Saturday, 31 July 2010

Go Hard Or Go Home

[Above] The Shadow-Line and The Doubletakes

Thursday 29th July - The Horn & Hatfield Road Social Club

After coming off the train from work I went home to get changed and pick up all my gear. Tom Mellish drove round, picked me up and sat on my bed smoking his e-cig whilst I finished writing my email address on the back of demos. We got in the car and headed over, I was nervous for soundcheck but we sounded ok considering it was only a vocal PA and they're more suited to Tom Jones covers acts who wear their shiny shirts open at the chest and sing along to karaoke. We sounded ok though, and once soundcheck was over I was more excited than nervous. We went to Morrisons to buy some food, which reminded me of every single lunchtime at Verulam School since we were allowed out in year 10, and as we were late in the day shit was majorly reduced. I got some sushi and an egg and cress baguette. I had never eaten sushi before but at £1.19 how could I say no?! It wasn't spectacular. Why do people always go on about it? Is it because it's an edgy indie food? It's just not that great, and kind of annoying to eat. Just fry that fish and put it with some chips, surely? Know what I mean? Anyway, we also bought a blackcurrant pie which we never actually ate, but we did take a victory photo with it afterwards:

[L-R: Oliver Bissill, Oliver Wolffe, Zygmunt Day, Will Day, Tom Mellish, Boris Holmes, Rob Llewelyn]

BUT, before I played with The Shadow-Line at Hatfield Road, I went to do an acoustic set at The Horn. It was empty, as the Horn often is early in the night, but even more annoyingly some idiot started playing some fucking Atreyu off his phone whilst I was singing one of my tender acoustic ballads! If it's an acoustic gig, don't talk over the performance and then start playing a fucking song off your phone to show your mate! Some people actually want to listen! The worst thing is he was in one of the other bands, so he should be showing a bit of respect to a fellow musician. If you don't want to listen to music, what are you doing at a gig? Go home and sit on your hand before you have a wank so it feels like someone else is doing it or whatever kids get up to these days. Just don't come and play your Bullet For My Valentine over the songs I've spent hours writing! I told him off from stage too. I guess everyone makes mistakes, it's just a bit pointless. You're at a live music show, why are you listening to music on your phone? I'm not that shit! I think you can spare five minutes to listen to my song.

Anyway, after that I walked the short walk to Hatfield Road under gathering dusk, and we were on pretty much as soon as I got back. This was the set list:

It went pretty well. It's hard to comment on your own performance, but we mainly pulled it off with a few mistakes that can be put down to teething problems as much as anything. After a lot of nerves in the week before, I was pleased with how well it all came off. The other bands were apparently really good too, I wouldn't know I was at The Horn! But people said The Doubletakes were really good, they had Courtney Ellis joining them on vocals for Springsteen's "I'm Going Down" and also their song "17 Days". I'll have some photos from the gig soon, I'll post em up when I do.

Then when we were finished, we packed up, took the victory photo, and I got a lift home off of Rob Llewelyn. Cheers Rob! Also cheers Jessica for organising the gig!

Friday 30th July - Google Offices

After work on Friday, at which I was the sleepiest man in Hackney (I think it was the first time I ever actually fell asleep on the train to work), I went to visit Broken & The Blessed regular Rhodri Karim at the Google Offices in London where he's interning, helping them design a microchip which goes into peoples brains, or something, and the Google offices are amazing! I knew things were initially gonna be good when the first place we visited was the canteen, which is more like a cross between the all-you-can-eat daytime buffet at Pizza Hut and a hip, airy hotel restaurant than what you might imagine as a work canteen. It was a lot better than the canteen at my work, even though they do a mean sausage sandwich. The other thing is, at Google it's all free! Literally everything was free! They even had beer! So much beer! And premium brands too! I felt like the luckiest man in Victoria.

After that we had the Office Tour, in which we literally went inside Google Earth:

Rode on a Segway:

Sat on Deckchairs:

And enjoyed ironic practical jokes:

Look at that joke! You get a better brand of humour at Google. They joke outside the box! Also, the guy who was interning as tech support rode round on the Segway shooting us periodically with a Nerf gun without even laughing. He literally just did it as if he was a contract Nerf-killer. "It's a dirty job but someone's got to do it" was what he probably thought as he levelled another foam projectile at our cowering torsos.

Anyway after that I bid a fond farewell to Rhodri and the Internet, went back to St. Albans and went out for a pint with Tom Mellish. At one point Tom Mellish got this text:

Needless to say, none of us were shagging last night.

Friday, 23 July 2010

More Demos

So Conrad Steel came down to put some cello on some demos:

Then later we went out, met Eliot, my brother, Boris, and Ryan:

I also constructed this pop-shield out of a pair of tights and a coat-hanger:

That is all.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

A Man Talking Sense

Conrad Steel is coming tomorrow to put cello on my shady bedroom demos. Should be a good day.

Monday, 19 July 2010

The work, the work, just the working life

Today I started back at the office job I held down last summer. Mouths have to be fed, guitars restrung, etc.

We had another good band practise last night, and I've been using my spare time to record rough demos in my room with a Samson C01U USB mic and a backstreet copy of Cubase. Results so far are mixed. (Get it?!)

Anyway, imagine having this name and job description:

Professor The Lord McColl CBE (Ian) - Professor of Surgery; Chair of Mercy Ships; and President of the Leprosy Mission

Not only does he have possibly the most basass collection of titles and names I've ever come across, The Mercy Ships do some really good work.

Anyway. It's very hot in London.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

The Shadow-Line

First gig with my new band, The Shadow-Line, will be on July 29th at Hatfield Road Social Club, St. Albans. Doors 6:30pm, bands start at 7. £4 advance tickets (here), £5 on the door. Come!

Monday, 12 July 2010

Bizarre Collaboration Of The Day

"I have only two passions; space exploration and hip-hop" - Buzz Aldrin.

The man does not tell a lie:

Talib Kweli's in there too. Classic.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

First Band Practise

I'm putting a band together for a few gigs in July / August. We had our first practise today.

Tom Mellish is playing guitar. This is Tom Mellish:

Next practise in a few days. First gig possibly July 29th. Depends. If we're gonna play we're gonna have to be tighter than a teenage nun. Standards have gotta be high.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Loads more photos

Loads more photos have been added to the rotation on my website. When you're there, click "refresh" to see more:

Thursday, 8 July 2010

...And Out Come The Wolves

[Above] Rancid's '...And Out Come The Wolves', 1995

Good morning heartache; You're like an old friend, come and see me again

I've been working as a labourer while I'm back from college, stripping paint, pulling up carpets, sanding down, digging, etc. As it is I quite like that kind of work, especially if it's cash-in-hand. At the moment I'm working on a house with Ray Waters, and we talk all kinds of music while we work. The other day as we were planting lovely flowers (awwww) after several hours of back-breaking digging (arrrgggghh) we got talking about Rancid's third album, 'And Out Come The Wolves'. When I got home and listened to it, I realised that it's an album that's deeply influenced me; and I thought I'd write a bit about an often misunderstood [at least outside punk rock circles] band and album.

The chief division in this album is between the melodic and the discordant. Although every song is written like a classic pop song - there are very few that don't use the bridge/verse/chorus/bridge/verse/chorus/solo/double chorus form - the voices of Tim Armstrong, Lars Fredericksen and Matt Freeman aren't suitable for pop music in the slightest. They are rough, dirty and broken. Tim Armstrong really can't sing in any traditional sense. It doesn't matter. When he croaks and screams his way through Olympia W.A. you can hear his pain. Coupled with distorted, toothy guitar work, grizzled bass and an uncompromising drumbeat, there is a constant tension in each song between traditional pop elements and the punk aesthetic. A lot of Rancid's energy springs from this; their ability to take simple songs and imbue them with a definite aesthetic manifesto through their use of guitar tone, vocal style and their raw energy and passion; often the sound of their very real desperation.

What really allows Rancid to carry off this careful balancing act is the quality of the lyrics and the world evoked throughout. The lyrics themselves are something of a meeting of worlds too; a balancing act between [mainly] Armstrong's, but also Frederiksen's, twin instincts for romanticism and the unflinching reportage of white lower-middle- and working-class lives. For example, the song Roots Radicals from '...Wolves':

The radio was playing, Desmond Dekker was singing
On the 43 bus as we climb up the hill
Nothing incoming but the reggae drumming
And we all come from unloving homes

The almost feel-good image of the first three lines is undercut bluntly by the fourth; in the same way, the bridge of the song reveals a trembling desperation bubbling away beneath the song's evocation of teenage listlessness;

The music execution and the talk of revolution, it bleeds in me

'Something has to happen!' It seems to scream, 'there has to be something more!'; this song has to be more than a song; these words have to be more than words, there has to be a meaning; music has to be, 'a place to go', to borrow a line from the Rancid song Radio [On 'Let's Go', their second album]. This kind of salvation, achievable through an honest engagement with the emotional and intellectual content of rock, reggae and other forms of popular music, is something that runs right through this album; the need for salvation, for redemption, the longing for the 'cars rushing by' to go 'my way' in Olympia W.A.; the recognition of 'something burning deep inside of me'. Music becomes more than a passtime, a fad or entertainment, it becomes a way of understanding turbulent emotion; working out societal boundaries and giving meaning to a life that never will fit in with mainstream notions of success, propriety or glamour. Not only giving it meaning, but filling it with meaning; recast in the dirt and grit of Rancid's songs and lyrics, an examination of feelings that human beings have been wrestling with for centuries in art are made available to [some of] the people who need it; the unsuccessful, unpropitious, unglamorous kids on street corners in lower-middle and working-class areas across the UK and the US. To offer hope, a romantic sensibility, perhaps the offer of redemption.

The oppressed, the displaced, the frustrated, if they will not or cannot siphon their rage into alcohol or drugs, if they can't blunt their sense of worthlessness with crime and violence, will always look for salvation. This album taps into fundamentals of the human condition, and expresses them with the eloquence of the sufferer; by turns angered (Lock, Step & Gone), sad (The Wars End), full of regret (Ruby Soho), full of love (She's Automatic). There is warmth here, and humility, and a lot of humanity. Although Rancid later became a little more macho and less interesting, '...And Out Come The Wolves' is a testament to belief in music; the belief needed to overcome class, birth and social paralysis.

Desperation & Hope; you might phrase it Broken & The Blessed.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Today I Built This

To make a short story long, my mum is an avid trawler of the charity shops on Hatfield Road (and beyond). Once or twice I've been in there too, rooting through the endless VHS, cassettes and dead men's clothes to try and find elusive items of value, that must, occasionally, end up on the shelves of the Romanian Deaf Children's Charity. My mum has found some pretty weird stuff, notably African carved heads and various bits of Asian wood, and once she came back with a load of bells. They were on strings and were quite awkward to use, so I cut em off the strings and decided that I'd do something with them. Well, here it is. A hand-held, er, bell-shaker.

Initially I sawed the wood to size, sanded it and applied several coats of varnish over a few days. The hooks were made with curtain rail eyelets, which I picked up for about £1.20 at John Deerman's in Camp Road, the kind of shop my mum hates for its blokishness, but I have always liked for random fittings, wires and screws. Plus the fact that the shop itself mostly seems to be a product of DIY. I screwed them in by hand and tightened them with pliers, then used some copper wire to attach the bells on loops. It sounds OK, very tinkly. I'll probably use it on some recording to add a bit of colour. It kept me off the streets for a while anyway.

Next week on Broken & The Blessed: Milk bottles and rice - a percussion solution.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Kiss My Brass: Episode 1: Liverpool

Kiss My Brass / Subversion Liverpool Gig

This morning at 5am I got back from Liverpool, but I think the rest of the band are in Nottingham staying at Baron von Ledwidge's estate.
We all left Harpenden on Friday night, except I was in Alex from Subversion's Car and we waited an hour longer than everyone else so Baron von Ledgenstein and his driver, Pog, could follow us to Liverpool.
It was all going well, until we left our directions at a Welcome Break. No matter, the Baron whipped out his diablos and we had a skate in the car park while Aelx tried to find the directions. With the directions still lost, but our spirits high, we set off again in the general direction of "north" and I put on my French ska CD. So it was that, several hours later and many times more familiar with France's influence on the ska scene, we arrived in Liverpool.
The only problem was, we couldn't find the place we were meant to be sleeping. So, once again, we just headed in the general direction. We saw the round Cathedral, it was lit up at night and it looked amazing, and we also tuned in to Liverpool FM (96.7) and got down to some funky house. We were staying at Helen's house and there was gated parking around the back so at least no one could nick our cars in the night. We managed to find her house in the end, and by "in the end" i mean after driving straight past it six or seven times.
So anyway, we got to her house and we all started to party hearty, at one point I whipped out my bone and blew a few notes whilst Joe improvised on the trumpet and everyone else beat a latin rhythm with beer bottles and Helen's personal belongings. Not long after, Helen went out and left us alone, so we took the opportunity to crowd surf Alex, do stage dives out of the boiler closet, drink more beer, eat more crisps, rearrange her room so everything was the opposite way round and break her laptop (it's ok cos Baron von Legend fixed in the next day, as well as fixing the key so we could get our cars out). Then someone broke her mirror and got seven years bad luck. Helen came back, and instead of shouting at us, said she'd been to a "ket party" and then fell over. Shane and Alex carried her into bed, and somehow convinced her that she had both broken her mirror and moved her room around. Then she got out of bed and started destroying her own furniture, because it was from Argos. Or something.
That night we all slept on the floor, there was hardly any space, and I told everyone to shut up so I could get my beauty sleep but they didn't listen, so that's why I look like I've been hit in the face with a fridge. Regardless, we got about 5 hours sleep, then went to Bee Bee's cafe for the BIGGEST beakfast I have ever eaten (2 sausages, 2 slices of bacon, mushrooms, beans, black pudding, tomato, fried egg, four slices of toast and a cup of tea £3.25) and then we went back to the flat for a bit and watched Ferris Beuller's day off whislt some of us played football outside.
A little bit later, a security guard told us to move our cars or he'd shoot us with his taser so Baron von Ledgenstein lifted each car out of the car park and threw it on to the road. After that, we all got in to the cars and headed in the general direction of Birkenhead.
To get to Birkenhead you have to go through a tunnel. Matt and Shane had done this the night before when they were meant to be driving to Helen's house, and of course now we were supposed to find it, we couldn't. So we drove around a lot and went round the same part of Liverpool docks about 30, 000 times until finally we managed to get into the tunnel and drove on through to sunny Birkenhead. On the way we drove through the industrial area where massive piles of scrap metal and wood shavings lined the water and massive machines worked among them. Also, there were about 600 cranes in Liverpool because they're building so much stuff. It was good.
In Birkenhead we got lost yet again but somehow managed to make it to the venue. We had lunch in Mc. Donalds, which was alright but I would have preferred another big breakfast (2 sausages, 2 slices of bacon, mushrooms, beans, black pudding, tomato, fried egg, four slices of toast and a cup of tea £3.25). The venue was right next to it we parked up and waited until someone came and opened the doors so we could set up. It was called Hotel California and it was like a cross between The Horn in St. Albans and Club 85 in Hitchin. If you've never been to either of those places, you won't know what I'm talking about.
We were a bit scared, because we heard that it was "egg run day" and someone said that meant that bikers were going to throw eggs at us. The prospect of playing to a pub full of angry, drunken bikers armed with eggs wasn't extremely reassuring. I asked the manager (also called Helen) if we were in grave danger of an egging, and she said that "egg run day" is a day when bikers ride round the Wirral delivering easter eggs to sick children! Needless to say, we were far less afraid afterwards. We jammed for a bit and practised a song or two until the sound man showed up. When he did we had our soundchecks and then waited for the doors to open and the show to start.
There was some quality reggae, ska and punk over the sound system and the locals were really warm and friendly. We played a couple of games of pool and set up our merch stall. Finally, 10:30 rolled round and we could go on!
The crowd was so good for our set, there was energy by the bucketload, and loads of people even bought T-Shirts and CDs! I think it was one of the best show's we've done, and the people of Liverpool were crazy for Ska! After our set, I went outside and talked to a local couple about music and Liverpool, and loads of people said we'd played a good show. Next up were Subversion and we were all singing along and one (large) girl with red hair was going pretty mental.
After the gig, the promoter asked us to come back in August and we said "yes! yes! we love you! yes!".
So anyway, it was wildly successful. I got in Pog's car for the journey back and we listened to Rage Against The Machine and cruised down the motorway. I fell asleep numerous times and finally ended up back at my house! What a great way to spend a Sunday!

Many thanks and much love to:

Helen (sorry we fucked your house up!)
Donna (especially for the hand cream and face wipes)
Baron von Ledgewenstein
The nice people at Hotel California
Bee Bee's cafe (2 sausages, 2 slices of bacon, mushrooms, beans, black pudding, tomato, fried egg, four slices of toast and a cup of tea £3.25)
The good people of Liverpool!

Zyggy of KMB xx
2nd April 2007

Recording Summer

Started today with The Doubletakes.

I spent most of the session reading Norman Mailer's 'Moon Fire' [I was there in a strictly advisory role], a book about the Apollo missions, specifically Apollo 11, and the effect it had upon the American public and the Astronauts themselves. It's full of beautiful, full page (sometimes double-page) photographs of all elements of the Astronauts' lives; their dehydrated food, shrink-wrapped with instruction labels, their custom-made gloves, their families and the huge crowds who came out to watch the mission launch. It's an amazing book. If you get the chance to have a look at a copy then make sure you do.

In other news, I played at The Amble Inn in Harpenden yesterday, alongside three members of the Waters family - Pete Waters, Ray Waters and Joe Waters. The music was mostly covers-oriented, as Pete took the lead with Irish ballads and some old classics, so I did all the folk songs I know and then played a few of my own. I was a bit rusty to be honest, but it seemed to go down OK. Apart from one woman who shouted "You're shit!" at me. I think I've come far enough, now, to ignore that kind of thing. And when I looked up, the three old blokes at the front with tattoos and empty pint glasses nodded in approval and asked me softly to play some of my own. If the people who are there for the music appreciate it, I don't care what some pissed bint thinks. I did three of my own songs in the end, and then Ray got up and did a good cover of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" whilst the sun went down. It got me thinking about the kinds of songs that seem to be above a time and place. That's one of them. You could sing that in a nursery school, in a pub beer garden or at a funeral, and people would still be moved, for different reasons, but in the same way. Those are the kinds of songs I'd eventually like to write; the ones that hold an irreducible and constant essence of humanity. Ray sang it well.

Anyway, check out Pete Waters' songs, they're pretty good.