Thursday, January 29, 2004

Good God.

"I gasp at the saddening and maddening facts about our wasteful and contradictory lives - that globally, $33bn (£18.45bn) is spent on makeup and perfume annually, whereas just $29bn a year would be required to eliminate hunger and provide clean water to all".


Greg Dyke has just resigned, and the longer the day goes on the more the Hutton Report leaves a bad taste in my mouth - the Independent lead with 'Whitewash' today (see below) - and it seems unbelievable that the blame has been put so squarely at the foot of the BBC (incidentally, the ITV news last night was positively gleeful) and none at the government, who only 'subconsciously' influenced the dodgy dossier (this despite explicit emails from Campbell ordering that the wording be 'strengthened'). Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian points out that the whole thing is reminiscent of Lord Denning's enquiry into the Profumo affair, which concluded at the time that "people of much eminence" were not capable of acting improperly. Now, of course, we know very different.

Watch the fat man bite

In that awful 'The Big Read' thing that the BBC did recently The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy finished really high up. I found those books a bit annoying; like eating a big bag of sweets that you enjoy at first but soon notice they all taste the same. Still, it was funny in places, and it just made me laugh again when I read that they're making a big budget film version starring.... Martin Freeman (Tim from the Office) as Arthur Dent and.... Mos Def as Ford Prefect! Mos Def!!!! Well, if you're sure :-)

But make another album first, hey?

Just been reading the Guardian's Rumour Mill, and couldn't help liking the following:

"Kevin Pressman has rejected a move across the Steel City to Sheffield United, not because joining the city's other club is an obvious no-no, but because he can't be guaranteed first-team football at Bramall Lane. Neil Warnock should just dangle a pie on a fishing line over the stout stopper's house, then watch the fat man bite."

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Dinosaurs, Assistant and stuffed bears...

Chris is off to Australia in a week!!! He came to spend the weekend with us and we had a nice time; lots of drinks and dinosaurs (of the model variety) and a chance to say bye. He'll be there a year, but he talked about staying; it's strange - both exciting and intimidating. We looked through some online photo albums put together by Vic's friend Vicky, which made Oz look wonderful. Here, meanwhile, we woke to a little snow this morning - that was nice. It's gone now, but the weather promises future freezing. Don't trust Andrew's weather report, though.

Our rehearsal was more of a recording session on Sunday - no Andy or Pete so we concentrated on recording drum tracks for Engines and Anvils, Vine to Vine and It's Alright. I've been toying with shortening the latter track, but Ali attempted to dissuade me, and as he was holding a pair of drumsticks at the time, I relented. But the last version we recorded of that was a little sickly, timing-wise, so this one should be lots better. And when you stand in a room hearing nothing but drums you realise how much is going on there. I like bands who use drum machines, but I'm not sure if it isn't limiting. Talking of bands who use drum machines (and who are fab), we bumped into Sadie from La Momo at Monster afterwards - they just played at the Garage in London. Envious.

Saw James and Becky at the weekend - Becky has got a short term job in the audio library at the BBC! James is still at Drusillas, and can be seen looking flame haired and responsible here. He's thinking of buying a stuffed bear from the Friday-Ad. Well, why not?

Monday, January 26, 2004

new look

Okay, so I've just re-designed the site, added some links (mostly to brighton blogs or bands) and added the whizzy comments box you *should* see below. The question is, does it work? Closely followed by 'do i like it?' (not sure), and 'will anyone use it?'. Hmm. Well - let me know...

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Dude - Where's My Royalty?

having complained about the price of Michael Moore's 'Dude - Where's My Country' earlier, I've just bought it in Oxfam for £2.49. One in the eye for global capitalism... do you think Mike would approve??? Hmm.

Assistant, BB and Will Self...

Back to the gig, briefly... On after us, the Strings didn't do much for me; it was very professional, piano-led rock somewhere between Steely Dan and Starsailor, without the former's wit or the latter's yawning earnestness. Their songs were OK and they went down quite well. Girlinky were much more my kind of thing, and played a snappy, seething set which easily topped their performance at the Pressure Point last year. By this time we'd most of us repaired to the bar and were feeling pleased with ourselves and a bit triumphant. Playing in London feels very different to Brighton, but perhaps that is just playing-outside-yr-home-town syndrome. Either way, we were surprised and pleased with the way it went, delighted to see everyone and keen to play again soon. We're going to try to get some demos recorded next, time permitting, and then hopefully work on some new songs; I've got a couple I'm keen to try and we can start to use the keyboards a bit more creatively now that we're using Reason.

In the meantime, I've been talking to Andrew a lot about how his project, The Bedsit Bomber, is going to progress into doing some live performances. Thus far he's been hamstrung by using just his computer and the ubiquitous Reason, neither of which really lend themselves to spontaneous performance. But he's just bought himself a Yamaha AN200, which is a very cool desktop analog-modelling synth; and should mean that playing 'live' is now possible. All the same, the many complications of MIDI and the logistics of setting up a stage show is befuddling both of us. Either way, his recent songs are excellent, so when he does play live it'll be a treat. We spent a bit of time before Xmas putting together a collaborative set of tracks which we never finalised, provisionally entitled 'Hedgehog Ash / That Got Twisted Out of Reach', so now that he's working on his live set I might try to get my side of that EP completed, and we'll make it available when we're done. Not holding my breath for an immediate turnaround though - busy.

Went to see the urbane and prickly Will Self read from his new novella (Dr Mukti) last night, and really enjoyed it. Not so much the reading itself (though it was good) as the question and answer session afterwards. Asking him questions was a bit like offering to go in goal while Alan Shearer takes penalties, or firing gentle lobs up for Andre Agassi to smash past you. Some of the questions were bad ("why don't you like piercings?"), some were good (the man who talked about his sense of sadness about his children not reading), some predictable ("Which writers inspired you?") and some were bizarre (the German woman who asked about any of his 'indiscretions' with philosophy'). All were treated in much the same manner, as cues for him to spin a soliloquy out of, whether it concerned psychiatry, the boundaries between Brighton and Hove (which intersected his aunt and uncle's home when he was younger, and which prompted the jokes "shall we take the next course in Hove?", or "I think we shall have dessert in Brighton"), his love of words or strange, absurd riffs (one of which concerned his becoming upset by critics - which he says he isn't - and crying and crying onto his bed until the water filled the room, and then he would go for a swim, round and round, until he met a mouse, and then they would climb out to the bed, where they would hold a caucus... you get the picture). Like his books, his talks are triumphs of style; yet there is content there too; it's not just the way he says it, but what he says, too.

Monday, January 19, 2004

rather a good story for a slow day...

Spice of Life review and Kevin Phillips...

I'll get on to describing the rest of the night in a bit, but in the meantime there's a fair and balanced (copyright Fox News) report of the evening's events on Andrew's excellent Bedsit Bomber blog. I also noticed that he links to a report of the Southampton - Leeds game on Saturday. Reading through it the following sentence jumped out at me:

"Phillips then wasted a chance to make it 3-1, shooting himself as Ormerod was left waiting for a pass that never came."

Seems like the seven caps, no goals, has-he-got-a-moustache,-hasn't-he striker is being a bit hard on himself there :-)

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Assistant at the Spice of Life

Saturday night's gig was our best so far, by a long way. We all met up at Brighton station at about 4 o'clock, lugging our instruments behind us (with not too much difficulty, actually - me and Pete bought light gig-bags last week, and AS's laptop and controller keyboard combo are incomparably easier to transport than her old synth) and feeling slightly apprehensive about playing outside Brighton. The venue itself was surprisingly central; bang next to the Palace Theatre and its endless cycle of Les Mis in Cambridge Circus; kind of the epicentre of the West End. And when we arrived, the downstairs bar, where the gig would take place, was full of late afternoon and early-evening drinkers, and not ready for us to soundcheck.

We went upstairs and had a pint, and were joined by others (aside from the band, Vic and Sam travelled with us, closely followed by Andrew, Mark and Emma from Brighton and lots of people from London - my cousin Jess and her friend Tristan, Martin and Ali, lots of Anne-So's work colleagues, Chris, Stuart and Shanida - neither of whom I'd seen for years - an unexpected and lovely Matt, and even Rob, I think someone said, whom I haven't seen for years and still didn't, as he left early, if indeed he was there).

People noted before the soundcheck that I looked nervous, but I wasn't at all - just impatient to do the soundcheck; in the past I've always felt completely calm after that; but beforehand full of kind of unfocused energy. I want to get going. By the time we did soundcheck, the venue was filling up and - frankly - I was in a bit of a flap. Soundchecking in front of people is odd, not least because you can't get it out of your head that they'll be sitting there thinking 'this is the real thing', not realising that it's not deliberate the way the mics don't work, or the songs cut mysteriously mid-song. Connecting up the laptop was a bit difficult at first, but we got there OK, and it sounded lovely through the PA. By the time we'd half done a couple of songs and got the better of the set-up, we had about twenty minutes 'til we went on.

By this time the place was disconcertingly full, and people started saying things about punters being turned away. The main section in front of the stage was full of milling customers and the bar was busy too. The sheer number of people meant that first-band-on-trauma-no.-1 (audience standing so far back from the stage that they are mere glints in the distance) was necessarily avoided. We started with It's Alright and I CAN'T REMEMBER ANYTHING. Not then - now, I mean.

I think I got the opening chords right - the solo went alright - it all seemed to be going alright. We waited for it to fall apart; it didn't. In fact, it went really really well - and it just kept on going well. You Should Know was great; by this time I had settled in and started picking out people in the crowd, and noticing that people really seemed to be enjoying it. The sound on stage was excellent for once, although Andy later said he couldn't hear much bass (although I could, standing a bit further ahead of him), and - buoyed - I found myself moving about unselfconsciously (perhaps for the first time), although the suspicion hangs that I just bobbed up and down like one of those sad, mad polar bears in London Zoo.

Sorry, unpleasant imagery, not quite sure where that came from.

The song closed to cheers, clapping, people enjoying themselves. We went into Easy to Leave and started to hit our stride, although I felt my voice wobbling on the held notes; ah well. The song has a groovy buoyancy. I got to the ending and missed a few notes on the outro. Ha ha. No-one Need Ever Know came next, sounding kinda full and breezy - we sound like a band. Pete's guitar cuts out a bit and I play the verse right through the chorus. Hurrah - no one seems to notice! It doesn't matter. Vine to Vine is the best song yet - AS on lead vocals, me out on the side and singing along so loud I suspect I'm just about audible off-mic. By the time we get to the end we're getting a really good reception and I'm really hot, really full of energy, really enjoying myself. And excited at the fact that we've saved the best song to last. Engines and Anvils sounds incredible, Andy's 303 and Pete's guitar swirling around the room; it sounds vicious. Now I'm suffering from serious delusions of grandeur and milking the applause at the end. Oh dear - I'm sure I look like a fool. A happy one, though. I get drunk.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Computer Music pt. 1472

Very surprised to see this. I'm not a fan of the Prodigy, at least, not since a few songs off the first album, but I'm intrigued by this; apparently Liam Howlett has written and recorded the new Prodigy album almost entirely using Reason - it's interesting to hear that it's use extends into the professional side of music production. I look forward to hearing his new stuff, in that case.

Rehearsal and gig preparation...

A good rehearsal on Sunday. Having struggled with the weight of Anne-Sophie's keyboard (not to mention its cheerful prediliction for adding echo to everything) we went out on Saturday and weighed up options for replacing it. There are some beautiful synthesisers out there - the Novation K Station, the MicroKorg - but they were all dear and short on octaves. Thinking about it, we wondered if it wasn't possible to just use a laptop, Reason (a remarkable software studio much loved by me and the Bedsit Blogger - sorry - Bomber) and a Midi keyboard. We repaired back to my place and loaded it up on AS's laptop and found - to our surprise - that it works very well, with no discernible latency issues at all. So - after an initial crisis of confidence - we used the new set up at the rehearsal and found that it was effective; the organ settings, in particular, are richer and more resonant than the ones we'd had to use previously. So AS went out yesterday and bought herself a keyboard - the Evolution MK-449c which, to my chagrin, includes knobs and sliders unlike mine (grrr) and looks, frankly, absolutely brilliant. And as of next Saturday... that's what we'll be using.

Set list for Saturday:
1. It's Alright
2. You Should Know
3. Easy to Leave
4. No-one Need Ever Know
5. Vine to Vine
6. Engines and Anvils.

Friday, January 09, 2004

working out drum beats on paper (slow day)

* - 2 - 3 - 4 - * - 6 - 7 - 8 - * - 10 - 11 - 12 - * - 14 - 15 - 16
1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - * - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - 11 - 12 - * - 14 - 15 - 16
* - 2 - 3 - * - 5 - 6 - * - 8 - 9 - 10 - 11 - 12 - 13 - 14 - * - 16
* - 2 - 3 - 4 - * - 6 - 7 - 8 - * - 10 - 11 - 12 - * - 14 - 15 - 16
1 - * - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - * - 9 - 10 - 11 - 12 - 13 - 14 - 15 - *
Hi-Hat 2
1 - 2 - * - 4 - 5 - 6 - * - 8 - 9 - 10 - * - 12 - 13 - 14 - * - *

Thursday, January 08, 2004

New keyboard!

ooh - this is my new toy, by the way.... It's a Yamaha QY10 - a tiny wee synthesiser and sequencer which makes tinny beats and bleeps when I tell it too. Fab - fits in a video box, don'tcha know.

Christmas listening XI:
1. Wiley - everything (monumental - can't wait for the album)
2. Postal Service - Nothing Better (best track on 'Give Up' - brilliant)
3. Damon Albarn - American Welfare Poem (amazing melodies - terrible name)
4. Ornette Coleman - Free Jazz (insane music - music that will drive you insane)
5. NY No Wave LP (Lydia Lunch's voice!)
6. Kraftwerk - Trans Europe Express LP (perfect)
7. The French - The Wu Tang Clan (better than Hefner)
8. Fiery Furnaces - Gallowsbird's Bark LP (really brilliant - they deserve to be huge in 2004)
9. Assistant - You Should Know (live at Pressure Point - and sounding really good)
10. The Raincoats - Adventures Close to Home (always)
11. John Cale - Magritte (from his brilliant new album)
12. Robert Wyatt - Cuckooland (old head on the bench)
13. Public Image Ltd - Poptones
14. Dizzee Rascal - I Luv U (song of 2003)
15. Bedsit Bomber / Jonathan of Assistant - Hedgehog Ash / That got twisted out of Reach (songs in progress)
16. Freddi Kanoute (hat trick in the week so he gets a mention).

Friday, January 02, 2004

A wee piece on Wiley , amongst others, in the Guardian today;

"Bow is England's equivalent of Harlem," announces producer and rapper Wylie (agh - excruciating name error - j) confidently. "Everything's coming out of there, Plaistow, all that area of east London. All the artists are there, we all feed off each other. We've networked and that's made it move."

He has a point. In the last year, some of Britain's most exciting music has emanated from the council estates of east London: a lurching, experimental sound pitched somewhere between garage, hip-hop and ragga. Dizzee Rascal is its most famous exponent, but the style is so new that no one has thought of a name for it. "No one really knows what it's called, but I call it eski beat - the eskimo sound," says Wiley, who appeared on Dizzee Rascal's Mercury prize-winning debut album, Boy in da Corner, and was part of the same garage collective, Roll Deep Crew. His records sound marginally less like the total breakdown of civilisation than those of Dizzee Rascal, but are equally innovative and thrilling, driven by spasmodic beats, orchestral flourishes and noisy bursts of electronics. "The garage people never liked it; they tried to push it to one side because they felt it was negative. Then the garage scene went a bit dead because they kicked us out of it, so we made our own scene."

Wiley's dissatisfaction with the waning garage scene is dealt with on What Do U Call It?, a track from his forthcoming debut album, which lists his grievances at some length, before testily concluding: "I don't give a monkey's." Today, however, he claims to have other things on his mind. His latest innovations include starting a clothing label and making tracks without any bass or beats, apparently influenced by the reggae his father played. "It works," he enthuses. "It fucked up the rave! The youth are open-minded; they're following what's being done. It's like a blueprint right now. A child who lives in Bow, on the same estate as Dizzee, they know that they can do it now, because they've seen him do it."