Max Kelan – Collected Writing and Poetry

Video artist, musician, and no holds-barred creative force Max Kelan might have come onto your radar via a number of outings and offerings - he’s been kicking life into the underbelly of Bristol’s scene as a musician and vocalist for some years now, and also beaming unique variations of light out onto screens across the world via his VHS degradations and warped visuals for artists and labels such as The Pop Group, FuckPunk, Giant Swan, Young Echo and recently Ceramics very own Tod Daraku. Sonically, he expresses himself with vicious drum machine patterns, feedback noise and oblique, and raw microphone fuel as part of gaelic industrial act and Avon Terror Corps constellation Salac (alongside Cliona Ni Laoi), or as one half of Bad Tracking (alongside Gordon Apps). In the wider (local) social scope, some will remember him for causing a stir at local venue ‘The Crofter’s Rights’ during one of his nude performances as part of new skool industrial act Bad Tracking, which ‘famously’ got the act kicked out of the club, and caused a local MP to embarrass herself on Twitter with her closet conservative views, which inadvertently got the act some free press in a local newspaper. This is just a little claim to fame, and only yet another story to tell from the life of Max Kelan. Having arrived in Bristol some years ago via Wales & Ireland, educating himself on all forms of music via free parties, behind the counter at the Tangled Parrot record shop in Wales, and at the Idle Hands shop here in Bristol, supplying visuals for the Young Echo Sound nights, or bringing acts such as Cabaret Voltaire’s Stephen Mallinder, Napalm Death’s Mick Harris or Test Dept to town with the Slack Alice nights, he’s since become a known and appreciated figure within the scene, for his selfless contributions behind the scenes, but also, and not least, for his raw, honest forms of expression on stage… Or wherever else suits. We’ve seen evidence of him carted, starch naked, into the crowd in a rusty wheel barrow in Budapest at an ATC night, we witnessed the self conscious gazes of the crowd as he covered his naked body in detergent and soap, industrially cleansed, in the basement of the Take Five Cafe, we’ve watched an hour of psychedelic visual and sonic representation in Bristol’s DIY cinema ‘Cube Microplex’, and we’ve rubbed our eyes many a time hoping we don’t become epileptic as his unique video works overload our petty senses. His extroversion and the antagonistic, yet vulnerable and often self depreciating nature of his Bad Tracking performances seem to question conservative attitudes towards our bodies, the extremities of noise and disruption, and at the same time throw us with a challenge for our own need for voyeurism and accepted loss of privacy in the increasingly blurry inter-zone between our ‘real world’ and the social media networks, where we become hooked to endorphin rushes via digital interaction. As part of Salac with Clio, the performances seem to be engulfed in a more murky kind of mysticism and escapism from the modern world and its dress code. Some of the elements of body horror and cyber-nudity that he puts on display with Bad Tracking, are channelled in a past-midnight, sage-scented eternal darkness style, conjuring up an intoxicating flurry of spiritual noise aesthetic. There’s a loose thread that could be seen as the string that binds all of Max’s work and his performances: A raw honesty and a relentless drive to make some kind of fucking mark before this world implodes, exploring avenues of creativity, taking down a few tired structures, overcoming personal and collective borders, and expectations. With this extrovert-exploration of his self, he makes a kind of hall of mirrors between him, and the public, the spectator, in a kind of omniverse of self-exposure. ‘Collected Writings and Poetry’ is a 20 page journal published via the Ceramics imprint, and with it, a concise but elaborate collection of Max’s short poems are manifested, putting on display the above mentioned lyrics which he would’ve performed as part of Salac and Bad Tracking, as well as stray writings from his diary, or perhaps more accurately scrap papers dotted in down past bedtime, jostled between jack leads, cassettes, and bondage gear. The style of the poetry is uncompromising and direct, at times like an open flesh wound in all it’s detail, or a recollection of sexual fantasies inflicted in a feverish dream. The poems are private, yet loud. Sometimes confrontational, but always sincere and ultimately true to Max’s world, free from pointless shame. You might feel uncomfortable, almost intrusive as you read the first paragraphs, but like much of Max’s work, this is the point - a kind of shedding of the skin, an invitation to stand on the edge and look down into the brooding volcano of the human mind, an invitation to feel the danger, to feel alive and appreciate life from more angles than just one. There’s despair in there, frustration. But also a kind of hope, a solace in a world of obscure thoughts, formed out of sentences that conjure a kind of cyberpunk, goth reality of his own. Max Kelan manages to expresses, with all the dirt, filth and ultra-cleanse detergent that comes with it, a cerebral elevation from the tiers of physical and mental pain, fluxed via poetry and writings, to reach a kind of ‘higher state’ - Blissfully blinded by the white lights of the heavens and energised by the sizzling flames of hell, spurred on by this urge for creation and manifestation, driven on by a disgust at an overpowering capitalistic, heartless government and the illnesses it brings to society in which we must play a part, Max plays his part by conjuring up worlds for us all, and by shaping his own as part of the big communal grind for new worlds that exist in our heads and in those spaces we create, for our over-worked souls to dance on and manifest themselves in all their extent. ‘Max Kelan - Collected Writings and Poetry’ is out now via Ceramics. 20 page zine + photographs from site specific reading at Stanton Drew and graphics by the inhouse Lok'Tar studios. Comes with a C40 cassette recording of Max Kelan reciting the poems, recorded in one intoxicated, shroomed up session at St. Gabriel’s Industrial Estate, in 2020.