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David Piper talks Love with Anne Kapranos

At my most cynical I, like many others, have pondered the concept of real love and whether or not it exists. While drooling vacuously at the latest plot-by-numbers rom-com or washing up mechanically to the sound of Magic FM (actually I don’t do that last one), I have come to the conclusion that a huge conspiracy led by perfume brands, furniture stores, chocolate manufacturers and the sinister Mills and Boon is intent on encouraging us to fall in love for the sake of the consumer economy. Every formulaic song written, every filmed embrace, every crash of waves is pointedly designed to encourage us to buy stuff, settle down and procreate.

It was for this reason that I went along to meet David Piper orator extraordinaire to hear more about his forthcoming performance at the V&A, in which he promises to tell us all about it, propaganda and love that is.

The Propaganda For The State Of Love in which Piper has again teamed up with the fantastic ‘Antique Beat’ band The Real Tuesday Weld will take place at the Victoria and Albert Museum on Friday 5th December as part of its Cold War Modern exhibition. Set in the beautiful Raphael Room, aptly lead–lined against explosions and bombs, this new performance of original music, speech and film will set out to “confuse the tactics and language of propaganda with the tactics and language of love”.

The Girl With The Pre-Fabricated Heart - Fernand Leger/Hans Richter - The Real Tuesday Weld with Cibelle and David Piper.

When I meet David Piper I am not disappointed. A self-proclaimed dandy and ‘agitator of the absurd’, Piper certainly lives up to his own hype. Tall and slim with a natty moustache, piercing eyes, and a languid genteel drawl, Piper is dressed in a pair of 1920’s slacks and a vintage Mac. He looks immaculate despite having confessed to a late one the night before.

That first glance of him is on a gloom sunk corner along Kingsland Road. It is a late Friday afternoon and the winter evening is settling in. Breaklights flicker on and off in the road between us, run down shop facades our dowdy backdrop. I have been hanging around outside his East End pad, what seemed to be a huge abandoned factory. Until we enter that is. It turns out to be a lively hub, filled to the brim with creativity, eccentricity and dirty dishes. In the whitewashed corridors leading up to his abode we pass all sorts of arty looking types and hear the clatter of sewing machines as the upstairs throws together bizarre costumes for a wild party later that night. Upon being shown to his room, a vintage lair if ever there was one, I stare longingly at row upon row of tailored suits, hats, vintage shirts and amazing shoes. This is a man who can dress, I think to myself. For the V&A performance he will be dubbing himself ‘Dictator Of Love’. Could he pull off such a title? His wardrobe convinces me.

So who does he think was the sexiest dictator? I ask my first question, an ice breaker. I confess to Stalin, on the basis of his bushy moustache, but I’m not sure he agreed.
In fact he doesn’t seem much interested in the competition or my question, rolling his shoulders in the manner of a tipsy lion. Direct questions seem not to be his thing and he avoids them like a balloon might pins. We move on.

Pondering on the title, “Propaganda For The State Of Love”, I am curious to know what is ‘love’ in this instance? Piper explains “Love is a country in an undefined time or place that I rule somewhat tyrannically. This country is run by propaganda.” I ask Piper what his role as Dictator of Love is and he tells me that his speeches, accompanied by the original compositions of the Real Tuesday Weld, are ‘both beautiful and scary at times’ – like any sort of propaganda. The intent is sometimes disturbing in its subtlety and the effect he desires will be ‘striking in its lusciousness’.

However, he is keen to point out that the project isn’t politically motivated. Indeed Piper ‘finds politics really boring’. Instead this is a flamboyant and fun performance without any particular intention other than to explore propaganda as an expressive device of manipulation. He wants to use it in an entirely innovative way, as a perverse tool to investigate the concept of love.

The set backdrop to Piper’s speeches is made up of gloriously patriotic old love films, many of which were made during the Second World War. I am told that they will create a (literally) moving alternative to those huge banners, draped over monumental buildings, the kind one associates with political rallies.

In the same vein, Piper tells me that his costume, an all in one military suit tailored especially for him displays red and white – the official colours of the state of love. Other State trappings include the national anthem, ‘The 10 Commandments Of Love’ by Harvey and Moonglows. To rally the masses, Piper uses the ‘love’ salute - a sieg heil version of blowing a kiss… Mwah darling!

I was interested to know what Piper’s inspirations were when composing his speeches for this particular performance. He tells me about the months spent researching and discovering all kinds of propaganda for love. 15th century love stories, Roman poetry and even Mein Kampf. Most intriguingly of all he has reworked and will deliver an early Nazi party speech, Goebbels on the importance of propaganda apparently. This stuns me but we quickly move into sweeter waters, talking about English propagandist films like Mrs Miniver and the clipped emotions Brief Encounter, all of which take on a new light as Piper explains his angles.

Finally we talk of love songs, having established that they were a rarity in today’s manufactured climate. All the way through our interview he has periodically got up and disappeared behind an exotic dressing screen where his Mac lurks, its screen saver glowing in the dim light of his lair. Each time he has put on an exquisite pop rarity, music he intends to play at the performance.

“There are no real loves songs just now – I suppose you have people like James Blunt, but he is just trite.” I ask Piper what he feels are his favourite love songs and he plays me the chilling ‘He Hit Me’ by The Crystals and ‘That’s How Strong My Love Is’ by OV Wright.

What is the message then behind “Propaganda For The State Of Love”? As he sees me out of his achingly ‘creative’ warehouse (mannequins in corners, finger-paint portraits on the walls) I realised Piper has left me no clearer, no doubt deliberately. It seems though a wonderful excuse to explore the most talked about subject in an entirely new way, one that is at the same time both familiar and strange. I am fascinated to see the finished performance. By the door he shakes my hand and gives me one last smouldering look from behind his moustache. We pause a moment and then the great leader is gone, plotting sweet domination from his East End bunker (on the second floor).

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At 7pm on the 5th December 2008, The Real Tuesday Weld & David Piper present a musical propaganda rally, a special commission for the COLD WAR MODERN exhibition at the VICTORIA & ALBERT MUSEUM. Click here for details on this splendid occasion.

David Pipers’ blog for Propaganda for the state of Love: ...

The Real Tuesday Weld: ...

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