Illustrators: Joe Besford – The Contented

By Tom

9 The Contented

I picked The Contented because the perspective of the lyric interested me, as if this was the voice of the downtrodden, exploited as a result of the ambitions of the rich and powerful. There’s a sardonic anger in the lyric but there’s also a sense of resignation or even apathy, not just at the powerful, but also those who would follow them. Sometimes it doesn’t matter whether you go left or right – then or now – you still end up being taken advantage of. On paper, the lyric reads like a somewhat world-weary warning, but I think this arrangement brings out the anger. I tried to keep all those things in mind with my drawing.

The lyric’s timeless and tone reminded me of early 20th century American folk (with which I’m more familiar), so hearing an old English folk song in that vein was pretty exciting. And I really liked the melody!

I’m a comic artist and musician. I write and draw a web comic strip called ‘Earthling Brains’. The comic is autobiographical (mostly) and tries to find humour in the mundane or idiotic. Just to confuse everyone, I also make music under the same name. I’m interested in combining comics and music; you’re able to explore the same story or idea using completely different perspectives. Plus it makes for sick merch!


I’ve got an album coming out on 10 June on Forward Defensive Records called ‘I’ll Leave A Light On For You’. It comes with a companion piece comic called ‘The Long Night Is Over’.

Earthling Brains comics
Earthling Brains music

Illustrators: Robert Rotifer – Babylon Has Fallen

By Tom


When I got Darren’s email inviting me to contribute an illustration to the booklet of Bugbears, my wife and I had only just returned from a short trip to Brussels. While over there, we had spent quite a few hours roaming the endless galleries of the Royal Museums of Art. Maybe it’s a sign of becoming middle-aged and one’s changing ideas of excitement, but we decided to leave their modern art collection to one side and concentrate on the slightly misguidingly named “Ancient Art” wing instead.

As expected, the place was full of Flemish Primitives, the most amazing Van Eycks, Van der Weydens, Bruegels and Boschs as well as equally brilliant paintings by many others whose names I had already forgotten the minute we walked out of the museum, dizzy with the emotional impact of these amazing images. It seems incredible to me how these painters of the 1400s to 1600s used Christian myth and everyday observations as a pretext to express themselves in aristically radical ways. A lot of what passed for God-fearing art, later generations would have found downright pornographic, gratuitously violent or just plain surreal.

So back in Canterbury all this was still going through my head as I read Darren’s message, which came with the liner notes to the album, including the lyrics of the songs he had chosen to interpret.
I was immediately drawn to “Babylon Has Fallen”, guessing that, to a reggae fan like Darren, the title itself must have been irresistible. But with all the pictures I’d seen in Brussels still present in my mind, it also brought out my buried memories of Bruegel the Elder’s “The Tower of Babel”.

The Tower Of Babel

I haven’t been to the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna in decades, but this painting made a huge impression on me when I saw it as a child, maybe on a school trip or on some rainy weekend family outing. Growing up in an agnostic household I was (and still am) woefully ill-equipped to understand the biblical subtext, but what stuck in my head was the vague idea of human hubris punished as the mighty tower falls.

Quite how this fit in with the English Civil War I was not too sure, but then neither were Darren’s sleeve notes:

“This powerful song presents something of a problem. It is nowadays usually associated with the Roundheads, and its biblical imagery – of Church and King as Babylon – certainly accords with the usage of the puritan radicals like the Diggers and the Levellers, but research has failed to reveal its source.”

Babel 3

I decided this historical ambiguity was the perfect excuse to take some liberties and draw lots of naked humans in mid-orgy at the moment of the tower’s collapse as they are attacked from above by angels brandishing swords. Darren’s basic requirement was that the illustration had to be black-and-white, so I used a nib and black ink, which was a

The Pleasing Crisis of a Noun by Johny Lamb

By Darren Hayman


There are several ways of approaching the noun ‘folk’, and we use it carelessly and variously. We use it with prefix when it strays too far from its perceived meaning (alt, new, weird etc), and we’ll add things to the end when it gets even further away from us (-tronica, or just -ie or -y). This aside, there are perhaps two useful routes into the noun. One being that music of unknown authorship, passed on aurally through the generations, or at least that music that survived the scrupulous moral agency of Cecil Sharp and his contemporaries, and the other, best described as a vernacular or popular music that voices the identity of a community (contemporary or otherwise). These two approaches might well contain each other, or be some way distant.

Mostly, I suppose, that what we call folk is music that sounds like folk. For the most part this works for us, but when presented with a project such as Darren’s here, we are forced to acknowledge, and to some degree reconcile the chasms of ideological, aesthetic, technical and methodological difference between various contemporary practices. And even in writing that sentence, my use of ‘us’ and ‘we’ in this text so far suddenly becomes problematic. Who is this ‘we’? Or to put it rather better by using the words of poet John Hall, ‘Who are you a we with?’ Indeed, who am I, or is Darren, a we with? ‘Bugbears’ is an album of traditional songs, but then so is ‘Broadside’ by Bellowhead, and yet, the two are not siblings. Likewise, Darren is at once doing the same thing and not the same thing as Jackie Oates. The difference, I think, lies in re/deconstruction and appropriation. It also lies in a variable take on the idea of authenticity. And thus, ultimately, the cultural resonance of any practitioner of folk music comes down to the generation and reception of meaning.

In the circles that encompass Bellowhead, Oates et al, there is much talk of authenticity, and it seems that instrumentation, arrangement, language, voice and repertoire play a big part (Bellowhead’s incongruous brass players notwithstanding). The voice is of particular interest here, where delivery will often take on the form of a regionless, quasi-pastoral timbre and ‘accent’, which you will also find rife in the singers on historical dramas from the television (think of Sharpe’s Daniel Hagman, or someone taking up a song at the end of an episode of Larkrise to Candleford). Technique and ornamentation play a large role here (instrumentally as well as in the voice). Production for these kinds of traditional players plays to those notions of transparency that manufacturers of recording equipment have been promising for decades. Things are clean and allow us to bathe in the skill, dexterity and knowledge of the players. The set of more problematic performers that might include Darren seem to understand and embrace the idea that recording, production and fidelity have compositional value in and of themselves. Furthermore, the voice is unaffected (or

Martin Said – Video

Niklas Vestberg (Fulhäst, formerly half of Moustache Of Insanity) introduces the video for Darren’s Martin Said, from Bugbears.


“Would you make a quick quirky cheap video for me?”

” A collection of 17th Century Songs… maybe you should choose the weirdest”

“I wasn’t thinking a full on video effort.. something quite lateral in approach. Something odd and possibly experimental”

Part of me kind of wish more music video proposals came with instructions like that – don’t make much of an effort, pick the song yourself, make it weird. Sure, the 17th Century bit was a bit of a concern. How do you even start?

In the end I picked the first track of the album. Not because it was short (but, thankfully it was) and not because I couldn’t be bothered to sit through a whole album of 17th Century songs (because I did. I listened to it all, I promise) but simply because it was my favourite track and it just resonated with me. It was probably the drinking bit, since I had being doing a fair bit of that over the past few months.

The decision to use found/public domain footage was kind of obvious. I didn’t want to film anything myself; it just didn’t seem right. So I started sifting through public domain footage on the internet, searching for clips tagged with alcoholism, drinking, parties and similar terms. Of course I wanted the clips to be interesting, but at the same time I really didn’t wanted it to be about the actual images. Bug Bears is a beautiful album, but it’s also bloody hard work and I wanted the video to reflect that. Eventually I found myself with a bunch of suitable clips and started playing around with them. Should I cut it to the beat, try to make it reflect the lyrics somehow? It just didn’t seem to work and the clips quickly became uninteresting. So I decided against all these normal conventions and started playing around with fixed clip lengths, eventually settling on one second. It seemed to work. It was long enough for the brain to start processing what was on screen, but short enough to make you work that little bit extra. I think it works. It’s unlike any other video I’ve ever done, but I’m quite pleased with the end result. Sure, it’s pretty unwatchable, but I also find it strangely appealing and almost hypnotic. Drinking, fighting, dancing, drinking, fighting, dancing.

The World Turned Upside Down

By Darren Hayman


When playing the song Impossible Times from the Violence live, I have been introducing it with a speech about how every age views itself as the nadir of history. That things have never been as bad as they have in the present.

During the English Civil Wars in the seventeenth century this manifested itself as the idea of ‘The World Turned Upside Down’. On my collection of Bugbears this is illustrated in the song ‘Impossibilities’ a list of incongruities and …well impossibilities.

Here are some woodcuts from the era via The New Inquiry.
Original article here

The World Turned Upside Down
The Public Domain Review is an online journal and not-for-profit project dedicated to showcasing the most interesting and unusual out-of-copyright works available on the web. You can explore our curated collections of curiosities and our fortnightly articles from leading scholars, writers, and artists at

A series of woodcuts from an 18th century chapbook entitled The World Turned Upside Down or The Folly of Man, Exemplified in Twelve Comical Relations upon Uncommon Subjects. As well as the amusing woodcuts showing various reversals (many revolving around the inversion of animal and human relations) there is also included a poem on the topic. The chapbook is reproduced in the wonderful Chapbooks of the Eighteenth Century (1882) edited by John Ashton, which brings together hundreds of facsimiles of 18th century chapbooks upon a huge range of subjects. All images are from the book housed at the Internet Archive, donated by University of Pittsburgh Library System. Click images to enlarge.

No title


No Title


The ox turned farmer


Old Soldier Turned Nurse


The mad squire and his fatal hunting

The duel of the palfries

The reward of roguery – or the roasted cook

The sun, moon, stars, and earth transposed

The water wonder or the fishes lords of the creation

The horse turned groom


The Honest Ass and the Miller

Gallantry – a la mode – or the lovers catched by the bird


The Ox Turned Butcher

Darren Hayman Interview on Bugbears

By Darren Hayman

This interview by the excellent Drunken Werewolf

Religion, relationships, new towns and open-air swimming pools: Darren Hayman has drawn inspiration from them all. His latest album Bugbears is a collection of seventeenth century folk songs. It continues his fascination with the era which began with last year’s album The Violence chronicling the Essex witch trials and was followed by the Four Queens EP earlier this year.

In an exclusive interview, he sits down with DrunkenWerewolf’s Patrick Widdess to talk about his musical history project and why he wants to break our hearts.

So Darren, how did your fascination with English history in the 17th century begin?

I’m known for my use of contemporary language: slang, idioms, even brand names. I was doing a series of albums about Essex and I had this idea of doing something historical. I thought if I wrote about a story that happened a few centuries ago it would create hurdles in the songwriting process and make me change my approach to words.

Whilst writing The Violence I thought I should include a few folk songs of the time. I didn’t want to make the album sound 17th century but I thought I might learn something from researching them.

Interpreting and recording these songs became a separate project and album that was recorded at the same time as The Violence.

Where does the album name Bugbears come from?

The album includes a poem which was a rare rational treatise for the time. Everything else was about seeing fear and the devil in places. This poem says it’s all a lot of nonsense and to get a grip. It refers to these fears as bugbears. It seemed to capture what the whole album was about: curses and things going wrong.

You’ve changed the band name from The Long Parliament to The Short Parliament for this album. What’s the difference?

There are a few different members. The band I play with is always a little loose. There are seven or eight musicians I work with at different times. In this case I worked with those that had more of a folk leaning, particularly Dan Mayfield, the violin player. He’s from a Morris dancing family – the real deal. Not like us and Mumford and Sons who put on a folk hat when they fancy it!

It was a way to distinguish the two projects. There’s also the rump parliament which I should find a project for.

Yes, it’s a great name! How did you interpret these old songs for a modern audience?

I wasn’t trying to be slavishly accurate. Accuracy with something from as long ago as the 17th century is pretty much impossible. There’s only so much we can know about how these songs sounded.

I also didn’t want to completely reinvent the songs and say, “right, I’ll do them with a jungle beat and modulating synthesisers.” It was a case of making them sound apt without being ridiculously reverential.

So how did you change them?

First, I took lots and lots of words out. One of the fist

Folk Music and Me

By Darren Hayman


I like folk music, or at least I like my idea of folk music.

Seeing Billy Bragg at around 18 was a formative experience for me. He was someone who had grown up a few towns away from me and sang with my accent. It made it seem like people who made records didn’t live on other planets.

His records had the words ‘file under urban folk’ written on them. It was a grand claim for someone who was clearly a punk artist. To me the word ‘folk’ conjured up something more exciting and wild then punk rock.

I settled on my own flawed definition of what the word ‘folk’ meant and from then on that this was the music I wanted to make. A modern, relevant style of narrative song-writing that could relate both the political and personal. Song composition that gave words and story the same importance as melody and sound.

I wanted to be clear and precise. I think it’s that total commitment to meaning that puts many people off folk music. Folk has no burry edges, it’s presented in sharp focus.

I’m aware of the idea that folk music should represent its time and be the music of the people. Mike Skinner of the Streets is a better folk artist then I’ll ever be.

There is also another folk stereotype, that of the dusty librarian. The folk musician who acts as a custodian of tradition and songs and believe they should never be abridged or altered. This in turn supports the myth that traditional folk is a closed club, only open to those that have memorised the repertoire.

It’s a reputation not without some foundation.

Last year I made a historical album the East Anglian Witch Trials which took place during the English Civil War called The Violence. It’s the first time I’ve attempted any project not set in modern times. I was making folk music for people who had been dead for centuries.

I knew I also had to look at the actual folk music of the time. The 17th Century bought about the birth of the printing press and consequently songs are better notated and preserved from this period.

At first the idea was to pepper the Violence with a few pieces of traditional music to create some historical context for the stories.

However the song research soon got legs of its own and The Violence had a sister project, a collection of 17th Century Folk Songs called Bugbears.

My main problem in making this album was to how to present these songs. I couldn’t perform the songs in a historically accurate way, I don’t have the skill, knowledge or audience for that. Songs had more uses back then, they were news letters, soap, operas, movies and plays. More than anything they were long, really long, with verse after verse of exposition.

Neither did I want to adapt or update the songs and radically re-arrange them for modern ears. It was about finding the emotional centre of the music. Excising words that felt awkward on my lips and finding sentiments that rang true. Several of the more political songs had