Category Archives: Ogmios/David Ward

Biff Bam Pop Remembers David Bowie

David Bowie

Andy Burns: I saw Bowie three times – the first was at a 2,000 seat club in Toronto called The Warehouse. He was touring Earthling, which I thought and still think was a fantastic album. Seeing him that close was amazing. A few years later, he was second on the bill to Moby for the latter’s Area 2 festival. We leaned against the stage at a giant amphitheater. We were closer. The third and final time was an arena show, and I was far away. I didn’t love it, though. It felt too much like a greatest hits show. But it didn’t matter. In the end, it doesn’t matter.

We all have our favourite David Bowie. Mine is the one I’ve listened to since 1993, when Black Tie, White Noise came out. The first Bowie album I bought. Jump, They Say, was about his brother who had committed suicide. I bought every new album after that. I loved OutsideI Have Not Been To Oxford Town. Little Wonder on Earthling. The title track to The Next Day. I could go on. But I’ll let the music speak for itself.

Robin Renee: David Bowie turned my teenage isolation into an inspired knowing that I could be all I wanted to be in life – creative, queer, bold, outside the box in any and all ways possible. As an artist and as a being, he was, and always will be, my most profound influence. One day I could write something more intellectual on the myriad ways Bowie expanded and shifted the trajectory of modern rock, multimedia, and fashion, but today this feels all too personal, and I have no more words. There is just love, deep gratitude, and the near numbness that precedes grief.

JP Fallavollita:David Bowie, the artist, has passed away, leaving behind an ever-lasting influence over music, fashion, film, art and pop culture. I welled up when I heard the news. So much of what I listen to or see has his fingerprints, heavy or light on it. Whether it was his performance on stage as Ziggy Stardust or the Thin White Duke, or on the screen as Major Jack Celliers or Jareth the Goblin King, his work, his life, was always a modern love; ours timeless. There’s another star brightening the night sky. Play his records. Listen to his songs. Never wave bye bye.

Less Lee Moore: Like many people my age, I can’t think of a time when I wasn’t listening to David Bowie. It started with “Space Oddity,” a song which terrified and fascinated me in equal measure, and it never really stopped. In 1998, I gained an entirely new appreciation for the Bowie mileu thanks to Todd Haynes’s brilliant film Velvet Goldmine, which quite literally changed my life forever, as well as increasing my already massive adoration for the man himself. Like everyone else, I was surprised and delighted by the release of The Next Day in 2013, which quickly became one of my favorite albums of the year. And here we are with the new album, ★, yet another triumph in a lifetime of triumphs, and it’s glorious and beautiful, just like the man who created it and even more so when you consider the circumstances.

“It’s funny how beautiful people are when they’re walking out the door.” — Mandy Slade, Velvet Goldmine

Glenn Walker: Last night’s news of David Bowie’s passing hit me hard. I was devastated. Many of you know I’ve been seriously ill for a month or so, but I’ve been making forward progress and trying to be positive – but this loss was a physical blow and crushed my spirits. I loved and love Bowie, he was a favorite, an idol, an inspiration, and the man marked my life.

My first exposure to Bowie, and also to the offensive gay epithet that starts with an F, was when I saw the “Little Drummer Boy (Peace on Earth)” duet with Bing Crosby originally air. I remember seeing him on “Soul Train,” and in drag and as a puppet on “Saturday Night Live.” “DJ” from Lodger (which I had on 8-track) was probably the first proper music video I ever saw, another field in which Bowie was a pioneer.

I remember vividly the first times I heard many of his songs. “Golden Years,” “Cat People,” “Station to Station,” “I’m Afraid of Americans,” “Let’s Dance,” “Sound and Vision,” and a dozen others all hold specific memories for my first listens. How many other artists or songs can one say that about?

This weekend, the weekend of both his birthday and death, was filled with Bowie for me. I watched him on “Storytellers” telling tales and performing for a small audience songs from his then-new album Hours. I also finally got around to listening to Blackstar, a fabulous collection.

And today I am crushed, numb, and indescribably sad. Rest in peace, man, I love you, you changed my life.

David Sandford Ward: When I woke up this morning, I read the words “David Bowie died!” in a
text message.

I understood the words; I could not, cannot, and do not understand
their context.

The sentence still doesn’t make sense to me.

My experience of the world has always included David Bowie, and I am having serious trouble contemplating a world where he does not exist. I feel I will struggle with this for a while. Unlike the loss of some of my other heroes (Terry Pratchett, Christopher Hitchens), I am having serious difficulty understanding that he’s gone as he has always been there. I remember my introductions to Pratchett and
Hitchens; I do not remember the same for Bowie as he was always there.

Always.

Andy asked us to include our favourite song, if possible. I cannot pinpoint it with such precision, so, instead, I’ll include something from Bowie’s goodbye:

Goodbye, David. We miss you; we love you. Thank you.

Daniel H. Reed: David Bowie’s spirit has quietly followed me in a number of crucial and random moments throughout my life. Most of the time, I didn’t even know he was there.

I remember a friend of mine from elementary school had a husky named Bowie with two different coloured eyes. At first I was too afraid to go near the dog, as he was loud and larger than myself. When I would visit my friend’s house after school the dog would bark and jump towards me with an incredible, supernatural force. It was definitely intimidating, but as time went on, Bowie recognized my scent. I remember curling up with him and watching a ton of movies together. There were times when I struggled to behave myself in class. I would lose my cool and it was hard to escape my head. Somehow, this majestic husky knew how I was feeling on those days and would nestle himself right against my legs to bestow a sense of calm that I would never forget.

Every time I hear David Bowie’s music I think about the dog as a reflection of his intangible greatness – one that channeled the mysteries of the universe in order to change the earth.

Amanda Blue: How do you say goodbye to someone like David Bowie? Where do you start? He became so many incredible people over the years, and so his spectrum of influence was massive. Though his musical career was obviously astounding, I personally found my Bowie connection in film.

Labyrinth was one of my many childhood obsessions, and (as anyone who knows me knows) Twin Peaks has become one of my many adult ones. So from Jareth to Jeffries, and all the songs, dances, music videos, and hilarious interviews in between, David Bowie had always just… been there. He was always doing something you needed to see and hear, and he was always being talked about (in a good way). The inevitable void that his absence will leave is currently being filled with messages of grief and concert reminiscence, but those things will taper off, and that lack of Bowie’s presence amongst and between us will be felt in a big way. I have no doubt about it. But as a child, watching the Goblin King spin those crystal balls as he climbed stairs that fascinatingly made no sense, and as a teen watching Bowie concert DVDs with friends, he had an influence. Without my even realizing it, I became a fan.

He was someone who made it ok to be weird. He made it beautiful to be weird. He helped so many of us along the path towards finding and embracing ourselves, either directly through his lyrics or indirectly by his music happening to be playing in the background during a pivotal life moment (that of course you didn’t realize was pivotal at the time), or simply having a minor role in a favourite film. So in that way, he will live on in all of us. As long as we remember.

Luke Sneyd: David Bowie was a synthesizer. In the purest sense of that word, he pulled from everywhere, fashion, art, pop, funk, rock, disco, electronica (remember that word?). He pillaged rapaciously, but when all those influences melded together, when they were fed into the Bowie machine with its blue and green eyes and its angular brain and jagged melodies, what came out was always Bowie. Always unique. The influences were there, the diviners could find them, rods straining toward the ground, but the well that sprung from David Jones’s mind was deep as time and wider than the cosmos. Each seismic shift in his discography is another branch of history, music, expression being subsumed and reborn, ashes to ashes, funk to funky.

I only saw Bowie a few times, not enough, nowhere near enough. I caught the raucous return to theatricality of the bewildering Glass Spider tour in the late eighties, and the stripped down classicism of the Sound+Vision tour. Both shows were great, but it’s the records that speak to me, an embarrassment of brilliance across decades.

The irresistible transport of “Space Oddity” captured my childhood self early, and “Ashes to Ashes” whisped echoing in my consciousness, but it wasn’t until “Let’s Dance” that I really discovered Bowie, and discovering him dug deep. Individual singles that escaped the album catalogue, the superb dance with Freddie Mercury’s Queen in “Under Pressure” or the soporific angst of “This is Not America” with Pat Metheny.

The seventies records are an uninterrupted transmission of alien genius, and there’s so many releases I’ve adored since then. The NIN-scape of Outside, the alt-art scaffolding of Heathen, the otherworldly finality of his last gift, Blackstar. I sit amazed at so meticulously planned an exit. Watching the “Blackstar” video, with its collapsed astronaut stranded on the moon, you have to marvel at the incredible circularity of his career addressed with a subtle yet commanding pathos. Bowie knew it was checkout time and they were getting ready to clean the room. And he could still contrive, dying, to make a record powerful and challenging and riven with haunted emotion and intellect. Even more amazing, that’s only one facet of a vast cultural coalescence, the Bowie.net we find ourselves living in. There’s presaging punk, the birth of glam, white soul, gender-bending, the uncategorizable revolutionary sex-toy poster-being from another planet, the questioning, really just endless questioning, of what it is, how wonderful and strange, to be an outsider. Whitmanesque, Bowie contained multitudes. How remarkable, for us, to be alive for the Mozart, the Da Vinci of this couple of centuries in time. Shamanistic voodoo, skeleton in space, thank you David and sorry kids. You might have to wait a long long time till there’s someone new at the centre of it all.

Stranger Than We Can Imagine Reviewed

stranger

Stranger Than We Can Imagine: An Alternative History of the 20th Century
John Higgs
Signal, 352pp

The twentieth century is the one about which we know the most, due to explosions in innovation, technology, mass literacy, and documentation. We know about the century in its broad strokes: the child of the industrial revolution, the breakdown of Empire, the horrors of war at an unfathomable scale, the rise of economic powerhouses, the spread of capitalism and consumerism, the rise of America, and the appearance of massive foreign interventionist policies. But what else happened? Most histories focus on the worlds of economy, war, and diplomacy, to varying effect. Many aspects of the twentieth century are swept under the rug by historians, not out of a lack of interest, but in a desire to reign in their scope – an unfortunate and necessary result of composition. But twentieth-century histories have to be ambitious; there has never been a more well-documented century in the history of the world. John Higgs’s Stranger Than We Can Imagine moves the focus away from the typical historical centre stage and offers some delightful (and terrifying) insights into a century we think we know. Read the rest of this entry

David Ward On… Being a Dork Dad

Each week, one of Biff Bam Pop’s illustrious writers will delve into one of their favorite things. Perhaps it’s a movie or album they’ve carried with them for years. Maybe it’s something new that moved them and they think might move you too. Each week, a new subject, a new voice writing on… something they love.

Several years ago, I was faced with an issue that I never thought would ever happen: my kid fell in love with princesses. This came from neither of her homes; her mother and I were pretty dead-set against the world of Disney princesses. It came, as many other interests do, from her peers, namely a good friend at her daycare. While I didn’t go out of my way to stomp on this interest (I am a firm believer that people should enjoy whatever they wish), I felt there was a better way for her to have fun and still avoid the “Oh, Prince Charming is coming into my life” perspective so endemic to so many insipid films, media, and toys.

“Ok, kid. You like princesses? Cool. Try this.”

And I put on Star Wars.

HOOK. LINE. SINKER.

Princess Leia 1

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David Ward On… Serendipities by Umberto Eco

serendipities

I figured I’d take the opportunity to do my “On…” column on one of my favourite books this time around, and, strangely enough, it has nothing to do with visceral horror! I’m writing about an old and treasured favourite: Serendipities by Umberto Eco. I know Eco isn’t for everyone. One friend of mine once said he could never finish a book by him because he constantly had to refer to the dictionary. While he’s not that bad, some of his books are a little dense. I wanted to write about a favourite and much more accessible title. Outside of his fiction, I’ve re-read his essays more than any other type of his works – some of his academic and theoretical books make my brains drip out of my ears. Read the rest of this entry

David Sandford Ward travels to Hell in Clive Barker’s The Scarlet Gospels

scarlet

The Cenobite bites it. The Order of the Gash lays smashed and shattered upon a mound of bones and blood, confined forever to a sea of dust and ash. This is the worst-kept secret about this novel, which has been under discussion and hinted about for decades: Pinhead dies. I can understand Barker’s choice to do this; he’s quite literally killing his darlings.

Touted as Barker’s “much-anticipated return to horror” (a comment, by the way, that also found its way on to the jacket of his last novel for adults, Mister B. Gone – perhaps it was due to a change in publisher?), The Scarlet Gospels is the closing chapter in the lives of two of Barker’s longest-lasting creations: Pinhead and Harry D’Amour. Admittedly, Harry doesn’t have quite the same cultural resonance as the BDSM angel of death from Hellraiser, but he’s a contemporary of, if not older than, Pinhead. D’Amour first made an appearance in Barker’s novella The Last Illusion (found at the end of The Books of Blood VI and later adapted by Barker for the screen as The Lord of Illusions, starring Scott Bakula as D’Amour), and then he crops up again in Everville, the Second Book of the Art. Pinhead, on the other hand, and despite the innumerable excrescences that comprise the Hellraiser sequels, only appears in one Barker story: The Hellbound Heart and its film, Hellraiser. Read the rest of this entry

David Sandford Ward On… Rivers

Each week, one of Biff Bam Pop’s illustrious writers will delve into one of their favorite things. Perhaps it’s a movie or album they’ve carried with them for years. Maybe it’s something new that moved them and they think might move you too. Each week, a new subject, a new voice writing on… something they love.

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“Rivers” is a song from Skinny Puppy’s fifth studio release, Rabies. It’s not a goth-industrial hit; you won’t hear it on the dancefloor at goth nights (and you never did); most non-Skinny Puppy fans have never heard of it; but it is absolutely brilliant. Early Skinny Puppy was characterized, generally, by two sorts of sounds: one included thumping percussion, eerie repeated synthesizer tracks, disjointed broken sampling, and Nivek Ogre’s voice; the other included atmospheric synth pads that sometimes included samples from horror films (these were found both sounds – take “Icebreaker” from Bites). Both “Rivers” and “Worlock” from Rabies are both firmly Skinny Puppy songs on an album that is essentially a Ministry album with a Skinny Puppy mask (no great surprise: Ministry’s frontman, Al Jourgensen, was a producer). A lot of people gush about “Worlock” – with good reason. It’s a fantastic song, and one is pretty much guaranteed to hear it at a Skinny Puppy concert. This is far less likely, if not impossible, with “Rivers”. Read the rest of this entry

David Ward On… Hellblazer

My column on all things Hellblazer is going to start in the middle. Why? Because beginnings reek of convention, something that strikes me as anathema to John Constantine. So I’m going to skip over scores of brilliant writers and artists, some of whom are my favourite in the field, and go straight for Mike Carey, who took the reins of Hellblazer from Brian Azzarello in 2002. He starts with a dead man. Read the rest of this entry

31 Days of Horror: Through the Woods – Emily Carroll

through-the-woods-cover

Through the Woods
Emily Carroll
McElderry Books

As a child, I remember being terrified when I first heard the story of Bluebeard (“Be bold, be bold…” still runs a shiver down my spine). It may have been the first time I ever heard a truly scary fairy tale—something that toed the line between a fairy story and gruesome horror. Not much later, I was introduced to the original Grimms’ Fairy Tales, which, as lovers of fairy tales and myths we all discover, are absolutely nothing like the sanitized versions we know from Disney and the children’s section of most bookstores. Some prefer the gruesome ones; some prefer the nicer ones; some prefer a balance. Fairy tales, like most fictions, are totally subjective, but I definitely fell for the darker, bloodier stuff. “What do you mean, they cut her toes off to fit in that slipper?” More after the jump.

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Doctor Who S08 E10: In the Forest of the Night

Doctor-Who-12

“The forest is mankind’s nightmare.”

… says the Doctor, looking around a newly forested Trafalgar Square. Over the course of one night a massive forest has grown up everywhere. Not just London, not just the United Kingdom, not just Europe – everywhere. The Earth is covered in forest, from top to bottom.

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31 Days of Horror 2014 – Byzantium

bz1

When I sat down to watch Neil Jordan’s masterful 2012 vampire film, Byzantium, I was filled with more than a little apprehension. I gave up on the “beautiful” vampire some time in the late 1990s when Lestat, protagonist of Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles, was busy entertaining self-indulgent and mediocre conversations with God and the Devil in Memnoch the Devil (a largely forgettable novel). “That’s it!” I thought, and throwing the book to the ground, I vowed to never again indulge in the onanistic drivel of most teen goths. Don’t even get me started on the Twilight franchise.  More on Byzantium after the jump.

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