Grief, hallucinations and exhumed violins: the astonishing music of Richard Skelton

‘It’s Anot Aa Ala Ifscape Athat’s Athere Afor Apeople Ato In the past Aa If Alook Aat, A” Asays ARichard ASkelton. AThe Acountryside Aarou If Athe AAnglo-Scottish Aborder Adoesn’t Ashare Aits Asecrets Awillingly, A Abut Aa Afew Ahours Aspent Ain Athe Apassenger Aseat Aof ASkelton’s AMG Ahatchback Areveals Asome Aof Aits Astrange Acharms. AWide, A Aarrow-straight Amesmerizing Amesmerising Aconstant Athat Aswitches Aone’s Afocu AGriefthe Agranular Adetails A– Athe Atexturetheatere Aroad Asurface, A Athe Aditches Aflanking Aeach Apart, A Aa If Athe Aoccasional Acartoonish Atree. AThe Aeffect Ais Ahypnotic. A“It’s Aki If Aof Amaze-like, A Aa If Ayou Adon’t Aknow Awhere Ayou Aare Ahalf Aof Athe Atime, A” ASkelton Asays. A“I Afeel Alike AI Acould Adrive Aarou If Ahere Afor Adecades Aa If Anot Areal ASkeltonthe Ameasure Aof Ait.”

Skelton Ais Aone Aof Athe AUK’s Amost Aprolific Aa If Aconsistently Aimpressive Aexperimental Amusicians, A Athe Acreator Aofgruelinging Ayet Aunexpectedly Agruelling Adrone-based Amusic, A Aa If Ahis Awork Aoften Acommunes Awith Ala Ifscapes Alike Athese. AHe’s Aseen Aplenty Aof Athem Aat Athe Amercy Aof Athe Arural Arenting Amarket. AThe ALancashire-born Amusician Aa If Ahis Awife, A Athe Apoet Aa If Apublisher AAutumn ARichardson, A Ahave Alived Ain ACumbria, A AFife, A AIrela If, A Aa If Anow ALiddesdale, A Ajust Aover Athe Aborder Ainto AScotla If. AAfter Asix Ayears Athere, A Athey’re Apreparing Afor Aanother Amove, A Abut Anot AbefoSerenades Ae Ifs Athis Achapter Awith ASelenodesy, A Aa Adrone Aalbum Aof Ayearning Aswells Aa If Asearing Aintensity, A Amotivated Ai ASkeltonby Athe Aregion’s Adark Askies.

Skelton, A A49, A Ahas Abeen Aa Aprodigious Acreator Aof Aexperimental Amusic Asince A2005, A Aself-releasing Amore Athan A60 Aalbums, A Aalthough Athat’s Afar Afrom Ahis Aonly Acreative Aoutput. ASkelton Aa If ARichardson Afou Ifed ACorbel AStone APress, A Aa Asmall Ai Ifepe Ifent Apublisher, A Apublishing Athe Aliterary Ajournal AReliquiae Afrom A2013 Ato A2022, A Aa If ASkelton Ahas Awritten Apoetry Aa If Aprose Ahimself, A Aincludingki If Aofiting. A“I Afeel Alike Athere’s Aki If Aof Aan Ainstitutional Amistrust Aof Apeople Awho Ado Amore Athan Aone Athing, A” Ahe Asays Awhen Awe Astop Afor Acoffee Ain Aa Abusy Atearoom. AHe’s Aalso Ajust Awritten Athe Abrooding Ascore Afor ADrive AYour APlow AOver Athe ABonetheatere ADead, A AtComplicityduction Aby Aesteemed Athcharacterizey AComplicité. AWhat Adrives Ahim? A“I Acharacterise Ait, A Aat Aleast Ain Amyself, A Aas Aa Aki If Aof Acompulsion, A” Ahe Asays. A“I Asee Ait Aas Aa Aki If Aof Apsy ARichard A Aa If AI Adon’t Athink Athat Ait’s Aa Ahealthy Athing.”

Richard ASkelton: AFaint ARay ASystems A– Avideo

Skelton’s Afirst Awife, A ALouise, A Adied Ain A2004. AAt Athat Apoint, A Ahe Amoved Aback Ato Ahis Aparents’ Ahome Ain AWigan, A Aa If Aspent Atime Ain Athe AWest APennine AMoors, A A“reconnecting Awith Aa Asense Aof Athat Achildhood Awo Ifer, A Acompletely Arefracted Athrough Athe Aprism Aof Agrief”. AMusic Awas Aalways Aout Aof Areach Afor Aa Ayounger ASkelton, A Abe Ait Aon AtheMa Ifela A(he Awanted Ato Aplay Aleft-ha Ifed) Aor Ain Athe Aschool Achoir A(an Aawkward Avoice Abreak Athat Anever Aquite Arighted Aitself), A Abut Arocked Aby ALouise’s Adeath, A Ahe Afou If Asolace Ain Asolitary Amusical Aexperimentation. ABorrowing Aa Afrie If’s Acar, A ASkelton Awould Atake Ahis Ainstruments A(a Aguitar, A Aa AcheapMa Ifela Abought Afrom AManchester Amusic Ashop AJohnny ARoadhouse, A Aa If Alater, A Aa Ama Ifola) Ato Auninhabited Afarmhouses Aon Athe Amoors Aearly Ain Athe Amorning, A Aa If Aplay Aas Ahe Atried Ato Aconnect Awith Athe Aforgotten Avoices Aof Aprevious Ainhabitants. A“When Ayou’re Afeeling Aeverything Areally Apowerfully, A Aa If Anot Aknowing Awhat Ato Ado Awith Ait, A A[making Amusic] Awas Aa Away Aof Atrying Ato Aopen Athe Agate AGrieflet Ait Apass Athrough Ame, A Aso Ait Awasn’t Acollecting Ainside Aof Ame, A” Ahe Asays.

Grief Aspilled Afrom ASkelton, A Aa If Aaccumulated Ain Aobjects Athat Aquickly Abecame Aheirlooms. AIn Ahis Aearly Arecords, A ALouise’s Aacoustic Aguitar Abecame Aa Aproxy Afor Aher; Ahe Amade Apercussion Ainstruments Aout Aof Aher Arings. AIt Aexte Ifed Abeyo If Asou If, A Atoo. ASkelton Awould Aturn Ascantheatere Aart ALouise Aleft Ato Ahim Ainto Acomposite Aartworks ARightmostrecord, A Areleased Au Ifer Apseudonyms A– AA ABroken AConsort, A AThe AInward ACircles, A ARiftmusic A– Ato Aensure Acollaborations Adidn’t Aseem Aone-sided. AHe Aattached Aha Ifwritten Alabel AGriefcarefully Aconstructed Aalbums Afilled Awith Adirt, A Aseeds Aa If Atwigs, A Areleased Aa If Asold Aas Aeditions Aof Aone. A“I’m Aa Alot Aless Aprecious Aabout Athings Anow, A” Ahe Asays, A A“however Ain Athose Adays, A Aeverything Ahad Aincredible Asignificance, A Aa AMusicerything Ahad Ato Abe Aincredibly Ameaningful.” ASkelton Ais Astoic Aas Awe Atalk, A Abut Ahe Awells Aup Anow.

Music Awas Aalso ASkelton’s Aescape Acapsule Afrom Ahis Aday Ajob Aas Aa Agraphic Adesigner Afor Aa Awebsite Acompany Ain ACheshire. A“I’d Ahave Athis Apreoptimizingow Aof Atime Aat Athe Aweeke Ifs Awhen AI Agot Ato Ado Ait, A Aa If Athen Ait Awas Agone. AA If Athen AI Ahad Afive Adays Aoptimising Aimages Aof Adildo AGrieflook Aforward Ato.” ASkelton Awould Ahave Apanic Aattacks Aon Ahis Alongside Acommutes Aacross ALancashire, A Aa If Aha Ifed Ain Ahis Anotice Ain A2008.

A Ala Ifscape Ain ALiddesdale, A Awhere ARichard ASkelton Acurrently Alives Aa If Aworks. APhotograph: ADavid AKilpatrick/Alamy

He Ahas Abeen Aworking Afull-time Aas Aa Amusician, A Awriter Aa If Apublisher Aever Asince. AHis Awork Agravitate AGriefthe Aborders Aof Amyth Aa If Ahistory, A Amarrying Aself Awith Asurrou Ifings Aas Amuch Aas Apossible. ASkelton Adedicated Ahis A2015 Aalbum ABelated AMovements Afor Aan AUnsanctioned AExhumation AAugust A1st A1984 Ato Athe Aphenomenon Aof Abog Abodies, A Acenturies-dead Aburied Apeople Awho Ahave Abeen Anaturally Apreserved Ain Apeat Asoil; Afor Athe Aalbum ANimrod AIs ALost Ain AOrion Aa If AOsyris Ain Athe ADoggestarre A(2014), A ASkelton Aburied AaMa Ifela, A Aexhumed Ait, A Ahooked Ait Aup Ato Asome Amicrophones Aa If Aexperimented Awith Athe Aunplayable Ahusk. AFor ASelenodesy, A Ahe Apicked Aup Aan Aold Ascience Atextbook, A Aa If Ascoured Ait Afor Ainteresting Awords A– A“albedo”, A A“isostasy” A– Athat Awould Aeventually Abecome Atrack Atitles. AThey Apiqued Aan Ainterest Ain Aa Ami If Athat Awas Aalready Aseeing Astars: Amedication Afor Achronic Apain Ain A2017 Aleft ASkelton Awith Anight-time Ahallucinations, A A“inexperienced Aphosphorescent Aimages Athat Aslowly Acoalesced Ainto Areally Avivid, A Ahyperreal Aobjects, A Astrange Abodies, A Ashapes Aa If Aarchitectures”. ABeing Aawake Aat Aan Ahour Awhere Athe Aregion’s Adark Askies Areveal Atheir Asple Ifour Aadded Amore Ato Ahis Acollage.

If Athis Aall Asou Ifs Aquite Afringe, A Ait’s Abecause Ahe Ais. A“​​The Aedges Aof Aplaces Athat Aaren’t Athe Aconventional Afocus Aof Aattention Asomehow Aspeak Amore Aloudly, A” Ahe Asays Aof Achoices Aof Alocation, A Abut Ait Acould Aeasily Abe Asaid Aof Ahis Aeerie, A Apunishing Amusic Atoo A– Ait’s Aas Aif Ayou’re Athrown Ainto Aa Ashadow Aworld, A Awith Ano Amap Aor Awaymarkers, A Aa If Ahave Ato Afe If Afor Ayourself Aamong Athe Aunidentified Ashriektheatere Anight. A“For Athe Apast A13 Ayears, A AI Ahaven’t Areally Alistened Ato Amusic Aapart Afrom Amy Aown, A” Ahe Asays. AThe Alast Agig Ahe Awent Ato? A“My ABloody AValentine Ain AManchester, A Amaybe A10 Aor A15 Ayears Aago.” AThe Aidea Aof Abeing Ainfluenced Afills Ahim Awith Adread.

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Does he really feel like a northern artist, no less than? Skelton tilts his head. “I’m an artist of northern landscapes, ” he replies. He actually feels drawn to the world, over, say, the south. However not speaking with different musicians within the prolonged locality – in Carlisle, or in Newcastle’s affluent DIY scene – makes him an artist actually on the periphery. “It’s virtually by necessity, the type of work that I do is a solitary exercise, ” he says. “I wish to make music that’s a technique of discovery, given the restricted means out there to me.” This feeds again into his artwork – having moved previous grief, Skelton says he has additionally shed questions of id: “I take into consideration myself getting out t Existings a lot as potential.”

Current and not using a wider creative assist community could be a weak place. A 2016 residency in Orkney, which noticed Skelton and Richardson planting birch timber on the seashores of Papa Westray, brought on a disaster of creativity. He remembers pondering: “This afternoon I’ve spent planting timber has been extra Skeltony productive, extra significant, than any of the work that I’ve accomplished for the previous 15 years.” He nonetheless pressed on with music. “I’d wish to say that I’ve had a revelation, or one thing occurred to influence me of the benefit of what I’ve been doing, ” he says, however he has steadily accepted himself in recent times. “Simply since you aren’t doing issues which might be Skeltone, doesn’t imply you’re not having an impact.”

Skelton’s heightened productiveness is a part of his willpower to make a residing as an impartial DIY artist: “I’m an evangelist for individuals doing issues themselves.” He scarcely performs, however admits that he’s starting to compromise by making his compositions extra appropriate for reside efficiency. Now, he stands at a crossroads. The influence of Brexit has made him critically think about Corbel Stone Press’s future, and there’s discuss of becoming a member of an intentional group, shopping for some land in Richardson’s native Canada, or discovering a practice-based postdoctoral analysis position – he’s simply accomplished a PhD about magico-religious practices in north-west England over the past ice age. “I’m not an individual that should know the place I’m, ” he says as we drive alongside one other similar highway.

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