FEATURE: My Inspiration – Shrug | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Shrug have just released a new video for the song Whitby Kipper – first track on the forthcoming album, Island Complex due for release in April. We caught up with Robert from the band to find out a little more about the inspiration behind the song…

Whitby Kipper was a song inspired by the sights, sounds and hidden stories of Whitby. We wanted to capture the atmosphere of the historic town and reveal some of the often unseen corners that can be all too easily missed in the tidal wave of crowds in a tourist season that seems to last most of the year now. We also maybe had the classic 1974 film Don’t Look Now in mind as we substituted Whitby for Venice and the missing child is a horse, or man in a horse’s head that often seems to be lurking in peripheral vision. The horse’s head has been my main stage prop for 20 years now. A mask to hide behind. Just where are those eyes looking?

We thought we would seed the film with clues to so many mysterious layers, of Dracula, of Whitby jet jewellery popularised by good Queen Vic. Of the intrepid mariner Captain James Cook, of the stories penned here by spooky writer Arthur Machin. How about the downright weird, hand of glory in the town museum or the legends of the snake stones of Abbess Hild. This is a video cabinet of curiosities.

And then there is some more. What is the secret of the floating egg and why did it unlock the potential of the surrounding cliffs and hills? Ah but that would be telling.

We take the Moor Road, the surrounding fields cloaked in snow, showing that even today there is a bit of effort needed to reach Whitby. And on a cold, crisp Monday in January we shoot a video under the direction of the genius that is A J Garrett of the Peg Powler Art Collective and our raven masked Blue John Benjamin as a location guide taking us beyond the reach of the tourist up rickety stairways to secret rooms of dusty delights. The video is shot entirely on mobile phones. With a bit of green screen electric trickery afterwards.

Whitby Kipper is the no smoke without fire, starter for ten, on our brand-new album Island Complex. The difficult second album that took nearly 30 years to come about. Better late than never.

We are an island people and here in the north east we cling on at the edges. Last year I read The Outrun by Amy Liptrot about fighting back from having gone over the edge to a celebration of life in the margins in Orkney. The book inspired me to visit Orkney and then was a driving force to finally write the lyrics to an album. She is a wonderful writer, that has taught me to look more closely at everything in nature and in history. Amy was my lyrical inspiration.

In Orkney I found a couple of links to Captain James Cook who was born in the village of my youth Marton. He learned his trade as an apprentice at Whitby. It was 250 years ago this year he set sail in the Endeavour on the first of three epic voyages. The world would never be the same again. Islands in the oceans became part of a complex joined up world.

While writing the lyrics for the album our island world was being torn apart by a divisive referendum. We were pulling up the draw bridge. The seas that for centuries had been routeways connecting the north east to the world were suddenly a barrier, our protection as we prepared to withdraw into our island shell.

There are plenty of shells and fossils in the shops of the quaint back streets of Whitby, that we show in the video. Whitby is a historic fishing town that is not too dissimilar in some ways to Stromness, where I stayed on Orkney and the last port of call on the third and final voyage of James Cook. Only Cook was dead by the this time, as was his successor Captain Clerke. One of the remaining officers who came ashore to have dinner at Stromness, was a William Bligh. It was just as well he had learned to navigate under one of the greatest ever sea men, James Cook. Bligh would escape with his life from the Mutiny on the Bounty. Now there was a whole different story of a crew with an island complex.

We hope you find some inspiration for your own starting points from Whitby Kipper video. And do have a look for Amy Liptrot’s book The Outrun. We hope you might like to have a listen to a few songs from Island Complex. And last but not least can you solve the riddle of the floating egg?

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