Thursday, 25 January 2007

First gig of 2007, Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan

On Wednesday night I hooked up with Dora and went and saw Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan perform songs from their collaborative Mercury nominated album.

The album itself has very unusual harmonies, but it works. Campbell's sweet vocal not overpowered by the thundering drawl of Lanegan. I believe they recorded it separately, and this tour is their first face to face. She seemed a bit intimidated by him it has to be said!

Mark Lanegan has to be one of the coolest front men I've ever seen live. It looked like he'd drunk a couple of bottles of bourbon before making his entrance, he was extremely chilled, left the talking to his vocal partner and stood there, sometimes with a wry smile on his face, effortlessly belting out songs.

The vocal mix needed work at the beginning, it wasn't so tight, but it improved towards the end.

A surprise was hearing Campbell do a cover version of Willows Song, penned by Paul Giovanni from the Wicker Man soundtrack. When I heard the opening bars I thought, "hmmm, sounds familiar, very much like Willows Song" and then Campbell broke into the first line and I grinned! Those haunting vocals brought back great memories :-) If you closed your eyes you could see Britt Ekland gyrating, slapping her thighs and enticing christian copper Edward Woodward to her warm bosom. That film, or rather that scene could get you worshipping Baphomet in no time. I tried to find it on Youtube, but no such luck! I love that film! And I'd never thought I'd hear that song live.... ever!

As for Mark Lanegan's solo stuff, loved it. Going to start to pick up his back catalogue now. It works so well live though, that dark bluesy growl driving stakes into my soul. He really was magnificent.

Dora is now off to San Fransisco with work now, lucky cow. Wish I was going, but I may be sent to Bracknell next week, so that's a real treat for me. Ha! Who needs Alcatraz when you can pound the streets of the Great Hollands estate.

Friday, 19 January 2007

Trek to the South Pole. Leg 1. Southgate to Stoke Newington

I met Sal last Sunday afternoon, it was a glorious winters day, watery sunshine, crisp but not too cold. Perfect weather for a long walk. It is something we do not too infrequently, walk and talk, stop off along the way, pitch our tents and hunt for fur seals.

This time we decided to hook up at Southgate tube station, and trail our way Southwards….. towards the pole. Well, towards central London anyway. I had it in my mind that we would make the Thames, set up camp 1, then get a tube back (a good 11 miles one way). But it was beyond our capabilities, the conditions turned sour, our frostbitten feet and hands crushed by the wintry fury of mother nature, our eyes blinded, and our bodies wracked and bleeding by the polar bear attack in Palmers Green.

I met Sal back in '87 when we were both losers at Southgate Technical College, now we are pretty much the same, losers, but slightly richer, better fitting clothes, a thirst for polar exploration and with more grey hairs, so it was apt we should start our journey at Southgate tube. Southgate tube station is a lovely old piece of art deco grandeur, it has gorgeous curves, and from a distance it is even more pretty, especially at night when it is lit, and you can't see the rubbish and dog turds from close range.

Here it is back in the day.

I think it was designed by a famous architect, Charles Holden as were a lot of stops of the Piccadilly line, but I can't be bothered to look up and confirm this, and you probably don't give a shit anyway.

So on to our quest, and like the main character in James Joyce's Ulysess, we set forth on our walk through London, but I am better than Joyce, as this blog is more succinct and doesn't involve 18 pages of tedious description recounting stopping off at a butchers to buy a pound of sausages.

Through the leafy lanes of southgate, down towards the upper end of Palmers Green, cross the dangerous North Circular road and into the northernmost reaches of Wood Green. It was a relatively trouble free journey, our supplies were not depleted, our huskies were fit and healthy and we had no need to shoot them for food.

Through the bustling high street of Wood Green, avoiding screaming children being dragged round the shopping city, then into the vibrant ethnic mix that is Green Lanes, where I grew up and spent many a 20p buying comics at Maqsood's newsagents we ploughed forward, our snow goggles steamed up by the kebab house savoury smoke. At Manor House we had a choice, do we surge forth for Stoke Newington and the city, or turn South West towards Finsbury park, Camden and the West End. We opted to surge forwards, into the expanses of wilderness, further into Green Lanes, towards Newington Green. There were no tube stations for hundreds of metres down this path, so we steeled ourselves for a long journey. We passed the folly castle on green lanes, the old water pumping station fashioned into a mock mediaeval fort. As a child on the 141 bus, on regular journeys to my dads fish and chip shop down near Newington Green, this castle always impressed me, and even now, amoungst the dreary monotony of same same flats it stands proud, an awkward gaudy landmark, totally out of place, but somehow beautiful in its own way.

Growing up, this was the closest I got to Knights and Castles, catapults and Kings, and I would often wonder what it would be like to live there. I didn't realise it was a big empty shell housing a huge water pumping facility at the time, but even if I was told that, it wouldn't have spoilt my fantasy. When I'm an eccentric millionaire I'm going to buy it, hire a private army and declare my independence and print stamps with my face on them.

We reached Clissold Park, where I spent many a day as a toddler and young child, looked after by an ancient old lady from Smyrna, she must have had rock hard shins as I was a brat and used to kick sh*t out of her, while mum and dad toiled in the shop. There was a menagerie there, I guess there still is, and I wasted many an afternoon coaxing the mynah bird to talk to me.

We were hungry, Church Street beckoned, the dippy hippy enclave of Stoke Newington. A quick beer, a thai meal (authentically just like the ones you get in Antarctica), then watched Newcastle rob Spurs of three points. A cigar and a trip home. Next time we'll reconvene from that point and continue our walk to the pole and walk and talk some more.

Saturday, 13 January 2007

Medcalf and Clerkenwell and Tiddlywanks

Went to London the other night to see my mates Ongey and Mollusc, have a drink, and eat....

Clerkenwell is not necessarily a lovely part of London, but I find it a great place to hang out. On the doorstep of kings cross and farringdon, it certainly isn't striking, not noted for its architecture, but it has a welcoming ambience all of its own which is somewhat unusual for central-ish london. Firstly a pint at the Three Kings and a chat, we got there early enough to grab a table.

I was quiet, I was looking at the beautiful people, probably staring too much maybe! That urban chiq people in London can pull off without trying, the chatter of voices, from all over the world, and I realised how much I missed my home, where I grew up. Where you can be anyone.
Sure I love where I am now, and to a certain degree I get the best of both worlds. The woods and marshes in the nature reserve at the bottom of my road, where I can walk or run and enjoy the day. But I would struggle to do without London, I miss her filthy unshaven armpits and the squalid plump arms of her embrace. I see London as a gin drinking lady from 19th century Whitechapel with no teeth, wearing a dirty apron. She's a lovely old city, full of charm, just don't upset her or she'll stab you with a knitting needle.

So we went to Medcalf, in Exmouth market, a converted butchers shop, now rustic french/british restaurant with ample portions. Delicate and subtle enough for the discerning pallette, but also suitable for blood stained carnivores who like meat. (i.e. me).

We all ordered squid as starter, subliminally this was a tactical decision by all of us, as we always covet what is in each others plates, and Ongey puts on this utterly stupid begging puppy whine, juts his chin out and shakes his head towards our plates whilst pursing his lips. Pathetic I know, but you have to throw him a scrap or he embarasses us.

Unfortunately on this fine evening, I was the chief agent embarrasenteur (how pompous... "agent embarrasenteur" I was going to delete that, but it is so shit, I'm leaving it there). For some reason, we started discussing creating "pointless olympic events". I wont go into detail as in the cold light of day, and without the other two members of my witches coven present, my words feel they have no power (or humour!)

When we meet up, we regress and become 13 year old poo and fart fixated little boys. Its a great release (not of poo - of humour) and it's hilarious fun (for us) when we get together, but we are often accused of being childish and exclusive, laughing at the fact we are so pathetic and roaring even more when no one else laughs. But we don't care, its good to be stupid!

So… pointless Olympic events…. I came up with the idea of "Tiddlywanks". This is when our conversations become ridiculous, it often happens.... and we start arguing (quite vehemently!) about something we've just made up on the spot, eg - the feeding habits of an alien malevolant race. On this occasion it was to do with what the rules should be.... for a game called "Tiddlywanks". I have to admit, when challenged I hadn't really considered a full set of rules for my new sport, I felt wounded, I was on the defensive, so I just shouted out "YOU HAVE TO MASTURBATE INTO THE CUP!" I was about to adlib, and link it to how it involved the tiddly-winks bit, as I was struggling, the rules weren't really developed and there was not even a tenous association with the buttons you flick in the noble art of tiddlywinks. But I was shocked into silence, taken aback that after my outburst, the whole restaurant stopped talking, and that our waitress had at that instant brought over Mollusc's dessert and I'd shouted and spluttered "YOU HAVE TO MASTURBATE INTO THE CUP!" over his butterscotch sauce. She looked offended and stormed off in a huff. I should have ran after her and tried to explain...

"No No! you don't understand, I'm explaining the rules of Tiddly-wanks" but I think damage limitation was the right option and holding my head in hands was the correct choice whilst the other two pissed themselves…. So the end of another fine evening, but still needed to get home L
When I'm in London I'm always looking at my watch, always checking train times, a night out can be bollocksed up by this.

Maybe I should abuse my sisters hospitality more often, and turn up at her house at 4am (still earlier than Dora) more often? Wearing a cowboy hat, a wide collared shirt from a second hand shop and talking crap to Dora's friends when I'm still drunk and eating breakfast at 1pm, embarrassing her with my kebab tainted breath. Yeah, I'll do that. It's much easier than becoming rich and buying my own place in London.

Decided. Thanks Dora.

Tuesday, 9 January 2007

My gigs of 2006..

My gigs of 2006, definitive I think.

1/2/06 – Jose Gonzales, Bush Hall. Went with Ongey and Paul. Great gig, loved his Kylie Minogue cover version at the end.

2/2/06 – The Rakes. Astoria. With Trigger. They were superb here, saw them later in the year as well, but the place was full of chavs. This was before they became "Geezer Rock". Sod off with your pringle sweaters.

10/2/06 – Goldfrapp. Brixton Academy. With Dora, Bossman and Lozza. I like Brixton, the camber is good for short people, as long as some lanky streak of piss doesn't stand directly in front of me and fill me with my inner rage for having a small man complex. I wanted to take over the world after this gig, and tall people having their feet cut off would be my first order to my dark minions.

17/2/06 – The Chalets + Hot Puppies. The Angel. Bedford. With Trigger. What a hilarious night. We'd never been to the Angel before and I have to say it was a most amusing evening. We had more fun looking at the other gig goers. Stayed on and drank awful spirits, a decent rock/alternative DJ set, got back in the middle of the night absolutely trollied. The Chalets were great. The Hot Puppies were good too, Trigger saw them in the ladies toilets, and one of them didn't wash his hands. How vile.

20/2/06 – The Bravery and Stellarstar. Astoria. With Trigger. Bit of a low key one. Enjoyed Stellarstar, the Bravery looked to be going through the motions.

28/2/06 – Bic Runga. Dingwalls. With Tommo. This was a good gig. Bic Runga is humble and very engaging, you can't help but like her and her music. She had matey, one of the Finn's from crowded house on piano.

9/3/06 – The Like. Manchester Academy 3. With Trigger. The gig itself was average, but we ended up in the university student bar. Some bloke tried to pull both me and Trigger, we ran away giggling back to our hotel bar as he was freaking us out. If I was gonna go gay, it wouldn't be with some Mancunian with a fat coffee machine sized head.

12/3/06 – Martin Simpson. Hitchin Folk Club. With Ongey and Deb. After a two and a half hour set, something you should normally be grateful for, I'd had enough of ballads involving murdering your sisters suitor, who is not good enough for her and burying him on the moors. It was a Sunday night and we were knackered. Probably in the wrong mood, although I did enjoy most of it.

21/3/06 – Feeder and Goldie Looking Chain. Hammersmith Apollo. With Trigger, Paul Daniels (Kev) and Annie. I can't remember much about this gig except I'd had too much red wine, and I enjoyed myself, we jumped around, red wine is ok for an evening in, but for going out it is possibly the worst drink to have and the next day my head was steaming. I remember trying to sell my spare and the tout offering Kev a fiver. "Eat my fiver! Eat my fiver!" was what he kept saying, we just fell about laughing. "Eat my fiver!" is now a phrase I like to use now and again.

25/3/06 – Bad Manners. The Green Room, Welwyn Garden City. With Trigger.Both me and Trigger felt slightly unnerved when we entered this pub, then we realised why, we were the youngest people in the audience, not the oldest! I felt very proud, I hadn't had that intimidated feeling since my early gig going days. And some of the scarred 50 year old skinheads looked well hard. Once the music started though and the ska filled the room, it was great. Everyone was dancing, and a nice man with no shirt on rubbed his hairy sweaty tits all over me before stamping on my ankle with his size 12 doctor martins. He was too drunk for this to have been pre-meditated, I think it was an accident, at least I hope so.

28/3/06 – Goldfrapp, Antony and the Johnsons, Starsailor. Royal Albert Hall. With Deb.This was my birthday treat, thoroughly enjoyed myself, although I'm getting the hump with goldfrapp now. Probably because she looks like one of those fuzzy trolls you stick on the end of a pencil.

29/3/06 – Sigur Ros. Hammersmith Apollo. With Deb, Ongey and DoraThis was awesome, Sigur Ros are always breathtaking, put on a brilliant show, are note perfect and live, they capture that quiet quiet loud/white noise perfectly.

11/4/06 – Concretes. ULU. With Bossman. Enjoyed the new material, interesting they gave their number one stalker fan a present in the front row. Apparantley he goes to all their gigs… they got him an alarm clock, so he is never late.

18/4/06 – War of the Worlds. Royal Albert Hall. With Deb, Paul, OngeyAs a child, my elder bruv owned the album, the music and the artwork used to paralyse me with fear. I had to run out of the room and he used to tease me by playing it! Yeah, its dated now, and not very cool, but this was a great nostalgia trip. We did spend most of the gig making alien noises and laughing though, which annoyed people in adjoining seats.

20/4/06 – Him. Birmingham Academy. With Trigger and Hoxxy. You know what, I don't remember much about this night, I remember the venue was packed out, and we went to some rock bar and drank jagermeister. I think!?

21/4/06 – Be your own Pet. ULU, with bossmanThis was utterly hilarious! We like ULU, and we like Be Your Own Pet. The mosh pit was a war zone. We spent half the evening watching the band, the other half on the periphery of the mosh pit watching people take chunks out of each other. We felt like privilidged Romans watching gladiatorial combat.

12/5/06 – Rakes. Shepherds Bush. With Trigger.Full of chavs. Musically still very good, but I wont be seeing them again I think

17/6/06 – Foo Fighters, Motorhead, QOTSA, Juliette and the Licks. Hyde Park. With Trigger.A lovely warm summers day, yeah, it was good. Had a hangover though from the night before.

8th and 9th July – Oxegen Festival. Ireland. With Deb, Des, other Mel, Sean. Too much to go into in one paragraph, but a wonderful weekend.

11/7/06 – Sigur Ros. Southampton Guildhall. With Ongey and Deb.Spoilt by the heat, it was 35 degrees in there. Nasty.

27/7/06 – Howling Bells. ICA. With BossmanThis was even hotter! Great gig, but everyone was dripping, we had a drink and a pint of ice each which I used to rub on my face, I thought people would be collapsing in that oven.

5th and 6th August – Boardriders Festival. Newquay. (Feeder, The Automatic) With Trigger and Tommo.Yeah, this was a good festival. Spoilt by some fat man who looked like a sofa (I swear, he was a sofa) who kept guffing throughout the gig and creating an exclusion zone of 10 metres around his body. I shouted in his ear, "STOP FUCKING FARTING!" and he did for a while, but I guess the build up of gasses inside him needed to rip out, and he destroyed us with one monstrous one towards the end of the gig. It was disgusting, everyone was dry heaving and collapsing to the floor. There was something seriously wrong with him!

18/9/06 – The Killers. Electric Ballroom. With TommoThanks Tommo for inviting me!

22/9/06 – Mogwai. Royal Albert Hall. With John.More Post-Rock white noise melodic hell. Great stuff.

27/9/06 – Juliette and the licks. Astoria.I really don't remember much about this gig?! I don't even remember who I went with, maybe I didn't even go?

3/10/06 – Morning After Girls and Boxer Rebellion. Islington AcademyM.A.G – superb. Boxer Rebellion. Not for me.

10/10/06 – Howling Bells. ULUAwesome. See Bossman's blog for photos.

19 – 22nd October. Iceland Airwaves Festival.See my blog.

10/11/06 – We Are Scientists. Brixton. With Trigger, Bossman, Lozza.They were tired, this was a real end of tour gig. I was tired too. We all were, we bailed before the encore.

23/11/06 – Juliette and the Licks, Larrikin Love. ULU. Bossman and Trigger.See my blog.

Monday, 8 January 2007

When Society Collapses I'll Poo in a hole, until then I'm flushing

What is it with this camping obsession?

Three generations ago my family didn't have shoes and slept with their goats. So when I go on holiday, I don't particularly want to relive the experience of my ancestors. I only get five weeks holidays a year, and when I go away, I want someone to squeeze my hands and feet, anoint me with fine oils, feed me exotic fruits and fan me with ostrich feathers. I don't want to be overwhelmed by the smell of overflowing turds in a portaloo.

What's the big pleasure of having a river of someone elses piss trailing through your living space or hearing someone humping/having a nervous breakdown/tripping out on mind-bending drugs/having a divorce row in adjoining tents.

Yeah, I've done the festival thing, but I'm too old for all that now, the only festival I bother with now is Oxegen, and that's because I get a bed/shower at night cos my mate Des lives in one of the adjoining villages.

I don't want to wake up with a woodlouse in my ear, a spider in my gusset or a field mouse cuddled up to my todger to keep warm.

And I don't want an owl to take residence in my nostrils, thinking it a perfect tree hole to nestle up in.

I'm not a snob, ok, well not much of one. And much as I respect him, I'm not Ray Mears, so unless society deteriorates to a point where we are living in a post apocalyptic world of anarchy I'm quite happy to use shops / restaurants for my dietary requirements.

If I'm on holiday, I don't want to eat baked beans cooked on a primus stove and get excited by the spirit of being self sufficient by gathering (potentially poisonous) mushrooms to cook in a stew. When I'm on holiday I want to eat a large piece of ox. A lobster the size of a mini metro and gnaw on the tusks of a walrus between meals.

Wednesday, 3 January 2007

I've been feeling uninspired recently

I revisited my unfinished novel over the Christmas break, and decided to have a bash at picking up where I left off.

This book has been going for 6 years now on and off, mostly off, and I'm about a third of the way through. Sometimes it feels amatuerish and I cringe at my dreadful attempts at dialogue and plot, sometimes I'm happy with it and I'm unashamed to admit I laugh at my own brilliance. At the moment I think vast tracts need to be re-written, but I'm going to plough on to finish a first draft. Once done I will edit it, re-write the bits I'm not happy with then I'll get on to publishers and demand a 7 figure deal, blue smarties on a gold platter for my hip-hop dancer entourage and a helicopter piloted by an albino midget.

Really I should go on a creative writing course, as my style and grammar are appalling, and more importantly I don't want to scare any grannies with my monstrous over the top nonsense. Also, I don't want to water down my style, it needs to remain informal and shittily (is that even a word) written to maintain my integrity.

Unfortunately my characters are very hard to relate to, and I don't want to unleash them on a normal creative writing group. This is something I have to do alone. Personally I'm fond of the social misfits and freaks I'm building up. Like Big-Macs, my characters are complex and multi-layered, bread, meat, bread and lettuce leaf, then meat again, and more bread and if you squeeze one, you might see sauce and perhaps a diced onion. I would describe this novel as McDonalds for the mind... make of that what you will.

What pisses me off is having to research things, so today I needed to learn about Imperial German spiked helmets from the first world war. What a waste of half an hour I could have been writing vitriolic filth.

Of course I could make it all up, but I feel these minor points might be significant to some of my future readership. Eg - what if the Prussian eagle insignia was facing the wrong way? I would be ridiculed for this most elementary error and not taken seriously.

I'm not asking for a lot, as well as the smarties (blue), gold platters, massuers all I ask is that I am recognised as an esteemed british writer, like maybe Ashley Cole or Jade Goody. Oh, and I'd like some money, film spin offs, champagne, invites to celeb parties, photo shoots with Hello magazine and poseable toy action figures of myself (nothing to do with the film or book, I'd just like to play with myself if you'd pardon the expression).

Unfortunately, my book may never see the light of day.

1. Because this current enthusiasm is probably a whim, and I will return to waste my life playing "Football manager 2007".

2. The book is probably shite, and I will cry if people hate it. I can't take criticism easily, not even constructive! So don't you dare give my poseable action figure a double chin or a pot-belly you bastard toy manufacturers!