Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green

We took Simon's mum to the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, one of two interesting local museums (the other being the Geoffrey Museum, a series of rooms decorated in the changing fashions of ages). It's a great place and now features more displays since it's had a revamp and been integrated with the V & A. There are Victorian dollhouses, a Space Age exhibition ("Please touch the meteor") and old and not quite so old toys throughout the ages. Highlights include a couple of Chinese miniature rock gardens detailing everyday life in 17th century China, a dollhouse found and restored by the wonderful writer Denton Welsh (I had heard about that but had forgotten it until I saw it on display!) and - right above - a 50s toy garage that used to be in Simons old family house (exactly the same model!) and later reused (or abused - depending how you look at it) as a headquarter for the Daleks (though that is contested now). Simon claims he recognizes quite a few of the toys actually. Great fun! Mostly full of kids and their parents, but with a fair smattering of local hipsters too, it was a good way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon! 

Michael with the wig

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Plus Rehearsal in Brighton

We've started rehearsing in Brighton on Saturdays. Don't know why I hadn't thought of that before - John - one third of the band, no less - lives there anyway - and it's nice to come down and good to have a reason to do so. Also Saturday afternoons are much nicer than weekday evenings after work. Plus this is how the band started anyway - Saturday afternoons in my old flat in Kemptown. Joining us today was John's friend Pete who has recently started playing bass and wanted to just "check it out". Chris thought he was pretty good considering he was only playing for two months. It kinda changed the dynamic a bit and made it slightly harder to concentrate on what else was going on, since Chris seems to play quite few things at the same time quite frequently, including basslines. But that eventually focussed me, and everyone else I guess, and we played out with a really good string of older ones. Looks like we're playing a gig in Brighton soon...

We rehearse in this studio called Monster which is basically an industrial unit right in Shoreham harbour, quite an odd place but it's nice to go down to the waterfront during breaks, and the rooms are okay, and everything looks really new, the mic stand works for me (and I do have problems with some mic stands, haha)! On Saturdays at least the place feels almost like a youth project. We felt a bit out of place. Conversation in the corridor: "How old are you?" - "Twelve" - "Are you in a band?" - (more animated) "Yes" - "Wow - What are you called?" - "Trip Hazard" - "Cool, I'll look out for you"... Later on we're in the port area just outside of the studio and I notice the first sign there says "Caution! Trip Hazard". Super sweet! I'll rename that Pollard-style into "Tribute Hazard". That's what we are - whatever it means!

Oh yeah, dig the wig!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Gavin's birthday EP, Sludgefeast, etc.

I haven't done this before. So bear with me. If you go here: http://www.box.net/shared/kxhmgibpfb you can listen to three tracks that me and Chris recorded in our nifty little "home studio" last Saturday. Recording with Garageband is really impressive if you ask me, fairly clear sounding, nice effects, etc.

They're not in the right order either, but anyway

1 Rotating futures (Helium Voice mix) - yes, that' s me with the helium voice treatment. You don't want to use effects like these too often, haha, but it works a treat. The lyrics sound kinda like I want them to sound, over the top, creepy, with an added layer of alien sweetness. I like the hushed barely audible first-take vocals layer grounding it underneath. Whenever we record , on at least one or two tracks we end up using two or even three vocal layers, and quite a few effects, reverb, etc. I dunno, I like hiding in these effects and layers, it works for me, and I don't want the lyrics to be too clear. The lyrics here are from a notebook entry where I'm reflecting on something ou might want to call Retro-futurism or something like that, scribbling down thoughts and impressions while simultaneously watching old and new sci fi movies. I use the same entry and another one in the last song, they're at least partly about an environmental conscience that was missing at the time the future was imagined in this old sci fi stuff but is overhanging it now, all these kitschy, now slightly rusty and outmoded looking utopias that have contributed to an environment and a way of living that is basically unsustainable for much longer, and generally a reflection on shifting times and shifting perceptions of the future. I used these notebook entries for this blogpost (some of the "helium voiced" lyrics from "Rotating futures" are found here, and I like the way the text is recorded, slightly warped, out of kilter, unsettling and pseudo-cute) and also as a brainstorming, kinda stream of consciousness exercise for this experimental science fiction novel I've started writing a while ago (it's gonna take a while before that is ever finished...)

2. Flickering Curtain

3. Walking the foodmiles. This is probably my favourite of the three. A weird, warped pop song about "trashing the planet like an old hotel room of the past" . I want to use that title for stuff in the "future".

So since this was Gavins birthday weekend, the EP is dedicated to him, happy birthday, Gavin!
After we finished recording for the day we ate and headed out to the Bull and Gate in Kentish Town to see Sludgefeast and Winners (and missed three other bands before them) . I didn't really know that Winners consist of three (out of four) ex-members of Do Me Bad Things, and you can still hear a certain exuberance and willingness to rock that is vaguely reminiscent of the DMBTs but there is also a more leftfield indie/powerpop thing going on, I hear Pavement and my beloved Superdrag in quite a few of the songs. Explains why Tom (ex-DMBTs drummer) told me the next Do Me Bad Things album would "sound like Pavement". That sounded so incongruous at the time, and alas, it wasn't to be as the DMBTs imploded soon after but I see how this has been channeled into the Winners project. A winner in my book.

Sludgefeast: short, mostly one - to - two minute songs, um, limited vocabulary ("mf come on"), superheavy riffs, shades and in James' case a fake American accent and big hair. Excellent live band. The night before I saw them play a completely different set (reunited with former band mate Andy for one night only), I've got the setlist for that, 25 songs in 25 minutes (they wanted to do it in 20 minutes and even had a member of the audience measure the time on a stopwatch), it's got titles like "Andy's No 7" and "James No 44" indicating the vast catalogue of (very short) songs at their disposal. Also on the bill were (more Nu-Pavement!) Four or Five Magicians and a rapturously received show by early nineties indie rockers Done Lying Down (well, I didn't actually know them and I even thought they were over from the States since their singer is American, but the gig was great, people loved it and it just rocked, very good!). ..So... at the Bull and Gate I'm wearing my black "80s hairmetal" wig and shades which is really the best way to see a Sludgefeast show, you don't want to see too much anyway, just dive into the heavy, dark sound... James lets Vanessa who is naturally at the front of the action play a few chords on his guitar and later Gavin gets a birthday cake handed from the stage. And the big surprise happens in the end when James replaces everyone in the band with a bandmember from each of the other bands to play a Sludgefeast tune and, you know, to be Sludgefeast for one number, and ... it worked! Really great evening! Happy birthday! I want to see Sludgefeast in the Netherlands now (where they have a booking agent!)!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

It's all true - but who or what are Projekt???

What subcategory of Goth best fits you?
You scored as a Ethereal Goth
You are an ethereal goth... you favor Projekt and Dead Can Dance and have very refined tastes. You like the fine arts and probably prefer red wine to snake bite. Click on my name to take my other tests if you liked this one.
Ethereal Goth

Anything-Goes Goth

Romantic Goth

Death Rocker

Old-school Goth


Perky Goff

Understanding Outsider


Confused Outsider

Fantasy Goth


Thursday, November 08, 2007

control / release

Five images I just "stole" off the google image search, they're stills from Anton Corbijn's beautiful Ian Curtis/Joy Division biopic "Control". There could be loads more of these moody black and white stills that seem vaguely familiar in style if you know Corbijns work with Depeche Mode, U2, etc. The look of the film is the most striking thing, all shades of grey, black and white, recording a re-imagined desolation, isolation, internal struggle, and the general greyness (if that can be a word) of the time and place. This is combined with sudden outburts of marvellous live reconstructions of JD concerts and TV appearances, the sharp almost military rhythm, the precise delivery, the moody dark voice, all suddenly more present than ever and interrupting the long shots where nothing much seems to happen. I think it's a very touching tribute, and it worked for me.

When I first came across Joy Division, I felt I was lured into the presence of an extremely romantic transript of a literally haunted bunch of souls. It seemed to come from somewhere else. The graveyard in Genoa with its giant mausoleums. The North of England seemed like a mythical landscape. It seemed so sophisticated and knowing too. What the film makes clear and evokes so strikingly in its visual language is the very mundaneness of the environment out of which they came. It does romaticize it a bit, but it's mostly quite downbeat, with the odd flashes of humour, quirkyness, character sure, but it's mostly quite depressing. Curtis' struggle to juggle his encroaching illness, a job, a wife and kid, a band that becomes quickly too successful for him to handle, and a foreign girlfriend is depicted in a way that is quite sympathetic. "Control" really tries to tell a story that needs to be told, and mostly succeeds to bring to life quite a few of the harrowing scenes in Deborah Curtis' book "Touching From A Distance". And yet, it is a very arty film. Corbijn has always been good to find striking visual images out of unlikely situations. So the main impression of the film is the way it fills the screen with these long, impeccably captured scenes. Go back to the late 70s and early 80s if you want to see it like it was. And it's made for cinema, it looks and sounds good on the big screen so you can fully immerse yourself in it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Uncle Bob is 50

Happy birthday!

"Congratulations on becoming a grandfather." -

"Thanks, man. But I'm never gonna make mature music. I'm going to make albums, and it's gonna sound like it did when I was a fucking teenager. My voice might change a little bit, but not the spirit. Because I really don't know how to do anything else."


"I hope that after I die," he says, "I can continue to write songs there too."

Miami New Times

Friday, October 26, 2007

Three gigs in two weeks: Bad Brains, Brett Anderson, Siouxsie

Heroes are Zeros. The past is gone. Well, not quite. .. I'm inherently a fairly conservative person. Once you've touched me somewhere I'll remember forever. It's the same impulse that made me look out and eventually find the 2-gig-drummer of my first band recently. He lives in Huddersfield (!). Now if only i could find that other bandmate with the all too common and therefore virtually un-google-able name too. This is more than 20 years ago but part of me still remembers these days very fondly. It's cool, really...

Anyway, the Bad Brains. A one off. I heard mixed reports. Apparently people thought HR should move about a bit more. WTF? He's not a young rasta punk kid anymore... As soon as i entered the Astoria (first time i've been there since the smoking ban came in and deffo a nice change) i felt the charged atmosphere. Just before they came on, people were going mental. I mean, really mad, and not just the front rows. they came on and played "I Against I". The place erupted. I had to put my watch away, it was that bad/good. moshing like no tomorrow. HR stood on stage with a suitcase at his side, head wrapped in a shawl, shades, smiling the whole time, noting that we were "a bit lively" (and that was a bit of an understatement!) saying "thank you" in a cheeky voice, his voice still.. there, though he didn't let himself go through quite the same, admittedly *insane* vocal acrobatics of the past. He was still singing the words, and the band played the songs. I was screaming like a girl at a Beatles concert when "At The Movies" came on! in a way it felt like the audience's frantic reaction to hearing the songs played live again overwhelmed the band too. there were moments when i definitely heard it in my head while they were playing and reacted to it, it was like a strong chemical reaction.

Brett: I didn't really follow anything he did since Suede too closely but I still like it. But this evening was mostly about Suede anyway. At the Queen Elizabeth Hall, mostly Brett on guitar or piano, singing the songs, and a small (female) string orchestra supporting him on some tunes. He did about two solo songs then it went straight into the back catalogue. Admission wasn't cheap but he knew how to deliver the goods so it worked in everyone's favour really. The first set closed with "The Asphalt World". Later he encouraged people to be as loud as they wanted (even though the very efficient and ever so corporate looking Live Nation team recorded it) which eventually lead to a semi lenghty series of shouted requests for old Suede numbers, the most prominent being "The Beautiful Ones" I think. Slumping in my chair at the back i couldn't help shouting a request for "Killing of A Flash Boy", which seemed to be clear enough for the whole fucking room to hear and was followed by a huge cheer from the other part of the room and Brett asking, in his still ever so camp voice, "What sort of gig this" before good naturedly announcing "He's Gone", probably one of the four or five tracks John Darnielle rates on the much maligned "Head Music" album. All these slow burners and downbeat ballads worked very well in this setting, I'd never heard them like that before, and Brett was very efficient on the piano and guitar. "Europe is our playground", "Two of Us", "Still Life"... For the encore he encouraged people to come down to the front, for three more classics, "So Young", "The Wild Ones" and, this was a bit of a surprise, "Trash". Don't know where he's going with these shows, does it signal a possible return of Suede, but it was nevertheless very beautiful and well put together, and a real treat for fans, and it was mainly old fans by the looks of it. I like that sort of thing...

... which leads to Siouxsie at the John Peel night of the Electric Proms, at the Elextric Ballroom, the perfect setting really. It was just like the old Friday nights at the Ballroom, only with one of the place's perennial icons actually in the house performing. She's without Budgie now, they've divorced, which is definitely a bit sad and unusual for me, as he was always part of the experience. Instead she's got a very efficient band that is much heavier on guitars and generally a more rounded band sound than previous incarnations that were getting increasingly percussion based (The Creatures were often just voice and percussion, and for the Dreamshow they had a Japanese kodo drummer joining Budgie as well). She looks great still, big black hair and a fairly clubby low key outfit that works well for the Ballroom. Three old songs, one of them Hong Kong Garden, the Banshees' first single that was apparently first played on a Peel show. And then for the most part of the set her (really good) new stuff. It is essentially more Siouxsie, very efficient, and I need to get it, if only there weren't a hundred and one more things that I should get and our house wouldn't be full of lotsa stuff already. But I probably will get it anyway...

Last song is "Hello I love you" by the Doors. My friend Steve reckons the new material is "more 2007" and I ask him what he means by that so he says its a bit "like Garbage" which would make it "more 1994" in my book and in a way, if Siouxsie was now influenced by Shirley Manson something would come full circle, since Ms Manson is such a huge old Siouxsie fan. In truth, I'm not convinced it does sound that much like Garbage, but it is more streamlined, more guitar-based and maybe a little less experimental than previous outings. But it works... it was good to see her on a stage again, and I think she enjoyed it too, even though she complained of being knackered in the end.

...p.s. Some of my favourite gigs these days are little shows that cost little or nothing on the door and feature some youngsters or at least young at hearts (like us really) pretending they're still stuck in a time machine, either in the early 90s or the post punk years, or a weird combination of those two. These gigs happen around here on a daily basis. There are edgy, noisy, quiet, average and ocasionally outstanding unknown or less known or hot bands, bands, bands everywhere these days. It is very difficult to book a rehearsal space in London less than 5 weeks in advance right now. Is that a good thing?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

is there anyone in here? the hutch opens to one side. as I keep running you adjust the visor and see it in a clear daylight dream sequence. a hut for you and me. you couldn't believe it now. keep running, I say. keep running until the next reststop. let me take that burden off your shoulders. don't talk to me about the past that's hidden in those little lines. all those years swirling through the walls, orange circular stonepaths crisscrossing the land, circling every single face to say goodbye

Sunday, September 23, 2007

I Saw A Ship In The Harbour: Colonsay - Oronsay, Day 1

I took so many pics on my week long trip to Scotland, mainly to the islands Colonsay and Mull, I can't show them all so these are from travelling from Oban, a port town connecting many islands with the mainland and allegedely the town featured in Alan Warners novels (since he grew up there), and mainly from my first day exploring the remote islands of Colonsay and Oronsay on foot. There is a mile long stretch of shallow sand between the islands that you can only cross in low tide, you've got about 5 hours each day when you can go over to Oronsay, where there is a farm and the ruins of a priory said to be connected to the famous island of Iona, including a 6th century cross. It's an eerie, quiet place with fantastic views over to the next islands. The Strand, as the space between the islands is known, is a spectacular scene at low tide with the awesome scenery all around you and fantastic visual textures overlaying the wet sand... the pictures don't seem to post in the right order, nevermind, you get the idea.