As I child of the 1970s I have a fairly philosophical attitude towards total annihilation of the human race via nuclear war. After all, the news and culture of the time didn't let us forget that we humans had really let the genie out of the box with the big bad A-bomb. The cold war which began after WW11 - and ended with the dismantling of the Soviet Union in 1991 - lurched from crisis to crisis. So certain was I of my own nuclear obliteration that I remember thinking age 12 in 1979 how far away and improbable the 1990s were. In that context it's quite surprising that culturally the 1990s turned out to be not a post-apocalyptic wasteland, but an inane re-run of the 1960s with Cool Britannia, a prime minister who played a Fender Strat and a mod revival.
By the '80s we were getting blasé about atomic oblivion, maybe that's because atomic oblivion seemed preferable to living through Thatcher's soul draining era and the dismalness of the '80s in general. Hell, there were even jaunty pop songs about nuclear war: Nena's terrifically useless but massive 99 Red Balloons and The Ian Gillan's band's excitingly titled and less massive Mutually Assured Destruction. By the time we'd conquered the Falklands and we'd actually made it through Orwell's dreaded dateline unscathed, I found there was less to worry about. Besides, we were all going to die of Aids anyway. These days with only the threat of North Korea, the entire Middle East, and Russia I tend to worry more about running out of cat food than being struck down by a 'terrorist dirty bomb' past my prime. In fact being incinerated along with a few million seems like not a bad way to go, preferable to 10 years of alzheimers certainly. It's all about perspective and, like I said, I'm philosophical.
The monolithic concrete structure, about 15ft long, six ft wide and 8ft tall, 200 yards from my flat is not some disused public toilet - or a hideous rubbish bank for the nearby council estates. It is the entrance to a nuclear bunker called Camden Borough Control, this leads you down beneath a small park - Highgate Enclosures - into a warren of eight rooms. Camden Borough Control would have been the government's strategic control centre for North London in the event of a nuclear attack. Operated by and providing shelter for Britain's 'top people'. Presumably this wouldn't have included the residents in the surrounding glowering council estates. The bunker, disused since 1968, is now in a state of total disrepair and the metal entrance is heavily padlocked (after a night in a nearby boozer and using 'ale strength' I did attempt to gain entrance to the bunker but to no avail). During the cold war there were around 1500 bunkers built around the UK, an extraordinary network built at huge expense, and founded on panic and paranoia. If you're lucky you can buy one now for around 75k.
All this got me thinking. So I abandoned the album I was half way through recording and started work on a new one - about the network of bunkers called, with some clarity, British Nuclear Bunkers. The idea of living a hermetic subterranean life has its appeal. What if an enforced existence in a bunker became a positive thing - it's a large leap of the imagination but then that is the point of art - what if a post-nuclear dystopia became a post-nuclear utopia. William Burroughs predicted in the '50s that language would be replaced by a new kind of subconscious communication. This is already happening within social media, as people spill out their unfiltered thoughts disregarding all social conventions. What if a greatly reduced hermetic subterranean population found that it did not need to communicate in the accepted way and that language is replaced by a subconscious telepathy (stay with me - it's art)? What if living underground is the next stage of evolution? We came from the sea or the trees maybe this time we go back into the earth to live and play happily before we are buried forever. What if?