Monday, August 17, 2009

Twins, Wine and Frogs.

I'm off to Edinburgh today, to provide technical support to my friend Charlotte Young and her show TWINLESS. The show deals with the sudden death of her twin sister and comedy partner Emily, and features a specially produced video and a raffle (with big prizes). My role is to make sure you can hear the sound and turn lights on and off and stuff... oh and sell t-shirts... something I have a fair amount of experience of. Since I'm very closely involved in the show I'm sure that you'd expect me to say it's very good and you should come and see it, so I won't. Instead I'll just mention that my bestest mate (m) James thought it was THE BEST THING HE'D EVER SEEN, EVER, and he's totally unbiased.

Anyway, here's some details of when and where you can see it in Edinburgh. It's free to get in, 10p per ticket for the raffle and the t-shirts are a mere £7. It runs from 25th - 29th August and starts at 23:00. See you there!!

It's not the first time I've ever been involved in a show on the Edinburgh Fringe. On August 21st 1994 I played in a bar called Negociants with my then band - Air. Rather bonkersly we decided to drive there, do the gig, and then drive back home (to Harrow) all in the space of a day. Somehow we survived without crashing the van, but I have no idea how. This time I'm going by Easyjet.

After I return from Edinburgh, I have just one day at home before flying to LA. I'm going to meet my bestest mate (f) Peachy there for a tour of the vineyards of California and such like. I'm sure it will be very civilised and we won't get drunk at all. Not even once.

After this mad-cap road trip I'm back in the UK with just a few days to prepare for the festival of the year. Yes indeed it's the return of Frogstock, bigger and bolder than ever. It's on Saturday 12th September and features the usual mix of music, comedy, performance art, ale, badgers and, almost certainly, more ale. It's in a pub this time, which indicates to me that there will probably be more ale than normal. Although that may be technically impossible.

More info here:

I'll try and keep you all updated from the festival, best wishes to you all.


P.S. You can find the rest of my gigs here:

P.P.S. Do also check out my friend Daniel Lehan's Blog from Finland: I'm performing with Daniel at the Nunhead Festival on the 19th September.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Influences... Ultravox

Music is a magical thing. It's remarkable how a tune, a melody or a lyric can transport you to another place, or bring back a vivid memory. So it is for me and Ultravox. Hearing any song off the Quartet album instantly re-locates me to Sheffield on Boxing Day many years past. We went to visit my dad's auntie Margaret and uncle Stan at Christmas for a few years when we lived in Liverpool. Since it was Christmas I always had a new tape to listen to (or one year a MW radio that never left my ear) and Ultravox is the one I really associate with this time.*

I'm sure most of you will be familiar with Ultravox from their, oh so nearly, hit song - Vienna. The combination of synthesizers, violin, drum machine and European imagery was certainly a mixture that appealed to me. In truth Vienna was not totally typical of what they did... for three golden albums (Vienna, Rage In Eden and Quartet) they mixed cinematic soundscapes, synthetic sounds and rock guitar to amazing effect. They were always inventive: detuned radios are switched off with click (Rage In Eden), delay soaked drums from the end of one song start another (The Ascent) and a range of swirling effects and noises. They also introduced me to a love of drums that go pfft, tic, dop and fah (as opposed to the usual rock: snap, crack and pop), which I've never lost. In truth I didn't think all that much of Vienna at the time, but fell in love with Hymn (from Quartet) - and then rediscovered the back catalogue. It wasn't just me they influenced, Depeche Mode were fans too, and I would imagine that bands like Muse and MGMT were heavily influenced as well.

It all went a bit wrong after they released Lament and then decided that the next step should be to fire their drummer (Warren Cann) and embrace world music. What followed was possibly the worst album of all time - U-Vox. Fortunately there has been a recent change of heart, and for their reunion tour, they reformed the optimum middle line-up (Cann, Billy Currie, Chris Cross and Midge Ure) and played all the hits from the three albums mentioned above.

I've rediscovered the joys of disappearing into a world of Ultravox music in the iPod age. It's a revelation to hear the details of the music now, that the cassette / Walkman combination conspired to obscure. Do check out a few tracks on Spotify or the like, and see what you think.

One final anecdote, my dearly departed friend Andy Hewitt was a big fan too. One day many years back he tuned into a radio programme and immediately identified Ultravox drummer Warren Cann as the guest on the show. After listening for a while he realised that he was a "mystery guest" and listeners were failing to identify who he was, it made him laugh as there was no mystery at all, just a voice he recognised and knew. If only he'd been near a phone to call in!

To hear the Ultravox influence, check out my songs: Lightkeeper, or Minneapolis Hungover Tired Awake.


P.S. I am very happy to say that I have actually seen Ultravox live... last year at Hammersmith Apollo, that's where the picture is from.

*Interesting fact: it was also this time of my life that I was initially thrown back to when standing in the back of a truck in 2006... when the snow (nearly) fell on Denver (okay Detroit actually).

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Coming Up For Air

Ever get the feeling that you're a bit too busy?! I've just found a few minutes to write up my Blog after playing three gigs in five days, and I've got two more coming this week alone.

On Thursday last week I made a trip to the Edinburgh Cellars for a show and then hot-footed it to the Duchess to attend my mate Will's last open mic session there. Will's night was one of the first I ever did as an acoustic artist, way back in February 2008. So there were definitely mixed emotions as I took to the stage with a five song set. Hopefully open mic night will continue in September, but it's uncertain at the moment.

Sunday night and I was at Prohibition in St. Katherine's docks. It was a really special night as Laurence (the co-host with Rae) was celebrating his birthday. He'd hand-picked all the acts and it was certainly a very fun night. I particularly enjoyed The Hall Of Mirrors and Sala, but all the acts put on really good shows. Even Rae joined in at the end as we performed an impromptu version of California Dreamin' with Sala on guitar, and the lovely Lyllou on violin.

Btw, make sure you check out Rae's new tune - Persuasion, which is currently being played by Pete Tong amongst others.

For some reason that I can't quite recall right now, I decided to play at RAW on Monday night. I was pretty tired that day, but still managed to get there and play. It was another very enjoyable night and I'm looking forward to seeing the pictures on the RAW site very soon.

And it's not over yet: TONIGHT I'm playing at the Powers Bar in Kilburn and tomorrow night, I'm heading to the Nine Bar in London Bridge Road. Both gigs promise to be really good, so do come along if you can. More details here.

You should also check out this show: TWINLESS that was previewed in London Lite yesterday, my friend Charlotte is performing it and I'm helping do something technical or other... highly recommended.

More soon,