Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Back from the dead

Wonderful news!!! Between the City and the Deep Blue Sea has been linked to from www.beefheart.com. The best Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band website out there. This is in relation to my band, Autons, playing with the reformed Magic Band last summer (kind of.) Get in!

The Beefheart news prompted a few people to email me and comment that they enjoyed the Magic Band piece, and a couple of other entries. This made me think I'd been neglecting my blogging duties of late and should get back on track. When I started this Blog I knew I wouldn't be as prolific as my Blogging buddies, but my output (or lack of) has shocked me into action.

I have my reasons. I mean, like most people, the only free time I have is evenings and weekends. I am far too busy at work to be able to stop and write Blog related stuff. So at home, faced with the choice of spending precious free time working on music and working on the Blog, the music usually wins.

I should start by updating you on my music related activities. Qhixldekx, my solo stuff, is on an indefinate hiatus at the moment as Autons, my band, are far too busy. To keep up on Autons news you should check out the News Blog at www.autons.info. In short, since my last gig report on here, we have played various places includng The Railway in Winchester, a club in Soho, and another Arts Centre show. We have recorded our 2 track debut single, 'Snakes' c/w 'Ice Major.' We have played one gig this year, at The Railway, and are back there again on Saturday 18th February. The single will be released in March and we have gigs coming up to support this in Portsmouth, London, Brighton, Kent and, yes, Winchester! (with more shows
to be added hopefully.) More details will follow as we get them.

More generally, I feel as though I am changing as a person. The catalyst, I think, has been getting married. I feel that since then (last August) I have felt an increasing responsibility to take care of myself and of others. It's as though a protective reflex of some kind has kicked in; I'm thinking "what would happen to HER if something happened to ME?" and trying to plan for that eventuality.

There are a number of issues that are on my mind. Because I am conscious that I feel like I'm changing, I'm also conscious that my final opinions aren't fully formed. As such I warn you now that I am liable to change my mind on things.

Without wanting to sound like a long lost hippy, I am really worried about the future of humanity.

Someone summed up how I feel on Five Live last week during a discussion on the cartoons published in Denmark. The chap, a muslim cleric, pointed out that unless humanity transcends the issues that divide us we will all suffer. Arguements about, for example, religion are insignificant compared to, say, global warming because at some point you have to question what will be left of the planet to fight over. For me, the issue is no longer about accepting others. It's about recognising that we are all in this together and we need each other to survive.

I think this issue resonates on every level throughout society. For example, the current media frenzy over anti-social behaviour. The problem, I feel, is people don't have a purpose in life; or rather the purpose people have in life bears no relation to the reason why we exist. Everyone is conditioned and educated towards getting a job so you can earn money to jump through the hoops society places as measures of 'success': a house, a car, holidays etc. People who can't attain this are resentful and react against the standards society sets. But the way we lead our lives is surely counter productive towards what the real goal of human beings is: to
sustain life.

If you work all your life to make money, what difference have you made to this planet?

This all comes down to no less a subject than 'the meaning of life', and questions such as 'why are we here?' I don't know what the answer is. What I do know is that when you look at ants, or bees, for example, you see a group of creatures that pull together towards a collective goal to sustain their way of life. When you look at humans you see a race that serves the short-term interests of the individual over the long-term interests of the group.

Like I said above, my opinions on these matters are confused, probably ill informed, and certainly not fully formed yet. In writing about them here I am thinking out loud. Things that are influencing me include Tony Auton's work for Permaculture Magazine. This publication deals with sustainable living. Some of the information he comes across is frightening. It's so easy in the face of a problem such as global warming to be defeatist and say "it's too far gone; there's no way to stop the inevitable." But I can't let it go.

Another interesting argument is put forward in the introduction to the Beatles book 'Revolution in the Head.' This draws a parrallel between the decline in Christianity's popularity in Britain in the 60's, and the rise in TV ownership. It also highlights the rise in the number of domestic appliances that aid convenience and how this impacted on family life in Britain. Not groundbreaking stuff, but it's all in the mix. You can't reverse these trends but I think they have played their part, and therefore we need to understand the impact they have had.

My job is another constant source of thought-provocation. I speak daily to people who have, through no fault of their own, not been given the life-skills required to deal with looking after themsleves. There is an over-reliance on the state because this is the only thing left for them to fall back on. I see people who want to have children because they see this as 'what you do' as an adult, but not wanting to embrace fully the role as parent. Wanting to remain liberated at the same time. It's play acting: it's trying to act like an adult without being emotionally ready for that responsibility. Wanting to be best mates with their children. This manifests itself in other ways, for example domestic violence. Mainly men who have no role to fulfil, and get frustrated, who have to assert themselves physically or emotionally to feel in control of their lives.

I'm not sure how to wrap this up. I don't think I can because I haven't come to any conclusions yet. This is an ongoing process. I think, ultimately, it comes down to having a purpose in life. To contribute something and not be a passive consumer. I guess this is why I make music.

The media asks why people don't vote. I say have referendums on issues that people care about. One vote every four years is not enough to stir people's interest. Increasingly, people have the need to feel involved (just look at how popular text voting is for TV shows.) Get people in the habit of voting; make people count.

The media asks why binge-drinking is spiralling out of control. Maybe becuase we have a generation of people who have no connection with the reasons as to why they are alive. We all need to know why we are here. In the abscence of any clear direction through life, are people choosing a slow suicude?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Worthy of laudation!

Tickets: £30
Travel: £30
Accomodation: £20
Food: £15
Booze: £30

The more mathmatically astute will realise that's £125. Yes, £125 in one
week to see 2 gigs by one band: Cardiacs. And £100 of that can be
attributed to just one of the gigs. Cardiacs are not only the one band that
can inspire me to spend in this way, but they are the only band who can
inspire me to pogo these days!

I was first introduced to the 'Acs around 10 years ago when they released
their double album masterpiece 'Sing to God.' Like my other
now-favourite-bands (most notably The Fall and Captain Beefheart, but
increasingly, at the moment, Pere Ubu) I was force fed them by me good mate
Skif. Cardiacs seem to inspire a strange 'love' in their fans and I think I
speak for Skif when I say that they are his favourite band. It's so hard to
quantify WHY a partcular act is 'the best' in your opinion, and usually I
just can't answer questions like "what's your favourite...". But Cardiacs
top my internal 'best band' poll every time.

The first gig was last Monday (07/11) at the wonderful Wedgewood Rooms,
Portsmouth. As the Wedge is approximately a five-to-ten-minute walk from my
house this was always going to be a cheaper gig. It was a surprise gig,
that's for sure. I'd already planned to go to Cardiacs annual show at the
Astoria, as I do most years, before they announced a few dates leading up
to the main-event-gig in London. There was no question of me not going to
the Pompey show and I almost squeezed in the Brighton one the night before
(06/11.)

The second gig was on Friday (11/11.) Cardiacs do a gig around this time of
year every year. Always on a Friday, and always before the G.A.Y club,
which means an early curfew (presumably they get a good deal on costings
for the gig.) This means there is little time to spare on the way to the
gig after work. Fortunately there were no major train or tube delays and I
made it from Pompey to Waterloo in about 90 minutes.

This annual event is a bit like a pilgrimage for Cardiacs fans everywhere
and myself, Skif and our mate Ian have a little routine going. We meet at
Russell Square tube station, drop off our gear at the nearby Generator
Hostel, and stroll on to the Astoria. Post gig it's a curry; next morning
it's brekkers in a Covent Garden cafe. There's no real need for me to kip
over bearing in mind we are always out of the venue by 10:30, and the last
train to Pompey is at 11:45. But it's all part of the 'event' now.

The two gigs were very similar but I was more than happy enough to see the
same set twice. Being at a smaller venue The Wedge show was naturally more
intimate; but there is something special about the atmosphere at those
Astoria gigs. Needless to say the band didn't disappoint anyone, and
Cardiacs are literally an all-killer-no-filler act. However, the set was
heavily based around two or three albums and in a 2 hour set (that was
being filmed and recorded at the Astoria) I would have expected a bit more
balance; an overview, if you will.

You may be thinking the booze element of expenditure detailed above is
quite low, bearing in mind it was for 2 gigs, and the Astoria sells Red
Stripe at £3.30 a can. Well, Cardiacs are also the one band I find better
sober. Well, them and The Magic Band. With both acts there is so much going
on that they draw me into what they are doing. The experience is so
all-consuming that drink dulls the edges and makes it LESS interesting: the
exact opposite of most other bands!

Bring on next year's event; and fingers crossed for some live action prior
to that!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Back with a vengence?!?!?!

Autons have some gig's coming up. This Wednesday (21/09) we play at The Railway in Winchester.

Next Thursday (29/09) we are at Madame Jo-Jo's in Soho, London, as part of 'The Glitz' club night.

If the latter gig goes well we may be invited back to the same place, same club night, for John Peel Day on 13/10.

See www.autons.info for more on these gigs and our recent recording sessions.

Please see the newly revised www.qhixldekx.com website for the depressing tale of writers block i'm suffering in my solo work.

3 Months???

I know some good friends of mine are hoping my return to blogging will include some words on THE event of MY summer.

But I’m saying nothing here. They will understand why: it’s for me, you and us. Those of us who were there. It’s weird, but I don’t want to share it here.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Magic Band, The Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth, UK, 05/06/05

Looking at this Blog, I can’t believe how long I’ve not posted for. I have my excuses ready…no, really, there hasn’t been anything to post about. I could have kept telling you “rehearsal went well today” over and over again, or “went out flyering tonight” about 100 times. But that doesn’t make good reading.

Everything in the past couple of months has been focussed on Autons gig with The Magic Band on Sunday (05/06.). I am writing this a few days after the gig and I still can’t quite believe it happened!

As you may or may not know, The Magic Band originally played with Captain Beefheart from the 60’s to the early 80’s. There were various members over the years and the reformed Magic Band that tours now is made up of members from down the years. I believe only 2 of the current band actually played together in the original band, but on each song they play live at least one member of the current band was actually involved in the recording of that song. The band is united through their collective experience of dealing with the Captain himself, the retired Don Van Vliet.

Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band recorded the classic double album ‘Trout Mask Replica.’ They stretched the ‘guitar-bass-drums-vocal’ band format in ways no one before or since has managed to do. The music is bluesy, jazzy, atonal, and ‘alternative’ before the phrase was coined. Some songs start with the players each following a different time signature and then ‘meeting’, musically, later in the song. And over the top is the Captains barking vocal which follows it’s own rhythm while staying in time and in tune with the music.

The reformed Magic Band play instrumental versions of some Beefheart tracks, with original drummer John ‘Drumbo’ French playing drums. On other tracks, Drumbo carries off an uncannily accurate vocal performance. For these tracks Mike Traylor, a latter-era Magic Band drummer, plays drums.

The Magic Band is probably the one band in the world Autons all wanted to play with. We literally could not think of one artist currently touring that we would want to play with more. We had all bought tickets for the Pompey gig the day they went on sale. It wasn’t until a few weeks later that we realised, looking at both The Wedge listings and The Magic Band website, that they hadn’t confirmed a support act for the tour. So, we chanced it, and sent an email to the band asking if we could support them. They sent a really nice email back, and said they’d pass our details to their agent…

To be honest we kind of didn’t expect anything after that. But a week or so later we did indeed get the call offering us the support slot. And after a month of frenzied promotion the gig finally arrived.

We were due to load-in at 6pm but forgot and accidentally arrived an hour early meaning we would catch The Magic Band’s soundcheck…shame…unfortunately they were running late too and left us with a very little time before doors opening. Luckily Autons are very easy to set-up and the chance to see The Magic Band in action, and get a private airing of ‘Diddy Wah Diddy’, was more than adequate compensation.

It’s worth noting here how The Magic Band operate. Here are 5 guys in their late 40’s to late-50’s with a wealth of touring and recording experience between them. They were touring with just a road manager and merchandising guy/driver. They were loading all their own kit in and setting up on their own. We offered our help but they wouldn’t hear of it as we’d already loaded in and they couldn’t return the favour. Compared to how other ‘signed’ touring acts operate, their attitude was very refreshing.

All of the band were so friendly. Mark ‘Rockette Morton’ Boston (bass) was travelling with his wife and they enthused about having had the chance to visit Stone Henge. Gary ‘Mantis’ Lucas (guitar) filled us in on details of the other shows they’d played. And Denny ‘Feelers Reebo’ Whalley (guitar) chatted about guitars and even had a go on mine! The only complaint they had was not being able to find a music shop open on a Sunday. Typical England! Nevada or PJ Walkers take note!

Drumbo seemed a little pre-occupied when he arrived. He was perfectly polite but so focussed on setting up and soundchecking. He was meticulous in his attention to detail, picking out excess sibilence on the mic’s and a ‘ringing’ sound on the drum kit toms. It was a real pleasure watching a professional at work, the sort of thing you can learn from. Once they had finished soundchecking Drumbo came over and was interested in our set up, our lack of drummer, our use of electronics, our use of ‘amp modelling’ for the guitars. A real gent, all told.

We began soundchecking with about 5 minutes left until the doors opened. We started off with ‘Can Fever’ which samples the Beefheart track ‘Sure ‘Nuff ‘N Yes I Do.’ The Magic Band were having dinner at a table set up in The Wedgewood Rooms bar. As the sample from ‘Sure ‘Nuff…’ kicked in a few heads turned. They knew we were going to play the track but it was rewarding to see them show some interest.

The Magic Band explained that they usually go back to their hotel before a show to rest. However, Mike Traylor stuck around to see our set and chat to us (indeed, Tony Auton disappeared with him for about an hour before our set!) For the first time at a gig I actually stayed backstage until we were due to go on. David Auton did too, and this certainly helped me keep calm. I wasn’t actually feeling nervous, but had I gone out into the main room I think I would have started to.

We walked on to a version The Kinks ‘See My Friend’ by Pompey legend Renaldo (of Renaldo and the Loaf fame.) Autons have collaborated with Renaldo on this track and we recorded it the day before the gig, so it was great to hear a mix of it, albeit from backstage. Mike Traylor was listening with us and asked us to send him a copy. Our set is pretty much a blur. ‘See My Friend’ was still playing as we took our positions and the stage was completely dark. I can remember looking out at that point because the room was busy, and I took a mental snapshot. ‘Can Fever’ predictably got the best reaction – partly because the Uber-Auton’s in the crowd love it; partly coz of the ‘Sure ‘Nuff…’ sample which the rest of the crowd recognised. For me, it all felt good, but I was partcularly happy with ‘Lamplight.’ It just felt great; a good rhythm, and the people I could see on the barrier were into it.

We ended with the frantic ‘Limbo Dancer’ and I broke another guitar string…that’s 3 gigs in a row now. It’s 3 different strings too so I don’t think there’s a problem with the guitar: I’m just being too over-exuberant! Mike Traylor was there as we came off and was encouraging and complimentary. We were floating on air after that point. I needed a few beers to just calm down, but the adrnaline was too much. Indeed, I got stomach cramp which lasted until The Magic Band came on; a problem I’ve had in the past after gigs.

I’d like to say some thank you’s here. Firstly to The Magic Band for being so accommodating. Secondly to Ian Binnington for having the faith in Autons to live up to the challenge. Next to the Wedge crew, as ever, for treating us so well. Thanks too to Paul for the photo’s of us. But a special thanks goes out to James and Chris for filming our set and recording it too. Especially James for running to and from home to collect the gear he needed.

Lastly, and by no means leastly, everyone who came along to see us and everyone that said nice things to us after the show. We were blown away by your support…and immensely pleased by those who asked us where we were from and how the tour was going. If we came across as a touring act then great!

In all the excitement I almost forgot what we were all there for in the first place: to see The Magic Band. Drumbo announced the band as they walked on and has to be the most chatty frontman ever: he was talking more than the John Peel Maida Vale gig from last year, and that was impressive enough. The Wedge feels pretty intimate usually, but he made it even more so.

Kicking off with an unexpected ‘Gimme Dat Harp Boy’ it took them the length of the song to get settled. They didn’t play a duff song all night, though I’m still not a fan of their current version of ‘Mirror Man.’ Too long in my humble. And, personally, I could do without the bass and drum solo’s. But these criticisms are maybe unfair when you consider what The Magic Band give in terms of performance and keeping this music alive. They are the one band whose indulgences I can cope with.

‘Lo Yo Yo Stuff’ was another welcome, surprise addition. Great to see they are still adding to the reportoire (as far as I’m aware this tour is the first time they’ve played this track live.) Can I make my plea for ‘Autumns Child’, ‘Ice Cream for Crow’, ‘Hot Head’, ‘Clear Spot’, and ‘Sugar ‘n’ Spikes’ here please??? ‘Alice in Blunderland’ was a highlight though it’s not a favourite of mine on record. Tony Auton and I were on Gary Lucas’ side of the stage and had a clear view of his guitar playing. It was enough to make you cry, with every note perfectly placed. I don’t go in for the ‘showy’ stuff usually, but this was played with so much soul.

They ended with a 1-2-3 hit of ‘Circumstances’, ‘Moonlight on Vermont’ and ‘Big Eyed Beans from Venus.’ The 3 songs I wanted to hear most all crammed into the last 15 minutes! After the gig the whole band came out, signed autographs, posed for pictures and spoke to fans. It must have been the latest I’ve seen the Wedge empty out AND it was a Sunday night. Again, nothing was too much trouble for The Magic Band. An inspiring set of men.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Rogers Birthday, The Progress Bar, Camden, London, UK, 11/04/05

Our first away gig proper (I'm not counting my first gig with the band in Southampton!)and my first gig in London.

I was really looking forward to it. I've been up to London in support of many a Pompey band over the years but it's not the same as being the subject of the journey. It was only one of London's hundreds of bars but the night still had that vibe if going to the city on a mission.

We had been invited up by a friend of Tony's, a chap called Roger, who DJ'd between bands. Probably second only to Skif in terms of diversity of musical taste (well, out of those people I've met)Roger treated us to Jazz, Rock 'n' Roll, Surf and a myriad of other musical styles...

Our day didn't start in the most promising of ways. Tony was driving us up with all our gear in the boot of the car. Unfortunately, one of the passenger door electric windows failed. A quick trip to a garage (where Pompey music legend Steve Lympany works!) confirmed the window was 'knackered' and no amount of shouting or hitting it was going to work.

We took the decision to drive up anyway and pray it didn't rain. The window was jammed half open and for me, sitting on the back seat of the car with my amp, it was a chilly ride. We found The Progress Bar with no problems, and set about trying to park the car with the open window side as near to a wall as possible.

By pure chance the venue was next to a garage and the friendliest mechanic in London (TFMIL) agreed to take a look. He removed the whole car door panel, broke the window motor, and forced the glass back up. He asked for "a drink" as payment. Best tenner this band has ever spent!

Now, you're probably thinking this chance meeting with TFMIL was the Gods smiling upon us and giving us a break. In such an impersonal, cold city as London, what are the chances of stumbling upon TFMIL right next to the venue you're playing in? We unloaded our gear, dragged it upstairs and waited for Roger and the venue staff, and the other bands.

Roger got us all drinks in and we shared a laugh about the car door. We looked around the venue: nice big upstairs room; approx 60 foot by 30 foot i'd say; a proper sound booth at the back; the bar downstairs was clean and large. Kind of like a Firkin pub feel. Such innocent times...

...because it would seem the Gods were merely toying with us. Oh yes. The other bands arrived and after a few enquiries with the venue staff it soon became clear that there was no sound engineer. It was his night off despite Roger being given assurances that someone would be on hand. What looked like speakers for the sound to come through were in fact only for the DJ decks. The PA speakers were mounted on walls facing the stage, so we had to turn them as best we could to give the audience some sound and to use them as monitors for ourself. They were also mounted in a way that meant one was further forward than the other. Not ideal conditions for getting a good sound.

To the venue's credit one of the barmen did come and fish some leads out for us because the connectors on the DI boxes on stage (linked to the mixer in the sound booth) didn't match our leads. Luckily, my Qhixldekx live experiences have meant that over the years I've ammassed a collection of adaptors. When I started playing live with Qhixldekx using a CD backing track I often found that there was no way of plugging in a CD player. Every mixing desk can be different and so you’re never sure what you might need. Hence frequent trips to Maplins to cater for all eventualites! And we needed some of those bits and pieces last night.

They also called in the regular sound guy on his night off but in all honesty that just frustrated me. He was a really nice bloke, don’t get me wrong. But it transpired that the venue does have other, proper PA speakers that you can set up and floor monitors too. However, he didn’t have time to do this so I felt what was the point in spoiling his day off?

So, I took on the role of sound engineer for the night. In all honesty, in a venue of this size, one mixer is much like another so it didn’t take too much figuring out. It was just frustrating that the venue had the potential for a much better sound for both audience and performer. The first band were an amazing vocal trio reciting Georgian hymns and poetry. They didn’t even use mic’s so that was an easy one for me! There were poets throughout the night too, so just a vocal mic for them. Simple. The second band were an all female jazz/gaelic band. This meant me mixing vocals, drums, upright double-bass, violin and guitar. Bit of a trial by fire all told! but we muddled through: I think the majority of people were just grateful we could get some sound going.

One poet in particular deserves a special mention. He was an Irish-Londoner and did an amazingly humerous poem about David Blunkett and Camilla Parker-Bowles. A humerous poem that worked.

Then it was time for Dave, Tony and I to go and be Autons. By this point we were just pleased to be going on. Speaking for myself, I can’t remember when I last had to concentrate so much. And despite Roger being the perfect host and supplying me with Guinness throughout my sound engineer duties, I was a bit tired. I felt very ‘responsible’ for the night but was keen to appear in control because the other bands seemed a bit worried about how things were going.

We had reworked our setlist to account for the more sober, mature crowd we had in. We began with ‘We Are Hungry’ which I don’t play on until half way through. The idea being I could check the sound in the first part and then run up to the stage to join in on guitar. This kind of worked except for those ker-razy Gods and their great sense of timing…

First the electricity to my amp and effects-board cut out.

Then Dave’s guitar strap broke mid song requiring me to play and help him out.

I broke a guitar string forcing a mid-set change of running order.

My amp channel changing switch broke which threw my sound for the rest of the gig.

And throughout there was the threat of feedback because no one was there to man the mixing desk.

I said to the crowd: “Now, I know what your thinking: you’re thinking “They’ve planned all this.” And you’ll never know if it’s part of the act!” I wasn’t joking, but then we dealt with all the above and got through it. Dave and Tony’s on-the-road experience proved invaluable here as they kept the humour levels up, and got the crowd on our side. By ‘Can Fever’ – the song Roger was waiting for – we had found ourselves and there was much foot-tapping on display in the crowd!

We got to the end of the set and weren’t sure what to play. We’d shifted our set around to accommodate our mellower songs but what with all the problems throughout the day I sensed we needed a ‘release.’ Thus, I struck up the opening riff to ‘Limbo Dancer’, our most frantic song and we threw ourselves into it. It paid off: everyone in the crowd – young and old alike – were into the song and by the time we got to the manic, feedback driven, ending all 3 Autons were feeling much better.

We didn’t even get a chance to come off stage before we were called back for an encore, which was jolly nice of the ladies and gents in attendance. Dave asked if the crowd wanted a “smoochie slowey” or a fast one. They wanted a fast one so we played the deceptive ‘Castles In the Air’ which went well considering we’ve only rehearsed it twice. The other lads were then very kind and loaded out all the gear to give me a chance to have a beer with my mate, Tobi, who’d come across London to catch the set.

So what can we learn from all this? Does it put me off away gigs? Absolutely not. Having no sound man forced us to act on our feet and take charge of the situation. And we now know we can sort our own sound out if push comes to shove. We’ll probably invest in some cheap mic’s and stands too, as well as a small mixer, so that when faced with an equipmentless venue we can be self-sufficient. But overall we all felt good about the gig and what we’d achieved.

All that remained was to get home, with a small diversion to buy coffee, muffins…oh, and a ‘Zippy’ air freshener…Hmm, life on the road, eh???
and we neede

With Teeth?

There I am quitely minding my own business on Saturday afternoon, shaking off the effects of Friday nights red wine. Who should appear on the repeat of that morning's CD:UK? None other than everyone's favourite elctro-industrial band Nine Inch Nails.

Me and NIN go back a long way. Over the years it's been less the angsty lyrics that impress me and more Trent Reznor's interesting production. 1999's 'The Fragile' double album was pretty badly recieved by the press. The lyrics were deemed juvenile and the consensus seemed to be you could condense it into one decent single album.

To me this missed the point. There's such a breadth of material on that album that I consider it NIN's best work. When I saw them on 'The Fragile' tour that year the instrumental 'soundscape' pieces marked Trent Reznor's vision out as unique.

Which makes it all the more disappointing to hear NIN's new single 'The Hand That Feeds.' It could be from any one of the many electro-guitar bands doing the rounds right now. I still think that Reznor has an expressive voice. No one does mournful like him and his shouty full-throttle voice is, I think, very listenable. But while it was great to hear it again the song itself falls well short of the expected standard.

I'm still eagerly looking forward to the new album, but I hope the title 'With Teeth' lives up to it's name. The first single doesn't so much bite the hand as dribble over it!

Monday, March 28, 2005

Ade's Birthday Bash @ 'Mess Clean', Frog on the Front, Portsmouth, UK, Friday 25/03/05

So Friday night saw my 3rd gig with Autons. It was great to be playing at the Frog as many a happy night has been drunk away there in the past. It's only recently reopened as a music venue and it works really well. Indeed, it now holds that slightly unfortunate/fortunate (depending on how you look at it) title of Pompeys most viable pre-Wedgewood Rooms venue.

It was also a pleasure to share a bill with Red Letter Day to help celebrate frontman Ades "21st birthday"...again!!!

The people behind the regular 'Mess Clean' nights (every Friday at the Frog) have a great bloke in soundman Nikolai who ensured all ran as smoothly as possible on the night. As a band this is invaluable in helping you enjoy the night.

We were on first and ran through a 6 song set: Can Fever, Vodka Amnesia, Different Eyes, Lamplight, Underground and Limbo Dancer. It was good for me to play a full set rather than joining halfway for a couple of numbers, and it went really well: no technical problems, and people were visibly into what we were doing.

Unfortunately, due to things like taking gear home and my other half still recovering from a bout of the mumps, I managed to miss the 2nd and 4th bands of the evening. I did catch Red Letter Day, however, and they continue to build on that Wedgewood Rooms show last month (see my account in a previous post.) They really do benefit from concentrating on the new material: can't wait until I have a copy of the new album to get intimately acquainted with!

music; n. 1. the art of combining vocal or instrumental sounds in a pleasing way. 2 the sound so produced.

And so by simple reference to the Oxford English Dictionary I sweep away any doubts I had in my mind that the ‘music’ I’m currently concoting is indeed music.

I AM HAVING A FUCKING CRISIS!!!

To quote Alan Partridge “ the mind plays tricks”. Because when you are surrounded day-in day-out with people who look blank faced at the suggestion that you might want to listen to something that exists outside of the top 40 you tend to go one of two ways. Either to think “fuck ‘em” and smugly carry on listening to the Locust etc. Or begin to question the validity of your artistic output.

The key is in the Oxford definitions use of the word “pleasing.” One man’s shite is another man’s sugar etc etc. Doubts over what I’m doing artistically have been rife recently. The attitudes of those I meet daily (see above) along with arguments that art should in some way contribute something positive to society and the culture plague me.

But then the definition of ‘the arts’ is uplifting: ”the expression of creative skill…creative activities such as painting; music; and drama.” Both this defintion and the one for music pretty much cover anything you’d like to mention.

There’s no getting away from it: time for an admission I’ve always avoided. Some people have said they consider me “an artist”; some have said they consider me “a musician.” I’ve always shyed away from such terms. It’s too much for me. I’m not at that level, am I?

It cunts me off no end when people strap on a guitar and five minutes later declare they are a musician. It’s all in the spirit of punk I’m sure, but it’s usually shithole indie guitar bands that do this. Fuck they’re so bland, but they have the audacity to class themselves as a musician: that ‘breed apart’ type of person I am in awe of. And yet there they are declaring the brilliance of “Steve Craddock from Ocean Colour Scene.” If that’s what being a musician means, you can keep the fucker, yet it’s the gateway to acceptance surely? And I do want to be accepted at some level just because I have an ego to satisfy!

I think my confusion is coz up until recently I’ve thought of ‘musicians’ being some secret sect. That there’s something special you have to know to be a ‘musician.’ But now I realise a lot of people declare they’re a musician to cover up their lack of confidence. I find out recently that people I’ve looked up to have drawn inspiration from my early 4-track cassettes (if only from the spirit of them, rather than the music.) It would seem the fearlessness I have neglected of late is perhaps my greatest strength.

Keeping in mind the definitions of ‘art’ and ‘music’ above, lets add a third: “musician – a person who plays a musical instrument or writes music.” There’s an ‘or’ in there, so while I don’t write music, I do play an instrument. And for the sake of completion lets have: “artist – a person who practises or performs any of the creative arts.”

So here it is, the realisation I’ve been trying to avoid for so long: I am both an artist and musician in equal measure.

Phew! That felt good, actually. And it’s because I’ve thought long and hard about this for a good 5 years rather than 5 minutes after strapping on a guitar (see above) I feel I can say this with some authoity: if you are the type of band/act who proudly says something like this “we’re nothing like mods, we’re an indie rock band”, then I’m coming for you, you cunts.

(note: the above mod quote was taken from an interview with a band who wanted to be considered an indie rock band and not a mod band. Why would you want to define yourself as an ‘indie rock’ band? What does that mean, even??? I have an idea of what it means, I’m sure we all do, but that’s all the more reason not to want to be defined as it. To me it means plodding, worthy, dull and ‘Britpop.’ At least mods dressed in sharp suits.)

Thanks for listening.

Grown Men Cry

This isn’t the sort of thing we usually get involved in on this Blog. But as a general football fan I have to make some comment on the alleged Wayne Rooney hitting a student story.

To me Rooney’s on the pitch antics mark him out as a sporting thug. My dad would argue that, in his day, Jack Charlton kicked people all over the pitch and today’s players are nambie-pambie cry-babies in comparison. But todays game is a very different one and Rooney and his ilk only stand out further from the crowd because of it.

It’s still a ‘mans game.’ I use the term ‘man’ not it the macho-male sense, but in the sense that the players on the pitch are adults. And as such they should face up to the consequences of their on pitch actions. The way players ‘crowd’ the ref these days is ridiculous. By all means foul someone: hard tackles are part of the sport. If you must cheat then go ahead and dive. But if you get caught, don’t whine like a kid in the playground. Take your punishment like a ‘man.’

But with todays ‘news’ story I’m actually on Rooneys side. The same logic applies. This student freely admits making a comment to Rooney that he knew would wind him up. So the student chap should accept the consequences of his actions: in this case, a couple of punches! Of course, he says it was a joke, but it was a pretty foolish one if that’s the case. Rooney is bound to be extra sensitive to comments about his Everton alleigences. On a personal note, having read the interview in The Sun with this chap, he appears to be milking it for all it’s worth (there are no visible marks on him.) He sounds so whiny and whingey…like I said, for me, if you wind someone up then deal with the reaction.

Of course, Rooney should be dealt with by the police in the same way as anyone else. But the media and the public crack me up. On the one hand they’ll say that Rooney should accept this kind of stuff from the public (ie. be treated differently to everyone else), but then they’ll say that celebrities should be dealt with by the authorities in the same way as anyone else. You can’t have it both ways: who else, in a minor nightclub scuffle, would end up on the front page of the tabloids?

Off on a tangent...back to the point about players crowding the ref…I think I’m right in saying that in rugby only the captain is allowed to appeal to the ref. This would be a great idea in football I feel. Also, I found the story a couple of weeks back about players swearing amusing. No doubt children do copy their favourite players, but the problem is bigger than that I feel. I think I’m right in saying parks footy is in decline partly because refs can’t be found for games. Why can’t refs be found? Because they get too much abuse. It’s not just kids that copy the behaviour of footballers, it’s grown men too.

That’s what made me laugh. It’s pathetic. Get some proper punishments in there. Fine players in the hundreds of thousands . Fine clubs in the millions if the manager disrespects the ref. It’s the only way.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

You rotter; where 'ave you been? What a lazy c...

Maybe I'm a bit harsh on myself. I have, after all, been quite busy. There is loads of Autons activity: gigs in Arts Centres and our London debut aren't far off now. The first visitor to the LMT Music Lab is due this Saturday (i.e. i'm actually going to have a stab at recording someone else.) And the Qhixldekx march continues on, although upgrading my recording software (Cubase SL - from version 2 to version 3) has slowed that down a bit. PC's - they are fabulous and all that, but they can be fiddly and frustrating.

I also can't get on and finish any of my 'guitar based' tracks. Of the 30 odd tracks I have on the go around half are what I'd call guitar based. But with stuff like the Killers, Kaiser Chiefs, the Bravery, Bloc Party etc etc so prominent at the moment and all sounding so similar (in terms of production: all so up front; no subtlety; no space; no fragility) I find it hard to get motivated by the guitar.

I enjoy my guitarist role with Autons. But the great thing about the boys in the band is they are up for some more experimental six string tones: filtered and beat sync-ed sounds; synth textures etc. We haven't explored that avenue too much yet but then we kind of need to get up and running quickly: oddball sounds will take time.

Looking back on my previous Qhixldekx stuff, I am pleased with it, but I need to move on. I find it hard to be happy with newer stuff: it sounds so done to death. I've deleted so much stuff; chucked whole songs away because it sounds lame. Literally: like a hobbling mangey dog that needs a bolt to the head.

So at the moment I'm concentrating on a load of short electronica idea's. I think even my closet supporters are going to hate it! I can see the criticisms: underdeveloped; a cop out. But it's a necessary stage for me to go through. I need to exorcise a lot of ideas and themes. I'm going to call it 'Electric Spasm.'