Saturday, 9 October 2010


For Don't Panic

Poor old L. Ron Hubbard, he must be turning in his grave at the news that Druidry has just been classed as a religion in the UK. Even the cape-wearing river spirit-botherers can get the tax breaks for Xenu’s sake! What are you Scientologists doing wrong? Look no further, consult my Olly the Octopus guide; the Holy Grail for getting your cult a religious classification.

Identify a Convincing Supreme Being

It’s an open secret that, after parting with their life savings, Scientologists earn the right to learn that evil space lord Xenu flew all the souls on earth here on DC8 aeroplanes. This simply won’t do. Try being less specific. A certain amount of immateriality and illusiveness works well. An omni-present all knowing, but somehow intangible divine presence hidden behind the conventional fabric of space-time is much harder to pick holes in.

Imbue your Scriptures with Authenticity

This is admittedly much easier to do under the auspices of a Roman dictatorship, or with an army of angry Arabic warriors to ‘persuade’ people. It doesn’t help if the author of your scripture is renowned for his fantastical works of fiction and on record as saying, "I'd like to start a religion. That's where the money is".

A miracle or two would probably help; a resurrection or a plague of locusts can work wonders. Failing that, time is probably your best ally. Maybe in a thousand years no one will remember how much of a charlatan L. Ron was considered in his day.

Isolate and Incubate your Followers

Unfettered access to knowledge is the enemy of the would-be modern-day Moses. Most successful religions gently encourage a voluntary disconnect from reason with incentives like other worlds with fountains of honeyed ambrosia and limitless virgins to spoil. This tends to be more effective than blackmail and steeling teenagers from loving families at persuading governments of the purity of your intentions.

Generate a Sustainable Income from your Followers

Remember throughout all your acts of boundless kindness and altruism that you’re running a business here. The Vatican didn’t get where it is today by giving away all its wealth to those in need now did it? However, the trick to getting those tax breaks is making it look like you’re a charity, so a voluntary system of collections based on peer pressure and guilt is preferable to a compulsory pay-per insight structure.

Choose your Scapegoats Wisely

Better to rail against the exponents of different metaphysical conventions than psychologists. It’s much more difficult to argue with people who actually know what they are talking about. Try picking on someone with assertions as speculative as your own, the Jews are a popular choice.

Oh, and Avoid Appointing People who are Clearly Unhinged as Missionaries of your Faith

Getting Tom Cruise to preach Scientology is a bit like getting Michael Stipe (or me!) to sell shampoo.

Monday, 20 September 2010

A Pop at the Pope

Written for Don't Panic

Parents across Great Britain (especially those with young boys) can breath a sigh of relief this week. The leader of a well know, world wide paedophile ring has slipped out of the country. Ha! What a mockery the Catholic Church makes of itself, and common law. It still cannot get used to being held accountable for its actions. In times gone by if some one (like king Henry IV of Germany) opposed the Vatican’s expansionist megalomania, a simple excommunication would bring them to heal. Now, in spite of damning evidence of conspiracy to cover up crimes against vulnerable children for the ‘good of the Universal Church’, committed by the current pope in his time as ‘Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’, it seems as if not all that much has changed. Parliament intervened to block the campaign to get a warrant for the pope’s arrest, just as George Bush did on another occasion in America, in 2005.

Apparently the main emphasis of the pope’s state visit, aside from the odd Beatification and drinking blood with some Glaswegians, was to highlight the ‘marginalisation of religion, particularly Christianity’. Erm, excuse me mister Benedict, sir, please don’t spank me, but which other institutions enjoy the same impunity as the Catholic church, and £10million of public funding for state visits?

Not my chess club. Nor even the RSPCA, and they do some great things for dolphins. How about the 390,127 people who listed themselves as Jedi on the 2001 census form? Unlikely. Not even the Scientologists, oh how they dream of the day…

So stop winging about the march of ‘aggressive secularism’ and comparing atheists to Nazi’s (even though you know very well what being a Nazi is all about, having been a member of the Hitler Youth). It’s irrelevant, it may be that many great acts of kindness and altruism are carried out by religious organizations, but many atrocities are too, boring argument… blah blah blah. Stalin was an atheist don’t you know? Remember Mother Theresa? Whatever. Red herring. What really matters is people are less inclined to believe peddlers of anachronistic fairy stories in 21st century Britain, and less tolerant of the privileged and molly-coddled position afforded them.

I understand that the church finds itself powerless to halt the ebbing decline of congregations in the UK, and that all pyramid schemes require the base to be larger than the pinnacle, and that the pope himself must be feeling the squeeze. The trouble is that this fashionable back lash against what is being painted as Richard Dawkins and his evil band of fundamentalist atheists seems more than a little out of touch with reality. But then that is essential tenet of religion after all.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Good old Naomi Campbell, Keeping diamonds that would have been used to fund a war...

For Don't Panic

Dear Naomi,

You poor wee thing. How awful that you have been caught up in this intrigue surrounding the Charles Taylor war crimes tribunal. How can you possibly expect to work for a credible jewellery firm again? I mean, this was 1997, way before that Di Caprio film came out! How were you supposed to know what a Blood Diamond was?

And it’s not your fault he came on to you is it? They all do, right? It just so happens this one was a war criminal; and they don’t look any different from the rest of us. How were you to know? I’m looking at the person sitting next to me in the café that I’m writing you this letter from now. They could be a war criminal too for all I know. I mean, unless you actually see them bossing around 10 year old African kids with AK 47’s out of their mind on meths, how are you going to know where the diamonds they try to seduce you with come from?

Only I never get chatted up by the powerful and corrupt despots of failed states, but then my cheek bones aren’t as cat-like and winsome as yours Naomi, and by the way neither are Mia Farrow’s or your old agent Carole White’s and that’s why they’ve contradicted you in court. They are spiteful and bitter women, jealous of what God and Charles Taylor gave you. And that’s been your problem all your life, hasn’t it? I can’t imagine how awful it has been to have to spend your adult life dealing with jealous journalists and twisted colleagues bent on bringing you down to their level, you know; the level where you have to be on time for things and get on with people, some of whom might even appear not to have any cheek bones at all!

But what choice did you have, with your inauspicious upbringing in the backwaters of Streatham (Even though it’s probably St. Reatham on your birth certificate)? I saw you on Oprah last month sobbing with your mother and telling us all how she was never there for you as a child, how could she possibly give you the love you needed and hold down a job?! Tough choices: that’s what love and family are about. So we can forgive you if you throw the occasional (in your own words) ‘fit if I don’t get what I want’. It’s because there are deep abandonment issues there, and that’s OK, it really is. Have you seen Good Will Hunting? Watch it… It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault…

And all this is distracting from the real bad guy here, right? That nasty Charles Taylor, who’s careless flirting caused this whole mess. If he hadn’t been smuggling diamonds to arm child soldiers in Sierra Leon, none of this ‘inconvenience’ would have happened in the first place. Then you would have been free to plan your anniversary party with Vladimir Doronin.

Oh, by the way, good luck with that! I hear it’s going to be the ‘Party of the Season’ with all his billionaire Russian friends and half of Hollywood helicoptering in too! That should help take your mind off things! Maybe he’ll even propose, if he does just make sure it’s a Kimberly diamond this time!


S. Icofant.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Shame, I could have made it as a Burka model

Written for Don't Panic

But Sarkozy finally got his way and managed to outlaw the Burka from French streets this week. It’s amazing how banning a controversial item of clothing has been spun as an act of libertarianism. French Justice Minister, Michele Alliot-Marie said it was a victory for "Values of freedom against all the oppressions which try to humiliate individuals; values of equality between men and women". Oh, so presumably this redresses the balance for male bank-robbers who have been forbidden to wear balaclavas and facemasks into Santander for decades... Pah! A largely male National Assembly tells women what they can and can’t wear, oh, the irony!

Feminists must be so confused. Is it a blow to oppressive husbands, or a blow to women who don’t want to be perceived as sex objects? Defiant, fully veiled Muslims could be about to become the bra burners of the 21st century. Which is even more ironic. What a mess. It’s a lethal cocktail of all three dinner table taboos: religion, politics and sex.

This bodes well for the newspapers because finding these taboos mixed together is the secret of a great news story (Religion + sex = Catholic Priest sex abuse scandal, sex + politics = David Laws scandal, religion + politics = Obama’s fundamentalist preacher scandal), but it’s pretty boring for the rest of us. A few veiled religious fundamentalists obscuring their sexuality from prying eyes in Harrods isn’t going to stop truck drivers reading Nuts magazine, just as Jordan flashing her silicon in the jungle isn’t going to free Saudi Arabian women from the tyranny and oppression of the patriarchy. Western and Arabic expectations of women are obviously vastly different but equally un-feminist in that both are essentially based on the woman’s role as an object of sexual desire. So frankly both can get down from their high horses. Something Sarkozy will never do so long as he has to stand next to Carla Bruni.

Spies from Stoke Newington!!??!

Written For Don't Panic:

Who’d have thought sleepy old Stoke Newington would be the implicated in a spying ring? Well, Anna Chapman, one of the 11 Russians accused of being deep cover spies by the US government this week, lived there before heading off to the states to get the real work done. So do organic food shops, yoga studios and homeopathic clinics provide the perfect cover for honing ninja skills and committing daring espionage, or are spies just getting soft now the cold war is over?

Another two of the spies were eavesdropped by the authorities asking for money to buy their New Jersey pad because the US is a ‘society that values home ownership’ and ‘when in Rome’ do as the Romans do. When Moscow wouldn’t stump the cash they protested impetuously that they had never ‘deviated’ from their mission. Another cell managed to rack up a whopping £42,500 worth of expenses. Presumably there will be a job for them in Whitehall when they get out of jail.

Not one of the eleven even managed to get charged with espionage, merely ‘failing to register as an agent of a foreign government’. In other words they were rubbish spooks. No blood on their hands, no Aston Martins with rocket launchers for headlights, no missions into space to build satellite ray guns capable of vaporising entire cities, I doubt they could even deliver a box of Milk Tray. Not like our James Bond at all. We Brits cracked the Enigma code; we do this whole spying thing better than anyone else.

Except that it wasn’t that long ago that two blundering British agents got caught talking to a stone in a public square in Moscow. 2006 it was, and it turned out they had filled a rock with electronic equipment to pass on Russian official secrets to London. Apparently London had failed to brief them on cellular telephones and the World Wide Web, the spying equivalent of Japanese guerrilla cells still fighting in the Philippines 29 years after the end of World War 2.

Sure, it’s all starting to feel a little quaint now, in these days of international terror networks like Al Qaeda, but we shouldn’t be surprised that the old enemies still try to spy on one another. We might all meet up to discuss quantitative easing over a round of golf every year at the G20, but don’t think that means we all trust each other now. Would you trust a man like Silvio Berlusconi for example? Not as far as you could throw his wife’s heavy heart. It’s just nice to see a bit of conspiracy in the mainstream media for a change. Since the cold war ended we’ve all had to visit David Icke’s website and read about reptilian humanoids bent on influencing the creation of human history through their secret campaign of Bilderberg meetings, 9/11 inside-jobs and Illuminati, to get our fix. At least now conspiracy has returned to broadsheets fit for the coffee tables of Stoke Newington.

Written for Dont Panic

Football, the last true meritocracy?

Cuts. The word on everyone’s lips. For the past six months it seems that every stream of media has been fixated on how and where the axe will fall. Before the election it was all about who was going to do it. Now we have chosen our executioners it’s all about exactly what we are going to have to do without. State pensions? Child trust funds? Winter fuel? If you are thinking of splashing out on a second home for romantic trysts with your secret homosexual lover you’d best wait, Cameron says we will all feel the pinch. How uncle David? Put us out of our misery, we’re a nation frozen in the guillotine! In the latest twist we are actually being asked to decide for ourselves over the summer. It’s called a ‘public engagement exercise’ apparently, but it really means that George Osbourne thinks he’s a clever boy and can get the turkeys to vote for Christmas. He’s wrong though, because come summer no one will care about politics any more, we’ll all be watching the football.

The most soul-suckingly football-jaded housewife mother of four boys, who lives close enough to Old Trafford that she can’t park outside her own house when there’s a big game, is going to be glued to Sky Sports like the rest of us. Under the St. Georges Cross the black civil rights activists are going to forget years of slavery and oppression and wail ‘Eng-er-lund’ as one voice with skinhead BNP hooligans from Millwall. The odd Scotsman might even cheer on our Rooney, hell, the Gallagher brothers will probably watch at least one game together. Football unites us, politics divides us.

I can’t see anything wrong with that. Forget the oligarch club owners with mafia ties and the wife swapping players, football is about the closest thing to a true meritocracy we can manage. Sure, Ronaldo and Beckham get all the Gucci campaigns but they wouldn’t get a cap for their country if they couldn’t kick a ball between two posts well, or whatever it is they do. Players are on the team because they deliver on the pitch, regardless of age, race or religion. Which is more than can be said for Westminster.

Meanwhile, our new government is doing little to persuade us that it isn’t closer to that other great democratic summer distraction, Big Brother, and full of self-serving talent-less fame-seekers. Mere weeks with them and we have a new expenses scandal (I can just imagine the gleeful expressions in broadsheet offices in London as the David Laws news broke. A story so good you couldn’t make it up, and one of those rare occasions where they get to behave like tabloids). What is it about politics that attracts this weasely sort? Can’t be a footballer? Fine, sleep with one. No? OK, go on Big Brother. You’re too dull? Well there is always a career in politics.

For Don't Panic:

London Killing Fields

Another 'piece' for don't panic -

If you go out on the streets tonight you’d better be beware.
Kids in gangs with knives and guns are lurking everywhere.
They’ll stab you up and bottle your head,
Nick your phone and leave you for dead.
Nowadays the kiddies take their pick what they nick.

When I have toddlers, that’s what I’ll sing to them at bedtime. We’ll be living in some über trendy nook of Bethnal Green in a gentrified shoe-box of an apartment, the type the estate agent would market as ‘cosy’, but it’s the best you can afford on your ‘creative’ salary and at least it’s a rung on the ever-tricky property ladder. I probably wont spare a thought for the family of Sudanese immigrants who used to live there, squeezed out to the other side of Hackney Marshes by genuine poverty, increasing rents and a creeping alienation as one by one their friends and peers were replaced by men with beards and Barbers and ladies with floral Onesies, and toddlers, like mine, dressed in Osh Kosh.

I’ll avoid eye contact as I pass groups of young men consisting of their teenage kids and those like them, late on a weekend. They could have knives. Now they probably have guns too. Best not to get involved (picking up an occasional eighth bag is ok, that’s like an armistice). We all hear the warnings: gun crime is on the increase, but it’s just the gangs isn’t it? Sure, every few years you might have to cede an iPhone or two and a wallet full of 20s to someone in a tracksuit, but you won’t get knifed and definitely not shot. Right?


When it was just knives, the potential for collateral damage from gang warfare was limited to say, a few meters. Now as the arms race accelerates, it seems we’re all at risk from a stray bullet. After all, flack jackets and bulletproof vests make you look fat. They are unlikely to catch on in Broadway Market.

You might say something was bound to happen here, where the vegetarian restaurants, gastro pubs and warehouse conversions full of affluent young bohemians, rub up against grim council estates and a post-code dubbed with the nick name 'murder mile', which can boast close to 200 shootings a year. It’s like putting a hedgehog sanctuary next to a motorway, or an MP’s husband in a motel with a porn channel and an expenses credit card. I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more often.

Last weekend’s shooting on London Fields was a wormhole between two parallel universes, a reminder of what and who gets swept beneath the carpet in Britain by gentlemen such as Jules Pipe, The Mayor of Hackney, who told the BBC with Boris-like myopia, “Despite this very worrying incident, hundreds of people were able to enjoy the event ('Parks for Life' festival - organised by Hackney Council) in London Fields safely and without interruption.” What a knob.

I can’t imagine the mayor’s views were representative on this occasion. I’m sure everyone cared enough to show at least a little concern. It’s a sorry place where hundreds of people are able to ignore their fellow man being shot through the stomach only meters away. A sorry place like Hackney, 199 times a year.

On the Radio 4 Today Show

It's taken me a long time to upload this because I have been very busy fighting crime and saving the planet from an evil troupe of lizard zombies lead by Tony Hayward, but I've done it now.

On the day Gordon brown resigned they played me on the today show on radio 4, I've gone high brow....

see my player

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

natural sELECTION

So, after a damp squib of a general election where the Conservatives failed to convincingly rout a mortally wounded Gordon Brown, who slowly capitulated in a series of gaffs and outrageous forced smiles on televised debates (the sort that made young children hide behind the sofa the length of the country), Nick Clegg has jumped into be bed with David Cameron to form the first coalition government in the UK since the 30's. Conservatives and Liberals working together? It'’s a bit like a vicar marrying a stripper, or Lembit Opik marrying a Cheeky Girl. I know opposites attract, but one party stands for conservation and the other for progression, it'’s grounds for divorce. Does it spell Con-Dem-nation for the, er, nation?

Well, providing this unholy alliance can hold together, we should expect to see much of the Conservatives election manifesto come to fruition, with some of the sharper edges filed off by the inclusion of a few Liberal Democrat policies. This is probably good news for staunch Labour supporters to whom the only worse thing than marrying David Cameron would be having him as undisputed Prime minister of the country. Still they’'ve had their way for some time now and perhaps there is room for a bit of change even if there isn’'t a genuine appetite for it amongst voters.

Most excitingly, Cameron has wasted no time telling us about the end of ‘Big Government’. Those of you worried that during the Blair/Brown years Britain was transformed from a leafy community of meadows and hamlets into a super-city concrete dystopia where every citizens actions are recorded by CCTV and poured over by power lusty public service officials with nothing better to do, can breath a sigh of relief. ID cards are out. The draconian DNA database looks like being curbed too. So it should be easier to repeat offend and to pretend you are someone else for the next five years, something Nick Clegg will probably need to do a lot of.

A sensible review of defence spending looks likely, stopping short of canning Trident (apparently a nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile threat is enough to make disgruntled religious zealots from Bradford think twice before blowing themselves up in public), but curbing Prince Harry’s use of Chinook Helicopters to beat bank holiday traffic. The Liberal Democrats were the only major party to oppose the Iraq war, and with a bit of luck their presence in the cabinet is likely to mean fewer wars of freedom on brown people with oil. But William Hague, our new foreign secretary has made it clear that he’ll still be chatting up the Americans for special treatment in return for ‘'Solid, not slavish'’ support of their unilateral whims. He is also the cabinet minister most likely to start sleeping with a Clinton.

A large amount of the promised spending cuts, starting with £6bn this year, will probably come from the public sector. Cameron would say that means good-bye to the pen pushers and key tappers in the annals of New Labours stealth-socialist behemoth. More likely they'’ll just cut benefits for those who able to work. It'’ll be branded as tough love and helping people to ‘realise their aspirations’, but it’'ll probably mean minimum wage Mc-jobs to realise the aspirations of multi-national corporations, a spiritually thwarted working class and an increase in crime. Anyone still remember that Thatcher bird? If the Liberals are lucky they might be able to leverage an increase in the low-income tax threshold so the poor can afford to continue anaesthetising themselves through binge drinking and satellite television. Pensions for public sector workers are under threat too, and the default retirement age may be scrapped, but by the time we notice we’ll all be too old to kick George Osbournes’ butt.

Talking of butts, Cameron once said his favourite joke was Nick Clegg, now he'’s sitting next to him in the cabinet. That’s hilarious, but the real butt of this cabinet are the women and ethnic minorities that aren'’t in there. A junior Home Office minister has already spoken out to criticise the largely '‘male and pale'’ cabinet. Planned tightening of immigration regulation from outside the EU is likely to be about as popular as Gordon Brown’'s microphone technician, coming from them. Oh, and in the next five years your local Tesco Metro will be no more likely to accept the Euro as tender as it is the labour of political refugees from war-torn countries destroyed by British colonialism in the nineteenth century. Nick tried but Cameron wouldn’t budge on Europe.

Or nuclear power stations. Get used to the idea, if you want to heat your house without relying on Russian natural gas. However he did agree to a referendum on political change, which could allow the Liberal Democrats to convert their vote share into a greater number of seats in parliament, or it could be the sticking point in the marriage with the Tories. Perhaps the increased tax breaks for married couples will help them stay together for the sake of the kids.

Interview for Perfect Sound

An interview I just did for Perfect Sound fanzine:

Perfect Sound: first, how did you start getting into music?

Olly the Octopus: well when I was about 15 I decided that far from being the corny instrument that my dad played Eagles songs on, the guitar was in fact über cool and that I simply must be good at it... Although I was loathe to admit it at the time I think I thought it was going to get me girls

Magazine: Most of your songs are very political. How did you start getting into politics?

Olly the Octopus: Politics just creep up on you, you think they dont matter but they sort of do. It can be a major bore because it's all about pragmatics and keeping most of the people happy most of the time, but I've always liked to write music about the experience of being a human being on planet earth and politics is one dimension of that... Olly the Octopus started out as a side project for my ranty vaguely political stuff ( I save the love songs for my bands) and it just sort of ran away on its own trajectory, the octopus that is...

Perfect Sound: How did you come up with the name olly the octopus?

Olly the Octopus: Alliteration, pure and simple, and I have the same hair-style.

Perfect Sound: Are there any musicians you admire, not just because of their music, but for what they believe in?

Olly the Octopus:Yes, I admire people who have strong beliefs in general, it's a curious mixture of pity and admiration actually, mainly because I generally find it very difficult to hold strong beliefs and convictions myself and I sort of look down on it as naive but also secretly wish I could be as righteous as Martin Luther king or as strident as Billy Bragg... trouble is I'm too much of a piss ant, but I think that makes me good at seeing the bigger picture and calling things as they are from a twisted morbidly detatched view point that people seem to find amusing

Perfect Sound: You released a single last Christmas in aid of the Palestinians. How does not just your music, but music in general, help support causes like these?

Olly the Octopus: Well look at all the Free Tibet benefits, Live 8, Kosovo compilations, some great things have been achieved raising the profile of some tough humanitarian struggles. Have they changed the world? well we still have nuclear weapons, war and famine so perhaps not. But I think it's important to try, if you make clothes you send a dress, if your a musician, you do a charity single... Bono pisses me off though

Perfect Sound: With the general election coming up, do you think music can play some part in the upcoming election?

Olly the Octopus: I'm planning a mass hypnosis song on channel 4 for election day, i'll brainwash the nation into voting green

Perfect Sound: Can you please tell me about the Boris Johnson moment? What made you decide to sing right in the middle of one of his speeches?

Olly the Octopus: Well he decided to cut loads of public transport spending that day... and I always thought he was a poor candidate. I love him, I'd love to have him over for dinner, he's funny, but Ken was the hero of the town, and Boris just sort of rode a wave of charming Bush-esque gaffs into power. I wouldn't have Ken for dinner though, he'd bore the hell out of me and Boris as we played drinking games

Perfect Sound:Finally, what’s the future for Olly the Octopus?

Olly the Octopus:well, that would be telling... I rely on the element of surprise!

Monday, 22 March 2010

in the PRS Magasine

I made an appearance in the PRS music magazine this week, in the letters section, which will have increased my fame 0.0001% amongst PRS members.

It was a response to Paul Morley's article on the death of the Protest song... they sort of miss quoted me though:

much better would have been:

I was unable to keep myself from grunting and cheering with a mixture of empathy and indignation. I have a 'politically satirical' (my spin on the term 'protest singer') alter-ego called Olly the Octopus. I don't think protest dead its just been rebranded with a less worthy moniker...

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Poor Old Gordon Brown

Allegations of bullying at No. 10 Downing St, a seemingly un-winnable general election approaching, recession, and Labour back-benchers circling like vultures, it all spells a sorry time for poor old Gordon Brown.

thanks to The Stranglers for the tune!