Words & Photography by Laura Turnbull
Before I met Charles I met his guitar. Marooned in the middle of a studio space he was sharing with a group of post-grad art students, it was the only thing in the room that didn’t take a lot of figuring out. Just a guitar and a bunch of pedals in a sea of aggressively vague sculptures. Two years later and that same guitar is propped up between a big bedroom window and a tidy desk. When we turned up at Charles’ place it was getting to that time of afternoon when the sun makes its last stab at whatever reflective surface it can spill its rays on. I sat in the avalanche of light coming through the window while he flicked through his music projects on a laptop, playing snippets from each, spinning in his – ultimate home studio accessory – spinny desk chair.
“I did some music for a clown recently,” (Stephen King needs to close that creepy Pandora’s Box), “I made the soundtrack for his performance, it was a cover of that 80s song ‘Cry‘ by Godley & Creme.” Charles drops this matter-of-fact into the middle of the conversation. “This clown was on stage pretending he was pissed, acting like an arse… it was very confusing!” Anti-Social Clown Scenario is just top of a long list of collaborations Charles has been involved with. His music projects are a mash of remixes, EPs he’s produced with friends and the bug-eyed spawn of sampled youtube clips – think conspiracy theories and Peppa Pig gone very, very wrong. In a Charles-shaped nutshell: “It’s a bit like pop, but more grotesque.”
While we were talking a big red fox appeared in the street below the window. “Oh yeah, he comes ‘round here quite often,” Charles shrugged. Like a lot of the debris that seemed to circle around Charles’ work, it felt slightly hyperreal. The tunes coming from the speakers either side of his desk were a blitz of bouncy, lopsided samples against deadpan vocals. “This is a dog barking, which has been auto-tuned, and then my friend Leah is singing over it”, and “this is someone talking about elbow surgery, just really distorted.” Obviously. Maybe if Throbbing Gristle had traded in the Gristleizer for a malfunctioning slot machine this is what it would sound like. The vaporwave grandchild of ‘20 Jazz Funk Greats‘, let loose with some power tools on a stack of internet memes.
Talking to Charles was a bit like drinking a massive mug of sugary tea. Wholly reassuring. “I was only supposed to DJ but I ended up singing live,” he tells me, describing an impromptu solo vocal performance. “Someone was performing after me and they needed me to stall for a bit, so I was like, oh shit, I’ll just do this.” I wonder if Charles realises he’s describing the kind of scenario most people have nightmares about. But what if the room slowly – painfully – empties? What if no one gets it? “Sometimes you do just bomb, ya know? Fuck it.” There’s a sentiment everyone needs to steal.
Check out Charles’ music projects on Soundcloud