Saturday, May 21, 2016

Recording

Well, I've been recording.
Two weeks ago I spent a seven-hour day in the studio. Both the engineer and myself were rather frail, for different reasons, but somehow we managed to record eight songs, and include a lunch break in Stratford's awful Morrison's (yes, the ones that fined me £50 for parking in their car park) where we waited for a century for our curry.
Today was about repairs, some re-recording and some lead vocals; there will be at least another day of recording and mixing before I've finished. I know how I want to sound; I've got a strong sense of what makes my songs sound right.
After listening to 45 student songs over the last week or so, I also feel that I need to up my game. One or two of those songs were absolutely superb, and although I work in a completely different style I am determined never to release anything that could be regarded as a 'filler' on an album.
Some of these songs I've been playing for ages (Lover When You Leave Me), some have been resting (Who's That Behind The Camera Lens, Feathers), some are newish (Bird Talk, Big Brother), some are new (The Sea) and one has been impossible to get sounding right but finally, By Jove, I've cracked it (Summer Days).
I think the singing sounds like I did when I was in The Chefs: strong. Some vocals I will replace because I think they sound harsh. One song is played on the Spanish Guitar, the rest on the Telecaster, and one will be sent to Indietracks for their fundraiser album.
I selfishly wish John Peel was still around, because I think he would like these songs.

Today's session was five hours long, and I am sitting like a splodge with no bones on the sofa as  result of yesterday's  consumption of thousands of cups of coffee at work because I was concentrating so hard. The caffeine kicked in at regular intervals through the night; waking up this morning was easy, because I was already awake. Later, carrying two guitars and a brick-thick lyric book to the studio and back was quite a workout, and I now have a torso like the Incredible Hulk.

I think 8.30 is too early to go to bed, though.

Friday, May 20, 2016

I Saw The Chewing Gum Painter In The Art Shop

I saw Ben Wilson, the chewing gum painter, in the art shop yesterday. He was resplendent in an orange jumpsuit with painty knees, and he told me he's painting on the Millennium Bridge at the moment, as well as in Stockton and Hartlepool.
He has a patron now, too, which is wonderful news.
I showed him Offsprog Two's miniature embroidery of Poirot's head and he was really impressed.
Oh art, how I love you.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Review: Vivien Goldman's 'Resolutionary'

I jumped that the chance to review this release, and unsurprisingly it's delivered a great morning's listen. Aside from a list of collaborators that include Steve Beresford, Vicky Aspinall, John Lydon, Viv Albertine, David Toop, Carroll Thompson, Neneh Cherry, Bruce Smith, Keith Levene and of course Adrian Sherwood at the controls, it's Vivien's vision and sense of humour that hold the tracks together.
Here are some listeners notes:
Launderette: What a great atmosphere. I listen to a lot of song recordings as part of my job and some of them are brilliant, some very poor; even with the best ones, creating an atmosphere is a rare feat. The sleeve notes say that this was originally improvised, and the vocal still has that fresh ‘just laundered’ feel. From inside the drum of a tumble dryer, the dub section fights against the flying socks and loose coins, moving along at a pace that won’t let your feet stand still. This is one of my favourite songs of all time.
Private Armies: playful vocal experiments subvert prettiness to attack all violence that is glamorized and given validity by being dressed up in uniforms: whether the police, armies of music fans, or anyone else for that matter. Mainly aimed at the police, gun-shot snare drums shoot the message home in the dub section.
The Flying Lizards: Her Story. More formally organised sound-wise, there is a focus on the dance floor here. It’s interesting to hear that the elements of Vivien’s sound work just as well in a much poppier format, even though there is more of an escapist feel here. The electronic sounds and whooshes seem to be reaching across the pond to New York somehow; Ladbroke Grove’s claustrophobia has been left behind in this track.
The Flying Lizards: The Window. I wondered if the subject of this song was the accidental lover of Launderette, returned in metaphorical form to drink blood. Little threads of girl group vocal innocently intrude into the threatening scenario: do, doo, de doo….. There are many layers in this track; the outro features a muffled male vocal. I can’t hear what he says: that makes things even more unnerving.
Chantage: Same Thing Twice: Vivien’s voice is layered over an African-influenced backing. A trombone-heavy brass section punctuates the song, a steel pan band joins in, and a guitar skips along throughout the track. Celebratory and yearning at the same time.
Chantage: It’s Only Money: the practical humour of Launderette returns to the lyrics. Daughter of The Slits’ Shoplifting and the film Cabaret’s Money, in this song Vivien parodies attitudes to money, from the richest to the poorest. A disruptive angel, she sings over a tumbling track that, like the previous one, features a world of instrumentation that includes a gypsy violin. This belongs alongside Dr Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band, somewhere in an emergent New York sound of the 1980s. 
Tu M’Fais Rire: this is the most gorgeous acapella and is a lovely ending to the music.
There is an interview here too; the whole release has a joie de vivre and tempered cynicism that pop music needs desperately. Come back! All is forgiven!
Available from 20th May, here: http://www.staubgold.com

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Old Cars and Bikes in Barnet Market

What a surprise: boring old Barnet had a car show in the market yesterday- some jammy old cars and some fab old British bikes.
I don't believe that the VW's colours are original, though.
McMum's friend Fifi (yes, she was French) used to drive us to Tynemouth beach in a Morris Minor like the one below, except it was white, when we were very little. I remember being really, really excited to be driven around in a car with a roof that came off. Even more exciting, the sand at Tynemouth beach was so dirty with pollution that it used to squeak when you walked on it.







Saturday, May 14, 2016

Dave MacDonald and Fan Club

I found out yesterday that Dave MacDonald, of the legendary Brighton band Fan Club, has died. Fan Club existed before punk started, but Dave and Pete were people who were punks-in-waiting- probably like a lot of us.
Their 'gig home' was Brighton's Alhambra, that ramshackle and warm-hearted venue on the seafront that defied the weather and had an almost Venetian patina of homely wear and tear. It was demolished on the same day the cat killed my budgie- one of those awful ground-shattering changes (I'm going through something similar at the moment).
Dave and Pete (Smith, a window cleaner by trade) were defiant, poor (they lived in a house that had no hot water and not even a sink- a tap sprouted out of a wall in the 'kitchen' and yes, it was rented from a private landlord), and were ferociously friendly or unfriendly, depending on who you were. They loved dolly birds who dressed from charity shops and wore red lipstick (their song Deptford Bike Dollies was written about my friends Kim and Charlotte) but hated female sexiness and any sort of pretension. They had a big black bin bag of things like leopardskin cashmere jumpers and Dave would delve into it at random moments and present you with an item of clothing like indulgent uncle.
Around those times,  Dave worked as a breakfast waiter in a B&B.
They were really, really good song writers. I remember the first time I saw them; I'd never seen a Vox Teardrop guitar before and that was what Pete played. He would race across the stage, tossing his lank hair out of his eyes, while Dave roared into the microphone, a mad gleam in his eye.
Once, in the Alhambra, Dave had a whole load of iced sticky buns, which he threw around the place with abandon and managed to land one on the bar manager's head. Ahmed took it all is his stride; they packed venues because they were so entertaining. Dave didn't give a flying f*ck about anything and his richly-embroidered language strung their songs together exquisitely. They brought out a single called Night Caller which I still have a 7" vinyl copy of. They were far too anarchic and abrasive to appear on Brighton's Attrix label, a fact that gave them a certain cachet; by far their best song was a song called Moonbeam, which at a time of general hatred of guitar solos, had an absolutely heart meltingly beautiful guitar hook played by Pete. I had a copy of it on cassette because I was supposed to record some backing vocals on it, but they came all the way to London to a party at my house to steal it from me.
I managed to get a year's lease on a flat and they decided to move in with me, using a pincer movement. Using Pete as a lure (he became my chaste boyfriend for a while), followed up by Dave turning up after his morning shift at the B&B with a foil-wrapped package of hot bacon, half a loaf of sliced white Mother's Pride bread, a box of eggs and a pint of milk, they homed in on me. As soon as I realised what was happening I moved one of my brothers in instead!
I lost touch with them soon after that.
About ten years ago, Helen and the Horns played a gig at the Komedia in Brighton. When I got to the soundcheck, I was told that there had been a call from someone called Dave, and to call back.
It was him- I was so pleased to hear from him. He was working as a cleaner in an office and he had been throwing away that day's copy of Brighton's Evening Argus when he saw the gig advertised. I was delighted to put him and Pete on the guest list.
They sat a table on their own; Dave had changed very little- he was still the same cheeky Scot, cocking his head and smiling his lopsided smile. Pete had been living on the street and had lost a lot of his teeth, but he smiled and chatted as though no time had passed between then and then.
Oh that moment: simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking. It was so touching that they had come along, and such a privilege to sit next to them, yet so sad that life had had so little to offer such talented people. Dave and Pete, I salute you, love you and treasure your independence of spirit and the ability to be both bad lads and completely charming at the same time.
This year, lots of our generation's icons have died. I have felt ambivalent about some of them- those remote pop stars that we didn't actually know (though we felt that we did) who sound-tracked our teenage years. Ari and Poly are the people from those times who I would have liked to grow old with, both making new music before they died, and I mourned them along with other people who I now realise belonged to a niche subculture.
But the most important people are the people we have shared the ups and downs of our lives with- the people we chose as family when our nearest were not always so dearest. I wrote about Vi Subversa a few weeks ago, a woman who was a real treasure and who ultimately touched a lot more people with her music than Dave did. But I am writing this because to me, and to the Deptford Bike Dollies and all those other people who packed the Alhambra out on wet and windy Brighton nights, Dave MacDonald was a joy to know- a rogue, a catalyst, a waiter, a songwriter, an adversary, a bright spark and a wonderful friend. Goodnight Dave.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Holloweye

I thought that I was being watched as I walked down the street this morning. It wasn't until this birch tree blinked that I realised where the feeling came from.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Delivering A Documentary Short

This morning I took a short version of our documentary-in-progress down to the British Library for their punk exhibition.
Later this week we'll start working on the longer version for our event on 10th June.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Comic Creatrix at the House Of Illustration

It was a hot day today- too hot for May, and my brain could not cope. So I managed to get lost on the way to this exhibition, even though it was right next door to Central St Martin's where I have been millions of times.
It is an excellent exhibition; I was delighted to see a page from Dirty Plotte, which I had begun to feel was a figment of my imagination, and also pages from the artists Kate Charlesworth and Suzy Varty as well as some excellent and varied art from India, Serbia, and of course the USA.
One of the biggest pleasures was the sheer variety of styles; another was the skill of execution of these drawings. There was almost-photo-realism, there was 50s-style art (from the 1950s and beyond); original work from Tove Janssen, and lots of early 20th Century work where the artists had to pretend that they weren't women (one story got banned because it was too sexy). Some was glamorous, some was political, some was lesbian, some was gender-neutral, some was funny.
It is a totally inspiring exhibition that ends in a week's time. There is a great shop that sells wooden postcards and today I was given a free gift, although a rather an unfortunate one.
I could not resist the urge to leave a small pile of my guerrilla comics there.
And I got lost on the way home too in the sweltering heat, and then found Camden tube station closed when I got there. A sweet and sour day I suppose.
I liked the graffiti I passed on the way home.
http://www.houseofillustration.org.uk/whats-on/current-future-events/comix-creatrix-100-women-making-comics



Tuesday, May 03, 2016

From the Camps in Calais- Kurdish Improvisation



I think they are looking for a proper Kurdish translation of this song, if there are any native Kurdish speakers reading this. Film project by Ed Emery, SOAS.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Photo from Lucie's Lounge by George Venus

Lucie's Lounge is a low-key event that is held monthly at The Bloomsbury Tavern in central London. Saturday's Lounge was a Scottish artist event and even had a female bagpiper, Hilary Knox, and great songs from Lucie Sieger and Adam Beattie, plus photos from Marieke McKenna. Such a friendly night- especially the way the audience joins in the songs- now that's a rare treat!

Sunday, May 01, 2016

The Eye Of The Pigeon

Offsrog Two's birthday pigeon looked at me wherever I was in the room, even when I turned it with it's back to me, because it has those eyes on the sides of its head that look for predators creeping up from the rear.
It has remarkably healthy looking feet for a feral bird, but otherwise it's so realistic it gave me the creeps (in a good way).