Friday 11 November 2016

Why do I like the Drive-By Truckers?

Or more accurately, why do we like the Drive-By Truckers?

In the days following the US elections, I listen to the latest album by Alabama band Drive-By Truckers, entitled American Band. The album is a snapshot of the increasingly polarised US of the past year. Songs about race, riots, high school shootings and politics. It’s a call to arms that lost the band a great deal of their followers. 

But this isn’t about American Band, its about how a group of seven lads on the Northern Irish border got into this band in a really, really big way.

It started in 2003 when one of my friends shoplifted Decoration Day from Virgin Megastores in Derry because he liked the cover. I guess I have Wes Freed’s incredible album artwork to thank for kickstarting me into this band. We were seven teenagers from about 14-18 and into art, literature and music. I’d say we were fairly atypical for kids that grew up in a small rural village. We sat around in the garage after band practice and listened to Decoration Day. I recall my first impressions as being a little kooky, a little heavy and a little country. The opening song, about incest in the deep south, begins a cappella until the rest of the band are introduced, building up to a glorious chord progression complete with pedal steel guitar and upright bass. The closest band I could think of at the time was the Eels.

Decoration Day went back in the CD collection and somewhere along the line someone got Souther Rock Opera and The Dirty South. It was at this time I got into the band in a serious way.

Decoration Day’s title track is a tale of deep-seated petty intergenerational family rivalry certainly strikes a chord. The narrator (Jason Isbell) has a decidedly removed delivery from the deeds and motives of his hated and ultimately understood father. Without trying to go too deep there are themes that resonate with the political system and religious rivalries Northern Ireland is infamous for. Of course, I didn’t realise this at the time. 

Isbell doesn’t even divulge what motivated his father and instigated the historic rivalry, but focuses more on the short vignetted brutality and emotional dissonance caused. To us, the Catholic/Protestant divide was certainly visible but it didn’t matter as we were a mixed group of friends. I identified with the singer’s take on the story and his vitriol to the historic feuding in the song.

I’ve always said that the DBTs write songs that have dumb music and clever lyrics, and I don’t mean this in a bad way. In 2003 I was in a garage band trying to play songs by Neil Young, The Who, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. We chugged along trying to land the musical acrobatics before dawning on the realisation that we could just chug along ourselves and it sounded pretty good. It was at this time I really got into primal fuzzy garage riffing typified by Ronnie and Neil from Souther Rock Opera. Again, a simple Sabbath/Young esque chordal descent creates the luscious audio carpet for a tale of southern racism via music, name dropping Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin, culminating in a battle cry tale of Ronnie Van Zant and Neil Young, complete with three guitar harmony. Wow!

Putting People on the Moon, from The Dirty South, could have been written about any town that experienced hardship. Our own village was famous in the Irish linen days, and many of our families worked in the local mill. The mill was shut down about the time of that album due to production going to Africa (and leading to the company folding). The feeling of angry acceptance captured in this song could be felt throughout the village for years.

It’s difficult to say why a random and still largely unknown oddball American band became the favourite band of a small group of teenagers from the rural Northern Ireland border. To this day, I’ve bought every album, spin off and DVD, and we’re all going to see them again in February.

Recently one of my friends said he was glad that, out of all the music we listened to as teenagers, this was the band that stuck. I’ve got to agree.

Friday 23 September 2016


I've occasionally dabbled in game development, having a handful of projects, some completed and some not so completed. I really enjoy the process of making, coding, artwork and music.

Although this is not a development blog, I'd like to include a few details of a game and talk through my choices. The game is a modern take on 90's computer platformers, with inspiration from shareware titles and characters of the era. Computer platform games often lacked the sheen of their console counterparts, but they had an endearing clunkiness and idiosyncratic charm of their own. This has generally been overlooked, with modern indie games typically paying homage to more popular NES, SNES and Sega titles.

Although this will probably a widely unpopular decision, I've tried to capture the stiffness and primitiveness of the system in my game. Being bluntly honest, the 'retro' style for indie games has been done to death. I couldn't see myself making this game with any other way, as the graphic style and control style were essential to the core themes of the game.

Without going into too much detail (for now) the game was inspired by Duke Nukem Forever and the movie 'The Wrestler'.

I enjoyed Duke Nukem Forever (played it to the end) but it wasn't the Duke game that I wanted.

I wanted to explore the idea of a 1990 video game mascot, trying to make it in a 2016 game. The main character is old and withered beyond his days. No longer the macho man world-saver, years of hard living, steroids and substances have taken their toll. There hasn't been an alien invasion in 15 years and he is trying to find his place in a society where his heroics are largely forgotten. There are parallels here to The Wrestler but also generally film, sport and music personalities. It's a little bit about celebrity culture with a knowing wink.

I'd like to share some graphics from the game: two things I worked on yesterday. One is the scores: when you collect an item you get either 100, 500 and 1000 points.

The scores get incrementally taller. The other is a gun pickup, which gives you 10 ammo. 

I settled on the blue gun, rather than have it realistic and grey. Also, there is a lot of grey in the background tiles and I'd like the item to stand out as such. The blue is a colour associated with the main character too. I wanted to have shooting (aliens) in the game to be something of a secondary task, with actual platforming and puzzle solving the main thing. There will be some ammo throughout but not much, and as the main character is now old, his aim will be somewhat wonky. Designing a gun for a game also reminded me of the recent issues with the gun emoji (pistol, raygun, water pistol, etc, depending on your OS) with some being interpreted differently and the backlash from gun people.

Here is my colour palette, taken straight from Deluxe Paint (my tool of choice as a youth). I mentioned briefly before about my hate for pixel games. Most of this comes from pixel art that is not true to source. Scaling pixels, too many frames of animation, colours, shaders, screen size, etc. I wanted to get this right, even down to the basic 32 colours. Also, it's great to be limited some times, it can be both a motivator and inspiration.

Monday 20 June 2016


In light of the recent Artist of the Month article on I have updated my website to include two press interviews.

You can find the details here:

Tuesday 12 April 2016



I've updated my website & axis with details from my latest project, Postcards from Ankara. It's been really great to work with digital/ceramicist Sarah Younan again.

The exhibition entitled A Space to call my Own is in CerModern in Ankara, Turkey, and opens on the 14th of April 2016.

Here are a few images I will be displaying:

Friday 8 April 2016



A few screenshots from a new project. This is following along the lines of Postcards from Mexico, working again with Sarah Younan.

The project is for an exhibition in CerModern in Ankara.

More details soon...

Sunday 27 March 2016

Breath of Nature Exhibition

I will be exhibiting at the group show 'Breath of Nature' in Boundary Art in Cardiff Bay.

The show runs from the 27th of March until the 1st of May. I will be showing two pieces from my recent Webcam en plein air series. More information as follows:

Breath of Nature
Anniversary Exhibition of Boundary Art
27th March 2016 – 1st May 2016.

3 Sovereign Quay, Havannah Street, Cardiff Bay, Cardiff, UK. CF10 5SF.

BOUNDARY ART opened in Cardiff Bay in March 2015 .
We are now celebrating our first anniversary.

BREATH OF NATURE Exhibition explores different forms and mediums that artists use to express what they see and what they feel when as one with nature. We are constantly searching for new forms of expression and attach value to freedom of action and innate or natural ingenuity. To paint from within yourself from the artists inner nature is what we endeavour to bring to you with this exhibition of works by artists  both nationally known and internationally acclaimed.

Hilary Barry // David Bellamy
Ping Gang Cheng // Andrew Crane
Matthew Evans // Andrew Hardwick
Julie Lawrence // Sue Knight
Kerri Pratt  // Jason Rouse // Paul Wearing

Wednesday 10 February 2016

Half-Life: Crate Edition

German artist Aram Bartholl describes the role of the crate in first person shooters as ’a generic, duplicatable and locationless object.’ Indeed, it is a common trait of modern gaming to lazily use such generic objects to fill space, create obstacles and provide cover from opposing forces. 

Half-Life: Crate edition pokes fun at the status quo and offers a light-hearted revamp of one of the genre’s most beloved examples. Almost all of the textures in the 1998 classic have been replaced with various low resolution crate textures. The result is both humorous and disorientating.

Half-Life: Crate Edition is currently available to download on Mod DB

Monday 8 February 2016



Some test shots from a new project I've been working on. A modification for the seminal 3D shooter Half-Life where every texture has been replaced with a crate. More details to follow...