Overseas guest of honour from Canada
UK guest of honour
"Decadent" Dave Clement first appeared in Charles deLint's novel Fundy Song
as one of artist Jilly Coppercorn's many musically talented and faintly
disreputable friends. Due to popular demand, deLint expanded the
character into a lead protagonist role in the World Fantasy Award-winning
novel Drink Up the River. Soon after, Dave started appearing at Worldcons
and filk conventions. Some say that the character (and we use the word in
all its potentially interesting connotations) of Decadent Dave was inspired
by an as-yet unpublished Stan Rogers ballad which was censored by the
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and never recorded.
Contrary to rumours started by jealous polka band members, Dave has no criminal record. His only brush with the law was an arrest and trial for voice theft, when he was accused of stealing the vocal cords of Zloty MacHamish Vinyls, the famous singer of Saskatchewan Sea-Chanteys. The case was dismissed when Vinyls could not produce a single witness to identify Dave's mellifluous singing as Vinyls' own. An anonymous letter to the editor of the Saskatoon Daily Combine implied that the witnesses had all been under the influence of a potent beverage but was laughed off. Soon after the incident, Dave moved to Manitoba.
Tales persist of Dave's involvement in a number of bands in the Winnipeg area. Members of one band (Dandelion Wine) seem to have mysteriously disappeared over the last few years. A new band (Curragh) is making the rounds and is threatening to record an album in the next year or so. These rumours would be easy to discount if it weren't for the presence of one Tom Jeffers. Tom follows Dave around and claims to be a member of both the above bands. Tom also claims to have written a number of songs (including the popular "Circles in the Grain"). Tom also sometimes claims to be Jean Chretien, so there you have it in a nutshell.
Most experts agree that Dave is currently lying low to avoid prosecution on a number of charges involving managing technical personnel. He himself claims to have been an IBM mainframe geek from the earliest days, but that hardly seems a valid excuse in today's more enlightened world. A short stint running filking for Conadian (the 1994 Worldcon) led to a complete collapse of the Canadian economy and the devaluation of the Loonie.
Dave's friends claim him to be an accomplished musician, a fact hard to argue with until one discovers that he recently purchased a bodhran. He has a black belt in Taekwando which he may or may not use on the bodhran.
On meeting Dave for the first time, one might think that he is visually impaired. This is only true in the strictest legal sense of the word, as Dave's eyes are in his fingers. This becomes obvious when one watches him play guitar, but should be taken as a warning should Dave ask a lovely young lady to let him take a closer look at her ...
Dave's wife Elizabeth is on the short list for canonization for putting up with Dave for all these years. The only thing standing in the way of her beatification is the pesky requirement that she be dead in order to qualify. As she may be the only sane option standing between Dave and world domination, one hopes this honor is delayed for some time to come. Dave has two children and two grandchildren, and luckily they all seem to manifest a genetic influence from the other side of the family.
We must say (remember the Taekwando and the potent beverages) that there are few people in the world of music that we enjoy playing with as much as Dave. We also enjoy making music with him. We envy you the opportunity to meet him for the first time - like we did in New Orleans, where he... well, that's another story.
Some of the above biographical facts may actually be true. Believe at your own risk.
Fan, filker, folkie, father and friend. And librarian - Ook!
Lawrence tells me that the first filksing he ever attended was at Seacon 79, the World Science Fiction Convention held in Brighton in 1979. He stayed long enough to hear a few songs, join in where appropriate and buy a copy of Filthy Pierre's Microfilk. The first filksong he ever wrote was "The Ballad of Arthur Dent", the first ten verses of which were published in 1980 in Forty-Two, the newsletter of Hitch-Hikers Anonymous, the then fan club for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and which he sang to a friend at the 1980 unicon held at Keele University. All of which means that by the time XIlophone comes round, Lawrence will have been involved in filk, on and off, for twenty years, which he finds mindboggling but which makes me feel like a mere stripling, as I went to my first convention in 1981.
The first filksing attended by both Lawrence and myself was the all night session at Consept, the seventh unicon, held in the summer of 1986 at the University of Surrey in Guildford. At this point, although we had both been in fandom for several years, we didn't actually know each other yet. So he doesn't remember me being there, (I think I only sang twice), and I don't remember him being there, (he didn't sing at all). But this was apparently the first "proper" filksing he had been to since Brighton in 1979 and this time he got well and truly hooked.
I first got to know Lawrence at Follycon, the 1988 British National Science Fiction Convention held over Easter weekend at the infamous Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool. Follycon was the convention at which filk in the UK came out of the broom cupboard and took its rightful place on the main programme. During the first evening's filking Lawrence produced his guitar and began playing in a style that has since come to be known as the Dean Power Strum. At that time he had already written a number of witty parodies to known tunes (e.g. "Armchair Critics", "In My Cupboard") and songs to original tunes (e.g. "Norman Conquest"), not all of which had horrible puns in their titles. And during the course of the weekend he became One Of Those Responsible For "The Smilk Song" but avoided the dire retribution visited upon most of the Smilks - he somehow managed not to get roped into being on the committee for Contabile, the first British filkcon.
The WiGGLe (the London filkers' monthly get together) started shortly after Follycon, and although he was still living in Lancashire at the time, Lawrence attended many of its early meetings, and he became a confirmed regular when he relocated to Kent a few months later, having got a job as a librarian in Canterbury. This move proved to be pivotal in many ways: one of his new flatmates was taking guitar lessons and passed on some very useful tips; Lawrence started going to the local folk club and began writing folk songs as well as filk; he began going to the annual folk week in Broadstairs, where he met a nice, young woman called Nicky, whom he immediately proceeded to corrupt.
Although many other British filkers made tapes in the early 1990s, Lawrence resisted the siren call, and instead in 1992 he produced a stunningly beautifully presented book, *Labyrinth of Shadows*, of his songs with original tunes. As music notation processors for the computer were not so readily available at the time, he did scores for all his songs, carefully and painstakingly, by hand. He explained to me once that he had produced the songbook, rather than a tape, to encourage other filkers to do their own arrangements of his songs without being inhibited by a pre-existing "definitive" interpretation. However having set such a high standard, it is perhaps understandable that few other filkers have followed his example and produced a book of their songs.
A little known fact about Lawrence is that he was instrumental in setting up the Flying Filk Fund, the forerunner of the present Filk Fund. As I recall, a number of people had wistfully suggested that it would be ever so nice to have a US guest at Contabile. Instead of just wishing, Lawrence, in true filk fashion, wrote a song called "Flying Fish", in which he suggested to Gytha North that she set up a fund to bring over a certain North American filker and said he would send a donation of £5 to help get it started. The song was sent to several key people, donations were collected and the rest is history.
Lawrence is notorious for frequently breaking guitar strings, particularly on other people's guitars, as a result of strumming rather too enthusiastically. This reputation is not totally fair, since, as far as I can recall, he has only once broken a string on a borrowed guitar in public. Unfortunately, it was the high G string on my twelve string guitar that he broke, while performing the power strum for "Dread Pirate Roberts" during the main concert at Con2bile. This incident was immediately immortalised in song by Brian Biddle, but somewhere along the line the guitar, whose string had been broken, got metamorphosed into Mike Whitaker's Rhiannon... But a reputation, once gained, is hard to lose, and so it was inevitable that Certain People gave Lawrence and Nicky some His'n'Hers G-strings as a wedding present.
Lawrence and Nicky have a young daughter, Caitlin, who was born on 7 February 1997, which means there should be chocolate birthday cake at British filkcons for the foreseeable future. All three are regular attendees at SWiGGLes, filkcons, Broadstairs folk week, and the folk clubs in Orpington and in Faversham, where they live, and Caitlin joins in the choruses enthusiastically if still somewhat incoherently. Lawrence has even persuaded Nicky to sing in public occasionally.
With his mixed repertoire of filk and folk songs, Lawrence complements nicely XIlophone's Canadian guest Dave Clements, whose singing includes the work of various North American folksinger-songwriters as well as filk. Yet because Lawrence's folk songs, and particularly the structure of his melodies, are rooted firmly in the English tradition, the differences between the two folksong styles will be neatly compared and contrasted.
Lawrence has a fine light baritone voice and over the years has learnt to do far more on the guitar than just strum. So why not come along to XIlophone and listen to this Grand Old Man of British Filk (and watch him lynch me for calling him that!). Oh, and perhaps you might persuade him to make a tape. We've all tried and failed. So far...
|Valerie R. Housden|
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