We've been had…

Just watched John Pilger’s latest documentary on ITV. The damning evidence that the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were just a sham driving by a desire for dominance in an oil rich region, rather than any genuine concern about ‘terrorism’ or WMDs, is very strong and very frightening.

Read about the program here

and more specifically, have a read about both Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice commenting in interviews in 2001 (before Sept, obviously) that Iraq posed no threat, had no WMDs and had no access to them.

The whole doc was full of stuff like that – stacking up against the Bush/Blair axis of bullshit. We’ve been had, people. We’ve been conned, and it’s still going on. Meanwhile an estimated 10,000 Iraqi civillians have been killed, along with loads of US troups, who are still being attacked for being in a country they shouldn’t have had to go to in the first place.

SoundtrackKelly Joe Phelps, ‘Slingshot Professionals’; Andre LaFosse, ‘Normalise’; Prefab Sprout, ‘Jordan: The Comeback’; Mike Watt, ‘Ballhog or Tugboat?’; Steve Lawson, ‘Not Dancing For Chicken’; Mark Knopfler, ‘The Ragpickers Dream’; Ron Carter/Jim Hall, ‘Alone Together’.

that's entertainment

So, it’s the end of Big Brother for another year. It was pretty poor quality TV, though a nice change to see someone who genuinely seems like a decent person win – Cameron comes across as a likeable enough chap. Davina McCall has turned into a big of a tabloid-esque gossip monger, but still. Serves me right for watching it.

For far more edifying entertainment, check out the BBC‘s radio on demand service – especially the archive of Radio 3 programmes – The Late Junction and Jazz on 3 are great shows, but I’m rarely in a position to listen to them when they are on, so I listen to the archive instead. If you do tune in, please drop them a line and request some of my music – they have played me in the past, and will be receiving a copy of my CD with Theo Travis when it comes out in a month or so’s time.

Soundtrack – right now, Late Junction. before that, me and theo, before that, me, before that Bill Frisell, ‘Ghost Town’; Trip Wamsley, ‘It’s Better This Way’.

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…

Cold Cold Ground

Bleedin’ heck, it’s COLD!!!!! Freezin’, even!!

Our central heating still isn’t fixed, so we’ve got the electric heaters and the gas fire on full, trying to defrost our frozen tootsies… and my new slippers are helping too! See, I’m 30 now, so slippers are de riguer…

It’s ages since I last blogged, what have I been up to? Well lots of teaching – this week is, in fact, my busiest ever private teaching week (as in, I’ve done more teaching than this, but only when private stuff was combined with college teaching) – it all comes in very handy for going to the US…

Saturday evening was fun – first off went to ‘Up’ – a mellow and ambient alternative worship thingie in Thame, Oxfordshire – lots of candles, guided meditation things, mellow music, strange sensory things to ponder. All very chilled out, and a fine way to start the new year. Went straight from there to St Luke’s, where I was on duty overnight at the Homeless night shelter we have there for three months a year… all very uneventful, though it was great getting to talk to Becky, who was on duty with me, who I’d seen at church but not really had much of a chance to chat to.

Got one hour’s sleep overnight, so not surprisingly, I went straight to bed when I got home at 7am…

Watched a very interesting TV program last night called ‘without prejudice’ – basically a game show with no game, where instead of answering inane questions to win the prize, a panel of ‘normal’ people get to choose who they want to have the prize money (50 grand) based on a range of information, and their first impressions… the bizarre thing was that I found myself thinking that non of the people deserved the money… which is odd when contrasted with quiz shows, where apparently guessing the catch-phrase, keeping ‘out of the black and into the red’ or not being the weakest link are perfectly valid ways for people to receive silly amounts of money. Odd one, but worth watching.

Today I finally got round to buying a Bonsai tree – something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I bought a part-grown one, and if this works out, I may have a go at growing some from seed. What I do need though, is a name for my tree! so I need suggestions, and the winning suggestion will receive a CDR of ‘Beauty and The Beast’ and the new version of Highway 1 that are in MP3 form on my site – proper CD quality versions of them! So, name that bonzai – email me with your suggestions, please! I’ll try to post a picture of it as soon as I can, to help inspire you…

Soundtrack – just now been listening to Prefab Sprout, ‘From Langley Park To Memphis’, which is great and of curio value as my sister used to live in Langley Park… :o) Also been listening to Thelonius Monk, ‘Monk’s Greatest Hits’, which is fantastic – the writing and his melodic phrasing are out of the world; Duke Ellington and Ray Brown, ‘This One’s For Blanton’, Metheny/Haden, ‘Beyond The Missouri Sky’, Anita Baker, ‘Rapture’.

They say it's your birthday…

…it’s my birthday too, yeah!!!

HappybirthdaytomeHappybirthdaytome
HappybirthdaydearmeHappybirthdaytome!

Thanks very much for the birthday emails – very nice, even those of you that thought it was yesterday, for some reason… :o)

It’s been a very fine day thus far – got up about 10 past 1pm, opened my pressies (loads of books and the Phoenix Nights video) – watched Phoenix Nights (very very very funny indeed. Peter Kay is a genius), then…. tidied the house!! That classic birthday celebratory tradition… :o)

So, I’m 30, and loving it. I no longer trust anything I’m told by mere children in their 20s, people obviously without the experience required to offer advice on anything. People who are 30, however, are brimming with the perfect balance of wisdom, whilst still retaining so much youthful vitality and energy. Which reminds me, it’s time for my nap…

What were those books, I hear you ask… Frank Skinner by Frank Skinner, The Benn Diaries by Tony Benn, Radical Then, Radical Now by Jonathan Sacks (the chief rabbi), Like Water On A Stone (the story of Amnesty International) by Jonathan Power, Some Luck by John Bird (the story of the Big Issue)… I’ve got so much fantastic reading material for this year, it’s fantastic! Along with the ones I got for Christmas, I’ve got about a years worth of great books… all those things I’ve been meaning to read for ages are going back on the shelf, I’m afraid…

Found out the other day that I share my birthday with none other than the lovely Sid Smith, King Crimson Biographer, on-line diarist, and delightful geordie chap. Must’ve been a good day to be born, though I suspect Sid was born a couple of years before me… If you know Sid as well, do wish him a happy birthday – we’ve exchanged birthday emails, which was nice… :o)

Just had a look at the main forum’s page of talkbass.com which lists all of today’s birthdays of the members – lots of birthdays, but no-one else who’s 30.

So for the rest of the day? Well, I’ve just watched one of the heats of World’s Strongest Man – back when I was a kid, it was seriously one of the highlights of the TV year for my brother and I to sit down and watch Geoff Capes competing in this most bizarre of competitions. It all comes flooding back, so I think I’ll watch the next heat in about half an hour… Geoff Capes, incidentally, now keeps budgies and lives in Lincolnshire… so there you go – stay of the weights, kids, they’ll only lead down to a dark (yet brightly coloured and feathered) place…

Soundtrack – for the last couple of days, I’ve been listening to Prefab Sprout’s ‘Steve McQueen’, Patrice Rushen’s ‘Straight From The Heart’, Theo Travis’ ‘Heart Of The Sun’ and Pat Metheny’s ‘Bright Sized Life’ – marvellous music all round.

Right, off to catch the next heat of World’s Strongest Man… grrrrrrr

Christmas time, no mistletoe, no wine

…just a very relaxed day, watching TV and videos, cooking and eating nice food and not doing very much at all!!

Went to church in the morning, which was fun and chaotic in the usual style of Christmas day services, came home and started our now traditional pattern of eating one course every three hours throughout the day. Started off with soup and garlic bread. That was after opening the pressies – I got a couple of books (Rich Hall’s autobiography, and Vanishing Footprints, subtitled ‘native voices speak’ it’s a book of gorgeous photos of indigenous people from around the world, telling their own story. Beautiful), the new Eddie Izzard video , Circle, which is very good, especially the hour and half of his Paris show, in French. The set from New York is very funny, but he comes across as slightly out of practice with standup, having spent so long in hollywood… and some other bits ‘n’ bobs.

Dinner was nut roast with a homemade spicey tomato, red pepper, mushroom and onion sauce, steamed veg and jacket potato (mmmm, delish!!), followed by watching the Izzard vid…

Oh, we watched Christmas top of the pops – was it worse than usual or am I just nearly 30??? 80% of the stuff on there seemed to be teenage girls dressed as hollywood hookers, singing out of tune. What on earth has happened to the record buying public??? On ‘I love 1984’ last night, there was a bit about the soul/jazz revival of ’84, with some talking head or other mentioning that it was a backlash to the rubbishness of pop at the time. Here’s hoping that something similar happens to end the reality TV horse-shit that seems to be taking over the charts. for the two biggest selling singles of the year to be Will Young and Gareth Gates is just nonsense. It’s not even like they sold because they were lowest-common-denominator catchy pop tunes – I’d rather see some PWL pre-fab crap there – they are there purely because of the exposure and media manipulation of the Pop Idol TV show. The songs themselves are sub-Barry Manilow bland MOR holiday camp bollocks. Grrrrrr.

Here I am listening to Theo Travis – outstanding saxophonist, playing original, moving, music, beautifully written and played and selling a few thousand copies, as opposed to the millions shifted by the losers. No, I’m not expecting Theo to start selling millions (he’d have to bland-out for that to happen), but it’d be nice if radio in particular, and TV programmers started to give some air time to quality music regardless of formatting and dull stylistic constraints…

Right, rant over.

I’m knackered at the moment, thanks to having taken the small persons car out of the drive with the intention of getting it valeted as an extra christmas pressie, only to have it stall on the road, and then have to try and push it back onto the drive, failing miserably but pulling lots of muscles in the process, then having to tow it back up with my car (which didn’t like that at all – I’m lucky I didn’t wreck the chassis!!). My muscles are aching like anything, and my shoulder is bruised from trying to push it.

Now it sounds like I’ve had a pain-filled misery-christmas, complaining about pop-nonsense. Not true. I’ve had a marvellous time, very relaxing. The Office is being repeated nightly at the moment, and is outstanding – Ricky Gervais is one of the most talented comics to emmerge in this country for quite a while…

Soundtrack – currently Theo’s album (see above), I’ve also been playing the MINIDISC of Theo and I playing together from Monday a lotl; I bought ‘Acoustic Soul’ by India.Arie for the Small Person for Christmas, and that’s excellent, really enjoying that, and I finally bought ‘Steve McQueen’ by Prefab Sprout on CD (very cheap from www.101cd.com ) – one of my all time faves…

BTW, Evil Harv can now be reached at evilharv@evilharv.com should you have any questions about all things eville… his evil blog will no doubt emmerge soon… :o)

Link 182

First up, a couple of sites you might want to have a look at, if you’re wanting to kill some time before doing all those things you really ought to be getting on with…

Fly The Copter – is a java game, and is rather addictive…

world’s dullest blog – you thought you were already reading it. Think again.

While we’re on the subject of ‘blogs, check out George and Gemini’s cat-blog at catchat.org – marvellous stuff!

Pacman – Ben Castle’s website, aside from having all the musical info you need about the man (which you really ought to check out), also has a java version of PacMan on it…!

What’s been happening? Well, The Aged Feline had another fit/seizure at 2.30 this morning. It’s really really traumatic to watch, as he seems to be in such pain – we’ve got a vets appt. for tomorrow, and I spoke to the vet yesterday, who said that it’s probably either blood pressure related, or to do with oxygen startvation… either way, it’s pretty worrying, and really distressing to watch, knowing that all you can do is cuddle him until it goes away (following him being sick and crapping everywhere)… weird thing is, he seems fine about an hour later… Still, I’ll be keeping a close eye on him today, checking in on him during the day… I’m hoping he’ll come and sleep down here in the office, in front of a toasty warm fire… we’ll see… I’ll have to tempt him with some quorn or red pepper (fave aged feline snacks…)

Last night was the Last Orders Christmas Curry – which was great, and all the more remarkable as Last Orders doesn’t really exist any more, and I haven’t really been involved since August 2001… It was, in its heyday, the rather groovy late night cabaret/music/comedy/nonsense show at Greenbelt, headed up by top comedy writer James Cary (Jam). Last night was me, evil harv, Jam, Jude and Andy Turner. A fine evening was had by all…

Latest news seems to be that the PPP/PFI/Part privatisation of the tube is going to cost a heck of a lot more than leaving it in the public sector… no shit, sherlock! really? what a surpirse, considering all the other PPP schemes have ended costing the government shedloads of cash for shoddy end results. Good lord, has it taken them this long to realise what a total balls up the whole PPP thing is???? Just visit any PPP hospital, and see the fine wallpaper in rooms with too few beds, and lifts that won’t fit a bed in… Why did we vote for these fools??? New Labour, Old Tory… Go on, give the Lib-Dems a go next time, I dare you…

US tour dates for January are coming along nicely – another one confirmed for San Luis Obispo this morning… I have fairly unfavourable memories of SLO from my last visit there, namely because I went through it on my way from Sacramento to Big Sur!!!! (a detour of about 250 miles!!) having been told to head down 5 to Highway 1, but not realising that I was looking for a road to connect the two, not actually the point where they met (over a hundred miles south of where I needed to me..) – I was very late for the gig, which turned out to be fine after all, but did leave me with a bit of a stigma attached to the name ‘San Luis Obispo’… :o)

Soundtrack – yesterday, was listening to Squarepusher ‘Go Plastic’, crazy drum ‘n’ bass insanity – Tom Jenkinson AKA Squarepusher is a fab bassist, although there’s no live bass on this album at all… great stuff. Since then, been listening to Drastic Measures by Michael Manring – his first ‘great’ album (his first two albums have got some fine music on them, but this is where his ‘voice’ emmerged, beautifully produced by Steve Rodby) – a very very inspiring album, which I spent some time last night playing along with…

In the car last night I put on ‘Steve McQueen’ by Prefab Sprout – which is always a bad move, as it means nothing else will get a look-in for weeks. What an unbelieveably perfect album in every way imagineable!!! Great songs, great lyrics, fantastic production (Thomas Dolby), remarkable sounds and arrangements. All round magic. I’m planning on doing a coupe of solo arrangements of tunes from the CD… who knows it they’ll work… Maybe I should do an all-covers CD… :o) Any suggestions for things I should do? feel free to email them, or post them to the website guestbook (Evil Harv, control yourself…)

The rest of today? some playing, some accounting, meeting Simon Jones for lunch (nice man), and er, that’s it.

Oh, nasty news from this morning – a woman tripped over outside the house and broke her nose!! Blood everywhere, I got a knock on the door asking for frozen peas, which I fetched, along with a chair for the woman to sit on before the ambulance arrived. Poor thing, hope she’s OK…

Not Dancing For Chicken????

This was posted in the old blog format, but I thought I’d
repost it here as you may well have come looking for it now…
Here’s the explanation of where the ‘Not Dancing For Chicken’
album title came from…

Back in about 1992, MC Hammer was attempting a comeback,
and was doing the rounds in the press claiming to be from the
street, down with the kids etc. etc. Meanwhile, he was also
doing ads for KFC, and they were sponsoring the tour. At a
New York press conference it all got too much, and one young
journo asked Hammer what on earth he was doing. Hammer
replied ‘Hey, I’m just dancing for money’, to which the journo
replied ‘No, you’re dancing for chicken’.

Fast forward best part of a decade, and british comedian Mark
Lamarr is doing an interview with London listings magazine,
Time Out, and he recounts the story before explaining that for
him, ‘Dancing For Chicken’ has become the perfect metaphor
for all those corporate gigs that musicians/comedians/actors/etc.
have to do just to pay the bills, and the ones where the money
is so insane that all but the most ethically-minded of performers
will take them (like TV ads for a fast food giant with a dubious
health and safety record…).

At the time the phrase struck a chord with me as the antithesis
of everything that I’m trying to do with my solo career – I haven’t
chased a record deal, I haven’t made a smooth jazz CD in a bid
for radio airplay, I haven’t done a completely ambient recording
in a bid for new age stardom. I just do what I do, and if people
like it, great, if they don’t, fair enough… As it is, the last couple
of months of big tours and great CD sales have been vindication
of this route, but the business plan still stands intact. If it all falls
apart, I need to have music that I’m proud of, that represents
me. So I’ll continue to soundtrack the inside of my head, and
avoid Dancing For Chicken if I can in anyway steer clear of it… :o)

Celebrity Big Brother – nonsense

Just finished watching Celeb Big Brother – what nonsense.
I know, I know – I watched it so I can’t complain… well, I
am kind of fascinated by reality TV… what is it that makes
it interesting? Why do we give a monkeys about 6 celebs
we wouldn’t turn over to watch if they were on anything
else? Sue is the only one of these I ever bother to wathc or
listen to doing anything else (her weekend lunchtime show with
Mel on Radio London is one of the finest things on radio…)

So why did I watch? I guess it’s that continued hope that it’s going
to suddenly become really interesting… like surfing the net way
beyond the point where you’ve exhausted all the things you really
wanted to look at, in the hope that you’ll find something fascinating…
which never happens…

Anyway, changing the subject entirely, this particular blog setup can
allow for a ‘comments’ function, where you blog-stalkers can post
responses to my dull ramblings… a function I’d love to use… if it
wasnt’ for evil harv’s evil schemes, and his total in ability to stop
himself from posting shit, given the chance…

soundtrack – been listening to the Best of Howard Jones
this evening, which brings back fab memories of touring with him
back in 1999, and contains some excellent songs (the definitive
versions, to my ears, of which are on his ‘Live Acoustic America’
CD, which the small person has stolen, so I couldn’t listen to
that just now…)

Also been listening to more of that new Keith Jarrett CD – good stuff.

Just got an email from not-at-all-evil Dann, who is a very fine writer,
who has just posted a couple of reviews of gigs involving me onto the
‘Evo’ site – the first one is of the 21st Century Schizoid Band and me
live in Croydon
, and the second one is of the manring/friesen/lawson gig
at Ocean in Hackney
– both well worth checking out. As is the rest
of the Evo site.