In my teens in the 1980s, as I was becoming politically aware and active, (going on CND demonstrations and reading radical publications), it is difficult for me not to be very familiar with the work of Peter Kennard. I think I must have held several of his images in my hands as placards and certainly stuck some of his photomontages on my bedroom wall torn from pages in lefty rags. When I heard he was having a retrospective at the Imperial War Museum, titled Unofficial War Artist, I debated whether I should go or not, thinking that I knew what I would get and worried about it being an exercise in personal nostalgia. It wasn’t until I read Art-e-facts’ review of her several visits to the show that I decided to go, and without a shadow of a doubt it blew me away, (no pun intended).


From the outset it was refreshing to see an exhibition with both process and application on show, as you can see below in the anti-apartheid image for The Guardian.



It was equally good to see some sketchbook work that wasn’t ever applied.


The skilfulness of Kennard’s photomontage is without question. There is an assured confidence and directness in his visual metaphors that makes them work with little-to-no text. His use of imagery isn’t subtle, but then neither are the effects of war. In that respect Kennard’s work creates a powerful message that hits its target again and again. Regardless of this skilfulness of technique, it is amazing that one man can find so many ways to keep attacking power-mongers’ lust for weaponry. For all of Kennard’s sheer determination we should have seen the back of nuclear weapons years ago, and it seems unfathomable to me that Jeremy Corbyn is criticised in 2015 for coming out saying he would not press the nuclear button, but I digress.

Up until I saw the show, what I knew of Kennard’s output was largely confined to his ‘Thatcher’ period. Before attending I considered what it is to be so defined by an era, just as John Heartfield was to the 1930s and Jamie Ried was to the mid-late 1970s. As the 80s moved to the 90s it isn’t surprising that Kennard became somewhat dejected, stating: “a mixture of personal experience, disillusion with organised politics and the use of the media of innumerable digital photomontages,” caused him to, “question the effectiveness of photomontage as a critical, social probe”, (exhibition panel.) Imagine coming to the realisation that such dedication of energy doesn’t appear to have actually won any battles and that the ‘opposition’ then adopt your mechanisms of protest for their own ends. While you could call any faith in art being able to change the world naive, with Kennard you need to remember that he cut his political teeth on the student protests of the late 1960s, when a different world really did seem possible.


Not knowing much of his work past the 1980s, (save for the infamous Blair Photo-op), it was what Kennard did following this period that really blew me away as he started making work that was even more powerful, direct, and particularly brutal.


From the large eyes staring out at you from the Reading Room exhibit, and the hands clawing at newspaper columns, you sense humanity grasping and pleading for some sanity in a world full of marginalised desperate people. Then a corridor of paintings suduces you in with ghostly portraits that stop you in your tracks as their mouthless, thus voiceless, apparitions stare back at you. I was stunned into silence also by their power.


And all this before you enter the room with his most recent work, The Boardroom, an ongoing project of Kennard’s that revisits photomontage but in a 3D space. This room is not for the faint-hearted—the imagery is particularly brutal while equations and statistics about war, hunger and poverty adorn the handrails you just might need to cling to in order to steady yourself against the visual onslaught.




No photograph can do justice to this room—it is truly powerful stuff. If you do not feel emotionally affected by its overload of the injustices of war then you either do not have a soul, or you are a government minister.


The statistics displayed are as equally an important element of the work as the visuals are. In the exhibition’s accompanying book, Kennard states: “I realise the seed for the idea…was actually planted a quarter of a century ago, … I made a speech at the UN to open my exhibition that began with a series of numbers I heard from Dr Hiroshi Nakajima, Director General of the World Health Organisation. I recounted in the speech how these numbers had been haunting me. For one billion dollars, he had said, or the cost of 20 modern military planes, the world could control illnesses that kill 11 million children every year in the developing world. At that moment, I saw that the connection between children needlessly dying from illness and bloated military spending was concealed in our society; the numbers that are the foundation of our modern world”. (2015, Kennard, IWM.) That phrase is worth repeating as you look at the image below: the numbers are the foundation of the modern world.


On leaving the exhibition and reflecting on the necessary brutality of The Boardroom, I thought of the bravery of the Imperial War Museum to commission this exhibition. It continues until May 2016, and I hope that when it is taken down, the museum consider making this last room a permanent exhibition in their collection.

Peter Kennard: Unofficial War Artist is free: go see.


Graphic Interruption: Perfect Image image

I am embarking on a new venture as of this week; that of starting a Masters. As a result it is unlikely that I will have the time to blog here as much as I have in the past. Dubdog blog is not closing, merely shifting emphasis and directing its attention elsewhere for the time being.

I anticipate I will still add to this blog over the next 2 years that I’m doing the MA course part time, but what with my day job and other commitments, I will have to prioritise rigorously and blogging here will be a much lower priority.

I am hugely looking forward to doing my MA. It is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time but have had to put it on the back burner over the last 5 years due to work commitments. The irony is that as an academic I am expected to be conducting scholarly activity and researching but the lecturing and administration side of being an academic is the thing that has held me back from doing this in anything but a piecemeal fashion. In the last five years I’ve maintained a regular (ish) activity here; peer-reviewed and written reviews for books for art and design publishers; attended conferences; contributed to other blogs, including that of Eye magazine; and I’ve been actively researching historic typographic and print related publications. I’ve even managed to create the odd piece of graphic design, self-published a book and followed my growing passion for photography with a number of personal projects. However, none of this has had a continued focus or the structure that is needed to truly give any of it real academic merit. The framework of an MA will give me that structure and allow that focus.

Do keep checking back from time to time, there will be the odd new post every once in a while. Thanks for reading thus far.



Scribble cover. Image courtesy of Three&Me.

When you work with someone on a regular basis you tend to get to know them well. You tell each other stories, you share aspects of your life and you get to know their working nuances intimately. But just recently I’ve been spending time with my work colleague, friend and ex-tutor Russell Walker a lot more than I would normally outside of typical ‘office’ working hours. This is because Russell Walker, designer, illustrator and educator of some 30+ years has just published a book of his creative and educational life called Scribble, and I’ve been immersing myself in it.

Starting from his earliest memories of childhood in his father’s tailor shop, Russell’s close friend Mike Doherty narrates his move through school and on to art school, into the world of being a professional illustrator and times spent teaching generations of design students as a lecturer, course leader and senior lecturer. From the outset the pair proclaim that the intention is to share these memories and experiences in order that others can dip in and benefit from them in some small way.


Fetchaset spread. Image courtesy of Three&Me.

From his days at Hornsey College to describing leaving student life as looking over a bottomless cliff, there is much here for the novice designer stepping out into the world of work to learn from, and all illustrated with the sumptuous and colourful portfolio that Russell has built up over the years. From initial excursions in the world of going freelance, tales abound of interviews, knock-backs, successes, international agents and working for some big name corporate clients. Those that know Russell as well as I do will know that his determination generally wins out in the end and this book is ample proof of a will to not so much stay ahead of the game, but to shape it. The phrase I’ve often heard Russell say to students: ‘if you are hungry for it you will get it’, couldn’t be more true of the man himself.


Chairman Meow. Image courtesy of Three&Me.

While knowing much of this work already, albeit seeing it in singular sittings, the collection that Scribble presents brings a personal awe at the vastness of Russell’s output—witnessing this work again but in collected form only reinforces my understanding of his creative talent. From early drawings through to skilful air-brushing; onto digitally rendered outcomes before coming back to collage and the hand-drawn in more recent pieces; Scribble showcases the visual journey of someone who doesn’t like to sit on their laurels.

The fact that Russell has dedicated much of his career to the education of others, and in doing so has potentially sacrificed the fame other illustrators of equal standing may have afforded themselves, I would argue has kept him more creatively relevant. He has avoided pitfalls of stylistic cul-de-sacs and the development of his technical and stylistic approaches in visual attitude is on show here for all to see. To say someone is ‘of their time’ often suggests they are stuck in some distant past glory, but such a phrase used to describe Russell I propose suggests that each stage in his creative journey has been ‘of its time’; a continuous line of constant updating. Russell treads a fine line in remaining alive to nuances in contemporary illustration while keeping a firm grip on his personal visual language—this is in no way an easy task and is in part driven by the requirements of educating others.


Run’m Up, Run’m Out. Image courtesy of Three&Me.

The importance of line, colour and composition in Russell’s work is present from the start of the book to the closing pages. The inclusion of original sketches, work-in-progress and quotes from others, (typographer and designer Jonathan Barnbrook tells of his time as one of his students, and this rubs shoulders with a portrait of Russell by illustrator Brian Grimwood), alongside his perspectives on design education make this a book that works on many levels for many audiences. The fact that this book has been produced in collaboration with alumni from the Graphic Design course at UCS who now run their own successful design studio, Three&Me—described in the closing pages as ‘design partners’—is testament itself to Russell’s dedication to encouraging and supporting the next generation of creative talent.


Le Kit Adagio, Viande. Image courtesy of Three&Me.

The one thing that I can’t quite get my head around with Scribble is that to publish a book such as this suggests some sort of end point has been reached. But knowing Russell as I do, this will certainly not be the case. Ever a person to develop and push forward, there are many more chapters yet to be written for Scribble.

To purchase a copy of Scribble, contact Russell Walker via Fetchaset

Eardrum Buzz is an irregular feature looking at key pieces of music that have altered my perception of exactly what music can be. See Eardrum Buzz (intro) for further context. All comments are highly subjective.

Title: Venus In Furs
Author: Velvet Underground
Label: Verve
UK Release Year: 1967

Hearing Venus In Furs was a major musical milestone for me and I constantly wish I could hear it for the first time again for the revelation it caused.

Aged 15 I had at some point taped Lou Reed’s Transformer after borrowing it from my local library. Just seriously getting into Punk at the time, on hearing other’s say that Reed was its godfather, I couldn’t quite make the link with the glam I heard on his second solo LP, (excellent as I thought it was). And older friend with a wider musical knowledge than I had Diana Clapton’s Lou Reed & The Velvet Underground 1982 biography which I loved flicking through whenever I visited. It was this book that introduced me to the Velvets, or at least to their myth, prior to hearing their actual music.

On the back of this, one week I used some of my wages from a Saturday shelf-stacking job and took a punt on buying a 6 track import Velvet Underground sampler. The gatefold sleeve contained a stapled in booklet in either Spanish or Italian, with lots of photos of the band—despite not being able to read it, the photos alone made me think it was worth the £3.99 I paid. Although I wasn’t aware of the Velvet’s discography, I later found out the album collated together 6 tracks from Velvet Underground’s first three LPs. I can’t remember exactly what tracks, but can recall both Sister Ray from their second album and Pale Blue Eyes from their third were on it.

All I can now remember of putting the album on for the first time was the incredible effect hearing Venus In Furs had on me. I had not heard a single thing like it before in my 15 short years and it put my head in a spin. Those viola stabs and background drone, the laconic out-of-kilter drums, the chiming guitar and those ever so strange lyrics that were drawled poetically from Reed’s lips. And dropped into the middle of all of this, that uplifting chorus that all too soon, and seamlessly, reverts back to the repetitive atonal noise of the verse. This changed everything for me. I was unsure whether I liked it or not but felt compelled to listen to it again, and again, and again. As it became more familiar to my ears I became more intrigued with it, and more intoxicated by it.

I am incredibly grateful to this song for opening up my ears to vast new musical possibilities. Literal lyrics and actual tunes suddenly didn’t seem as important as they had moments before. And I now realise as I look back that without this song there is so much that I now appreciate and enjoy that I would never have given a chance, dismissing it simply as tuneless and unmusical prior to this experience. But Velvet Underground’s Venus In Furs didn’t just widen my musical perspective, it also opened my mind to looking at many things from a non-mainstream stance—art, politics, philosophy, you name it. In challenging my perspective on music, Venus In Furs made me question my views on many other things; views that were formed purely on a narrow experience. Ultimately it taught me the value of exploring different possibilities beyond the limitations of what was popular, what other’s deemed ‘acceptable’, and what mainstream society presented as culture.


I’ve recently written a guest post for EngLangBlog, a blog for A’ Level English Language students. The post is titled Graphic Language and it’s available to read here.

Thanks to Dan for asking in the first instance, and for the proof reading.


Last week The Cabinet of Curiosities caravan pulled up outside University Campus Suffolk to coincide with an exhibition of the same project in UCS’s Waterfront Gallery.

This visit and exhibition is the culmination of a year long project by UCS Fine Art Senior Lecturer Jane Watt. Jane and her bright blue caravan have visited various locations, and in particular many around Cambridge throughout the Autumn of 2014, providing an opportunity for people to come and document curiosities via cyanotypes. “At each location my assistant Amy Sage and I went through the same ritual: paper ready, aprons on, lights on,” says Jane. “The blue door is opened, the sign put outside inviting people to ‘Bring in your curious object’. Each venue brought many new visitors with unexpected objects and related unique tales.”


Claire’s claw

Claire and I went to pay Jane a visit and take our curiosities. I took what I believe to be a one-off metal cycle handle-bar spirit level for measuring hill gradients, (I suspect it is from the 1950s and the like of which I haven’t seen anywhere else), and Claire took along a claw. Delicate objects were processed inside the caravan under a lamp on coated paper, (see above), while more robust objects were left in the sun before being fixed.


Our curiosities being fixed


Jane Watt inside her blue caravan

The caravan itself is a traveling exhibition as selected cyanotypes are hung up on clothes pegs or stored away in draws for visitors to inspect. Each print is numbered and all information recorded on a card in, obviously, blue ink.


I find this project fascinating for many reasons. What seem like randomly chosen objects to a casual observer at first glance reveal on reading the accompanying card that these items mean something to their owners. In some respects this aspect reminded me of the Museum of Water that I visited when it was at Somerset House last year—art that relies on audience participation and records an aspect of their lives will forever be intriguing to me. There is a democratisation at work here; but at the same time the hand of the artist controls the visual output ensuring a considered rather than chaotic display. The artist’s vision is supported by those that choose to take part and ‘buy into’ the concept, and sates in them a need to document what they feel is important in their lives. In a nutshell, projects such as Jane’s have a real sense of humanity at their core and art blurs into anthropology.


A (very) small section of the exhibition in the UCS Waterfront Gallery


The exhibition in UCS is a mass of cyanotypes that Jane has recorded in the past year. Don’t expect to see the exhibition in 5 minutes, as a visit can drag you in to looking at all the objects recorded and trying to work out what many of them are, resulting in the need to read their accompanying cards. In many respects the cards are as fascinating as the objects.

From a design perspective what I also really like about The Cabinet of Curiosities is its overarching branding and the attention to detail that Jane and those that she has worked with have gone to. Badges, postcard packs, a hardback book and accompanying website have been thoroughly thought through by the design team she worked with: LMNOP.


The accompanying hardback book, designed by LMNOP

Despite the caravan only being outside UCS for one day last Saturday, you can still see the results of much of Jane’s work as the exhibition continues in the UCS Waterfront Gallery, Ipswich, until 4 September. It is well worth a visit.

When walking the Victorian stroller pier in Swanage, as Claire and I did a week ago on our Dorset holiday, you could be forgiven for staring at the glorious sea-scapes out towards the Isle of Wight.


The view from Swanage Pier out to the English Channel

But if you can tear yourself away from this beautiful vista for just a second and glance down at the planks you are walking on, you will discover thousands of memorial plaques.


Wrought-iron railings and memorial plaques

Set out in rows they are each very personal memorials, dedications or private jokes that are helping to pay for the maintenance of this Victorian structure.


The dedications are in the most part very personal and sometimes very touching. Other’s are comical or celebratory. The fact the pier is no longer used for its historical commercial function, (to load paddle steamers with Purbeck stone), and now is predominantly used for the pleasure of taking in sea-views and fresh air, makes the stories even more pertinent in my mind. This is neither a candy-floss and arcade games pier, nor one of busy tourist boat trippers—it is much more sedate for simple pleasures with loved ones or in solitude.


Grandson and Granddad creating future memories

On the day we were there we saw one person cleaning his plaque, which with a sneak glance, revealed itself to be dedicated to his late dog. His current pet, whether a new addition to the family or not, sat patiently by his side. After he had finished polishing the brass, he tearfully hugged his four-legged companion in what was a truly touching sight. Our thoughts immediately went out to him, having lost so many pets ourselves over the years. While we might not choose to show our emotions so publicly, we certainly know the feelings this man must have been experiencing—that rawness of losing a loved one, whether human or animal, was bought home to us again in that instance.


One man and his dog

I became fascinated with memorial benches a few years ago after I started to study them on a visit to Felixstowe, (see Flickr set here). I had previously not given these little brass rectangles much thought. But on this Felixstowe visit I saw a silver haired woman sitting on a bench staring out to sea and a realisation hit me: she may have sat there many times before with her partner. I suddenly felt the sense of loss I assumed she was feeling—all she had left was to sit there alone, remembering their life together. Obviously this is something I laid on top of what I was witnessing, and this may not have been her personal situation at all. But whether it was the truth or not, I was hit by how important such memorials could be in helping to remember the past, to respect departed loved ones, or simply to spend some personal time reflecting on life. Since then I have always taken the time to read an inscription on a bench whenever I come across one, weaving in my own voyeuristic narrative onto someone else’s personal experience recorded in such a public way. Walking up Swanage Pier I found myself doing exactly the same.


Birthdays, dogs and newly weds

On Swanage Pier though, it is amazing the amount of different stories that present themselves to you as you stare down at the woodwork. What makes them so poignant is that they are tales that are common to all of us—we can appreciate the emotions attached as we relate these messages to our own experiences. Marriages, deaths, anniversaries, birthdays, dogs, friends, family, football teams, and private jokes that will remain lost to everyone else but those who bought the plaque. The sense of loss, celebration or the joy of a private joke creates an all embracing sense of humanity and that we aren’t all so different from each other.


C’mon Matthew

There are even celebrities represented; this plaque from a BBC’s Britain At Risk programme made in 2011, (the B signifies the row, helping people to find their plaque), has John Craven and Jules Hudson leaving a dedication.


Craven image

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find a video online of Britain at Risk to link here. However, I did find this fascinating documentary about the pier that features a 4 minute section purely about the plaques. It interviews the ‘plaque warden’ and some of the people who have bought them talking about their stories, and is well worth a watch.

So if you find yourself in the Purbeck area of Dorset, do take time out to visit Swanage Pier and read some of the messages beneath your feet. Touching and amusing alike, collectively they are themselves a memorial to the human need for reflection and remembrance. And if Claire and I have decided what we want on the plaque we’re planning to buy by then, you can search out ours and tweet me a picture.


Wall by the stairwell entrance to Hestercombe Gallery © Nigel Ball

Galleries that deal in driftwood ‘art’ and knick-knack souvenirs might be the predominating cultural experience you’d expect from a holiday to the beautiful Dorset coast. With this in mind, Claire and I were careful to make sure we investigated what cultural attractions were available to visit before travelling last week to a small hamlet just outside Bridport for our 2015 summer holiday. If washed-up sea craft ticks your art box then you won’t be disappointed from West Bay, Lime Regis and Charmouth et al, but if they don’t, we can highly recommend a couple of exhibitions.

We discovered before leaving that a colleague of mine, UCS senior lecturer and photographer Mark Edwards, was part of an exhibition at Hestercombe House & Gardens in Somerset. Being only about an hour’s drive from where we were staying we decided to pay it a visit. The show is titled Double Take: Photography and the Garden, and features two other contemporary artist photographers alongside Edwards; Sarah Jones and Helen Sear. It also showcases photographs by landscape gardener Gertrude Jekyll’s, who alongside Edwin Lutyens, designed the Formal Garden and Victorian Terrace at Hestercombe. It is an interesting exhibition in that each artist takes a very different approach in responding to the theme of the garden. Jekyll’s beautiful black and white shots from the early 1900s record garden vistas, plants, and most interesting to me, the gardeners working either horticulturally or on hard landscaping. Although none of these were of Hestercombe, they all come from a collection of photos Jekyll took of her own garden at Munster House near Godalming.


Hestercombe Gardens by Jekyll and Lutyens © Nigel Ball

Edwards photography is a much longer process than the ‘shots’ by Jekyll, as he finds locations and returns to them repeatedly before photographing them. He often captures gardens that are about to revert back to nature, on the cusp of becoming overgrown or are overlooked and as a result, despite the fact they can appear as everyday scenes that in the flesh you may not take a second glance at, but as large scale prints they have an underlying sense of tension between nature and nurture. Sear’s work is much more manipulated which can lead the viewer to question whether they are actually looking at photographs—some appear as if ceramic tiles and others potentially paintings or tapestry. Jones’ work has a more menacing tonality to it with very dark backgrounds that focus the viewer in on, for example, a woman lying on a large tree branch, or to pick out the detail of a rose bush and thus forcing you to pay equal attention to the thorns and branches as you do to the flowers.

The show is part of Hestercombe’s programme of showcasing art in reclaimed spaces, and much of the gallery attached to the house is in a poor state of repair, clearly having been reclaimed from going into ruin just in time. This adds a temporal air to the whole show which creates an atmosphere that contrasts appropriately to the very orderly gardens outside. It also helps to echo the fact that gardens that aren’t continually tended, much like buildings left unmaintained, soon destroy themselves, a feature that is not lost as you look at some of Edwards work in particular.

Apologies for not showing any images of the exhibition to accompany this post, but I was so engrossed in the work that I neglected to take any of the work on the walls, (and I didn’t want to scan in images from the catalogue for copyright reasons). The show runs until 18 October 2015, and the £10 admission price includes access to the exhibition, gardens and house.

Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 14.17.11

Claire and I had also planned to take a look at Bournemouth at sometime during the holiday, as I believed, (wrongly), that I had never been there. (As we drove part the Pavillion, I was reminded that I went to a conference there some 30 years ago!) Unfortunately we left this visit until our return journey back to Ipswich, so didn’t have time to mooch around the town as we wanted to take in the Alphonse Mucha exhibition at the Russell Coates House and Gallery before continuing our drive back to Suffolk.

The house itself is a visual overload—a clash of Victoriana and Art Nouveau—rammed as it is with paintings, furniture, garish carpets and ornate internal architectural mouldings. A feast for the eyes and a fascinating insight into the lives and tastes of yuppie hipsters of the day. As the Russell Coates websites states: “In 1901 Merton Russell-Cotes gave his wife Annie a dream house on a cliff-top, overlooking the sea. It was an extraordinary, extravagant birthday present – lavish, splendid, and with a touch of fantasy. They filled this exotic seaside villa with beautiful objects from their travels across the world, and lined the walls with a remarkable collection of British art, creating a unique atmosphere in a most dramatic setting.”


In many ways it is the perfect location for a Mucha exhibition outside of Paris, and the museum has done a good job of framing the entrance to the Mucha show with paintings that were contemporary to his work, thus informing the visitor of just what Mucha may have been influenced by. Once in the actual exhibition, (which you have to walk through the entire house to get to), there is a sense of calm after the visual overload you are subjected to beforehand.

I know Mucha’s work well, but what is impressive about this exhibition is actually seeing the life-size posters rather than reproductions in design books. Getting to see the work at this scale bought home to me once again just how important he was to the development of not just poster art but to Graphic Design, (poster art being the precursor trade before the concept of the ‘graphic designer’ emerged). His typographic excellence is something to be truly admired, and both his use of graphic architecture within an artwork to frame the subject/steer the viewer as well as his incorporation of type into the actual image must have appeared revolutionary in its day.


One thing that did strike me for the first time, seeing the work up close, was that in much of the early work he wasn’t particularly good at drawing facial features. In many pieces I felt there was a tentative hand at work when working in these areas whereas he displayed sheer confidence in figures, illustration, graphic patterns and typography. His execution improved as his techniques developed, but this difference was noticeable to me for the first time on looking at this early work at their intended size.

The exhibition isn’t large, it only occupies two rooms, but it does also include a video of his life, photography of some of his models which he would later draw from, and examples of packaging alongside preliminary sketches. All in all it is well worth a visit if you happen to be in the area and is on until 27 September 2015. The entrance fee is £5, (inclusive of house).

Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 14.17.56

Eardrum Buzz is an irregular Dubdog feature looking at key pieces of music that have altered my perception of exactly what music can be. See Eardrum Buzz (intro) for further context. All comments are highly subjective.


Title: African Dub, Chapter 3
Author: Joe Gibbs and The Professionals
Label: Lightning Records
UK Release Year: 1978

“What the fuck is this?” is not the exact phrase that would have been going through my 10 year old brain. The ‘fuck’ has been added by my 47 year-old self to emphasise the strength of reaction I had to hearing African Dub, Chapter 3 for the first time.

Opening with a heavy accented Jamaican voice declaring at volume, “They wan eya killa killa killa killa killa”. This echoes off into the sound of a deep bomb blast, immediately before impulsive snare rim-shots set the rhythm to follow; some opening to an album! Then a snare roll cuts through the heavy atmosphere, cavernous and tinny—how can something sound so thin and so loud?—before the powerful hook of THAT bassline underpins everything. All this within 15 seconds and we are truly on the way—the album has started.

Until this stage, my musical appreciation had been, in order: The Wombles, Sweet and The Beatles. Not exactly the musical diet that would have prepared me for such a heavy dub record, (not that I knew what ‘dub’ meant aged 10). “What the fuck is this?” indeed.

What followed is now so well known to me, but to my young ears this was difficult to comprehend as music. Questions abounded: Firstly, why were there virtually no human voices except for the odd call of ‘killa’ or ‘murder’ or ‘I wanna dub you’? Where was the verse/chorus set-up I’d become familiar with? Secondly, why the repetition? Apart from the odd fill-in, once a track had truly started, it was essentially the same thing repeated over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again, (as I heard it back then). Thirdly, why did some instruments keep cutting in and out, as if lost, only to reappear some 20 seconds later? And lastly, what were all those sounds that echoed in and out all about? The doorbell; the science fiction type noises I’d heard on Blake’s 7; the snapshots of a horn section, gone in an instant; and the odd vocal addition.

All these questions confused and excited my young mind. But what drove through all of this strangeness was the high fast rhythms cut by the drums, and the low, low, low bass hooks.

The accompanying sleeve intrigued also—if the music was revolutionary and somewhat threatening to my ears, the sleeve created a heavy visual accompaniment. Those dark brooding guys on the front joined as one staring directly at me, the unfamiliar architecture in the background line illustration, the red, gold and green jagged shards blasting from the sky. And the title! Who was the band? Where they called African Dub, or Chapter Three? And what did All-mighty mean?, a phrase I’d only previously heard at dreaded Sunday school, (no pun intended).

The context to this musical mayhem I was experiencing: A family gathering—maybe Christmas, maybe Easter—packed into my Grandmother and Uncle’s council house in Carshalton, Surrey; the front room barely big enough for the congregated mass there-in.

This album, more than any other, has had a massive impact on me. Not just on my musical tastes, but also on my inquisitiveness for discovering new sounds. I wasn’t sure I liked African Dub Chapter 3 when I first heard it. I certainly didn’t understand it. But it did intrigue me.

In terms of bands/music I’ve liked over the years since first hearing this record that I can draw a clear linage to, then my immediate patronage of Two-Tone as ‘my music’ when it hit the charts a year later is an obvious association. The b-side of the 10” Black Market Clash, with the dub versions of Armagideon Time and Bankrobber, was at one stage pretty much glued to my turntable for weeks on end a few years later. It wouldn’t be until my late teens and early twenties thought that I’d discover the delights of other dub producers such as Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Niney The Observer, and obviously King Tubby. Later, World Domination Enterprises, Meat Beat Manifesto, Mark Stewart and The Maffia, Tackhead, The Bug, and Kode9 and the SpaceApe, amongst many others, would be opened to my ears because I could trace aspects back to this album.

I will leave the final words of this post to Woebot, writing for The Wire magazine’s The Inner Sleeve feature, (August 2010, issue 318, p79): “The music is analogous to the artwork: visionary, bold, visceral, but also conjured from the barest essentials. This record as [a] physical entity has always functioned as a desire-creating machine. In his epic reggae study, Bass Culture, Lloyd Bradley told how the demand for it was so strong that the first UK copies were stolen overnight from a London shop before they even hit the racks. The disc’s power [is] undiminished with the passing years”.

I left Facebook a while ago, but my abiding memory of it meant this advert in today’s Guardian was ripe for a swift détournement.

What Facebook would like you to think it is:


What Facebook actually is:



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