Interview & review for Ten Foot City Magazine (Dec. 2016)
Graham (Graham) Beck: "Reversing Sideways in an Upward Direction." Article written by Wes Foster.
"I play theatrical alternative pop. A mixture of things like early Roxy Music, John Shuttleworth, Bozo Dog Do-Dah Band, Frank Sidebottom, Brian Eno & the Beach Boys!"
As you enter his relatively recently bought house, you are met with an unchanged seventies decor, a refreshing change from the minimalist modern interiors that have more of a 'coldness' to them. These brownish, orange & cream walls however, have a warmth to them, much like Graham Beck & his music. Unlike these wallpapers though, he isn't outdated & is producing some of the most playfully ground-breaking music in Hull. I suppose that it would be called 'pop' but it seems to span many genres, through mostly keyboards & vocals. Every album he produces sees an eclectic mix of sounds & noises. His new album 'Reversing Sideways In An Upward Diection' shows a continuation of his surrealistic approach with "a want to 'entertain' alongside creating." This, most probably coming from being brought up in Great Yarmouth with it's strong tradition of pier shows.
Making & creating, for Graham, spans a variety of different outputs & formats. As someone that also paints & draws, he also works on 'sound-art' projects. When asked what defines the difference between 'sound-art & music', he says that, "It comes down to writing for an audience - the music is something that can be more widely appreciated, whilst the sound-art is more abstract & therefore more niche."
There is no grand plan, & that can be seen in his work. The surrealism that comes from his lyric-writing & compositional style could have come from nothing but a want to express, & this is mirrored in how refreshingly original his work is.
His 'latest' work - (Graham is a musician that seems to be constantly writing as he is already creating more pieces regardless of having only just released an album!) - shows a progressive evolution in his music as this fifty-one minutes' worth of sound progresses through various textures & forms rather effortlessly. This is not something you come across very often, usually people stick to what they know, without really pushing the edges of their creativity. He has both the confidence & the courage to pursue a range of outright pop-tracks ('Cardboard Is King' - currently the only single from the album) through to the more avant-garde, yet ballardic, slow niumbers like 'The Fridge' within the space of only three tracks.
Perhaps, this isn't just a coincidence or a courage, & is actually someone that recognises themselves as a fringe artist within the city, & though this isn't inaccessible like some fringe work can be, it is definitely more experimental & free with the way that he creates this aspect of his work. His usual positive demeanour spans into his views on the 'Hull City Of Culture', hoping that it will encourage more experimental music to be made in the city; "Edinburgh has the fringe, & without the fringe it wouldn't be the Edinburgh festival. Therefore through mainstream funding the counter culture will react & create even more, carving itself a recognised place in the city."
He doesn't gig that much, wanting to ensure that the gigs stay special, presumably from an extension of the intimacy & also because his gigs seem to attract such a wide audience, with all ages seeming to enjoy his playful song-writing & compositional work. When asked to describe himself in seven words he said, "Patient, humourous, observant, reads-too-much-into-things, optimist, kind, entertainer" (at the time we both thought there was a word especially for reading too much into things, though I can't seem to find it!). All of these sum him up as a musician too. His work is complicated, though at the same time entertaining, built upon common observations, humourously brought together into enjoyable songs. At first listen, his music can appear simple but with more listens, & studying, it is more than that, as it becomes apparent that is has layer upon layer of creativity.
Action Man With A Giraffe's Head
Review of 'Action Man With A Giraffe's Head', by Debt Records' Artistic Director, Louis Barabbas (for BBC6Music - Fresh On The Net, 'Fresh Faves Batch 223') Dec. 2016:
Graham (Graham) Beck paints a compelling picture here, one decidedly ripe for these confusing times. As narratives go, it is neither linear nor helical, but rather caught up in it's own catoptric mechanisms. Though perhaps a little too long for a subject matter bound so tightly to a single momentary reveal, as mood pieces go it raises some poignant questions concerning both identity & expectation - two universal concerns many of us spend entire lifetimes wrestling with, to no satisfactory edification. I must go deeper, for this track comes from the brain of a man given to performing in various masks & helmets (resembling anything from rabbits to fig rolls), so I can't help but wonder, action men & giraffes aside, where is HIS head at?
Reversing Sideways In An Upward Direction
Review from The Beat magazine (Nov. 2016), by Alan Clayson
Most famously, he's collaborated with Wreckless Eric, sometime members of Kilburn-&-the Highroads, & AMM, who were often on the same bill as The Pink Floyd at UFO, London's principal psychedelic dungeon.
On all 13 tracks of a spellbinding third solo album, Graham Graham Beck (sic) accepts sole responsibility for all vocals & instruments - & composition of such diverse pieces as maddeningly catchy 'You Can't Beat The Beatniks' & tranquil waltz-time 'I Wait'.
These were the most instantly familiar, but other items stand just as tall if reduced to the acid test of only voice & piano, notably 'ADSR (Attack Decay Sustain Release)', which, if rearranged in the style of Slade or Guida, could serve as some sort of football terrace anthem, whether those chanting understood the lyrics or not.
Other subjects, not usually tackled in pop songs, include string in, well, 'String'; packaging ('Cardboard Is King'), & illegal dumping of waste ('The Fridge'), plus whatever he's getting at in 'I Think, Therefore I'm Not' & 'Action Man With A Giraffe's Head' on an offering I was into straightaway, & assumed greater depth with each listen.