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The Comedy of Errors

The Fish Police and Constant Flux

31 March 14 words: Stephanie Parkes
The band and support organisation are bridging the gap between learning disabled and non-learning disabled musicians and audiences

The Fish Police

How do you feel about this tour?
Charles: It's exciting. It’s been a long journey to get to where we are in terms of the realising the music live, and we're still on that journey. We are very much looking forward to playing to new audiences starting in Nottingham at the Contemporary. It’s also our very first tour and one or two of us have never toured before so it will be a very interesting test!

Tell me a little bit about all of the members in the band…
Charles: Well I'll start with Dean, he is the lead vocalist and front man in the band. Dean is the seed of most of the concepts that you hear across the album and he is very much in love at the moment. Next up is 'one chord' Matt. So called because he is the guitarist in the band and he doesn't bother with the usual 3 chords you get in modern day pop songs, one chord will do! Then there’s me Charles, The bass player/vocalist, but I also co-write our songs with Dean. There’s also our live drummer Andrew.

How would you describe your music?
Dean: It’s a mix of hip-hop, 80’s pop, J-Rock and South East Asian music. It’s sound really different. What makes it different are the instruments and sound effects we use like the whistling sound on the Sabrin.

How has Constant Flux supported you as a band?
Charles: Richard Phoenix at Constant Flux has been very supportive of us and our music for quite some time now and we have played a number of Constant Flux music nights across Brighton in recent years. It’s always an amazing night, with great energy and brings together some brilliant bands from a large spectrum of different styles. We are absolutely chuffed to bits that Constant Flux wanted to get us touring!

Do you feel that there is much support for musicians with disabilities who want to set-up bands, gigs and to tour?
Charles: Not nearly enough, but I don't think it’s ever been easy. Constant Flux and Heart and Soul are definitely doing their bit; creating communities, club nights and music sessions where disabled and non-disabled musicians can get together and try out concepts and ideas. The Fish Police came together out of that and are a testament to the fact that some pretty interesting stuff can come from a little patience and nurturing.

What’s the biggest worry you face as musicians?
Charles: Lack of acknowledgement beyond any physical or mental disability.

Do you think that venues do their best to offer support?
Charles: Perhaps a lot of venues in terms of disability access are still falling very short with regards to disability audiences or disabled performers. Beyond that I guess I can only speak about my experiences with Heart n Soul over the years, which has been generally positive, playing in many different venues in different bands including the Fish Police. Lately we have had the opportunity to play at one or two of the more established venues across London and as a result of this tour we will be playing a few more across the UK.  

The Fish Police website

The Fish Police and Constant Flux

Constant Flux create opportunities for musicians with learning disabilities 

Constant Flux

Why did you want to set-up Constant Flux?
I set up Constant Flux to help create more opportunities for musicians with learning disabilities, like playing gigs, going on tour and releasing records.

Who does Constant Flux work with? 
We work with musicians that require support, this could be physical or it could be with psychological aspects. Say if someone was Autistic they may need support in some of the more social aspects of playing music, which would be provided by trained professionals. We don’t provide this support ourselves but are aware of and understand the necessity for it for these musicians to engage with a music scene. We also acknowledge the financial aspects that this support incurs and try and ensure that this doesn’t become a barrier for their music to be heard.

What prejudices do people in disabled musicians face?
I think one of the biggest hurdles is the attitude of, “Aww… they play music, that’s nice isn’t it?”. Which I have encountered quite a lot and I don’t think people realise how patronising and undermining this is to the hard work and passion that these musicians put in. I take these bands and musicians very seriously and I hope that some of the work Constant Flux is doing can change these attitudes and ‘normalise’ the integration of learning disabled and non-learning disabled musicians and audiences.

Do you ever have trouble choosing venues because of their lack of access?
Yes, I’ve had to move gigs before because of a lack of flat access and accessible toilets. The social model of disability, whereby it is the environment that disables the person, informs all this. If people’s access needs aren’t catered for then I am essentially responsible for preventing people from coming to the gig.

Other than access are there any other aspects of disability that are not catered to by venues or booking personnel?
An aspect for the learning disabled community is highlighted in a campaign set up by the punk band Heavy Load. Called the Stay Up Late Campaign, it came about due to people with learning disabilities leaving their gigs at 9pm. This didn’t take into account them wanting to stay, but merely represented that their support staff’s shifts would be changing and they had to go home to do this. Basic choices about their lives were being denied just because of the way their support was organised. It’s essentially about putting the people who are being supported at the centre of the decision-making process.

How has your own experience in a band (Sauna Youth) informed the work you do at Constant Flux?
In Sauna Youth, for better or for worse, we’ve pretty much done everything ourselves… recording our own records, doing the artwork, releasing them, booking our own shows, etc. With Constant Flux I guess the idea was to be able to support people to do this too, to take control over their artistic output and to share it with the world. I would also say that the musicians and music I have encountered within the disabled music scene has had a massive influence on myself and Sauna Youth. It is a very inspiring scene to be involved with!

What attracted you to work with The Fish Police?
The first time I saw them I was totally blown away, Dean their singer is so charismatic and engaging and their songs so catchy. I left with a lot of earworms that night! I always thought they would be touring and playing shows to diverse audiences, turned out they weren’t and it was something they were struggling to achieve. So when I started Constant Flux they were definitely on the list of bands I wanted to work with. When they released their album they were looking to play more shows, I had just finished the first tour with Zombie Crash & PKN and the ideas and concepts behind that tour had struck a chord with the DIY scene and people wanted to do more, so we met up and it all slotted perfectly into place!

Constant Flux website

The Fish Police, supported by Arts Council England and Constant Flux are performing at Nottingham Contemporary on Friday 4 April. Doors 7pm. Entry is free.

Facebook event

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