Life in Lockdown with: Oli Burslem

Oli Burslem of Yak

Interview by Emmally Parsons

MOOF: What has your life been like through these COVID-19 lockdown days? And what are your top tips to survive through these times?

OB: For the last few years I have been happily galivanting around with no fixed abode. It’s taken a global pandemic to finally anchor me to one spot. The spot, naturally, was a disused chicken shed on a decommissioned farm next door to where I grew up in middle England (the Midlands).

My top tips are to focus on the simple things (eat/sleep/listen/walk/dream) and fill the elastic time with things you enjoy doing. For me this is listening to and writing music. Although this may be more difficult if you enjoy bar brawls, group water sports or bell ringing.

MOOF: can you tell us what you’ve been getting up to in said chicken shed?

OB: The early stages of lockdown took me by surprise and I was in a quandary about what to do with myself. My first action was to turn all communications off and to hibernate until the first wave passed. I would remerge fresh to carry on in my old pursuers or, better still, transform into a fossil akin to a Pompeii corpse. Perhaps with the passing of time I would become one of Britain’s premier tourist attractions, up there with Cheddar Gorge or Stonehenge, in the search of ‘historical things to do’.

A week of extreme sleeping didn’t have the desired effect, becoming stuck in a sluggish blue haze, emerging to receive emergency supplies from the local butcher, Bob. I soon returned to communication; endlessly swiping, tapping, scrolling resumed before I finally succumbed to tuning into the BBC every evening for the new ‘final score’…. a new daily Covid programme that gives you a smörgåsbord of Covid-19 death stats, enough stats to keep 71 percent of the general public both obedient and terrified.

Luckily I received an email from a friend which shifted my focus. He was contacting me to ask if I could record some guitar for him but without much gear I set about trying to arrange a game plan. While passing the chicken shed one afternoon I descended into a mild panic as my trusty ‘iPhone 6s’ was low on juice. On a whim I checked if the shed had any electricity and it did. That was my in…

I quickly assembled a makeshift studio and the racket began. Family and friends started to donating bits for me. Drum kit, cymbals, a table, a piano and before you knew it I had come out of retirement and started writing a bunch of songs which I hope soon to release.

The chicken shed
MOOF: I saw on Thirdman Records you have released two tracks, “Flys” AND “Flights of Fancy”, accompanied by yourself floating through an array of beautiful visuals. How did these tracks AND visuals come about?

OB: Like many people I know I find it hard to finish ‘things’, from my breakfast to music. During lockdown I came across some old Russian animations which I loved so I set about putting the two elements together. Putting music to visual material shifts the emphasis from pure sonics to sound and visuals, making it easier to complete the music I’m currently trying to write. Less immediate and more long-form and drifty.

MOOF: Can you tell us more about your side hustle Burslem & Co? (As a Textiles printer, I’m super intrigued by this)

OB: Well it is a hustle so I can’t say too much…I have always had an interest in searching for treasure in junk shops and alike. I enjoy finding the worth in something that has been rendered worthless by time, purpose or value. I originally began YAK and Burslem & Co parallel to one another. Selling furniture gave me the freedom and ability to earn money, while music gave me anything else. After the unexpected success of YAK, I stopped buying and selling used goods with plans to return to it once the band and my juvenile antics had ran its course which turned out to be last November. But due to COVID and my new enthusiasm for music it has been returned to the back burner.

MOOF: Who & what inspired you to begin creating music?

OB: My complete lack of ability or interest in anything else growing up. They say the hardest thing is to know what you want to do with your life but in that regard I was very fortunate  from an early age. In some ways there are always unanswered questions but the closest I’ve come to answering some of the biggest (loftiest) quarrels of life is through creating and performing of music.

MOOF: What music, films & books have you been listening/watching/reading recently?

OB: La Piscine (Jacues Deray, 1969) – as I’m learning French and it quite nice to look at…..I’ve been reading Julian Cope‘s first novel One Three One which is incredibly funny and as bonkers as you would expect.

For music, see playlist attached.

MOOF: Are there any recent upcoming groups which you saw pre-lockdown which you’d recommend to our readers to check out?

OB: Nothing comes to mind that I would class as up-and-coming. I’m probably more likely to hear about new bands from people like yourself…I’m more tuning into plateaued and declining stars…

MOOF: What are your future plans looking like? Do you think you’ll being playing some solo shows?

OB: At the moment I’m concentrating on doing the simple things right and enjoying playing and writing music as a personal thing that keeps the wolf from the door. I love making music but when it comes to presenting it I get less enthused. I’ve had too many different haircuts, worn too many jackets, made too many music videos, and been shot against too many brick walls.

This all said, I believe in what I’m making at the moment and look forward to presenting it in some form…maybe a puppet show or Broadway musical, or a private zoom chatroom financed by Swiss bankers.

MOOF: P.S. This is a question that is very off topic: I saw you perform at Krautrock Karoake earlier this year, what song did you cover as it sounded a lot like Scott-Heron’s ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’?

OB: It’s wasn’t a cover as such but the song of my drunken ramblings in an iPhone note which were as followed:

AIR TRAFFIC

Appropriation or just pure flattery

cause they say the highest form of flattery is pure imitation

or maybe I’m the connoisseur that only operation in high altitude of thought and clarity

And if so I can conclude that the revolution is being televised

8/7 days a week, 24 hours a day

Amen MR Gill scott heron

and with that I conclude

That you are a slave to the Algorithm

A fiend to the feed

The endless stream that reverberate in every household

Leaving the recipient spellbound

Like a dog chasing its only tail

But never having its own thoughts

Predictable — Clockwork —AIR TRAFFIC

Now the red herring has been put upon the pigeon

and a state of flux is achieved

Not knowing which direction to run, the recipient becomes irritable and starts to run towards familiarity, comfort and ideas put upon them at birth

………{adlib}…………….

and with this I conclude

You’re a slave to the Algorithm

a fiend to the feed

the endless stream which is now flooding into every household

leaving the recipient spellbound

like a dog chasing its own tail

but never having their own thoughts

We are now in a continual loop

swiss time – predictable – clockwork – AIR TRAFFIC.

hang up // hang up // no receiver // no caller // hang up the hang ups and enter ….. an informal conversation ….

the recipient in confused and doesn’t know the game (UNDERSTAND THE PROTOCOL) and is handed a manual.

a minummm 2 player game that requires the two parties to absorb and to convey thoughts without the distractions of one player games.

BUT WITH NO UNDERSTAND OF OTHER . THE GAMER IS ANGER, HAS A LACK OF EPHANY. ALERT GAMER IS VIOLENCE EMPTINESS DOWN DOWN

UNABLE TO UNTANGLE ANY NOTION THE GAMER IS Emotionally JACK KNIFFED. YOU JACK KNIFE YOURSELF?

MOOF claims no credit for any images posted on this site unless otherwise noted. If there is an image appearing on this blog that belongs to you and you do not wish for it appear on this site, please E-mail with a link to said image and it will be promptly removed

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