s a piece o shit and it’s on the floor and I really don’t think I give a toss anymore about that.” And so I had to unpack the Tascam and record the song before it was lost.
Between the two of these there are several instrumentals with the RZ-1 rattling along; what Rob Parasol described as a “clockwork drum machine” tone, and the twangy reverbed Danelectro playing something between surf and jazz. There are tracks on here, Slow Plough and Kite Festival in Paperwhite Parc, where I am not sure how they were played without a fully systematic modal technique. Instinct will often carry ignorance.
But it is on songs like Mr Soleil and The Granular Decay of the Nation States that I really started to create personae to sing through. Granular Decay in particular comes out of reimagining the conflicts in former Yugoslavia in a downriver London setting, but crooned by a parrot with a slightly Bowiesque delivery. The Ferry Lane Estate, on the second side of the cassette, is possibly the closest to punk I have ever come, and while it may not predict the riots that came out of the police shooting of Mark Duggan twelve years later, I can’t help feeling that there were future ghosts in that place.
As might be imagined, the spirit of place is all over this album: The Blackhorse Road Circuit leaps and glides over field recordings of the ticket hall and escalators of Blackhorse Road tube station, and on The Noble Goose, geese from the River Lea honk against Amiga saxophone on the Casio SK-5. Even more so than The Goats & The Peacock, Paddington Hardstare is a Walthamstow album. It is also the last album that was distributed as a cassette.
By the time that I completed the mixing of the album, at my next Walthamstow flat, on Forest Road, Septimus 7 had taken his own life. It turned out that he had been a Californian, producing his own electronic music and married to Lilly Novak, or the person behind that other Narcotic Transmissions avatar. The colourful tumble of characters that had fallen through the Tao of the nineties internet informed everything that happened on this album: I lived as much in Walthamstow as in the Red Republic of Parasol or Radio KRMB or on Narcotic Transmissions. There was an elation about this new world, but also a great sadness that someone had gone before I had even had a chance to really know them.
Paddington Hardstare can be streamed of downloaded from archive.org.