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More New Song
I finished off yet ANOTHER new song last night - it's called "Closer To You", it's in the annotations and the Song Blog, and it's the sort of song that I like to write every now and then, but that certain Validators don't like to play... I think it's lovely though, see what you reckon!
"Bloody GRATE" - Rolling Stone
I've just seen that the Rolling Stone article about us (you know, the one about us being Record Of The Year - did I mention it?) has been changed. Where once it said it was a "bloody great record", it now calls it a "bloody GRATE record"! This fills me with joy.
As suspected last week, the HECTIC WEEKEND has pretty much KNACKERED me. Visit by the parents went very nicely, thank you, and then TRAVEL worked out amazingly well, seeing us arriving just before the Birthday Boy at the Surprise Party (we'd got EMBROILED in watching The Other Boat Race on BBC1, which was LOVELY, but had delayed us a bit) and then over to Kentish Town to see The Fighting Cocks, who were GRATE, and then rather delightfully EASING us on to the last Central Line train home. Unfortunately this meant I didn't get to be until well past 1am, and then had to get up at 9am which was really 8am (JET LAG) in order to get over to my Brother's, where we carried two car loads of STUFF down four flights of stairs, round the corner, and then up ANOTHER four flights of stairs.
By the time I finally got home, i was DONE IN. Still, I had got to have a look at Maida Vale (Maida Vale is LOVELY), and at least had sufficient energy left to finish of a NEW SONG! It's called "Not Not For What It Isn't", and is in the Song Blog AND the annotations. Imagine it as a RHUMBA. It probably won't come out that way, but that's how I've been thinking of it thus far.
Bizarre Buying Bonanza
Fervent Totaliser watchers will notice it's had a tiny spasm just lately, and shot up to the giddy heights of 85 sales! Any reasonable person would think that this was because of Rolling Stone FANTASTICALLY naming "This Is Not A Library" as Album Of 2003 (and I'm still trying to find a way to think about that that doesn't involve me going "Eh? What? Us?"), but you would be incorrect. As far as I can make out, only one of these sales is due to the ACCOLADE. Stranger still, TWO of the sales came from the same HOUSE, within about an HOUR of each other, from two seperate people who had no idea the other was also buying the CD.
Spooky eh? It done made a CHILL run down MY spine, I can tell you this for nothing. Anyway, I'm off for the weekend now, I am (helping with) cleaning the house, having my PARENTS for a visit (see previous activity), going to a party, going to see The Fighting Cocks at The Verge, and helping my brother move house.
THUS, if you don't hear from me next week, it will be because i have KNACKERED myself!
The Unpredictable Same
Yesterday I got a copy of the fanzine "The Unpredictable Same" through the post, and it is ACE. In particular it has a GRATE long interview with Nigel Blackwell from Half Man Half Biscuit, during which he talks about how much he likes Kenickie's first album. It's always nice to know that someone YOU think is GRATE thinks the same THINGS are GRATE as you do, if you see what I mean. The conversation about it actually sounds pretty much the same as the one me and my brother have on a twice yearly basis about that album, in the pub... anyway, it's a Good Interview, but to be honest my favourite bit of the fanzine is a LIVE review of my gig at The Windmill just before Christmas.
I like it for THREE reasons. Firstly, because the way it reports me turning up and saying hello to John, who writes most of the pieces, makes me sound like a great big lumbering figure of KRAZY GOOD TIMES, which obviously I approve of, even though it's a bit odd finding a character with your name appearing in a piece of text, it feels STRANGE. Secondly, it reports one of my many THEORIES, this one being about there being a graph or GAUGE by which one might measure bands - in this case, a line with Coldplay at one end and Bearsuit at the other, describing the extremes of INDIE, upon which any band may be plotted. The other week in Nottingham I was EXPOUNDING something similar re. The Smiths and The Fall, so maybe a GRAPH is required? Anyway, I had forgot all about the Coldplay/Bearsuit AXIS, and was grateful to be reminded of it. John says the idea is "no doubt currently being rendered in song form", which it wasn't, but now might be. In future I think I shall EMPLOY someone to note down my REMARKABLE REMARKS in the pub, and filter out any NUGGETS OF GOLD that swim by. I'm sure there are thousands of them.
Finally, and most importantly, I like it because of this paragraph:
"Both [me and Chris T-T] put in sets of crowd-pleasing favourites - in Mark's case, Bands from London, Payday Is The Best Day, If You're Too Turned On, Easily Impressed et al seemed to go down well. As with Elvis Costello's tour of 2002, I would have preferred an anorak-pleasing dip into more obscure reaches of the back catalogue."
MORE Obscure?!? Than a set of MY songs?!?? FANTASTIC! God bless him, I think this is the most utterly brilliant thing anybody has EVER said about my gigs. I mean, yes, I too also worry that maybe I rely on the UBER-SET too much and don't do the odder songs from the past, but that is because they are MY songs and I love them all as if they were my BABIES. I certainly don't expect anybody else to even LIKE some of them - many of them, indeed, are actively LOATHED by the very Validators who recorded them... well, "Ring Your Mother" certainly is anyway - so to have someone complain that I am only playing the Crowd Pleasing HITS - this fills me with JOY UNSURPASSED.
Maybe I shall suggest to The Validators that we have an ACOUSTIC SPOT in the middle of our gigs where I shall play a selection of numbers on my own, possibly on a seperate, spotlit stage?
Anyway, the fanzine is GRATE throughout with many diverse and interesting opinions (especially about Belle & Sebastian, which I didn't agree with but liked reading), and you can BUY a copy yourself if you like for One POUND, in coin form, furtively posted to The Unpredictable Same, 17 Valley Drive, Handforth, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 3DN. Go on, DO IT!
The MAN Fails To Pounce
Hmm... despite having had The Album Of 2003 - Rolling Stone for over 24 hours, agents of The MAN have so far failed to STRIKE and offer me millions of pounds to record the follow-up. Mind you, I wasn't home last night, so maybe there's a letter?
I wasn't home because I was in Leicester, recording the aforementioned follow-up to The Album Of 2003 - Rolling Stone, and by GOLLY it's sounding GOOD! Last night was Vocals Night. I did a few of my vocals first (some'll need doing again, but "Let The Weird Band Win" is sounding quite good, INDEED I managed to STIR myself during it, oh yes) and then Emma arrived, so we got all of hers done. Her bits on "Let The Weird Band Win" proved difficult, so we did "City Centres" instead. It sounds FANTASTIC, especially at the end where she sings a sort of ROUND sort of thing... er... you'll hear what I mean soon enough, but it became a whole other CHUNK of song that sounds ACE. She did a mass of "bababa"'s too, leading to the disorientating sound of me, Emma, Kev and Sorted Supremo Dave Dixey (who'd come down to VIDEO some bits of the evening) going "Is that the second bababa or the first bababa?" "It's the babababaBA I think?" "Bababa?" "No, BabaBA."
If that wasn't enough to drive the burgeoning legions of Emma Fans CRAZY, she also recorded three tracks of RECORDER onto "The Primal Rhythms Of The Bolivian Nose Flautist", which sounds UTTERLY GRATE - I can feel myself being pushed towards the back of the group photographs even as we speak.
"Billy Jones Is Dead" was knocked off quite easily, we ended up doing Fairly Normal backing vocals on "Let The Weird Band Win", and then I did a Quite Nice bit of vocals for "The Fair Play Trophy" in one go... i was fairly relaxed by this point... and Emma followed suit. It's good recording Emma's stuff, as IDEAS were again thrown back and forth through the Studio Door and tried out, it were FUN. Finally we did the CHORAL INTRO which, rather wonderfully, sounded Odd, until Emma did the third vocal part and, my dears, I could hardly restrain myself from leaping around CLAPPING, as it all came fantastically together.
It's sounding GOOD! Next week is Totally Tom night again, when we'll do violins and some more vocals, then on Quite Good Thursday I'm in to finish off and MIX it. WAHEY!
Strike A Blow
Oh yeah, and I should say - if you DO want to buy a copy of The Record Of The Year (oh yeah!), then you can do so online from the MJ Hibbett Emporium (Americans! The price is in pounds sterling, but Paypal happily accepts your Yankee Dollar!), and you can try before you buy by clicking on the "sampler" button to the top left of your screen.
And if anybody wants to organise an American tour or release the album properly in the States, then that would be ABSOLUTELY FINE WITH ME. Yeah!
Up 624 Places/Us>Outkast
A couple of weeks ago I was banging on about us being 625th in the Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll. I thought that was pretty DARN exciting, and would have been more than happy with that result but, dear listener, this morning I received an email I could scarce believe.
According to Rolling Stone's Well Hung At Dawn column, "This Is Not A Library" was THE record of 2003. BLOODY HELL! and CRIKEY! Here's what it says:
RECORD OF THE YEAR
MJ Hibbett and the Validators, This Is Not a Library (Artists Against Success)
OutKast are all well and good, but we're not ashamed to admit that all the hippin' and a-hoppin' and the bippin' and a-boppin' says nothing to us about our lives. Whereas an insanely prolific, remarkably witty bespectacled thirtysomething comic book geek from the Midlands, working the classic C-86 idiom in genuine obscurity, hustling his music on the darkest outskirts of popular culture? You know it!
The criminally unknown Mark Hibbett speaks the words we feel inside, prolix and verbose songs of nationalism, privatization, nostalgia, social injustice, body fascism, media overload, illicit sex and pub life, adorned with twee girl backing vox, martial trumpets and bountiful ba-ba-bas. Fuck the fucking Libertines -- this is the true face of post-millennial Albion!
As of today, This Is Not a Library has sold a mere eighty copies. Well Hung readers, get thee to www.mjhibbett.com immediately and push the Sales-Totaliser to 100! Not only will you be purchasing a bloody great record, you'll be striking a blow for indie rock troubadours everywhere!
I mean to say - CRUMBS! Bloody hell! Eh? What? LUMME. Who'd've thought it eh? WOW!
Autographs for Sale
One of the zshop Merchants on Amazon is selling an "autographed" copy of "Say It With Words". I have TWO reactions to this:
1. Whoo! My 625th best album-based FAME has spread to the extent that someone somewhere thinks me writing all over something makes it OF NOTE!
2. Someone somewhere wants to get rid of a CD that they bought off me and then liked enough to WANT me to write all over it. Oh no! And it's not like I go round despoiling peoples CDs willy nilly or anything, usually someone asks me to do it and there is a BIG PALAVER about it, as I always think its a bit daft. THUS I get the feeling one of my CDs has either UPSET somebody, or been part of that upsetment.
How does Paul McCartney COPE when whole chunks of his LIFE get sold off? I would be DISTRAUGHT!
Also, while I think about it, you can LISTEN to Hey Hey 16K by simply clicking here, and you can even go mad and BUY it from the MJ Hibbett Online Shop - it's on "Say It With Words", and long with a whole bunch of other songs.
That's only if you really want to, obviously. Don't feel you have to change your plans or anything, I'm just glad you stopped by!
Hey Hey 16K T-Shirts
Wahey! The Hey Hey 16K T-Shirts are avaiable to buy online at last ("At last indeed!" I hear you cry, oh t-shirt deprived multitudes) from www.ntkmart.co.uk. They're 10 quid each, come in a multitude of sizes, are HARDY when washed (I've been wearing mine to gigs, so it's HAD to be washed a lot), and look like this:
Nice, isn't it? And best of all, 2 quid from every sale goes towards paying for the album to be recorded. GET IN!
205-211 Kentish Town Road*
I've just been reading some RUMINATIONS about Marvel and Marvel UK comics buying in the 1980's. As stated in the Freaky Trigger article, getting HOLD of the damn things at the time was a bloody nightmare. In theory Marvel UK comics were on sale in the same newsagents as IPC and DC Thomson ones, but they regularly failed to appear at crucial moments - I especially remember VITAL issues of "The Daredevils" and "Mighty World Of Marvel" (i.e. the ones with the Alan Moore/Alan Davis "Captain Britain" series in) completely failing to appear. In fact, now I think about it, I recall my friend Sanjiv actually HAVING a copy of one of these that I didn't, and then not mentioning it for weeks just to taunt me more about it later...
The real hassle though was getting hold of the America versions. There was a Newsagents near my Dad's house that occasionally got American Marvels in, and again, I distinctly remember getting the issue of Fantastic Four with "the Spinner" (a big blue alien who ... er... made people dizzy) on the cover in there, something which I think about every time I smell sweet cigarrettes... but there was no way on earth of getting any of them regularly.
THUS you can imagine my JOY when my Nan and Grandad took me and my little brother on a trip to London one year, and I managed to persuade them to take me to Forbidden Planet, which I'd read about so many times in the back pages of "Hulk Weekly". Speciallist Comics shops had just started advertising in Marvel comics, and I used to look in WONDER at their long lists of back issues, circling the ones I most wanted though never being brave enough to send off for them. Anyway, we went to Denmark Street and found the shop, and in I went - the Grandparents stood outside waiting, and somehow got talking to a passing Frank Muir! It was AMAZING - there were comics EVERYWHERE! They were CLEAN, uncrumpled, and there was more than one of every issue. In some cases, there was more than one issue of each comic!!
I distinctly remember two things about that afternoon - the SMELL of the shop full of paper (mmmm!), and the PAIN of having to choose WHICH ones to buy. I got a slim bag full of five or six magazines to take home with me, bought off a sales guy who I seem to recall OPENLY sneering at me. A few months later "House On The Borderland" opened in Peterborough, having a stall every Wednesday and Saturday on Peterborough market, and that was it for me and my dinner money, i was HOOKED.
Now that Forbidden Planet has moved and is a horrible Comic Supermarket full of ghastly "statuettes", but I still get a THRILL walking down Denmark Street, and i STILL have to stop myself from spending all my dinner money in Gosh! on a Thursday afternoon. Comics is GRATE!
* the address of Marvel UK - imagine my disappointment when, last year, I walked down Kentish Town Road and found it to be, frankly, a bit of a dump, and not the pulse-pounding powerhouse of POWER I'd always imagined it to be... Stan Lee walked down this street!
Let The Weird Band Win
New Song! It's the totally revised and rewritten replacement for "Like A Sun In The Night", now entitled "Let The Weird Band Win" (or possibly "Let The Weird Band Win In The Battle Of The Bands", or even "Let The Weird Band Win (In The Battle Of The Bands)", not sure yet), available NOW in the Song Blog.
posted by MJ Hibbett, 15.3.04 (click here for permanent link)
Back up to the Midlands yesterday, to ROCK. Dr N.Brown gave me a lift to Derby in the RAIN for an acoustic all-dayer at The Mist (and OH! if only Derby Legends Gorilla could reform to play there!), and I must say i THOROUGHLY enjoyed myself. All seemed to go jolly well, the totaliser nudged up very slightly, and then Rob did a set which was LOVELY but was all rather eclipsed by him playing "Black Eyes" at the end. This is a song from his new album that is, i reckon, utterly ACE - it's the same sort of Totally Brilliant Song as "54th and 3rd" was on his last album. I love it to bits, if only he didn't play JAZZ CHORDS all the time I would be NICKING it to play in my own sets.
Then we set off for Nottingham, arriving as requested at 5pm... to start soundchecking at about 6.30 and then spend AGES doing it. I felt really bad, as it felt like it was US taking ages and pushing all the other bands sets back, even though it was because the venue was still set up from the night before, when it had been a discotheque. Anyway, eventually we were sorted, and wandered off for some GRUB.
The gig bit started well, if half an hour late - Rob's set was again dead good, though largely ignored, and then The Liberty Ship came on and were GRATE. I've read reviews of them saying they were SuperIndie, and was expecting the sort of thing that PASSES for jingley jangle these days, but instead they were FANTASTIC. They ROCKED! They SWOONED! They made me grin a big daft grin - loads of bands THINK they sound this good. However, only The Liberty Ship actually DO.
We then discovered Emma wouldn't be able to make it to sing, which turned out not to be so bad... and then got in discussion with Marc and Giles, in their Johnny Domino GUISES, who both seperately assured me that their album was "nearly ready" and "you'll really like it!".
By this point things were running about half an hour late, which was a bit worrying as we were supposed to be on at 10pm, on a Sunday night, and wasn't helped when the next band hung around for ages before going on, then went over their time... and there wasn't much we could do about it, as the promoter was IN the band! It soon began clear that the night was pretty much arranged for them to play, and that the entire audience was their mates who'd come to support them, so when we eventually managed to get onstage pretty much everybody buggered off home, and those that were left had no interest in us at all.
Now, I hate it when bands complain about this sort of thing and blame the audience for not bothering to hear them - after all, it's the band's JOB to get new people to like them, and it WAS getting on for 11 o'clock on a school night, and people HAD come specifically to see their mates (and many of them didn't even know we were going to be on!). Still, I did feel a bit cheesed off that we'd put all this effort into getting ourselves together to play it, and travelling a long way to do so.
I really enjoyed our SET however - we played "City Centres" for the first time, and did a VERY LOUD INDEED version of "World Go Blind" that a weaker man than me would call EVISCORATING hem hem... and afterwards i felt INVIGORATED in the same way I used to when VOON used to clear the room. It was still a bit disappointing, especially as we didn't even get any Token Petrol Money for our troubles!
I don't know - maybe all the Good Gigs lately and the Modicum Of Acclaim we've had just lately has gone to my HEAD a bit. I REALLY worry about becoming the sort of dick I used to hate in other bands who EXPECT to be treating like the Endsleigh League Rock Stars they are in their heads, and so I'm conscious of the fact that, really, it was just a bit of a bad gig. I just feel a bit disappointed that after all this time we STILL end up doing that sort of gig, and I STILL end up apologising to my lovely band for dragging them along with me.
On the way home, however, we listened to the CD of New Stuff. It sounded GRATE. HOORAH!
It's a big weekend of GIG ACTION for me, as I'm playing solo in Derby on Sunday afternoon (at about 3pm), then I'm off to Nottingham to HEADLINE a gig at The Social with The Validators - this should be an especially good night, as Frankie Machine and The Liberty Ship are also playing, as are The Radiator Experts (but I don't really know anything about them, as yet). It'll be busy for me, but busier YET for Rob, as he's ALSO playing solo in the afternoon, and will thus be doing THREE gigs in one day! Phew! GO ROB!
It Only Takes A Minute
I got confirmation the other day that my song "The Same Page Of The Map" WILL be appearing on the as yet untitled Where It's At Is Where You Are compilation of 60 60 second songs, alongside the likes of Frankie Machine, The Chemistry Experiment, Sportique and many many more. It should be out around April time, apparently, but obviously more news will follow, as it happens.
It was MUCHO fun doing the recording though, especially trying to COMPRESS what WAS a 3 minute song (CRUELLY disregarded by The Validators...) into sixty seconds, which I managed to do by losing the least exciting verse, having the chorus sung UNDER the verses, and speeding it up a bit. It was nice to sit at home one night and just DO it, and thus I am having THORTS about instigating something similar, like getting a bunch of bands to record something overnight, and put it online the next day... we'll see anyway. Don't nobody go nicking my IDEA tho, or I'll have to wrap the website in TIN FOIL!
As I believe I mentioned a while back, I did a LENGTHY interview over Christmas, talking about my historical involvement with SORTED RECORDS. As I suspected at the time, there was RATHER a lot of stuff to type up, and so it has only just made it onto the WEB, and you can read it by clicking HERE!
It's been edited a bit to make it a bit more COMPREHENSIBLE I think, as at the time I RATTLED ON 10 to the dozen, and I reckon it's rather jolly... others may disagree! However, for anyone interested in the minutia of my ROCK CAREER during the 1990's, this is indispensable!
It wasn't ADAM from Thee Moths who did "Boom Shake The Room" three days before me in Motherwell, it was ALEX. In discussing this with Adam From The Hectors (I obviously get confused with too many names beginning with the same letter...) it turned out that this was Alex Botten, who used to work at the pressing plant that did "Say It With Word", and is an all round CHAP and GOOD EGG. So that's all right then - WRATH: RETRACTED!
After the Edinburgh gig the Hectors regrouped on stage for a Final Photograph, arms around each other, the picture taken with the audience behind them. Just like The Beatles' Candlestick Park photo - WELL DONE young people! That's EXACTLY the sort of behaviour that should be encouraged, I reckon. I thought that was dead good!
A Hard Day's Night
We watched "A Hard Day's Night" last night, as I'd had it on DVD for AGES, and had been meaning to watch it ever since The Heart Of My Joy and I went on our Beatles Tour near Marylebone. I've seen it loads of times, but watching it at home with someone who HADN'T seen it before made me realise what a STRANGE and GROOVY film it is. Near the start I was asked "So what's this actually ABOUT then?" and realised that there wasn't really an answer. All the bizarro little interludes ("it's play havoc with me drum skins") and offhand remarks, the scenes that happen for no apparent reason (like the BRILLIANT bit where George wanders into an Ad Agency, or the famous "Can't Buy Me Love" section), and the weird characters they meet throughout, make it all into a strange, dreamlike hybrid of Samuel Beckett and Kitchen Sink. Except, obviously, even funnier.
It's amazing, as ever, to think that they were all just out of their teens when they'd made it, and also that they wrote all the songs, put out ANOTHER album within a few months, and were on constant world tour at the same time as doing all that. They really were quite good, The Beatles, weren't they?
We've had some AIRPLAY just lately, which is always nice! As a result, I guess, of the Scottish Tour, we FINALLY got played on Beatscene, on Beat 106 in Scotland. This was one of the MAIN stations that our old pluggers used to say was "Prestigious", and I've been hoping for a play on their show since the album even came out, so HOORAH! The show's on Beat 106 on Wednesday nights, 10pm-1am, and the playlists always look GRATE - lots of Hectors ACTION too!
We've also been played AGAIN on Raw Talent, which goes out on BBC Sheffield, South Yorkshire, North Yorkshire, Bradford, Humber and possibly a few more too every Thursday night from 7pm until 10pm. Last time we got on it was due to the BADGERING of Eddy Bewsher, our Northern Ambassador, THIS time however it seems to be just because they liked us last time. HOORAH again! If anyone's in the vicinity tomorrow night, please have a listen in and see if they do it again!
And finally, our dear old pals at Kooba Radio played "Everything's Turning Out All Right" on last week's show, as a special request from a listener... and no, it wasn't me, not even me in DISGUISE. Even more beautifully, I had an email from a Kooba Team Member telling me that he'd only recently come to appreciate the OPTIMISM behind that song, due to a Life Event which leads HIM to sing along, especially with the line "At least not always".
I was up bright and early on Monday morning, breakfasted, and PACKED with nervous energy, before romping down to the station. The journey home was BANG on time - actually, it got into London EARLY - but felt like AGES, and when I got off the train I saw Tony Hadley, who'd obviously been in the first class, and more importantly The Heart Of My Joy, who'd come to meet me off the train. HOORAY!
We went for a beer, and LO! I was home again, and very pleased to be here. As I told her in the pub, I'd had an absolutely fantastic time. As I've said elsewhere, it really is a truly wonderful way to spend your time, going to all these different parts of the country, meeting new and fabulous people, having LARKS and ADVENTURES, and sometimes even getting to TOUCH people and make them a bit happier. ANYONE who EVER moans about going and doing gigs, or tries to make themselves look CLEVER by in any way demeaning the OPPORTUNITY to go out and do this should just stop it right now, and let those of us who LOVE it get on with doing it.
So this is just to say thank you to ALL the people who came, and especially to the entire Hectors Massive who were at all the gigs - I really appreciated all the effort that went into it, and was moved by the amount of LOVE that people put into it, and hope to see you all again very soon!
I got up early on Sunday morning (GUINESS was the reason), and trotted down to aforementioned M&S for a FRUITY BREAKFAST. When I checked out it turned out that the mini-bar system hadn't recognised my BEER and CRISPS from the night before - I very honestly pointed this out (they had my credit card details...) and was rewarded by getting them for free anyway! I should have had the champagne!
Then it was HO! for Edinburgh. Edinburgh is an AMAZING place, its like somebody set out to build London, but decided to put some effort in and do it PROPERLY. Everywhere you look is like a film set, just walking around the ordinary streets you're stunned by how beautiful it is. I strolled up the Mound to my hotel, which was on the Royal Mile, checked in, then headed out to SEE some stuff. HANDILY a tour bus came by, so I hopped on halfway through the tour. The lady doing the tour was very polite, but when we got to the start point we changed buses, and got an old GEEZER instead who told JOKES all along the route, so I went round the whole thing again, it was BRILLIANT.
It did feel very strange in places - I went up to Edinburgh in 1990 and 1991 to the Fringe Festival, and every so often I'd see somewhere that I recognised. The 1991 trip ended rather unpleasantly, largely because the venue went "bankrupt" and I got lumbered with about a grand's worth of debt, whilst most of the other people involved refused to have anything to do with it... so it's not a part of my life I look back on often, or fondly. This meant that when memories DID leap out at me they were of things I really haven't thought about in well over a decade, and I was amazed at how fresh and real they felt. Going past the big Museum Of Scotland I vividly remembered a bunch of people I was with having a lengthy argument, which destroyed the hopes of one of our number getting OFF with another one... it were STRANGE.
Anyway, when that was done I went back to the hotel, watched a DOCUMENTARY (OK, Star Trek), and then set off for the venue. The sun was starting to set as I walked down the mound, and I was struck by how very lucky I am to be able to do things like this, to get on a train and meet up with a gang of people I'd never met before, for them to turn out to be lovely, and for me to be able to experience all these different places up and down the country. It felt good.
Things took a turn for the WEIRD when I arrived at The Caledonian Backpacker's hostel, as it turned out to be ANOTHER place I'd been to before, to see a pretty crappy play about The Beatles back in 1991 - I'd been checking out the competition, as we were doing a (not at all crappy) MUSICAL sort-of about the Beatles at the same time. Inside the venue there was a Beatles MURAL on the wall, though I doubt it was in honour of that production, and the rest of the venue was decked out to look vaguely like an Australian Bar. This was, I guess, to make the many Australians there feel at home.
I nipped out again to post some postcards (ROCK AND ROLL!) to my Nan's (ROOOOCK!), and when I returned the whole GANG was there. We sat for the next two hours waiting for something to happen, and about halfway through The Other Band arrived. As soon as they walked in I knew exactly what kind of band they were - overly serious, proudly competent, hour-long soundchecking battle of the bands winners. The Hectors had seen many of their ilk before too, and we agreed that it was WEIRD that these bands ALWAYS sounded the same wherever you went (this lot sounded exactly the same, especially accent-wise, as every Leicester band who were ever like this) and WHENEVER you went. When I'd been in Edinburgh before, 13 years ago, members of our party were IN a band who sounded and LOOKED exactly like they did.
Anyway, eventually we got soundchecked, and The Other Band went on, fulfilling all predictions, yay e'en down to them over-running, not talkin to the audience, and bringing a strictly defined group of friends and girlfriends with them. Wanting to get ON with it, I went on almost straight away, and kicked off with "Back Of The Sofa", as requested by Ian and Adam. It sounded all right actually, I hadn't played it live for about three years, but that may now change. The gig itself was FINE, although felt it bit odd to be very much playing to the Hectors Massive, with nobody else paying attention... well, one of the Girlfriends Of The Other Band seemed to be listening and liking the words, which annoyed her boyfriend from The Other Band (who'd spent my first few songs pretending to be asleep) so much that they all had to leave. HA! Other than that, the Backpackers chose to ignore me completely. Well, they'd got in for free and just wanted a beer, so fair enough really.
Feeling moved by the occasion, I made a lengthy remark about "Billy Jones Is Dead" being all about certain times in your life that are incredibly precious and leave a lasting feeling of absence when they're gone, and about how we should appreciate them while we have them - this seemed extremely relevant given that this was the last original line-up gig for The Hectors, so I said so, and felt myself come over a bit unnecessary as a result. I know I'd only known them and their little group of friends a couple of days, but it felt like longer.
Sales reached the magical double figure of TWO that night, as half the people there who were listening AND hadn't been to a gig before bought CDs, and LO! I was very happy - as you can see from the screen to your right, this takes the totaliser to a whole new level. HOORAH!
The Hectors came on then, and though the sound wasn't as good as the night before, and there was a less SKIFFLE atmosphere due to the lack of drums, it was a Beautiful Thing for entirely other reasons. Somehow, over the course of the TOUR, I had decided to dispense WISDOM - it felt to me that they were in the same position VOON was many years ago, around the time that Neil left, and I felt it my duty to pass on the wisdom of my ages, so that they could carry on in JOY. For instance, I felt the need to KEEP saying that it was NOT a bad thing that Ian was leaving - he'd explained his reasons for not wanting to be in a band anymore, he'd given notice of it, and he was getting out BEFORE the whole thing was soured by bad feeling and going through the motions. In light of this, I pointed out that this was EXACTLY the gig to go out on, with the ENEMY in the room and your friends all watching, enjoying the night for what it WAS, a celebration of friendship, rather than being upset about whatever it wasn't.
Their set, then, was RAMSHACKLE and aimed directly at the long-serving, with several obviously very old songs coming out, as well as an ACE version of "Numanoid Hanglide". When it was over things felt a bit quiet, and soon they had to FLEE to get the bus home. HUGS were dispensed, by me mostly, and then they were away into the night. We all said that we would really have to do this again, and I think in this case, unusually for People In Bands, we all really meant it . Goodness knows I did.
I finished my drink, and strode off out into the night, and an overwhelming feeling of happiness washed over me. I thanked GOD for having such a life as this, for being able to travel around every so often and DO these slightly looney things, meet lovely people, and have such a lot of fun.
I celebrated on the way home in the traditional way: PIZZA!
So yes, off I went to see "Lost in Translation", which was LOVELY. I liked it. Back then to the hotel for TEA (Marks & Spencers seem to OWN every single FOOD outlet in Scotland, as far as I can see. I expect my next Scottish Tour to be sponsored by M&S Fruit Selections, as that is what i ATE the whole time, to avoid Tour Scurvy) then AWAY for The West End.
The Captain's Rest is not, apparently, a normal gig venue, and you could tell from the Faintly Scary upstairs bit, half occupied by gruff old blokes smoking PIPES, the other by KARAOKE. Downstairs however was a mirrored wonderland, like, as Adam Hectors said, Top Of The Pops in about 1978. We got to PA sorted out, we got ourselves set up, and we settled down with some BEER and waited for people to arrive...
And arrive they very much did! By the time I went to tune up the room was, if not full, then at least PLUMP. I'd had a good long think about my set, especially with regards to several of my songs being pretty specifically English, and made some changed, not least NOT starting with "Things'll Be Different" for the first time in well over a year. It all went VERY well indeed. "Lesson of the Smiths" went down GRATE as usual, and though a few people seemed to be a bit unsure (4 minutes in someone laughed, desperately, at the word "piss", as always) "Born With The Century" went down OK on a rare outing - Mr Sandy Blair, fellow veteran of Belle & Sebastian at QMU, had come and specifically mentioned it as his favourite. You don't get that sort of service with Bruce Springsteen!
My favourite bit was an IMPASSIONED pre-amble to "Things'll Be Different" discussing the Scottish Scottish Scotland nature of Glasgow City Centre (I think someone long ago toured the town saying "You're not Scottish at ALL!" and people got extremely defensive about it) and leading that into the need for the non-London English to follow their example, which got plenty much INTERACTION from the audience. It was ACE, and afterwards I sold a LOT of CDs, almost but not quite matching the mighty sales record set by HULL. The sound guy really liked it too!
Then it was time for The Hectors, and they were MAGNIFICENT. They're SUCH a lovely band, there's a massive LOVE VIBE coming off them, especially between the songs when Adam flies off on massively TANGENTS of Logical Imagination - me and Sandy stood laughing our heads off throughout, as indeed did the rest of the band. Ian, who started the band with Adam, was leaving the band at the end of the tour, and as I watched somebody videoing the pair of them singing together, I got a real impression of what an Important Thing it was that was ending, for them and for all sorts of other people who'd turned up to see them.
There was talk of Going On, but I knew I Had Had Enough, so got a lift back to the hotel, and retired with Mini-Bar Beer and Mini-Bar Crisps, a VERY happy Hibbett, for LO! I had ROCKED, and BEEN ROCKED in return.
I left Leicester early on Friday morning, and headed for London. I had an hour to kill, so walked MILES to a bookshop to buy another copy of the book I was reading ("The Seperation" - it was GOOD) because I was halfway through it, but had left it at work... nur. Onto the train and we FLEW North, bang on time all the way to CARSTAIRS, where we waited an hour because some local tykes had thrown a BOULDER onto the power supply, and knackered it.
When I got to Motherwell I strolled over to the venue, and had a BEER. The main thing about Scotland I've noticed so far is that everyone's REALLY friendly, in a slightly agressive way - in The Midlands people are friendly, but don't necessarily point it out to you. Up here it seems that everyone wants to be nice to you WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT. It was a bit scary at first, but now I think it's GRATE!
I went and got some tea, then came back and met The Hector Collectors who, it turns out, are LOVELY. We had a good old chat and some BEER, whilst Adam From Them got a bit worried about the number of people turning up, but when the mighty Stu McHugh (i.e. the chap whose idea this whole TOUR was) turned up it was time to go. So on I went.
My set seemed to go OK, though I was a bit thrown by "Easily Impressed" - I always say that people have a choice, either to do the Audience Participation and feel GOOD about themselves, or NOT do it and have a cheap laugh at my expense. Nobody has ever gone for the latter option before! Also "Boom Shake The Room" seemed to go down less well than usual, but someone told me afterwards that Adam From Thee Moths played the venue last week, and did the EXACT SAME VERSION of it!!! NARGH! Let my WRATH be uncontained!
Anyway, all it went pretty good, people seemed to like it (especially "The Lesson Of The Smiths"), and then the Hectors were on. They were BRILLIANT. They were Proper Indie - ramshackle in a GOOD way, obviously having fun being there, and bloody good fun to watch. Adam was also ACE front man, and I had a BIG GRIN on my face throughout. I think this tour is going to be GOOD!
Afterwards we all sorted ourselves out, and I headed off with Katie, Friend Of The Hectors, to stay with her family, most of whom were up when we arrived, so I had to be Polite and Alert, especially when one of their dogs LICKED my glasses! It was LOVELY, everyone was dead nice, and this morning I even got some CORNFLAKES and a lift to the station - hey, it's not very rock and roll, staying at a Minister's house and playing with the DOG, but it felt GOOD.
And now I'm in Glasgow. The first thing I note about Glasgow is that you would never forget which country you're in, as everything is labelled SCOTLAND in big letters. EVERYTHING. Anyway, I'm off to the pictures now, then tonight it's the Captain's Rest - more news, as it happens!
We had a fantastic night at Memphis Studio on Thursday. It was lovely to be back at Kev's after so long, to find that it was almost exactly the same as before (actually I think one of my beer cans from last time was still there...) except now he has microphones with little blue lights on, and a whole stack of new headphones. THUS me, Tim and Rob got set up in our own compartments in the live room, like a ROCK OFFICE, with headphones on so we could hear the words, and off we ROCKED. "Like A Sun In The Night" came out pretty easily, as did "City Centres" and "The Primal Rhythms Of The Bolivian Nose Flautist", and we took a few goes to get the best version of "Billy Jones" as we could, with Tim THRASHING the air as Rhythm Conductor. Kev was Quite Impressed with us. "That was almost tight!" he said.
Our only problem came with "The Fair Play Trophy" - I wanted it faster, but the SPEED collided headlong with the SWING, so poor old Tim got a bit confused. Rob took us in a Bow Wow Wow direction for a bit, and we recorded a slightly different version than normal. We listened back, and momentarily I considered either abandoning it completely or writing a whole new Football Song. We then went BACk into the room, had a big THINK and a LENGTHY theoretical discussion, and then did it in a whole OTHER way. It was JERKY!
All sounded brilliant in the end, so much so that we added HANDCLAPS, for the first time ever. I left with it all on CD, very happy, and ready to get going in a week or two on the overdubs. ROCK!
I think we're pretty much decided on the title of the next EP: SHED ANTHEMS!
This came about initially through the Heart Of My Joy and I talking about it on Saturday morning, and her suggesting "something like those Garage Anthems albums". Obviously "Terrace Anthem" sprang to mind, and I eventually realised that you don't have garages on a terrace,you have a SHED. So there we go. Also Tim points out that we will "shed" a couple of old songs that aren't otherwise available on CD, and Rob says he "shed" tears when he saw the title... I think he was trying to be rude though. Bad Rob!
Anyway, that's the title, and here's the cover:
It looks less grainy in real life - it's meant to be similar to "Milk & Baubles" see... anyway, that's that done, all we need to do now is record it eh?
Today I bought an A-Z of Glasgow (also featuring Motherwell, handily enough) in preparation for The Scottish Tour, and I must say I'm getting RATHER excited about it. OK, a large part of this is because I realised I might get to have a go on the Glasgow Underground, but also for ROCK reasons. No, honestly. I wrote out a list of songs the other night, which tonight I shall have a quick check through, and then it'll be time to PACK and get going. I'm off to Leicester tomorrow night to record the basic tracks for the EP, then I come back to London in the morning, cross the road over to Kings Cross, and head NORTH!
I've also STOCKED UP on BOOKS. Er... i mean, bottles of Jack Daniels.
Low, But Not That Low
One of the loveliest things about having a webpage to call your own is that you get to find out how people came to visit it. The other day I followed a link from my server logs to find various people discussing this very website, where someone was finding it a "charming" look into the very lowest reaches of ROCK, drawing attention to the fact that the totaliser is currently at 70 copies sold. This is all very lovely and nice, but the INTERESTING thing is, I find, that 70 copies isn't actually THAT low! Many are the stories I have heard about Bands You Have Actually Heard Of selling similar quantities of albums, WITH advertising, rather more radio support, AND shop distribution. Talking to other label types I find a similar story, especially when you take into account RETURNS from shops of records unsold. Indeed, many of the bands I have known over the years who've thought they were doing well have found out years later that they sold very few CDs at all, usually far less than they gave away to their promotional people.
Usually, however, everyone keeps VERY quiet about this. It's not good for anybody's EGO to go around saying "An NME ON piece, live reviews online and 150 promo copies sent out has sold us precisely 2 extra albums!" and it's much nicer just to see a copy of your album in the local record shop and not think about why it's still there six months later. Lots of independent labels and bands seem to get quite hot under the collar about it, in fact, as it CLOUDS their self-images as potential million selling competitors with the majors.
I, on the other hand, am not that arsed. Everyone one of those 70 copies sold is a thing of joy and wonder to me, and through the MAGIC of the interweb I know exactly who bought about half of them, and can email them to say hello, if I wish to. I've also MET about half the people who've bought CDs too, which is also a beautiful thing, although the fact that there's people out there I DON'T know listening to it also fills me full of joy.
What I'm trying to say here is that yes, in some ways me and the Validators are camped on one of the lower plateaus on the mountain of ROCK. However, we're on the same level as an awful lot of people who'd claim to be much higher up, but unlike them we're looking around and appreciating the view.
Spooky Goings On
This is getting a little WEIRD - an offer for ANOTHER gig came in today. OK, I guess that's the level of demand you would expect when you've recorded the 625th Best Album of last year (I will stop going on about this soon... ish, honest), but there is something STRANGER about it. Recently I have been filled with JOY by the fact that ALL of my recent gigs and ALL of the forthcoming ones have been OFFERED to me, that is, I haven't rung people up to bother/pester them into giving me a gig. I keep saying this, I know, but that's because it is such a LOVELY THING. I have, however, been thinking "But surely this run of beauty must END soon - for LO! I will need to book myself a tour to coincide with the next EP coming out in June."
My dears, the tour is BOOKING ITSELF! The last 3 gigs offered have all been PERFECTLY TIMED to coincide with this release!
BRRR!! Has somebody left the door open? I felt an EERY CHILL...
It's an exciting life when you've got the 625th Best Album of last year under your belt - already today I've had TWO more gigs confirmed, with another possibility on the horizon! OK, one of those is the Derby Acoustic All-Dayer thing on the 14th, which is now UNcancelled, but still, WHOO! I'm also heading back on down to Winchester in April, and hopefully they Validators will be playing at Carpe Diem in Leeds sometime this summer too. Isn't it all jolly nice though eh? It's all on the gigs page anyway, HOORAH!
America: Already Conquered
Today is a great day. Whilst Idly wandering through the leafy glades of the interweb (and NOT Googling myself, AT ALL, no, really) I happened across the Village Voice's annual "Jazz & Pop" poll. Over 700 critics voted for their favourite albums and singles of 2003, and "This Is Not A Library" came out in the much coveted 625th position.
Oh yes. You read that rightly. Last year we realeased the 625th best album IN THE WHOLE DAMN WORLD! YEAH! YEAH!
I am LUDICROUSLY pleased about this I must say - FANTASTIC! If I wasn't already touring ABROAD (well, ish) this weekend to conquer SCOTLAND, I would be straight down to Heathrow right NOW to meet the baying HORDES who are doubtless filling JFK right NOW, gagging for some Validator Action. Hey, it's a big country, those other 624 albums have probably already been snapped up, right?