Who Transports The Ferryman?


So if you’re a regular reader of the Cannonball Statman blog, you may have picked up on the fact that – despite this being the official Cannonball Statman blog that’s ideally intended to be all about Cannonball Statman and his music – the person who actually writes this blog is not Cannonball Statman, but rather his friend, fan, and former publicist Kléo Michel-Valentin SPARK.

And as much as I hate to write about myself of all people, I’ve unfortunately been persuaded by Cannonball to tell you a story about myself that would clear things up as to why I stopped being his publicist, and why I’m still the one running his blog.

So this is a longer post than you might be used to seeing here: I’ll open it up with this story, and then further down, I’ll tell you all about the Romantic Punk Tour that Cannonball and France de Griessen did earlier this spring, and provide some updates as to what Cannonball’s up to in the weeks and years to come, including his upcoming performance in Nottingham with his fellow New York antifolk alumnus Adam Rivera.

Table of Contents

Chapter One (why I quit my job)

or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying About The Music Industry And Love Never Being Anyone’s Publicist Ever Again

One afternoon not yet too deep into the unbearable summer of 2023, when Cannonball Statman and I were both still living in London and working far too many hours a day on the publicity campaign for his album Hard to Break, we were putting together notes about the various angles we would use to present the album to the public.

Cannonball’s involvement with the NYC antifolk scene was an angle to pursue as he’s absolutely beloved there and he’s been good friends with a number of people in that scene for ages; even though his music sounds nothing like anything that’s ever come from that scene, he always insisted on making it part of the promotional materials, as it’s part of the story of how he became who he is.

This little-known multigenerational NYC arts movement called antifolk is how Cannonball Statman went from being a shy teenager making lo-fi music and avant-garde short films in his bedroom to being a world-travelling professional musician and an intense, evocative, even what some would call “extroverted” performer in his 20s. So we couldn’t leave that out.

The LGBTQ+ theme was another angle to include, as Cannonball is about as queer as it gets; certain songs on the album (I’m specifically referring to “Helsinki, 1993”) are essentially surrealist gay erotica set to music.

We actually put a lot of time into the LGBTQ+ angle this time as it’s an aspect of Cannonball’s work that doesn’t get much airtime; despite writing any number of songs about queer experiences over the years (“I’m Gonna Explode!”, “Hummingcone Hotel”, and “Pennsylvania” come to mind, and there are numerous others) and having a predominantly queer fanbase and collaborating with what appears to be a vast criminal network of dangerously talented fellow queer artists, he’s never performed at a Pride event or been covered in news outlets that specifically cater to the queer community or anything along those lines.

And indeed, despite my best efforts, no one was interested in covering this angle; but who needs the establishment’s approval when you’re already an underground queer icon?

Mental patients’ rights were a big theme of course, as Cannonball is a survivor of psychiatric abuse, and this was referenced in songs throughout the album, including “Sparks!”, “Hard to Break”, and “Grow”. We did end up sending the press release to publications that specifically cover those issues, and yet again, there was little interest.

In a strange turn of events, however, the widely read commuter newspaper amNewYork did a feature on Cannonball that mentioned his experiences of psychiatric abuse, since we’d included it in the press release for the album – which is not a topic you’d see covered in just about any American publication these days, in part because pharmaceutical companies buy so many ads in those publications so it’s more than a bit of a liability to mention this kind of thing (there was even an ad for penile implants printed on the same page as the amNewYork feature on Cannonball!)

amNewYork‘s 2023 feature on Cannonball Statman. Photo of Cannonball by Kenny Brown.

So – back to that day in the summer of 2023.

***

While Cannonball and I were still planning out all these different angles for this whole press release, I asked him:

“So are you going to say something about Palestine with this one?”

And this caught him off guard.

Not because of Palestine itself, as Cannonball has long been an advocate for Palestinian rights and liberation; he’s no stranger to the cause and has written songs about it himself.

No; this caught Cannonball off guard because I was his publicist.

***

While the music industry saw any number of incredibly successful artists engaging with the Civil Rights Movement and the protests against the Vietnam War, along with countless other struggles such as in the 1980s with the Artists United Against Apartheid supergroup that fought against apartheid in South Africa, we, much like all other industries often grouped together under the broader umbrella of the “entertainment” industry, have been notoriously silent and impotent when it comes to Palestine, and about West Asian issues in general, except to create and spread racist propaganda about people who live there and are from there, as can be seen in the endless selection of “classic” Hollywood movies that promote horrible tropes about Arabs.

Which is all quite dangerous when you think of, for example, the normalisation of extreme violence against Arab Americans, and how our industry has played a significant role in that. The blood of Wadea Al-Fayoume (the 6 year old boy who was stabbed to death by his family’s landlord in Illinois last year for being Palestinian) and so many others is entirely on our hands, just as much as it is on the hands of the more overtly racist “shock jock” style entertainers and propagandists many of us would scoff at.

This is why some people are really working overtime to stick our necks out now; we see how much harm our industry has done and how little we’ve accomplished to the contrary. The entertainment industry isn’t just incompetent at stopping this genocide today; the entertainment industry is actively, genocidally racist against Arabs.

The artists who have stuck their neck out, such as Roger Waters, Macklemore, Brian Eno, or Thurston Moore, have been met with nearly universal condemnation within and beyond the industry. Even “underground” artists such as David Rovics and JD Meatyard have been the targets of smear campaigns, gig cancellations, and even death threats, simply for writing songs about Palestine.

***

So understandably, this caught Cannonball off guard – why would I, as Cannonball’s publicist, want him to mention Palestine in a press release?

And that was the moment Cannonball and I both simultaneously realised I’m not cut out for the “music industry” as it were.

Which is why I no longer work as a “publicist” in any recognizable sense.

***

See, my reasoning for becoming a publicist in the first place was that I was genuinely interested in doing what it says in the job description: helping people convey their story to the public; helping people make it as clear as possible to as many people as possible what they’re about and what their project is about.

Cannonball’s reason for becoming a musician was similar: to tell his story to the world; to inspire thought, feeling, and action, and to create space for collective healing and transformation in the dystopic, traumatised landscape of post-9/11 NYC he grew up in, which was full of a lot of the same racist hate and paranoia that we’re seeing such a resurgence of in the post-10/7 world.

And there’s nothing wrong with Cannonball Statman being a musician in the way he is. It seems, bizarrely, that only good can come from this approach he’s laid out and followed through with over his now 20+ year career.

But we had to realise there’s a lot that was wrong with me being a “publicist” in the way I was.

***

Now this conversation took place in the summer prior to the events of the 7th of October, 2023.

But these events were already anticipated by just about anyone paying attention; 2023 had already been an unusually deadly year for Palestinian children (murdered by Israel), and there were open calls in the Knesset (Israeli parliament) for an escalation in the genocidal violence against Palestinians. International organisations were already on alert for this.

All the signs were already there. It wasn’t a matter of if, but when.

***

So we knew the world was soon to change in an absolutely horrible way.

And our mindset about it was, and still is, that “there’s something kind of vile for any person of conscience to be thinking about Palestine from within the framework of a publicity campaign”, as in trying to make a profit unless all profit goes directly to Palestinians. But “there’s something profoundly beautiful about sincerely expressing and standing in solidarity with the Palestinian people in their fight for freedom.”

All this could be said about a lot in life. And especially about Palestine.

“Kléo, you don’t want to be a publicist. You want to help people tell their stories.”

And that was that.

That day, we came to two conclusions on the matter:

1) no matter how it affected his career in any conventional sense, Cannonball had every right to speak up for Palestinian rights and liberation, and it could only be a good thing when he did.

and

2) the “music industry,” as it were, has no right to my labour as anyone’s “publicist” for any reason, ever. (Which could indeed simply be a polite way of informing me that I’m just not very good at being a publicist.)

Chapter Two (why dezionisation is so important to young American artists)

“We Have Always Been At War!”

By March 2024, Cannonball Statman had long left London; not “tired of life” as the saying goes, but rather incredibly happy to be alive anywhere in the world that wasn’t the miserable, hateful capitalist dystopia of London that I unfortunately remain cursed to live in. Cannonball seems to have had a better time in this horrible city than I have, however, as he’s made some friends who unfortunately also live here and are always convincing him to come back for one reason or another, usually to play a gig.

He released his 31st album Hard to Break in October 2023, about 2 weeks after the Israeli government openly declared their full and total war on Palestinian existence, which any critical observer would point out was not that much of a departure from what the Israelis had already been doing for at least as long as the Israeli state had existed.

It was in this climate that Cannonball went on a wildly successful 7 week European tour for the album, with performances in 9 different countries, sharing stages with friends new and old, from all over Europe and all over the world. Unsurprisingly, it seemed at least every other conversation he had with anyone, anywhere, was about Palestine.

Poster for the main English leg of the autumn 2023 tour by Cannonball Statman
Poster for the main European leg of the autumn 2023 tour by Matt Dallow

And it made him happy to see so many people becoming more aware of what’s going on there and supporting the Palestinian cause. But it was also disturbing for him, like so many others, to see how little he or anyone around him was able to do to help end the genocide – “knowledge is one thing, but how to then translate that knowledge into the necessary changes on the ground?”

He continued: “And how to stop this all from escalating into a full-on world war? Especially when it appears to be that our ruling class and our political and military leaders would all rather die in battle or in bed than in prison, and they’ll drag us all into another world war to avoid being brought to justice for their horrendous violations of international law.”

***

This was also the first tour where he performed the “We Have Always Been At War” version of his song “Ghosts!” which ends with a long list of everyone and everything the American Empire has declared war on over the course of its existence, including Vietnam, the Philippines, Iraq, the Virgin Mary, the working class, the human heart, the human mind, the listener, and of course, Palestine.

And like so many others, he signed any number of open letters and petitions and made any number of social media posts in solidarity with Palestinians. And all of this has had almost exactly the effects you might expect: the genocide continued to escalate in spite of anyone’s efforts, as we all know by now.

And anyone who’d somehow been deluded enough to expect an explicitly antifascist artist, who’d already been quite clear where he stands on all this, to somehow be a “nice Jewish person who supports genocide” until seeing his recent posts, cut ties with him immediately (and their presences were not missed) – and the vast majority of people in his life were somewhat pleased but relatively uninterested in these statements, because they already knew Cannonball’s stance on the issue and were largely in agreement with him.

***

Maybe less expected in all this, however, was the fact that there were people who became more engaged with Cannonball and his work who hadn’t previously known about it or paid as much attention to it, because this was a new side of him that they weren’t aware of, and it told something of his story as an artist that no one had really known before:

Dezionisation is, and always has been, an integral aspect of Cannonball Statman’s music.

This is someone whose grandpa, the poet Kenneth Koch, immediately condemned the Islamophobia of post-9/11 NYC as “anti-Semitism by any other name.” Cannonball began making music shortly after that, as an outlet not only for self-expression, but for healing, and to create space for collective healing.

“And not the post-WW2 West’s bizarro version of “collective healing” that every mental health professional in the USA seemed to think was perfectly acceptable and desirable at the time, this bizarro “collective healing” through using the attacks on the World Trade Center as an excuse to ramp up genocidal violence against the Global South and the internal colonies.”

No; Cannonball, like so many artists of his generation, sought to make space for “something real, something deeper and bolder and more powerfully transformative. Actually healing our collective trauma at the root. Internally deprogramming and dezionising our own hearts and minds as we work together to dismantle all the societal structures of oppression including Zionism and all forms of colonisation. Fighting back against fascism by any means necessary. Profoundly restructuring our society. And holding our own war criminals accountable for their crimes, be these war criminals in the Oval Office, or on Wall Street, or filming a TV news segment in a sound studio somewhere, or writing wartime propaganda disguised as Op-Eds for a respected newspaper, or performing horrible racist songs on stage.”

***

So Cannonball’s statements on dezionisation have put a lot of things into perspective for some people; that’s why he does what he does.

This is someone who’s written and performed countless songs opening up about his struggles with suicidality – and here he is stating that “the main reason I was suicidal as a kid and teenager is because I had really read the writing on the wall about how all of this was soon to come crashing down – but through being engaged with the world around me as I was, I’d also deeply internalized the suicidal narrative of Zionism – that as a Jew, there was no place for me in the world once the Israeli state, a state I’d never been to and had no positive feelings about in the first place, ceased to exist.”

He continued: “And like a lot of Americans of my generation, I took on all this survivor’s guilt – the guilt and shame of how we watched our government murder 1 million human beings with our illegal war in Iraq, and we were powerless to stop it – our country was so poised to die on this hill of apocalyptic Christian fascism that we passed a law in 2002, the American Service-Member’s Protection Act, basically that we would declare war on the Netherlands if the International Criminal Court tried to bring Americans or our allies to justice for our crimes – which is something some people in our government are threatening to do now actually, since the ICC is preparing arrest warrants for the Israelis – but even when I was a kid, you know, the world knew about this kind of thing and people were just looking at us like, what the fuck are you doing?”

He added a personal anecdote from his teenage years: “I remember I went to summer camp once, maybe in 2007, and the people working there were mostly these kinds of bro-y, athletic young guys from the UK and Australia, not even remotely “left-wing” or interested in politics or anything like this – but they were very aware of things like that law that had been passed in 2002 and how the US government was evading justice for its war crimes – so these guys spent the whole summer basically roasting us for how horrible our government is – and we were like, we’re teenagers, our government doesn’t listen to us – which they understood, of course – it was all essentially “in good fun”. But looking back now, these guys would’ve all been fired from the camp for supposed “anti-Semitism” if that happened today.”

an excerpt from Cannonball’s recent “thinkstagram” post on what it looks like when we truly “humanise both sides”.

He then concluded: “And remember, the US is also a Zionist country in the sense of this land being a Promised Land for these bizarre Christian “End Times” people – this has always been integral to the national identity in the USA, it’s in every aspect of our culture – so even though I’m Jewish, my dezionisation is actually even more about aligning with decolonisation in the Americas and undoing the bizarre Christian Zionist mythology than it is about confronting the Jewish aspect of it that has been fueling the ongoing genocide against Palestinians. And all of this is as psychological, emotional, and spiritual as it is to do with geopolitics, law, and morality. So over the years, through my music, I was able to overcome this whole absurd Zionist narrative within myself, and I healed from the trauma that I sustained growing up in that environment of New York at the time – and now it’s been years since I had a single thought of killing myself. When people tell me and other artists that we saved their lives with our music, I totally understand where they’re coming from, because my music saved my life, too.”

Now it all makes sense why he sings that way.

***

As his former publicist, I think he’s doing a fine job.

Touring remains his main source of income, in addition to these albums he records and releases and attempts to hire me as a “publicist” for yet again, despite being the one who was in the room with me the moment I realised I’m completely unqualified to be a music publicist.

And on my side of things?

Nothing much has changed.

I still live in London.

I still work in the music industry, but as far from anything resembling PR as anyone can imagine. And I quite like it that way.

Except I still do one thing in that department:

I run Cannonball Statman’s website.

Which primarily consists of: posting on this blog.

Chapter Three (a recap of Cannonball Statman & France de Griessen’s Spring 2024 Romantic Punk Tour)

In March 2024 – seemingly several lifetimes after that time in 2023 when we spent so many hours on any given day, in the unforgiving heat of a South London summer, toiling away on the publicity campaign for Hard to Break – I got a call from Cannonball Statman.

I believe he was calling me from Salford, home of the legendary, now defunct underground label German Shepherd Records that released a number of his albums in the 2010s including 2017’s Playing Dead, a concept album about a talking cow who tries to hitchhike across the Atlantic Ocean.

We talked about a lot of things, as we do.

As anyone who’s ever worked or spent a good amount of time with Cannonball Statman will attest, none of our conversations are ever straightforward, linear, or anything remotely like what either of us thought they’d be at any given point before, during, or after the conversation.

Conversing with Cannonball Statman is not much different from listening to his songs or watching him perform on stage; except when it is, because he’s an entirely different person off stage and outside the studio.

The “songs” that come out of his mouth when he talks to you in person have even more words and are a lot less accessible than anything on his albums or in his live set, and they’re a lot more experimental and hard to digest, in my experience; which is in every way a good thing, but it’s always a bit of a workout.

“Do you know this is a bit of a workout, even for me?” I asked.

“I don’t know. Is it?”

“Yes.”

“I was wondering actually – would you be up for making the blog posts a bit longer this year? Maybe even more like reading a chapter of a book? Or like what our conversations sound like. People need to get back into long-form writing these days or it’s a dying art. Then if it dies, I’d have to memorialise it by writing a terrible song about the virtues of long-form writing – and nobody wants me to do that. Except for Jane LeCroy. But she doesn’t want the art of long-form writing to die either. Except when she does; because who doesn’t sometimes?”

Eventually we got on to the actual reason he’d called.

“So I’m going on tour with France de Griessen next week. And the way I feel about this tour is it’s the first time I’m going on a tour that’s not about me essentially being a psychopomp.”

For a university dropout, Cannonball’s vocabulary is not impressive, but infuriating; as someone who actually graduated from a university, I can hardly keep up with him myself and I’m convinced he’s just making things up half the time.

“No, a psychopomp; like the (Archangel) Azrael. Like a ferryman who transports the dead from this world to the next.”

“So this is to do with the rumour you tried to start about you murdering your fans?”

“Kind of; it’s more to do with being a Millennial on the New York music scene. There’s this old joke about the newspaper headlines and the whole moral panic about Millennials killing everything; but in reality, it’s more that we’ve played the role of the psychopomp. We don’t kill people, generally. Our role has more precisely been to see people out.”

He continued: “And people in the New York music scene had this understanding of the scene, or music itself, as something that was dying, if it wasn’t already dead; and then you had my generation of New York musicians, which was tiny compared to most generations of the New York scene, because so many Millennials couldn’t even afford to live in New York, and the ones who could were mostly not even interested in music.”

And concluded: “So the role we were collectively assigned was to guide the music scene, or even music itself, from this world of the living, to the next one. That was just the energy we came in with, and people just treated us that way. They had a lot of respect for us in that way. Because it’s still understood as a sacred role on some fundamental human level.”

I looked at the time on my phone.

Soon I had to leave, coincidentally to attend a memorial service for a dear friend.

Cannonball continued to speak.

“And now I’m going on this tour with France de Griessen and it’s the first time I feel like I’m not in that role of the ferryman anymore. I feel like I’m in a totally different role now; what me and France are doing on this tour is about bringing something new into being, and building on it. It’s really exciting.”

“OK – unfortunately I really have to go, but we’ll talk about this soon – indeed it sounds like an exciting new development in your work.”

“OK – well, have a good one! We’ll talk soon.”

***

And, as expected, a few weeks later I got a call from Cannonball Statman.

We talked about a lot of things, as we do…

***

So the tour went really well, apparently.

In addition to being quite well-received by fans and the press alike, including a glowing write-up by Remy Trouches in La Depeche that described the performance at Celtic Pub as “imbued with freedom” and “harmonious and energetic”, along with a piece by Renaud Monfourny on the Inrockuptibles photoblog that called Cannonball and France’s collaboration a “beautiful musical friendship”, this brief but highly successful tour seems to have had deeper implications for the evolution of Cannonball Statman’s work.

“You know, the thing I keep coming back to about this tour is that, on this tour – it was the first time I felt like I wasn’t in that role of the ferryman anymore – I was just telling France de Griessen about it when we were walking in the 6th arrondissement looking for this coffee shop that I think I saw in a dream, because we couldn’t find it anywhere – there had been this woman behind the counter, not much more than 4 feet tall, well past retirement age but she might as well have been born yesterday – and she looked at me and told me with all that spark of life and confidence and wisdom of someone who’d been born yesterday that she makes the best coffee in Paris. And it’s not that I believed her – but of course I believed her, because she said it with such conviction that I’m sure she makes the best coffee in Paris – and her coffee shop didn’t exist – at least not anymore.”

Cannonball Statman (right) and France de Griessen (left) in Paris, celebrating the end of a successful tour.
Romantic punk artist France de Griessen in Paris. Photo by Cannonball Statman.

He continued: “And I mentioned to France, that this is the first time I’ve done a tour where I don’t feel like the ferryman, or that my job is to see people out – but that I’m actually helping to bring something new into being – it’s the first time I finished a tour with more energy than I started with. I wonder if I also learned that from touring with Jason (Trachtenburg) last year – because he always finishes a tour with more energy than he started with. I learned a lot from touring with him, you know – mostly about organic food, but also about performing and songwriting – Jason is an unbelievably good performer, I think he’s a better performer than pretty much anyone.”

The tour was not without its challenges, however.

“It was a really violent tour; you know, in Tarbes in particular, a lot of people got the memo that this was a romantic punk tour – this is the emerging romantic punk movement – so they came dressed in romantic punk attire – France (de Griessen) is also a stylist and photographer, and she’s very visually inspiring – she styled us with flowers in our hair for this photoshoot in the Belgian Embassy in Paris with the photographer Renaud Monfourny for the Inrockuptibles photoblog – and this is a romantic punk style – so now people are coming to our gigs in their own version of that – they’re all kindred spirits – and some of them even look eerily identical to one or both of us.”

Cannonball Statman (left) and France de Griessen (right) in romantic punk attire. Photo by Renaud Monfourny.

He continued: “So there was someone in the audience who was virtually indistinguishable from France (de Griessen) – and this person was dancing at one point and accidentally punched France de Griessen right in the face! France took it really well, though, and it turned out she was fine – but then right after that, she sat in this chair, at this table where we were being interviewed by a journalist for a piece about our music – and she injured her finger on the chair – it was blue for a while and apparently it really hurt – so it was a violent tour, you know?”

Espresso drinkers in a café in Tarbes read about the tour in the local newspaper. Photo by France de Griessen.

I only later sussed out that this was once again Cannonball being tongue-in-cheek – here’s this person who grew up in Brooklyn and got his start in the NYC underground and is clearly no stranger to actual violence within and beyond the scene – but now he’s being “reborn” as an emerging romantic punk artist and this is all so new and interesting to him that it might as well have been the first tour he ever did – he’s (tongue-in-cheek) playing the part of someone who’s never actually been on tour before and sees all this as so (tongue-in-cheek) “violent” and “exciting” – in part because this is, actually, how he feels – this is a person with no recognisable concept of linear time – and he even seems to be aware of this fact about himself – which makes it all the more terrifying for me to work with him.

Chapter Four (a preview of Cannonball Statman & Adam Rivera’s upcoming performance in Nottingham)

or, more fittingly in my view: Cannonball Statman And Adam Rivera Go To Nottingham, Apparently (And So Should You!)

Cannonball Statman’s musical life seems to be moving in an incredibly positive and interesting direction; with his collaborations and tours with France de Griessen and the emerging romantic punk movement, which they’re both key players in (France de Griessen was apparently the one who coined the term “romantic punk” in the first place), he’s building something truly new, from his roots in NYC’s punk, antifolk, noise rock, performance art, and other underground cultures into something colourful, romantic, expansive, and dynamic that is even more uniquely and profoundly his own.

As a result of his New York roots, Cannonball Statman continues to be included in lists such as DJ Stephen Doyle’s Top 15 New York Bands/Artists of All Time

In addition to his blossoming new collaborations with France de Griessen and the emerging romantic punk movement more broadly, Cannonball Statman will be performing at the legendary DIY venue JT Soar in Nottingham (yes, he’s going to the fucking Midlands) on the 29th of May alongside fellow NYC antifolk alumnus Adam Rivera, an artist with whom he’s shared many stages over the years.

This is something else to be excited about for fans of Cannonball Statman (especially if you live in the Midlands) because it’s a rare reunion of two memorable New York artists on a completely different side of the ocean from where anyone would’ve ever remembered seeing them together – Adam has, surprisingly, never been to the UK – and also – who ever goes to the Midlands?

Apparently, Adam Rivera and Cannonball Statman do.

And why not?

The fucking Midlands are at least a thousand times better in every way than this nightmare I’m apparently eternally condemned to.

Have you ever even been to the Midlands? So how the fuck would you fucking know? They’re probably at least a thousand times better in every way than whatever nightmare you’re eternally condemned to as well.

Cannonball reports to me that in addition to his performances in Northampton and Stourbridge on various UK tours in the 2010s when he apparently also went to the fucking Midlands, he performed at this exact same venue in Nottingham recently on another reunion tour with fellow NYC antifolk alumna Mallory Feuer (of The Grasping Straws and Jeffrey Lewis & the Voltage), and not only was it an incredible venue, but he loves the city of Nottingham – he really enjoyed spending time with everyone at the gig, the promoter Alex Hale did a great job with the whole thing and there was a really talented local artist called Eleanor Kate who performed as well, and not only that, but Cannonball and Mallory had some delicious pizza at a takeaway shop near the venue.

Now this is a big problem for me as his (former) publicist – as I’m trying to push the whole angle of Cannonball being a New York artist and he suddenly insists that there’s such a thing called pizza in the Midlands.

New Yorkers are notorious for claiming that any pizza made outside of NYC is not only not good, but can’t even honestly be called pizza – now Cannonball says whatever they call pizza in Nottingham – is not only something that can in fact be called pizza and is not only not bad, and is not just good, but is – and it can’t be stated enough how sacrilegious this is for a Native New Yorker to say – delicious.

Hence my eternal anger at myself for ever wanting to be part of this bizarre operation otherwise known as “Being Cannonball Statman’s Publicist” – as I’m fully convinced this is a person whose main ambition in life is to infuriate every human being in this world by saying these incredibly incendiary things about any number of extremely controversial topics and my job is to have no idea what’s going on at any given point or what he even wants me to do because I kind of thought my job was to make him more likeable.

And then when I ask him a simple question such as “what should I say about Nottingham?” he comes back to me with “oh, we met a lot of good people at the gig last time we were there, good promoter, shout out to Alex Hale, we had delicious pizza right by the venue it was almost as good as New Yo—”

In fact – if you’re not already there – because from everything I’ve just been told, it’s by far the best place in the world you could possibly be – so I’d imagine a fair number of you probably already live there if you know what’s good for you – you should go to the fucking Midlands. And you should go there to see this gig.

Not just to see Adam Rivera and the “King of Modern Antifolk” Cannonball Statman, but also to see the Queen of East Midlands, SJ Newman, who will be performing that evening, along with the debut of the legendary Derby artist Tom John’s new outfit Unknown Primate.

Poster by Alex Hale.

This is objectively better than anything you could ever possibly experience in the South of England. And yes, I’m highly qualified to make such a statement with this degree of certainty and objectivity, because as I seem to mention quite frequently in these posts, I fucking live here. Please kill me. Thank you.

Tickets are now available from WeGotTickets.

***

Also a compelling live performer and guitarist with a signature “speed folk” attack, Adam Rivera has been performing on stages across the USA for over 20 years. He’s recently performed at another legendary DIY venue, Trunk Space in Phoenix (it has to be legendary if this fucking self-absorbed Londoner has heard of it), and is now gearing up for a longer tour of the US and the UK (where he’ll apparently be performing with fellow New York antifolk alumnus Cannonball Statman in a city called Nottingham in a beautiful region of England called the Midlands which I hear has some lovely people in it and I hope, if you happen to be one of those lovely people, you can come to this gig).

Adam grew up in blue collar central New York (the state, not the city!) and was a fixture in a generation of New York City’s (the city inside the state!) antifolk movement shortly before Cannonball’s generation. He remains a fixture in the live music scenes of both New York City and central New York – he’ll be performing in both areas on his upcoming tour in fact – but he’s also a fixture in Philadelphia, where he now lives.

Adam and Cannonball met when they were both performing at the New York Antifolk Festival in 2013, shortly before Cannonball’s first ever US tour, when Adam had already graduated from the New York scene and moved to Philadelphia. As a result of their chance encounter, they’ve since performed together numerous times, usually in Philadelphia (but sometimes in Nottingham, apparently).

A blast from the past! Dogs vs. Cats 2013 Tour poster by Cannonball Statman. Illustration by Mike Shoykhet.

Their most memorable performance together may have been on Cannonball’s aforementioned first US tour, the “Dogs vs. Cats Tour” with Phoebe Novak in December 2013, at an impromptu housewarming party for Cannonball’s longtime neighbour from Brooklyn, Jean “The Dream”, who’d just moved to Philadelphia after living a stone’s throw away from Cannonball since at least 5 decades prior to his birth, and graciously decided to host this now historic concert, which also included a performance from the enigmatic musician and VHS artist Miguel Morte Valentine, in her home (and was even persuaded to give an impromptu performance herself that night) after the venue that originally planned to host this event cancelled on the day due to a snow storm.

Chapter Five (“are we the baddies?”)

Needless to say, Cannonball has also been writing even more songs and what he calls “thinkstagram” posts about Palestinian rights and liberation in hopes to do what he describes as his “very small part in liberating the human heart from the clutches of Zionism and White supremacy, the American Empire, all Empire, and subjugation and injustice in all its forms.”

an excerpt from Cannonball’s “thinkstagram” series on the need to stand with Palestinian liberation and resistance.

Well – I sure hope Cannonball Statman doesn’t see this post I’m writing, as I imagine he’ll not be entirely pleased to bear witness to the numerous injustices I’ve committed against an entire region of England called the Midlands.

As much as I truly hate myself, I like the recent Cannonball Statman “thinkstagram” post that mentioned me. Where he pointed out the absurdity of how much of the music industry is so far behind the general public on this extremely important issue, how so many artists have reserved their art and their hearts for “Whites Only” – the whole thing is deeply troubling to a lot of us because we can’t help but wonder if there’s something wrong with ourselves somehow that we’re here working in this industry that seems extremely comfortable to be complicit in genocide, and so uncomfortable at the thought of doing anything to stop the genocide or to just offer a word of support to those fighting against it.

my vaguely embarrassing cameo in Cannonball’s otherwise important “thinkstagram” series about Palestine.
a good sign for humanity: the average person knows more about Palestinians than they do about Taylor Swift.
and that’s why “rock and roll is dead”; and why it should be, if it can’t get its act together.

In short, it’s been over 200 days now of seriously wondering: “Are we the baddies?

It’s possibly even more disturbing when you realise all these artists have Palestinian fans – not only do these artists who’ve decided to stay silent on Palestine or actively oppose Palestinian rights also have Palestinian fans themselves. Some of them have Palestinian friends or family – some of them work with Palestinian bandmates, tourmates, producers, or other colleagues – and every Palestinian you meet knows someone who’s been affected by the ongoing Nakba – likely people they love and care about have been killed by Israel. Yet these artists still decided they would rather see Palestinians die and not say or do anything.

“It all reminds me a bit of that famous story about M.I.A. going up to Oprah and being like, hey, I’m Tamil, my people are being genocided right now in Sri Lanka, can you help us out, and Oprah being like, yeah, whatever, not really interested. And then M.I.A. did that great song (about the Tamil genocide) called “Born Free”, with the drummer from (groundbreaking 1970s New York punk band) Suicide. They even played it on national TV, on Letterman. But still, the same shit; it raised awareness and won the war of hearts and minds, but the horrible shit didn’t stop happening.”

Chapter Six (in which Cannonball Statman gives me a new job title)

So now I seem to be tasked with writing this blog post about how Cannonball Statman is making this transformation, this journey, from being the ferryman – the one who guides people through the stages of death, the ultimate transformation and the ultimate journey – to being this much more outwardly expansive, even more high-octane, arguably unbearably mercurial artist and performer who is working with France de Griessen and any number of other collaborators to bring new musical genres into being, such as this emerging romantic punk movement.

In essence, I seem to be tasked with being “the ferryman who transports the ferryman” – since there has to be someone guiding him through this process of transformation, and knowing him, I can only imagine it would be through words.

“Kléo, I’m not sure where you got this idea because that’s not what this post is supposed to be about at all. The point is to write something for the Cannonball Statman blog about my French tour. That’s why I kept telling you about the tour. For over a month now, I’ve been asking you to write a post about it. And to write something about the gig I’m doing with Adam Rivera in Nottingham later this month.”

“Then what was all this about the ferryman?”

“You can leave that in there if you want; that’s part of what happened on the tour. This was the tour where I realised I’m not the ferryman anymore – and it was a great honour to be the ferryman in a sense, because I was a bit like the ferryman who transports the ferryman – all artists are psychopomps, it’s always an aspect of what we do – to be part of my generation, it felt like we were signed up to be the ultimate psychopomps – we were the psychopomps who were the psychopomps for the psychopomps – but it was also incredibly exhausting. And now we’re doing something completely different that’s exciting and energising. It’s the beginning of a whole new chapter.”

“Well that’s great! That’s really great actually. I think it fits in really well with what I was trying to say all along.”

“Yeah. Well that’s really cool anyway then – good work, Kléo. Thanks again for doing all this.”

And then I remembered why we’d picked the name Kléo for me for my role in this project in the first place – besides being what a friend of Cannonball’s described as “the most 8th grade ass fake username of all time”, Kléo is also the name of the Muse of History.

“It’s almost like you actually want me to be the official Cannonball Statman historian now.”

“I thought that’s why you chose the name Kléo to begin with.”

“It is. OK. I was just checking.”

“That can be your new title if you want. Since you never seem to want to be my publicist anymore, but you’re always writing these in-depth articles about me and my work, and posting them on your blog.”

He continued: “And I keep noticing this about you, which is something we have in common that people have pointed out about me – you have this tendency to elaborate on not only what I’m doing right now, but how it relates to things I’ve done in the past, and to broader historical cycles that I and the people around me have been connected to in some way. This is more the role of a historian, the way you’ve been doing this.”

“I suppose that would be the appropriate title for me at this juncture.”

“Sounds good – well, thanks, in any case.”

“I think this is going to be a very long blog post.”

“Well you can cut it short if you want. You can make it incredibly short. It’s up to you.”

“We’ll see. Anyway, nice talking to you; I have to get off the phone.”

“Sounds good – we’ll talk soon. Anyway, see you soon Kléo!”

“See you soon!”
Kléo


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