Sunday, 21 December 2008

Atrocity Exhibition

There is not a more perfect picture of man's ugliness than that of S**********. The scourge of all things striving toward beauty and absolution. A tick the size of a city. An invading species of suffocating kelp. A farm of subsistence misery, encapsulates forgotten terrain.

Dissonance reeks in every shadow, while grace cowers in neglected reservations. Traffic lights abound, as breathing apparatus for the ignominious. Lice, behind painted slabs, breed without hesitation. For boom and bust, in fog we trust.

At the General, the grand frame, the wicked altar, a palace of filth, all the glaring instances of vulgarity this hateful mess contains are held. As if on show in a state museum, a pageant for successful mutations, an atrocity exhibition.

What a place for one to die. What a place to say goodbye.

Friday, 12 December 2008

A Summary of 2008

Now the year of Two Thousand and Eight is drawing to close, I thought it might be an appropriate time to take stock of the musical happenings of the past year. I can't quite muster the correct amount of enthusiasm for this, but as well as it being a cathartic process for myself, the documenting of the quality of venue and general experience of over 40 gigs I have played this year in London, may prove useful to others that are about to embark on a similar endeavour.

20 Dec 2008 - Mutate Britain @ Cordy House, 87-95 Curtain Road, Shoreditch
Not yet played.

09 Dec 2008 - Bourne and Hollingsworth, 28 Rathbone Place, Fitzrovia
See below.

07 Dec 2008 - Sensual Earthly Women @ Ryan’s Bar, 181 Stoke Newington Church Street
See below.

20 Nov 2008 - The Last Days of Decadence, 145 Shoreditch High Street, Shoreditch
Awful sound, rude staff, full of vapid wankers with unhinged jaws. No redeeming features. Would never return, not even for a drink.

19 Nov 2008 - Cirque de Crème Anglaise @ The Cross Kings (Upstairs), 126 York Way, King’s Cross
Pleasant set of coves that run this night. Good sound on stage, messy back room, lots of things scattered around, custard creams aplenty and London Pride on tap. Would certainly play here again.

05 Nov 2008 - Chicken Royale @ Bar Monsta, 18 Kentish Town Road
Awful bar with a stage, devoid of any character, though the promoter was reasonable enough. One of those nights where you'd rather stay in an watch Strictly with your fiancée. Would never play here again.

18 Oct 2008 - Biddle Bros, 88 Lower Clapton Road
Back room of a quaint bar in an unlikely area. Reasonable sound, agreeable audience. No payment, though I think a few drinks are provided if not playing as part of a Saturday jam session, which I had no idea I was playing. Piano exists in this bar, but not sure of it's tuning. Would play here again, but on a dedicated night, not a jam night.

10 Oct 2008 - Sensual Earthly Women @ Ryan’s Bar, 118 Stoke Newington Church Street
Excellent sound downstairs, run by SEW, always a pleasure. Would play again in a shot.

09 Oct 2008 - Boogaloo, 312 Archway Road, Highgate
See below.

04 Oct 2008 - Power Down VI, Islington Arts Factory, 2 Parkhurst Road, Holloway
The birth place of the Power Down movement, the Islington Arts Factory is an arts space in a converted church. The huge cavernous hall lends itself perfectly for the divine acoustics when using unamplified instruments. Wonderful people working behind the bar, and a great feeling of well being amongst the audience. A working, in-tune piano and other instruments provided. Candle lit as standard and low on carbon emissions. Performers get paid very well, in my experience. Would always play here, as it's my initiative.

25 Sep 2008 - Boogaloo, 312 Archway Road, Highgate
Unfortunately one is not tripping over Shane McGowan's comatose body when entering this notorious north London boozer. Always a crowd forming irrespective of your act, usually some guest list and some drinks. PA is wholly ineffective and strains under the weight of more than 2 inputs. Don't even think about putting a bass through it. It will probably never get upgraded either, as there is a limiter that cuts all electricity once the levels in the room reach speaking volume. There is a neglected piano usually piled with guitar cases and leads, not sure how in tune it is. Would play here again, but would have to choose instrumentation wisely and consider logistics of amplification.

20 Sep 2008 - Decasia Club @ The George Tavern, 373 Commercial Road
Pleasant and enthusiastic promoter, free drinks and a guest list, who would have thought such privileges exist?! An old east end boozer with a lot of character. Full of dirt, the stage a happy after thought in the corner of the room. Good sound, plenty of vibe, an audience that comes not just for the bands, so one finds new ears for a thrashing. They even have bottles of Shepherd Neame behind the bar, albeit at ludicrous prices. Would love to play here again.

05 Sep 2008 - Viva Viva, 18 High St, Hornsey
A restaurant with a stage in the middle of nowhere. Very difficult to get to for all involved. Bar staff and owner are most agreeable, and the sound is crisp. Would be reluctant to play here again.

21 Aug 2008 - The Betsey Trotswood (downstairs), Farringdon Road
Always had grief playing here in the last few years, mainly from promoters who are passing on their own problems to the acts with the militant and unreasonable venue regulations and hire price. Why promoters should be paying to hire out a venue, let alone one smaller than most people's living rooms, is beyond me. When the promoter is reluctant to give you £20 for the taxi to move all the gear you're sharing with everyone, and regardless of the fact that you've brought an audience of a more than decent size, been given no guest list or complimentary lubricants, you can only wonder why you bother. Though the sound is surprisingly good for such an intimate venue, the persistent hassle undermines any enjoyment one might have had. Wouldn't play here again.

17 Aug 2008 - Barden’s Boudoir, 38-44 Stoke Newington Road
Shoddy sound in here, though that may be to do with the rectangular shape of the room and the placement of the stage, and the hard flat surfaces everywhere. Empty it's rather disheartening and pointless, full, I can imagine a right raucous occasion with perhaps an improvement in audio quality. Reluctant to play here again, but probably easily persuaded.

14 Aug 2008 - Power Down V, St Mary’s Church, Stoke Newington
As stated before, an incredible place to play, and even better unamplified. To hear your voice naturally reverberating around the church walls is a heavenly experience. Audience sat quiet and attentively in the pews and candle lit. One of the high moments of the year. Would jump at any opportunity to play here again.

26 Jul 2008 - Stranger Than Paradise, DEX, 467-469 Brixton Road
Played on the rooftop under a small tent at the height of summer, very romantic, sipping Gin and Tonics on the terrace overlooking the immediate Brixton skyline. Promoter looks after you well, lots of other interesting and entertaining things to do and see. Surprisingly easy to get back to North London at 4am: 2 buses but plenty of them so not much waiting. Would play for them again.

24 Jul 2008 - The Lock Tavern, 35 Chalk Farm Road
Awful sound, rude staff, full of vapid wankers with unhinged jaws. No redeeming features. Would never return, not even for a drink.

15 Jul 2008 - Bourne and Hollingsworth, 28 Rathbone Place, Fitzrovia
A wonderful basement bar in a most underrated part of town. Old wallpaper, tea room vibe, jovial coves serving Asahi and Gin and Tonics. Sound done behind the bar, simple yet clear. Tiny room makes for a heaving pack standing on the toes of the performers. Just as it should be. Would play again whenever possible.

12 Jul 2008 - Feeling Gloomy, Islington Academy, N1 Complex, Angel
Awful sound, dreadful beer, abysmal selection of drinks and served in an unapologetic savage fashion: plastic cups. Stirling chaps that run the night, but the venue, owned by Carling, can in my opinion, go to hell. Would hate to play this place again, but fear it may be one of those compromises.

05 Jul 2008 - The Wilmington (supporting Yeti),
See below.

02 Jul 2008 - The Defectors Weld, 170 Uxbridge Road
There's rarely a good reason for heading west, and despite the horror of the flowers on the bar downstairs invoke, it's a decent pub. The upstairs venue is tiny, quaint and warm, crammed full of vintage sofas. The sound is excellent, free beer was provided. Would certainly play here again, though because of it's western location, pulling a crowd is difficult.

28 Jun 2008 - The Lion, 132 Stoke Newington Church Street
Half a PA, dreadful acoustics. Would not play here again.

26 Jun 2008 - Tommy Flynn’s, 55 Camden High Street
Grubby, loud, full of oddballs, about as good as Camden gets. Would certainly play here again.

18 Jun 2008 - Jrink, 62 Frith Street
Soho cocktail bar devoid of character. Not even worth a drink let alone the bother of performing.

13 Jun 2008 - Wilmington Arms, Roseberry Avenue
Reasonably established intimate venue that didn't live up to expectations. Bad sound, lazy engineer, and a bouquet of flowers on top of the bar. Would prefer not to play here again but wouldn't rule it out.

08 Jun 2008 - Maggie’s, 98-100 Stoke Newington Church Street
Awful bar with ghastly decor, mirrors everywhere, pvc covered seating and where visible, orange walls. Sound dire. Ruthless harridan that runs the place will throw anyone out without hesitation or logic. Would not play here again even if my life depended on it.

07 Jun 2008 - The Deptford Arms, 52 Deptford High St
Probably the least disturbing of pubs in Deptford, with a vague connection to the arts. Reasonable sound, strange audience. Hard to get yourself down to Deptford, let alone any fans or friends you may have. Held a certain raw charm to it. Would prefer not to play here again.

05 Jun 2008 - City Hall - World Environment Day
A real highlight of the year, and a gig never to forget. Though we only played 2 songs, I bellowed across London's Living room, while the sun went down on the capital. Made many contacts in sustainable industries here. Very attentive audience. Free organic wine. Would play here again in a shot.

29 May 2008 - The Hideaway, 114 Junction Road
See below.

18 May 2008 - World’s End, Opposite Camden Tube Station
See below.

11 May 2008 - Rock Garden, Covent Garden
A Sunday afternoon of a hodge podge of genres. Good sound, little vibe. Would be apprehensive to play here again.

05 May 2008 - The Green, 29 Clerkenwell Green
See below.

29 Mar 2008 - Sensual Earthly Women @ St Mary’s Old Church, at the start of Stoke Newington Church Street
Sensual Earthly Women is a night run by Saint Natasa of Stokie. Through her nights I've met what I believe to be the cream of London song writing. Equipment provided, lots of familiar faces in the crowd, free grappa. No payment, but always good times. This particular venue is a dream to play in terms of atmosphere as it's over 500 years old. However, the sound, when heavily amplified is quite muddy.

16 Mar 2008 - Above the Clock @ The Green, 29 Clerkenwell Green
See below.

17 Feb 2008 - World’s End, 174 Camden High Street
A Sunday afternoon gig, playing to the weary shoppers of tat from Camden Market. Usually quite busy, full of people you don't know and refreshing in that respect. Stage set up in front of the fire escape. Flat stone surfaces all around this pub make the sound lack clarity. Couple of free can's of Carling and Strongbow. Pleasant fellows that run it. Would rather not play here again.

15 Feb 2008 - Deptford Birds Nest, 32 Deptford Church Street
Dreary old pub on the side of a dual carriageway. Deptford isn't the most magnetic of places at the best of times, and this hovel does the village no favours. Wouldn't play here again under any circumstances.

10 Feb 2008 - Above the Clock @ The Green, 29 Clerkenwell Green
A big airy room with pleasing acoustics, little amplification needed. No hassle to arrange or perform. Food was served for the performers, a few free drinks too. Many enjoyable Sunday afternoons playing here. Would love to play here again.

31 Jan 2008 - The Hideaway - Tango In The Night, 114 Junction Road
Yet another gloomy basement, as all venues should be. Wonderful people who run this joint. For an intimate setting this is splendid. Unfortunately, there's an irritating neighbour directly above that rains terror down on the whole place, forcing music to be kept to a level barely audible. Would play here again once neighbour has been dealt with.

18 Jan 2008 - The Constitution, 42 St Pancras Way
Easily the best pub in Camden, though that isn't saying much. A charming beer garden overlooking the canal, and a dingy basement where bands cram onto a stage no bigger than a coffin. Awful sound, easily remedied, but no will to do so. Heaps of charm but would only play here again as a 3 piece.

13 Jan 2008 - 93 Feet East, 150 Brick Lane
A large cold hall out the back with little character. Good sound as I remember. Highly unsuitable for my act. Would prefer not to play here again, though it appears I am.

Make of that what you will. If you are a promoter that has read this far, first of all I congratulate you! You've done more research on your acts than most. Secondly, you should know that I enjoy playing live as much as possible, but obviously to a point. I've never demanded money or anything else from anyone, least of all had expectations. A few free drinks and money for transport if one is providing the equipment, is obviously much appreciated. I love dives, any place with character, and stocked with genuine types will have me chomping at the bit.

Thank you to all that have made this year one to look back on with delight. Have a merry Christmas and good will to all.


Tuesday, 14 October 2008

The King of Hearts (An ode to King John)

For life he lusts,
Beneath that shaggy mane,
Sprinkled with gold dust,
Set in a denim frame.
A fellow commentator,
On the peculiar nature,
Of the cruel spatula,
That serves gruel only to a bachelor.
Oh! The consultations I must fair,
With ladies of various dispositions,
On how exactly they could ensnare,
This dear chap, and clip his ambitions.
"Stay well clear" I tell them,
Do not spoil the Essence,
Allow him to live on,
Forever in our presence,
As the King of Hearts,
And of perpetual laughs,
Mrs Patterson's only son,
And my good friend, King John.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Wax Lyrical

There has been a number of requests for the lyrics of my songs to be published. Well, here, I finally acquiesce and leave them for your critical eyes...feel free to comment and attempt to describe what each song is about, and perhaps I shall confirm or correct those assumptions.

I'll Drink to That

I'll drink to that, I'll drink to anything and everything, that keeps the spirits high and flowing befriended strangers from going oh anything will do, to occupy the mind of a fool.

Some put their trust not in god but in vanities. Capital drives the fruitless slog and perpetuates insanity. I put mine in the competent hands of the barkeep. I'd rather be propping the bar up, than have the whole world baring down on me.

Yes, I'll drink to that, I'll drink to anything and everything, that keeps the spirits high and flowing befriended strangers from going oh anything will do, to occupy the mind of a fool.

How awful it must be to be terminally employed. Why toil away at trifles when you can be permanently devoid of all the qualities that make up the so called modern man? I'd rather be ridiculed than ridiculous with a glass held in my hand I say...

I'll drink to that, I'll drink to anything and everything, that keeps the spirits high and flowing befriended strangers from going oh anything will do, to occupy the mind of a fool.

For every dram of pleasure I've swallowed and ocean of pain. With all my heart invested and not a penny to my name. The thanks I get is equal to the sum of worthless acts of kindness less than none are a part of the qualities that make up the so called modern man. I'd rather be ridiculed than ridiculous with a glass held in my hand I say...

I'll drink to that, I'll drink to anything and everything, that keeps the spirits high and flowing befriended strangers from going oh anything will do, to occupy the mind of a fool. I'll drink to that, I'll drink to anything and everything. Even to enemies, their health, their families, their wealth, oh anything will do to keep me from the horrors of solitude.

Written by Marmaduke Dando Hutchings

Who Would Have Thought We Would Go to the Moon and Stop

Who would have thought we would go to the moon and stop? To harness the power of swoon and then drop, the reins as if failure were not a choice but preordained by an authoritative voice, who would have thought we would go to the moon and stop?

I'd have burned down that flag if we'd stayed long enough and replaced with a symbol of love, but matches won't work without air, and hey maybe that's why we got scared?

Who would have thought we would go to the moon and stop? To harness the power of swoon and then drop, the reins as if failure were not a choice but preordained by an authoritative voice, who would have thought we would go to the moon and stop?

The man who hangs in the crescent we thought was just charming and pleasant, but critics will always be there, and hey maybe that's why we got scared?

Who would have thought we would go to the moon and stop? To harness the power of swoon and then drop, the reins as if failure were not a choice but preordained by an authoritative voice, who would have thought we would go to the moon and stop?

Now we sit side by side thanks to friends who conspired. Let's return to the moon, let's return to full swoon, let's return to the moon and pick up where we left off.

Written by Marmaduke Dando Hutchings

All Of Me

Forgive me not for the slightest humility. Question not my plight's futility. You once handed me your heart, I just crushed it with a laugh. Treat me not as a gentleman, but like the savage that I am...and you'll have all of me. Yes, I mean all of me. Well, what's left of me, is yours to keep and do with as you please.

Now you have my attention undivided, walk on as if you care not in the slightest. I've tried many avenues and they all seem to lead to you. You must convince me that I am something you cannot stand...and you'll have all of me. Yes, I mean all of me. Well, what's left of me, is yours to keep and do with as you please.

And here in the flames of passion, I attempt to beat down with my rationale...well to burn under your scorn is a better fate than none at all...and you'll have all of me. Yes, I mean all of me. Well, what's left of me, is yours to keep and do with as you please.

Written by Marmaduke Dando Hutchings

No Tomorrow

So you say, there's nothing here to live for. Everyday I long to hear my name called. Even though I prepare the ground for words to leave you, still they don't tumble forth so freely.

And you wish there was no tomorrow, and damn yourself to the heights of sorrow. There's no exception to your rule, I'm just another bloody fool.

I exclaim at such a fine mess you keep. I'd clear it up if only you would let me sweep. You can hang your head, just let me tip it up at times, into my eyes tell me that you are mine.

But you wish there was no tomorrow, and damn yourself to the heights of sorrow. There's no exception to your rule, I'm just another bloody fool.


Now I wish there was no tomorrow. After you I'm compelled to follow. Now I wish there was no tomorrow. After you I'm compelled to follow. I don't understand a bit and here's testament to it.

Written by Marmaduke Dando Hutchings

Bondage and Lies

Girls, your deceit runs Atlantic deep. Don't you know that love's not guaranteed? There ain't such a thing as a heart shaped receipt. No return period or exchange policy. The choice you make is the grave you'll keep.

Until death do you damage you'll defend, as long as the means justify the ends.

Boy they'll fool you to believing it's the path to paradise, soon the boat will be leaving, but it's disaster in disguise, 'cause where there's female you're bound to find bondage and lies.

It's a conspiracy to pervert the course of a dream, the blueprints of which are locked within your machine. You can't prize out a heart with a spoon, or on a stick balance the moon.

Until death do you damage you'll defend, as long as the means justify the ends.

Yes, we are guided by shallow voices and we're at odds to tell you why. Don't be complaining or complacent or underestimating what's inside, 'cause where there's female you're bound to find bondage and lies.

Written by Marmaduke Dando Hutchings

The Last Drink

A swig in the morning to combat the yawning and the pangs of clarity you predict will bring you sanity. It takes gallons of stamina to keep up the pace, to endure the misery you day to day face. There in lies the heart of your story, there's more value in decadence than in love, wealth or glory!

The last drink you bought was your first, and even that came from your daddy's purse. And now you're hooked on the romance of the glamorous drunk, and you've no idea just how low you've sunk.

You're the sediment of society, at right-angles to sobriety, with no means or method to fund your junk but your body and soul, any cretin can afford, with a price this low.

So let the bottle slip from those delicate fingers, I'll lead you to a kiss that will enlighten and linger. Where you're headed you'll be deprived of the gutters and stars. The trouble with prison babe, is it has the wrong type of bars.

The last drink you bought was your first, and even that came from your daddy's purse. And now you're hooked on the romance of the glamorous drunk, and you've no idea just how low you've sunk.

You're the sediment of society, at right-angles to sobriety, with no means or method to fund your junk but your body and soul, any cretin can afford, with a price this low.

Written by Marmaduke Dando Hutchings

The Last Embrace

With St George's pigeons as my witness, on this bench I consume my last picnic. I've not got so far in this race, well give me a bottle of fire for my last embrace.

It's been with me through the thick and through the thin. Oh why should it not be to what I cling?

When you can't store and recall the best of your kisses...Love gives out in the last issues.

What does one expect to find behind the final curtain but an old broom and pair of gloves? A private show, no admission. Including the ones, you've loved.

Even if they were with you through the thick and through the thin. There's room for just one in this great transition.

Despite all your efforts, they're superficial: Love gives out in the last issues. Love gives out in the last issues. Love gives out in the last issues.

With St George's pigeons as my witness, on this bench I consume my last picnic. I've not got so far in this race, well give me a bottle of fire for my last embrace.

Written by Marmaduke Dando Hutchings

This I Ask Of You

Baby, you can tell me anything you like. It doesn't matter, we're strong right?
Her confidence was the only thing on my side. The first thought you have is the longest to hide.

This I ask of you: won't you let yourself out? Don't tell me how it came about, just get the light on the way out. 'Cause there's no need for that now. Let the shadows mute the howls.

Baby, you can ask me anything you like, for yourself, but don't expect some reprise. The consequence of dark conspiracy, despite what you think does not depend on me.

This I ask of you: won't you let yourself out? Don't tell me how it came about, just get the light on the way out. 'Cause there's no need for that now. Let the shadows mute the howls. This I ask of you: won't you get the hell out? Before I begin to howl. Before I begin to howl. Before I begin to howl. Before I begin to howl.

Drink up, drink up, those tears of love, for all that is bitter can be considered enough.

Written by Marmaduke Dando Hutchings


I sit at my desk writing reams of mess, about the commonwealth of independent fates, or the convergence of finite mistakes, and how we could figure in all of this. We could have it all if you'd only say yes, yes, yes...

Odessa, I say it regrettably. Odessa, uncontrollably ashamedly. Odessa, I confess you're just a name to me, but oh, no, oh, Odessa. How I want it to be more, is it possible we could be more?

Look out here comes dusk, the curtain dawns on our lust. The boats pile out and the fog creeps in. It's a pale and daunting early evening, a look out on a deep blue but Black Sea.

Odessa, I say it regrettably. Odessa, uncontrollably ashamedly. Odessa, I confess you're just a name to me, but oh, no, oh, Odessa. How I want it to be more, is it possible we could be more?



Written by Marmaduke Dando Hutchings

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Thrashing a stone to no avail

Conversation in London always seems to be about communicating essential information, or joking around whilst drinking copious amounts of beer. Nothing wrong in any of that of course, but it's so rare to have a prolonged discussion about anything not so immediate. Something you feel that has worth, and that you're further along in your thoughts because of that conversation.

Everyone lives in their separate apartments, and meet for a chosen period of time. The individual decides what his time ought to be spent on, and that couldn't possibly be 10 hours spent in the company of a close friend. For reasons of politeness, discomfort, lack of imagination. Forced and prolonged periods of time with company can lead to many insights.

As a young London bachelor, I find myself worshipping along with the rest without even noticing, the spirit of individuality. It's held up in reverence, comparable to nothing else, not even god, as we believe in nothing. We criticise every type of conformity, and yet fail to see how individuality is just as much a cult. We follow it's doctrine just as the "ignorant" we criticise follow theirs, without question, blind faith. And does it lead to happiness and purpose? At times perhaps, but more importantly, it leads to rot like this being written.

Sunday, 31 August 2008

All Of Me

Hardly new, but i've finally gotten around to mixing a version of All Of Me. It was recorded live at Alchemea by Thom Dinas, with some vocal, bass, acoustic, pianet overdubs in my penthouse suite. It's not perfect by any means...which is why it's taken me so bloody long to put it up. Should i, shouldn't i? Of course, why the hell not, as Peter, my drummer, is leaving the country for good at the end of September. Better to have a record of a period of time than a big blank space commemorating nothing. So there it is, do tell me what you like and don't like...preferably the latter. You can hear it hear:

I suppose i should take this opportunity to state yet again that i am looking for a drummer, and a saxophonist. If anyone knows any suitable candidates, i would be very grateful if you'd direct them my way.

And one other thing...i have been mixing Tall Stories latest recordings they've done in Saul's shed. Listen to Clever Monkey here:

Saturday, 9 August 2008

The Spice of Life

We trekked out of the wilderness with great speed towards our machine that would propel us South. Down through the valley, away from the mountains, passing streams that stain rocks rusty red, birch forests, the odd reindeer and a few professional Swedes.

It was my second time up in Lapland, with a year between seeing the same countryside. When I saw it first, last year, the flora and fauna and the untouched splendour of the arctic circle had a profound effect on me. This time however, it was less so. I was trying to muster as much internal enthusiasm for the same scenery, the wild blueberries everywhere, the lichen on rocks that looked like the map of some strange alien world, the continual sound of water falls and all that they represent. I noticed I took it all for granted, not completely of course, but significantly so.

It's horrifying to witness in myself the easy slip into indifference. I who is so often pushing for the appreciation of these small earthly beauties. How fickle the human mind is, even when we're aware of it, it makes no difference.

I wonder about D. H. Lawrence's love of nature, how he rambles on and on about the minute details of English country life. Did he really feel like that or was he also battling with a secret apathy? How on earth the Morel family, having grown their whole lives surrounded by the same countryside with very little external influence, can still find Daffodils at the bottom of their garden, truly captivating, year in year out.

It could be that we're products of different eras of the industrial revolution, Lawrence in post-dawn, and we in late gloam. Simpler and clearer minds, forged to appreciate the small inconsequentials. Whereas, we, ruined by choice, have no apparatus to deal with such subtleties. Like children shovelling sugar into their mouths because they like sweet things but not spices.

Snowy Scythe

On year later, after our first try, with the same lads, and the same borrowed long johns, I finally scaled Kebnekaise. The tallest mountain in Sweden and at the top one is able to see 9% of the country spread out below. Certainly not very impressive on paper in comparison with other mountains around the world, but for 4 city dwellers, it was a gruelling task to say the least.

Climbing over rocks, into ice snow, first up to a high peak, then down the other side into a high valley. At that point we have coffee and contemplate the next climb, "Just over that ridge", a statement which never fails to disappoint. We should know by now that things are rarely as close as we think they are. Taking the final ascent, sharing the load of our one bag every now and then, it goes on and on and on.

We all imagined a flat rock surface at the summit, but as we came over the final steep incline, the top surpassed all our wildest expectations. It rose into the sky as a curve, to a sharp point, like a scythe made of snow cutting through the frosty zenith.

At the top, the four of us hugged and congratulated each other. The view was immense and overbearing. Mountains stretching out seemingly exponentially on one side, probably all the way to the north and Norway. In the opposite direction was the valley from whence we came, which twisted along all the way to Nikoulokta and Kiruna, over 70km away, and even more beyond. They say one can see 40, 000 square kilometres from the top, staggering. It was the highest altitude I had ever reached using just food to power me.

Can you believe even up there people were on their damned mobile phones! The government network Telia seems to infect every crevice of the country. Such magnificent beauty contained in that vista, you would think is enough to satisfy, and yet people feel the need to share that experience with an absent party. Why can't individual experiences such as these be left sacred? Instead have them butchered by a dominant and ugly culture of mass communication. Of course I shouldn't be surprised, people in general have no taste, no reverence for nature which bore them. So long as they get that extra block of cheese.

Thursday, 31 July 2008


I slept on the beach at Simrishamn last night and I couldn't have paid for a better night's sleep. It got dark around eleven, at which point I stopped reading, rolled out my sleeping bag at the chosen location, a distance from the fishermen on one side, and a lone camp fire on the other. And they there were, the stars! Like I'd seen them before in the Turks and Caicos islands, piercing and heavy, and more than one can fathom. Such an alien image for a city dweller, and all the more fascinating. Though they mean nothing to me, I just throw my head back and in awe think "The Stars!".

It was cool outside of my pupa state, but no wind, sand for a pillow, and the waves as my nurse. I awoke naturally to a glorious sunrise straight ahead of me, as the beach I was on faced East. Luminous orange, Estonia beyond it? A couple more dozes before it warmed up, then I stripped off in front of no significant witnesses and dived into the sea, which wasn't as cold as I was expecting, though my skin was in shock when I emerged. Truly life affirming. What a way to wake up in the morning!

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Befriended Strangers

I stumbled into the infamous Christiana district of Copenhagen, just as the sun was setting. The first thing I noticed was the complete absence of cars. Wherever you go in a city, at any time of day or night, one can always hear these damn things chugging along some highway for probably the least necessary of reasons. In Christiana, not silence, but machine silence...bliss!

Broken walkways, but still neat. Kept and unkempt communal gardens. The spirit of idleness runs deep there. I was slightly wary as I walked through crowds of weathered looking types, but I guess that's natural when on foreign soil. Of course the first thing to do was to get hold of a beer. A bar with a free table in the sun, perfect. Quietly supping away on that, watching everyone else, contemplating getting my book out to look busy, and then resolving not to. If there's anywhere in the world where people don't expect you to be doing something, it's Christiana.

Within 10 minutes a shifty young fellow sits opposite me on the bench. I greet him politely. I was in the mood for some kif, but only a tiny bit for the evening, and I didn't want to be hassled by explaining this, then being forced into buying more than I actually needed. Should we, shouldn't we? Well, why not?! Conversation ignited, like the universe.

He was from Mexico, in America, and been over in Christiana for 3 years, though he couldn't remember clearly. His sister lived in Copenhagen, has 2 flats, 1 she rents out to tourists, is doing "well" for herself. Is frustrated by her brother's lifestyle: There she is getting up at 7am working 12 hour days, making money, and he drinks and smokes when he wakes at 3pm, every day until sunrise. I see his point. A balance between the two I think is where I should be headed, though leaning more towards his style.

His mother is mexican, and his father was american. They met in Morocco in the 70s. She was travelling and bumped into him in a hotel. He was there setting up hash trade agreements and planning to ship it to Copenhagen. Like father like son. That's a rather impressive heritage for any dealer. To be able to say one's father set up the original hash trade between Morocco and Christiana!

I bought him a couple of beers, he rolled a joint with a huge roach. Must be a Danish thing? I never understood why in England we make tiny roaches and then struggle with the dregs. A lady sat next to us, late 40s, Danish, "respectably" dressed, not an inhabitant of Christiana. She'd just come after work to soak up some atmosphere. She liked Christiana, and thinks the spirit here is so important to Denmark. I have to agree. All movements that ignore governments are important. I bought her a beer too, £1.50 a bottle of Danish lager...I was most impressed!

We all shared the joint. I felt ecstatic and shameless. There was a black girl, beautiful child, playing with a ball amongst all these care free adults. Two old Chinese ladies walked by with cans of beer in their hands, a dog sat mournfully in a bike trailer waiting for his master. It must have been the hash because no-one else found the dog in the trailer the least bit amusing.

I left my befriended strangers and tried to make my way back to "civilisation", with great difficulty. My orientation had quite up and left me, but also, thanks to the spliff, I wasn't bothered.

Out of all the lonesome travelling I've done over the last 6 years, this trip I have been most comfortable and confident with. I no longer canvas restaurants for eternity wondering whether the conditions are right, or fret about in train stations under departure boards wondering if my train really does exist. If I need to know something, I simply ask the nearest suitable looking citizen. Oh the anxiety I used to suffer was overwhelming at times. Now I have my reasoning down to a fine art.

Filthy and Sweating

After a horrendous night's sleep on the train from Köln to Copenhagan, a 15 hour journey, with 4 of the dullest people I've ever had the misfortune to share a compartment with, I am now sprawled out in a park, sun and wind filtering very agreeably through the trees, pipe filled with Danish tobacco infused with port, 2 cans of Tuborg and the bustling city of Copenhagan behind me.

The compartment was just as big as a normal sleeper and could easily fit 6 bunks in it. Instead there were 3 giant seats on each side opposite each other. Giant, one would naturally assume to be a good thing. However, with seats that big, it's hard to rest your head and body against anything when you want to sleep. One has to delicately balance the head in such a way that it won't roll off and wake one up...just at the crucial moment of dreamy oblivion.

I imagine the discomfort was designed so the train company can charge two separate prices, the sleepers being the premium of course. If the sitting compartments were bearable, then less people would pay a premium for a sleeper, making them less profit.

The company was made up of 2 young chubby Nordic fellows, who actually seemed rather pleasant. Then there was a young couple. She appeared to be plain Russian. He, Swedish, and chubby, yet masculine...oh how men can get away such a look! I would have thought nothing of it, and may have even attempted some polite conversation, if it weren't for their complete lack of concern for their immediate surroundings. The first thing they did after putting their bags up, was to open their filthy, sweating Burger King meals in front of everyone, releasing the most repulsive of odours, made worse by the heat of the evening. Could they not have eaten in the corridor with the window open? Could they not have simply bought bread and cheese like a respectable and well seasoned traveller should do...and done every one concerned a favour?

Next was the young cretin's reaction to some over excitable youths in the corridor. Didn't bother me, as I couldn't understand a word of was just noise, a few joyous yelps over the machinery of the train. In the company of 3 people he did not know, he relayed to his girlfriend "Urgh, Norwegians. So irritating. That's the one thing that you can tell the difference by with Swedes and Norwegians, they're so damn loud."

Now I know I'm not completely innocent when it comes to perpetuating national stereotypes, but I do so for the sake of banter, which I see little wrong with. But this man, was overly serious and sincere. He was also complaining about how slow the train was going within 15 minutes of alighting! The train will get there when it gets there, you numbskull.

So, yes, now in Copenhagan, too many sites to see in one day, so an aimless wander about stopping in parks to read, drink beer, smoke a pipe, and write some nonsense in my notebook. All these historic statues I've walked by, bustling hordes of tourists consumed by some particular detail. I've not the faintest clue of any of it. And does it really matter? I'd rather read in depth in books, the history of nations, than on tacky plastic signs, patronising summaries.

I am on holiday after all. Though life should always be like this of course. Let Copenhagan, and every city, town or country, be a backdrop to an agreeable experience of idle wandering, park loafing, or barflying.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

My Father's Son

Entering German territory on a train bound for Köln. I spy my reflection in the window, as the sun is setting over endless fields of corn. A young man's face with a neat mustache and an upside down smile. My father was this exact description at my age, in Germany in the mid seventies. He had something of a purpose though, no, an obligation...the military. Patrolling the Berlin Wall. Oh, and to visit his 16 year old German fiance, Claudia. My god, Pater, what were you thinking?!


Now in Brussels, sipping my second pint on a sunny boulevard, only after searching for half an hour for a bloody cash machine. Just one ATM in the whole of Brussels Midi, would you believe?! It simultaneously horrifies me and delights me to see a city's lack of access to cash.

It horrifies me because I'm so used to having no barrier between my material desire, and the item on sale. In England, they make paying for goods and services as painless as breathing, supposing one doesn't have emphysema. In Tokyo there are about three cash machines in the whole city. Two in Narita airport, which is 70 miles from central Tokyo, and one in Roppongi, in a Citibank, on the second floor of a suspiciously unassuming looking building.

It delights me however, to know that access to things one doesn't actually forgettable kebabs at 3am, or taxi's 2 miles up the barred through infrequent installations of cash dispensing machines.

Tokyo's inhabitants have to draw money out from their banks and...budget...*gasp*...until they can get to the bank again. Budgeting is an alien concept to me I doubt I will ever master. That's certainly not an admission of being in funds that never deplete...far from it. It's just in my nature to always spend more than my wage. Gordon would be proud of me, I guess I've done my bit for the country in that sense.

Frugalism should only be romanticised when it comes to convenience items. When it comes to having drinking..."put another round on the credit way of knowing".


I awake from one of those cosy mid afternoon naps exiting the Channel Tunnel. I am being transported across a landscape of yellow grass and scores of spindly grey behemoths as far as the eye can see...France.

Every time I see this drab scene it never fails to conjure Dirk Bogart's witty response to the customs officer in the film adaptation of The Tale of Two Cities. At the height of the French Revolution, Sydney Carton, the idle lawyer and enthusiastic drunkard, enters France at Calais. When asked what his business was in the country at a time of great unrest, he replies in the driest of tones, "The wine...what else?"!

Casting Off

And so today I have embarked on a short tour of northern Europe, for pleasure and pain, of a purely individual nature of course, as that is how I was bred. I break into Hodgkinson's 'How To Be Idle' in the Eurostar departure lounge, and that has instantly set me in a jovial mood. Less toil, more contemplation, less material desire, a more recumbent outlook...all make for a wiser individual.

I couldn't agree more with the sentiment. However, there is one issue I fail to reconcile completely, and that is the aspiration to create profound, strikingly original, and durable popular music. I've always strived towards such a goal, and have reached nowhere close to where I'd like to be. Why should I lay in bed idling when there is work of a musical type to be done? That has always been the question gnawing at the back of my mind, lashing me with criticism, like an old Victorian Beadle.

Certainly all evidence of late has pointed in favour of idleness, when it comes to satisfying desires, though unfortunately in the least important areas of my life. Doors remain closed if you continue to push them, and yet fling open the second you turn your head, allowing you to walk backwards blindly through them.

Is it right to "tut" at The Blue Nile for releasing about 6 short albums in the space of 30 years? To scoff at their encore at a rare live performance, being not only their biggest hit, but also the last song they played before the encore! Is it right to expect, or worse, demand, of creative types that their output be frequent, consistent, and of staggering quality?

Of course the answer to that is that I'm being unfair to myself and to those I respect as artists. Let them and I do as we pleased, be buffeted by life's heady stimuli, and try not to regiment the unruly.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Joy in repetition

"You live beneath another star..." sings Paul Buchanan, as the last light from the star that we all live beneath gradually fades, thanks to the turning of the Earth. Somerset House on the banks of the Thames, with seagulls sqwauking overhead, and lachrymose cherubs looking on, was the perfect setting for a Blue Nile concert.

His voice is the richest timbre I've ever heard, the most satisfying tone to come from a human's throat. Gymnastics are for show-offs, the polar opposite of what The Blue Nile are. Humble to say the least. They've been playing music for well over 30 years and only released a handful of albums. One could raise a family in the time between each album...

Doubt and apathy, chasing eachother around the dinner table like 2 obnoxious children with an exponential amount of energy, is enough to hamper anyone's ambition. Don't I know these two bastard fiends all too well!

I love old standards, and pop songs of all eras, which often might seem contradictory depending on the vehicle they're delivered in. It's the simplicity of the lyrics that I find so compelling. Abstract and suggestive to a point, but not so much that one doesn't have a clue what the song is about. Direct and poignant verse can be more heady and rewarding than the opposite. Extremely hard to strike a balance between simplicity and vapid lyrics. This balance is the holy grail of song writing. The Blue Nile strike it.

I often wonder if there really is any more emotion than I've already experienced, or can at least imagine. I generally conclude that this is it, as Evgeny found out early in his twenties. That sentiment lines every song Buchanan has written. Why convolute what is well known?

"I love you, and so I shall simply say it, but still prepare the ground around it, with decorations fit for such an expression". And then he will say it again, and the band will not solo, but find that sound and loop it, because there's joy in repetition. There's joy in repetition.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Supply and Demand

Supply and demand is a concept that not many seem to grasp, and it drives me to distraction. In these times of resource shortages and impending climate catastrophes, there could be no greater concept to be sure of than this. And yet, on a daily basis i am dismissed by these heathens as a fool for not making use of products and services that are already accounted for.

So here it is in black and white. A local shop owner sells cans of baked beans. He knows because he's sold baked beans for a couple of years now, that he sells about 20 cans of beans a week. So he orders 4 crates from his supplier each month. If one week he doesn't sell so many beans, he has more than he knows what to do with, and so orders less from the supplier for the coming delivery. If he sells more than normal, then he may put in a special order to be delivered soon.

This is the way i understand supply and demand, and i try (emphasis on the "try") to adjust my life accordingly. So if i decide not to fly because i don't want to create a demand for a service that pollutes the earth's atmosphere, and consequently contributes to endangering millions of the poorest lives on this planet...this is the reasoning behind it. Yes, the plane may well have empty seats on it for the particular flight i may have been considering. However, i didn't make the purchase, and the empty seat is a signal to the air travel industry that demand for that particular route is down.

I'm not expecting anyone to sacrifice anything in their lives, though the world would be better off if we all did consume less. I'm asking for some consideration and understanding of why i and others make certain choices based on finite resources and the environment.

Poor Choice of Words

Swearing. I do it all the time, but I'm making a conscious effort to atone for the lack of imagination i have when exclaiming out loud. There's nothing wrong with swearing, it's a wonderful sense of release, and builds moral within groups. However, it's the monoculture of swear words we use these days that we must abandon. They lose all effectiveness when constantly repeated at the end of each sentence and next to "like", which seems to be used as if it were a comma for most of the English speaking public under 50.

The "C" word, the most heinous of all modern swear words, is bandied around as if it were candy, and shown off to small children on public thoroughfares accordingly. It's positively thrilling to read a DH Lawrence novel, full of tedious prose about the beauty of the Midlands (of all places!), then completely out of the blue, a character describes a woman's genitalia with such fervor, "Aye, that's a fine cunt ye have...", at which point the character proceeds to describe the object at hand in all it's minute glory. This is when the "C" word should be used, to startle, when we haven't heard it in long while, and in places we are least expecting it.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Two things you should be slow to criticise

"Two things you should be slow to criticise, a man's choice in woman, and a man's choice in work" as Paddy McAloon says on Jordan: The Comeback.

Never did i quite understand that line as i do right now. The complexity that some situations achieve can be so overwhelming that it's impossible to make a decision. Either choice can be justified at a particular level, so how does one know which is the correct one?

How we baulk at the office workers from the desks of our school classrooms! How simple it was back then, to think that destinies are something we have complete control over. Little did we know of the myriad compromises that make up an adult's daily life, watering down those pure and noble thoughts we once had as teenagers.

Most days i alight from the bus in the City, mortified that i have to be surrounded by such ugly buildings and dreary people. How supremely original i think of myself compared with these career driven fools. And yet, how do i not know, that behind one of these pink-shirt-blue-tied brutes, stirs a kindred spirit? There could be any number of truly creative souls out there, bludgeoned by the machinery of a financial centre, and their only aim, to use it, as i use it, to sustain and propel the flames of imagination, albeit in an altogether abstract way.

Again, in the youthful enthusiasm of a lad bred on Dawson's Creek, there lied a misunderstanding of what interconnected realities lay before him. Love, i am told, heightens the senses, yet lowers one's perceptions. Is it wise to fall disastrously in love, to plough all available resources into such beauty as one so defines, only to be rebuffed by common sense, and the cold light of day? Jerome K. Jerome, believes that affection is all one can hope for, a flat-lined flow of sensuality, rather than a swooping sine wave. Can one settle for affection only, and find passion and purpose elsewhere? Should it matter if one can be satisfied in all areas of one's life through many different means, rather than just one?

Such a Western impression. To believe, to even consider that a partner could provide everything one desires! Is it perhaps that we've debunked religion as the answer to everything, and now we scrabble around for a new idol worthy of our adoration? I had once thought that an ideal partner would be someone i could communicate with in such subtle ways, and would understand my articulated nonsense that would be taken as feelings. Now i am torn between that which a society has nurtured me to believing, and something that same society would think utterly base and devoid of humanity.

To see a couple, and to react to their choice in partner, is something i now abhor. It is no-one's business how they connect, or do not connect, as the case may be. Just as it is of no-one's concern how one makes a little money to get by.

Teenage ideals should be kept in the Mongolian wilderness, where life is truly simple.

Monday, 9 June 2008


I have recently had the great pleasure of being introduced to a saxophonist composer of overwhelming depth and dark majesty, a man called John Surman. I saw him play at The Wigmore Hall a few months back, and it was an experience i shall never forget.

So often i concentrate on the lyric, and the pop composition of music, that i forget how potent jazz can be, when it's not noodling to infinity. I had enjoyed John Surman's set very much, but it didn't quite move me, until about half way through, when his string section, Trans4mation, struck up the intro for Moonlighter.

It plays for about a minute on maybe 2 chords, a subtle tension builds and holds, then the baritone saxophone cracks in, completely unexpected, but so soft, gentle, like an old dog with cancer that rests his clumsy paw for one last time on your knee.

That very moment, this intense surge of emotion welled up in me, and poured out in the form of a few tears. Indescribable emotion...i wasn't low on that particular day, but Surman manipulated me into feeling utterly despondent. That skill to invoke emotion in someone completely off guard, is one to be admired, and desired.

Unfortunately i can't find a link where you can hear this in full. However, i strongly urge you to buy this album, The Spaces Inbetween, certainly the best thing i've heard in the last year without a doubt.

Weep, and wallow.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Market Principles Do Not Discriminate

The London music scene is not really a scene as such, but more a collection of various cliques, that will exchange and initiate members depending on the hype surrounding the individual.

There is one main reason for this, and that is scarcity. Scarcity is the simple idea that when there is not very much of a certain resource, then the value of it rises accordingly. This we are all acutely aware of with the price of oil shooting through $135 a barrel yesterday. The opposite happens in London with musicians.

There are thousands and thousands of "musicians" in London, and just as many "bands". I'm sure your next door neighbour is in a band, if you were to by chance talk to them. There are also many venues. With so much choice...there is little focus, and hence, zero vibe. In London, musicians hardly ever get paid when they play, nor receive any consolatory perks...not even respect (though this is often justified depending on the goons that are performing). If i have to hear one more promoter tell me that i have to sacrifice a month of my life, by not playing any other night except theirs, i will take my razor to their Sales' cords!

Hype is the way a sales man can make more profit from essentially the same product that is being sold elsewhere in the market. Hype is disseminated through various channels that the general public "trust" or allow themselves to infiltrate their consciousness.

Let's not fool ourselves here, we're all wanting to make money from our "talents". It is business after all, based on profit, making as much as possible from as little investment. Just the same as farming fields, building cars in factories, online legal publishing etc.

Market principles do not discriminate, nothing is safe, there is no loophole for the arts that keeps them dignified and held in reverence.

Sustainable Shaving

A few weeks ago i took the plunge and bought a cut-throat razor and all the appropriate paraphernalia. Never had i shaved this way before, always behind those safety bars that the high-street brands seem to think necessary in their designs. As if the modern citizen isn't protected enough from calamity!

I've wanted to write about this new experience for some time now, and have thought about putting finger to keyboard at the start of every shave. However, i keep cutting myself, a lot to begin with, and now only once or twice per shave. Damn it, i'll write about it when i've shaved my face with not one nick, then i can tell the world how flawless it is!

Still, what prompted me into all this malarkey, was not Sweeney Todd, as some have suggested, but that disposable razors are just another example of unnecessary waste in this sea of futurism. Not to mention the good ones are bloody expensive.

With a cut-throat and a strop (a piece of leather that you run the blade along to sharpen it), one can shave for the rest of one's life without buying any new equipment. If you treat your razor carefully you can even pass it on to your adopted children.

I believe you could make your money back within a year, and have free shaves until the day you die. Once you get the hang of it, it's a bloody good shave, and a ritual that will make you feel like a true gentleman.

Yes, it takes longer than what you'd be used to...but why does that matter? It's a great excuse to idle for longer, to gaze at your well groomed facial hair in the mirror, and daydream of swooning, fine tweed-cladded young ladies that of course don't exist in "real" life.


Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Foot Fetish

"On the seashore, with storm impending,

how envious was I of the waves
each in tumultuous turn descending
to lie down at her feet like slaves!
I longed, like every breaker hissing,
to smother her dear feet with kissing."

Alexander Pushkin, from Eugene Onegin

Monday, 31 March 2008

Mellors’ Last Rant

"We’ve got this great industrial population, and they’ve got to be fed, so the damn show has to be kept going somehow. The women talk a lot more than the men nowadays, and they are a sight more cock-sure. The men are limp, they feel a doom somewhere, and they go about as if there was nothing to be done. Anyhow, nobody knows what should be done, in spite of all the talk. The young ones get mad because they’ve no money to spend. Their whole life depends on spending money, and now they’ve got none to spend. That’s our civilization and our education: bring up the masses to depend entirely on spending money, and then the money gives out. The pits are working two days, two and a half days a week, and there’s no sign of betterment even for the winter. It means a man bringing up a family on twenty-five and thirty shillings. The women are the maddest of all. But then they’re the maddest for spending, nowadays.

"If you could tell them that living and spending isn’t the same thing! But it’s no good. If only they were educated to live instead of earn and spend, they could manage happily on twenty-five shillings. If the men wore scarlet trousers as I said, they wouldn’t think so much of money: if they could dance and hop and skip, and sing and swagger and be handsome, they could do with very little cash. And amuse the women themselves, and be amused by the women. They ought to learn to be naked and handsome, and to sing in a mass and dance the old group dances, and carve the stools they sit on, and embroider their own emblems. then they wouldn’t need money. And that’s the only way to solve the industrial problem: train the people to be able to live and live in handsomeness, without needing to spend. But you can’t do it. They’re all one-track minds nowadays. Whereas the mass of people oughtn’t even to try to think because they can’t. They should be alive and frisky, and acknowledge the great god Pan. He’s the only god for the masses, forever. The few can go in for higher cults if they like but let the mass be forever pagan."

Mr Mellors’ last rant, from DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Twiddling Little Machines

DH Lawrence, a man before his time. In a conversation between the Game Keeper and Lady Chatterley, in reply to a question she asks him about the common people, the proletariat:

"Their spunk is gone dead. Motor-cars and cinemas and aeroplanes suck that last bit out of them. I tell you, every generation breeds a more rabbity generation, with indiarubber tubing for guts and tin legs and tin faces. Tin people! It’s all a steady sort of bolshevism just killing off the human thing, and worshipping the mechanical thing. Money, money, money! All the modern lot get their real kick out of killing the old human feeling out of man, making mincemeat of the old Adam and the old Eve. They’re all alike. The world is all alike: kill off the human reality, a quid for every foreskin, two quid for each pair of balls. What is cunt but machine fucking! - It’s all alike. Pay ’em money to cut off the world’s cock. Pay money, money, money to them that will take spunk out of mankind, and leave ’em all little twiddling machines."

Little twiddling machines, twiddling little machines.

Friday, 22 February 2008

How To Be Free

Reading a wonderful book at the moment, "How to be Free" by Tom Hodgkinson, about casting of the shackles we didn't even know were there. It is not a self-help book...of sorts...though the concept is that way inclined. It follows the notions of sustainability and finding happiness in life through similar principles. Anyway, here's an excerpt i've just read on the bus, regarding the bondage of time-keeping:

"The automobile, for example, saves no time in the long run. Ivan Illinch once calculated that if you add up all the time you spend on a car, including the trips to the garage and the time spent earning the money to buy the fuel and maintain the vehicle, and divide by the number of miles you travel, then your average speed is 5mph. You would be faster on a bicycle. Speed, paradoxically, eats up our free time."


Monday, 11 February 2008

Not So Smug Anymore

Christmas past, i returned to my mother's house in Portsmouth. A refreshing experience as usual, for it brings one closer to the reality of the nation and its citizens. Its all too easy to live in London and feel that this is how the people of England live. It certainly isn't, as i'm well theory, though not in practice.

After Christmas dinner, i went out with my mother and step-father for a walk to the seafront and back. On this walk, the usual disgust for road vehicles surged in me, enough to bring it up in conversation. As oil had just reached a record high, about $100 per barrel at the time, i asked them how much the price of fuel would have to rise by before they'd start changing the way they use their car. At the time it was about £1.10 a litre for petrol. Would £2 make a difference? How about £3?

I was asking them this, trying to keep the inner smug grin well off their radar, and they answer with the utmost courteousness. "Maybe, over £2 we would start to change our behaviour...but to be honest, we only use the car to go the gym and to get to work, and to see your nan...everything else is within walking distance. I suppose we could use a bicycle to make most of those journeys...". And of course, one wouldn't need to go to the gym if one was cycling, haw haw haw.

Then my step father asked me, innocently enough, "How much would it take for the price of beer to rise before you started to change your drinking habits?". Damn! I hadn't thought of that! Humble pie thrown in my face. See how easy it is for a Londoner to think their way of life is progressive and normal? Well, i don't drive...because i live in London...its not necessary under any individual circumstances. The rest of the country short...isn't like London.

I drink a lot...because i socialise a lot, and beer is an integral part of it. Can i go out and not drink? Well, if needs must, then yes of course...just like my parents, they could stop driving and take the bicycle...but they're unlikely to do so until petrol rises to £3 a litre. I won't curtail my drinking until it reaches £5 a pint. In fact...i'll probably act in more devious ways...buying cans from off-licenses and topping it up in the toilets! Argh. Lets hope i have some sense and instead, direct all my social meetings to Sam Smith's beers and spirits, made in Tadcaster. Possibly the most socially responsible night of debauchery one could have in London. Not including Power Down of course! Or even better, give up drink altogether! Countless bad purchases have been made in the heady thrill of the night...or in the dull ache of the morning after. "Fuck it" is the usual sentiment. Embarrassing, to say the least.

The point of all this? Easy to be a smug bastard living an ecotarian life in the capital. Still, see blog entitled "Knee Jerk Reaction" for justification. It ain't easy.

Knee Jerk Reactions

Being ecotarian isn't easy. I'm sure vegetarians, pescatarians and vegans think they have it hard. But let me tell you, the turmoil they go through whilst making purchases is nothing compared with that of a poor ecotarian such as myself. The term "ecotarian" seems to fit with the other groups of self denialists. I define "ecotarianism" as abstaining (or trying to) from products that harm the environment by means of unsustainable manufacturing. And it doesn't have to be solely about food, in fact...every single thing one consumes, including services.

With a vegetarian, all they have to do is cut out meat from their diet. Decision: meat, or not meat. Technically, they could eat GM vegetables...they could eat vegetables that were grown using intensive farming practices and covered in a myriad of petrochemicals...and they would still be able to claim they were a vegetarian.

An ecotarian on the other hand, must weigh up an infinite amount of variables. Lets take the purchasing of a carrot as an example. Is the carrot organic? Locally sourced? Are you buying it from a huge multinational corporation (Tescos)? How far have you travelled especially to buy this carrot? These may seem like easy decisions to make, but its hard to get them all aligned. Should i be giving Tesco's any money at all? Corner shops arn't in the habit of selling anything remotely organic. Often, i throw my hands up in despair, choose the path of least resistance, and justify it later.

Terrible isn't it? And yet the most important aspect of ecotarianism is the will to change. Regardless of the decision one has just made, it is the fact that one had those decisions to make. The ecotarian has entered a new set of ethics into their decision making. With time and experience, it will get easier.

And what thanks do we get for all this inner turmoil? Certainly no respect whatsoever...not that that's the reason we take on this new lifestyle...or is it?! (That deserves its own discussion!) Still, the knee jerk reaction ecotarians face daily when in conversation with a "normal" citizen, is of scorn for apparent blatant hypocrisy. For example, maybe i might mention in the pub something about my compost heap...and some smart alec will cheekily denounce me as a hypocrite because i'm sat there with a pint of non-organic, mass produced lager that came from Ireland...along with my critic of course. As if there was no difference between me, Eva Peron, Idi Amin, Hitler, or Chris Martin.

If you have just become an ecotarian, stay calm, shrug it off. Do not under any circumstances retaliate in a torrent of self righteous abuse. Lead by example, and improve your daily processes by using the torment as a positive catalyst. None of us are doing enough, thats certain. Still, some of us are doing something. So be glad that you're on the path to atonement, if nothing else.

Howling Feedback: A Thing of The Past

I'm sure there is not one soul on this planet that finds deafening and screeching feedback pleasing to the ear. And yet, most of us involved in the bowels of the music industry, playing small, pokey or intimate venues, have to with-stand this blood curdling noise most times we venture to play live.

I am here to tell you, promoter, sound engineer, musician, doesn't have to be this way! Yes, i am a musician, though do not jump to conclusions. A musician telling an engineer how to do his job...blasphemy! And i would agree with you in most cases. However, we're all on the same side here: anti feedback. So, please indulge me for a moment, and take note of the following information that will save all of us, a hell of a lot of pain.

Feedback is an expression of a room's dimensions. One may note that not all feedback has the same frequency...this is because the dimensions of the room, determine which frequencies are amplified over the others. The way to combat feedback is to "tune" the room before any sound check commences...before any musician, bar steward, cleaner...anyone, enters the venue.

To tune the room, you will need a graphic equaliser inserted somewhere in the signal flow of the PA. Third Octave graphic equalisers are the best, because they have many frequencies with which you can boost or cut (they increment in third octaves from 20hz to 20khz). Even the most basic of PA's have some sort of graphic equaliser on them. Here is what you do with it:

1. Turn all the gain pots, eq, and master fader right down. Make sure the graphic eq is at zero on every frequency.

2. Plug a mic into a channel, put on a mic stand, place directly infront of a speaker, 1 metre back from it.

3. Now for the dangerous part! Set the gain on the channel the mic is plugged into, to about 3/4s. Now turn up the master fader very slowly. When you start to hear a bit of feedback, identify using your ears and brain what frequency the feedback is...this comes from experience. Pull down the frequency on the graphic eq until the feedback disappears. If you can't work out what the frequency is, try every one until the feedback abates.

4. Start to bring the master fader up until you hear feedback again. Identify the frequency and cut on the graphic eq.

5. Do this until the fader has reached maximum. The room will now be "tuned". The mic was pointed directly at the speaker because it was an extreme scenario. When you place the mic where you intend it to be onstage, it will be even less likely to feedback now. You will now be able to turn the PA up to its maximum volume without it feeding back. Efficiency!

Some individual EQing on each channel will affect your adjustments to the graphic eq, so this should be done reservedly. For example, if an instrument needs a little boost in the top end...think in the negative...roll off some bottom end, and turn the channel up...much safer!

If you have monitors, you will need to do something similar with them, preferably with a separate graphic equaliser.

Please spread the word that feedback does not have to be an essential part of live music. And please, do not take this as some self righteous rant against engineers...we're all pseudo sound engineers at some point of our only intention is to pass on some information that will save a few hairs on our cochleas.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

The Misogyny Myth Exposed

Unfortunately, i seem to have some explaining to do. After singing, rather ferociously "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorn" and "Where there's female, you're bound to find bondage and lies", at recent gigs, a number of people have made some rather ridiculous assumptions.

First of all, i would like to stress, i am not a woman hater, in fact quite the opposite, though philanderer is too far polar.

Second of all, don't take the lyrics in these songs too seriously, for crying out loud *arghhhghghgh*. I have written a number of songs that have taken on the subject of male frustration with the opposite sex. They are intended half serious, half humorous. Women are always voicing their venomous opinions of men, and what is our response? Indifference, generally. Though these songs are not at all intended to be poisonous, or inciting hate for those divine creatures that men find so puzzling. They are notes on subtle experiences i've had in the past, that many can empathise (and possibly sympathise) with. Songs are all about taking small ideas and embellishing them til a hook hangs.

I beg you humourless folk to grasp this concept before there's a witch hunt and my limbs are fed to St George's pigeons. Though i'd secretly love the fact that i would no longer be a burden on the earth's resources if that happened.

Calm be with you.