- 25 Nov 20
The Eye Of The Mind Makes A Movie
Renaissance man Peter Murphy isn’t messing about. The author of two novels, John The Revelator and Shall We Gather At The River – I shall totally read both of them one of these days – is also a fabled past contributor to the world’s greatest cultural periodical. Hot Press has an annoying ‘On This Day’ website feature, annoying not because of the great stories that it returns into the light, but annoying because of the writing. Just when you think you’re getting somewhere, up pops something from either Bill Graham or Murphy to put you back in your box (of crayons). He’s very good.
On top of that, the album he released this year under the collective nouns, Cursed Murphy versus The Resistance – reviewed here by Paul Nolan – is one of the year's better offerings before the aural altar, combining Murphy’s battered, bruised, Bowery-browsing lyricism with some proper wake-up clatter. He’s got great hair too. Some people are just crying out for a kicking.
Then he sends me an email last week, announcing The Hands Of Franky Machine, an “hour-long audio drama”. I moaned and spat, but, out of some misguided sense of loyalty, I agreed to listen to it, hoping it would be shite, so I could feel better about myself. It’s not, so I don’t.
Because Murphy is a better writer than I am, I’ll let him tell you about it.
The Inkjob's Face Is Blank
“The Hands of Franky Machine is an hour-long audio drama written and narrated by Cursed Murphy with an original score by drummer, composer and Basciville member Lorcan Byrne."
"Conceived as a movie for the ears, set in a gritty near-future cityscape, it tells the story of Franky Machine, a drum-battler who makes her living competing in the clubs, and her twin brother Sonny, an injured army veteran struggling with a street drug habit. Franky's days as a battler are numbered: a corporate multimedia entity named Eurika has successfully lobbied to patent all existing musical notation – the ultimate pay-to-play – and its lawyers are sending legal threats. Franky’s dilemma: what happens when the thing you were born to do starts killing you? What happens when your gift becomes a curse?"
"The Hands of Franky Machine is a love letter to 1950s noir (the title is a nod to Nelson Algren's The Man With the Golden Arm); to Lou Reed's 1970s downtown romances; to cyberpunk writers like William Gibson and John Shirley; to movies like Blade Runner and Kathryn Bigelow's 90s cult classic Strange Days."
Murphy goes on, as he tends to do.
“The story is set about five minutes into the future. The subplot involving Eurika's algorithms was inspired by an online remark made by Cillian Byrne from Basciville, and Sonny's experiences in the veteran hospital were drawn from an interview I did with Henry Rollins about his experiences as a USO performer. I've been fascinated with drummers since I was a kid, and I wanted to write a sort of homage to manga heroines and comic characters like Halo Jones, to the riot grrrl movement and musicians like Joan Jett and Sheila E and Kira from Black Flag. And Lorcan is the only musician I know who could have conjured this world.”
“The Hands of Franky Machine was scored, arranged and recorded over a ten-day period in August 2020 in the National Opera House, Wexford, thanks to a Covid-19 Crisis Response Award from the Arts Council of Ireland. Dan Comerford tech-supervised the sessions, as well as directing an eight-minute performance clip and a short documentary film. Tom Bates (Saolan Productions) operated second camera. Sinéad Furlong conducted research and interviews. Artist and film-maker Mirona Mara contributed the intro voice-over, while Maria Byrne provided the graphic novel-inspired cover image. The complete 60-minute audio-drama was recorded live in eight movements, vocals and drums together, with a minimum of overdubs, and is designed to be experienced in one continuous sitting, like a film or a play.”
Final Call For Port Arcadia
When I put it on, I thought I’d last about five or ten minutes, and then come back to it, but the story of Franky and Sonny drags you in. I had to stop everything else I was trying to do and listen to the whole thing. My own pain worm needed sedating. The rush comes on strong. The movie plays in your head. Byrne's drumming is inventive and innovative, sensitive and sympathetic. There's a new machine in town. Copyrighting chord progressions and scales? It doesn’t seem that far fetched. We don't even own the music anymore. They’ll send in the leg-breakers with the ski masks, the goons coming to collect. Say the thing you love to do turns into shit you have to do, is it still a gift? Cursed Murphy is broadcasting from tomorrow.