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I'm dashing around today getting myself sorted out for THE TOUR, so here's a few quick things before I set off:
ITEM! Friday's gig in Stoke Newington has been rescheduled, and will now be taking place in DECEMBER, which means the next London gig is next Tuesday at The Lamb with Pete Wiess. Do come if you can, he's from America!
ITEM! I've just recorded an intro for the next Artists Introduce edition of the Contrast Podcast. The song i'm introducing is A Million Ukeleles, with a new sort of version of the song in the background of the intro. I think it's out quite soon, but will FACT it here when I knew for sure.
ITEM! As promised there's a new article up on the Pop Art Digest. Like last time this one features VIOLENCE but, honestly, it'll calm down a bit soon!
ITEM! There's only about 15 handmade copies of A Million Ukeleles left now, and I'm going to be taking those on tour with me, so I'm going to take them off the webpages for now - if there's any left when I get back there'll be available again, but your best bet will be to come along to the gigs!
And that's pretty much all the FACT we need to know for now - I'll try and report back from THE ROAD as I go along, and hopefully see a few of you along the way!
Produced by Mr Pattison
I woke up on Sunday EVER SO SLIGHTLY the worse for wear, had a bath (I couldn't work out how to make it into a shower - the reception guy said "Yes, it can be a bit difficult on a Sunday Morning, especially after a Sunday Night" because HEY! people in Sheffield just ROLL that way!) and then trundled down hill to catch my train. The sign said it was half an hour late, due to "planned engineering works". Now, pardon me if i've misunderstood this, but if the works were "planned", surely they wouldn't be delaying trains unexpectedly? Either it's a timetabled rescheduling or a cock-up, isn't it?
ANYWAY, I sent a text to Tim, in his Producer Capacity, who rang back to inform me he was just passing Sheffield on his way back from LEEDS, so SWUNG BY and picked me up. HOORAH! We had a very pleasant journey and arrived at Snug Recording Studio just before 10.30am to find Mr Frankie Machine already there... although only temporarily.
We already knew our Frankie Time was going to be limited as a Derby County game had been reschuled, but now it turned out we'd get even LESS as he had to go and fetch his BOY from Football. It looked like all was LOST but, as ever when it's Frankie, it was all FINE in the end. Both Robbie AND Rich were in Engineering The Session and they took GRATE care getting everything set up, so that by the time Tim and I had finally managed to record a semi-usable take of one song, Being Happy Doesn't Make Your Stupid, Frankie had returned and, as we'd got his gear set up for him, it was PEASY to get back into the GROOVE and record it again in a rather BETTER arrangement. That done we moved into a SWINGING version of That's Where All The Good Men Go which, i can verify, you can do the FOXTROT to.
Frankie and Frankie Jr headed off to The Match, so I re-did my acoustic guitar parts for both songs and then Tim and I laid down the Rhythm Track for "Songs About You", which we're doing for this PopArt compilation - Robbie is also a member of Plans & Apologies, and JOYFULLY said that he thought they'd be covering one of our songs for the project. "Is it because they're all dead easy?" I asked, and he agreed. It was dead nice having the pair of them in with us all day, it made the whole thing pass SO easily, it was like having a Studio Mum and Studio Dad in looking after us!
It was a brilliant day's work, also full of STUDIO LARKS and GAGS and I offered my congratulations to Mr Producer as he dropped me off at the station, before he headed back to carry on the good work.
I got what I realised was my LAST EVER Midland Mainline train home, and as the train was once again PACKED i celebrated by treating myself to a Weekend Upgrade. It was very nice, tho tinged with sadness, especially when they announced the availability of Complimentary Midland Mainline Tea And Coffee. Oh Rail Franchise Board, WHY must you take this away from us?
Mind you, when I got in they had the lights on in the New St Pancras, it looked GRATE. Is it WRONG to get so excited about he prospect of a new railway station?
I was up bright and early on Saturday morning and off to Sheffield for this year's Fuzztival. The train was really full, as ever - i'm sure there was a time when you could pretty much always get a double seat to yourself on trains, and the big question was whether to risk getting a four-er, as it was only 50/50 that someone else would come and sit on it, but these days I always seem to end up sitting in The Quiet Coach as there's no other choice. AND they're always full of reservations too.
Anyway, the journey was fine and I strolled up the hill to my Posh Hotel to find my room wasn't ready yet. This was all fine - like EVERYBODY in Sheffield the lady at reception was LOVELY and MOST apologetic, so I just went round the corner to read the paper in the pub for a bit. When I got back it still wasn't ready, and I thought she was going to cry. When I went back a bit later she saw it was ready and went "YES!", clenching her fist in triumph - people in Sheffield, they're GRATE.
I got myself sorted out and headed off to the University Union, where a young man came and gave me my wristband and took me to the backstage area, where I said hello to The Piney Gir Roadshow, noticed a young EMO BOY hiding under the drinks table, playing his handheld computer game, and then went out and did a quick linecheck. All was well so I had a quick wander round the building, which has been refurbished to be EVEN MORE CONFUSING, and bumped into Penny. She's usually in charge of everything but had the day off this year, so was hanging on tightly to things in order to stop herself from WORKING - she was doing quite well at that point, and as the day progressed she got even better: ROCKTAILS.
Anyway, soon it was time for my first set of the day on the BIG STAGE, and i did THIS:
It felt a bit strange - it was all fine and enjoyable, but it felt a bit strange to be in such a MASSIVE room without The Validators, especially as they'd switched the big screens on and I could see myself. Also there weren't that many people there - if it had been a normal venue it would have felt like a LOT, but in this mighty cavern everyone was quite spread out, so i felt like i wasn't CONNECTING as much as I'd like.
Still, it was all good and I chatted to a couple of people afterwards then met up with Steph and Lizzie, who'd just arrived and who, along with Penny, would be my Pals For The Day. We had a MOST pleasant afternoon, highlights being the Piney Gir lot, who were VERY good, and a good hour or so in the actual PUB bit, when me and Steph realised that it was a bit daft standing around complaining about Young People and how they MUST listen to Music SO LOUD when we could actually just go somewhere else instead.
Time seemed to SPEED UP (BEER) and suddenly it was time for me to go on again, this time in the much cosier Fusion room, and i did THIS:
This one was MUCH more like it, i had a WHALE of a time. I'd been worried that the FACT i'd had a few beers would be a HINDRANCE, but in the end it seemed to HELP, although why i felt that doing a BRIAN CLOUGH impersonation ("Now you young people, be quiet now" etc etc) was a good way to start the set i have NO IDEA. There was LOTS of chat, including a bit where Penny pointed out someone had filled in a REQUEST SLIP... I picked it up to find it said "Request: Get Off, you **** FROM: Your Mother." Oh Mother, such language! There was also CLAPPING ALONG in The Gay Train (which i did a second time just because I fancied it), hysteria AND dancing in Do The Indie Kid, CHEERS for The Lesson Of The Smiths and a LOT of singing along for the last two.
I had a BRILLIANT time, especially as, earlier on in the day, this stage had seen a lot of CHATTING and people eating their tea, which didn't seem to be the case when I was on. Yes, I KNOW, i am being BIG HEADED about it, but i really did have a BRILLIANT time, it's hard not to!
After the gig I had a LOVELY queue of The Young People buying CDs, which got me a bit excited so that BARGAINS were to be had. I spent the rest of the evening wandering round having CHATS with people various, including that nice Mr Steve Lamacq and Ruth, and also drinking THE BEER. It was thus a slightly tiddly Hibbett who staggered off for a PIZZA around midnight and fell over into a taxi, but a very HAPPY one.
The Days Go By So Fast
Crikey, is it the end of the month already? OK, well, I know it's NOT for everybody else, but it is for ME as I've got all of next week off for GIGS, which means it's NEWSLETTER day again. They've just gone out to people on the Mailing List so, as ever, do sign up if you want to join in!
Right then, I've got a few things to sort out here and then it's off ON THE ROAD!
Thanks for all the comments about the Pop Art blog, I'm going to try and do one or two of them a week, and with that in mind am trying to get ahead of myself a bit so's I can put some out next week. THUS i can give you a PREVIEW of coming events: FIGHTING! and ANGRY PARENTS!
Talking of the Pop Art lot, I've just leapt in to be part of a compilation album they're doing of bands they've put on covering songs by OTHER bands they've put on. If all goes to plan we'll be doing "Songs About You", starting on Sunday during our big recording session. I don't know what's going on at the moment - that's the fourth cover I've signed up for lately, along with the Stereorrific compilation, the Don't Start Feeling All Romantic Christmas CD and the Kooba Radio mass cover version of Bugsy Malone. The only song i'm recording that I've actually written myself is Honey Honey You Work Too Hard for the Thee Sheffield Phonographic Corporation fanzine. Is it that people WANT MY LOVELY VOICE, or do they just not like the songs what i write?
One person that DOES seem to like them (HA! LINK! Do you see?) is young Warren, who has reviewed the new album over on his webpage. Thanks young man, and see you ON THE ROAD!
I'm going to be doing an Occasional Series of ARTICLES for the Pop Art Digest, talking about My Exciting Life In ROCK. It's going to be another attempt to use up the THORTS i had for THE BOOK a couple of years ago, so apologies in advance if some of the stories are familiar - the first one is UP NOW!
From Desk To Desk
I had the first news yesterday of a copy of A Million Ukeleles making it to LONDON, which is EXCELLENT news - it feels like all the UK ones were flung out the very EDGES of the nation and have since been slowly making their way back to where they started, as the first SIGHTINGS were FAR AWAY and they're only just getting into the metropolis. It's sort of like getting SLOW RELEASE Nicotine Release Patches - i didn't get the HUGE BOOST of them all arriving the same day and hearing back from people, instead it's a gentle trickle of RECIEPT.
This leads us to the first PRINT mention, in The Village Voice of all places. It's Item FOUR - is he suggesting that Hey Hey 16K HASN'T been downloaded that many times? I'm SURE it has you know, honest!
Talking of which, I was at home yesterday (dodgy stomach, details SPARED) doing the washing up and listening to Steve Lamacq doing his Good Day/Bad Day ITEM, and the interviewee was talking about getting his start on computers with a ZX Spectrum. "I've got a song about that!" I thought to myself. "MJ Hibbett has a song about that!" said Steve Lamacq FOUR SECONDS LATER. It was SPOOKY!
Today's the day that A Million Ukeleles is officially released, and I'm RATHER pleased to see that it's now available to download from iTunes (other download services are available... but I'm not sure where they are). There's still a few hand-made copies available, but if you want one I'd GET IN this week, as any that are left will be coming on tour with me!
To CELEBRATE this Absolutely Momentious Occassion, i FINALLY got around to doing another YouTube Video. This time it's me doing a (slightly quick, vaguely error-prone) version of the title track, A Million Ukeleles, also featuring LIVE ACTION FOOTAGE of the Ukelele t-shirt! I will HONESTLY try and do a couple more soon!
Songs And Stock-Taking
This weekend was the first weekend in AGES I've had completely at home, so took FULL advantage and undertook a FRENZY of activity. I've got a few COMPILATIONS to do tracks for at the moment, which is ALWAYS fun, and managed to get a couple of them sorted out. The first was a version of "Little Donkey", for a Christmas Compilation being done by Don't Start Feeling All Romantic, which involved quite a lot of UKELELE but was otherwise fairly straightforward. LESS so was an attempt on "Saddle Up" by The Weisstronauts, which I was doing for the Stereoriffic 10th Anniversary Covers Album. I was DETERMINED to do SOMETHING from their marvellous album Featuring "Jaunty", because a) it's GRATE and b) i listened to it A LOT during some TRYING TIMES towards the end of my days in Leicester, and it meant a LOT to me then. I originally PLUMPED for "Psychadelic Whiplash", as it had some WORDS in, but having been informed that that was a cover ALREADY i went for "Saddle Up", as it has SAMPLES in it.
OH what FUN I had recording it - it took me a while to work out the chords, but after that it was LARKS APLENTY, with pretty much EVERY instrument I own (barring recorder [wrong key] and penny whistle [sounded horrible]) being brought into play and then a LOT of messing about with vocal effects. I was VERY chuffed with the end result!
Apart from that I did a WHOLE HEAP of ROCK ADMINISTRATION. I finished off the very last few copies of A Million Ukeleles, and then sorted out the STOCK of T-Shirts, which had got into some DISARRAY. With THAT done I turned my beady eye upon the REST of the stock, and spent a very happy hour or so RATIONALISING my CD storage - different CDs had got into all sorts of different boxes which lived in various parts of the house, so I brought them all together and put them in their own CLEARLY LABELLED boxes. This morning at work i noted YET MORE lurking around here, so this week I'll get THEM taken home and properly put away too. I had a few more ORDERS to sort out last night and it was A THING OF HUGE DELIGHT to think "Hmm, a small t-shirt? I know EXACTLY where that'll be"!
One result of the STOCK CHECK was a Heightened Awareness of what I've actually GOT. There's LOADS of boxes of Warriors Of Nanpantan, which surprised me as I thought we'd sold quite a few of those, but then realised it LOOKS like there's more of those than other stuff, just because that's the most recent thing we've put out that was in the big old fashioned CD Jewel Cases. It has to be said, the decision to go to WALLETS for all subsequent releases was based LESS on AESTHETIC APPEAL than on STORAGE! That said, there's still MASSES of copies of Better Things To Do and The Uberset, so I've decided to take a big box full of them and GIVE THEM AWAY on tour! As young Mr Pilkington is coming along to do the MERCHANDISING we'll be a bit more ORGANISED than the usual Sweaty Hibbett Immediately Post-Gig state of SALES AFFAIRS, so I think what we'll do is give ONE CD away if you buy ONE thing, and BOTH if you buy two or more. How about that? Either way it should clear a bit of space - we're turning our spare room into my STUDIO/OFFICE/WAREHOUSE soon (Excitement Level: HIGH!) so I'll need a bit of room for BOOKS and things, not to mention the re-issue of This Is Not A Library!
It was a very busy weekend for me, this here weekend just gone, starting with myself and The Tune Of My Song going to the 100 Club to see John Otway. He was playing with Wild Willy Barret, and though it had been billed as "possibly" the last time they'd ever play together, it was the first time either of us had seen them, so didn't know what to expect. When we got to the venue I looked around for what i expected Wild Willy to look like - basically a slightly tidier, slightly smaller Alan Moore, which is exactly what he DID look like!
I'm used to seeing Otway either on his own, RULING the room, or with the band or Richard, where they're looking on with big GRINS, so seeing him share the stage with someone who clearly ISN'T in awe of him was a very different experience. When they started off Wild Willy was very clearly in charge and doing all the talking, while Otway looked unusually nervous, and the BANTER wasn't exactly aggressive, but was a bit SHARP. As the gig moved on things changed though, as what I gather (from the BOOK and online) is their Default Type Of Interaction (being SNIPPY) faded away into the fact that they've known each other a LONG old time and, actually, quite like each other. This was especially noticeable in the second set, when Willy introduced a song by saying "Otways written a lot of good songs, but I think this is the best", and it was all quite touching.
I've been going to Otway gigs for over 15 years, so it was good to finally see Wild Willy, and it was VERY good to be in the 100 Club, which is a RATHER nice venue, especially now that it's not completely full of smoke. We had a LOVELY evening all round really, and took under full consideration ADVICE we'd received from The Landlady earlier on: "Get bladdered". We did that.
Those EXCELLENT people at Dandelion Radio are continuing their MISSION to be The John Peel Radio Station by once again running a Festive 50. Now, I know in the past there's been SUSPICION around some Festive 50s with people voting for themselves or encouraging MASS VOTING SCAMS and stuff, which of course i would NEVER promote - i STILL feel guilty about that Office Attachments Awards thing from YEARS ago when we MIGHT PERHAPS MAYBE have indulged in some Creative Voting - but, you know, if you WOULD like to vote for something, then that would be the place to do so...
Passing Through The System Like Kidney Stones
This morning, on the advice of The Punctuation In My Sentence, i sent out an email to some of the people to whom I'd sent promo copies of A Million Ukeleles, asking if they'd GOT it yet, and including the press release and GIGS. I've started to worry/get upset about the whole thing, as i had a big plan worked out TWO MONTHS in advance for getting the CDs out to everyone in good time for the release day (Monday!) and then the TOUR. It was all worked out PRECISELY... and then completely fell apart due to the postal strike.
I didn't really MIND that, as there was still plenty of time for them to get there, but that it's dragged on THIS long is a bit flipping frustrating - I know it's not the end of the world, but after all that EFFORT to get it done properly i am a bit CHEESED OFF. I felt even MORE cheesed off when, having emailed PROMO people and a selection of PURCHASERS also, i got a steady stream of emails saying "No, not got it yet". ARGH! DARK THOUGHTS of pressing MORE CDs and sending out EMERGENCY COPIES started to cross my mind... until two small GLIMMERS of light broke through, with sightings in Middlesborough and Ipswich!
HOORAH! At least TWO plucky little CDs have made it through the backlog, and we must hope that they are but the HARBINGERS of a mighty FLOOD of copies, skipping and jumping through the postal system, FREE AT LAST from the great postal backlog MOUNTAIN! The last few t-shirt/CD COMBO orders were sent out this morning, so hopefully they'll all be arriving within the next few days, and HEY! If you've not ordered yours yet, GET IN, there's not many left!
On the main webpage you'll find a rather natty REDESIGN along with a BIG update to the SHOP - the last few copies of A Million Ukeleles itself are now available, along with the SNAZZY t-shirts AND the exciting COMBO DEAL where you can get the pair of them at a KNOCKDOWN PRICE. In order to try and clear a bit of space in the ROCK WAREHOUSE that is our spare room, I've also SLASHED prices (SLASHED!) on the I Validate Tour T-Shirts. Please, somebody, buy them!
HOORAH! That nice young man Huw Stephens played Pass It On, from off of A Million Ukeleles last night! I, of course, was far away in the land of NOD by then, and now can't get the Listen Again thingy to work, but if anyone did hear it, let me know!
Black Looks In The Post Office
I got into work a bit late this morning, having spent a happy 10 minutes REALLY ANNOYING a long queue of people in Leytonstone Post Office, gradually getting STAMPS for a big chunk of the "A Million Ukeleles" mailout... for LO! It is all pretty much PACKED.
Last week I emailed everyone on the MAILING LIST with an EARLY BIRD OFFER to get IN and make sure they got a copy of A Million Ukeleles. QUITE A LOT of people did (so there's only about 25 copies left now), and a SURPRISINGLY LARGE amount of those people bought t-shirts too - so many,in fact, that i had to RE-STOCK. On Sunday and Monday I made up most of the remaining copies of the album itself, and so yesterday was PACKING DAY. I spent an hour or so in the morning doing the mailout for people who just bought CDs and taking them to to post office, and then last night we set up a PRODUCTION LINE at home to do the COMBO DEAL people. The Landlady stood at the ironing board gently FOLDING each and every t-shirt and putting it in the correct envelopes, while i dealt with labels, sorting, and writing letters, leaving The Glue In My Self-Sealing Envelope to put letters, badges and CDs in the finished be-shirted package. After an hour of FRENZIED activity we were DONE, and the room was FULL of stuffed envelopes, like a bus full of happy schoolchildren after a SLAP UP FEED.
There were too many of them to post all in one go, so I'm going to do the second half tomorrow, then all i need to do is make five more ALBUMS (as I'd not coloured in enough!), pack three more envelopes (not enough t-shirts brought home) and we're all DONE! THUS I'm hoping that TOMORROW I can make it all available to everybody else, along with a rather NATTY redesign for the whole website. Come back tomorrow to see if i actually get round to DOING it!
The Waiting Room
I was back on the (again very crowded) train on Sunday afternoon and way to distant MIDDLESBOROUGH. When I arrived i got a TXT from Mr Bob Fischer saying he was running a bit late, so I thought I'd nip and sit in the pub over the road... but very soon realised that The Pub Nearest The Train Station is ALWAYS the same, wherever you go, and hastily LEFT, to calls of "AAAH, GIVE US A TUNE!" from the scary-faced men near the door.
Bob was soon there and we nipped over to BBC Cleveland, where we recorded a SESSION for his show Gobstopper, as follows:
I did A Million Ukeleles because we'd just been talking about the new album - which, frustratingly, Bob hadn't got his copy of yet. I posted 50 of them AGES ago and NONE of them seem to have got through yet! ARGH! Anyway, we chatted of this, also THAT, and somehow got onto the subject of The Gay Train, so i DID it. It should be going out this Thursday, I think.
That done it was back to the car and his house for a cup of tea before ZOOMING over to The Waiting Room, a really rather nice Veggie Restaurant. I was STARVING for some reason and watched them soundcheck through EYES OF HUNGER, so when my tea arrived i FELL upon it - there was Bread & Butter Pudding with GRAVY on the menu so i had that. It was nice, tho a bit disconcerting. This was ACCOMPANIED by a glass of beer - Sam Smith's! It felt a little strange to have come so far to drink something i can get from about 30 pubs within half an hour of here, but it IS local to there, and it was very nice indeed!
Soon it was ROCKING time, and Bob and his band (who'd never met each other before) did a GRATE set - bits of it were very doo-woppy, bits were a bit Macca, lots of it was funny and there was a FANTASTIC skiffle version of "Don't Pass Me By" at the end. It was BRILIANT!
That done we had a short break before my turn. The room wasn't very big so I thought I might as well do it Totally Acoustic, so DID. Luke, the owner, stood up and introduced Bob introducing ME, so that I then felt like i ought to introduce someone ELSE... but instead did THIS:
It was a LONG set but good fun - people seemed to be CRANING FORWARD to listen to the words, and there was a LOT of me gabbing on between songs, but nobody seemed to mind that too much. I FORGOT a great big chunk of Boom Shake The Room in the middle, just because the Audience Participation "BOOM" was REALLY funny - everyone seemed to say it as if it was absolutely and positively their FINAL statement on the matter.
Afterwards there was time for some CHAT and another beer before we headed back to Bob's. He's a bit of a SCI-FI fan - indeed, he's just finished writing a BOOK about it for a Proper Real Life Publisher, which is VERY exciting - so, as I've not SEEN one since they were first broadcast, I asked if we could watch a Tom Baker Dr Who. He and Drew, who was also staying over, had a DISCUSSION and then we watched a couple of episodes of "City Of Death". CRIKEY - old telly is SLOW! Where now Characters would say "Now let's go to the Louvre!" and we'd CUT to an ESTABLISHING SHOT and then them BEING there, in OLD TELLY you get to see them STROLL all the way there, with long lingering shots of the streets before AND AFTER they've walked down them. People say Old Doctor Who involved a lot of running down corridors - i think some RUNNING would have been ALMOST TOO EXCITING!
Next day I got dropped off at Darlington Station, where DAVID BELLAMY stood next to me on the platform and sat in my carriage all the way to London. It was VERY exciting - I kept hoping he'd say "Gwapple Me Gwape-Nuts!" but, BIZARRELY, he didn't.
Saturday morning found me realising that, sometimes, the John Smiths is that cheap for a REASON. Luckily my WORK for the morning was to BABYSIT for The Pattisons, and I had a LOVELY time drawing pictures (I was particularly proud of A Dinosaur saying hello to A Robot and A Gorilla), watching The Land Before Time and playing with Lego. COOL. While this was going on Tim was off in The Studio, beginning his REIGN as Official Producer by DRIVING Tom through his Violin Overdubs. Me and Emma fetched up their, with The Girls in tow, shortly after lunchtime, to find MUCH WORK had been going on. The original plan was for me to DRIVE Emma, but what with one thing and another I was only there for an hour or so before it was time for me to head for the train station. During that time Mr Machine popped in to drop off the second lot of CD Boxes for me to turn into A Million Ukeleles, and The Plans And Apologies boys dropped by to fetch Mr Robbie Newman for a GIG.
Next day I got an email from Tim with SONGS attached - under his Production Eye Emma and Tom had recorded parts for We Can Start Having Fun, My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once and Do The Indie Kid, and suddenly i found myself getting excited about the NEXT album all over again. It sounded GRATE - both Tom and Emma had come up with some VERY exciting new bits, and I was filled with JOY at the sound we can make together, and ALSO at the prospect of us now being able to SURGE FORWARD and get it done. All hail Producer Pattison!
Under The Boardwalk
It was HO! for SHEFFIELD for me on Friday night, as i got on a VERY crowded train North - why is it trains are SO packed these days? I've REALLY noticed it just lately, it's not that long ago that you could almost always get a double seat to yourself on most train journeys, now it is a FITE to get a seat AT ALL. I ended up in The Quiet Coach, where a VERY pompous old tosser told me off A LOT because my phone went off - "GET OUT!" he said. The pillock. Personally i think Quiet Coaches WOULD be OK if we lived in a world where you actually HAD a choice about which carriage you sit in, and you could idly trip through the train taking your time to choose your Travelling Environment. This is clearly NOT the case, so The Quiet Coach seems now to exist ONLY to give people a reason to get ANNOYED with each other - coming home this morning from Middlesborough there were TWO MORE instances of Quiet Coach RAGE, the first where someone rather satisfyingly told a nosy beaked old sod that, actually, HE was making more noise saying "This IS the Quiet Coach you know", but the second where a man who had been talking VERY quietly into his phone was A Bit Rude to the lady taking the rubbish away. I reckon if you DON'T want to hear the noise of OTHER HUMAN BEINGS then perhaps Public Transport is NOT for you.
Although, of course, i DO still think people who insist on playing bloody awful music loudly through tinny mobile phones whilst looking around gormlessly daring someone to challenge them about it should be tied by the legs to the back of the train and then dragged along until they say sorry, and mean it. That's only sensible.
ANYWAY, i got to Sheffield in EXCELLENT time (due to the LOONEY restrictions on When You Can Leave London By Train... but I think we've had enough MY THORTS ON THE RAILWAY NETWORK for today) so checked in at the venue and went off for some TEA. When I got back we found that BOTH The Fighting Cocks AND most of The Validators were stuck in traffic and would be an hour or so late. I went to the bar to get a beer, and waited... and waited... and waited while the two women working there pointedly ignored me. After five minutes of SMILING and EYEBROW RAISING i said "Er... are you serving at all?" "WE DON'T OPEN TILL HALF PAST" one of them GLARED at me - thanks for telling me! GRR!!
Things PERKED UP when Mr F A Machine arrived and we popped round the corner to the pub. As we walked in I was amazed to find that everyone looked EITHER like my Grandad Bertie (who came from Sheffield) OR Richard Hawley. Other points of note were a) you know how people claim that all pubs smell of farts since the smoking ban, but hardly any of the do? This one REALLY DID. However b) they had STONES BITTER on draught, which was tipple of choice for my Grandad Bike, so we HAD some, also a CHAT.
Back at the venue there was still a lack of BANDS, but there were PEOPLE - Warren, Ellen and James, Brother-in-law to THE TIGER were there, and we were soon joined by Lizzie and Steph and then, slightly later, VLADS and COCKS. There wasn't any time for soundchecks so as SOON as the first band had finished we had to RUSH the stage, get set up, and then do THIS:
It was all a bit RAMSHACKLE, especially the DEBUT PERFORMANCE of We Can Start Having Fun, but good fun, ending with the TRADITIONAL Frankie's Had A Drink SPECTACLE of me and he LEANING into each other, ROCKING OUT. OH YEAH!
After us The Fighting Cocks were MAJESTIC as ever, and I had a good old SINGALONG. It was like a Greatest Hits of Band Members, with a CROSS SECTION of members through the ages, and it was GRATE!
Afterwards i sprinted round saying goodbye to everybody through the medium of HUGS, much to Tim's distaste as he wanted to get HOME, and off we sped into the night, full of one pound fifty John Smiths and ROCK.
I tell you what, anybody who tells you Ballroom Dancing is easy, is WRONG. It's BLOODY HARD - and right here's where you start paying, in SWEAT! Oh no, hang on, that's something else, but anyway, it is DIFFICULT - i spent a Quite Frustrating hour or so last night trying to TURN CORNERS whilst WALTZING, and goodness me it did my head in. Am I facing the line of dance? Are we going forwards? Should I do an extra Linking Step? HELP!
My poor old BRANE was in a right muddle and ANGER at MYSELF was RISING - I've been rather enjoying our weekly classes up until now, but i get really wound up when there's something i KNOW i should be able to do, but can't. My dears, you should have SEEN the ARTISTIC STROPS during album recording sessions when I couldn't get a SOLO properly - at one point I had to STAND UP and pace around a bit. ARTIST RAGE!
THUS I was ready for a PINT when I got to The Camden Head, which is a dead nice pub in a SURPRISING bit of Islington - surprising because a) it's down a chi-chi little pedestrianised street/alleyway and b) it seems to think it's in Camden, and I'm pretty sure it isn't. I was there to play at the Shortfuse night, having been invited by Mr Nathan Penlington, the organiser, after playing with him in Brixton a while back. He wasn't there last night, as he was POORLY, but Mr P Knight WAS there, so he and i sat down to CHAT.
I had a quick go at a soundcheck with my NEW ELECTRO UKELELE... and discovered that the battery that POWERS the electro bit had run down, so i had to set up as if it was an ordinary NON-ELECTRO. CURSES!
Soon it was time to get going, and within about 5 seconds of starting i realised that, actually, it was such a nice little room (traditional upstairs room of pub with traditional Comedy Stage With Black Backdrop in the corner) that i didn't NEED any microphones... and, in fact, was a good deal LOUDER without them, so went acoustical and did THIS:
I had a GRATE time, tho it was STRANGE to be doing a Proper Poetry/Comedy type of gig, which I haven't done for a LONG LONG time. To start with i thought i was CAPTAIN HILARIOUS, as i made REMARKS, but then realised that there were People Who'll Laugh At Anything in the room. Don't get me wrong, these are GOOD people to have at Comedy Gigs, as People Who'll Laugh At Anything lead everybody ELSE into laughing a lot more and having a better time, but i found it a bit disconcerting - it was NICE when they laughed at GAGS or BITS in songs, but a bit strange when they LARFED at Normal Words. It's similar to when I've played Open Mic Nights where, as my OLD HEADMASTER used to say when we lost AGAIN, "We Applaud All Our Teams".
Anyway, apart from my GIG CULTURE SHOCK, i had a FINE old time, especially as it was the sort of gig where GABBING ON between songs is positively ENCOURAGED, and i was PLEASED with myself for DOING a quiet song like Chips And Cheese, Pint Of Wine rather than going for more GAGS... although, to be honest, i didn't really have much choice, as the range of songs i can PLAY on the ukelele is SOMEWHAT LIMITED.
So yes, it was ALL GOOD, but then I had another culture shock when Gwen The Compere Lady came on and introduced the next act straight away - again, i remember this from DAYS LONG GONE when I compered my OWN cabaret club, but it felt WEIRD to have to be quiet straight away after my gig. Mind you, it was WORTH IT, as the next act on was a poet called Hugo Williams. He was a PROPER POET too - he's won awards, published books, and is QUITE POSH! I'd been expecting to find it all A Bit Twee, but actually he was GRATE - really touching, really assured, funny, and with a lovely turn of phrase. I REALLY enjoyed his WORK - it feels a little UNCOUTH to describe his set as "a set"!
After that there was more chat and then some MAGICIANS and then it was time to head home, with Pete demonstrating his FRANKLY AMAZING Transformer-Bike. OK, it transforms from a BIKE into a Much Smaller Carriable Square Of Metal, rather than a GIANT ROBOT, but still, it was GOOD. After I said cheerio to him at Leytonstone I walked home thinking how nice it was to do one of these sort of gigs after SO very long away from them. I wouldn't want to swap ROCK GIGS for this sort of thing, NOT EVER, but it IS nice to do something a bit different like this every now and again, and hopefully next year I can do a BATCH of them ready for when we go to EDINBURGH!
Practicing And Pimping
PHEW - the SALES RUSH has calmed down a bit, which is actually something of a RELIEF, but there's not that many copies of the new album LEFT now, so if you'd like one I would very much invite GETTING IN!
Meanwhile, i have been PRACTICING! It may be SCARCELY BELIEVABLE if you have seen my slick, professional on-stage performances, but this is not something i actually DO very often. I know, you're all astonished aren't you? I thought it'd be a GOOD IDEA last night as I've got three gigs coming up in different ARRANGEMENTS. Tonight I'm playing this Shortfuse Poetry night on a UKELELE, mostly because i am BALLROOM DANCING beforehand and don't want to lug my guitar along with me, but also because i thought it would be FUN. The only trouble is I wasn't sure I have enough songs that i can PLAY on the uke, but i checked, and i do, just about.
Tomorrow night it's off to Sheffield with The Vlads and as, under the terms of the New Songs Fair Warning Agreement, Tim has given me over 48 hours notice of his intention of putting a NEW SONG into the set, i thought i ought to try and LEARN it - if you come and notice we DO play We Can Start Having Fun you'll know we've NOT done a Gordon Brown.
And then it's a solo spot in MIDDLESBOROUGH on Sunday, which will be quite relaxing in comparison!
Anyway, the other thing I wanted to mention that the fantastic LARDPONY band, currently on universal MATERNITY LEAVE, have put their latest album The Greatest Invention Ever online for FREE, HERE! I would HEARTILY recommend getting it, as it's BRILLIANT, especially "My Robot Son" which, frankly, gets me all teary eyed. Free Music from The Interweb? It's like RADIOHEAD, but BETTER!
Well, what an EXCITING time I had of it yesterday afternoon! After emailing everybody I wrote the last blog entry then thought "Ooh, I wonder if anyone's bought an album yet?"
Nobody had - I was a bit disappointed but carried on, and a few minutes later looked at my email... to find a HUGE PILE of emails saying "MARK! The web address you gave us for the early bird offer is WRONG!" AHA! THUS i went through and RE-emailed everybody with the CORRECT address, and LO! The Early Birds FLOCKED in!
And MY how they flocked, it was like a PANIC SPREE for a couple of hours with new orders coming in FASTER than I could log them on The Database Of ROCK. As part of the early bird offer I'd also put in a COMBO deal where you could get the album AND the t-shirt for only 15 quid, and much to my surprise LOADS of people - in fact, the vast majority of them - DID SO. And who could blame them, when it's a product as DELICIOUS as this?
Contact usual address for MODELLING ASSIGNMENTS... anyway the upshot is that there's only around 40 copies of the album left now, so Early Birds: GET MOVING if you want one! We had a Household Conflab about it all last night, as I was thinking of doing another version of the album - NOT a handmade one, but a normal manufactured cardboard wallet one. I thought MAYBE this would be OK, as obviously i couldn't go back on saying there'd only be 200 handmade ones (and goodness knows I REALLY WOULDN'T WANT TO!) but could perhaps justify a second issue in a more normal style. After SOME discussion I decided NOT to do this and leave it AS IS - after all, it is MEANT to be a Download Album, so I'm going to leave it like that. It DOES still feel a bit weird to be about to go on tour to promote an album that I may not actually have any COPIES of, but I can always do iTunes Flyers i guess!
MEANWHILE, one very exciting THORT cropped up - TWO people in the space of ten minutes emailed to ask whether there was ever going to be a re-issue of This Is Not A Library, our LARGE album from 2003. This sold out a year or two ago and has since only been available on download, but it did STRIKE me that, now i've found this lovely company that do short run CDs so well, MAYBE I could do a small reissue of THIS album? The Vlads seem keen - INDEED there is KRAZY TALK of doing a launch gig where we play the whole thing from start to finish - and there's a nice idea that we could add on the b-sides to Milk & Baubles, which is on the very BRINK of going out of stock. It's VERY tempting, especially as This Is Not A Library is probably my FAVOURITE of our albums, and it WOULD be nice to be able to inflict it on people again - especially as we could put "ALBUM OF THE YEAR - ROLLING STONE" on the cover - but I'll wait and have a think about it when all this EXCITEMENT is over.
One thing i very much WILL be doing, however, is ordering a whole load more t-shirts! We're having a PRODUCTION LINE at home next Tuesday to pack them all, as by then i should have all the albums made too, and I've almost run out of some sizes. INDEED, this shirt has ALREADY outsold the I VALIDATE! tour t-shirt. WHOOO!
Early Birds HO!
I popped into an almost DESERTED Post Office this morning to a) drop off the pre-stamped PROMO copies of the album and b) get stamps for the ABROAD copies. It was a bit strange in there, as there was NO MENTION of the fact that there's actually no postal service at all, and they took money for postage with no remark about how it could take MUCH longer than usual to get there. It was STRANGE.
Anyway, that's THAT mostly done - there's a few others to go out tomorrow, but then that's THE LOT, and so I thought it was about time to do the traditional EARLY BIRD OFFER to people on the NEWSLETTER. Usually i ZAP the newsletter subscribers a week or so BEFORE we release stuff so that they can get it early, but this time the fact that there's only going to be about 100 copies available has got some people in a slight LATHER, so I thought I'd do it a bit earlier than planned, just so people could EASE their MINDS. To be honest I don't think anyone who REALLY wants one is going to miss out, but it's lovely that people think they might!
Also available to early birders is the LOVELY new t-shirt - this ISN'T hand-made and, if I run out, I'll happily order a few more to take on tour with me, but I wonder what I'll do if the CD sells out before i head off? I can't make any more, as a) it'd be DISHONEST after saying I'd make 200 and b) after making 200 i really really REALLY do NOT want to make any more. I might just print up some CARDS with details to search for on iTunes or something, i guess we shall see... actually this reminds me of all round good guy Sorted Supremo Dave Dixey who, when he was in his POMP ruling over The Durham Ox AND Sorted Records would REGULARLY have to be talked out of re-ordering extra THOUSANDS of singles before they'd even been released, such was his BELIEF in the BRILLIANCE of what he was releasing and desire NOT to disappoint the thousands who would instantly realise this. He was often disappointed in his bid to bring brilliance to the people, but we always seemed to be back at the bar a few months later suggesting that no, maybe he shouldn't ring the pressing plant just yet.
Well, we'll see what happens won't we? At the moment though i am VERY excited at the prospect of other people actually getting to HEAR this new album - I'd dead chuffed with it, I hope others will CONCUR!
Ooh, a little DEMO has just walked past my window - apparently "they" say "WARFARE", but we on the other hand, say "welfare". I work in Bloomsbury, where The Students are, can you tell? There were only about 14 of US saying welfare instead of warfare, I hope they'll be OK when they get where they're going.
Anyway, I started this entry to ALERT you to the FACT that pictures of the CMV excursion to Lewisham are ON FLICKR NOW. What a lovely evening it was!
I just got back from a SESSION JOB - and a PAYING ONE too! Someone who recently left my work is doing a research project just down the road and asked some of us to go along and help, so I went and spent seven minutes reading out a bunch of words, over and over again. Apparently it is to help THE FRENCH learn how to speak English, tho I dread to think how they're going to get on with my input - the first TAKE i did they stopped and said "Be more relaxed, don't enunciate so much" so i did the NEXT one in STRAIGHT PETERBOROUGH. A voice came through from next door, "Do you think you could pronounce SOME of the consonants?"
It was all done in an ANECHOIC CHAMBER, which was a little unsettling. I'm used to being in Recording Studios with a BIT of sound-proofing and INDEED there's some BAFFLES at Snug that live up to the name, as if you put your ear next to them you get SILENCE. However, this one was The Real Deal - i actually sat inside a sort of CAGE (a Faraday cage, i now learn) in the middle of a room padded on all six sides with foamy pyramids, so that when the door shut it was INCREDIBLY silent. Having been knackered all weekend (I've been poorly - i know, i've been VERY BRAVE and hardly mentioned it) my body reacted IMMEDIATELY by wanting to go to sleep, it was lovely!
When all was done I signed a sheet and got a FIVER in an envelope for my troubles - most profitable session EVER!
Back To Lewisham
I've been bogged down with a horrible cold for the past few days - not that anyone would know, for i have, as ever, been VERY BRAVE about it and rarely mention it more than once an hour to any single person. THUS I was all ready to receive The Healing Power Of Rock last night as The Power In My Motors and I took the fantastic futuristic DLR (sitting in the front seat - WAHEY!) down to Lewisham to play a gig to help raise money for Kooba Radio's PRS license.
It's been a long long time since I last played at The Fox & Firkin, which is strange because I've always loved playing there. We arrived to find Tim outside on the phone home - as we were walking down I thought "This is strange, we are five minutes late arriving, and yet Tim has not called me - has THE LOVE DISAPPEARED?" Happily I later checked my phone to find Missed Call: 19.01, Tim Pattison. PHEW! We all went in and discovered The Tiger already on the prowl, for LO! tonight was a night for The Cleator Moor Validators to hit the stage.
One thing that HAS changed about The Fox in my year or so away is THE BEER, for now they actually HAVE some on tap of the NON-poisonous kind - previously it was VERY MUCH a Stick To The Guiness kind of place, but we managed to enjoy a couple of Surprisingly Delicious pints over the course of the evening. The LOVELIEST aspect of the evening though was all the GRATE people who turned up, including Mr Charlie Flowers, The Gibbs, the Kooba Krew and indeed the whole Lewisham LOT - i spent a lot of the evening getting all excited to see people I've not seen for AGES. Really, I must take steps to ensure it's NOT this long before I play there again.
Anyway, soon it was time for us to hit the stage, and after an introduction by young Myles detailing our Toilet-based first meeting we got going and did THIS:
It was GOOD - we LAUNCHED into The Gay Train with such ABANDON that I got over-excited and got some of the words wrong - actually, I did that with a few songs, mostly because I was thinking EITHER "Cor, The Healing Power Of ROCK really DOES work" OR "Why is my voice not working at all?" The LATTER was queued slightly by a mid-set application of BRANDY.
Notable incidents included a lady coming down the front and asking us to play "Black Velvet", saying helpfully "I can sing it with you!" You do often get this TYPE at gigs (and, for some reason, more so at The Fox), who will NOT take no for an answer, and seem to think that ALL bands can play ALL songs, and if you ask enough they will cave in and play what you like. ALSO we made an attempt on debuting the bossa nova version of It Only Works Because You're Here which lasted all of ten seconds, which is the time it took us to realise that NONE of us remembered how the bossa nova rhythm went, so we did Mental Judo instead. There was a pretty decent bit of FUTURE MUSIC in Do The Indie Kid , clapping along in Being Happy Doesn't Make You Stupid and an outbreak of DANCING by the end, it was GOOD TIMES all round.
Afterwards there was a lot of HUGGING, in band and in general, plus talk of mighty FUTURE ACTIONS, including a) Tim taking on PRODUCTION DUTIES for the new album and b) a possible Cleator Moor Validators TOUR, before THE POORLINESS got the better of me and, via MUCH MORE HUGGING, we headed off home.
What an excellent night we had though - Lewisham, let's not make it so long next time!
I took the HAND-MADE aspect of the new album a step further today by HAND-DELIVERING a load of them! I was planning to post out promo copies next week but then realised this would be a) slow b) potentially hazardous, what with the postal strike and everything, so thought I might as well take affairs into my own hand and take them round a few places myself. This was actually quite easy, as the offices of Word Magazine (nice lady, said "Is it for The Word?" as soon as she saw me - did she not think i was there for a HIGH FASHION magazine or something?) are only 10 minutes out of the way if i go to work via King's Cross, whilst 6Music (very suspicious guy who wanted to check every envelope) and Radio One (surprisingly jolly woman about my age who seemed to be waiting for someone) are only ten minutes away in the other direction. It felt GOOD to be getting these done, though I must admit I was sort of hoping someone would come running out of a studio and say "AHA! Come right in and record a session NOW". This, however, did not happen.
In other news, it's been pointed out that previous details of our GIG tomorrow night in Lewisham are INCORRECT: we're actually playing at 7.45pm, not 8.00pm, so if you're planning to come, please come a bit earlier!
Preparations Nearing Completion
Today I am facing the STRANGE POSSIBILITY that soon, or soon-ISH, all my pre-release preparations will be COMPLETE. OK, I've still got a pile of covers to COLOUR IN and a hundred more boxes to put together, but everything else is nearing the stage we call FINISHED. Nearly all Top 25 copies have been sent out (to contributors and FAAAMILY), and the envelopes for the promo copies have been address labelled, return address stickered, and STAMPED with the GLORIOUS Ukelele Stamp. The Press Release is on its final DRAFT, the accompanying letters are nearly done, and FLYERS for the individual gigs are ready for printing.
ALSO today i took delivery of the FANTASTIC new A Million Ukeleles T-SHIRTS! OH what wonders they are - they're a lovely RED colour with a YELLOW print of a single UKELELE on them, they're dead DEAD nice. These'll be on sale at the same time as the album itself, and will ALSO be available a week early for people on the MAILING LIST. I think I'll be doing another SPECIAL OFFER this time too, to get the t-shirt AND the album.
And if THAT wasn't enough excitement, I also went out and bought myself an ELECTRO-UKELELE! I'm going to try and do at least SOME songs on tour gigs on the uke, and would like to try them out when i do the GIG at Shortfuse next week so, really, buying an ELECTRO-UKELELE was the most sensible course of action.
And isn't it a wonderful world to live in when THAT is the most sensible thing you can do?
On The Radio
It was all a bit strange last night - I spent a couple of hours colouring in album covers, writing letters and putting stickers onto envelopes and then, at 8.45pm, sat down to wait for the telephone to ring, so that I could do a pre-arranged interview (pre-ARRANGED, not pre-recorded!) with Mr Bob Fischer for the Gobstopper show on BBC Tees. The phone rang, i got put through to the studio, and off we went for 15 minutes of LARKS and CHAT... mostly about ROCK AND ROLL subjects like Mapping Alien 8 and... er... well that was mostly what we talked about.
It was all in aid of publicising the GIG in a week and a bit in Middlesbrough and much fun it was too. After it was all done I went downstairs to the kitchen to make a cup of tea. "I've just been on the radio", i told the cats. They didn't seem interested (unless it was RADIO FOOD) so I made my cuppa and went back to my colouring in. It was all a bit odd really!
A Delightful Weekend
Today i am a little WORN OUT as I had a DELIGHTFUL yet ACTION PACKED weekend... of ADVENTURE!
Well, maybe not ADVENTURE, but definitely PUBS. It all began on Friday evening when I met with Mr S Hewitt to discuss PLANS for going to the Edinburgh Festival next year. It was an EXCELLENT meeting during which MANY items of business were sorted out, and also there was DELICIOUS HEALTHY BEER.
I spent most of Saturday working in COTTAGE INDUSTRY, mostly COLOURING IN the covers for "A Million Ukeleles". It took a REALLY long time and I've still got LOADS to do - i watched several episodes of Futurama and most of the last two thirds of series one of Battlestar Galactica whilst doing so - and so it was a bit of a RELIEF to pack it in and take myself back into town for the Birthday Celebrations of my good friend Mr Simon Wilkinson. Again there was BEER.
Sunday saw yet MORE hand-making, this time mostly ASSEMBLING CDs. I've now made 97 of the planned 200, and they really do look rather good tho CRIKEY it's been a big job. This time I watched the final episode of Battlestar Galactica (Series Two will be MINE before this day is done) and the British Comedy "Magicians" which was... well, it was by no means "Sex Lives Of The Potato Men", but nor was it "Shaun of The Dead". It was a British Comedy film.
By now BOGGLY EYED with HANDICRAFT I set off out AGANE, this time to The Buffalo Bar where I was playing at a Lost Music night. As i think I said the other day, this was RATHER handy as I was going to go along ANYWAY to see Sarandon, so when the chance arose to step in and do a gig MYSELF (and thus get in for free) it would have been foolish NOT to do so. So i did.
It was a LOVELY night - i got rather nervous before going on, as it's been FOUR WEEKS since I last did a gig, which seems AGES now but, as The Dates In My Diary pointed out this very morning, until a couple of years ago that would have been the Normal Frequency. Anyway, yes, NERVES were raised also because I was planning to try out some New Stuff and INDEED i did, as follows:
It all seemed to go rather well - people appeared to enjoy it, there was a good shout out in Easily Impressed and the room gradually filled up as I played. I was HAPPY.
Afterwards the evening was a DELIGHT. I ended up speaking to SEVERAL and VARIOUS dead nice people on a number of topics, it was REALLY nice. The other bands were all DEAD GOOD too. I'd not heard of Keith John Adams before but he was excellent - it's not something i ever usually pay attention to, but his GUITAR SOUND was AMAZING, and the onstage CHARISMA was HIGH. Apparently he is a reporter for the BBC World Service too! After him was Navvy, who were also GRATE - they have the happiest drummer I think I've seen in a long time, and ALSO a percussionist, which worked EXTREMELY well. Then finally it was Sarandon who were, as ever, BRILLIANT. They're dead EXCITING to watch and it feels BOTH a) like they're on for ages because all the songs are so PARED down to The Good Bits but b) like they're on and off far too quickly, as it's all so GOOD.
I had a BRILLIANT time anyway - and apparently there were "Three Radio One Disc Jockeys!" in the room, as a people kept excitedly telling me. I know one was Huw Stephens but not the others, so i am going to IMAGINE that it was DLT and Emperor Rosco, out on the RAZZ after the 40th Birthday Do. It is a HAPPY thought, and it was a very HAPPY ME at the end of it all!