Category Archives: Animals

the right kind of tired.

It’s left me queasy in the stomach and cut-up and physically very knackered but I had a brilliant, totally different day today: up on the steep-sloped Sussex downs, clearing back brush and cutting it down to the roots for the Sussex Wildlife Trust. The company for whom I write charidee fundraising guff organises a staff volunteer day and invited me to get in on some rural hard labour action. Couldn’t resist. The SWT also has more seasoned volunteers who work every week on clearing miles of the valley. So far it’s taken four years. But they regularly chuck groups of slack-handed city corporate types and students up there as well for much needed fresh air. Voluntary? If Michael Caine is going to bang on about national service (pay your taxes mate, contribute properly yourself before you start barking opinions on sorting the kids out) then what about making this kind of environmentally sound contribution a compulsory part of the curriculum? Or the whole curriculum? But, in the words of Ronnie Corbett, I digress. Apparently the staff at Brighton Amex went along with a huge Waitrose picnic hamper, packed beer instead of water, were totally fucked up by lunchtime.

Anyway, the work involved chopping and sawing brush away from its roots, creating huge thorny balls of unhooked plant, roughly the size of a small cottage, then rolling them down to the bottom of the slope like a giant snowball, where they were chucked onto a big bonfire. Basically, since the war and mixymatosis in the 50s, no animals have grazed the southern downs properly. Now the whole thing is becoming a National Park, they’re trying to recapture what downland should be like. First get rid of the overgrown nonsense, then bring the animals back to graze. SWT have their own sheep and cattle already on the job – however apparently regular farmers can get paid to allow their livestock to graze on the downs.

If you know Sussex, we were up behind the white cliffs of Lewes.

While I was there, sawing away, the details of next year’s single, album and tour all got remarkably smoothly ironed out and fell into place during an email conversation between the guys at ITB and Xtra Mile. It was weird because the normal music industry organisational discussions all took place with me joining in on email while actually rolling around in sheep shit and getting thorns in places thorns should never ever go. I even got the iPhone covered in rabbit droppings at one point. Although it was tempting just to stop and concentrate on music things, I would’ve looked a right dick sitting on this gorgeous piece of empty downland tapping away at my phone.

Now, I’m the right kind of tired. Don’t get it very much, certainly not at home. 95% of my life, my brain gets tired by the end of the day but I haven’t really exerted myself. Even on tour, when we’re carrying gear around or performing or what not, it’s not truly heavy exercise – and comes in small doses. But spend a day doing reasonable (not even particularly extreme if I’m honest) physical labour and the kind of tired I feel at the end is so much better, so much healthier and more balanced, it’s a stark reminder the depth of the koyaanisqatsi we find ourselves in most of our days. I don’t watch Hugh Fearnley-Wotsit very often because of how much he loves to eat everything alive. But I hadn’t realised he was behind the land-share project, where people who have spare land let other people make positive use of it. Genius. Let’s connect younger, hipper companies and collectives either to the kind of volunteer projects I sweated on today or, even better, get them involved in sharing land and putting it to good use.

A campfire micro-tour circuit. Create a series of spaces across the country where small gatherings take place through summer to share unamplified music, like tiny miniature folk festivals. Keep them responsible, fewer than 50 people, nothing like an actual festival, and base the whole thing around a campfire. Make it a “between ‘proper’ festival” tour circuit. Include stand-up and storytelling and non-stage theatre… but make it tread lightly, take its litter home and don’t fuck up the land. Could be epic.

So anyway, I got home as inspired as I was cream crackered.


wherewithal and I

Ups and downs.

In the shower I got gallons of shampoo in both eyes at once and was in blind agony moderate pain for 15 minutes. Rinsed and rinsed but I was in a hurry. Decided the “I’ve been crying insanely” look was good to go.

Then I stumbled out of the house and went to Union Chapel to play piano for Turner, with Biffy Clyro and Friendly Fires for Jo Whiley’s Little Noise Sessions (for Mencap). Jo wasn’t there, she’s just had a baby (her 96th I believe) but I got to meet Mathew Horne (warning: his myspace currently has Keane playing, in case you want to switch your sound off before clicking through) from Gavin & Stacey. Normally Horne would be enough celeb for any event – he was lovely and better looking in real life – but he got out-A-listed by rock superstar Mr Bryan Adams, who’d come especially for Frank and came backstage to the vip bar with his gorgeous missus for a chat. Didn’t miss out the humble pianist either – was supremely down-to-earth and genuinely very interesting. I went on wiki today and now wish I’d been more up-to-speed because he’s a veggie and has done important work for animal rights causes that I’m down with – but of course we didn’t touch on any of that stuff.

I wish we had, cos I could’ve wound Frank up about his recent abandonment of vegetarianism in favour of getting vicious food poisoning from dodgy chicken. Korma or karma?

Later I became dreadfully seedily drunk on bourbon, ran away before everyone got the drugs out, found myself stuck on a broken tube train without the wherewithal to get out and walk, so missed my last Brighton service from Victoria, spending the rest of the night at Costa Coffee, Gatwick Airport.

You’re right of course, I should’ve hoovered indie-scene charidee cocaine, punched out the guy I hate, done the sex with the blonde and wound up frying comedown eggs in a TV star’s kitchen. One day they’ll get me but not yet, dear reader, not yet. 

[edited for content]

In other news, I can’t get any music made fo shit but I’ve just made sublime artichoke and sweet onion chutney of my own damn recipe. Maybe Anjum Anand‘s sitting at home writing songs.

some pain, some jim and some scam

Jim sent demos. He’s been writing scripts yet still knocks out the finest new songs I’ve heard this year, in a couple of wet afternoons. So dark though. Jim made me think of Death, maybe it was his fault.

Either you buy shares or you don’t. People who do gamble for profit, that’s the point. But now, with gamblers losing money, the US government will nationalise that loss with tax dollars. Everyone who didn’t buy shares in the first place still funds the bail out of those who did. Simple and sick: a swindle of epic proportions. The American government has made me think of Death for years.

Palin comparison to anyone with a brain

I can’t believe Democrats are being so delicate and polite about Sarah Palin’s pregnant teenage daughter Bristol.

I can’t believe people aren’t just saying over and over again: “That’s what happens when you teach your kids abstinence but don’t teach them contraception.” 

I can’t believe people aren’t shocked that Palin and GOP organisers knew Bristol was up the duff, yet still decided Palin should run for a hugely high-profile public office, exposing the poor girl to the judgement of the world.

I can’t believe Bristol will marry the idiot redneck, tying herself lifelong to someone so monumentally balls-deep dumb, he didn’t know how to avoid knocking her up. The sleight-of-hand blurring of ‘responsible fatherhood’ and ‘marriage’ is beyond retarded. One has to hope and pray that she’s not being ordered to marry him – that it’s not a whole life sacrificed for the GOP!

I can’t believe even socially backward Republican creationist scum think this is the right thing to do.

the meat trade

Having a fun time on tour, to the extent that me and Thomas have vaguely talked about taking it to the USA in autumn – now that would be wicked. So far on this tour I’ve seen 9 lizards of one kind or another, which must be a record.

In Glasgow we managed to lock the keys in the van – left them still in the ignition! This was because the key had a hairline crack, so we’d got in the habit of locking and unlocking doors from the inside, to reduce wear until we had a chance to get a couple new keys made. After swearing quite a lot and getting nowhere with the AA, we just left the van outside the house overnight (you couldn’t see the key in the dark and it was a posh area), then I got up at 5.45am to watch the van til we could phone a mobile locksmith. £45 later, we were rescued – and of course it took him about 15 seconds to get in, with one of those scary locksmith devices.

Then we went and got new keys cut. We were told that the key cutting man used to be an infamous local pimp before retiring into ironmongery. What a career change!

So it’s a week later and, during our day off, I catch up on laundry and watch some films. Across town, Thomas makes a gourmet meat paté from a Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall book. Thomas White is a meat freak, people… he’s got a dream and it involves a whole pig’s head. I suggest (how good an idea is this!?) that we cut the paté into manageable slices, clingfilm it up, put a sticker on it saying “Thomas White Paté” and sell it on the merch. That would SO rule, at least for the few days before it went off in the van.

What is it with classic fantasy literature being ruined by shitty films? It grinds my gears! Watched The Golden Compass and Studio Ghibli’s dismally embarrassing attempt at Tales From Earthsea in the last few days and they both need someone to get a severe beating for their sheer shiteness. Goro Miyazaki (son of their legendary master Hayao Miyazaki) is simply not up to the job. I can see why Ursula Le Guin was so uncomfortable with the cartoonised Earthsea – I wonder where Pullman stands on The Golden Compass.

When we were kids, our house had a ban on any Disney cartoons that adapted (read: ‘fucked up bigtime’) classic books, like Winnie-The-Pooh and The Jungle Book. Good move T-T Snrs, I’ll be carrying that one forward if I ever have sprogs of my own. There’s honestly not much worse in the world than a Walt Disney re-imagining of Winnie-The-Pooh, it’s on a par with Robert Mugabe or those idiots in Burma.

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:

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.

last leg

day 11

Back from the desert, we shoot final lip-sync headshots in Sarge’s garden and find an enormous shiny black widow spider in a lawn ornament. It’s beautiful and scary. Returning the camera, they try to charge Stephen $80 for an instruction manual we weren’t given in the first place.

The final L.A. show is downtown at Bordello, where the decor and staff outfits match the name. The semi-circular stage has a patterned see-through gauze curtain for burlesque girls to dance behind, plus another classic red velvet curtain, as well as an opulent oriental shrine-like backdrop. I wish I had the nerve to perform behind the gauze (and do some dancing). There are dusty vintage oil paintings of pin-ups everywhere. Actually, that’s an L.A. thing – loads of grimy city bars have oil painted glamour girls on the walls, as if having it done by hand instead of photographed makes it any less seedy.

Frank pulls out yet another terrific one, though I fuck up the cue to solo kazoo on ‘Nashville’. When it’s my turn, I do something I rarely manage when things go wrong: I rescue a weak (oddly disinterested though I don’t know why) first few songs, pulling myself together to turn in a strong overall set. The bad start may be as simple as no bottom-end on the guitar in the monitor, so in ‘Tomorrow Morning’, when I hit the deeper minor-key chords for the bridge, there’s nothing down there. That song must be one of those key moments in my set where I subconsciously assess what’s going down – it can trigger the “What the fuck am I doing here!?” brain pattern. Luckily victory comes in the last 15 minutes. I do ‘Cull’ at the end and wish I’d included it more often on this tour.

Here’s a lovesong: at one side of the room, there’s Mike, who famously loves girls’ feet beyond all other things. On the other side of the room, there’s Maria, with lavishly tattooed oriental symbols on her feet. Like ships in the night, these two strangers will probably never meet, which is a great pity. Plus, Mike just got a girlfriend.

One table near the stage on our left, slightly out of eye-range, talks loudly all the way through, despite regular shushing from the crowd. Neither me or Frank say anything but the terrific piano-playing girl on after us gives them some shit.

day 12

On Beverly Bvd, for the first time, I get charged for wireless internet in this manky café, full of suits. Then a bitchy waitress shushes me for iChatting with Rifa, even though I was dead quiet, nobody else was remotely disturbed and there were several louder phonecalls going on – I think she’s a bit pissed off / freaked out that we’re video-chatting. I finish quickly and I’m just typing, when she suggests I ‘could’ go somewhere else. I suggest for her a method of self-pleasuring with an item of furniture and take my business to the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf across the road.