My usual means of expressing myself has long been the written word, whether during my quarter of a century in newspaper journalism or in my current books and articles.
But recently I have taken great pleasure in rediscovering the use of my physical voice and, with the encouragement of my friends at Nevermore Media, have embarked on a series of online interviews and audio recordings of my writing.
I say “rediscovering” because I realised, on reflection, that vocal expression has, over the years, often been important for me.
Between the ages of 11 and 14 I used to spend hours of the school holidays recording, with my little sister, satirical radio “programmes” which our mother was later obliged to listen to with appropriate amusement.
Later, at university, a group of us recorded a few satirical videos and collaborated on writing potential scripts for TV and radio.
Although the intermediary form for the latter was obviously the written word, this was not the case for either the creative process or the (imagined!) end product.
I co-hosted a weekly English-language local radio show on the Franco-Swiss border back in 1983-84 and later applied for professional training in radio journalism, though I ended up on the NCTJ newspaper course.
As a young man I was constantly making up poems and songs which I recorded on cassettes via my trusty ghetto blaster but never played to anyone except my girlfriend.
In my early 30s I finally found some people to create music with and ended up writing and recording a few DIY punk tracks with my friend and colleague Steve. He was on guitar, I was on vocals.
In my 40s I took part in weekly informal folk-singing sessions led by another good friend, Chris, and was inspired to write and perform a few songs of my own.
And, of course, I have used my voice for giving talks, taking part in meetings, ranting through megaphones and shouting abuse at arms dealers, riot cops and politicians.
As I canter through my sixtieth year on earth, I find myself wondering what exactly it is that this voice of mine has been trying to say over the decades.
From an outside point of view, the political content of what I have expressed might appear to be so wide as to be a sprawling mess of incoherency.
In addition, because malcontents like me are always campaigning against something (something bad that is happening which we are trying to stop), we can be regarded as ridiculously negative.
We are often painted as a “rent-a-mob” of “antis” who take some kind of twisted delight in opposing everything.
I have spoken out and campaigned against wars and militarism, against road-building and property development, against fracking and fascism, against surveillance and “anti-terror” laws, against Capital and its globalisation, against privatisation, phone masts, fake democracy, land grabs and vaccine passports. Amongst other issues!
The first point in my defence is that these struggles are, of course, not separate or contradictory, but part of one struggle against different aspects of one entity, one system, which we might term The Thing.
Secondly, being against The Thing is not being negative, because The Thing is itself the source of all the negativity, destruction, brutality, misery and exploitation that force me and others to speak out and stand up.
Behind my opposition to The Thing lies a vision of what I think life and society should be like.
This archetype, embedded in my psyche, tells of a different possible way of living, a Withway, in which free human communities are rooted in organic co-operation, in cultural cohesion, in a timeless tradition of freedom, self-determination and closeness to nature.
It was this archetype, I see now, that made me feel, as an adolescent, that the modern world in which I found myself was essentially wrong.
It took me a long time to discover all the different ways in which it is wrong and how these all fit together to form one big and very ugly picture.
My self-appointed task has been to try to get to the root of the problem and not to allow myself to be held back by any ideological constraints.
As alliances were forged and then dissolved, as friends came and went, as seemingly permanent realities revealed themselves as the ephemeral phases they had always been, I felt at times like a lonely voice in the void, struggling to be either heard or understood.
This sensation was very much revived in 2020, when so many of those I considered my allies decided that I was a traitor to their cause for daring to put truth and freedom before dogma and conformity.
But the Covid times have also given me the precious gift of finding new affinities, coming into touch with souls whose ideas resonate closely with mine.
And it is this discovery which has given me the confidence to venture out from behind the protective wall of a purely written presence to reveal the human voice behind it.
Below are some links to readings from my books and articles, plus some of my poems and songs whose original creation spans several decades.
I am most probably a better pamphleteer than I am a poet and I am definitely a better writer than I am a singer!
But I hope that somebody, somewhere, can nevertheless take some pleasure or inspiration from these various recordings.
READINGS FROM BOOKS AND ARTICLES
Techno-tyranny (1990s punk)
Truth (1990s post-punk)