Thursday, March 30, 2017

Hands

More about hands at the weekend, but I had to miss out on having my hands henna-painted at the University of the West yesterday, because as usual I had written all over them in biro.
My whole life, I have tried to stop. Then I've had another idea and the best place to write it down has always been the back of my hand. It was the full back-of-the-hand yesterday because I worked with only a nano-break and couldn't put it down on paper instead. Gah.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Tour

On Thursday 6th April (before this all begins) I'll be playing a Totally Acoustic night organised by MJ Hibbert at The King and Queen pub, 1 Foley Street, Fitzrovia, London, W1W 6DL.
It starts really early- 7 p.m., and finishes at 9.45
Other acts too.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

And from Folkestone A Few Weeks Ago


Working with Mike Exarchos and Paul Hanford

An afternoon at the University of the East. Thank you guys, and thank you Karina for the sound and lights.

Not Much Of A Game

Books have been hiding from me all morning. I'm trying to find page numbers so I can complete an academic article and I've been rummaging through the dustballs to find the books that have the missing page numbers in them.
At work I've moved offices and there is now a proper bookshelf; I've been carrying bags of books there daily so there is room in the house for me and the Offsprogs to sit down. The trouble is that quite  a lot of the books here are rare or valuable. As their pages crumble with age, I wait in vain for them to be republished. This happened with Dave Laing's wonderful book One Chord Wonders, so I live in hope. Charlie Gillet's The Sound of the City is sitting beside me at the moment; it is a forensic examination of Race records and the way that white labels and artist co-opted (for that, read stole) music from black artists in the USA, all the way through the 20th Century.
I have actually read a lot of these books, and I use this fact as an excuse for my current solid diet of Danish crime thrillers washed down with Private Eye, which is thriving at the moment because everything is so awful in the real world out there.
Ah well. Toodle-pip!


Monday, March 27, 2017

Saturday, March 25, 2017

And This

Yesterday it was Art At Gina's. Her series of paintings are coming along magnificently: they are powerful and punch you in the guts.
Gina paints, I draw, we talk.

Reading, Writing, No Rithmetic

I have been reading Daniel Rachel's book, Walls Come Tumbling Down: the music and politics of Rock Against Racism, 2 Tone and Red Wedge. It's great: straight-from-the-source conversations about music and politics, and the ways that they intersected in the late 1970s and early 1980s in the UK. It captures the 'anything is possible' feeling of the moment in a very honest and balanced way.
I am currently writing chapter for an academic journal, which is scary because the last one I wrote got rejected (although I will be writing another book this year too, so I am not at rock bottom by any means). I realised that the article that was rejected was written at the lowest point of last year, which was pretty damn low, and the rejection feeling is bundled up with all that too.
Now I have to see if, and how, the things people say in Daniel's book shine light on what I am writing about. This requires concentration, and I am journeying today so it's all printed out and ready to take.
I have to change professional gear so many times but I'm used to it, and to dealing with disappointment too.
Wisdom about these things turns up very late in life, but I am glad that it has turned up at all.
For now, I'm all dressed up in my fancy togs, and ready to face the world and its adventures, once more appreciating friendship and kindness and looking forward to what today has to bring.
Wot a hippy.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Bit Of Drama For Thursday Avo

A Message to Lord Sandwich

They fall to bits. Redesign, please.

More Music

Quickly, Before The First Knock At The Door

Workers, Waterloo Bridge, Tuesday. A lovely day for dawdling.

Pop and Corn

Ten student tutorials today, one after the other, every half an hour.
Before they start, I have a moment of peace and reflection. All I can hear is the hum of the air conditioning and distant buses on the other side of the double glazing.
Somehow yesterday I managed to find a printer for the chord book, a CD manufacturer, and almost finish designing the tour poster.
I am still a track short for the album, having stupidly made an AIFF with guitar and vocal on it instead of just vocal to take to the last recording session, but I've got a 16GB USB stick with the project on it to give to the engineer today. I've got an 8GB memory stick with the project for another song that I'm getting a remix of. That one's pink, so I don't get mixed up.
I am very tired, but about six weeks ago I remembered how to be happy and the resulting energy boost has been phenomenal. After months of monkish silence in my private life, I can't stop talking (sorry, friends). Everything that I look at seems beautiful, and everything I hear moves me almost to tears. This is a great time to listen to music. So here you are:

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Dee Dah Dee Dah

Photo by Steven Tagg-Randall

Greedy

I was so hungry when I came in that I ate the whole packet of Cadbury's Mini-Eggs while Offsprog One was upstairs wondering whether to have one or not.
Now I haven't got any room for braised leeks.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Staggered Breakfast Times

Everyone knows that rock'n'roll breakfast time is some time after 1 p.m.
A pint glass full of water, throw up, then a full English at a greasy spoon, followed by another little vomit and back to bed for a couple of hours.
Academic breakfast time is around 9 a.m.
Just time for a bowl of muesli before spitting crushed nuts at students in tutorials at 10.30 a.m.
Office worker breakfast time is some time around 7 a.m.
Toast (just leave the crumbs in the butter, and on the worktop) and half a cup of tea with no milk because you forgot to buy it.
Banker breakfast time is 5 a.m.
A cup of coffee followed by a 'Full English' at 10.30 in a posh café (hence the inverted commas).
Cleaner's breakfast time is 4 a.m.
The remains of last night's dinner and a cup of tea made with a used teabag in the first office of the day.

So now you know.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Some Colour

Always use tartan, you know it makes sense.

I've Lost My Metronome

On a scrap of paper there are all the BPMs for the new album songs; I found them because I wanted to re-do a guitar part at home but they are of no use, because I've ended up recording completely different songs.
The metronome isn't in the box of tiny things and it's not in the glove drawer either. It will be impossible to find because it is so small. You can't phone it and get it to beat, like you can with a mobile phone.
I'm only writing about it because there is space in the day called 're-doing the guitar part' and then later 'looking for the metronome'.
'Cleaning the kitchen floor' is not an option, but re-doing the lead vocal for Women of the World with the choir might be, except the MP3 won't copy into Logic.
These truly are first world problems.

Inara George, The Voice Of Grown-Up Fairyland

This is my drawing-to music this morning.
This afternoon, I will be listening to silence as I revise an academic article.
I hope this evening that I will be recording but that depends on stage two being stress-free.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Drawing The Tour Poster

Just listened our way through two entire Northern Sound compilations, Offsprog Two and me, sitting at the table Doing Art, drinking tea and eating burnt toast. The kitchen table is a hero: a table to eat at, a sewing machine table, a recording studio, an art table, a desk, and anything else a flat bit of polished wood could ever possibly be. Kitchen table, I love you. Please marry me.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Naturally

Naturally, this week I am exhausted. It's not helped by the fact that I have terrible insomnia, or rather not so terrible; one night, every time I started to fall asleep I was awoken by memories of hilarious things (like the pigeon making a nest in Alan's trousers when he left them to soak and went off on holiday for two weeks, postings passim) or jokes (some very silly stuff on Twitter).
I'm on my third cup of coffee today. I wonder if that is the culprit?

Sunday, March 12, 2017

What A Week That Was: Finished Mixing

I thought I had but it's not quite there yet. Just not quite.....

What A Week That Was: Imogen Heap and Horses

And Friday afternoon I went to hear Imogen Heap talk (and demonstrate the musical gloves) near Old Street. She is fascinating- full of ideas for the next thing, and the thing after that, and the thing after that too. I left with my head buzzing and a wish to interview he,r although she is surrounded by a wall of protection, probably because everyone want to interview her. But I will try.
And today I went out to buy teabags and saw three horses, two carts and several people head past the end of the street. When I got to the main road, one of the chaps was tying his horse to a lamp-post.
'Whadya want?' yelled one of the others. 'A pint mate!'.
They were going to the pub.


What A Week That Was: Sergeant Buzfuz at The Servant JazzQuarters

I saw a little thing on Facebook about a last minute support for Sergeant Buzfuz who was celebrating a new EP release, so I put up my hand and found myself with a gig after work on Thursday.
Normally, the tutorial diary is full of urgent students who then don't turn up, so my day is full of admin and tea breaks. I anticipated a peaceful plough through pending piles of files and emails, followed by a causal wander over to Dalston.
But no, students' minds don't work like that. To a man, woman and... whatever, they all turned up, including the double booking that I always put in because students never turn up. So Catia was sitting mixing Shola's track with the headphones on at one table and a steady steam of questions filtered through the door for me to answer at the other.
Several Youtube disco tracks later (the energy), I headed over to the venue.
The Servants Jazz Quarters is a gorgeous little place. I haven't been for ages- I went to see Steve Beresford play there one afternoon and loved the Dutch Interiors light that filtered into the basement from upstairs. This Thursday they had a super-duper playlist and after the sound check I just sat back and absorbed it all.
It was such a friendly gig- after I'd played people just spoke to each other and to me, and it was great to see Nat, who I haven't seen for ages, and to have nerdy guitar conversations with Cold Spells before they went on and played their very Sid Barratt-influenced pop electronica. That's a photo of one of them doing something with his pedals, below.
After that Sergeant Buzfuz took the Barrattism one stage further. I've only seen Joe play solo before, so it was a pleasant surprise to see him with his quite big band, augmented by a drummer, nother guitarist, nother vocalist, violin/piano player and bass player. I loved the songs (this was a real night of songsmithery) and actually coughed up for an EP which I haven't listened to yet because I'm writing this. There was also lots of hilarious bantz from the stage, in particular a running roadie gag, and I was also standing next to a chap in the audience who told me drummer jokes in the gaps between songs until I floored him with one of my own. Then he told me a banjo-player joke.
I hadn't intended to make a big fat whole evening out of it but it was such fun- the best of a little London night out, I recommend both bands to you- great music!


What A Week That Was: Older Women Rock

On Wednesday I took the Stories from the She-Punks work-in-progress film to Quarterhouse in Folkestone, at the invitation of Leah Thorn, who has an ongoing project called Older Women Rock.
Leah had an exhibition in a pop-up shop up the hill of clothing embroidered with snatches of her poetry (see photographs below) and she very kindly sent a PDF of her poems, which are poignant and sharply observed and basically re-boot the whole idea of being an older woman. Bout time too.

Big up the technician at Quarterhouse- it took a while to sort out the film but there was a decent audience full of questions and comments that made it lively event. Everyone seemsed to really enjoy the film and at one point I had tears of laughter pouring down my face. I think it was Girlschool rehearsing in the shed full of pigeons, but it could have been anything. I'd forgotten so much of it in the interim emotional turmoil and when we are ready to pick it up again and finish it, it's going to be a real pleasure.
There was a music workshop afterwards that I was very happy to see the audience flow towards- all the instruments were hidden behind the screen and afterwards it rolled back to reveal glistening drum kits and twinkling amplifier lights. Hey ho- let's go!
Thanks so much Leah, I had a great evening and I hope you got good feedback from the audience.
Leah still has some poetry books available; email her at






Saturday, March 11, 2017

Yardening, Producing And Pretentious Drivel

Never eat a curry on a Friday night. You get terrible insomnia (is it the caffeine they put in it?) and you wake up at 6.30. Having given up trying to go back to sleep, I went out and attacked the dandelions, who thought they owned the garden. They don't, as they have now discovered.
The fat squirrel has sculpted enormous holes in the earth in the plant pots. Although it's lovely to witness nature's artistry, it's a bit of a disappointment not to have plants there any more and a bit of a headf*ck to wonder what used to be there. However, I will cross it off the stress-list for today. There is enough to do.
I hope to finish the album today by flying in some vocals that I recorded in the reverby kitchen, so long as I've got the right BPMs. I have a thick pile of paper with scribbles on it that I started piling up in May last year when I first started to record, and it would be great to be able to say that the scribbles all make perfect sense and are a secret way of organising the music that Works For Me. Unforchly, they are truly a complete haystack of nonsense, yet stuffing the papers into the bag feels right, as though they are my pals coming along to the studio to help out.
Shola is really pleased with the song that we recorded this week, and so am I, and so is the student who came along to assist. I think I am a music producer, I think, I know. The tech side of it is becoming easier, but it's the sound that's where it's at: living inside it, with the sensation that with each track you are exploring a forest of sound, with each tiny moment a different species of plant to examine.
Wot the hell am I gannin on aboot. Shut up.

Friday, March 10, 2017

What A Magic Song!

Yabugga! Thanks to Graham Marsland for finding this for me! I heard it in the Servant Jazz Quarters last night and got out my phone to record it and at that very second they switched it off. It had been on shuffle and nobody could tell me what it was. I just love it to bits. Had a great night too and will report on that and Folkestone l8r.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Waiting at Work

I've got a last minute gig at The Jazz Servants Quarters supporting Sergeant Buzfuz tonight. He is launching his new album so I'm skipping the evening class and doing some being.
I'm listening to some great stuff on Youtube at max volume because no matter how loud I play it I'll never be louder than the dance students outside my office.
I've got so much luggage tonight because we have bene mixing Shola's song and it sounds great. I've also had wall to wall tutorials but I think the students are excited about their writing. About half an hour to go; I am all ready to go to bellow with the military fellow.

Funky Fursday

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Work Doodle


Was It A Dream, Or Was It Real?

I got on the bus with a microphone stand and a bag full of tech-y things and went to Cricklewood this morning. Two buses, actually.
There I met a student sound engineer, and we hung about in the car park at B&Q where there were a bunch of film shoot trailers; at 12, I got a text and we met Nadine outside her trailer. Within 5 minutes we were set up and in between the screams of passing trains, recording a short patois section in Shola's song about bears.
After fifteen minutes we were done, packed up and having a cup of tea. A little field recording in Logic Audio, and I didn't even leave my computer on the bus! How extraordinary.
Afterwards, the engineer admitted that she'd been bricking it the whole way through.
'Me too', I replied.
Phew.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Billy Stewart

Oh, this is a proper singer if ever there was one!

A Gently Surreal Day

The Offsprogs circled the kitchen, chopping things and boiling things. I went to meet Shola at the tube station, after setting up the microphone stand. The guitar part was recorded last night, half asleepily after the busy day in Brighton.
Sailing around each other, lunch was cooked at the same time as Shola's vocals were recorded. If you could see the size of my kitchen you'd realise what a miracle this was. Nobody tripped on a lead and nobody's phone dinged with a text at a crucial point. I had to stand up, and the only spare headphones that I could find to put into the splitter were ancient with the foam rubber hanging off them in shreds. But we recorded Shola's song, and I edited it while she had some lunch in the next room. She has an amazing voice and I hope I've done her justice.
The only thing that went wrong was the custard spill in the cutlery drawer, a minor distraction, if a trifle (hur, hur) irritating. Later, the Offsprogs were working together on a painting and I was drawing; Carry On Camping was keeping us company but I had to stop drawing because I was laffing so much my pen kept wobbling on the page.
It's only half past six but I am so tired that it's looking likely that I'll be in bed by seven. I have loved this weekend though. Yesterday was a blast, today I've made good music, I've had the company of the Offsprogs and although I've got to write a mega-lecture for tomorrow I will do that in the morning.
Good evening, good night.

Yesterday In Brighton Museum

What a lovely event. All through the museum enthusiasts were enthusing and gesticulating next to laptops, with people clustered around them, holding shopping bags with Sunday's lunch in.
I'd met Kim for coffee first and that had a nerve-steadying affect, but from the outset it was a friendly room; Sue from the Reward System (and one of the many manifestations of Dick Damage's musical career) came along, so did Pete and Lisa, both looking extremely stylish as always, Shelley from Spinningchilli, Tracy from The Smartees and the Molesters with her wonderful mum who is 90 and looks even younger that 70, Simon, and lots of ages and genders. And lots of shopping bags too.
I found out later that some eight-year-old twins were entertained by the story of the bathroom falling into the kitchen at our squat in 9 Lansdowne Place, with Smiley Geoff still stirring his dinner in a pan with a wooden spoon and all the rubble around him!
I had the green vinyl Mari Elliott single which I finally found and waved about, and I sang them Poly's first song (two lines) when her dinner lady tried to make her eat meat,
Oh Mrs Johnson, wagging your finger
Who do you think you are?
and talked about personal histories and made sure that Vi Subversa got a good mention because of her importance at the centre of it all in the Brighton punk scene.
Thank you Jody for inviting me and David MacLean for suggesting it, it was fun.
(Photo pilfered from Stephen Drennan's Facebook)

Friday, March 03, 2017

Smocking Is Bad For Your Health

Today: eating fish fingers with Gina, and Doing Art (oil pastels and black and white drawing respectively).
Preparing tomorrow's talk, digging into the crates and finding the green Poly Styrene (Mari Elliott) single, the Chefs E.P. and yellow t-shirt and a whole load of Chefs posters with old band names on them, a couple of photos of the Vault that no-one will be able to see because they are small, and some Sex Pistols badge discs left over from working at Better Badges.
I found lots of other things too. Old knitting patterns, this smocking pattern, half-finished embroideries (cranes building Wembley Stadium, without the cranes; a businessman with devil horns and a tail and the motto Radix Malorum Est Cupiditas); things to stop the piano castors digging into the carpet that I haven't got, and other things like that.

Printer

Know what printer? You've got no stamina! You're sacked.

Brighton Museum Tomorrow

I will be talking at Brighton Museum tomorrow (Saturday) at 2.45 about women in punk music. It's part of their International Women's Day celebrations and is open to all whether male, female or in-between.
http://brightonmuseums.org.uk/brighton/whats-on-2/#!international-womens-day-celebration

Poetry

Us arties simply don't understand: to mathematicians and physicists, numbers and equations are technical poetry that inspire the same joy as our words.
Decibels! What a word.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Getting Lost

I got lost twice today: once on the way to a recording studio when I was actually in the building, looking for unit thirteen, for fifteen minutes, and then again in Peckham for an hour, trying to find my way back to a street one street away from the original one. I have walked nearly nine miles in the most uncomfortable shoes ever created by mankind, as well as trying out a variety of different buses.
I Almost Cried again.
It feels so good to be home drinking tea. The shoes are in the corner, in disgrace.

Good morning daffodils; thank you for your yellow this morning. It's like drinking a glass full of sunshine to counteract the grey sky and the visible chill out there.
This morning will be spent on the complicated process of booking more gigs for the summer and early autumn. There are more in the pipeline but I haven't got a 'machine' to help out, only me; everything is DIY and if I get a metaphorical sock in the jaw (one yesterday) I have to sing that song Pick Yourself Up in my head, do a rattly tap dance (also in my head) and try to just get on with it.
Last summer was terribly empty, apart from the couple of lovely festival gigs that probably saved my life and certainly saved my soul.
This afternoon I'm going to visit some of the students from the University of the East at their work placements. This is a very interesting part of the job and has taken me to all sorts of different places and people. One year, I went to an African church on trading estate in Camberwell where a student had taken over the choir while the choir master was on sabbatical. He did his job too well and part of what I had to help with later on was how the student could manage the choir master's feeling of being threatened by a potential rival. It's big sea out there with plenty of fish for us all, that's the truth. The problem is when people try to stop any other people from catching any!