Stewart Lane Music
Composer Performer Cultural Activist
Tales From The White Frontier
Photography/artwork Ross Clifford
This album is my homage to North American culture. My initial exposure was via mainstream film and TV. From my teens a burgeoning fascination developed with the subcultures that grew up in opposition to it. The artists who knew ‘american dream’ was all fake and said so. Growing up in 1960s/70s Britain, it was impossible not to be exposed to American exports of mass culture. Predominantly music, film & TV, then art. All the while, ubiquitous advertising infiltrating everything. Through this kaleidoscope, I perceived and invented my own America of wide open spaces and vertiginous cities (which then still implied the future), Alaskan tundras and deserted prairies, landscapes of soaring scorched rock formations that looked like the fossilized cities built by ancient super beings. But the wisdom had shriveled into the scattered pockets of these stone remnants. Modern humans seemed only capable of blundering about in the fecal chaos of commercialism, ego and greed.
Having only visited America once, and then only New York, my imagination had already possessed the impossible beauty, grotesqueness and contradictions. National parks and small town desuetude and apathy. Shattered utopic dreams that spawned the visionary art. The people who made it. Ferocious consumer appetites. Ideological behemoths. Irreconcilables. Vascular bundles of freeways. Political dynasties to rival anything in medieval Italy. The Gothic doom of mega corporations wrapped in the modernist sheen of concrete, steel and glass. Self congratulating capitalism that loves to commodify people into neat ergonomic units. This idiosyncratic mindscape influenced much of my creative output. I watched as Britain rather feebly tried to adopt the ways of our American cousins. Politicians in particular sacrificed our unique identity in favour of becoming a fifty-something hand-me-down state with their ‘special relationship’ that lives more in their imaginations than in reality.
Maybe because America has been at the forefront of World politics and culture for generations, many people I have met passionately dislike the country and its peoples. Often without ever even visiting the place. This is an attitude I can’t share or understand. I have had the pleasure of meeting many Americans over the course of my life, in various parts of the world, some of whom became close friends. Their uniqueness, intelligence and diversity is a testament to their mother country. Furthermore, out of its melting pot came the likes of Bob Dylan, Noam Chomsky, Diane Arbus, Steve Reich, John Cage, Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, the Velvet Underground, New York Dolls, Lester Bangs and more.
So this album of songs is my imaginary road trip, my paean to the vast and varied musical output known as Americana, the inspiration for a land of my own invention and license, and my homage and gratitude to that great place and all its peoples and the ongoing mash-up crucible that is its living history.
The White Frontier refers to regions beyond ordinary human perception that seem to cause us the greatest struggles, both personally and collectively. It is the membrane between dimensions.
Principles of uncertainty; notions of 'future', identity, faith, meaning in life, mistrust of the present, projections of fear. The knowledge that much of the 'reality' we experience is imagined.
The songs in this collection are either about key moments in American history that have percolated through to the wider-world (assassination of JFK, 9/11, the global corporate elites' encroachment on human rights and political dis/enfranchisement), social movements and champions (Woodstock, Stonewall, Martin Luther King, the Black Panthers), sub-cultures (transgender and intrasex peoples, itinerant outsiders, especially those who bloomed into great writers such as Burroughs, Kerouac, Gysin, Diane Di Prima, Hunter S Thompson etc). The collapse of the American Dream and a flourishing new consciousness arriving in its wake. These are my tales of the White Frontier.