Meet the Unsung Hero of Shane Meadows' "This is England", "Dead Man's Shoes" and "Somers Town"
Gavin Clark has soundtracked most of Shane Meadows' films so, ahead of This is England 90, it's about time you got to know him.
Update: On Monday morning (February 16, 2015), Gavin Clark shockingly passed away at the age of 46. A peerless songwriter and poet, Gavin is infamous for his work with Sunhouse and Clayhill, and had collaborated heavily with UNKLE. He is also much loved for his musical collaboration with visual director Shane Meadows on films such as Somers Town and This Is England, plus the recent live re-scoring of Dead Man's Shoes.
The year is 1988 and Gavin Clark has just returned from the South of France to a job at Britain’s premier short-break resort, Alton Towers. Back then the theme park didn’t have the world’s first vertical free-drop roller-coaster, a themed restaurant serving secret-garden sundaes, or energy-efficient hand-dryers. The entertainment consisted of a few rides, a crazy golf-course, and botanic gardens.
Gavin worked in one of the theme park’s restaurants, cooking chips. People would come; Gavin would feed them; they would leave with a slightly higher level of cholesterol than normal. Then, like most humans do when they’ve been working in a chip shop all Summer, Gavin turned to himself and said “Man, this is so fucking wank. I might as well give it up.” He’d just met Shane Meadows – now the director of This is England, Dead Man's Shoes, and Room for Romeo Brass, then a musician – and decided to hand in his notice. The rest, they say, is history.
Gavin and Shane entered a relationship that’s been going for the last few decades. It started in Gavin’s caravan – where he lived with an acoustic guitar – and culminated in Gavin’s music appearing in most of Shane’s work: from soundtracking Small Time to the latest This is England series, set in the 1990s. If you listen close, it’s Gavin’s cover of The Smiths' “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want” that plays during the original film’s close, when Shaun ventures to the beach and throws the Union Jack into the sea.
Before turning to directing, Shane Meadows wanted to be a musician. Gavin – by proxy of being “fifty times better” than Shane – changed his mind. “It was quite heartbreaking at the time”, Shane told me “but I wouldn’t have become a filmmaker if it wasn’t for Gavin.”
To get an idea of the pair’s “special relationship”, I present to you Exhibit’s A and B.
Shane: “Gavin’s stuff was right up there with people like Nick Drake, Tim Rose. He seemed to be in that mold but was twenty-one, living in a field in the middle of Staffordshire. This relationship is life long.”
Gavin: “Shane used to go to Affleck’s Palace to buy my jeans. There were a lot of idiots around and no one got it but he did. He was talking about “surfing on buses” and stuff.”
“I sort of said, look. Let’s make a little documentary and we’ll use the documentary to get you some equipment. At the time Gavin was saying he wanted to write music but didn’t know if he could perform by himself without a band beside him.”
The challenge was this: shove a camera in Gavin’s face and force him to play a show in his lounge to friends and family, which has now been documented in the film The Living Room, premiering today on noisey.com.
I won’t spoil it for you but what starts off as a tale between two friends turns into one man’s journey of self-discovery and growth. We can all learn something from Gavin’s story: which is (A) the belief of another human is golden (B) bravery results in beauty, and (C) playing in your living room is a fucking challenge. The story is touching.
Since the film’s release, Gavin’s started work on some future projects. He’s working on “a sort of concept album” called The Evangelist, with the guys from UNKLE. “It tells the story from top to bottom. It’s about a kid who grows up in church, and becomes a powerful figure within the world but falls in love with a prostitute. It ends on a near death experience” – which sounds like a beautiful story and three of the tracks are going to be used in the new series of This is England.
Shane says the series, which airs in September, is “unlike anything that’s come before. It’s four episodes set over four seasons. It starts in the Summer, Spring, and the whole Madchester thing kicking off with the Roses and the Mondays, going into the raves and the festivals. What’s nice is that it looks at the younger members as much as it does – it doesn’t just follow Lol and Woody and Shaun – some of the younger crew start getting into the raves; the whole E-generation stuff like that.”
The Living Room is on noisey.com now.
You can find Ryan Bassil on Twitter: @RyanBassil