The Harder The Heart
“He was enjoying the feeling of freedom imparted by having got rid of this luggage and at the same time,more intimately, by the certainty that, now that he was ‘sorted out’, his identity registered, his boarding passin his pocket, he had nothing to do but wait for the sequence of events.”(Marc Augé, 2000)
The Harder The Heart is a journey through multiple continents with an international rock band that put me through more than 100,000 miles of flights, buses, hotels and venues. On top of the sights and sounds, thepartying and the booze, it was a dreaded perpetual alternation between waiting and moving. Working through screams of people every night can be exhilarating yet terrifying; 2 hours of purpose and keeping with the program, then sudden stark silence, as the machine bellows again towards the next procession, the last city forgotten; reincarnation. This body of work is as much a documentation of rock n’ roll tour life, as it is a mental state’s defensive mechanism against degeneration. These ever-changing, yet oddly familiar in frastructures and journeys, eventually become a singular entity of unconsciousness, as I fight constant disorientation and passive re-adjustments in the face of dreadful seriality.
The Harder The Heart comes from a Bullet For My Valentine song of the same name, the band of which these tours originate from. The title is a word play on desires to shut off emotions during these months-long tours, the only perceived solution I have for survival. Born out of the circumstance of necessity and disillusionment, the unending states of stasis afforded by chunks of physical voyage and mental solitude had presented many questions to myself. What is the meaning of home, when presented with many foreign beds?What is the meaning of masculinity, when surrounded by seasoned men of labour. What does it mean to long for intimate encounters and emotions, when stranded in a sea of passersby. What is the purpose of indulging in fantasy, when one starts to see patterns of temporary escape?
Old perspectives of the mythical rock star lifestyle are destroyed by the limits of the human mind and body in passive anxiety, often leading oneself astray. In the midst of these unconscious struggles, I started collecting articles containing interactions from real, tangible individuals. Hotel letters, bills and fan letters. These items,along with tour memorabilia, become a mechanism for me to juxtapose seriality. The Harder The Heart originates from multiple journeys, but the photographs and collected articles themselves have become a non-linear body of work, each an open-ended survey without any forms of barometer from the last. This mentality is ultimately vital to create a tension between the common perception of a glamorous jet-setting tour life, and underwhelming-ness felt in the photographs. Lastly, a single chronicle monologue gives viewers a micro context; the experience of loneliness, lethargy, disorientation, anxiety, and longing.
What time is it?
Lying in my 'coffin' bunk on our double-decked tour bus, staring at the ceiling a few centimetres away. I wait for that sudden laughter from a group of men below deck as they will undoubtedly make their way back for bus call, just in time; They were seasoned operators. My bed gradually sways as we take off, 3 am, bang on time. Downstairs in the distance, laughter turns into divulgement, cracking of beers turn into a scavenge for wine bottles, and the 'outro' commences, someone's final attempt to prolong the boys' night in on the bus, albeit with poor choice of a forgotten 80s anthem. "For fucks sakes come on! Day off tomorrow innit!", one shouts.
I take my first conscious breath through a terribly stuffed up nose. If there is anything worse than air circulation on aircrafts, it has got to be tour buses. A hint of sunlight pierces through the emergency exit from which I sleep adjacent to; A conscious effort on my part. I pull my curtains to the sound of nothingness. What time is it? I somehow always fall asleep despite the bickering beneath. Look out the window. Perhaps I've been here before, but they all look the same anyway. I set foot on that familiar carpeted floor of the bus; there is no one left onboard. I start the day like how I ended the previous night, alone. How do they do it anyway?
My last name written in capital letters on an envelope, left on the kitchenette countertop. I grab my luggage from the bay, along with the hotel keycard left for me. It's the Hilton Prague today. At least I've never been here. The view, then the bathroom, followed by the texture of the duvet against my skin, and lastly the channels on television. My entrance ritual for every hotel room. Please have HBO.
The noon sun gives way to an uninspiring hotel room sunset, as hours disappear from me hovering around the room in various stages of somnolence. "Lobby in 15. Theres an Irish down the road", the crew group chat beckons. What time is it? Also, what is more culturally enriching than a group of British men spending their evening overseas drinking Guinness in an Irish Pub? One pint leads to many, the usual suspects chat up locals, I finish my last cigarette, take a couple of seconds in a static lift to remember what floor I'm on, and I'm staring at a strangely familiar ceiling yet again. Although, not before I indulge in room service bringing me a vegetarian pasta which I'll never finish at 2 in the morning.
I walk into the venue, and get greetings back like the previous night of unchecked alcohol consumption never happened. Load in at 11, soundcheck at 2, press at 5, meet and greet at 6, doors at 7, support, on stage at half 9, curfew at 11, bus call TBC. The smell of dried alcohol, the stickiness beneath your feet, the sad, forced cleanliness of your dressing room, the dreadful repetition of vocal checks. What time is it?
Another couple of hours gone as I wonder the venue in stasis, none of the task at hand my responsibility. It's more like getting out of everyone's way, really. As the band finally arrives, I wipe my lenses down, pop in new batteries, and shadow a group of men for the rest of the day with a camera. "Keep smiling to the fans", I thought to myself, as I shake some strangers' hands whom I've apparently met before, and try to keep my heart rate in check as stage time approaches. "It's not even my show!" It's not the nervousness of performance, but the anxiety of running with the program; the system; the machine. Also, what time is it? The house lights fade to black, the kabuki drops, and the next 2 hours are a blur.
Don't fuck up now.
With the deed done and my heart rate back to normal, I sit hunched in my production room, cracking a can of Czech pilsner. What time is it? My tour manager pokes his head round the room. "Bus call at 3am!"