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I headed up to Super SHEFFIELD last night to do a SECRET GIG! It was secret because it was a SURPRISE for Ms P Blackham's leaving do from Sheffield University Students' Union, where she has worked for MANY years, tirelessly booking GRATE bands and consistently inflicting ME on the student populace twice a year at all-dayers. I just hoped it would turn out to be a nice surprise for her, rather than a SHOCK!
The train up there was PACKED - the one before had been cancelled apparently, which made it all a bit CRAMPED and, for the first time in AGES, i spent the first half of the journey sat on the DICKY SEAT between carriages. It was all fine though and extremely FAST, so that just over two hours later I was stomping happily along the tram tracks to The Ibis.
Obligatory Ibis Joke: They Gave Me My Usual Room. AHA! Well, eventually they did - in the first room they gave me I was surprised to find an empty WINE BOTTLE on the table... then noticed the bed looked like it'd been slept in. I checked the bathroom and found the bin FULL and towels DAMP - I didn't like to make a fuss but thought I'd probably rather NOT re-use someone else's towels, so nipped down and got it changed.
All was well BUT it had put me behind schedule so it was a SPEED STOMP back across town to meet Ms S Jenkins for CURRY. An early spanner fell in the works when we discovered our designated curry house didn't seem to EXIST any longer, but luckily there turned out to be one RIGHT next to The Shakespeare, our eventual destination. It was dead nice - 7 Spices it was called, and their VERY tasty Balti was the ideal accompaniment to discussion of WEIGHTY TOPICS such as... er... Doctor Who.
Then it was HO! for the pub where HUGE METRIC TONNES of LOVELY people soon arrived, not least Penny herself who, thankfully, seemed PLEASANTLY surprised to see me there, even once she'd realised I'd got my guitar. PHEW! THUS after several beers I stood up between the bar and the DECKS and did THIS:
It was all very jolly - My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once seemed ESPECIALLY pertinent and, as you can probably tell, about halfway through I thought maybe I'd best do some COVERS, it being a DO and everything.
With that done all the was left to do was wander about CHATTING to the aforesaid lovely people various and drinking of the BEER until I realised, what with WORK the next day and a VERY early start to get there in time, I ought to get to bed. There was HUGGING (lots) then slight STAGGERING (lots) as I bounced downhill to be full of happiness, also BEER. What a lovely night!
I should say at this point that i did NOT write the song, as vaguely hinted at in the accompanying paragraph. It was actually written by Mr R Hare, MEMBER of the aforesaid Masters Of Nothing. A few years later myself and Dr N Brown PUMPED it UP a little bit for VOON too, but the CORE BEAUTY of the song is all Robin's. It's one of my favourite songs in the world and I was extremely pleased to find, when recording it, that even all these many years later I still knew all the words off by heart. If only I could say the same for most of the songs I play at gigs these days!
Chris T-T at The Flowerpot
Last night myself and The Beer In My Pub made our way to Camden, to see a GRATE gig. Count that as SPOILERS! For LO! The story starts with me in a Slight GRUMP.
Part of this was due to the fact that it was in CAMDEN where you are never more than 5 seconds away from someone being Vaguely Annoying, usually looking like a Wazzock poncing around like they are The Bees Knees. Obviously these days this is MUCH more likely to happen in Shoreditch, but Camden still holds its own and I am happy to report that WEARING IDIOTIC HATS is very much the Wazzock Ideal at the moment. The Ridiculously Tiny Pork Pie Hat seems to have fallen out of favour now, to be replaced by THE TRILBY. Why anybody who exists in COLOUR and in THREE DIMENSIONS who is under the age of SEVENTY would want to wear such a thing I do not know, but then I guess the opinion of a plump gentlemen of World Years is hardly on the top of The Wazzock Wish List.
ANYWAY there was that, and also the nature of the gig itself. The Flowerpot, where we were headed, has been LOUDLY TRUMPETED of late for its policy of doing Free Gigs, where the venue pays the acts themselves, in the hope that it will attract an audience to drink their beer. Now, you or I might think "Yes, that is a pretty standard way of doing gigs, it has happened as long as there have BEEN gigs" but you wouldn't believe it if you read some of the PRESS it has attracted, where the venue has been LAUDED as MIRACULOUS IDEA MONGERS doing something NEVER ATTEMPTED BEFORE. I mean, maybe not in THAT EXACT PUB, but still - we played at Jamm last week doing the exact same thing, and I've done (not literally) LITERALLY MILLIONS of gigs where this has been the case.
HOWEVER my GRUMP receded almost as soon as we entered the venue, when I realised it was one I'd played at before which had been MASSIVELY improved. I asked the nice young man behind the bar, who told me it had previously been The Verge - AAH! The Verge, OF COURSE, when I supported the Lovely Brothers, sang 'Stan' with Captain Disco, got a call from my Mum halfway through the set, and made my legs go wonky by standing up. It was a right sticky-floored stinky old DIVE back then and it's MUCH nicer now, and I IMMEDIATELY felt UNCOUTH for thinking uncharitable thoughts about their gig policy. It's not different to DO it, but it IS new-ish to do these sort of free gigs for the SIZE of acts they're booking to play there. Come on Hibbett, be a bit more charitable!
Any remaining grump was DISSIPATED by going and having a chat with the Act Of The Evening Mr Chris T-T, who was on fine form, especially considering he has been ON THE ROAD for so long. Everything sounds VERY exciting in the world of T-T with not one, not even two, but THREE albums to come next year. I don't want to show off... well, OK, I do, but I have HEARD one of them, "Love Is Not Rescue", his solo-ish album that's out apparently in March, and it is BLOODY BRILLIANT. Really really REALLY good stuff throughout, I think it may even top "9 Red Songs" as my favourite. YES THAT GOOD.
Also, rather brilliantly, he asked ME about the recently discussed possibility of him being in Dinosaur Planet. This was EXTREMELY PLEASING because I'd printed him out a copy of the SCRIPT but didn't know whether to RAISE the matter - I really want him to be in it, as I think he's be BRILLIANT, but wasn't sure if he'd just been being polite earlier. Fantastically we BOTH seemed very excited at the prospect. HOORAH!
We then had a lovely chap with Types, Various, who were in attendance before it was time to settle in for The Main Event, which was BLOODY GRATE. As anyone who's ever seen Chris will know he give AMAZING gig - it's like going to see Billy Bragg about 15 years ago, for INSPIRATION and EXHILERATION, also TUNES, and this time he was Excellent - The Words In My Song even went so far as to say it was the Second Best Time Ever (the first being the INCREDIBLE time we saw him at The 12 Bar which was one of the BEST GIGS OF ALL TIME), and I think she might be right. He moved between electric guitar, acoustic and PIANO for different songs and COMMANDED a room full of people, including several Talkative Camden Types who were STILLED by the power of his MIGHT. Well, most of them - rather bizarrely someone did walk up to the front of the stage and engage him in a two minute conversation, seemingly oblivious to the fact that he was Actually Doing A Gig.
So yes, it was GRATE especially when he dedicated "Giraffes" to US, largely due i think to The Strings On My Guitar telling him how much she LOVES that song. Which she does - LOTS! He did over an hour EASILY and it all seemed to end far too soon, and we left with huge GRINS on our faces singing the songs - especially the new ones which, AS MENTIONED, are GRATE.
Last night I did pretty much the VERY LAST THING for the Grand Campaign of Regardez, Ecoutez Et Repetez, a joint interview with Mr Phil Wilson for Bob Fischer's show on BBC Tees.
The idea was that we were talking about the My Boss Was In An Indie Band single, which was of course part-inspired by Mr Wilson, but I seemed to spend most of my time talking about HOLIDAY STEW (i.e. whatever you can get your hands on in the local supermarket whilst on holiday abroad, made into a stew) which we'd just had as a Special Treat for out tea. Phil, ever the consumate professional, talked a bit more sensibly than me about the TRUTH or otherwise of the song, his proper job post-June Brides, and other former ROCK types who'd followed the same path. It was all very jolly and, as ever, over much too soon.
And then that was that - pretty much the final SCENE in the promotion of the new single which itself was the final ACT in the great long process of releasing and trying to get people to by its parent album, a process which began several YEARS ago now when we started recording it! Along the way we've had various tours, three videos (FOUR if you count the download of Being Happy Doesn't Make You Stupid... which I don't think anybody did, really) FOUR videos, a tour and a couple of hundred gigs! GOLLY!
Now we find ourselves in a delightful calm INTERIM OASIS. There's a few more gigs to do this year - not least our TOUR OF (bits of) GERMANY - but otherwise everything is now aligning itself to the cause of Dinosaur Planet. I've just booked the next rehearsal and recording session and am starting to think, not too LOUDLY in case THE FATES hear me doing so, that maybe, just maybe, we'll be able to get it finished before next Summer, in time to do some gigs and then take it, revamped and revitalised, to Edinburgh again. That would be GRATE!
I rose EARLY on Sunday (though obviously not as early as I would have if the clocks hadn't changed) for I had a LONG journey ahead of me. For LO! our SECOND jam-based gig of the week was happening in Leicester, where we were due on at 4.30pm to play as part of NINE (9) gigs happening there that day for Oxjam.
We'd arranged a Kit Share with the other bands in our section and so, as Tim was going to be there for 2.30pm to set it up I thought that I ought to make the effort to get there early too. The only trouble with this was that i was trying to use Public Transport on a SUNDAY. As we know, THE MAN believes that the SOLE PURPOSE of public transport is to move WORKER DRONES from their sleeping quarters to their work stations and back again, and so deems any use of same on weekends as, at best, WHIMSY. The upshot of this for me was that there was no Central Line NOR any Overground from Leytonstone so it took nearly TWICE as long as normal to get to Kings Cross (including a 35 minute WALK to Stratford). When I got on the train it once again took nearly TWICE as long as normal to get to Leicester, due to it stopping EVERYWHERE (Luton AND Luton Airport, for instance) and then taking a scenic route to avoid Market Harborough.
I also ended up in the "Quiet Carriage" with a load of people who were doing that "Let's all talk really loudly so everyone can hear how HILARIOUS we aren't, and the LAUGH constantly, fakely, to demonstrate to each other what a brilliant time we're having" thing, FOR TWO AND A HALF HOURS so was in a bit of a grump when I finally reach my old hometown. As I walked through the rain to the venue i kept thinking "Come on now, this could all turn out to be really good fun."
I got to Firebug, went upstairs to see if Tim had arrived with the drums yet... to find no Tim, but ANOTHER DRUMKIT being set up. I have to admit, I was ANNOYED and tho I tried to hide it to the organiser, don't think I did. Oh dear. I later felt a RIGHT MOODY SOD about it too. The Pattisons arrived and we bumped into another band who'd ALSO thought they needed to bring a drum kit, so were also a bit fed up about LUGGING it all the way there without needing to. We went upstairs and the organiser was EXTREMELY apologetic - he also was a drummer and fully realised how annoying it could be and, basically, was so nice about it that i felt like a COMPLETE GIT, also some kind of ROCK STAR PRIMA DONNA.
We retired to The Criterion for a CHAT and to DE-SHAME and were joined after a while by Mr F Machine and Mr T "Tiger" McClure - originally we'd been intending to do the gig as a POWER TRIO as Tom was already booked to play in Brixton with Lazarus Clamp and Emma was taking the girls to THE PICTURES, but Tom's gig had been cancelled at the last but one minute, so he was with us after all.
After several DELICIOUS beers we strode back just in time to find the band before us had finished and we were due to set up. The usual Nice Soundman at The Firebug was there and he got us sorted out in super fast time so we were able to go on with XTREME PUNCTUALITY and do THIS:
It was, frankly, GRATE, which I hadn't been expecting at all! I didn't think anybody would be there, but there was a SUPER HARDCORE tiny group at the front who'd come on purpose, and there seemed to be LOTS of people watching behind them - though it was a very migratory audience, I noticed people LEAVING throughout but the fact that at the end there were LOADS there means people must have come in too! Also the sound was EXCELLENT, we could hear everything clearly and we appeared to ALL be at precisely the right level of DRINK to have a jolly good time. AND I made not one but TWO AMUSING REMARKS (let's not spoil my memory of the occasion by repeating them here tho), which is ALWAYS the sign of a good gig, as far as I'm concerned!
So it was a happy, if slightly surprised to be so, band who regrouped downstairs to finish off our beers before it was time to depart, Frankie and I strolling over to the station to go our seperate ways. It was quite a pleasant journey home, fueled by the memory of a gig well ROCKED, and such was my good mood that when I got to Stratford I decided to HANG the EXPENSE and get a taxi. It was good that I did, as I ended up having an illuminating chat with a lovely driver who turned out to have had CHART HITS with a band called Animal Nightlife. I thought "I bet he's a bass player" and indeed he WAS - Mr Steve Shanley, if you google yourself, HELLO! It was very nice indeed to meet you!
It was an Exceedingly Productive weekend of ROCK this weekend. On Saturday I finished off a demo of a song called "Full Power To The Forward Thrusters" which i NEARLy finished a couple of weeks ago but then got waylaid by POORLINESS. I'm not sure what to do with it really - the original idea came from seeing a batch of ADVERT BRIEFS that said "Must sound a bit like The Killers" (The Killers appear to have taken over from Badly Drawn Boy as the band ALL Advertising Types thing is KEWL), one in particular saying it should not only SOUND like The Killers but be the same TEMPO as one of their songs. I thought I'd have a go, so wrote an RIFFALICIOUS MONSTER of a track... which became significantly LESS monstrous the more of my vocals I put onto it. Still, it sounds rather GROOVY, I think, so it MAY make the slow walk onto the next lot of album recordings.
Well, the next BUT one album, of course, as we're currently knee deep in Dinosaur Planet. At the JAMM gig last week Frankie pointed out that, now that it has transformed into more of a MUSICAL for the recorded version, the SHOW is lacking a LOVE SONG. He is of course correct and so I set my BRANE to thinking a) where could such a song fit in b) who might sing it and c) what it might sound like. On Friday INSPIRATION struck about which two existing characters might fall in love, and on Saturday I realised that that could work REALLY well as part of the plot. For those who've seen it, it's basically the leader of the Dinosaur Armies and THE GENERAL, Terry's mother, and my initial attempts to write an entire song around the crap joke "My Arms Are Too Short To Hold You" (he's a T-Rex, you see and... yes) were thankfully deemed Null And Void when the song "Strangely Attractive" popped into my MIND. Here's the first verse:
You're a Dinosaur
I'm a general
If you want reasons to keep apart
I can think of several
But the problem is this:
I find you very very very strangely attractive
HANKIES AT THE READY, it gets even MORE Delightfully Romantic as it goes along!
And on top of all THAT I also managed to FINALLY finish off a song for Maps Magazine's Halloween Special. Paul The Editor sent a mailout a little while ago asking for contributions, and I spent ages SLAVING over a new song about a SPOOKY TRIP to The Odeon Cinema, Taunton some years ago. If anyone HASN'T heard this story, GRAB me next time you see me and I shall tell it, but be warned: IT WILL FRIGHTEN THE VERY LIFE OUT OF YOU.
Unfortunately the song itself turned out to be rather more DULL than the story upon which is was based, and I couldn't get it to work at all. Then I suddenly realised: HANG ON! If they want songs that are spooky, then why not record the SPOOKIEST SONG OF ALL? And thus it came to pass that I spent some very happy hours recording YET ANOTHER version of "Rather Spooky", a song originally written by Mr Robin Hare for The Masters Of Nothing then revamped by myself and Dr N Brown for VOON. It's a GRATE song and it was HUGE HEAPS of GOOD TIMES recording it, not least because I knew ALL the words off by heart. Almost as if I have been singing it for twenty years - EEK!
A good day for SONGS then, and good preparation for the day of ROCK that was to come on Sunday...
As I set off for Brixton last night everything felt VERY familiar - I've played at Jamm MANY times (FACT CHECK: it's my equal ELEVENTH most played at venue, according to The Database Of ROCK) but NEVER with The Validators. I was REALLY looking forward to it - i was even getting a bit of THE NERVES, such was my excitement!
There'd been quite a lot of discussion about soundcheck times beforehand. Mr I Watson, Promoter, had wanted them to start about 5.30 but there'd been all sorts of The Usual Issues (i.e. people not being able to get off work in time, not least us) and when I arrived at 6.30pm nobody had even started soundchecking yet.
Happily, this didn't really matter. The venue had lots of kit that everybody was sharing, two of the bands were just duos, and the soundman was GRATE, so when The Validators said they were still at Marble Arch at 6.45pm i completely failed to PANIC in any way. The rolled up at about twenty past seven just as The Tender Trap had started their soundcheck, and what with them being quick and us having MILITARY EFFICIENCY in our ability to LEAP onstage and get ready it was all done well before eight o'clock and sounding ACE.
With that done we went for a small wander in search of food. I generally just cross the road to Planet Kebab so was AMAZED to find that there were actually SEVERAL food places a little way along and even a PUB! I never knew THAT!
We sat down to eat and, just as we'd polished off the last of the chips, The Tomato In My Ketchup arrived and our group was COMPLETE, ready to DIVE IN to the traditional Big Setlist Debate. This was whole HEAPS of fun and there was lots of histrionic shouting at the fact that Tim - TIM - voiced concerns about doing too much new stuff. After much LARKING ABOUT we settled on our PLAN and went inside to watch the first two bands, who were LOVELY, before it was time for a Surprisingly Sober Validators to take the stage and do THIS:
It was GRATE! The sound was EXCELLENT - I could totally hear EVERYTHING and that combined with the lack of BOOZE made it all feel almost TIGHT! ALMOST: I still made a bit of a mess of the second verse of The Gay Train and may have ERRED slightly in the direction of Too Much Chat, but otherwise it was BRILL. I was ESPECIALLY pleased with how GRATE We Are The Giant Robots sounded, especially as it's the first time we've ALL played and sang it all the way through. GOOD TIMES!
Afterwards we got packed away and then The Validators stayed for the first half of Tender Trap (who I don't think i've actually SEEN before - they were FAB, especially the AMAZING harmony singing, that was LOVELY) before having to head home. We stayed to the end, thoroughly enjoying ourselves, and on the way home were accosted by a bloke who, having heard and recognised Hey Hey 16K, wanted to know which one I was, Rob Manuel or Joel Veitch? I was forced to disappoint him.
But that was the ONLY disappointment, for LO! it was a GRATE GIG - excellent sound, a proper crowd, and good times for all. HOORAH for GIGS!
I must have been in a funny old mood when I was poorly - I distinctly recall thinking last week "I hope no more gigs come in at all, then I can have a few months off and maybe not do any more gigs again". Now I am almost back to my Peak Fitness (bar HACKING COUGH) I've just looked at the gig listings and thought "EEK! TWO gigs in December then that's IT!?!?"
I'm definitely still thinking of having January OFF tho - it was GRATE having some time at home this month, even if a large proportion was spent lying in bed Being Very Brave and SWEATING, and if i DON'T do gigs then I can focus a bit more on RECORDING. My panic may have been EXACERBATED somewhat also by the fact I'm getting VERY excited about the gig we're doing tonight in Brixton with Tender Trap. Sometimes I have gigs where i SLOPE OFF in a NONCHALANT style, but for this one I've got the EXCITEMENTS! OOH!
I've played at Brixton Jamm many many MANY times - it was one of the few places VOON ever played in London, when it was called The Old White Horse (although we THOUGHT we were playing at the rather more famous/prestigious White Horse in Hampstead...) and I've been back LOADS of times to play solo gigs - but this is the FIRST time we've ever done a Validators gig there. I think it's going to be GRATE - they have GEAR already set up, a big sound system and a VERY high stage that feels like you're at WEMBLEY or something.
I wish I could look forward to tomorrow's blog and see how it turns out!
A Bright New Dawn In Recording History
I was on the last (non-ludicrously priced... well, non-UTTERLY-ludicrously priced, it still cost seventy quid!) train from Derby to London after work last night where, after a brief stop for CHIPS i made my way to Snug Recording Studio, home of so many of our TRIUMPHS, were recording was due to start on Dinosaur Planet: THE ALBUM.
I was delighted to find BOTH Robbie AND Rich in attendance for the evening and almost equally as delighted to get there in time to hear a good half of of drum soundchecking. As anyone who's ever been in a band, or just near one, will know, the drum soundchecking is the choicest delicacy in any meal of ROCK and people have been known to RUN just for a chance to hear it. Usually in the other direction, for some reason, but still.
Anyway, we got that done, Tim went off for HIS chips, we set the guitar up, had a chat, then Frankie arrived. HE got set up, Tim returned, chips, pies and pickled eggs were eaten, and we BEGAN. I hope i am succesfully conveying the IMMENSE GLAMOUR of the proceedings.
We started off with Don't Darren Don't, and succesfully managed a full take with swift ease. HOWEVER we appear to have suddenly got a bout of the PROFESSIONALISMS - there was a time not so long ago that just getting to the END of a song would have been sufficient for it to be The Final Take, but no longer it seems. We had four or five goes at it before a listen through and the agreement that trying to do the "atmospheric intro" was putting us off, so we went back in and did it ANOTHER five or six times WITHOUT the intro. The final version was take TEN! TEN!
It DID sound rather good though, as did the next one, My Grandad Is Nuts which didn't take quite as many attempts, but still had quite a few. Again, each one might have DONE, but was abandoned for reasons like Insufficient Bounce until we got to the RIGHT one.
Next up was my FAVOURITE song at the moment, We Are The Giant Robots. This sounds BLOODY GRATE - it's quite different now from how I did it on my own, becoming, to use the term, a bit KRAUTROCK. A bit - as Tim pointed out, with even the Very Extended Version (which'll probably get faded LONG before the end) only just getting past three minutes, it's hardly NEU.
Some major WORK was undertaken on the next couple of songs, A Little Bit and its reprise A Little Bit More. Previous sections which had featured STOPS were smoothed out, transitions were added and ALL SORTS. I was also impressed by the way we did the reprise with a slightly different, more TRIUMPHANT feel. It was dead good!
Also rather lovely, I must say, was the way we slipped back into the Mutual Bossing Around which DEFINES our MASTERY of the studio. Throughout anyone of us could say "No, do it again!" and off we'd go, or suggest a change that everyone would try out. It was made easier this time by the FACTS that a) none of the songs are very long, so another go was no problem and b) this ISN'T our Big Important New Rock Album, it's a ROCK OPERA, where we don't necessarily feel quite the same need to make every song sound different for the sake of it. We normally DO do that, you see, honest!
Anyway, with the main songs finished we knocked off a quick version of Literature Search, just to get another song in, then had a few run throughs of (theme from) Dinosaur Planet - SENSIBLY we're getting in as much practice at this one as possible before recording it properly. And, judging by the recording we made, WE NEED TO.
So all in all an EXTREMELY productive evening's work - I was VERY pleased with how GOOD everything's sounding, and pleasantly surprised by how much like PROPER songs they all are, working on their own even though they were written to fit into an Overarching Narrative. We might even do a couple of them at tomorrow night's gig, just to prove it!
To be honest, in all practical ways, not much is occurring - I've just sent an email out to Media Types, but otherwise all is QUIET so far. People on the mailing list could buy it last week (and DID - thanks everyone!) so there's only a few physical CDs left. We ARE doing a couple of gigs, but not for a few days yet, so all there is for me to do is sit around and wait and see if anything comes in...
It's also my first day back at work since all the poorliness abated, so there's several bits and bobs to get sorted out here. All in all I'm FAIRLY sure it was a bit more exciting the day they releassed "Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields", and those videos don't even have any GAGS!
You know those ADVERTS that i sort of vaguely nearly got involved with a month or so ago? They've really started PROPERLY now - I keep trying to persuade myself to be upset about the HUGE piles of CA$H I missed out on, but all i can think about it how RELIEVED i am that it DIDN'T happen, especially that I never got TESTED by being officially offered it. At this moment in an alternate universe there's a me being filmed by Advert Types thinking "HELP ME! AAAAAARGGGHHH!!!"
HOWEVER I'm not here to talk about that - although if you'd like me to please ACCOST me when next you see me out and I will happily do so at length - rather to do some advertising that I can VERY MUCH get behind.
Mr T Pattison has alerted me to the publication of a book called Death To Trad Rock by Mr J Robb. It's a series of articles about important bands from the post-punk scene, defined as 1982-1987. It includes some GRATE bands from round then, not least The June Brides, as well as some that, as well as some GRATE bands that... well, as far as I'm aware, WEREN'T around then, like Sarandon and Prolapse!
I haven't read the book, but I guess they're there as the LEGACY of post-punk, and can certainly see how you'd argue that with the magnificent Sarandon as well as The Lapse (as we, THE KIDS, used to call them).
I HAVE read the chapter on Prolapse tho, and it is FAB - Tim was good enough to scan it and send it to me, and I soon realised why! Like EVERYTHING EVER written about Prolapse most of it is about Linda and Scottish, but for once ANOTHER member of the band gets almost as much attention. The first hint comes when they're described as "a metronomic krautrock beat played by a monster drummer".
"Metronomic"? I thought Tim used to drum for them? AHA! Yes, the first page is basically a MASSIVE LOVE-IN for the MONSTER DRUMMER. "I remember being blown away by the power of Tim Pattison's drums" he says. "It was almost as if the drums didn't need miking up because Pattison was so brutal and concise at hitting the damn things"
John Robb, are you trying to COP OFF with my drummer or something?
It is, of course, DELIGHTFUL also FULLY WARRANTED - it IS a bit annoying how much the mighty BAND part of Prolapse were ignored by feckless journalists who couldn't see past the Charismatic Lead Singers and so GRATE that someone as WISE as Mr Robb can see past it, at least in part, to the POWERHOUSE RHYTHM SECTION. There's also a compilation album coming out which will feature my favourite Prolapse song "Psychotic Now" which, ASTONISHINGLY, has not been out on CD before! I think i will GET me some of that - altogether now, "My father was the victim of a potato peeler, my ma went the same way at the tender age of " - everybody! - "FIFTY NINE!"
We Are All Winners
As GENTLY and OCCASIONALLY mentioned (in passing) (once or twice) I was nominated in the first stages of the UK Festivals Awards. I of course ABHOR anything which even SUGGESTS there should be "awards" for ART, i believe i am probably ON RECORD as saying so and therefore it came only as GOOD NEWS to me to find out that I hadn't got through to the final stages and that Caza Azul, nominated in the same section for THEIR performance at Indietracks HAD. GOOD NEWS.
So yes, they're in the final stage as indeed is the GRATE festival at which we were both HONOURED to play and so if you would like to... er... SUBVERT (yes) the idea of awards and, well, give some nice people a thoroughly deserved PAT ON THE BACK then it would be GRATE if you could take the time to have a VOTE.
Meanwhile, in other news, Dan H ALERTED me to the fact that a) Dave Gorman's got a new radio show starting tomorrow on Absolute Radio and b) he's looking for JINGLES so this morning I wrote and recorded one, sent it to them about noon, and five minutes later got a reply saying they'd be using it tomorrow! CORKS! I'd better set the alarm!
The Beginning Of The Future
Sorry for the SILENCE on here this week, i have been LAID LOW with POORLINESS. In fact I've just checked online and i think i MIGHT even be suffering from The Swine Flu. EXCITING eh? Usually when I get a cold it goes within a couple of days but this time it's been with me since Monday night and IN FORCE for most of that time, only abating somewhat today.
Things probably weren't helped by my heading off to Derby on Tuesday night for some ROCK. I was feeling pretty groggy by the time I got to the train but hoped that The Healing Power Of ROCK would help me out, and indeed it DID, at least a little bit. I'd been EXTREMELY reluctant to cancel anyway as it'd been AGES since we'd last got together,tho i didn't realise it'd been SIX MONTHS. Six months since The Validators had last gathered! THIS IS WRONG!
We also had brief attempts at (theme from) Dinosaur Planet and For The Fate Of The Earth, just to get our TOES WET in them, as it were. They're BIG NUMBERS which, i feel, may need some time to get into properly. The others tho - COR! I was WELL chuffed with how they've worked out, all we need to do now is remember them until NEXT Tuesday when we're back to record them!
After that there was time for a quick DEBRIEF in the pub before everyone headed their seperate ways, with me retiring to Chez Fleay where i spent a RESTLESS NIGHT with the aforementioned Proper Poorliness.
I STRUGGLED MANFULLY to get home next morning where I went straight to be and STAYED there until a couple of hours ago, pausing only briefly to put the single online for Newsletter people. But more news of that later, for now BED is calling, also my "Road To..." BOXSET!
World International John Peel Day
It was World International John Peel Day on Saturday, and i was HONOURED to be playing at the big event at the Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes. This was a somewhat KRAZY extravaganza organised by Mr G Gargan of Former Utopia, where he asked LOADS of London Indie Promoters to all pitch in to organise and promote the day, all suggesting an act to be part of it. It's a lovely idea, very much in the spirit of Everyone Working Together.
It also made for a MIND BENDING day as I wandered around bumping into all sorts of people - Stu Baboon, Tim from Freedom Of Expression, Rachel Silver Rocket, Sean Fortuna Pop, Rocker, George himself - who I've known for YEARS of organising gigs but never expected to see ALL bunched up together. It was like being at a gig where the band was ALL lead singers.
Actually, that's EXACTLY what it was like, it was LOVELY - to be honest I was TECHNICALLY a promoter as well (Totally Acoustic had chosen... er... ME) but as there were MANY people a LOT better than me at gig promoting involved I thought it was probably best to keep my head down and do what I was told when necessary. Luckily for me, and indeed the venue, this freed up a LOT of time for BEER, of which i had MUCH. I spent most of my time with Mr J Kell and Mr S Hewitt, who are TERRIBLE influences and, frankly, should take most of the blame for my parlous state the next day. I WAS LED ASTRAY.
It was a BRILLIANT day - it felt like a FESTIVAL. At normal gigs at the Bowling Lanes it feels a bit like that anyway, as as well as the GIG there's bowling, karaoke, pool and a mini-restaurant, but for this one they'd also opened up the "downstairs" room. I say "downstairs" because, as far as i could tell, it was actually UPSTAIRS from the "upstairs" room. It was all very confusing and so we eventually agreed to just say "this room" or "the other room". I "helpfully" wrote notes to this effect on running orders, but ended up confusing myself even more.
As is the nature of the all-dayer things ran later and back to front, so that at one point I came perilously close to playing in TWO rooms at the same time, but in the end I just did the ONE set, as follows:
It was a funny old gig - the stage had been set up at the end of the huge wide bar, DIRECTLY in from of six bowling lanes, where a huge crowd of people were busily bowling, laughing, and having a fine old time - the venue had kept taking bowling bookings for the day, which meant there were LOADS of people there who weren't there for INDIE. This actually worked out really nicely - it made the atmosphere a lot JOLLIER and many of them got into the bands too.
The only downside was that i couldn't hear a SINGLE THING during my set apart from BOWLING. There were no monitors so it felt like I was playing SILENTLY in a crowd of people having MUCH TOO MUCH FUN to listen to me, and who also went CLUNK every five seconds. There were quite a few people watching, and everyone said afterwards you could hear me perfectly, but it felt very uncomfortable INDEED.
Now, afterwards I bumped into Stu Baboon who asked how it'd gone and when i told him the above he gave me a big hug and said "I'm really sorry to hear that". I felt a bit ASHAMED of myself - the trouble is, you need to have a MASSIVE ROCK STAR EGO to do lots of gigs, and this is all well and good when they go well and INDEED when they don't (as then you can get over it with a STROP when you get home), but when things ARE going well but don't FEEL like they are you end up having an INNER BATTLE. Throughout the set part of me thought "ARGH! This is horrid, GET OFF STAGE!" whilst another, wiser part, replied "Don't be stupid, no it isn't, it's FINE - look at all those people SMILING. Stop being a WAZZOCK and get on with it!"
The BIG smiling part came when Amelia Fletcher Of Tender Trap And Many Other Famous Indie Bands stopped by for a quick look on the way to Allo Darlin' (who were playing in the next room)... just as i was playing My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once. I don't think the irony, or DELIGHT, of this coincidence escaped anybody!
So yes, it was all fine and lovely and i was made REALLY happy by several people i didn't know coming up to me later and saying they'd enjoyed it. It was LOVELY that, if anyone reads this who was there and DID that, thanks SO much, that was GRATE!
And then the rest of the day seems to have flown by in BEER and SHOUTING about things. I don't think i actually saw any more bands, but did have several more beers and SHOUTED about things. It was like a Saturday Evening from about ten years ago, up to and including buying rubbish food on the way back to SCOFF when I got in.
Unfortunately this meant that I woke up to enjoy the nostalgia of a Sunday Morning from about ten years ago too! OW!
Yesterday I went to the Secret BBC Window and handed over the final batch of PROMO CDs for 6Music types (of which there were many) and also a few radio one and two people. I'd already put the other radio promo copies in the post the day before (so they'll be arriving for Christmas...) and once I'd emailed everybody to tell them they were on the way that was pretty much THAT, for the time being, for My Boss Was In An Indie Band!
It's been a DELIGHT this time around I much saying - making the video, mastering the CDs, ordering them, getting the badges, sending out review copies, everything's been really SMOOTH and simple this time, i wish it was always that easy! Now I just have to hope that people SEE the video or HEAR the song!
Ooh, and if that's YOU, and this is your first visit here: HELLO! Thanks for dropping by - the video is over on this page and if you're feeling flush you can buy the album it comes from here!
There's also all sorts of other things here, including lyrics and notes for ALL the songs (of which there are MANY), pictures, videos, downloads - have a look round if you have time, it will be FUN!
I got the train to ESSEX last night - well, it was the train to Shenfield, which GOES through Essex. Exciting London FACT: EVERY Train (according to me) that leaves Liverpool Street Station goes to SHENFIELD. But why? I actually went there once, and it's basically Melton Mowbray. Now, I like Melton Mowbray, it is delightfull, but I don't think it would benefit from 50 trains an hour going there, so why is Shenfield so blessed?
ANYWAY I got off before then at the aforesaid Brentwood and was met by Mr Paul Golder, Station Supremo of Phoenix FM who, much to my surprise, said it'd been nearly two and a half years since I'd last been there. I couldn't believe it - i knew I'd last been to play at the station's opening day (I'd been over beforehand when the station just had a Temporary Licence, but this was the day they became a full-time community station) but I didn't realise it was THAT long ago. Crikey!
We got set up (i.e. Paul made me a cuppa) and went in to the little studio (i should say ONE of the studios, they now have TWO - it all looks dead PROPER!) and got going. We kicked off with a bit of a chat followed by a whizz through My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once. He then played a couple of songs including one by Art Brut which prompted me to say "AHA! I have an Eddie Argos Story!" which I then told in a VERY LONG WINDED WAY during our next bit. I kept getting DISTRACTED by THORTS - before we'd begun Paul had said he was getting a sore throat and couldn't talk much, but "that shouldn't be a problem for you". I'm sure I don't know WHAT he meant. AHEM.
Job done! Paul put on two LONG records so he could give me a lift to the station, and then that was that. It all FLEW by and I had a LOVELY time - it feels like ages since I last did a RADIO BROADCAST, it's always tremendous fun. Well, it's playing songs and talking about myself, two of my FAVOURITEST THINGS!
Standing in the hall of the great cathedral...
The other morning I was woken from fitful slumber (the funtimes of Leytonstone's celebrated Festival Of Shouting In The Street continue) by The Comfort Of My Mattress saying the immortal words "Dur dur dur dur, da da dum" for LO! she had DREAMED a song, and I DASHED downstairs to get the digital four track to record it.
The song came complete with MELODY and BASSLINE and in the days since we have wandered the house SINGING it, with me resolving to record it ASAP. We worked out the chords and an extra bit (which is either The Chorus or The Verse, depending upon which of us you ask) and the CRACKING bass line and I was vaguely thinking of recording it at the weekend. However, things became URGENT when I got an email from John The Publisher asking for a song that was bouncy, upbeat and without necessarily much in the way of lyrics. It's one of these Songs For Adverts that he passes on every now and again - I've had a go at all SORTS of things and though they've never been accepted it's always GRATE fun having a go, so we decided to try finishing THIS one off. The only thing was they needed it first thing this morning!
THUS plans for me to make the tea were WAYLAID as I SWEATED over a hot BASS GUITAR. My first attempt at the song, listened to after eating, proved to be WRONG - as it had come from the mighty BRANE of The Beats In My Rhythm rather than being JAMMED or something it didn't ADHERE to the more conventional chord patterns that I tend to end up using, and as a result it had DONE MY HEAD IN and i had done it incorrectly.
We nipped into THE STUDIO (hem hem) to have another go and this time DID do it correctly - it still felt a bit ODD to me when I was playing it, and I had to do the bassline as two seperate tracks to get round this, but when I played it all put together it all sounded FAB. I did a MIX of it before breakfast and then lathered on some OVERDUBS, including an HEAVENLY CHOIR featuring both of us singing, and that was that. It sounds GRATE!
We sent it off to John before I went to work - I'm not holding out great hopes that it'll get used, as THE RECORD so far suggests it won't, but it was nice to write a song with someone who will a) give you THE KISSY KISSY if it goes well [NB Validators, i am not expecting this service in future] and b) make you your TEA while you're doing it [although that would be nice...]. I can see why The Maccas were so keen on it!
Totally Acoustic RETURNS
With a skip in my step and joy in my heart I headed over to The Lamb last night for the first of the NEW SEASON of Totally Acoustic. It's been AGES since we last did one of these, what with all the ALBUM and EDINBURGH stuff that went on over the summer so I was REALLY looking forward to it, especially as I'd got two such GRATE acts playing.
I arrived to find they were both there ALREADY, Mr Gavin Osborn and Mr Winston Echo. Full of GLEE I sorted out the room hire then went upstairs with Mr C Flowers to sort the room out. The Chairs At My Table arrived, Mr S Hewitt and Mr P Knight came upstairs, and then so did a whole HEAP of other people - a few lovely regulars but also PILES of people I had never even MET before. BOTH Mr Osborn AND Mr Echo had bought a load of PALS with them, making the room SO VERY FULL that some people couldn't find a seat! This had NEVER happened before!
Almost completely ON TIME I got up, heralded by Steve CLANGING a glass in the traditional manner, GABBLED ON for a bit, and then did THIS:
As you can see, it features LOTS of songs I haven't done for a while and even a couple of new ones. This was my first gig in 5 or 6 weeks so I was always going to need to have a BIT of a practice, so I REASONED that in that case I might as well try and do a few DIFFERENT songs - I've been playing pretty much the same 2.5 sets for the past two years (My Exciting Life, the album, and Dinosaur Planet) so thought it would be NICE to do something different. I THOUGHT this would be a "bonus" (aka "blessed relief") for the REGULARS who've HEARD those sets so many times, but I didn't expect there to be QUITE so many people who'd never heard me AT ALL before.
It seemed to go pretty well - going on first has the MASSIVE advantage that I can't drink too much before going on, so I managed to remember nearly ALL the words to EVERYTHING. I may perhaps have TALKED rather a bit too much between songs but HEY! It's my GIG, it's allowed!
Afterwards, during the mini-break, someone who'd only wandered in by mistake a)said she'd enjoyed it (which made me very happy) and b) suggested getting in touch with a part of UCL that's looking to put on SHOWS. She was part of a group of GEOLOGISTS, so maybe it's a good thing they didn't find out what Dinosaur Planet is really about - it would surely have SHAKEN their entire BELIEF SYSTEM. SURELY.
Anyway, then Winston Echo came on and was BLOODY GRATE. He started with "Winchester Cathedral Choir", a song I've seen him play MANY times but never really HEARD properly, so was amazed to discover the Actual Story. He was fantastic - he gives off an air of FRAILTY, at least at first, but it's linked to a huge confidence in the songs - after someone like ME has been GALLUMPHING about, SHOUTING and making with the LARFS it takes some SKILL to come on very shortly afterwards and confidently do such QUIET songs and then drag the entire room round to his way of thinking, charming them and having everyone LOVE him within minutes. BRILLIANT.
We had the traditional MAXI-BREAK and I have to admit I was worrying - due to my EXTENDED SHOWING OFF things were running a bit late. "We're WELL behind schedule", I thought, looking at my watch. "It's nearly... oh. Nine o'clock."
Gavin Osborn came on then and was FANTASTIC. As I may have mentioned, when I saw him in Edinburgh it BLEW MY MIND - he's got such brilliant, funny, heartfelt songs and does them perfectly, and he did it all over again last night, this time with added VIOLINS. As with Winston he looked the (by now very warm) room in the eye and TOOK it, especially when he did a couple of very LONG songs which flew by, involving everyone in the stories as they went along.
We got him to do a MUCH JUSTIFIED encore - "Tank Park Salute" by Billy Bragg. It was BEAUTIFUL but did look to be ending the night with the whole room SOBBING, so thankfully he did his "Over 30" song which was as HILARIOUS, also TRUE, also MOVING as it had been the first time I'd seen him. I can't believe I'd not even HEARD of him before a couple of months ago, I shall be going to his gigs A LOT MORE.
After that we settled down into the traditional post-gig BEER and CHAT (including exciting discussion of CAMPER VANS) before beginning the long journey home. It was a lovely night, and much as I enjoyed my month off it's nice to be back on THE ROAD again!
The New Video!
You discover me this fine afternoon still in my pyjamas as I am off work POORLY. PANIC NOT, gentle reader, I am very much on the mend after a weekend of lying in bed being festooned with tea and biscuits whilst watching TELLY, but an extra day of the above is being administered to ensure I'm in TIP TOP condition ready for my return to the live arena tomorrow night at Totally Acoustic.
In the meantime, you may enjoy FEASTING YOUR EYES on the below - it's the video for the next single!
As mentioned before, this'll be out as a limited edition CD on October 19 (slightly earlier for people on the mailing list), with the main song VERY MUCH available to download already. We are, I think it's fair to say, rather chuffed with how's it turned out, hope you like it!
Come, Let Us "Hit" The Dancing Area
Pass me my tiny hat and garland me with Fancy Scarves, for LO! I appear to be LIVING THE DREAM in exciting new directions at the moment - FUNKY directions. I've got another bit of DISC JOCKEYING lined up for the end of November, which should be fun as long as i remember that, for some inexplicable reason, NOBODY wants to dance to "Leaning On A Lamppost" and, as demonstrated every other time I have manned the platters that matter, will actually LEAVE THE BUILDING if it is played. Or maybe I should give it one more go?
Anyway, apart from that i am ALSO working on a REMIX at the moment. FINALLY someone has been FARSEEING enough to let ME get my hands on the components of their track and MESS AROUND with it. All right, they've also got a ton of other people doing it, but still, it is DEAD exciting and I am having LOADS of fun doing it. Often when I see other bands at gigs I stand their thinking "No no no, you want to go straight into the chorus now, and bring back the TRUMPETS" but this way i can actually DO it. So far I appear to have cut the track in question down from over four minutes to just over TWO, and over the weekend I am planning to BLESS it not just with a BASS LINE of my own choosing but - HECK YES - a GUITAR SOLO!
If they're VERY lucky I may even do some BACKING VOCALS. With benefits like THIS, i am CONVINCED that before the year is out EVERY BAND EVER will be employing me!
Modern Gig Going
I went to a gig last night - NOT one I was even PLAYING for a change - and had a LOVELY time. The primary reason was that I'd gone to see Mr G Gargan (aka Former Utopia) and Lazaras Clamp (feat. Mr T "The Tiger" McClure), both of whom were excellent. George played to a very appreciative crowd who'd sat down, the better to listen to his WISDOM, while The Clamp (as they are known to... er... the kids?) did a lovely surprising set of non-usual and NEW songs brought about by the fact that Huw The Drummer had had to call in sick. It sounded GRATE, like an "Anthology" version, tho maybe that's just because I've been listening to "Beatles Anthology 3" this week.
It was GRATE, but made even more so by a number of additional factors. It was in The Luminaire, a VERY nice venue made all the nicer this time by the free availability of bottled ACTUAL BEER. This seems to be a very slowly growing trend, one i fully (and financially) support, where bars that used to just do bottled LAGER are gradually realising that some people would like ACTUAL BEER and are prepared to pay for it. Brains SA in this case, and very nice it was too.
Due to lack of drummer The Clamp had switched places in the running order, going on straight after George, which mean that I only spent about 90 minutes in the actual venue. This was GOOD because, lovely as it is, it's a long way home and I didn't really fancy the look of the other bands, although I did enjoy standing around looking at their FANS. Has the "Look Like Jesus" LOOK come into fashion while I was paying even less attention than usual? There were a LOT of Jesuses (Jesii?) around, especially rocking the Jesus Of Shoreditch look. "The Lord Sayeth, make thine glasses really big and funny colours, and sport thee a girl scarf when thou wilt."
So yes, I was happy to FLEE, but not before I heard a song i knew come over the PA system - somebody played It Only Works Because You're Here! I acted all COOL, like, and pretended to Tom like it happens ALL THE TIME, but inside I was going "ZANG!" also "WHOO!" It sounded GRATE too!
And then I managed to OVERGROUND it all the way home, cutting a neat 25 minutes off the time it'd take to tube it - all in all and EXCELLENT evening out!