Noise Intercepted Collaborators

Damon Fairclough - Writer


Liverpool, UK

Why do I want to participate?

I already love the sound of concrete, drizzle and bus stops. It would be nice to discover whether any other sounds require my attention too.

Twitter: @noiseheatpower



Casting key strokes: a writer attempts to make some noiseNoise Challenge #10: The End

This is it: my final submission to the Noise Intercepted project.

This week’s challenge was something of a call to arms: “go out there and raise hell!” was the command, although it wasn’t expressed in quite those terms. These are the precise words they used:

“To ceremoniously close this four-month long noise project, we’re challenging you to let go of your inhibitions and make some noise. Follow these instructions: pick a public place, any place. When the time is right, take the opportunity to make some noise. You can scream at the top of your lungs; make a public installation; start an impromptu performance. You can do whatever you want to do, but do it with conviction. Make a lasting impression. Make it count. Make it worthwhile. You have one week to make some NOISE of your own.”

And here is my result – twenty minutes of clatter and chat documenting a Sunday morning spent typing in a park. With an actual typewriter you understand, from the old days. One that makes a hell of a racket every time you press a key.

As I said, it’s twenty minutes long, so maybe it’s only for the hardcore. But it features an extended riff on the keyboard’s lack of exclamation mark, along with an exciting dog incident.

So put down your touch screens and your tablets; hold fast your gestures and your swipes. It’s time to get physical with an inky ribbon and some purple-tinged, punched-out prose…

We are hardcore: listening to the music, myth and magic of SheffieldNoise Challenge #9: The Free For All

Having begun the Noise Intercepted project back in March with a piece inspired by my current home city of Liverpool, this week’s brief gave me a chance to redress the balance and pay homage to the city in which I grew up. Having been challenged to create whatever I wanted – with the proviso that it must be “inspired by the sounds of my city” – I’ve decided that now is the time to engage with Sheffield’s primal noise.

Please note: this is primarily a spoken word piece, but it also contains certain sound elements recorded on a mobile phone, under cover of darkness, at The Big Melt, Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, June 12th 2013.

I’ll also add that the photograph on this page was taken while on a walk round the Kelham Island area of Sheffield in September 1985. At the time, I feared I could hear the gasp of a consumptive city desperately trying to catch its breath, and I worried that the deepest silence of all might soon fall.

Fortunately though, it was no death rattle. So put your ear to the ground and listen…

The voice in D32: a self-portrait captured at the Crucible Theatre, SheffieldNoise Challenge #8: The Portrait

How do you create a portrait of someone who’s always hanging about at the back, round the side, in the shadows? That was the question I asked myself this week, having been challenged to make a self-portrait in sound, a representation of my very audio essence.

My solution was to go to the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, a place where my voice has been part of the crowd for over 40 years, on and off. I cast my recording net into the air and scooped up some hubbub, and the result is a short spoken word piece with added foyer ambience that makes as convincing a self-portrait as I’ve ever heard.

(And should you wish to know more about the Crucible Theatre – including its early history and my relationship with it – you could always pop over to my article, An Argument in Concrete…)

To the floor: a rhyme for a kick drum at 120 BPMNoise Challenge #7: The Cues

Boom boom boom boom…

A simple 4/4 kick. It’s probably my desert island drum beat – the percussion pattern I’d choose above all others to deliver the backbeat to my castaway nights.

How galling it must be for drummers the world over to know that despite their best efforts, all it takes for me to twitch involuntarily and begin searching for the nearest dancefloor is the rigid pounding of a big bad kick drum. And actually, it’s even better if it comes out of a machine – untouched by human hands.

A relentless four-square rhythm – whenever it comes, wherever it occurs – is an instruction to dance; it’s my cue to move. So in honour of that unimaginative stomp, I’ve written a strictly-syllabled poem and attempted to chant it over a regimented, ceaseless thump.

I’ll be honest: 120 beats per minute, with two syllables per drum beat, proved rather difficult to deliver, and this turned out to be my trickiest recording yet in this Noise Intercepted series. In case the words get lost a little in my desperate attempt to keep up with the beat, I’ll reproduce the poem below – though bear in mind it was written with performance in mind.

Anyway. I had a go, and here it is. All I can say is that I did my best with the time and rudimentary tools available.

So… can I kick it?

Have a listen and see.


To the floor

Can you hear this heartbeat calling?
Anthem of a grooving nation
Ventricles contracting, pumping
Stutter-free, no palpitation

Doesn’t matter when I hear them
Any time from dusk till morning
Four four beats unleash their power
Get me moving without warning

Nodding head and random twitches
Natural, like a flower blooming
Hectic dancing springs unbidden
From that deep synthetic booming

808 and 909, the
Numbers of this beastly hardware
Powering my android heart and
Catatonic thousand yard stare

Festival or bar or nightclub
Stuck at home or out there roaming
When it comes I’m Pavlov’s canine
Lapping up that metronoming

One response is all I have to
Thudding, looping repetition
It’s my summons to the dancefloor
Sentenced to my locked-in mission

Breakbeats, I can take or leave them
‘Amen’ or the ‘Funky Drummer’
All I want’s a marching rhythm
Autumn, winter, spring or summer

Lights, some friends, a room, a feeling
Drums mixed like a magic potion
Just enough to move a crowd and
Conjure up this endless motion…

A word from myself: the promise of an excavated eavesdropFeatured&Noise Challenge #6: The Eavesdropper

If only I could eavesdrop.

I would if I could, but I’m afraid my unceasing self-absorption means that this week – the week in which we were challenged to dip in and out of other people’s chatter – I failed to listen in to anyone but myself. Or more accurately, I attempted to eavesdrop on my own solitary, one-way conversations, but as you’ll hear if you click on the sound file, it turned out to be harder than you’d think.

At least, until I found an old audio cassette, whose secret monologues were last unleashed in 1982…

The sweetest nothing: a night whisper for my sonFeatured&Noise Challenge #5: The Senses

A doorway to darkness

Having sifted through the hazy layers of everyday noise as requested, I plucked out something very particular – the sound of my son as he sleeps. I have often used this sound as a meditative tool of sorts – a kind of relaxing hypnosis at the end of a stressful day. But this time I went further and swallowed the sound whole.

The result is this night whisper – two and a half minutes of spoken word with breathing.

Sleep well…


My son sleeps; and in his sleep he breathes. And I sit outside his dreams, listening in.

Perched on the edge of his night time world, I try and hear the secrets behind those rapid eyes – but he keeps it all hidden; for him to know, for me never to find out.

So instead, I gulp at the sound of each breath he takes and I swallow it down. And I taste it – not the air itself, but the resonance, the vibration, the hiss and the whistle, and it fills my belly and it wraps my heart – a candy floss tangle of wonder, and innocence, and love.

But as I consume this late-night dessert – crouching in the dark, the illumination from the landing falling across my face like the light from an opened fridge – I feel the guilt of the kitchen thief, stealing biscuits from someone else’s tin.

And the sweet taste grows bitter. And I sense his worries, his loneliness, his fear.

There is no release in a stolen dream.

So I take one final mouthful of the sound that he makes.

And then I pretend it will always taste good.

Heavy rotation: in which I use the power of pop music to send Margaret Thatcher spinning to her graveFeatured&Noise Challenge #4: The Soundtrack

'The Day Margaret Thatcher Dies' by Pete Wylie

On April 17th 2013, I listened to one song and one song only. I listened to it relentlessly, over and over again. Under normal circumstances this would have been simply eccentric behaviour, but on this day, it was an act of defiance. Canute-like, maybe; but necessary, nevertheless.

Because April 17th was the day of Margaret Thatcher’s funeral.

And the piece I listened to was Pete Wylie’s ‘The Day Margaret Thatcher Dies’ – that’s Margaret Thatcher, British Prime Minister from 1979 until 1990, and certainly the most divisive leader this country has had in a long time.

This act of inhumanity in the face of death brought a lot of raw emotions to the surface. The result is this poem – or rhyming rant – written for performance, not for the page.

Alas, I don’t have a studio or fancy microphones, which is why it sounds a little as though it was recorded in a biscuit tin. And be warned that some listeners may find this piece distasteful and offensive. And others, particularly those overseas, will probably just find it inexplicable.

But anyway; enough. For a final few words, let’s turn to the woman herself: “Where there is despair, may we bring hope.”

Hmm. Now press ‘PLAY’…

Surplus to requirements: the curious case of Sefton Park MeadowsNoise Challenge #3: The Empty

Sefton Park Meadows, Liverpool

In the week that we were challenged to consider the creative possibilities of the void, I discovered that a wedge of empty  land close to where I live – adjacent to a park and suburban housing – has been earmarked for disposal by our local council. It lies outside the park boundary and is therefore not a park; it’s pleasant and green, and therefore no one would consider it wasteland. It seems to fit no statutory definition and can thus be got rid of in return for hard cash; it’s empty after all – of no use, no benefit.

Of course there are protests, one of which features in my submission. The result is a sound piece that combines spoken word and location recording into 3’40″ of  inexpertly edited contemplation.




It begins with a jerk, it ends with a sighFeatured&Noise Challenge #2: The Little Things

Anchor Old Foghorn with glass and bottle cap

As they said in Highlander, “There can be only one.” What they meant was, “There can be only one final beer on a Sunday evening,” and they were right. Consequently, the sacred yanking at the weekend’s ultimate bottle-top is the tiny sound on which I’ve fixated, generating three minutes of spoken word melancholia which includes the phrase, “the yeasty gust of freedom’s final fermented breath”.

You heard it here first folks.

Repeat to fade: a sound sketch for Liverpool and the Mersey FerryNoise Challenge #1: The Pulse

A ticket for the Mersey Ferry from Liverpool to Birkenhead and back again, Sunday March 10th 2013.

A lo-fi sound sketch with integrated poem, recorded on nothing fancier than a mobile phone.

This sound piece will account for eight minutes of your life.

For those money-rich, time-poor individuals for whom eight minutes represents a significant investment, the poem itself has been sifted out for your enjoyment below. Warning: contains gratuitous Liverpool references. Lots of them.


Repeat to fade: a journey on the Liverpool-Birkenhead ferry
Sunday March 10th, 2013


It comes; it goes
It ebbs; it flows

The ferry service on the River Mersey can be traced back at least as far as 1150 AD

Before the pool of life, the seven streets
Before Harry Cross or the Merseybeats

Before Cunard or the White Star line
Before Titanic’s borrowed time

Before Canning, Salthouse, Albert docks
Before heavy bells and giant clocks

Before the Cavern, Eric’s, Cream
Before Mathew Street or Carl Jung’s dream

Before John or Paul or George or Ringo
Before Paddy’s Wigwam or Mecca bingo

Before Atlantic liners New York bound
Before Ginsberg’s visit or the Mersey Sound

Before Everyman, Playhouse, Royal Court
Before the Reds and Blues first fought

Before the Philharmonic first tuned up
Before Liverpool’s fifth European Cup

Before Meccano sets or Hornby trains
Before building sites and tower cranes

Before Henri, Patten or McGough
Before ‘Love Love Me Do’ took off

Before eh, calm down or come ‘ed lad
Before Jimmy Corkhill’s heart turned bad

Before Lime Street trams, St. George’s Hall
Before Dixie Dean first kicked a ball

Before Bleasdale’s Black Stuff, Russell’s Rita
Before Billy Fury or Wylie (Peter)

Before Huskisson, George Henry Lee
Before chopped red cabbage and scouse for tea

Before Toxteth, Dingle or Fazackerly
Before Man United – who? – exackerly!

Before Jimmy McGovern picked up his pen
Before Echo… or his Bunnymen

Before Aintree race course or Red Rum
Before Dickie Lewis exposed his bum

Before William Gladstone, Herbert Rowse
Before “We’re not English, we are scouse”

Before divvy meant daft, or sound meant good
Before Frankie went to Hollywood

Before urban renewal Tate Gallery-style
Before the sugar silo at Tate and Lyle

Before Stanley, Sefton, Princes parks
Before the city council that worshipped Marx

Before the Liver Birds or pier head
Before Z Cars or the Boswells’ Bread

Before Deaf School, Teardrops, Big in Japan
Before seacats sailing for the Isle of Man

Before the Ship & Mitre, the Smithdown Ten
Before Yates’s Wine Lodge then sick… again

Before railways, ring roads, flights from Speke
Before bizzies, smack heads, lads on beak

Before I arrived or my kids were born
Before Trimm Trab, Samba or Gazelles were worn

Before gangplanks, bridges, tunnels or train
The Mersey throbbed like blood through vein

Before Liverpool city or Birkenhead town
This river flowed seawards, all silted and brown

Before accent or Echo, or that Pacemaker, Gerry

This body of water, and on it, the ferry.