The name of Billy Childish is inevitably linked
in my mind to a kindly face, with typically angle shaped English features,
a generous moustache and a funny hat similar to that of Sherlock Holmes.
The aesthetics, which are connected to one of my favorite bands: Thee
Headcoats. When I first discovered the band, thanks to a friend, whose
vinyl collection is the source of half of my musical knowledge, I didn't
know what was behind this figure. For a long period of time, he was only
an excellent garage musician. But one good thing about this profession,
rather than only writing about one's musical references, is to be able
to discover many more new things too. Before I started writing this article,
I only considered Childish's work outside of music as something of an
accessory, a sort of complementary thing that made the musician more complex,
more interesting but without the sufficient entity to deserve to look
into it independently from the musical side.
|In the mid 70's he decided to devote his life
to art. He played all his cards in one hand and entered the prestigious
Saint Martin art school, with the help of a grant for talented youngsters.
He was aware that if he didnt make it, a life of jobs for unqualified people
was waiting for him. This was in the mid 70s, when the context in England
was grim, just before Thatcher, a horizon of unemployment and few hopes,
the sediments where punk germinated. Childish is not unaware of this and
he joins the Pop Rivets as vocalist. This was the first and, possibly, the
less representative, of a long list of bands he was in who were obsessed
with garage, 60s, r'n'b and blues.
|Both in his music and in his artistic or literature
work he has shown a strong independence in his criteria and an absolute
loyalty to himself. A trait that I have always recognized in him is the
total indifference with respect to the trends in any of his fields of work.
His songs, same as his poems and paintings, have stayed the same without
alteration. From Milkshakes to the Buff Medways, or the Mighty Caesars,
have merely been vehicles for the uncontrollable creativity of Childish.
With each of these bands he has continuosly released records, even releasing
various records in one same year.
|With respect to the industrial part of the creative
process, Childish has always defended a form of home made amateurism. Everything
he has published under his own home label and book publisher, Hangman Books.
His favorite way of recording records is to do it over a weekend in his
house in Medway, first takes, live, a couple of microphones and a DAT.
|He is, as an artist, a ferocious defender of figurative
art. His attack on conceptual art started during his time in art school,
as a result of which he was sacked in 1981. Some 20 years later he was one
of the founders of the movement Stuckism, which he abandoned a couple of
years later, though he continues to adhere 100% with their objectives and
ideas. This movement is represented through about 130 groups in 34 countries.
|Being as I am critical with ironic and conformist
postmodernism, I am fully in agreement with Childish's ideas. It's about
'de-elite-ing' the artistic creation in the same manner as hardcore stripped
the musical creation of its elite-ness.
|Billy Childish plays once a month in the Dirty
Water in London. His new band since August 2006 are the Musicians from the