The news is full of BAD today. Ebola and death, ISIS and death, health and death. BAD news seems to be everywhere which makes it increasingly harder, as a DIY musician trying to deal with the bad stuff in a humorous, human and logical sort of way to get the message out.
The chain of events goes like this:
BAD THING HAPPENS > NEWS MEDIA NEEDS AN AUDIENCE > EVERYONE HEARS ABOUT IT.
The News isn't interested in what you're up to (unless you're affected by the BAD THING) and will soon move on to the next story without answering any questions you may have. You may become disenchanted with this after a while.
So, we turn to Social Media to get 'the real stories'. But most of the time we're happy to laugh at the funny eye-brows the young people are drawing on themselves and Sloths faces when they defecate (some people will leave this post here, to Google 'SLOTH'S POO FACE')
Please come back...
Social Media isn't interested in giving us the REAL STORIES, it will use algorithms and ingenious technology to ensure that the thing we do is keep clicking on their website/app more than we can click on someone else.
So, the global outlook on life [online] is actually defined by how stupid these organisations think we are and then, how stupid we actually are. We click and click.
My problem is I've made another album. I'm very proud of it. I want to tell people about it - I would like to sell copies of it (because it's my income and pays for me to get to gigs, buy food and buy other people's music if there's some spare).
But that's not Newsfeed worthy. I'm lucky enough to have some dedicated supporters out there. Copies of the latest album are already lined up to fly across the country, Europe and to the USA. Not very many, but I'm thankful for those that are out there.
But I want more people.
I could go down the route where I gyrate naked on a video for ages, hoping to go 'viral' (are we still going to use that expression after Ebola?) whilst my lyrics are edited to dupe 10-year-old numbskulls in to thinking I want them at my gigs.
Or I could, wear my heart on my sleeve and say 'I'm and independent musician, no one else has a financial interest in what I'm doing, therefore my work is not worth them spending any time or energy helping me out' - and ask you, the good people coming to see what I'm up to, to check out the last two years of work.
I release an album every 6 months. I will be doing this for 20 years.
In 2013 - I released '1/40' and '2/40: Binge Thinker'
In 2014 - I released '3/40: FREE NUGGETS' and '4/40: URSS' [Nov 5th 2014]
That's currently 2.5 hours of material, all of it written to stimulate to your intelligence, indignation and undeniable dancing skills.
In 2015 - we have a General Election in the UK in May - I will try and form a devastating Barber Shop Quartet for '5/40' and cut through so much of the bilge we're going to be subjected to in the run up. [I have six months to do this, any one want to audition?]
I am on tour in November 2014 and I really wish I could be playing more towns, cities, countries, homes - but I have to do this by myself. No big news channels, no social media algorithms.
So, please share if you dare [or even care]. :)
The summer of 2014: every week it felt like there was a new sparking point for World War III in our faces. It was, at times, terrifying. It was certainly confusing. Palestine/Israel, Russia/Ukraine, the ISIS thing, Ebola, Ferguson, the European lurch to the right, One Direction.
URSS, is my reaction to all of this.
Pre-Order 4/40: URSS Today.
DIGITAL pre-orders are through BANDCAMP where you will recieve the track 'A Good Place To Start' from the album upon order - the rest of the album will follow on the release day.
PHYSICAL pre-orders will be despatched on 3rd or 4th of November and may include a personalised letter from me (time and demand permitting). Also processed through BANDCAMP.
Price £7.50 - click the banner below.
6. Gimme, Gimme UR <3
8. Jelly Peeps
10. Let's Play Squatch! [Kazoo solo]
12. A Good Place To Start
13. Theme From 'GRIZZLY'
[featuring Toupé's Jay Havelock]
14. Karl Evans
[featuring Jay Havelock and Dan Parkinson]
15. 4/40: URSS [Typewriter Edit]
[Whole album, one track] Digital Only.
Had my porridge this morning and digested a strange mix of news and opinions about the Scottish Independence Referendum.
As someone who doesn't define themselves as a Briton or English when I'm aware that I live on a planet of billions of other people, I find it hard to understand national identity as being anything more than a postal address. The rest is completely made up in our minds.
What I tend to stand for is the right to live an entire life without someone who gives a fuck about making money or growing a power base, stomping up and down on people's minds to achieve their aims.
Independence is a state of mind and those of us that know this are united across borders, class, gender and religious divides - and we all have a common cause: to stand with each other as we slowly erode these man-made boundaries, petty differences and self-serving greed/control addicts until we reach a state of mind that reflects our true circumstances. That we're billions of individuals on a planet at the same time.
No need for hippy dippy shit, just the strength to rage/laugh long enough at the people conditioned to care about these small and fleeting things.
It starts in our communities and moves outward until we reach the next community reaching out for their lives to mean more than their taxable value.
I tend to only play this song when someone dies, or is about to die. Yesterday at Blissfields festival, in a tiny tent full of beautiful, out of breathe people, I played it.
We'd just been out during Feed The Kids - loads of us went out of the tent yelling 'I'M NOT A COG IN THE MACHINE, I'M THE GREASE!' at the rest of the site. Then we all came back and I had a chance to play Call To Arms.
Earlier this week I'd heard that a man on my mailing list was in the final week of his life and was blissed out in his room listening to 3/40: Free Nuggets. It's a strange cocktail of emotions to experience. Honour, sadness, pride and fear (I have no idea what I'd listen to in that situation).
So yesterday's set and Call to Arms especially were played with him in my mind.
I'm not entirely sure if I've met Ray Harris or not. I certainly haven't now as he died ealier this morning - peacefully, he stopped breathing. The whole experience has brought crashing down the reality that this little mission of mine will see people who've shown a litte faith in me and whom I've, hopefully, brought a little smile/debate/new philosophy to, drop off of the cart as the rest of us carry on.
This year, there have been two. Ray and a man named James Hunter. Both have been kind enough to put a little in faith in what I do and support my music. Both have got a rendition of Call to Arms - everytime the line 'There will be fatalities, empty seats along the way' has caused me to shed a tear on stage.
Thanks to all who came out to The Larch yesterday and thanks for tolerating my shonky performance of this song. Stay off the TV - we haven't got much time.
Thoughts are with Corrine MacTavish, Ray's long-term partner in crime - who's most likely feeling a little rudderless this morning.
Last week I played a gig at The Wheatsheaf in Oxford. I love this venue, it's always full of banter and brains. I was sent a text earlier in the day after asking who else was playing and one of the names that stood out was BEARD OF DESTINY - I had to see that!
They're a two piece. Drums and wicked slide guitar. Great songs about Swamp Dogs and American Teeth. The drummer looked familiar, but I couldn't place it.
Then Graham, the guitarist, introduced the drummer. Ian Campbell!
[Who? (that doesn't matter)]
Immediately, I was taken back to being 15 years old with all of my mates, washing Aaron Head's dad's Triumph Stag in the sunshine, dancing around to a band I've loved for 20+ years: DR. DIDG.
We had stumbled across Didg in Southampton High Street. Didgeridoo live loops and effects, drums and guitar. A brilliant three piece. We scrabbled together our shrapnel and raised enough to buy a tape from the band. It had a hand drawn cover and was revered by us for weeks if not months as we partied to it, tried to play vacuum cleaner tubes like didgeridoos and playing air guitar.
A few months after that discovery, they were playing THE JOINERS in Southampton. We got lifts up there from our parents for our frst time going there. We had no idea what we were doing, I can't remember if we tried to get booze or not, I can't remember if we had any money to buy any booze. I remember bumping into Karl Evans (with whom I'd go on to form Toupé with Aaron about 5 years later). I think Andy Mason was there too.
We sat on the floor of the Joiners as the psychadelic, drone of Graham Wiggins' didge started off a superb set of the songs we'd all learnt to play on the vacuum cleaner as well as loads of jamming about. What a night!
I have no idea how I felt when I left, that memory has gone. But the gig itself has stayed with me.
A few years later I bought Out Of The Woods, that was released on Rykodisc (a trusted label as they were charged with re-issuing all of Frank Zappa's albums on to CD) - it's still listened to today in my car.
Ian Campbell was the drummer for Dr. Didg - he's still a great drummer. I'm just happy I've stayed in music so that I could have a brilliant night where so much of my life all pulls tighter together because some guys from Oxford took a chance to come to Southampton, play in the street and influence a load of teenagers to come out to a gig.
20 years later, I'm sat listening to Dr. Didg AND Beard of Destiny. How's that for something to smile about?
What a life. What a life!