Local journalist Dick Ward is invited to talk to Billy Jenkins
about his new recording ‘SUBURBIA’.

dw : Well, Billy, you’ve asked me here to talk about your new album ‘Suburbia’....

bj : No I haven’t. I’ve asked you here to talk about indigenous music.

dw : Yes, very droll. Another smokescreen. Another time wasting Jenkins wind up....

bj : No, Dick. The two things are one. Do you like ‘World Music’?

dw : Oh yes. I love all that ethnic stuff . Hand drummers, chanting, exotica. Really, really good!

bj : I play and write ‘World Music’ too.

dw : How can you? You come from South East London!

bj ; Listen, Dick - and listen carefully. All music is indigenous. For decades we’ve had global communications. All music is at our fingertips.

Is it not ‘proper’ for the composer to be aware of as much as is possible in our own village? All sounds can pass through it electronically.

dw : But you don’t live in a village!

bj : Global Village, Dick! Marshall McLuhan and all that stuff. ‘Medium is the Message’. Well I say, ‘the Medium is the Massage’ - but that’s another issue.

dw : And anyway, you don’t even live in suburbia!

bj : Inner Suburbia, Dick, as one of my daughters so aptly described it. But I come from Bromley. Greater London’s largest borough. First 22 years of my life.

The sound of the suburb is like that of the city. All sorts. Multi-national yet (and here’s the difference), demographically fettered. Divided by territorial demarcation. A necessary marking of personal imprint.

Visual statements aurally depicted by ‘POINTLESS ADORNMENTS’.

dw : Ah, yes. The opening track. So what’s wrong with ‘ducks on the wall’? Aren't you being rather snobbish and elitist?

bj : Nothing’s wrong with ‘em, Dick - unless Mr Rottweiler chooses to hurl one violently at an innocent encroaching on his crazy paved driveway.

But it’s all a bit ‘iconistic’, isn’t it? ‘Little Boxes’ sang Pete Seeger.

Consider the reason a percentage of people reside there. Compulsory uprooting of a family due to job relocation can be terribly unsettling and indeed damaging - both for those moving and those who are less inclined to welcome outsiders into ‘their’ territory.

Visit satellite new towns like Bracknell, Crawley, Hemel Hempstead, Thamesmead or Milton Keynes. Of course they’re equivalents all over Great Britain but it is those ‘second wave’ of post war regeneration New Towns that‘SUBURBIA’ addresses - I just happen to mention those towns from my own experiences. POINTLESS ADORNMENTS’ are a necessary safeguard and a reassurance for the misplaced or misled....

dw : But some are, of course, actually born in suburbia...

bj : Born with a silver duck on the wall. They’re the ones, if they’ve got any gumption, who grow up, grow out of it and move on - either further in or further out from the No Man’s Land of dormitory existence.

Those that stay are probably very happy. But not what I’d call ‘my sort of person’. Placid. Happy with television, radio, video and affordable consumerables. Those for whom the publication of the new Argos or Index catalogue is a major highlight....

dw : So you are a snobbish elitist!

bj ; I’m just a musician, Dick. I compose. I write. I create sparks and light fires. Unfortunately the true Suburbanite is completely fireproof. Protected from ‘danger’ with wall to wall carpeting, double glazing, Compressed broadcast sound eradicating any sudden sound jolts. Fluff and candy floss. All that stuff on ‘POINTLESS ADORNMENTS’....

dw : Goodness! And judging by the title of the second track - ‘HELLO, I’M YOUR NEXT DOOR NEIGHBOUR’, you don’t seem to like neighbours either....

bj : The art of ‘neighbourliness’ takes years to nurture. As it happens, where I live my neighbours are fantastic. A quiet mutual appreciation and passive support of each each household’s activities. We have our nutters, but we know ‘em. Better the Devil etc., etc.

But it’s a well known statistical fact about a third of all court cases involve neighbour disputes. It’s a relationship we should all receive training in.

dw : And you seem a bit sniffy about gardening.....

bj : ‘THE PERFECT LAWN’? I love gardens. Just hate gardening. Gardens and me are like rational vegetarians to meat eaters. Let ‘em do it and enjoy - it’s just not for me. Man’s pathetic pretence at controlling nature. The keen suburban gardener of today is probably a descendant of the cave man who would hunt but only bring back some pathetic grubs, ants and berries.

But I love any sort of garden - from neat to total jungle. And suburban gardens can be hilariously bonkers.

Keeps all them OAP’s off the street, eh!? And we all thought it was fear of a mugging that stopped ‘em venturing out too much!

dw : Well, I can certainly spot a touch of ‘indigenous world music’ in ‘THE PERFECT LAWN’ with the flamenco guitar tinge....

bj : The sight of the experienced pruner mirrors the matador executing the ‘coup de grace’. A life taken. And in my ‘SUBURBIA’, an unwanted blade of grass is the enemy!

dw : You’re starting to make the subject matter quite exciting!

bj : There’s so much going on, Dick. That’s why I’ve cross faded a lot of the pieces. You’re jumping over fences from one little castle to another. Flymo after Hover after mower scream into life down the street in ‘.....LAWN’.

All suburban cliché is here - from the net twitcher in ‘THE UNKNOWN CAR ACROSS YOUR DRIVE’ to bored adolescents in ‘COKE CANS IN YER GARDEN’.

dw : Well, Billy, I have to say you’re not convincing me this is a brilliant album....

bj : How can suburbia be brilliant? Often written about in articles and books both fictional and factual, portrayed many time on the stage and in films. But not too many ‘aural art’ impressions I have to say. But I can’t depict it as something it isn’t. Like on ‘East/West’ [Babel BDV 9601] where we deliberately went for a Eastern European ‘lo-fi’ sound. Don’t forget that ‘literalism’ is one of my obsessions....

dw : Musically, it’s a very diverse sounding record. I didn’t like it at first but now it’s grown on me. The climax of the album (before the release of tension with the all singing all dancing title track) seems to be ‘SILENCE STALKS THE SLEEPING STREETS’....

bj : You will appreciate this record as one grows use to a new environment. Put something in and you’ll get something blah blah etc.

As for ‘SILENCE....’. Strings (violins, viola, ‘cello and such like) always represent ‘the past’ or ‘tradition’ in my music. I don’t feel too bad scoring for string players. They’re used to rank & file stuff - or ‘wank & smile’ as they say in the trade. The lyric on the title track addresses my thoughts on this - burglar alarms and all that stuff. Pointless!


bj : Hey, exactly, Dick. You’re getting my drift!

dw : How indigenous!

bj : Indigenous indeed, Dick.

©1999 Dick Ward

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