Labyrinth of hidden stations discovered


In November last year, Birdsong Developments (operator of the John Foxx Listening Station network) revealed that one of its engineers, presumed missing in action, had been found safe and well in a Northamptonshire woodland…

Lost since 1978, that same engineer has now unveiled to the company the result of his journey wandering the maze of tunnels hidden underground, some of which have been derelict for centuries. Mr X (his identify cannot be revealed for legal reasons) has also given details of some Listening Stations that were not previously known to exist and which the company is now keen investigate, with a long-term view towards re-commissioning…


“It’s like a hidden world” he said. “I thought that was it when I fell through that doorway at Old Street, but I just got bumped around a bit on the way down and knocked meself out. When I came to, I was a bit disorientated and started wandering. There’s probly as many miles of tunnel down there that we don’t know about as what we’ve used. Even stations. There’s not just tracks and tunnels, but stations too. Or at least places where we could built some easily enough, where the tunnels cross over ‘n’ that’…”

Since he disappeared, Mr X has spent more than thirty years adrift in this underworld labyrinth, most of which would seem to be located in the north west sector of the existing Foxx network. The tunnels would appear to be on different levels to those Listening Stations open and active on The Quiet Line, occupying strata quite considerably deeper below the city.

“I thought I was in a Jules Verne novel,” Mr X continued. “y’know, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ‘n’ that. Most exciting I reckon was when I followed this tunnel and realised it was starting to get light. I was going downwards I’m sure, but all of a sudden I stepped into something what seemed like a cave, only there was sunlight coming through the ceiling. There was plants growing in it, and when me eyes got used to the light I realised it was a roof, not a ceiling. Knackered like, broken up ‘n’ that, but being an engineer, see, it didn’t take me long to notice them was purlins up there. I sat down. It was amazing. All overgrown, but green as y’ like. Damp, with water still trickling down a wall at the far end.”


Mr X report goes on to describe what he found the other side of this vast, underground hall, and how he came above ground again to the sound of Nightingales. Once breathing fresh air, he was able to transmit (on his mobile telephonic device) the signal that eventually led to his discovery and rescue…


Juan Perucho – Natural History


As many of my friends and followers will know, I’m a sucker for this kind of thing.

Dennis Leigh – aka creative multi-media artist and musician John Foxx – has illustrated more than 40 book covers in a parallel career as a graphic illustrator. Over the past ten years (yes really…) I have taken it upon myself to catalogue them all and, where possible, acquire copies of the First Editions. Restraints of budget have limited this so far to only ten, but they are things of such incredible beauty that getting one or two every year or so just adds to the delight of a new purchase.

As far as I know, no-one has considered such an undertaking before and it remains a frustrating and time-consuming labour of love. There are a number of factors that make the job more difficult than it might first appear:

Firstly, the cover illustrator is often not credited on the jacket. At all. I guess that because Dennis Leigh is “well-known” (ha!) he is luckier than most and does get the occasional mention.

Secondly, organisations, libraries, publishers and other institutions do not routinely store data identifying the Cover Illustrator so searching by a name is impossible. To that end, I am indebted to staff at Random House who went to a lot of trouble providing vital information and helped my quest enormously.

Third, the artist himself has no archive or record of the books he worked on, and not necessarily even a copy of the artwork so this research is breaking new and important ground there too…

Fourthly, I have no idea how many publishers are involved. At least ten or twelve known so far

It has become possible in many cases to identify Leigh’s work by simply developing an eye for it over time and becoming familiar with the techniques, typefaces and themes he tends to use. My wife would argue in that case that “they all look the same”… Of course, there are common elements that link the illustrations, just as there are similar identifying themes in the music he creates as “John Foxx”.

The image created for Juan Perucho’s “Natural History” is a typical example. Layered compositions – a classic piece of artwork (often by da Vinci), overlaid with translucent coloured resin upon which a surface coating of gold leaf is applied and then distressed, damaged or otherwise scratched away, revealing the figures and faces underneath.

Perucho’s novel was first published in November 1989, and therefore represents the earliest example of Dennis Leigh’s art from this period, when he was working quietly away from the spotlight of stardom and any kind of celebrity. Foxx was in the refrigerator, quietly recharging. A distant hum… The style is in its infancy. Distinct and evocative, but perhaps lacking the complexity of later pieces.

A unusual feature of this particular jacket, at least in my collection and others I have seen online so far, is that it is one image that spreads across both the front, spine and reverse of the wrap. This is what makes purchasing the books so special – the back cover, flaps and spine often contain hidden surprises.

So please, if after reading this, you fancy helping out in the search for Dennis Leigh jacket illustrations, do let me know.
We are currently considering the best way of including the catalogue of references and illustrations into the metamatic website, but it’s one of many jobs in progress…

On Vanishing Land

John Foxx at The Show Room, Camden
7th March 2013

Haunted by Invisible Women, I arrived in rain-grey Kensington around 11.30 and made my way to the Natural History Museum from the Exhibition Road entrance. Nervously waiting for the first ghost to appear.
Around me, people are meeting. School children, students. Friends. Talking, sharing stories. Conversations over cake.
She is ten minutes late, I start scanning all the faces. Will I recognise her? People are always smaller than you remember them to be.

Fast Forward seven hours to Camden. Press repeat. I’m drained already.
Ten minutes past the stated time, we are ushered downstairs at The Show Room into the performance space. She is lost in my present now, unfamiliar and unsure. Her hand in mine is suddenly tighter, her eyes confused. She cracks a smile. Quietly confidential.
Just when I think I’m winning…
Foxx in black. A piano, and Karborn to one side. Sorting a series of random animated gifs found on the internet. They work as human memory, in unresolved loops. Which is what technology is really…
He sits to play and we are ‘silent’. That’s the key. The music, at first unaccompanied, is delicate and beautiful treated piano, heavy with delay and echo. Crystalline and sharp, refracting time. Like the pieces we know from The Quiet Man – les Gymnopedies des Foxx
Five minutes in, the second movement sparks Karborn’s animations into flickering life. Fragments of film, of people dancing. Women on trains. Speeded up crowd scenes and waves and beaches. Curtains, cars and pissing rain.
And now there are sounds. Incidental, accidental sounds. Bits of litter left from other lives. A clock ticking, Papers being shuffled. Footsteps from the room upstairs. Furniture is dragged across the floor.
It all merges imperfectly together. The music rises, falls. Pervades the room and we become momentarily unsure and lost. The voices of the ghosts are getting loud. Crackles of electricity and water on the the wind. The humming of distant pylons. It is no longer clear whether we are hearing the film, the soundtrack or the piano and only when Foxx encounters a particularly piercing note are we snapped back in to the moment.
And it is a moment which could be the only one wherein this music lives. It may just have no life beyond this room. Where then the ghosts, the chatter and the sound of tea cups laughing?
I’m back in that cafe in Kensington. Voices blurring. Faces merging. The past is back, as if it never left and we pick up conversation like old times.
There is static, and hiss, and sounds within the audience take their part in the sequence. The text alert on a mobile beside me. Someone coughing. the rain outside and footsteps from the room upstairs. A buzzing insect, straight from the Darwin Room. He catches his breathe, as if to speak.
And we’re there. A half an hour sequence of forty minutes and several lifetimes.