Sunday, December 23, 2007

Proper Bo

I'm playing a proper actual gig tonight, at the Cross Kings in King's Cross.

It's a mixed night of floorspots and booked acts so should be pretty entertaining and a great way to kick start the Christmas day festivities, plus if there is any mistletoe I will expect a good luck kiss. From everyone!! Ha ha.

If I don't see you, have a great Christmas and relaxing New Year!

Lots of love,

Daren
xx

Monday, December 17, 2007

Hope & Banker


Phew - I'm back!

I've been moving house, hence the hiatus. Last night I went to the Hope & Anchor in Islington for what turned out to be a very pleasant evening of music. My friend Wayne of Fit And The Conniptions was playing and after a marathon walk to find a working cash machine I was relieved to find he hadn't played yet.

First up was a young guy who seemed to have brought his entire family and church youth group with him. He was a kind of cross between Buddy Holly and Kurt Cobain, if such a thing is possible. Next was a Japanese act with the most amazing sound and a singer who stood stock still nearly all the way through the set. Following this was a singer who looked like the bearded teacher from Grange Hill (what was his name?!) and seemed to have a fanatical following who were actually quiet when he played! Finally Wayne rocked up with a fantastic saxophone player. The whole evening was frankly excellent, and well worth £4.50 to get in.

Another chance to see me play is coming up, if you are around, do venture to Cross Kings on the 23rd December. See you there!

Dxxx

Thursday, November 29, 2007

From A All The Way Back To A


Many years ago (1987 ish) I was sitting in a pub in Stanmore with my friend Andy Hewitt. I mention this seemingly banal experience because without this event, and my friend talking loudly about the music industry, I would never have met Mike. Mike overheard Andy talking that day and went on to manage my band. We became good friends too. Because I met Mike that day, it was possible two years ago for Mike to think of me when he needed someone to go out on the road with the Pet Shop Boys.

And so the adventure began.

Because of that day I have travelled to something like 100 cities in 25 countries. I've written songs in the back of trucks in Denver; had close encounters with prostitutes in Montreal, a large snake in Miami, party people and pirates in Salt Lake City, drunk Germans in errrr Germany and Stella Artois in Belgium. I've seen where they make Volkswagens in Germany, where they race horses in England and watched the sun come up over an Austro-Hungarian hill fort in Serbia. I've bought coffee for the England football team doctor in Skojpe and ukuleles from the state fair in Phoenix.

I've had dinner and close encounters with popstars, made new friends and (yikes!) started Blogging. I've pushed scenery around, dressed up in white forensic suits, operated follow-spots and got to travel in a tour bus.

I've sold t-shirts to people of most nationalities (except in Macedonia where I didn't sell a single one!!) in tents, stadia, theatres, foyers, swimming pools, corridors and the plain old open air, all over Europe, Canada and the US - as far west as San Francisco, east as Bucharest, north as Bergen and south as Miami.

It's been a blast, and now it's over.

On the plane back from our last gig in Romania the monitor engineer Seamus passed me his iPod Video and urged me to watch an episode of Pets. I did and it was very good ("So you are saying that Gog is a dog, or a hog and Magog is a fog"). As the credits rolled a name flashed by my eyes. I had to do a double-check, but there it was. Clear as daylight.

Sound by Andy Hewitt.

Of all the things in all the places at all the times.

Surreal.

But then that's me all over.

Whatever next?!

Dxxxx

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Me Tube

Back safe from Bucharest, more on that later. In the meantime here is my first ever appearance on YouTube.com

This is a compilation of clips from the SECOND TUESDAY event.

Enjoy.

Dxxx

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

That Was The Week That Was


In no particular order:

1) I was coming off the tube at Aldgate East with Alex when I spotted a familiar face framed by white hair. He was carrying a camera and peering down the Tube tunnel, researching a new book or programme? It was the unmistakable features of Dan Cruickshank, I was almost tempted to ask for an autograph, but decided that TV Presenter-worrying is not really my style. He has the most fantastic voice.

2) I was in the ex-Virgin Megastore in Oxford Street (it's now called something utterly unmemorable) pottering about. I spotted that there was a band setting up in the music store in the basement. I was just pondering sauntering down to check them out when, amidst muted screams they began to play. It was Wet Wet Wet!

I ran out of the store.

3) I went to Paris with Peachy. Despite cold, strikes, a broken train and a very heavy bag (get a wheely case!!!) I had a relaxing and enjoyable time. The champagne was chilled, the hotel trendy, the food wonderful and the company perfect. Paris genuinely feels like a home away from home now, just a small shame that my friend P couldn't join us, despite living in Paris, she was in England for the weekend.

Doh!

4) Went along to the 10th Anniversary of the Blue Acoustic Cafe at The Horn last Wednesday. Strange evening of crazy cheering audience in the first half and crazy cheering table football players in the second half. Had to sneak out early as I didn't feel too good, but great to see Kris, Sean, Bill and plenty of familiar faces in the crowd.

That's the week that was. This weekend features a trip to Bucharest with the Pet Shop Boys. This is definitely, finally, for sure the last gig with them ever. Well alright the last gig this year anyway. I won't be spending my birthday in Moscow after all, so next week there will probably be a big PSB retrospective.

Please check out my tunes (see below) and let me know what you think.

Lots of love,

Dxxx

P.S. Check this out, very silly: http://store.shirtsofhawaii.com/tstefiuk.html

Monday, November 12, 2007

3 New Mixes on MySpace

I've uploaded three new mixes of songs to my MySpace profile, please go and check them out:

www.myspace.com/darencallow

Obsession is a new acoustic arrangement of an old song. Lightkeeper and Vulnerable are remixes of songs I recorded specially for the Guitarist song competition.

Dxxx

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Wot A Laugh


I played at the Montague Arms in New Cross on Thursday at a new event of art, music and poetry called SECOND THURSDAYS. It was hosted by Frog Morris and the atmosphere was friendly and eccentric. The bar itself has a plethora of eclectic knick-knacks, mostly of a boating nature. Any place that has a Penny Farthing as a railing and a huge model boat over the bar gets my vote any day.

I did a small set first a the main act had pulled out, playing songs from my Lullabies album.

Next up was Frog Morris doing his excellent stand-up routine, I greatly enjoyed his new take on the Spanish Armada and the poems/songs The Angry Badger and I Was The Pig Semen Delivery Man were familiar favourites.
http://www.frogmorris.net

After Frog we had a debut performance from Fred - Sweden's guitar playing answer to David Beckham. He'd never performed on his own before, and it showed, but he won the audience over with his perseverance and pluck.
http://ateljen.50megs.com/

Then it was the turn of Victor Mount, with his guitars, kick drum and violin!! He kept forgetting the words to the songs and then interrupting his own performance to tell anecdotes. Very funny.

Finally I took the stage again to play a selection of my other songs and the evening was over. It all went very smoothly and the venue is a really fun place to play. Looking forward to the next on on December 13th.

Dxxx

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Liquid Piano and the RAF


I've been working the last four days at Music Live in the Birmingham NEC. I've been helping to promote and sell a guitar accessory product called the Facelift. It's been fun, but hard work and I'm pretty shattered today. As is traditional at these events a fair amount of alcohol and frivolity is involved. My favourite experiences were listening to a pianist and singer in the lounge of the hotel. I'm always amazed by anyone who can make a piano sound liquid and organic and they certainly did that, I was highly impressed.

I also enjoyed meeting a couple of guys from the RAF who were on some sort of blag trip, seeing how far they could get and how many missions they could accomplish without any money. They were funny and articulate guys who actually gave me heart for the future of our country and armed forces, even though they were very, very, very drunk indeed. I bought them a round of whiskies and never had to fork out for another drink all evening... not sure quite how they did it. Regards to John the bar manager too, lovely chap who's knowledge of drinks and generosity knows no bounds.

I also went to try and see my MySpace friend Elite play last week. It was at the Cross Kings which I've played at twice myself, so I was looking forward to going and hanging out. One thing I failed to spot the three times I've been there now is that there are two stages!! One is downstairs and that, of course, was where Elite was playing. So I nearly missed her altogether, fortunately she decided on a whim to play the upstairs stage too, so I got to hear two songs after all. I was so embarrassed I sneaked out.

I've not touched a guitar for four days, as it was the last thing I wanted to do after being bombarded by music of all kinds for four days, but I'm playing at the Montague Arms this Thursday so I'm practicing hard again. I'm reminded of Andy Summers of The Police, who reflecting on rehearsing for their Synchronicity tour said: After two weeks we sounded like a school band, after four a college band... it took us nearly 6 weeks to sound world famous.

This Thursday's gig is hosted by my friend Frog Morris and should be a lot of fun, see below for details.

Dxxx

P.S. Thanks to Peachy for her comments on the previous version of this post, interesting views, about which I couldn’t possibly comment. Ha ha.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Me And The Monkey King


I had a dream.

I was standing outside The Morrison hotel in Dublin. It was cool and breezy. The popstar Ian Brown was there, he was putting gravel on a light in the floor. He seemed very happy.

Then I was in a nightclub with more popstars and lots of people in sailor uniforms. I meet a guy called Mitch, he's a millionaire clothes store owner. He takes me to a secret place in the club and introduces me to the Irish mafia. I smoke a cigarette. He asks me if I'm gay or straight and then tells me how he cheated on his wife - I'm the only one he can tell.

Then I'm outside and eating a Burger King meal with a Kiwi and a dancer called Swan. It starts to rain heavily. So we walk the other way around the building to stay dry.

I'm back at the door of the hotel. Ian Brown is still there.

I go to bed and fall asleep.

Only...




...it wasn't a dream.

Dxxx

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Cross and Cras in King's Cross (and St. Pancras)


A weird thing happened to me on the tube home from Cross Kings in King's Cross on Sunday. A bizarre reflection occurrence meant that a man with a dark beard and bald head had said head transferred onto the body of a white tracksuit wearing lady... it was very odd and took me a good minute or two to work out what was going on.

I took the picture above too (a rare picture of me!!) and I love the fact that I've ended up being both cross and cras (sic). I was feeling kinda cross, although that might have been wine-rage, who knows.

The open mic night at Cross Kings is great fun (oh and happy 1st birthday to you all as well... well done David Goo for lasting that long!) but also very frustrating. I saw some excellent acts (stand up Laura Younger, Liz Arcane and Sam from Twickenham), and some bewildering and beautifully British acts (stand up Todger! No one got my joke when I kept shouting "Release Todger!" and then found it rib-achingly amusing. note to self... drink less!). I got funny looks when I told one act that they were better than their guitar, I meant it as a huge compliment. Another act I went to compliment looked at me and asked if I could hear anything else during their first number. I wondered if they meant voices from the spirit-world or perhaps just an errant mobile phone, but in fact she just meant that she felt it could use some drums! She asked me if I was a producer and, not untruthfully, I told her I was and gave her my card. Actually I often come across acts that are excellent and I'd love to work with, but just as often see utterly awful, or worse, very boring acts squeezed alongside.

Why do these people play on a Sunday night in King's Cross... why, for that matter, do I? Who knows, but I'm glad they do (I think) although I often do wonder... All I can really say is come along and see for yourself, check out the acts, say what you think. Give your support to the tryers and the greats, and show your indifference to the mediocre. There's lots going on out there and you will always hear something you enjoy.

Dxxx

P.S. I played All I Want Is You and a new version of Obsession that I'm very excited about.

P.P.S. The food is very good too!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

All Good Things...

There are lots of good things happening in my music world...

1) I'm buying a house with room to put a small studio in it

2) I'm putting together an exciting new band with my brother and a sensational young bassist called James Gruber. Some clips of rehearsals to follow soon - stay tuned!

3) The PSBs continue to tour despite a few date changes

4) I've got a new set of chords for an old song - Obsession - which I will record soon as I put together a proper solo demo

Happy times.

Dxxx

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Miss The Train? Who, me?!


Yup, I'm back on tour with the fabulous Pet Shop Boys! Have I missed it? Hell yeah. All the guys on this tour are fantastic, and I'd rather be here than petty much anywhere else... but I nearly wasn't "here".

We flew out to Madrid fine, but then encountered the baggage reclaim at Madrid airport. It's not slow, particularly, but it's a very big airport and it just takes time for the bags to arrive, and we had a train to catch. We split up, NT and the tour manager in one car and the crew in a bus. Guess who got to the station first (and on time), yeah us in the bus. Guess who had the tickets, yeah the tour manager... in the car, which arrived late and we all missed the train. Ho hum, time for tapas and a glass of wine. We'll be on the next train, no doubt. Except the next train is full, so... 8 people get on the 20.08 and the remaining 5 have to get the 21.30... that's me, in case you hadn't guessed. Not a great hardship as it meant a taxi ride to Plaza Major and a meal on the management. I have to say I'm still in awe of having dinner with a world famous popstar... I should be getting used to it by now. Just call me a kid at heart.

Lovely trains in Spain, btw. We passed the journey (at 300 Km/H) doing crosswords and drinking red wine, bus to the hotel, and here I am... blogging again... Suede playing and another vodka calling from the minibar... hard life, huh?

Dxxx
(in Zaragoza, Spain)

Friday, October 05, 2007

What's Missing From This Picture?


A new venue last night - Leonards in Farringdon - two stages one with a heavy rock band or two and one with the "acoustic" acts - almost a festival vibe. I was just glad that the Prodigy didn't come on in the big tent while I was playing!

First up was Tiger Lily, who played well and had some interesting songs. Then it was Tony (My Sweet Idiom? Not sure that's right, see pic). Truly lovely guy with a distinct voice and a great sounding Epiphone Firebird, but very depressing songs!! Then it was Charlie Savigar who has a great voice and some catchy tunes, good guitar player too.

After that it was Mr. Limbic And The Whole Damn System who comprised a laptop, funky guitarist and bassist and a chap singing, making funny noises and playing percussion. Interesting mix that somehow managed to be very slightly less than the sum of it's parts, but hats off for being different and playing well. Actually having said that, everyone played well, so hats off all round.

Finally, at 10pm, it was my turn, and despite being pretty tired I think I did well. I even managed to squeeze in 6 songs (All I Want is You, I Need Your Love, Tomorrow, Vulnerable, Lightkeeper and Do You Want To Dance?). I was heartened by a couple of people saying my set was strong, including a guy that said he saw a lot of live music.

So a pretty good night you would think, well what was missing from this picture?

Ah, an audience maybe?! Well you can't win them all.

Dxxx

P.S. Many thanks to James and Alex for coming down, all the other acts for sticking around to hear my set (thank you, thank you) and Simon for doing the sound superbly.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Just Another Day At The Office


Just when I thought I'd had my fill of surreal and (mostly) enjoyable evenings, another one has come bumbling along. Last night I thought I'd try the open mic evening at The Cross Kings in, erm... yeah, you guessed it, King's Cross. By reputation this is a good night with a good host and nice P.A. My friend was playing piano between acts and I wanted to check that out too.

I was very tired from the goings-on on Saturday (see below), but I made my way down and found the venue easily. First impressions were very good. The bar has friendly staff and is decorated in a fun, bohemian style. The host, David Goo (great name), was friendly too and introduced himself as soon as he saw my guitar. The Sunday night consists of floorspots followed by booked acts, and promised to be great fun.

Floorspots kicked off at 7.30 with birthday boy Pete Scott, and I followed next. The venue was almost completely empty, but I'm used to those sorts of gigs, and it was a welcome relief after Saturday's boisturous punters. I played three songs, and my tiredness showed a little as there were a few small playing mistakes, but the vocals still sounded strong so I was pleased. Several more floorspots followed one of which was a friendly chap by the name of Edwin Addis, who I'd met previously at Edwards in Hammersmith. The venue was still empty, but we all tried our best and the standard was pretty high.

After the floorspots ended we went on to the booked acts, the first of which consisted of a cello player, violinist, percussionist and two female singers singing in some language that sounded a bit like Turkish, but could have been anything. In a slightly surreal twist about 80 people emerged, as if from nowhere, and packed out the entire venue. Where were they when the other acts were on?! Anyway, they seemed to enjoy the band they'd come to see and some even stuck around to see the next acts. These consisted of a couple in jeans and check shirts singing about how sick they made each other (kinda funny, but a bit lightweight), You And Me singing songs about the trivia of life (with a superstar recorder player... more on that in a minute) and Preacher Boy, who had come from the States and played Dobro steel guitar extremely well and sang pretty good. My friend Wayne Myers (Fit and the Conniptions) provided a variety of ivory-tinkling between acts.

I have to say that I was most excited by the recorder player for You And Me... who looked and sounded exactly like Keith from The Office (far left in the picture), and you know what? It WAS Keith from The Office, or more accurately Ewen MacIntosh who plays him. How cool is that?! I only wish I'd known for sure it was him when I was there, I would have got his autograph.

Who knows what will happen next? I've no idea, but I do know when "next" is, it's this Thursday at Leonards in Angel. See you there!!

Dxxx

Saturday, September 29, 2007

They're not purple and they're not getting any smaller!


The last time I played support to Shrinking Violets was on the 24th of September, 1995! In the (now sadly demolished) Railway Hotel in Harrow. In this year of bands reforming, it seems entirely apt that they should do the same and so... I've just got back from their first gig in about 12 years. It was a great fun evening, and not least because I was playing a set myself, and also doing the sound for the bands (I'm a multi-tasker you know!).

The night was opened by Day Release, who were doing their first gig ever! They gave a pretty good account of themselves even though their guitarist had a broken foot and the bass player was wearing a kilt with ballooons stuck under it to look like a large set of balls and a little willy!

I was next up, and cracked through a few of my more up-tempo numbers. It was great to play with a clear, loud PA and on a stage where I could move around a bit. It's always very hard to compete with a large talking audience with just acoustic guitar and voice, but I played hard and enjoyed myself. I was particularly pleased with a re-working of All I Want Is You, which I opened with. I was chuffed that a lot of people made a point of grabbing me to say how they enjoyed the set afterwards. So I was happy.

After me it was time for the main event... and what a storming performance it was. These guys really know how to put on a show... as The Wizard of Oz played in the background they went through numerous costume changes, props and swapping of instruments to bring us a fantastic set. I'd forgotten how much I loved some of their songs. Thanks For Nothing is my favourite by a long way. After an Elvis impersonation, dresses, masks, women's hats, a mandolin, a mohican made of plastic flowers, giant egg-shapped papier-mache heads and a cauliflower came and went it was all over. They can all really play too and I enjoyed every second. I hear a rumour that they are planning more shows, I hope so, life would much the less rich without them. So well done 'Hippy' Paul, Mick, Kermit, 'Arms' Paul and Neil - come back soon!!!!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Spametry

I'm off to play another last minute gig tonight after an invite from my friend Wayne. If anyone is at a loose end, do come down and support us at: HOBGOBLIN (Formerly 'The Jay Cubed') (club & bar), 73 White Lion St, Islington, N1 9PF (Nearest tube Angel) - music kicks off around 8pm.

Tonight is special as I'm planning to perform the world premier of a new poem I've 'written'. Now I don't do a lot of poetry reading, in fact none at all, but this poem is mercifully short and it's origins are very interesting. I was scanning my Junk Mail folder a few weeks ago, checking in case anything had been wrongly filed, and I realised that the headings of the 5 spam mails in there read as a rather beautiful, poignant and, some might even say, profound poem. It has almost Haiku like elegance and a real punch in the pay-off. I've reproduced it below (note I haven't changed the order of the lines), as I'm sure it will whet the appetites of all for my performance tonight.

For those that can't make it, I'll give a full account later (assuming anything interesting happens).

Have fun!

Daren

Don't Wait Any Longer
(D. Callow et al)

Don’t wait any longer,
Have you got a sec?
Looking for a friend?
Timing, important.
Do you want to enlarge your penis?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Humbug!!


As a person who has long suffered from a birthday in the same month as Christmas, although fortunately at the start of the month. I was utterly floored when I noticed that Pizza Express have already launched their Christmas Menu!!!!! It's only September for f**ks sake! I call upon all right thinking people to immediately boycott Pizza Express until they show a bit more respect for tradition lovers, and those with a sense of perspective everywhere. Let's start a No Christmas 'til December campaign or at the very least until after fireworks night. Mid-September indeed... I ask you!!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Five Days, Three Gigs

It's been a busy few days music-wise. Kicking off with a floorspot on Sunday at The Horn in St. Albans. I must confess I certainly wasn't "feeling it" that day, perhaps Dr. Evil had gone back in time and stolen my Mowww-Jowww... or perhaps I was just in a bad mood. I played okay (I think), but the evening was kinda subdued, and to cap it all the train home was 45 minutes late... harumph!



The Castle

Moving swiftly on. Wednesday brought a debut performance at The Castle in Portobello Road. I was amongst friends as the outlaw Robert James and the wonderfully witty Wayne Myers were hosting and performing respectively. The Castle is a lovely pub with a friendly atmosphere. It has plenty of people to play to (as opposed to some open mic nights, where you are only playing to other performers!) but the downside is the high volume of background noise (ie chat), but I don't mind that. I feel it's my job to entertain and get the attention of the audience, and if that fails, at least enjoy yourself and that might rub off on a few people.

Robert James opened and in a worrying omen managed to break a string. I was next on, so after a slight haitus I kicked off. I played I Need Your Love, Minneapolis, Tomorrow, Vulnerable, Lullabies and Do You Want To Dance? And it went down pretty good. I was encouraged by people watching and nodding their heads in time, and I grew in confidence as the set went on. Set done I relaxed at the bar, well for a moment or two anyway. The string breaking maladies continued as Wayne broke one of his. As my guitar was tuned and ready to go, I quickly loaned it to him and he was able to finish off in good form. He's a very good player and it was great to get a chance to hear my guitar from the punter's point of view. I was pleased to hear it sounded great!

Wayne, Frog Morris and myself then had a suitably jolly remainder of the evening, when much alcohol was consumed and we enjoyed all the other acts. Robert James (guitar re-strung) was a rousing finish to the night. I shall be back, and I thoroughly recommend the Wednesday nights there. Great fun and great entertainment. Thanks for coming Frog!

Edwards

Somehow in all the frivolity I managed to sign myself up for a return visit to Edwards! Rob was the host again and a mixture of pre-booked and floorspot acts performed. The standard, I have to say, was very high and all the turns played well. In fact as my spot approached and then was put back I was nervous about playing, and considered sneaking out. In the end I managed to stay sober and performed with gusto. It's a truism that a good performer will encourage the others on the bill and it certainly seemed true that everyone was trying very hard and, for the most part, succeeding. During my performance a chap sitting to my left added some percussion which sounded great. It made Vulnerable slightly challenging as I tend to vary the speed quite a bit, although it works very well with a fixed beat too, I think it was one of my best performances of this song. In fact it was quite a night for percussionists as the worlds saddest percussionist in a red top accompanied a couple of other acts. It's a highlight of Rob's performances that he passes out percussion instruments and encourages the audience and performers to join in. This tends to make for a rousing night, even if occasionally the song finishes only for the percussionist to continue on oblivious to everything!

It was hard work doing two gigs in two days and I came off sweating, but very happy. My guitar's work wasn't finished though, as one act had come without a guitar (who does that!!) so I loaned mine out again. The evening climaxed with more stomping, slapping, strumming and howling (and in Wayne's case self-harm as he preceeded to bash himself all over with a shell covered shaker). You really must check out Robert James some time if you are able, as he's a real performer who can make two hours worth of other (good to very good) acts seem entirely pedestrian. I'm looking forward to the next one already!

Dxxx

P.S. There were way too many other excellent acts to mention here, but if I was to pick one other out then do check out Mike Davies an excellent blues guitarist/singer. He only got one song, but he made the most of it.

P.P.S. The photos are Robert James at The Castle (top) and Wayne Myers at The Castle (playing my guitar, bottom)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Rock 'n' Pop



Couple of chances to see me strum my stuff this week. Tonight I'm off to The Horn in St. Albans, where the music quality is varied, but usually high, and the loos have to be seen to believed! Check the picture.

On Wednesday I venture to a new venue, The Castle, in Notting Hill. (225 Portobello Road, Notting Hill, W11, Nearest tube Ladbroke Grove) I'll be on about 9pm and will be playing for 20 minutes!!

More gigs coming. Plus I've recently jammed with a new bass player who was excellent. Trying to talk my brother into drumming for us on Monday, or at least helping us find a suitable tub-thumper... very excited by this, as it will be a song-led three piece with a lot of improvisation, effects and real impact. I've been dreaming of having a band like this for a long time and it's a good feeling to know I'm close now. BTW, if you are a drummer who likes the sound of a three-piece with some adventure and experimentation thrown in (something between The Police and Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood) then get in touch!!

See you at a gig very soon,

Dxxx

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Police

Where am I? Queensbury in Harrow in a church hall. What am I doing? I'm playing live in front of an audience on electric guitar for the first time ever. It's 1986 and the song my brother and I are playing (badly, I've no doubt) is Wrapped Around Your Finger by The Police. I'm playing a white Stratocaster copy through a Carlsbro amp... I really wanted a Telecaster. I fell in love with The Police when they released Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic, and slowly worked my way through the back catalogue. Synchronicity became my soundtrack. By 1986, mind you, The Police were nearly over. They released a remix of Don't Stand So Close to me and then split up. My first gig was a Sting gig, I wished it was The Police.

Where am I? Soho, London. What am I doing? I'm at a gallery looking at pictures taken by Andy Summers in the mid-eighties. I'm not alone, the other guy in the room is another 30-something. I feel rumbled. It's September 7th 2007. I have the Telecaster now. I can play Roxanne and Message In A Bottle. I can even play Every Breath You Take, but it's harder. I've been playing in bands for 21 years... still one thing I haven't done yet... see they guys that started it all play live.

Where am I? Twickenham Stadium. What am I doing? Well you can probably guess. It's September 8th 2007, my friends and brother are all here (somewhere) alongside 55,000 other people. On a stage, somewhere down there, a small figure walks onto a darkened stage and starts to play a gong. It's Stewart Copeland and he's closely followed onstage by Andy Summers and Sting... something I've waited 24 (ish) years for is really happening. I can't actually believe it. The crowd roar as Summers starts to play Message in a Bottle. I panic, I can't hear anything! But the crowd noise abates and I get treated to 2 hours of pop perfection. I cry. Someone buys me a drink. I start to sing along with everything. I'm pleased I know the words to some of the less well known songs. Andy Summers plays some huge guitar solos... why the fuck not. I don't care, I love it. I cry more. Somehow we get home. I don't really remember.

Where am I? The Horn in St. Albans. What am I doing? I'm on stage playing Do You Want To Dance? I improvise some lyrics from Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic. It's Sept 9th. I got to do the one thing that I really wanted to do and never thought would happen. I've been through the gamut of emotions and come out singing. I don't cry. I smile and have fun. Life carries on.

Dxxx

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

I Went To Documenta and All I Got Was This Lousy Mug


Actually I think it's a lovely mug and it's from the 4th Skulptur Projekte in Muenster and not from Documenta at all. But I did go to both last week and had a quite varied time. Documenta is an important (so they say) art exhibition and event which is held every five years in Kassel, Germany. Kassel itself is a very workman-like town in the heart of Germany with very few buildings older than the 50's. I wondered at first if it was a new town, but it turns out in fact that we bombed it flat during the war. Poignant then that the Documenta event is a very political exhibition and, this year at least, quite dark in nature. It didn't help either that the weather was lousy when we were there. After the fun of Berlin and the Kunst-Werke exhibition of Joe Coleman it came as quite a culture shock. We stayed in a business hotel just out of town and got the bus in each day to see the art. We shuffled around all the major galleries and tried to find somewhere to have fun in Kassel, but we failed. I also discovered the the brothers Grimm used to live there, grim was the word alright! So we left as early as we could and went to Muenster.

The Skulptur Projecte in Muenster only happens every ten years, and this is the fourth occurrence, so it's quite a privilege to be there. In contrast to Documenta the only politics seems to be about the interaction between art and public spaces and it's a much more light-hearted affair. I didn't get to see the Bruce Nauman inverted pyramid - Square Depression and the Guillaume Bijl buried church, but we did see some good stuff. Our favourites were the Mike Kelley petting zoo, complete with cow, goats and donkeys!! We also liked a sculpture made from crushed plastic animals, the sort that towns use to promote events. Ironically the hotel we stayed in actually had one of the painted cows in it's lobby!

Muenster is a much more fun place to go out and we managed to find a Mexican bar that served us about 6 cocktails with extra shots along the way and only charged us €28 !! We also found a fun Italian restaurant where everyone in the party gets their own charge card, no arguments about splitting the bill there then!! Now that's my kind of town!

Dxxx

P.S. The Shrinking Violets are reforming, and I'm supporting them at their gig on the 29th Sept at the Trinity in Harrow. Should be a riot!!

P.P.S. The Pet Shop Boys look set to announce more dates in October... hoorah!! I'm not unemployed yet!

Fit and the Conniptions

Well, I've just spent about the last three hours looking at the cartoons of I guy I barely know from about 15 years ago... he once roped in my brother to do drums for him, and I was probably very upset as I was dead jealous of anyone who stole my band members. But he's a totally cool guy (in an entirely un-cool way, if you know what I mean) and a sensational cartoonist. Think Dilbert for music lovers and you've just about got it. The fact that we are both still survivors in the "music world" despite various ups and downs is both a source of encouragement and a damning kick in the teeth, but that's what Wayne seems to be all about. So there you go. Do: a) check out his cartoon series, by clicking "First" in the link that's coming up and going through it day by day, b) go to one of his gigs, 'cos you'll be in the cartoon one way or another, and c) support your local musicians, we are like the High Street, about to be taken over by Tesco or summit.

Worthy posts on Documenta, Skulptur Projeckte and The Police to follow... keeep up if you can! Ha.

Here is Wayne's cartoon about our gig the other night: http://www.conniptions.org/?20070827

Dxx

P.S. Happy birthday to my brother on 3rd Sept just gone... the day war broke out, don't chya'know!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Sunday Night At The Alamo... er I mean Edwards


Well, you missed a treat. It was probably one of the most bizarre and yet strangely entertaining nights I've ever been involved in. First of all, many thanks to Alex, Andy, Kris, Haydn and Carole who made it out through carnival traffic, the maddest disco you've ever been to and, no doubt, some angry redskins to come along and support me.

I must admit I had a nervous feeling about the gig when I arrived to find no one there (load-in is supposed to be 5.30pm, I got there at 6.15). In fact no one appeared until 7pm ish, when I was starting to think I was in the wrong place. The arrivee was the outlaw Robbie James: sound engineer, money collector and, as it turned out, performer. He proceeded to throw chairs and sofas around as if we were barricading up the Alamo in anticipation of the arrival of the cavalry.

Needless to say soundcheck was delayed somewhat, but the other turns started to arrive and I introduced myself. I got chatting to a jovial fellow by the name of Wayne Myers... Don't I know you from somewhere? he asked. We went through a number of acoustic venues we'd been to recently with no matches. Perhaps you saw me in a band? No idea, so we left it...

[Funny aside 1: I guy wanders into the soundcheck looks around and then takes out his mobile phone. He dials. The guy sitting on the sofa just in front of him's phone rings. He takes it out. Hello? Hello? I thought you were playing at Edwards tonight. I am, wait I can't hear you. I can't hear you either... first guy heads to the door. I start to point... eventually he realises he's phoning a guy 3 feet away from him!!]

Soundcheck was completed somewhat hap-hazardly... with much PA popping and microphone placement. The punters began to come in and we looked at each other wondering what order or how long we were playing for... no problem, the outlaw had it all in hand... reverse soundcheck order, two songs each... then the whole thing again, three songs each. Here we go then.

First up is a chap by the name of Red Cesare I believe, who sang some of the most manic and amusing songs I've heard in a while... couldn't catch many of the lyrics due to the PA being a bit hit and miss, but it was fun anyway. Wayne was next up. Again very entertaining, my brother watches interestedly. Then turns to me and says, What was the name of that guy who used to record at 2nd Sense? No idea, I say. But bells are starting to ring. At the end of his set the sound engineer/outlaw is nowhere to be seen. What to do? Play another song? Yeah, why not... so he does.

Next up is me!! Sound engineer re-appeared, I negotiate my way through microphone cables and sofa cushions onto the make-shift stage. I play I Need Your Love and Minneapolis, Hungover, Tired, Awake. It goes well, I think...

After me is something else altogether. A young 19 year old lad called Chris Turpin (see Pic), wearing a BRMC t-shirt, who proceeds to play and sing like an 80 year old american blues player!! It's the most extraordinary thing. The voice appears to be coming from someone else, we all sit and stare in amazement.

Finally it's the turn of Jimmy Chan, a kind of urban protest singer, a bit like an acoustic version of The Streets. Wow, what a mix... and then we do it all over again.

In my second set I play, All I Want Is You, Vulnerable and Do You Want To Dance?, which seems to go down particularly well.

[Funny aside 2: In Wayne's second apperance he is accompanied by a flautist. I assume it's a band member, but it turns out Wayne met him 5 minutes before they played together! So what did you do, just name the key? I ask. Yep, he says. He was pretty good in A, but a bit dodgy in Bb!]

After Wayne plays his second set I sidle up. Did you ever record in Harrow? Yes. At 2nd Sense? Yes. Then you do know me, and more to the point you know my brother (I point) who played drums for you. Jaws drop, Haydn and Wayne haven't seen each other for about 20 years!! Told you it was a bizarre night.

To cap it all Robbie James plays a set of pure Americana blues... told you he was a genuine outlaw! And we swap MySpace details and CDs and wander off into the night slightly reeling from it all... I keep glancing over my shoulder feeling like an extra from Il Mariachi, is the Mexican army following me? Where the heck is my horse!?

Dxx

P.S. Kris photographed the whole evening, here are his pics of me and Chris Turpin.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Wish Me Luck


I've entered a competition in Guitarist magazine, it's good to do these things as it's another outlet for the music and a great motivator to get things done. With the latter in mind it was cool that they needed two tracks to listen to, and this spurred me on to record Home / Lightkeeper (see post) and a new version of Vulnerable.

Please do check them out, and let me know what you think:

Home / Lightkeeper

Vulnerable

The prize is really cool, a chance to gig as support to two more established acoustic artists and a Yamaha guitar!! I find out on the 24th if I've made it to the last six.

Another reason to wish me luck is I have a gig on Sunday (at Edwards in Hammersmith). I haven't done a proper set for a while, so I'm gonna have to practice hard. If you happen to like the tunes, then do consider coming along. Details are here.

Dxx

Friday, August 17, 2007

Are We There Yet?


I hinted in a much earlier Blog that I've been waiting for something for half a lifetime... which in my case is a scary 19 years!! Not long to go now and I'm feeling the excitment grow. Honestly, I haven't felt like this since I was a kid, it's nice when something comes along to make you feel that way. Can't wait!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Goodbye Old Friend


I've had a companion (well actually, in best Only Fools And Horses tradition I've actually had three of them... the first gave up the ghost after I dropped it in some girl's loo [a whole other story], and the second was stolen or went awol in a Clapham bar) on my travels and adventures over the last two years, that I'm finally saying goodbye to. It's been more than just a companion though, it's been my phone, my mp3 player and, most importantly, my camera. All the pictures (baring one or two) in this Blog were taken by me using my wonderful Sony Ericsson W800.

I have a brand new W880i now, but it can never be quite the same. The very best thing about the W800 was that you just had to turn it on it's side, open the proper camera-style shutter, and press the camera-style big silver button to take a pic. Okay, it wasn't overly compatible with my Mac, but I did manage to get Calender and Address Book info on there (easily), and copy MP3s from iTunes (rather frustratingly hard). The facility to download pictures often failed and recently it took to switching itself off at every opportunity, including mid-phonecall.

But all the same I'll miss it. Take a flick back through earlier posts to see some of the places we've been and the pictures we took.

Dxx

P.S. I've decided to recycle my phone in aid of charity, if you have phones lying around I suggest you do the same.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

And So To The End... for now.


Could this be it? Could this be the last time I sell T-Shirts for the Pet Shop Boys? No idea, in theory the last date should be in Barcelona, but that’s not until October so anything could happen before then. I’m in Lokerse in Belgium. The Magic Numbers are playing the light is fading and insects are starting to buzz about. It’s a slow selling day today, these festivals rarely involve much selling, but there are usually a few interesting sights to distract me. Today the Coca-cola girls have all been dressed as nurses, complete with stockings and suspenders, yummy. There are worse views.

The show finishes at about 1am tomorrow morning, it will take an hour and a half to pack my stuff up and then we drive for an hour back to Brussels. Later we will take the Eurostar home and the adventure ends for now. On Tuesday I fly to Ibiza for a few days rest and then the song-writing and playing will begin in earnest.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Here We Go...


Here we go then - the next to last trip with the Pet Shop Boys. Today it’s Malaga in Spain. It’s been a fun day so far, we arrived last night and checked in late, early lobby call, but no sign of the bus. Eventually we overhear the Tour Manager on the phone to the local promoters, “Well I don’t see how you could mistake 8am for 8pm!”. The bus that was due to pick us up at 8.30 in the morning isn’t going to arrive ‘til 20:30… whoops! Mistake rectified they eventually turn up, only for the drivers to not know where they were going. The first bus dumps the crew in the middle of the car park, the second gets lost. In the end our Production Manager spots the gig and manages to direct them there, luckily he speaks Spanish.

At the venue the problems continue, there is no power in the dressing rooms or to the back-line on stage. Much head scratching and shrugging follows, some thing is unplugged and replugged, time passes. Half an hour later the power returns. Time to try and find out where I’m selling from. Only the man I need isn’t here yet, so I wait.

When he does arrive it’s something of an anti-climax, the selling spot is a piece of bare concrete with two crowd barriers. No table, no power, no light, no change. Can I have a table? No. Eventually I negotiate a stage riser… and I pick up another barrier and carry it over. We’re getting there now, just the power and light to fix. I’m having trepidations given the power debacle earlier. No worries, I’m told, you can get power from the bar. Although the bar has no power. Well no real rush, seven hours ‘til doors.

With about 3 hours ‘til doors, I’m still powerless. But I have my trusty light (see earlier Blog), well I did have it. Right up until I dropped it on the floor and broke the bulb. Now my heart is really sinking, how to fix this one in time? My pleas for help are mostly met with shrugs and blank looks, no one has a bulb (not surprising) and no one seems to know what to do (not too surprising either). Eventually I ask a guy who I know speaks good English, and… he can’t help either. Still at least he could point me to someone who could. I ask again and this time (I think ‘cos he was getting fed up with me) he finds someone who can help and explains in Spanish. Result! This guy talks to two other guys and they set off to buy new bulbs.

Just the power and change to go then. They are setting up a generator at the bar, so that’s looking good. I collar another English speaker at the bar and ask about plugging in, no problem, but I have to wait for an electrician as there are no spare sockets. Okay fine, how about some change. Hmmmm, perhaps when they fill the tills. Perhaps never (as it turns out, never, even though he promises to send someone over).

In due course the electricians arrive and I look plaintive with broken light and plug in hand. My saviour turns out to be a very handsome young Spaniard called Pedro. Even though he speaks no English, he plugs me in, puts one of the two new bulbs in and then proceeds to fix it at a good angle high up the wall. He’s a bit of a perfectionist too, much tweaking later he is happy and so am I.

By this time it’s about an hour ‘til doors, but I’m set fair to go. Of course the Pet Shop Boys are not on until 00:30 (which of course means 00:45 as they are scrupulous about being 15 minutes late for every show), so I have to work through the two support acts. In this case they are a rock band, at least one of which thinks he’s in Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (he even broke into the riff from Whatever Happened To My Rock’n’Roll in the soundcheck to prove the point). The rest of the band aren’t too sure though and it turns out to be slightly better than average pop rock.

[Okay, slight break here as a guy dressed as a seven foot soft drinks bottle has just walked past!]

The next support band are a female singer (blond, leggy, big… you know) and her four semi-naked and buffed backing dancers (male, in case you haven’t guessed) doing disco classics. Gay icons? I wonder. Well at least they played some stuff I knew, ahem.

Well we’re pretty much up to date now. The Boys are on stage now in the middle of Heartbeat, about 3/4s of an hour to go and then it’s the mass exodus. After this I pack up and load the truck, which drives overnight to Belgium! We fly tomorrow, so I at least get a few hours in bed, I feel like I deserve it!

Dxxx
(in Malaga, Spain)

P.S. Back at the hotel now, it’s 04:10 and I really am (almost) ready for bed. Well I will be when I finish this vodka, and perhaps a beer, and turn the computer off… lobby call is 10:45, so time for some rest. Good night!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Iraq 1-0 Saudi Arabia

Well done to a genuinely cross-community Iraqi football team. A show of how sport conquers aggression and war every day of the week. I hope it has some influence on the hearts of genuine Iraqis, however small a thing it is. And people sometimes wonder why I love football.

Views From The Stall


I've had a few interesting or slightly surreal views from my selling pitches recently. There was the decrepid Italian villa just outside Milan, the glistening wet roads and hotels of Montreux, the plastic Biomes of Eden and this surreal view: the winner's enclosure at Newmarket racecourse. Yup, the Pet Shop Boys were sharing the bill with seven races and my selling spot (in a wooden pagoda) had a cracking view of the horses after they finished the race and made their way to the winners enclosure.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Live in Hammersmith

Hi friends, some very advance notice here, but I'll be doing two sets (one in each half) at this venue (see below).

I need to get 10 people through the door to guarantee a re-booking, so please invite any music loving friends.

I'll confirm stage times a bit nearer the date, but please write in your diary!

See you there,

Dx


DATE: 26TH AUGUST 2007

VENUE: EDWARDS, HAMMERSMITH BROADWAY, W6.

PLEASE CLICK HERE FOR A MAP

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Live


Wow, just spent an hour practising. Old songs, very old songs, new songs. Songs I don't even know yet. Very intense feelings in some of those songs. Cries of anguish and betrayal mixed in with songs about happiness, love and the freedom of life. Bipolar, moi?

Some are quite hard to sing as they are very emotional, some are fun and funky and make me wish I had a band to do them justice. It's quite a hard thing to try and play original music for an hour with just voice and acoustic guitar and make it fun and interesting. I started to tire after about half and hour, I didn't realise how much energy it takes out of you. Mental and physical.

It's weird how many of my songs are about death. Well actually it's not weird at all, considering how my life has played out over the last few years. You'd think I would be sick of life, scared of relationships, scared of friendship... for fear of losing more. But I don't feel that way, if anything I feel more and more glad to be alive and to have some great people in my life right now.

My most recent song is about travel, adventure, war, love and dreams... so perhaps I am moving on creatively too.

Anyway, I have also started actively looking to book up some gigs as my current tour of duty is starting to fade out. It's time to fade up the music.

Dxxxx

Friday, June 29, 2007

I Am The Light-Keeper


You write an email and you get an email back. Someone's dream, thoughts, lyrics, ideas, images. It rings a bell and strikes a chord. So you keep it tucked away. Then you dig it out and re-shape it into a verse, chorus idea. But nothing more, no tune, no notes, no melody.

Time passes...

Capo, third fret, Em shape... slow change to A, then quicker G to A... repeat G to A... hmmm.

I think I have a lyric that might work with this... yup, it does, so you have the seeds of a new song and something a bit different:


I hope that you got home okay,
I had a coffee in Stockholm,
There are riots in Estonia,
Somewhere we are still at war.

I have a fantasy to share with you,
But it’s cold and it’s wet
And I’m in a truck counting boxes
But I can still read your text

I had a dream,
I was the light-keeper
The keeper of the light
I was the light-keeper


I had a dream that you were there,
All the people had no faces,
You were blinded by the light,
And could only feel.

You found me by my energy
The days are long without you
Funny how, when you find it
You can’t live without it.

I had a dream,
I was the light-keeper
The keeper of the light
I was the light-keeper


I hope that you got home okay,
I had a coffee in Stockholm,
There are riots in Estonia,
We are still at war.

(Callow/Staiger)



Thank you, thank you, thank you Alex! Your words and ideas are giving my music and my life something special I never expected.

Dxxx
(in Madrid, Spain)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

We All Live In A Big Yellow...


Another hectic few days. Late flight to Sweden (Gothenburg) on Friday night, then out of the airport, turn left... big yellow bus, you can't miss it! Overnight drive to Hultsfred, arrive early on Saturday morning. Pull myself out of big yellow bus at about 9.30 am... load in for the Hultsfred Doom Metal and Euro Pop festival!!

Count my boxes out, talk to 'the man' and arrange to count in the swag. All done by Midday... nothing to do until 2am on Sunday morning! So wander to catering, wander around site. Lunchtime, don't have a meal ticket but it doesn't matter. We are in the performer's catering. The choice is beefburger, cheeseburger, veggie burger, meat skewers, chicken skewers or Swedish plate. Hmmm. I opt for the cheeseburger, it arrives un-cooked with cold chips and no visible cheese. Ah well, fills a hole and all that. Wander around a bit more. Take a nap.

Dinner time. Same menu as lunch, I opt for the chicken skewers, which are mostly skewer and not much chicken. At least the 4 chips I have this time are hot. They run out of chocolate muffins just as I go to get mine. Ginger cake instead, it's okay.

Manic Street Preachers are playing, so I go and check them out. They are pretty good actually and I've always wanted to see them. Nina from The Cardigans joins them for one song. The new stuff sounds good. Head back to bus for another nap.

Rudely awoken by the act before us. The venue is on an old sea bed (apparantly) and the whole bus rocks when people start jumping up and down. It's 11pm. Our turn is on at 1am!? I help out on stage, cable-tying the video screen. Taping arrows on the floor. Tidying things.

Finally it's 1am and the band go on, it's pouring with rain now. I help out with the head-trucks in You Where Always On My Mind and then go and do my real job. Count the t-shirts, take the money. Get a lift back to the truck to avoid getting soaked. Help finish loading the truck. All done by 3am as the sun is coming up. Back in the big yellow bus. Overnight drive to Gothenburg airport. Shower at 11am. Check in at 12.30pm. Eat, check email, doze. Flight leaves at 6pm local time, and arrives at Heathrow at the same time.

Heathrow Express, tube, train, walk, home. Wot no big yellow bus?!


P.S. Just before I left something arrived by post that I've been waiting for for about 27 years or so... any ideas?

Monday, June 11, 2007

One Gig Too Far


Armani, Armani,
Underpants, Underpants,
Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam.

Buses, Cars,
Oooh mind your carbon footprint.

What's going on now?!

Don't ask!

Dxxx
(Back in the UK, for a bit)

Friday, June 08, 2007

No Chance of a T-Shirt Fire


Swindon, UK. I'm selling T-Shirts in a leisure complex, there are boys and girls with shorts and singlets on everywhere. To get to catering you go past the Squash courts. There are the sounds of dance classes emerging from behind doors. There are forms and posters everywhere... your safety is our concern!

I'm selling from the reception area for the swimming pool. One of the managers askes me if I want a fire extinguisher. Is there a danger of a T-Shirt fire? Perhaps I'll just throw them in the pool... or run. People keep coming up and asking if the pool is open, or where the changing rooms are.

A lady trips up going to the loo, there are staff everywhere... first aid, management, there's a form to fill in. In the office they have charts to show all the accidents that have occurred. No T-Shirt related incidents to report, phew!

Off to Ireland today and a very easy gig merchandising-wise. It's just up the road from the Sound Mixer's house, so we're off for a barbeque. Then it's back to the UK for a week or so, and time to re-adjust to real-life 1.0

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Home Gig


Good to see you all at Hammersmith last night. Hope you all got home okay, let me know what you made of it, gold cowboys and all.

Dxx

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Tempting


In our bus there is a big red button. This big red button is temptingly labelled in true Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy fashion DO NOT TOUCH! Surely the only reason for big red buttons to exist is to be pressed.

Today I am by the sea in Skive, Denmark at a festival. In true seaside fashion I will be selling my t-shirts from what appears to be a big red beach hut. Complete with sand on the floor. Back in the UK tomorrow and looking forward to seeing friends on Wednesday.

Dxxx

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A Postcard From Brighton


Here I am back by the sea. Weather sunny but windy. Filled with memories of childhood holidays, and gigs by the coast. Day off today and then a gig in town tomorrow. Then we fly to Copenhagen from Stanstead.

Having fun with Garage Band at the moment. Wish you were all here.

Dxxxx

Friday, May 18, 2007

Hamburg... again.


The last time I was in Hamburg was in '88... this time I stayed in room 666 (no joke).

The silly picture is the whole crew in Hamburg before the show... who's idea was the moustaches? Actually it was Colin's (laying down at the front).

Now I'm in Stuttgart for a couple of days off. I'm finally getting my camera back too, so more pictures to view soon.

That's all for now.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Wolfsburg, Germany


They make VWs here. The VW factory looks like Battersea power station with all it's legs in a row. If it was a table it would fall over. By contrast Battersea power station looks reassuringly stable.

Of course most of the towns we are visiting were destroyed during the war and have been subsequently rebuilt in the 50s. They are a weird mix of modern and fake old, well laid out and spacious, but perhaps lacking in soul.

A Big Mac tastes the same everywhere in the world, Diet Coke definitely tastes different.

Why do you always crave fast food when you are hungover?

Why do beggars always seem to have dogs these days?

When the Berlin wall came down the Berliners gained lots of open space. They made some nice parks.

Q: What do you do when you need to take your computer to the lobby before doors open in fifteen minutes and an internationally famous popstar is using it?

I left my phone at home, more than anything I miss being able to take pictures. How very 21st century.

Industrial towns look bleak in the rain.

I miss my guitars.

There is something strangely attractive about a shop that sells everything for 1 Euro.

Why does my browser insist in translating sites into the local language of wherever I am?! Just because I am in Germany doesn't mean I can suddenly speak German. Als Entwurf Speichern anyone?

A: Wait patiently whilst growing increasingly anxious.

There are no wolves in Wolfsburg.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

In The Back Of The Van


This is where I work. It's a nice enough environment, usually with lots of fresh air and natural light, although occasionally it's a bit cold and dark or very hot and I have to turn the lights on or wrap up warm or strip off. My desk is a flight case and intray is a cardboard box. Like many people I have a phone (mobile) and a computer (Mac... no power though, battery only).

It's safe enough, the only worries are getting dirty or spiking myself whilst counting badges. Oh it's a bit grubby too, and occasionally people push heavy boxes at you or you have to pick your way around speakers and ironwork that's not being used, but on the whole I like it. People visit from time to time, but usually only for a fag and a quick chat. Somedays no one comes by.

It's a kinda weird experience to visit many glamorous and interesting cities around the US and Europe and get to only see the inside of one truck and a few concert halls, but I wouldn't swap it for the world.

(Currently in Dusseldorf, Germany)

Saturday, May 05, 2007

That's You In The Spotlight


I had a go at another job on the tour, follow-spot operator. Simply this involved controlling a spotlight from one of the galleries, you listen to instructions, wiggle one knob and push some others, whilst trying all the time to keep a famous person or singer trapped in the glare of your headlight (as it were).

It's a surreal experience sending down this shaft of light and picking out a figure on the stage. They appear unreal, two-dimensional (you see no shadow) and trapped in a perfect circle of light. Wherever they go the light follows them and picks them out. Sometime the light goes ahead, sometimes it lags a little, but it always finds them in the end. There is no escape.

Of course I longed to be on the other side, the one in the spotlight.

It reminded me of another, earlier leg of the tour where the local production provided the spotlights. They arrived beaten-up in olive drab, with a distinct military air about them. We joked that perhaps they had been used previously on a border check-point or prison camp. There the idea is to search for people not being where they are supposed to be, and once caught perhaps shoot or at the very least raise the alarm. A whole different scenario that springs into my mind now whenever I'm using the light. Again, there would be no escape.

In that scenario, I know which end of the light beam I would want to be on.

On a lighter note...

I stayed in a hotel in Vilnius, Lithuania and had to get up obscenely early this morning. I asked the receptionist to get me a cab and after 5 calls he managed to do it. Taxis are hard to get in Vilnius, he explained. The cab duly arrived and we turned right out of the hotel and then immediately left into the airport. I had to laugh, I could easily have walked there in 10 minutes!!

(currently in Copenhagen, Denmark)

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Oslo... ...Tallin


So, Oslo, city of err... Norwegians? And art, beer, 7-11s and nowhere to buy wine! Then the bus and we're in Stockholm, even stranger place, some parts very pretty, some parts very industrial. Then the love boat, err I mean the ferry to Helsinki. So beer, breeze, fjords, forts, more beer, wine, more wine, even more wine, dinner, venison, chicken. Red wine, red fortified wine (getting a bit hazy now). Disco, wine, cocktails, funny ties... wake up in my cabin in my clothes... off the ferry, in the bus, wait. Another ferry, this time to Tallin... Diet Coke, sandwich, talking, swaying... Tallin, off the ferry... where's the bus? Err, wrong paper-work, can't enter the country!! Get our bags, on the band bus to the hotel. Nice room. Bath, sleep, free porn! Medieval restaurant (don't stand in groups of 5 on the street or the police will break you up)... local soup (salty, rustic, very nice), beef... very good. White wine, red wine. Molly Malone's Irish pub, pear cider. Football... Liverpool win on penalties... result!! Back to the room, blog, sleep... tomorrow I sell t-shirts to Estonians.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Ratticus Norvegicus


So I'm back on tour... away from friends and family, but doing a job that I love very much. Always an interesting mix of feelings. We're currently in Norway. Last night was Bergen where the people all have immaculate Newcastle accents (when speaking English) and a fair anglo-saxon vocabulary. I'd forgotten how much I hate drunk people, but I do love being part of a pop touring party. So, stand-by for more pictures, lyrics, music and observations. Enjoy the ride.

Friday, March 16, 2007

And She Spelt My Name Right

Someone obviously taken with one of my lyrics! Thanks for the plug Cutienix.

http://cutienix.multiply.com/journal/item/32

If you'd like to hear the song, you can find it here:

I Don't Miss You

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Keeping it in the Family


I owe my mum lots of things, and it seems not least amongst these is what little musical talent I have (har, har). My brother and I were reminiscing last week about our childhood, and one overriding memory we have is of forming our own bands as small children and writing songs to perform for each other. In true Spinal Tap style, I can even remember a couple of the songs I wrote way back then and could attempt them for you now (I won't).

It would come as no surprise that as soon as we are able we started playing real instruments. Haydn had always wanted to play the drums, and after an initial experiment with a keyboard (not loud enough), I started playing the guitar (ah, that's better). I've never had a guitar lesson in my life, but almost immediately after acquiring my first one (a white Strat copy, it was pretty bad and was soon traded in for a Candy Apple Red Fender Telecaster) we performed at our local church, playing an original keyboard and drums composition and (somewhat obscurely) Wrapped Around Your Finger by The Police (my all time favourite band, Blog on their reunion to follow soon)!

After this we went on to form Air with a friend called Chris 'Kris'Holdsworth on synthesizers. This was in 1986 and we went on to play with two different bass players (stand up Steve Gent and Andy Philips) for 10 years. This included some fun support slots and even a play on Radio 1 by Steve Wright. Another 10 years later I'm still strumming and Haydn is still playing too, although his tastes have moved into the more muso Jazz world. Check out his new outfit here:

The Haydn Callow Trio

He's also a sight-reading teacher for Drum-Tech and you can see him speak here:

Haydn's Video Profile

So what does this have to do with my mum? Well for many years I have wondered why my brother and I seemed so interested in playing music, but no one else in our extensive collection of cousins and cousin's kids seemed to be following our lead... until now! And, of course, the person in question is on my mum's side of the family, so now we know where the genes came from!! So if you haven't already, please check out my cousin Murray's kid - Tim Pennels and his band Freedom of Expression. As an added bonus, I recorded and mixed all the tunes you can hear.

Freedom of Expression

Friday, March 09, 2007

The Modified Toy Orchestra


On a whim Alex and I went to see the Modified Toy Orchestra supporting Tunng at the Southbank Centre last night. I had no real idea what to expect, but was delighted to see a stage covered in toy robots, speak and spells and a panoply of garishly coloured toy instruments. Then there was the music itself! Invoking the spirit of Kraftwerk, Ultravox and early Depeche Mode, they were truly amazing. I've never heard such good music in a long while, and the video backdrops were excellent too.

Don't just take my word for it though, check them out:

http://www.myspace.com/toyorch

http://www.warmcircuit.com/web/

BTW, Tunng were a kind of trance-folk outfit... I should have been worried when all the guitarists were sitting down! Kinda fun to begin with, but after 3 songs sounding pretty much the same I started to doze off. Needless to say, we left.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Lullabies Finally Finished

I'm really excited to announce that I have actually finished the Lullabies EP and here it is:

Lullabies from the Wheels of the Bus EP

Please check it out and let me know what you think.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

LGBT History Poetry Night

Had a thoroughly enjoyable (if slightly unusual) night last night. I was invited by my friend Steve Antoni to contribute a few songs to the LGBT History night at the Poetry Cafe. It's a wonderfully intimate venue, despite having all the ambiance of an AA meeting... the standard for poetry and reading was very high I thought and the evening gelled together well. I played Vulnerable and Tomorrow in the first half and spurred on by a glass or two of wine, added Minneapolis and I Need Your Love in the second. I was sandwiched (metaphorically speaking) between poems about Balls and Gay dating and prose about wistful Lesbian encounters... didn't seem too out of place though, so I suppose that says something in itself.

If anyone from the night stumbles across this Blog, you might like to know that all the songs I performed are available as free MP3 downloads from my homepage, just follow the links on the right hand side.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Sneaky Summertime Smash?


I know it's not Summer yet, but I think it's high time I revived my Summer anthem and had a go and creating a bit of an underground swell to get it in the charts (ha, ha). This song was originally conceived for the Christian O'Connell show on Xfm when he called for a new Summer Anthem. I never even got played, which is a cruel travesty of justice!! So, take a listen, take a download and pass it on to all your friends... let's beat the system!! Failling that I hope it at least gives you a warm glow if the days get cold again.

It's Summertime 2007

Features the excellent Haydn Callow on electronic drums and the majestic and modest Sean 'y boy' Watkins on bass.

Monday, February 05, 2007

77


Just to prove that I can never have less than two projects on the go, I have already started designing the cover for my next solo outing. To be called 77 this will be a collection of radically re-worked old songs (the ones that don't lend themselves to the acoustic treatment, or deserve more atmospheric mixes) and new works, probably about 10 tunes in all. I'll post lyrics and songs as they emerge here first!

Let me know what you think of the cover artwork.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Who's Dumb Now?


Something I thought I'd never see, is one of my CDs on eBay, but hey it actually happened:

Dumb CD on eBay

Correctly labelled as an independent "release" this was the second demo CD I recorded with the band Air (not the French outfit of the same name, note!) It's cool to see that someone still has a copy, although no one actually bid on it... not surprising really. If anyone would like a copy I have about 300 copies in the loft. Ha, ha.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Lullabies Cover


I just wanted to say a big Thank You to Alex Staiger, who designed the cover for my next album project for me. Thanks baby!

As a bonus to anyone who makes it to The Horn in St. Albans tonight, I'll be premiering Minneapolis. Hungover. Tired. Awake. Along with a second track tonight.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I'm Still Here


Well, it's a minor miracle, but I've actually finished all the recordings for I'm Still Here. There are ten tracks in all, and they are all one take, no overdubs, no edits and only a few effects. The songs are a combination of old and new tracks, but all recorded in a stripped down, guitar and voice combination. In the end I sacrificed absolute perfection to get a good performance of each track, and get them all finished. The tracks were all recorded via a Yamaha AW16G and mixed on an Apple Mac G4 running Cubase. To hear all the finished tracks (and the original demos, if you so desire) follow this link:

I'm Still Here

This finally frees me up to get on with producing the final songs for Lullabies. This work will start in the next week, so you should be able to check out new tracks soon. I've even decided what the next project will be, so stand by for more information on that.