Conversations: Dick Lucas - Balancing Act | Varyer

Balancing Act

Despite the continuation of war, greed, and exploitation, the mindset of the counter-cultural misfits of Back Then is that of a massive portion of the population Right Now: ignorance of the way the world works is now a choice, not a lack of information, and with knowledge comes the power and will to fight back, to not be part of the problem. More people than ever are living, through choice or necessity, fully aware of the consequences of inaction or blind acceptance of the status quo.

You've spent the majority of your life expressing your critique of institutions, capitalism, and patriarchy through your music. When did it begin and when did you realize addressing the ills of power would have such a profound and ongoing effect on how you express yourself?

I was listening to Alan Freeman on his Saturday afternoon Rock Show on Radio One in '78 when he played The Adverts singing Bored Teenagers, and that sparked off an energised realisation that all the songs I'd heard before then had Nothing to Say, and here I was, a bored teenager who then supplanted that ennui with a fevered buying up of all the punk music I could afford, and simultaneously started writing lyrics. The songs were fun to write but lacked any socio-political awareness until I heard Crass, whose ideas lent shape to my general feeling of social alienation, not fitting in, and provided factual reasoning as to why and how something called 'the system' was controlling our lives.

Their systems, christ, they're everywhere,

school army church, the corporation deal-

a fucked up reality based on fear,

a fucking conspiracy to stop you feeling real

This was mind-opening and, it turned out, life-changing. There were a lot of evolutions in punk, but the effect of what became anarcho-punk had a profundity otherwise lacking, which dealt with the stark - and largely dark - actualities of living, while at the same time avoiding becoming part of that system: DIY labels, distribution, fanzines, and venues put music back in the hands of the bands and I'd say 'fans', but such was the interconnectivity between the two, terms like that became redundant. People were connected by more than the music, and it gave us more excitement and meaning than anything before. Whereas punk for many was the first chance to feel free enough to be self-expressive at all, anarcho-punk gave us a lot to get expressive about: so much greed and violence running the world, so many lies and distortions, so much ignorance letting it all happen...

How do you feel about the timelessness of anarcho-punk, is it redemptive or disappointing?

What would we sing about if the world was a better place? It's easy to lament the lack of social or political change and excoriate anarcho-punk for its ineffectiveness over the last 40 years, but that's myopic. For, despite the continuation of war, greed, and exploitation, the mindset of the counter-cultural misfits of Back Then is that of a massive portion of the population Right Now: ignorance of the way the world works is now a choice, not a lack of information, and with knowledge comes the power and will to fight back, to not be part of the problem. More people than ever are living, through choice or necessity, fully aware of the consequences of inaction or blind acceptance of the status quo. Not to say anarcho-punk changed the world, but it opened it up for a lot of people.

How has the pandemic changed your relationship with performing? Do you rely more now on other creative pursuits to keep you sane and convey your perspective?

What performing?! It is so strange having such a long break from playing gigs, the indoor existence has made a mockery of time. There has been one gig, last September we [Culture Shock] did a 'no-crowd' gig, filmed it, and uploaded it on YouTube's new and fizzy BluurgTV channel - doing that has kept the impetus going, uploading music and art DIY-style once a week. Between lockdowns, CS also got together enough songs to make an album out of it, so life hasn't been entirely performance-free.

The trajectory from your musical career > art is endlessly fascinating, specifically balancing—eggs, rocks, forks—how did it start?

The band were staying at a friend's place after a gig, and he balanced a fork and a spoon intertwined with a matchstick on the edge of a glass, in a way that looked completely impossible and I was hooked!

When you're balancing, do you have a final form in mind, or is it more about the process?

First one, then the other. Imagining how good it would feel to balance this just there, then trying it, adjusting the form, extending it, playing with it, until it is final - or not!

Describe the differences between balancing organic objects over those that are man-made.

Organic = alive, and all matter in the universe being a series of vibrations, organics tend to move of their own accord more than manmade stuff does.

OK, this has more resonance as a statement when applied to say fruit, which is soft, rather than rocks: and a manmade pillow is a bugger to balance: but balancing takes a lot of time, and concentration can't prevent these theories popping up! Manmade stuff is generally easier to work with, as it's often symmetrical [there must be a palindromic synonym for 'symmetrical'...], but in a way that makes it too easy? Put another way, the satisfaction of balance increases with the visual a-symmetry.

Would you say that your balance practice has brought you any personal insights? If so, would you be comfortable sharing?

Let me pull up a floor...that's better.

Insights....ok, firstly, you can't beat nature. Gravity, winds, vibrations perceived or actual, they don't stop to lend a hand. The longest I spent continually failing to balance something was 20 minutes, and as I gave up I felt stupid for trying to do the impossible, nature wasn't having it. Most insights have mirrors attached, and I've equally and oppositely found myself becoming a strident fan of the old maxim 'if at first, you don't succeed...', cos most balances are at least a Bit Tricky, and the joy and wonder of getting past all notions of impossibility as the balance finally happens, is why its so good to do!

It also completely removes the outside world for a few minutes, which is what art is possibly all about.

In what ways do you parse which ideas you see through to fruition and which remain in the ether of your mind?

Ideas usually come one at a time. The ones that won't become song matter are the ones blurted out in an instant and not noted down, the conversational ones. The ones recalled enough to get noted later on can evolve into songs if serious enough [the silly stuff ends up written but only comes out in occasional stand-up poetry stints] - not that 'serious' has to be dull, just have some resonance or meaning.

Do you have any “unlikely sources” of personal inspiration?

In a way, aren't they all? I mean, inspiration is not something predictable or regular, and if an idea pops into my head, seemingly from nowhere [as when walking] then who's to name a source?

How can engaging in a simple practice, like balancing, affect one’s personal trajectory?

Makes relaxing seem less of a waste of time...puts haste and anxiety to sleep for a while...a trajectory? Onwards and upwards! [We treat time as linear, some older cultures had non-linear time, it circled].

Where do you see your art going in the future, are you currently investigating any new forms of practice?

I actually don't think about the future beyond a few months, and most of what I create isn't mapped out in advance. Just keep going :o)

Photos courtesy of Dick Lucas