Entitled – Background Information

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In the summer of 1989 Simon Smith, a graduate
in painting at Chelsea School of Art, decided to
about face his career. Much of his work had been
politically oriented, motivated by a sense of
injustice he had experienced as a person with a
disability. Smith was born with no lower arms,
but for him being ‘disabled’ meant being ‘Dis-Enabled’
by society rather than by his body. At the time of his
change in career Smith felt that his paintings were
being shown to an audience who were already open minded
on the subject of disability and although
he’d spent some time working in the broader media
of video, music was instantly accessible,
reaching out like no other art form, besides which it
had always been his first love amongst the arts.
While at college Smith had become friends with
one of the film tutors, Ian Owles. Apart from being a
director, camera man, painter and teacher, Ian Owles
was also a musician (specialising mainly in piano and
guitar) Smith often sang along to Owles’ renditions
of popular classics and in time they started to write
their own material. Their main approach had Owles
playing ad-lib on guitar while Smith sang lyrics he’d
Written earlier. This process eventually led to ‘Smith
and Owles’ producing an album called ‘Nothing For
Nobody”  Though crudely recorded it gave them an
indication of their potential, as well as a gauge of
other people’s feelings towards their work.

GOING SOLO


Being dependent on other people to get ideas down
to tape was frustrating and impractical for Smith,
However with the  aid of a computer and keyboard
he started putting musical patterns together, this
allowed him to build song structures to which he
could add his lyrics. After a period of one year
Smith had recorded over a hundred songs, but the
limitations of working alone in this manner were
beginning to become a problem. Henceforth it was
decided that some of these songs be produced to a
presentable standard with the help of other musicians.

A DIFFERENT APPROACH

For most musicians the normal progression is to
record a demo tape, which is then sent around to
record companies with the expectation that help
would be forthcoming (provided the artist showed
the potential for being commercially viable). But for
Simon Smith this approach was not likely to be
successful, Given the current market, most recording
companies do not go out on a limb especially for
artists who are missing a couple themselves. It was
with this in mind that  Smith started the ‘Entitled’
project. Believing his music to be commercially
viable. he felt that with the product at hand those people
able to help in the record business would see for
themselves whether it was likely to be profitable or not.
Furthermore with the product available for release on a
‘white label’ it’s marketability could be ascertained for real.

 

THE USELESS EATERS


Smith and Owles put together a small eight track
and midi (musical instrument digital interface)
integrated studio in Smith’s front room.
‘The Useless Eaters’ (A name derived from the term
the nazis used for disabled people) are the musicians
brought together by Simon Smith and recorded by
him for the album ‘Entitled’. Coming from many walks
of life, their talents were recorded over a period of
approximately two years. It took a further Six
months and the technical skills of a studio engineer,
Vincent Parrett, to mix the album. ‘Entitled’ finally
went to press in August 1993 and was made available on CD
and cassette. You can now hear it on most streaming services

‘ENTITLED’ OVERALL DETAILS

Entitled ‘Entitled’, the new album by ‘Simon Smith and
The Useless Eaters’ has been released on CD and cassette.
Consisting of seven songs. (plus three re-mixes) the
album’s duration is just under an hour long.

Categorising it would place it within the adult
orientated rock genre with a style reminiscent of
‘The The’, ‘Dire Straits’, ‘Pink Floyd’, ‘Lloyd Cole’,
‘Leonard Cohen’, ‘Peter Gabriel’ and ‘Chris lsaaks’.
With strong lyrics and a predominantly guitar
orientated arrangement this album is as Gary
Crossing of “The Big Issue” wrote “gorgeously
mellow” and will melt even “The hardest of
hearts”

Click here to see who the members of The Useless Eaters Project were

SIMON SMITH & THE USELESS EATERS
INTERVIEW WITH KIT WELLS

I have to say that I hadn’t
heard Simon’s music before and,
ashamedly, had only seen his paintings in
reproduction. – that’s because, although a
native Londoner; I have been in the
relative wilderness of Yorkshire for the
last twenty years. But that’s another
story…
Cosily esconced in the DAIL office we
began by having a discussion on the
question of just how much, if any,
Simon’s disability affects his art –
musically as well as visually. Simon
considers there are a lot of levels to that
question and chose to deal with the
physical side first, so I let him speak for
himself
.

“My paintings tend to be on the large side,
especially those that are on the record
cover, so it’s a technical question really, I
have to stand on a chair to deal with the
top edges and I use long brushes and so
on. Philosophically and politically I would
say that I do not compromise myself by
exhibiting to a mainstream audience

As a disabled child I had to free myself and one
of the ways I did this was through the
technical aspect of being able to draw.
The other thing is that I tend to paint
figures rather than deal with abstract
elements and that is probably the result of
psychological disturbances as a child, disturbances that
in their own way, like a lot of things, including my paintings
do come back in some way to my disability.

I’m a double-chip person, well balanced
because I have chip on both shoulders!
But, politically speaking, I’m more tolerant
than many people I meet in the movement,
believing that it takes understanding from both sides.
However I do FEEL  the injustices suffered by disabled people and,
yes, I do struggle against them.

I’ve been associated with people in the
disability movement from quite early on and
am pretty well acquainted with it, I’ve got my
own point of view about disability
awareness and I have strong opinions. I
know I upset some people by believing that
change will only be brought about by
legislation and actual social integration and
that it is no use screaming
your head off to get that change.

The sort of loud radical approach, in the
end, doesn’t seem to me to be very
positive, it causes more problems later on.
If you’re trying to get people to change
their minds it seems to me that you have to
be manipulative in a positive way and not
just go with the knee jerk reactions.

I feel that as an artist you should be able to compete on an
equal basis; there are several famous artists
who were disabled and they did not use
their disability as a lever – they just got on with
their work. Disabled artists need to walk the
tightrope between mainstream values and independent
“disability culture” carefully otherwise they’ll find themselves
falling in to the habds of people who want to pigeon hole them in to
stereo typical disability slots, or appearing as though they have no
contact with the”real” world.

I want to spend the next year or so
promoting this record, both here and on
the continent. I seem to be a sort of
business man these days rather than a
musician. We already have plans for
another album; this may not include any
direct reference to disability.

When Simon had gone I went through the
album ‘Entitled’ again, listening hard to the
way Simon got his message across and
found the mixture of disability sensibility
and music particularly appealing in Soci-at-
Ease where ‘tragedy’, patronisation and
oppression are examined in a way that
avoids the screamingly obvious. Most of
the remaining tracks, excepting Grateful’,
I found to be in the easy listening Dire
Straits mode, but what’s wrong with that?

Professionally produced and presented
with a welcome intelligence, in particular
the understanding and portrayal of image,
this album is the one to join the others in
your collection.

Kit Wells 1994 DAIL Magazine