k-punk & Justin Barton, "Dawn in the Empty City"
k-punk & Justin Barton, "Noon Pounding Jurassic Sun"
k-punk & Justin Barton, "Necropolis Now"
k-punk & Justin Barton, "Crepiscular Evening (The Confluence of the Thames & the Fleet)"
Death follows us into the new year. One of the great writers and theorists of today passed away last week. For those that don't know, Fisher was a journalist, critic, theorist, the man behind k-punk, co-creator of Dissensus site/forum, author of Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative and Ghost of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures, co-founder of the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit and member of 90s one-hit techno group D-Generation. I recommend reading this piece by his friend and colleague Simon Reynolds, which captures his influence and brilliance. I'd also highly recommend reading his classic articles for Wire Magazine (the Burial one is utterly essential), listening to him speak on crisis, insurrection and Really Existing Capitalism on the RWM podcast, reading an extract from Ghost Of My Life, watching this video of his 2014 talk on the slow cancellation of the future, reading his crucial essay for The Occupied Times on the importance of mental health for a radical politics, buying his books. Most importantly, please give what you can to this memorial fund that will support his wife and son, as a thank you to all that Mark gave us and as a small gesture that reflects and prefigures the world that Mark fought for.
There is not much for me to add, but nonetheless I feel the need to say thanks to Mark. I never met him, but I feel like he is a friend. His influence is enormous, as this site would not exist if k-punk didn't. That site was perhaps the greatest inspiration for me to begin to writing about music, the first time I realized that one could write about music and politics, that music was politics. I remember those early blog days so vividly and fondly today, as it felt each click of the mouse revealed a new world—new sounds, new ideas, new theorists, Dizzee Rascal and The Pop Group, capitalist realism and hauntology, Bifo and D&G. Fisher would prove to be one of the pseudonyms to become somthing bigger, that rare figure who was able to look critically at the world, while simultaneously keeping his eyes and ears open to the cracks and ruptures and flashes of brilliance, the alternatives to the bleak totality that is late capitalism.
I wanted to share the tracks from Fisher's 2006 project with Justin Barton, londonunderlondon, as it's a fitting tribute to the brilliance and creativity of the man. I've spent this past weekend listening to the 2 discs, which feature four tracks that spoken word recordings from Fisher and others with traces of field recordings and tracks from London artists like Wiley and Delia Derbyshire. I don't have much else in the way of sound sources, performers, text, referents, etc, although you can read the text he recites on "Necropolis Now" here. According to Fisher, "londonunderlondon, ruff-mixed as it is, needs to be seen as a work in progress. Naturally, it isn’t anything like equal to its inspirations – which number anything from Glenn Gould’s The Idea of North, Chris Marker, Eno, David Toop – but what became clear to us as we produced it was how little punk will there is. The cyberpunk infrastructure is already there. Something like Cool Edit – an excellent programme btw – reduces sound composition to the core cyberpunk function of cut and paste. Yet the main use to which is put is to produce ‘music’ (or, worse, insufferable ‘sound art’) – what about all those interzones between music, fiction, drama, documentary, a DJ set? What is lacking is the will to explore such terrains."
Therein lies Fisher's greatest inspiration for me and Pound for Pound: "the will to explore new terrains." While he will probably be best known for his incisive critiques of late capitalism and neoliberalism, for me it was his forays into the prefigurative that struck me as the most powerful. In Fisher's diagnosis of capital's slow cancellation of the future, he saw the importance of the future, of re-discovering old ones and imagining new ones. This audio trip through an interstitial London looks to the its underground, forgotten histories, ghost stories, hidden layers to envision a new city. Likewise, he was unafraid to propose new strategies and practices, like his eight-point list in 2015, which envisioned knowledge exchange labs for economic ideas and social spaces "specifically dedicated to attending to one another: not (yet more) conferences, but sessions where people can share their feelings and ideas."
It is heartbreaking to realize that I will never get to read his words and thoughts again, to be inspired by a new sound he loved or challenged to rethink my position on the State. But, I am thankful that he was here for time he was, that we have so much to read and ponder and work with. I can't think of more appropriate image than that of Mark and his brilliant words and projects haunting us, a ghostly reminder of the need for critical thinking, of care, of mental health, of class, of forgotten and yet-to-be-imagined futures. Thank you Mark, you won't be forgotten.