Monthly Archives: March 2008

Tour diary #1 – a house full of crisps

Settling into it.

One advantage with having a lovely Big Proper Booking Agent is you tend to get an actual rider, instead of someone dragging out 24 cheap lagers and some Coke. The upside of that is the bottle of whiskey we scored in Birmingham. The downside (relatively… well, no, actually it’s another upside) is my house is now full of crisps. I could eat a pack twice a week for a year and we’re still only 3 shows in. Maybe we should make like China Drum did in the 90s and throw a party after the tour to feed everyone Walkers cheese and onion.

By the way, before I start, should mention I had a letter from Brighton Council about my last entry but, despite shrill tone, they don’t say anything worth repeating. Legalese / splitting hairs aside, they’re a bunch of culture-crippling farters. Anyway…

Jenny drove us from Brighton to Oldham by 3pm for a radio session, during which I broke a string. Impressive driving.

In Manchester we liked the venue so much we went back for breakfast. Trick came out and also top composer and old friend Ian Vine and his missus flautist Jen stayed out late drinking, so the nervous first night of the tour felt like a proper one straight away. Jen can identify single malt scotches by smell, to a startling degree for a well-spoken American. Starfighterpilot finally made it to a show, which was nice, except we didn’t get a chance to chat properly. And Jimmy Doherty – but he couldn’t talk at all, silenced by laryngitus and trying to write everything on a notepad.

In Birmingham, the Academy’s safety barriers (in front of the stage) were so tall – and support act Lucy & The Caterpillar is so tiny – that you could only see her head poking over the top, as she sang her songs about homemade stuffed-toy owls and meeting boys at Kings Cross Station. Sweet. Ben Calvert opened. Both were very good but having two acoustic acts on made the atmosphere slightly too ‘songwriter club’ rarified for my taste. Lucky the (small) crowd was lovely and dealt with the shift in volume. Ended up doing solo encores on the floor and did Hedgehog Song by request, which is an odd thing to close with. I wish Lucy had heard it because she does animal songs too.

First signs are, people really like the ‘Fighting Fire’ t-shirts, which is a relief.

We stayed at an Etap. It’s a French version of Travelodge I guess. The rooms are like pods – the family room has a child’s bunkbed horizontally above the double-bed. Then there’s the shower, which opens right out into the bedroom rather than having a bathroom of its own. Johny loved it but I won’t be going back. I’m sharing a hotel room with a woman who isn’t my wife – I don’t want it to be tiny.

Awesome Danish band Efterklang were there, so we said excited hellos (I DJed at one of their Brighton shows a couple of years ago and they know my friend Shaun, who is promoting their next Brighton date) but they were having a tough time: one member was sent home by UK immigration, so they’ve had to cancel a gig and hole up in Brum to re-rehearse as a seven-piece.

Meanwhile they were somewhat dazed outside the Etap at 1am, having gotten tangled up with some dodgy goings-on. Basically, a bunch of local lads had booked rooms and were trying to smuggle in hookers by getting people to take the ir room cards out to them. It already smelled hairy when we arrived and half an hour later the police were on site.

Heading to Bath the next day, we stopped in Tewkesbury to look at the Abbey. Lunch in a lush little tea-room called Crumpets, turned out to be their first day open since being flooded out last summer. All of Tewkesbury was near drowned and the Abbey became an island. They have a plaque showing the height of the water and journalists kept coming by to interview them – they got booked for local TV news the next day. Food was delicious (I got laughed at for bottling out of the cream tea – but the rest of my band can get away with cream teas much better than me).

And in Bath, Moles Club was well nice. Promoter Steve and his mate Al were the best gig DJs I’ve heard for a long time, spinning vintage Springsteen up against Two Gallants. Support was Jay Jay Pistolet (stronger songs than I was expecting, pretty damn good) and a terrific rockabilly trio, whose name I never found out.

Just as we’re supposed to go on I have a mini freakout. Earlier, at the end of soundcheck, we were filmed doing ‘4am’ for the venue website. At the end of the song I broke a string – but I had to go straight off to film an interview. And (aarrgh!) I forgot to fix the string. So just as I was setting up to play, I realised I had to replace the top E. That delayed the start and then I immediately snapped a different string during the first song. Thank god Matt Eaton was there to change it, while we did ‘7 Hearts’ (which uses the acoustic guitar). Must work out better contingencies, or source a second guitar!

Finally, a knackering drive all the way back to Brighton in the rain for Jen, who showed more pluck than many would muster: we didn’t even leave the venue til after midnight and it pissed down.

By the way, during this leg of gigging I found out that publishing corporation Newsquest has axed our local culture magazine The Brighton Source, which is A) a dreadful thing for many reasons and B) means my porn article may not see the light of day. Gutted x1000 and I’ll write more about this when I find out firm enough details not to libel anyone.

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UK Police try to ban political film

I wasn’t going to post again until we were on the road – but this is fucking shocking:

For weeks, the Duke Of York’s Cinema in Brighton has been advertising a free screening (on March 17) of a locally-made political documentary film, On The Verge, about a long-running protest against a Sussex arms manufacturer. A few days ago, shortly before the screening, Brighton & Hove Council environmental health officer Martin New phoned up the cinema and said that because the film was uncertificated, the screening would have to be cancelled, or the council would revoke the cinema’s licence.

But we’re not talking some dodgy film club in a bar here, the Duke Of York’s is the longest continuously running cinema in the UK, owned by the Picturehouse chain and absolutely central to indie movie-going in Sussex. Down here, it’s an institution. And of course, they regularly do uncertificated screenings (with far more ‘adult’ content than a doc about some protestors) without any problems or criticism from anyone in the council.

Allegedly, cinema managers even offered to add a home-made ’18+ only’ certificate to the film to keep the screening on – but this was turned down. The screening was cancelled! They showed the film twice upstairs in a local pub instead, until that was stopped too, allegedly by some kind of threat.

It turns out, Brighton & Hove Council were put up to it by Sussex Police, who phoned them about the screening. At first, local cop Chief Inspector Taylor told the Argus newspaper that the Police “played no part in the controversial cancellation” but they were soon forced to admit this was not true, when Green Party councillor Keith Taylor spilled the beans that the phonecall did take place. Pathetically, then Police blamed it on a “junior officer based out of town” to get their CI off the possibility of being seen as a shameful fucking liar in the local paper.

Even more ominously, in the few days since, threatening Police phonecalls have popped up all over the UK, as the film tours around community centres, church halls and arthouse cinemas. As I type this, they’ve tried to ban it in Oxford and Bath (where it only survived by moving venue to a Quaker Meeting House), succeeded in banning it in Southampton.

I didn’t get to see On The Verge but obviously, as a doc, it’s not going to have much blood, gore or hardcore sex in it. The reason no-budget indie filmmakers can’t get a certificate is the sheer cost of applying (over £1000), which is why – in reality – places like the Duke Of York’s ARE perfectly within their rights to screen uncertificated films in many circumstances, including if they’re shown for free or to members.

Got to wonder what exactly is in this movie, that Sussex Police want rid of so desperately they’d mobilise their colleagues across the UK and make a mockery of freedom of speech.

Got to wonder what exactly is going on in Brighton Council that, over and over again, they try to stifle and control local culture. From April 11th, you can’t give people flyers outside a gig without applying and paying for permission.

an Easter message of love and joy

Happy Easter! Egg hunt time…

Apart from all the chocolate and Bill Hicks’ jokes about six foot bunnies and what Jesus would make of everyone wearing crosses, Easter always makes me think of Sinead O’Connor (years ago) being booed off by a New York crowd at a Bob Dylan tribute concert and responding by stopping the house band and belting out Bob Marley’s ‘War’. Despite being the sort of people who’d pay to see a tribute gig for a ‘protest singer’, the audience attacked her because the week before, she’d highlighted child abuse within the Catholic Church on a TV show by tearing up a picture of the Pope. If you’ve never seen this, it’s well worth watching:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CCk2YQS8vaw

Jesus Christ only got angry once. It’s one of the most consistently documented stories about him, present in all four Gospels and other accounts of his life, giving it greater historical weight than many other bits of the Bible. (It’s easy to forget in amongst modern Christian flim-flam that a lot of the most well-remembered tales of Jesus only show up in one or two books, like the Sermon On The Mount, for example, which is only in Matthew.)

Anyway, Jesus shows up for Passover at Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem and there’s a bunch of moneylenders and people trading stuff (selling doves, for a start) out in the courtyard. So Jesus goes a bit nuts – he knocks over tables and shouts and even makes a whip out of chord to drive the livestock off the land, to stop people trading and money-lending on land which should be reserved for prayer.

Making a scene like this – rather than mere benign preaching and performing the odd Derren Brown-style miracle – probably contributed to his arrest and trial. He really riles the local priests and temple officials, who try to have a pop at him later but he out-argues them.

Nowadays, ‘Christian’ churches (of many kinds) prioritise whatever maintains their control over peoples’ lifestyles, well ahead of the actual words and deeds of their prophet. They’ll bang on and on about sexual manners, the peculiarities of the church-owned marriage ritual and side-issues of personal morality, none of which were of any serious concern to J.C. who was busier preaching “love your enemy”, “turn the other cheek” and getting pissed-off with people using religion to exploit the poor. Hmm…

I went to a Catholic primary school where I was taught the Stations of The Cross as fact, the Easter weekend as fact, the inevitability of hellfire (especially for me as a non-Catholic attender) as fact. So. Happy Easter! Deep in our hearts we all know Jesus Christ would be way happier to see kids getting chocolate eggs from magic rabbits than what the Bishops will inevitably boff on about over the weekend.

I think there should be full democratisation of religious organisations. They wield as much power and influence over peoples’ lives as governments. If moderates everywhere are consistent in their wish to spread democracy (like they did in such a charming way in Iraq), surely they should agree – it needs to be rolled out across any powerful organisation that holds sway over many people. Big businesses and religions are up first.

business snooze

Yesterday I took a load of gig posters up to London to get them distributed and did an interview for Radio 2, where I gibbered nonsense for 10 minutes. They’ll edit it into something relatively normal (with luck) for Steve Lamacq’s show tonight. I was looking forward to seeing Steve (we haven’t crossed paths for a long time) but he’s on his way back from Texas.

Afterwards, I suddenly realised that every single time I’ve been asked what Capital is about, my answer has been wrong. It’s not a violent love affair where the London-at-war backdrop reflects the relationship (which is what I’ve mostly said), it’s just a fat metaphor for money. The other day, this bloke interviewing me for the Metro – perfectly nice, charming guy – opened up with: “How come Jamie T and The Streets are famous, and you’re not?” and it 100% stumped me. I can’t even remember what I answered but it was more waffley bobbins. Note to self: get some succinct fucking answers that make sense, before it’s too late!

Then after delivering the posters, somehow I fell asleep on the tube, with a bunch of CDs and my laptop lying at my feet for anyone to help themselves to if they fancied a free MacBook. Thank fuck they didn’t get stolen, though I’d’ve deserved it. No drinking or anything (though no lunch either, maybe that was it) – must’ve looked a right dick.

Today I’m not leaving the house.

on prophets

One thing Arthur C. Clarke did that was amazing, quite apart from writing the very most astounding sci-fi ever, was he predicted / invented the geo-stationary orbit for satellites. This is where the orbit speed of the satellite matches the rotation of the Earth, so the satellite ‘stays still’ above the same piece of land, allowing its use for communications etc. Clarke described it (ahead of the technology) so accurately, that no single government or company could patent the idea and it became an open globally used piece of innovation that affects every one of us, every day.

This morning I’m utterly gutted (selfishly) that I won’t get to meet him, he’s the last one, my final true childhood hero to pass on.

Interesting how few media outlets have mentioned one of the key issues in the Tibetan uprising: the Chinese government’s kidnap and ‘disappearing’ (read: continued holding) of the young boy, who Tibetans believe to be the Panchen Llama. Even when some of the protestors have placards about him, no news shows seem to be bothered to explain. Oh, it turns out, neither can I.

Read about the Panchen Llama.

We’ve been watching Michael Wood and Jeremy Jeffs’ BBC series The Story Of India, which Rifa got on DVD from her Dad. It’s outrageously good. As beautifully shot and human as Palin, as strong socio-politically as Andrew Marr and better at drawing together threads of ‘big’ history than any other series I’ve seen. Tara Arts’ moments of performance are a bit declamatory for my taste (though it’s probably stylistically appropriate) and the occasional badly-filtered CGI is piss-poor but neither of these go any way towards spoiling the enormous whole.

It starts with this jawdropping revelation: south Indian mystics have handed the same complex chants down for thousands of years. They’d never been recorded or analysed before but just recently were taped and assessed – and they’ve been proved to be older than human language – they have no connection with any known linguistic heritage or ancient music form. In fact, they’re most closely connected to the language patterns of animals, such as birdsong. It’s a direct, living cultural connection to the absolute beginnings of ‘human’ existence. Even better, the villagers in this area themselves have direct genetic links to the first known migration of people, out of Africa and into southern India.

album release day 2

So I pop to my local indie shop, sneakily check out a copy of Capital and, yes, it looks pretty damn sweet, if I do say so myself. The main thing I’m relieved about is the size of the wallet (it’s a lush thick card sleeve with a matt booklet, instead of a plasticky ‘jewelcase’ – I’m just well sick of them). I kept hassling Griff, who did the layout, that the dimensions were wrong on the templates and he kept saying “It’ll be fine, don’t worry about it.” And I kept thinking, “Arrgh, it’s going to be too small!”.

But of course he was totally right all along, it’s exactly the right size. And then, just as I’m thinking that the writing in the booklet is particularly snazzy, someone catches me, luckily a ‘normal’ Brighton friend, not a scenester: “Hur hur! Can’t believe you’re looking at your own CD in the shop, you’re like J.R. Hartley!”

“Umm…”

Couldn’t buy a copy either, because the staff would’ve definitely thought I was an idiot.

I tell you what, Macca, if you’re reading this. I’ll do anything you want sexually for 23million quid and I won’t tell anyone.

album release day

Capital‘s out today. This is the first time I’ve ever released an album, where it’s in the shops before I’ve seen the final product and – double worry – it’s also the first time I’ve done the sleeve artwork myself. So to say I’m a bit nervous about how the fucker looks is fat understatement. This morning, I’ve got to run some errands in town, so I’m going to go look at it in a record shop. The thing is, in a small town like Brighton, is it just fucking cheesy to look at your own album on the shelves? Surely nobody’ll care, right? I just hope nobody goes – euch, you’re checking out your own record…

Live set is coming together – top fun band rehearsal yesterday, very relaxed and cheerful. I wonder if the pure act of music-making simply gets easier as you get older. Jackie, the woman who runs Under The Bridge (rehearsal studio), went off to do a photo shoot with the Green Party. She’s involved with supporting Omar Deghayes, the Brighton guy who just got out of Guantanamo Bay after 5 years. No charges brought, he’s innocent but they still put his eye out.

“Just switch the PA off and leave the cash.” She said, which is so rare these days, it felt like a throwback to a bygone era, just to be trusted.