Thursday, 30 June 2011

What is she going to wear?

Listening to Radio 4 today (see earlier blog to read about my love of this gem of a station) i learned that Prince William and Kate Middleton are doing a north American tour. Apparently as well as all the usual military commitments (why a soldier in a country that far away from us will suddenly be inspired to kill more women and children as part of a private bullying club for the world's richest elite by laying eyes on a home counties girl who other than marrying a balding inbred has nothing to do with anything important in the world, i don't know) and hanging out with politicians, state governors and criminals rich enough to mix in those circles they will also be doing some fun things. Such as cooking with some kids and steering dragon boats.
Great...good for them. I shall wave my plastic Union Jack right now.

Now this was reported on the same show that talked about Ai Wei Wei's recent release from prison in China and his subsequent gagging in terms of talking to the media as well as advertising the Reith Lectures. A series of talks by Aung San Suu Kyi who based on the first lecture is an amazing woman who protests and works hard to achieve freedom for the people of Burma.
I shouldn't be surprised that Wills and Katy are talked about in the same programme as these great and important things as I'm aware we do have a royal family and some of our empire might want a chance to get their money's worth out of them, but here is what annoyed me (yes it took me this long to get to the point): They said "The American media will scrutinise their every move and every one of her outfits." No big deal to some i suppose, but it pissed me off! Why do we care what she wears? In fact do people really care? Or if it wasn't mentioned and studied would people just entertain themselves with some other rubbish?
it is like the end scene of The Truman Show. The producer pleads to Truman to stay in the show even though he now knows he is living in a massive TV studio and his whole life is a show. He makes out it is important and for a second you almost believe it. Then he decides to leave the show. We're shown two bored security guards who love the show spend 20 seconds getting really pissed off then one says to the other "What's on the other channels?" We, the general media consuming public are those security guards. We sit around, we eat, we live vicariously through other people's lives and think it somehow important, but actually if it went away we'd survive. If there was never another article about Kate Middleton babies would still be born, the sun would continue to burn and Friends would still be on E4.
The woman who was the royal reporter talked as though the future king of England building a good relationship with America was no more important than the shade of smug his wife wears to the events and in a way she is right, because we let it be that way.
Writing this blog is possibly hypocritical and contributing to the problem as i'm hardly looking the other way, but i just had to vent.
Ok, back to my place where i play music and write songs about girls and don't potentially prevent us getting a gig at the Queen's 100th birthday.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Being a singer and being ill.

I never wanted to be a singer, i grew up totally in love with guitars and pretty much ignored the vocals in all the bands i was into. Only when i began writing songs and the singer of my first band left did i end up stood at the mic. I had written everything for a few songs, tried to find a singer and failed so just gave it a go. I was terrible, but i was into it in the sense that i cared about how the song was delivered so i suppose i had some feeling behind it. Over the years i avoided recording myself singing as much as possible and regret my lax attitude to self improvement as only now do i feel i am totally finding my voice and its still a bit out of control a lot of the time. I can't imagine just playing guitar and not singing now on songs i'd written, however i'd happily play just about anything if it was on someone else's music.
The one thing i never thought of when i fist stepped up to the mic was what added responsibility it'd come with. Namely in keeping in shape. I don't mean physically fit like an athlete, but in terms of illness. You can play drums with a cold and you can sing live with a cold, but you can't record. If you have anything worse than a cold it can be even worse for your voice. Invariably illness strikes in the studio and with vocals tending to be done at the end of sessions it means you have had plenty of time to:
1. Sit in an air conditioned room for a week.
2. Eat shit food
3. Smoke too much
4. Not get enough sleep
5. Have a higher state of anxiety

All these things contribute to that slight "oh shit i'm getting ill" feeling on the night before you have to start singing. And really there is nothing you can do. This isn't even taking into account Sod's Law (Murphy's Law for our American cousins) which would fuck you anyway.
Luckily we live in an age where recording gear is cheap and easily available so i prefer to record vocals at home, but that doesn't mean i'm not frustrated right now that i have 3 songs sat there, fully recorded except for my singing and i'm ill! I want to get these tracks done!

Friday, 17 June 2011

Lazy Lazy Lazy

It drives me crazy just how lazy some people can be. In everyday life but specifically when it comes to music, events and shows.
Putting on gigs should be simple, but it never is. The theory is this.
1. Book a band with a following. These will be your headline band.
2. Book bands that fans of the headliner will probably like.
3. Ask these smaller bands to make an effort to help promote the show.
4. Promote the show yourself safe in the knowledge you have put together a night that is cohesive and appealing to a certain fanbase.

The idea is that people knowing how good the gigs are at this venue from previous experience show up in the time to see the early bands...fall in love with them and before long they are the headline band.

In reality this is what happens:
1. Headliner booked. Often a band that is no different in profile to the other bands on the bill.
2. Opening bands booked seemingly at random. Headliner is metal? Cool, let's stick an indie band who sound like The Coral on right before them.
3. Opening bands either through laziness or through being jaded with the system make no effort to promote the show either so the place is dead.
4. The small audience show up, have a generally disappointing night as out of the 4 bands only one was in a style they liked and the bands walk away with no new fans and the promoter is pissed off due to no money.

This happens ALL the time. There is no need for people to make it this fucking hard. I know i'm no expert and people can give me loads of reasons as to why i'm wrong, but it just screams common sense to me. Look at dance music, they are really good at putting on nights. You know a specific 'night' with DJ's that are from the same sub genre with the night advertised to the kind of people who'd like that night. After a few weeks word goes round and the night establishes itself through being good. Through being what the people want and not having a bit of this and a bit of that (lack of knowledge of dance sub genres is pretty evident here).
Surely if a venue decided that every other Thursday was punk night or something like that. Then put on the best bands they could find, not just a bunch of kids who can bring their college mates to their first show. No, something so that punk fans go to the night see great bands and tell their friends. Even rock clubs tend to get this right, but not gigs and it drives me mad.
Then you get the lazy bands who also ruin any effort by a promoter to put on a decent night. they show up, borrow the other band's gear and then piss off as soon as they have played, barely speaking to anyone at the venue. I always wonder what they're getting out of doing that, they get no new fans, they don't get paid and surely playing to no-one is pretty boring after a while? It IS the promoters job to promote a show, but if bands also put in some effort (there are some who do) then there'd be music fans all in the same room and some of their fans might also become fans of another band and vice versa. Before you know it its a success.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

We've been working too hard.

Lately we have been a hive of activity, writing and recording. I have said before we have way too many songs right now to choose from, well we have been adding to the tally steadily day after day. Somehow we've managed to whittle our 'normal' lives down to the bare minimum leaving time to actually get on with all the things we have been wanting to do for a long time.
The biggest problem with having a massive back log of songs usually is that so few see the light of day. When you finally get a chance to go into a studio and record them you only have the money to say record 5 of them so loads go unloved. A year later and you record again and the newer ones you just wrote seem more exciting than the older ones just because they are fresher and so 15 songs or so get lost to the mists of time. This is what has happened to us in previous bands in the past, but we have decided to bring the studio to us, to keep it lo-fi and make use of these songs. Even if the only release they get is a "Recorded at rehearsal EP" release. In the end we think it'll be worth it.

The thing that's interesting about this to me is how wide ranging the material we're writing is and how we'll make it fit together. It is a problem lots of bands i know have. They write quite diverse music, but to keep their band's brand strong they have to choose the songs that all sound the most samey. When you think about it that's a real shame and often why bands will one day seem to go mad and either split up to do solo projects or suddenly on one album totally change their style. Its because they have been so locked into just one style that it becomes a cage for them.
Remember that bands are full of musicians and they probably listen to and appreciate a plethora of styles and feel they could express themselves well given a wider palette. Its often fans who trap bands...i was the same when i was younger. I loved metal and harder rock exclusively and assumed the bands i listened to thought the same. I never for a second thought that maybe Metallica might listen to country or Pantera might like blues. Turns out they really did and Metallica actually released a couple of country-ish songs which was amazingly brave of them considering the situation they were in. Loads of fans hated it, but it was an eye opener for me and since then i have been much more aware that bands are made of musicians who love music and when you play music its nice to stretch your wings a little from time to time.
So whilst we're not going to be releasing any techno DJ happy hardcore sensory assualt along with our rocky stuff there might be a few surprises in store.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

How do we choose?

We have 21 songs to choose from when we only have the budget to record a 5 track EP. Shit...each one is worthy of attention, but i guess we're going to have to do the unthinkable and love one child more than another.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

We're lucky to have the NHS, but why do they make it so hard to love them?

I love the NHS, or at least the fact it is there. If you or a loved one gets ill it is amazing to know you can have some of the best medical treatment in the world for free. If i was in the USA i'd be worrying about health insurance a lot as i can be a pretty sickly person.
But the NHS just seems like the admin is run by idiots and whilst some doctors are great others just seem to not really give too much of a shit. Maybe its because so many people take advantage of it being free and turn up week after week with health issues that can't be totally clarified so they can get benefits or at least the week off work. For example did you know that 1 in 10 adults in the UK of working age are signed off work full time for being disabled due to illness. I refuse to believe that we have that many seriously ill or disabled people and the freeloaders just make it harder for the genuine cases.
A friend of a friend was looking through a car brochure as they get govt money to buy a new car every 3 years. Why? Because they are really fat. That can't be right, but it is true.
So now to my personal experience. I got tonsillitis ALL the time, maybe every 3 weeks over a period of 4 years and for a singer this is not good. My doctor never seemed to take it that seriously, but eventually after going again and again he pretty much wrote me an open prescription for antibiotics so i could take them whenever i knew i had tonsillitis and nip it in the bud. This worked really well for about a year when one day i took a tablet as i had woken with killer tonsils and went straight into full blown anaphylactic shock as i'd developed an allergy to the penicillin. This was not fun and i was lucky to get away with it, but cannot speak highly enough of the paramedics who looked after me.
I then noticed i suddenly seemed allergic to everything and discovered i really should get some emergency adrenalin injection pens in case i had developed a reaction to anything else so got referred to the allergy clinic in the hospital. As expected it took months to see a specialist and when i got there he didn't seem bothered at all so i asked to see the letter the doctor had written. He wrote "Jon has had some throat trouble from time to time and recently had a reaction to penicillin." This seemed a little low key to me so i described the situation to the specialist and he was amazed, told me i should have been given at the minimum some emergency injections and that repeated tonsillitis like i had should not be treated with an open prescription for anti biotics.
So they took blood...lots of it and did tests. Turns out i was newly dangerously allergic to peanuts. Woo, go me! However i never got the results of those blood tests and now over a year later get a call saying they found some results they didn't know the context of and were sorry, but they'd have to do some more blood tests and they didn't know why they'd taken them in the first place.
Exasperated is the only way to describe my dealings with the whole system. Despite loving the fact we have free health care and i'd always vote in favour of keeping it i cannot fathom how they make such a pig's ear of all the basic stuff and why getting a real condition sorted seems harder than getting a note signed to get a free car due to liking cake a little too much.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

That feeling of disappointment (that comes with snails)

Things rarely live up to our expectations. They say never meet your heroes and it is true...they are only people in the end, possibly great and talented people, but never the gods we're led to believe by the media. As a child i'd see adverts with these toy aeroplanes flying in circles possibly even shooting lasers, but i soon came to realise it was all camera tricks and mine was just a hunk of plastic that i'd have to 'use my imagination' with to get to fly.

Travelling is the same for me, i get romantic notions of somehow being a whole new me in different places, but i'm not, i'm the same me with the same basic personality just in a different location. Its so easy to forget that EVERYTHING with almost no exception is now a product and is therefore marketed to you. Even your friends on Facebook can be creating a mini PR campaign showing only their coolest photos or updating about their most interesting stories. That is what i am doing now, I am writing a personal blog, but essentially i set it up as another avenue to my band. We're so used to it that we forget it is happening and get sucked in time and time again. There are some people though that get some bummed out by the difference between the advert/dream and the reality that they get hospitalised. Welcome to what i assumed was a spoof article, but it seems might be factual about 'Paris Syndrome' where Japanese tourists feel so let down by Paris that they freak out and get hospitalised and then flown home. I try to make my band out to be pretty cool and some people think it is, but i hope that we never disappoint to that extreme!

Sunday, 5 June 2011

London touristy trip done.

Despite living in London for a while i never really did the touristy things. Even now i don't live too far away so it feels too close to really get excited about. I mean its not quite the same as visiting Rome is it? I decided to dip my toe into the waters of London tourism and found it massively underwhelming. I re-affirmed my conviction that sight seeing just isn't for me, a feeling i'd become aware of on our trip to Asia. I love interesting history but told to me one on one by a guy i meet in a bar, not read off a card next to a block of stone in a museum with kids spilling coke on your shoes.

I went to The British Museum and it IS amazing, don't get me wrong, but i just feel like museums are the worst environment for getting into history. First of all its too busy, second the information is too brief and third you're exhausted from just walking ALL THE TIME. I'm probably being fussy, but even now i feel the same lethargy hit me that i did when i was on a school trip to look at a church despite the fact that i now actually want to see these things and learn. Its similar to the lethargy felt when going on a long shopping trip with your girlfriend, you feel hot, tired, your feet ache, you feel thirsty and irritated and you're only 20 minutes into a 5 hour marathon!

The other odd thing about the British Museum (i did other stuff too, but i have very little to say about looking for 20 seconds at a few buildings.) is the fact it is essentially a vast collection of booty. No, not the Beyonce type, the stolen goods, swag type. Its shit we took from all over the world usually from the period when England was in control of large chunks of it. Now we proudly display it on the wall of a big room. There's an amazing note next to one of the freeze, high relief carved figures in the Parthenon room which says "here a man fights a centaur, both heads have been removed and are kept in Greece." That's not the exact wording, but i read this phrase on a few headless/armless statues and you really got the feeling that reading between the lines there was a "The greeks wanted to keep the stuff they made. Impertinent fuckers." Just seems bizarre that robbery on a huge scale is somehow ok. Its like banks. Lose £10 billion pounds and you get bailed out, but if an individual fucks up and loses £100 they have to pay it back. It makes very little sense to me.

On that note i hear the band arriving to rehearse, so i'm going to leave it there.

Have a good Sunday evening people.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Its not Abbey Road and there's only 3 of us.

That's me, Si and James outside Solent University pretending to be The Beatles. Not sure where Jon was. Maybe he was the one taking the photo. Pre-gig hanging around can be a dull time and i always told myself i'd use it wisely, maybe read more, get a 'learn a language' CD and listen to it, but no we just sit, talk, and wait for our turn to soundcheck then play. Oh and we take the odd silly picture.
I wonder what other bands do to fill the time. All the bands often disappear off in different directions before a show so i have no way of knowing, for all i know they can all speak 5 languages and can recite War and Peace word for word, but somehow i think its more likely they find their own zebra crossing and mess about too.
A live webcam showing the famous crossing. Tourists all day doing what you got to do.