G20 protests – a change is gonna come.

picture of protesters outside the Bank of EnglandToday I went down to the protest outside the Bank Of England that coincided with the meeting of the G20 in London. It was a multi-angle protest, seeking to bring together the shared concerns of the environmental movement, anti-capitalists, the climate change brigade, the stop the war coalition and those who wanted to see a greater degree of culpability placed on the financial systems and institutions that presided over the current global economic collapse.
Continue reading “G20 protests – a change is gonna come.”

This week in review

So, we’ve done the Stop the War march… What was next? Ah yes, Stars at Scala – one of those bands that the kids listen to that Catster has made me aware of. The album is rather lovely, equal parts bleepy and electronic, huge and anthemic. It’s bleepy to the degree that I had no idea whether on stage they’d be a band or three peoples with laptops. As it was, they were a classic Rock 6 piece – guitar bass drums keys, and two singers who also played guitar and keys.

stars at Scala

What was sad is that they pretty much removed everything from the live sound that made the record interesting. They transformed from electronic rock pioneers into an early 90s stage-2-at-greenbelt fairly dull-sounding rock band. I stayed for about 6 song – apparently they got better after that point…

Tuesday was a lotsa fun – the evening started with Douglas Coupland at the Bloomsbury, with Sarda and Kari. We three Coupland geeks, all v. excited to hear this king of zeitgeisty cool speak. And what did we discover? That he’s a proper geek, talking in half finished phrases, jumping from topic to tangental topic, and reading extracts from his book, or rather from the book within his book, and then from the book within the book within his new book, The Gum Thief. And he was fab. I like geeks, a lot – I like being around them, finding their absence of concern for what’s cool or not comforting (as a solo bassist, one has to gravitate to places were Cool is not a Concern :o) and I found him witty and charming.

douglas coupland

The event ended slightly oddly, with Douglas looking slight uncomfortable, perhaps like he was about to cry, saying something to the effect of ‘you do know this is the last one of these I’m ever going to do. My book reading days are over, thanks, goodnight.’ He did a signing after this, but we were onto new things.

julie mckee

New Things being Julie McKee and Beth Rowley at the Troubadour (a club with which I have a long history, having recorded my first album there). Was great to see both of them play, with their lovely respective bands. All in a lovely night out (though £17 for three drinks and a two bowls of chips was insane! )

beth rowley

Wednesday night I went out to Pizza Express on Dean Street to see Robert Mitchell’s Panacea, featuring Robert on keys alongside Richard Spaven on drums, Tom Mason on bass and Deborah Jordan on vocals. ‘Twas a sublime gig, and Robert’s choice of Deborah as vocalist is inspired – the tunes are really complex jazz melodies, with big intervals and weird rhythmic twists, which in the hands of ‘normal’ jazz singer would end up sounding like Manhattan Transfer does the Elektric Band, but with the superb funky rhythm section of Richard and Tom, and Deborah transforming the jazz into soulful songs, it becomes something entirely different, and beautiful. A very fine gig.

Thursday – a me-gig, another one of these acoustic singer/songwriter nights I’ve been doing, just seeing how what I do works to an audience of acoustic music fans who have no idea who I am. Once again, it was fun and well received, but I’m probably going to knock these on the head for a while, as the way the venues are set up is to get as many acts through as possible in the hope that a) the performers themselves will drink and that b) they’ll bring friends to watch them. There’s very little concern for quality control (last night was a fairly even split between pretty good and Godawful), and a big focus on turnover at the bar. Which is understandable – with property prices being what they are in London, nowhere can really afford to have a half-empty night just for the sake of putting on a cool gig, and none of the venues have got the balls – or capital – to book only great acts, charge and entrance fee, let the bands play for longer, and wait for the night to gain a reputation… Instead they are either 20 min sets, free to get in, happy for the audience to talk, or pay to play band-gets-a-pound-back-for-each-punter-they-bring deals. Total bollocks for musicians, but fairly intractable for venue owners.

it’s why I’m so grateful to have found Darbucka, though I appreciate that I’ll not be able to book there if it gets busier during the week – they can’t afford to have music to the detriment of their business any more than any other venue…

But it’s been fun doing the acoustic nights, wowing a few people and no doubt boring the arse off a few others. :o)

stop the war protest, London, Oct 8th

So yesterday was the Stop The War protest in London. Starting with a rally in Trafalgar Square, and then a march down Whitehall to Parliament Square. It was a relatively small affair (relative to the 2 million who descended on london on the eve of the war back in 2002), but the ranks were swelled by the Government’s attempts to declare it illegal – something on which they wisely made a u-turn at the last minute.

The speeches were the typical ‘preaching to the converted’ arrangement – does anyone go to a rally like this to get information? To have their opinions changed? I guess they have value as part of the process of disseminating information, statistics and updates on things that haven’t been in the press, but having lots of lovely trade unionists shouting at a government who aren’t listening to ‘get out of Iraq’ seemed a bit of a waste of time… Anyway, Mark Thomas and Mark Steele were both good value as always, George Galloway was as self-aggrandising as usual, and the former-SAS soldier was rather poignant. I didn’t get to hear Walter Wolfgang or Brian Haw, but I guess they were probably interesting too.

The march then proceeded down Whitehall, which was fine til we arrived at Parliament Square to find the square itself fenced off, and the police blocking the road and not really explaining to anyone what was going on. I asked a friendly looking officer, who told me it was ‘probably to get the people through into the square in larger groups’, as opposed to the stretched out nature of the march… Fair enough, would’ve made sense to let people know.

So they proceeded to let the march through in chunks, and herd people off down Millbank, instead of allowing them to assemble in the square, which quite understandably pissed off a lot of people. There didn’t appear to be any reason not to allow people into the square. Tempers flared a little, and a group of anarchists staged a sit down protest in the middle of the road at the junction between whitehall and the square. Nothing major kicked off, but it did expose the lack of a plan that the police had…

Anyway, a few observations… As Jyoti very wisely points out, while the minor altercations between the police and anarchists in the square became a protest about the right to protest, the main purpose of the day was to continue to voice the need for the UK government to a) be held to account for their part in the political disaster and human tragedy that is Iraq, b) to call for the withdrawal of troops who only seem to be rubbing salt into the wounds of a deeply lacerated country, and c) to call on the government to be unequivocal in condemning the disastrous idea of a US or Israeli military strike on Iran. Those are not, by their nature partisan political demands. They don’t require a subscription to a particular doctrine or left/right divide. So it’s a shame that the terms of engagement are defined by the old school left, the trade union movement, and the constituents of the march itself were largely dominated by the ‘usual suspects’ – trade unionists, students, hippies, religious activists and leftie political groups.

This is certainly to the shame of the anti-war contingent to the centre and right of the political spectrum, but is also a reflection of the culture within which such protests are formulated and implemented. In this ultra-brand-conscious times, the Stop The War coalition is only a partial coalition, of the aforementioned groups, and has managed to marginalise those whose opposition to the war is through a broader ethical and humanitarian framework, and less through a strongly held belief in the democratic right to protest in the tradition of the post-Marx left, trade unions and the ‘real’ Labour movement…

I’m not sure what needs to be done to change this – perhaps such people enact their democratic right to protest in other ways, via web activism, personal lobbying of MPs, signing petitions etc. But as a show of strength of opinion, few things carry the same weight in media-savvy times as footage of hundreds of thousands of people on the streets. I’m not sure how many were there yesterday – 10,000? perhaps. As a percentage of the number of people who distrust the government over their actions on the middle east, it’s paltry. Still enough to make a noise, but certainly evidence that a hell of a lot of people don’t feel inspired by or included in the Stop The War Coalition…

Anyway, it was good to be there, very lovely to see Jyoti again, and important to be a part of such a thing, and lend my support to such an obviously positive message.

click here to view a slideshow of my pictures from the day

Campaign for an investigation into the Iraq War

as a rule, I find online petitions a problematic area – are they ever recognised by anyone? Are petitions in general trustworthy enough for them to carry any clout?

In this instance, the issues at stake are too great for any faffing over such triflings – the Stop The War Coalition, in a campaign fronted by the wonderful Tony Benn, are calling for an investigation into breaches of The Nuremberg Charter and Geneva and Hague Conventions during the Iraq War and occupation.

read about it over on Jyoti’s lovely blog of cleverness.

The legal smokescreen assembled around the Iraq affair is despicable – I understand the argument that when troops are committed we need to rally behind them. Yes, I understand, I just think it doesn’t hold any water when there’s a distinct possibility/probability/certainty that those very same troops are being shot and blown up on a false pretext, or conversely those troops are implicated in the convention breaches. The endless stream of news stories and first hand accounts of the fucked-up-ness of the treatment of Iraqi prisoners, civilians and those labeled as ‘enemy combatants’ (you’ve got to love the ability of the US government to invent euphemisms to undermine the critique of their behaviour) is damning in the extreme, but thus far none of the legal challenges have come to fruition. there’s a cross party campaign by MPs to have Blair tried for his part in instigating the illegal attack, which so far hasn’t come to anything. Hopefully this application to the UN for a proper investigation will get taken seriously.

Goodbye Mo

Mo Mowlam died this morning.

I’m so upset by this – Mo was an amazing woman, one of the few New Labour politicians who never seemed to toe the party line at all. She will forever be remembered as the woman who told Ian Paisley to ‘fuck off’, something a lot of people have been wanting to say to him for a long time.

She spoke at stop the war rallies, she was openly critical of much of the Blairite agenda, and spoke up about the victimisation she faced in parliment – a situation I’m sure many more people have to deal with but never have the balls to go public on.

Her death is a huge loss to British public life, to the personality of British politics, and the surrounding press will be another reminder to Blair that he can’t shape public opinion. Just as Robin Cook will be remembered more for his ethical stance against the war than for his affair, so Mo will be remembered as a woman who didn’t take the shit that New Labour tried to throw at her.

The good ones always die first…

other links – Guardian Newsblog, the Indie, news.bbc


Commentary on Live 8/MPH

here’s an excellent Blog-post from Barky’s blog – it’s a measured questioning of some of the fundementals of the Live 8/MPH aims and methods, whilst be largely supportive of the movement.

He highlights that the existence of the G8 is a big part of the problem, and also flags up the slightly worrying move within the MPH organisation to sideline the anti-war protestors at the march on Saturday, despite the rather obvious and catastrophic link between war and poverty.

What definitely needs exploring here is the distrust of the Stop the War Coalition of many anti-war protestors, myself included. I’m not a fan of either the Muslim Association of Great Britain or The Socialist Worker’s Party, whose muddled combined agenda seems to be driving the movement. Maybe it was the coalition who were sidelined, not anti-war sentiment per se.

Anyway, the blog post is food for thought.

SoundtrackKris Delmhorst, ‘Five Stories’.

The downside to being a music teacher…

…is working most saturdays. This Saturday in particular is a pain because it’s the big Stop The War – Bring The Troops Home rally in central London.

The galling thing is I would’ve gone, I’d have put all the teaching on different days if I’d known, but alas, I only found out about it today! What kind of a crap activist am I? Not even knowing about this stuff.

Anyway, it is really the only downside to teaching – having to work evenings and weekends. If I want to go to a gig, I have to make sure I’ve got no teaching in, and same for Saturdays. I do have the advantage of being entirely self-employed so I can take as much time off as I like, but missing a Saturday’s teaching is a fair chunk of my weekly wages, unless I’ve got a few gigs in that week. So when everyone else is off work and has free time, I have to cancel paid work to get involved with anything.

As a result I’ve always kept Sundays free (I’ve probably taught a total of about 20 hours on Sundays in the last 12 years) – partly out of residual evangelical guilt about working on a Sunday, but also out of the need for a day off, and a day when I can be sure to be free to do fun things with fun people.

Anyway, if I can’t go to the march on Saturday, I can at least encourage you lot to go, if you’re in London. As I commented earlier, the case for the war has totally collapsed, the behaviour of the troups is appalling, the Iraqi people have voted for a total withdrawal of foreign troups, and most of the troups don’t even want to be there. So, go, march, take a lifesized of me with you and wave it whenever there’s someone around who looks to be doing a head-count.

Soundtrack – Prince, ‘Purple Rain’; Miles Davis, ‘ESP’.

orders come flooding in…

…big thanks to everyone who’s bought the CD so far – lots of orders are in already, well on the way to covering cost before the CD comes out, which is always nice – it’s a slightly precarious thing this releasing your own CDs. Modern computer recording has made that side of it a lot easier, but without the funds to do blanket advertising etc. we rely on word of mouth more than anything, so please let your chums know about it…

Anyway – what’s been happening over the last few days? Well, Saturday was the Stop The War march in London – somewhere between 20 and 100 thousand folks out (usually split the difference is close – so say 50thousand), marching from Hyde Park to Trafalger Square. Much was made of it not being as big as February’s march, which is quite honestly shabby journalism – since when did marches protesting the complexity of requests to withdraw troups and playing poodle to Bush ever gather the same emotive response from the general populace as stopping the government going into a war that was at that point still avoidable?? Nonsense. It was a huge display of public unrest, with lots of the banners calling for an end to lies and spin, sick of Blair’s failure to engage with public opinion or even his own party. With the Labour conference going on at the moment, he’s getting a bit more of a battering, but still not enough. The party are refusing to allow a debate on Iraq at the conference – knowing obviously that Tony’s position is completely out of step with just about every labour supporter in the country. So much for living in a democracy.

Anyway, the march was good – it’s always nice to know that you’re not alone in finding the actions of the leaders of the west dispicable. Nice to stand alongside lots of very normal, but very pissed off people. The most moving group I saw was the ex-servicemen against the war group – decorated servicemen from the second world war saying enough’s enough…

So on Monday I went down to Eastbourne – firstly to fix Tess’ Echoplex, which wasn’t broken at all, and then to check the chromalin artwork for the new album, which was approved and sent off, with the delivery date set at the 13th october! how exciting – get those orders in now! :o)

Came back and headed over to have a play with BJ Cole and Orphy Robinson – our new trio of Pedal Steel, Bass and Steel Pans is really exciting – it’s cool because we haven’t taken written tunes in at this stage, just jamming to find the sound of the band, what works, what doesn’t, and lots of what we did on Monday worked. Hopefully we’ll be gigging soon

and talking of gigs, I’ve got a few dates coming up, it seems. Lots of unconfirmed but highly likely stuff. Just need to sort out logisitics to firm them up. And now I need to sort out a date or two with theo over the coming months…

Oh, and talking of Theo, there’s a new MP3 up from the extra disc – ‘It’s Not Gonna Happen’. The track’s called ‘As Long As My Arm’ and the MP3 is a 6 minute edit from a 15 minute track!


SoundtrackJoni Mitchell, ‘Hejira’; Jughead, ‘Jughead’; Prefab Sprout, ‘Jordan The Comeback’; Steve Lawson and Theo Travis, ‘For The Love Of Open Spaces’.

Peace-Party In The Park…

here are some photos from London’s stop the war march on Saturday, taken by me… they aren’t great, sorry. It was an amazing feeling joining with more than a million other people to voice our discontent at the bizarre way the US and UK governments are going about trying to engineer an attack on Iraq. This was democracy in action, and hopefully will have scared the shit out of Bush and Blair if they think they can go around flattening cities and killing untold thousands of innocent people without the people they are supposed to represent getting rid of them. Tony, your days are numbered.

Anyway, the march itself was a fantastic experience – I was walking with my mum, and met up with loads of people from St Luke’s as well as bumping into Vibraphonist Orphy Robinson along the way. Loads of other people I knew were there, but in a crowd of more than a million, what chance to you have of meeting up? Actually, I did meet up with Dave and James, who both probably knew where I was because they both, at different times, are the man who knows – a concept I shall explain at greater length later.

anywhere, here’s the piccies…

Sleep perchance to… wake up again at 4 in the morning…


never had it this bad before – three days in a row I’ve woken up at 4.30am, and usually I can sleep wherever and whenever I want… not good. In fact, have spent loads of time asleep since I got back – combination of jetlag, exhaustion from touring, and some sort of cold/throat infection thing I seem to have picked up somewhere along the way. Not dying, but not exactly on tip top form either…

So what have I been up to? not much, to be honest. Still trying to catch up on emails etc. Working on some more gigs for later in the year – newcastle in may, and a london one quite soon, I Think… more on that ASAP…

Saturday, if I’m well enough, I’ll be going on the stop the war demo in London – could be huge, should be huge. The more of the news I see, the more insane it all seems to get. Colin Powell trying to suggest the french are just getting their UN-kicks by stalling? er, no, I think you’ll find they’ve thought you were mad since day one for suggesting this war… Anyway, I’ll be there, infecting everyone with my viral stuff, but hopefully helping to let Blair know we think he’s a dickhead.

Today will be a tidying day – my mum’s arriving later on (coming down for the demo), and the house is a tip.

Soundtrack – yesterday, I just listened to ‘Lessons Learned…’ about six times in a row – definitely my favourite of my albums at the moment, and possibly destined for a CDR release before too long, maybe with another CD of ambient noodlings… we’ll see… Other than that, been listening to ‘The Willies’ by Bill Frisell (excellent as always), ‘Kakusei’ by DJ Krush (down tempo IDM – very cool indeed), and ‘this sentence is true (the previous sentence is false)’ by Sheila Chandra, which, as with all her stuff, is stunning. what else. Oh yes, the new album from Theo Travis, an album of solo alto flute looping called ‘Slow Life’, it’s lovely, naturally, as is all of theo’s music. And lastly, the new album from Michael Franti – ‘Sounds From The Front Porch’, which is just what the doctor ordered as the world heads towards more rich people bombing poor people.

And one last site to check out – www.axisofjustice.org – great site, run by Tom Morello I think, from Audioslave – is the audioslave album any good? been meaning to check it out… very good site anyway. go there and get informed!

oh and by the way, I posted a link to Todd Johnson, the bassist’s, site the other day as www.toddjohnson.com which turns out to be a hocket player or something… anyway, Todd’s real web address is www.toddjohnsonmusic.com – go pay him a visit, and ask him sports related questions… :o)

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