Edinburgh Fringe Programme now online!!

Got back from a weekend in Berwick On Tweed (more on that later) to find the Edinburgh Fringe programme had been posted out. And it’s also now online for your perusal!!

Obviously, the first place to go is to the entry for my show, where you’ll want to buy tickets for multiple nights for you and your friends.

Then, from blog-world, there’s Richard Herring’s show, from bass-world, there’s guy pratt’s show, from jazz-world, there’s Julie McKee’s show, from RFH Foyer gigs-world, there’s The Big Buzzard Boogie Band show, from last year’s showbiz pals-world, there’s Barry Cryer and Ronnie Golden’s show, from guitar-world, there’s Antonio Forcione’s show and from unmissable gig-world, there’s Spearhead.

So, spread the word, tell your friends and get them to come to the show, and I’ll have flyers for you to download everso soon!

Soundtrack – Prefab Sprout, ‘From Langley Park To Memphis’.

Sound and Vision

Good lord, I’d forgotten just how closely music is linked to memory.

Having read a thread on a forum saying that it’s Robert Smith from The Cure’s birthday, I thought I’d put on a Cure CD, so out comes Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me. A fabulous album.

And all of a sudden I’m transported back to Berwick On Tweed, walking down through Hiveacres (Ramsey Street-esque estate where we lived), with the opening track, The Kiss, blaring out of my ever-present cassette player with the one speaker that didn’t work. Me dressed in grandad coat, or denim jacket with the cover from The Cure In Orange painted on the back, All About Eve shirt, black jeans and suede pixie boots. On my way to some goth get together or other, smiling far more than I should have as a goth. Wearing big maroon framed Christopher Biggins glasses that totally ruined the look.

It’s all there, I can even smell the grass and sheep in the field at the bottom of the road that I had to walk past if I was taking the short-cut across the trading estate into town – the trading estate that I once wandered around for three hours stoned trying to find my way into town (the whole journey took 40 mins even walking slow) – down past Jus-Roll )I can now smell the pastry), and on into town. I can hear the wind, and the air conditioning units on the top of the factories on the trading estate, and then the quiet. You forget what ‘quiet’ sounds like living in London. Nowhere outside is quiet, there’s always traffic and noise. Berwick after 10pm was quiet, unless someone you’d never met stopped for a chat on their way home from the pub.

Track two – Catch – I’d be dancing to this down the street, or singing it to myself if I’d seen someone in the pub that I fancied. Now I can hear the sea – another regular walk was along the front at Spittal, between Berwick town centre and Giles or Martin’s house.

Amazing. Maybe I need to dig out more music I listened to back then… Throwing Muses, Napalm Death, Anthrax, Metallica, The Pixes… actually, I’ve probably listened to the Pixies too often for that to work… maybe the Peel sessions would do the trick. Ah much memory jogging to be had!

SoundtrackThe Cure, ‘Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me’; Antonio Carlos Jobim, ‘Love Strings And Jobim’; Matthew Garrison, ‘Live’; Scottish Guitar Quartet, ‘Landmarks’; KT Tunstall, ‘Eye To The Telescope’ (this arrived this morning – fabulous album!)

Near-carnage in Parliment Square

So, yesterday was the Commons vote on whether or not to ban hunting with dogs. The vote, as everyone knew it would, was hugely in favour of the ban, but the protests outside (somewhere upwards of 10,000 people) got a bit nasty, with bottles and fireworks getting thrown and the police using their batons on people.

So what of it? The ‘countryside’ folk claim the ban is violating their human rights, it’s taking jobs away and is yet more evidence that this goverment (and preceding governments) don’t give a shit about rural Britain.

The last bit is definitely true – agricultural policy, fuel tax, the closure of local post offices, the way out of town supermarkets have trashed village life, and myriad other laws and societal changes, have made life in rural communities, particularly farming, really really difficult. Something definitely needs to be done about that, and they have my full sympathy.

However, I don’t think that’s what this is about at all. If it was, the hunters would switch to drag-hunting, keep the hunts open and carry on as normal, chasing across farmland with their packs of dogs. In fact, it would probably be better for the farming communities, as they’d be far less likely to end up trespassing on someone else’s land and ruining SSSIs or whatever. The route could – at least by the person doing the dragging – be somewhat planned.

But no, that’s not the same, we’re told. You have to have that marvellous moment where 40 dogs rip an exhausted terrified fox to bits and the tail is then removed and used to ‘blood’ kids on their first hunt. Without all that blood and guts and carnage, it’s just not the same.

Too f-ing right it’s not the same!!! That’s the whole point! The running jumping climbing over fences bit is the same, it’s just the chasing foxes til their lungs explode and then tearing them to pieces bit that’s not. That’s the bit we want to get rid of. And before I get accused of being an out of touch towny (after all, I do live in London), I also grew up in Berwick On Tweed – one of the most remote towns in England, given that the nearest city is 60 miles away. I’m aware of and scandalised by the plight of rural communities, but I don’t think protecting the right to have packs of dogs rip foxes apart has anything to do with it at all, any more than someone who makes their living selling child porn can claim that the government are ruining their livelihood be arresting people for having it.

Tradition is a dreadful excuse for loathsome behaviour. It’s the kind of rubbish that men come out with to justify abhorrent behaviour towards women, and that racists use to try and justify throwing immigrants out of the UK or elsewhere. There’s no defence for the levels of cruelty involved in hunting.

So what’s the next argument? The other ways of getting rid of foxes are even crueller – so that means we allow this one, rather than legislating further???? In Scotland, the hunts are still going on, despite there being a ban on hunting with dogs there, only now the fox is shot at the end, and apparently that’s a slower death than being mauled by dogs. Why the hell not take the fox out of the picture altogether, eh? why not drag hunt? It’s certainly not even close to being an efficient way to control the fox population, given that I can drive round the country lanes near my mum’s house, and see any number of foxes that if I were a trained marksman I could pick off without too much trouble. No chase, no terror, just a clean shot. Even if the first shot injured it and the second one killed it, it’d be a cheaper, less painful way to control the fox population. Clearly the fox population doesn’t need that much controlling, given that there’s this supposed reliance on the inefficient method of hunting as the way to do it.

No, the attraction is clearly some ‘traditional’ significance put on killing for fun, for sport. The more bloody the better, apparently. And that, I’m afraid, is morally indefensible, and as just about all opinion polls show, out of step with the values of the electorate, and clearly with our elected members of parliment.

Something definitely needs to be done to buoy up the failing rural economy in Britain, but it’s clear that the behaviour of the big supermarkets in driving down the prices of milk, dairy and veg in this country and failing to support organic farmers despite the demand for organic food outstripping supply by 2:1 is having a far far worse effect on the countryside than asking the huntsmen to switch to drag hunting for their sport, and using a far more effective, cheaper and humane method to control the fox population.

soundtrackClatter, ‘Blinded By Vision’; Julie Lee, ‘Stillhouse Road’; Pierce Pettis, ‘Great Big World’.

Back from Edinburgh…

Sorry for not blogging whilst away – I couldn’t remember my login details or the address where I need to go to to log in! doh!

Anyway, I’ve played nine gigs in the last two weeks, and had a whale of a time at the Edinburgh Festival.

But before Edinburgh, I had gigs in Glasgow and Berwick On Tweed. Both gigs were double-headers with Calamateur, aka Andrew Howie. Andrew got stuck in the highlands behind all the landslides on the day of the Glasgow gig, and ended up arriving at the venue half way through my set. The venue was a bar called Brel – a lovely place, with very helpful staff and a great ambience. A great place to play.

Thursday we went into Edinburgh, first to see Andrew’s mate Gareth (as featured in Danny Wallace’s book, Join Me), and then I went into to scope out the lie of the land for the festival. Never having been to the festival before, I had a wander round, and called in at the C Venues press office to find out who all the people were that I’d be talking to on the phone for weeks. Also picked up a few flyers and posters to dish out, but didn’t really get a handle on just how aggressively one has to flyer is Edinburgh is to work…

Friday was the Berwick gig – at The Barrels Ale House, which has changed a lot since I used to go in there when I was still at school and underage. It now has a lovely stage in the corner of the cellar, and loads of fantastic music on there each month. ‘Twas great fun to play a home town gig, and Andrew played another fantastic set – if you get a chance to see Calamateur live, take it, he’s marvellous.

Saturday was back to Edinburgh for a day’s flyering and sticking up posters. Still hadn’t realised at this point, that walking anywhere is a chance to give out flyers, so didn’t do as much promo as I should have. Still, I did get to meet up with Abe Laboriel – I usually meet up with Abe in LA each January during NAMM, so it was lovely to have him over here for a change, and get the chance for a nice long talk. His set, as part of the American Gospel Music fest was amazing – Paul Jackson Jnr on guitar was jaw droppingly good, and Abe was his usual inspirational self. Oh, and on Saturday afternoon, bumped into Dave Hunter, old friend from college that I’ve not seen for years. Very nice surprise.

Sunday, first gig day – more flyering, postering and badgering people to come to the gig. First gig went well, small but enthusiastic crowd, lovely venue. Didn’t set up a mic for chatting, so was probably not particularly audible.

Monday, The Small Person arrives in Edinburgh, but has to head off to meet up with old friends. No worries, I had a radio show to do anyway – had been booked for a couple of months to play on the BBC Radio Scotland ‘Arts Show’. The other guests on the day were Jenny Eclair, Barry Cryer and Ronnie Golden promoing their show Men In Beige, Terrafolk, and the cast of one of the South African Shows (very good they were too…) Was most amusing to be sat in an artist’s booth at the side of the stage with Jenny, Barry and Ronnie, each with our ‘publicists’. The show went really well, and I arranged to go and see Men In Beige and Jenny’s show The Andy Warhol Syndrome. Monday gig another small crowd, but once again highly appreciative.

Tuesday Met up with Tom StreetTeam and Sarah-Jane for lunch-time curry – much fun it was too. Followed by much flyering. The Small Person proved to be a flyering genius, picking a great spot from which to get to lots of people. Went to see ‘Men In Beige’ which was fantastic – great jokes, marvellous songs, laughed til we cried. Tuesday gig major jump in attendance, and adding a mic to the set up meant the crap I was talking between tunes was much more audible, and the music/talking bollocks split was now about 60/40. It’s amazing what hanging out with funny people does for your ability to think of amusing things to say between tunes.

Wednesday was a very wet day… most days were very wet days, and when it’s pissing down with Rain, flyering becomes very difficult. But hey, there were press people coming in, so hopefully another good turnout…. bit of a drop in numbers, and the stress of trying to flyer people in the rain meant I wasn’t quite as sparky as the night before… still, playing very well by now, so all is good.

By now the days have a distinct pattern to them. Get up, drive from Berwick to Edinburgh, park car miles out of town to avoid insane parking charges, walk into town flyering all the way, head to strategic flyering points – me to The Royal Mile, small person to C main. food, catch a show, back out flyering – me to St George’s West, Small Person back to C Main. Another pretty good attendance, back to being more funny again.

Friday went to see Jenny Eclair’s show, which is fantastic – a one woman show as an ex-reality TV star – made it big on a docu-soap, did lots of ads, magazines, Richard and Judy etc. then fell from grace spectacularly. Fantastic bit of writing, well acted, lots of laughs and a few tears at the more poignant moments. Top stuff. Another good gig – audience figures steadily growing as word gets round.

Saturday last day. Flyering like mad, til we ran out of flyers. Biggest crowd of the week, just wish I had the spare time to extend the run. Proof that what I do works at Edinburgh. Marvellous reaction, loads of CDs sold, met lots of lovely people after the gig, then loaded up the car and back to Berwick. Job’s a good’un.

So all in all a fantastic week. I know so many people whose first Edinburgh Fringe experience was to lose thousands, so to have the chance to play a low risk gig like this was marvellous. And a great chance to get to know how Ediburgh works. I really want to do the whole run next year ( though will have to find someway of getting away in time for Greenbelt!) Augusts will never be the same again!

Now I’m back and sorting out stuff for Greenbelt, and for my gigs in Sept/Oct/Nov. It never stops, thank God.

Grace And Gratitude Tour, first leg Blog

Well, the first leg of the tour is over, and a lot of fun it was too!

The four dates were Cambridge, Southampton, London and Brighton, at each of them I was joined by Rob Jackson in support and also for some duet stuff.

Cambridge kicked it off – the venue was a place called CB2 – a tiny and very groovy cellar venue, with a low stage and nice simple lighting. Rob and I also had Peter Chilvers along on this one, and his set kicked off the show – a set of solo looping keyboard/sampled string stuff which was beautiful. Actually, he didn’t kick it off, I did with an ambient loopy thing, just cos we’d forgotten to bring a CD player for background music… :o)

After Pete came Rob’s first set of the tour – I’ve got Rob’s CD, ‘Wire Wood And Magnets’ and have heard him playing guitar for Boo Hewerdine before, but this was the first time I’d seen him play a whole solo set, and he was fabulous. Really really beautiful music. Very funny between songs, and a gorgeous tone. We mic’d up his little Cornell amp and ran it through my AccuGroove/QSC/Mackie rig, which sounded fanastic. Catherine street-team did an amazing street-teamers job of flyering and postering before-hand, bringing friends, doing the door and CDs!!! Good lord, the woman’s a god-send.

Then came my solo set – the first time I’ve played the tunes off the new CD live. I did the title tune, Shizzle, The Kindness Of Strangers, Despite My Worst Intentions and a few older numbers. Shizzle was a little bit shambolic but I largely pulled it off, although on ‘Despite My Worst Intentions’ I clicked ‘next loop’ to start recording the B section and it was already there!!! Possibly the weirdest two seconds I’ve ever had on stage, suddenly stepping sideways into some futuristic world where Echoplexes know what you’re about to play! what had happened was I’d played the tune in the soundcheck, but hadn’t wiped that loop, just the A loop, so everything else was in Loop 1, and Loop 2 was merrily waiting to be retriggered. Very odd indeed.

Stayed at Robs, brunch at The Orchard in Grantchester (the first of quite a few nice posh lunches on this tour), then back to mine to change, and get ready to head down to Southampton. I brought the box of CDs in doors to replenish from the previous night’s sales, and completely forgot to put them back in the car!!

Drove to Southampton, stopping for a bite to each in a pub in Buriton, Hampshire with Iain Martin from Stiff Promotions and his brother Ali.

The gig was at The Hobbit – a HUGE pub in Southampton, on about 5 different levels, outdoor bits, etc. absolutely massive. the music was in a little room in the middle, with a stage and a built in PA. The venue hire bands in to play, but don’t charge on the door. We set up, I realised I only had two CDs there to sell (doh!), and lots of friendly faces turned up. But the music wasn’t set to start til 10pm, and by then, a lot of very hammered people had also turned up and set themselves up by the stage, who proceeded to talk/shout/laugh/make dickheads of themselves loudly for the next three hours. The venue did nothing. No concern for either Rob or I, or the majority of the people there who wanted to listen to the music. So much for treating the musicians well. Given that the place was huge, it wouldn’t have been hard for the venue to ask them to move to another part of the venue, or for them to even have charged a couple of quid to get into the room we were playing in, thus filtering out the losers.

Anyway, the nice people outnumbered the morons, and we had a great night inspite of the shouting. Always nice to see friendly faces in the audience, especially Grant, Aidan and my Southampton mini-me, Vicky.

long drive home in the middle of the night, back to London.

Saturday night was Launch gig at Darbucka – possibly the grooviest venue in London, sumptuously decorated, great food, lovely arabic vibe. A marvellous place. Very nice to see so many friendly faces there (though I’m not sure how good it is that about a third of the audience already had the new CD via the advanced ordering thingie on the site!).

At both the Southampton gig and the London gig I had a bit of a Nightmare getting ‘The Kindness Of Strangers’ to work – it’s a really tricky tune to get the for rhythmic loops at the beginning in time with. you’ve got an initial loop, that gets kicked up an octave, as you start recording the next tune layer, then another little melodic line, and then the dubby bassline that takes it from a one bar phrase to 16 bar phrase. it was at about the time of my third restart on the tune that I realised how much harder the new stuff (and my new live setup) is to play! Blimey, these tunes are much more complex, and as more of them were improvised on the spot than on ‘Not Dancing’, it’s taking me longer to learn them.

At both the Southampton gig and the London gig, Rob played marvellously again, and it became very apparent that it’s a really good touring combination, me and Mr Jackson.

Theo also came and played with us on the London gig, played a beautiful solo tune, did a couple of duets with me, and a really nice trio tune to end a marvellous night. Thanks very much to everyone who came down.

And finally Sunday night in Brighton. Or not – it was actually in Southwick, just outside Brighton, which on Pride weekend, is not the greatest place to be (my fault for choosing to tour in August, a notoriously bad month for touring). Add to that the venue changing hands a week before and the new owners putting up NO posters for the gig, and you’re not on for a big crowd.

thankfully promoter Rich did a great job, got his mates down, the room was fantastic with a view over the harbour, and the gig was great fun. A really nice listening audience in a gorgeous venue. Can’t say fairer than that!

So all in, a great four days. There’s some work to be done on the new tunes to get them up to the standard of the album, but they’re already sounding lovely in the set.

I’m now really looking forward to leg II – Glasgow, Berwick and Edinburgh. See you there!

soundtrack – right now, Michael Manring and David Cullen, ‘ Equilibre’. Before that, The Low Country, ‘Welcome to The Low Country’.

Two more great gigs and The Godfather Pt II

so, what’s been happening?

Last Friday night, Evil Harv and I went to see The Pixies at Brixton Academy. I’d really really been looking forward to this, having missed them when they were around last time (I lived in Berwick on Tweed, so didn’t get to go to many gigs!). Graham Coxon, the ex-Blur guitarist was the support, and was surprisingly good – I didn’t really have high expectations, but his blend of Blur’s noisier moments (it becaume clear what his part in their sound was) and the 80s american hardcore of bands like Husker Du and Black Flag was marvellous. Fine voice and some great guitar playing.

Then the Pixies came on, and played non-stop for over an hour. Not a word was said between songs, no breaks, no nothing, just out of one song into the next. It was marvellous. Loads of stuff from Doolittle and Surfer Rosa. All fantastic. A brilliant brilliant gig.

Saturday night, the small person and I went to see the new Harry Potter film – The Prisoner of Askerban. I enjoyed the other two, but this is the best of the three so far. Darker, faster moving, better acting from the three main kids, a great cameo by Gary Oldman as the Prisoner. Excellent stuff.

and Sunday was Godfather Pt II – regular blogsters will remember I was godfather to Angus a few months back, and on Sunday I was godfather to Charlie. Forgot to take any photos, but I’m sure there were plenty taken, so I’ll see if I can get hold of one for here. A ‘triffic day – Jonny and Rosie Didj are Charlie’s mum and dad, and live on a barge, so the party afterwards was marvellous. Much fun. And of course, I get to be Charlie’s godfather as he grows up, and with him and Angus being around the same age, I can take them both out to weird gigs as they get older! :o)

Monday morning Evil Harv MSN’s me offering a free ticket to see Peter Gabriel. I saw him last time round, and it was amazing, so a bit of diary juggling, and I was able to drive straight from a recording sesh at Jez’s in the afternoon in Oxford to Wembley for the gig.

Two support acts, the first one playing what sounded like Lloyd-Webber/Ben Elton compositions – crappy west end show tunes that did nothing for me at all. Second one was an african dude with a guitar who was much better.

Then Peter and band came on. Any chance to see Tony Levin play is a treat, the guy’s a bass legend and a genius. Another mindblowing gig. Lots of clever staging, lighting and of course Peter and his daughter zipping round the stage on Segway HTs – I SOOOOO want one, but they’re a bit pricey… if anyone should feel like buying me one, please get in touch… ;o)

the set was similar to the last gig, though I don’t remember there being a huge train wreck in the middle of Salisbury Hill – someone in the band lost their place completely, and I think Peter had to count them back in! After the show, it took me almost an hour to get from Wembley back to the North Circular!! grrrrr.

On the recording front, I’ve got a version of the album finished, which is nice as it gives me a strong reference point. Anything that I record now that’s better than what’s on there, I can swap into the album, or it can go towards it being a double… lots of fun.

Soundtrack – once again, me me me…

Hi, honey, I'm home…

after being away for about two weeks.

First week was in Denmark, visiting the International People’s College. IPC is a ‘folk high school’ – a scandinavian educational model that looks at learning as something that’s worth doing for its own sake rather than just for the piece of paper you’ll get at the end of it. The various folk high schools around Denmark, Sweden, Norway etc. have different emphases (emphasise?? no idea…) – some are all about sport, or film making or whatever, and this one is an international school (the clue’s in the name), drawing currently from 32 different countries as diverse as nepal, england, argentina, tibet, bangladesh, malta, poland, USA, romania, uganda, kenya, australia and brazil.

the focus of the college is on conflict resolution, cross cultural studies, development issues and for most of the students it’s seen as a great place to learn english. The staff are an amazingly diverse bunch – from cambodia, mauritania, denmark, australia etc. etc. and the food’s great.

The reason for the visit is that my mum’s involved in trying to set up a folk high school in Berwick On Tweed (middle of nowhere and turn left), and I taught on their summer school this year. So we both went on a fact finding trip, to see if all this folk high school stuff was hippie idealism or a the answer to the UK’s current education crisis (education, education, education said Blair. bollocks bollocks bollocks says the entire population of england, 6 years on.) It was amazing – a fully functional school, the classes dealt with some pretty intense stuff, lofty concepts and deep philosophical stuff, all within the framework of 32 cultures under one roof, all unwittingly capable of deeply offending one another! :o)

With a week at the college and a couple of days to look round Copenhagen, we had a marvellous week (also had a nice chance to drop in and see Anders-Streetteam at one of the most amazing drum shops I’ve ever seen!) Copenhagen’s a great city – here’s hoping I can sort out some gigs there soon…

Got home from there for one day, did a day’s teaching, and headed off to Amsterdam on holiday. Warning – if you’re living in London, heading off to Copenhagen and Amsterdam in the space of a week is not a great idea if you still want to feel really good about where you live… Don’t get me wrong, I do like living here, and some things about being in England are magic, but politically we’re losing it, and the whole crime/vandalism/transport/weirdness thing has become the british axis of evil. Amsterdam is beautiful – it’s great to see a city of that size operate with so little car traffic. Thousands and thousands of bikes, but precious little car useage. lots of canals, gorgeous canals, and some very groovy shops. The liberal drug laws seem like a cool thing (when was the last time you saw someone get stoned and start a fight??), and there were much less of an agressive feel there than on a night out in central london, but the ‘liberal’ attitude to porn and prostitution is, according to the UN and other sources, just a front for some seriously nasty illegal stuff. So much for unionising the prostitution industry – doesn’t really help the girls who are being trafficked from asia and eastern europe. London has a huge problem with this too, but at least we don’t pretend that being a prostitute is a great gig and that it’s all kosher here… scary stuff.

Still, it’s a great city, sex-tourism aside, and I hope to go back and do some gigs there too soon!

And now I’m back home – time to get to work promoting the CD, which hopefully you’ve all bought by now! :o) Theo did a huge mailout to radio and media while I was away, so reviews and airplay should start happening soon… til then, play the CD to your friends, steal their money and buy them it for christmas. Lots of people are saying it’s their favourite of the CDs I’ve put out, which is nice.

On the bad news front, I heard today that Mike Yaconelli was killed in a car accident a couple of days ago – if you’ve ever been to Greenbelt, Yak won’t need any intro. If not, he was an author, social activist, realist, speaker, comedian and all round remarkable human being who did far more in his 61 years than many people could acheive in 10 times that. His passing is a loss to the world. here’s the report from his hometown. Please spare and thought and a prayer for his family.

Soundtrack – while I was away I picked up a few CDs – Charlie Haden, ‘American Dream’; Jing Chi, ‘Live’; Living Daylights, ‘Electric Rosary’ and Metalwood’s latest, which is upstairs and I can’t remember the title, but they’re all very good indeed! Today I’ve been listening to Jonatha Brooke, ’10 cent wings’, which is oustandingly brilliant, like just about every note jonatha has ever uttered.

Weapon Of Mouse Destruction

Just been up to see my mum for a few days – very nice it was too. My mum’s cat is called Gizmo. Well, technically, he’s my brother’s cat, but he’s moved out, and the cat stayed… anyway, Gizzy is the cutest friendliest cuddliest little beasty on the planet… so long as you’re human. If you happen to be any kind of warm blooded furry or feathered thing, and smaller than a tiger, she views you as potential dinner. Mice, rats, voles, moles, rabbits, hares, pheasants, and all manner of garden birds. She’s lethal. A one-feline environmental disaster area. How can one so seemingly cute be such a cold-blooded killer?? Guess the various smiling faces telling us about how they plan to rid the world of evil, whilst perpetrating muchos evil of their own have been taking lessons… Indeed, she’s a veritable Weapon Of Mouse Destruction…

(BTW, Tonight there’s a round-the-world candle-lit vigil for Peace, called for by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Check and see if a church near you is involved and head along there…)

Anyway, whilst in Berwick, managed to catch up with Heath – first known as ‘the boy next door’ when we first moved to Berwick (1986), soon became the drummer in the first band I was in (called various things, I think Mother’s Legs was the longest lasting name, though we never did a gig.) Heath then went to the same college as me, and now works in a theatre just north of London. He’s a very nice bloke, and it was a lovely surprise that he was ‘home’ at the same time as me…

Got a couple of days in the studio this week, with Chris Bowater (gospel singer/worship leader guy from Lincoln that I used to do loads of gigs with) – very much looking forward to that. Playing with Chris was always a fun challenge – he’s got an amazing sense of harmony, and is a great piano player. Other than that, it’s lots of teaching, and getting to grips with Fruity Loops – been programming drum beats, and learning how to automate effects changes and mutes etc… all good stuff…

Hang on, forgot to mention rather fabulous and eventful gig last Tuesday night – I was playing at Delicattesen in Reading (see link on left hand side), with Julie Lee (who I played at Greenbelt with last year), and with Pierce Pettis (who I’d not played with before, but who is marvellous) – I was only doing a couple of songs with each of them… That all went well, but half way through Pierce’s set, some poor bloke collapsed, fell off his chair and had a fit! Didn’t look like Epilepsy, and he came out of it pretty quick. We sat him up, and tried to talk to him, but he was still pretty out of it, and couldn’t stand up to leave the room. So we called an ambulance which arrived in LESS THAN A MINUTE!!! – you can say what you want about the national health service, but that’s what I call speedy response!! They took him in for observation, but the medics said he was in no immediate danger. Anyway, if by some quirk of fate you’re reading this, Mr-Looks-Like-Kenny-Rogers-And-Falls-Over-At-Gigs, I hope you’re feeling much better…

Aside from that it was a stunning night’s music – same line up as the 12 Bar Club gig the week before – Julie and Pierce, with Brian Houston on before them. All three are seriously world-class headline act stock, and if you get any chance at all to see them, jump at it!

One of the best things about the evening was Pierce’s between song banter, which is excellent – very very funny indeed.

so here’s my top 5 banterers (in no particular order)

  • Pierce Pettis
  • Michael Manring
  • Ben Castle
  • Martyn Joseph
  • Mo Foster

In fact, Mo’s stories are so good, he’s written a book – 17 Watts – full of his marvellous rock ‘n’ roll anecdotes, which is required reading for anyone with an interest in the birth of rock ‘n’ roll in the UK, and the growth of the music industry here through the 60s and 70s…

Soundtrack – currently, listening to more of the stuff by me and theo (hopefully the street-teamers will have some of this to listen to soon…), and whilst away, the soundtrack was Michael Franti – ‘Songs From The Front Porch’, Scritti Politti – ‘Cupid and Psyche’, Francis Dunnery ‘Man’, Lifehouse ‘Stanley Climbfall’, ‘Pierce Pettis ‘Everything Matters’ and ‘Making Light Of It’, and Juliet Turner – ‘Burn The Black Suit’ – all very fine stuff. The drive home from Berwick was mostly soundtracked by Radio 4 (always fun to learn new stuff just by sticking the radio on – doesn’t happen too often with the TV), and then a documentary about Elvis Costello, ensuring that sometime this evening ‘Armed Forces’ will go on…

Some interesting recent listening

Back when I was in school (late 80s), we had a small group of friends who would all head down to fat george’s record shop on Bridge Street in Berwick on a Saturday morning to order records… any old records… the more obscure the better.

In those pre-internet times, the source of all knowledge about what was available was the Music Maker Publications big red book of records, which listed just about everything that was on general release.

I bought some great stuff through that, and some total bollocks. Great stuff, like Steve Berry – ‘Trio’, John Zorn – ‘Spillane’, the best of Weather Report etc. etc… and some rubbish like ‘Electric Storm in Hell’ by White Noise…

One record that we all really wanted to get but could never find was ‘Ladies Don’t Have Willies’ by a band called 64 Spoons. It seemed like the most preposterous title for a single – add to that the daft band name, and we had to know what it sounded like. But sadly, week after week, George couldn’t find it, it was out of print… whatever, it never turned up.

Fast forward 15 years, and in the last two tours I’ve done, with the Schizoid Band and Level 42, I’ve been touring with two ex-members of said Spoons! Jakko Jakszyk (guitar/vox with Schizoids) and Lyndon Conner (keys/vox with L42) were both in 64 Spoons!

Enter not-at-all-evil Dann, delving deep into his extensive CD collection to provide an early 90s compilation of Spoonerisms from the late 70s/early 80s… and bizarrely enough, it’s pretty good. Very good in places. Very silly and self conscious in other places, but sort of Squeeze meets Cat-Food era Crimson, meets Joe Jackson with a touch of Blockheads-funk… The kind of thing, that were it more widely known, would now be forcing people onto the dance floor at schooldisco.com events.

Still haven’t heard Ladies Don’t Have Willies though…

After that, the next CD I listened to couldn’t be more different Juldeh Camara is a West African singer/composer and player of the one string fiddle! I first heard his stuff on Charlie Gillett’s show on BBC London, but then met up with Duncan Noble – a bassist who has assembled a touring project with Juldeh, playing in the UK early next year.

It’s amazing how Juldeh manages to keep your attention… even mesmerise you with just fiddle and voice. And judging by the range of material on the CDR that Duncan gave me, he’s more than happy to recontextualise his playing and writing into whatever setting is around, from acoustic blues to funk/soul stuff… I really hope that their tour doesn’t clash with my dates in California next year, as I’d love to see this live…

Finally got stuck into the last chapter of Derek Bailey’s ‘Improvisation – its nature and practice in music’ book last night. It’s an amazing book, but I do have a habit of dropping books somewhere in or around the last chapter… seems to be a theme running through my life (do half the washing up, write half a song, tidy half my office, etc. etc…)

Anyway, the last chapter is all about the Musicians Improvisors Collective (MIC – I think that’s what it stands for…), and is very interesting indeed. The whole book is very highly recommended for anyone interested in improv and its relationship to music making as a whole…

Busy day today – meeting Jam-comedy-writer this afternoon, and going to see Moby play tonight… well, going to meet up with Greta Brinkman, who happens to be playing with Moby. Evil Harv’s coming as well, so that’ll be my dose of eville for the week sorted then…

before that, need to tidy up here, as my mum arrives for a short stay later on. Always nice to see my mum, cos she’s great!