Monday, April 17, 2017

Losing my religion

So - as the Stranglers / Ruts DC tour recedes into the dim and distant past it's back to 'real' life. But what is 'real' life exactly? Playing gigs with The Upper Cut and with Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks? Working in Balcony Shirts? Looking forward to playing with Ruts DC this coming weekend and beyond? 
Well I guess it's all of these things and more. Some are more enjoyable than others (the gigs with Al and the boys have all been great, the solitary Upper Cut show sadly was not) but that's inevitable isn't it? The Neck gig supporting Ferocious Dog at The Garage in Islington was something of a classic, and it's been busy in the shirt shop too. Oh and I went to see The Who give a great show in Birmingham, with PT on fine form and playing brilliantly (were they mini - humbuckers on his Stratocaster? Ooo!) throughout. Life - 'real' life - goes on. 

All well and good - but I don't mind admitting that I'm feeling a bit... er... lost. I suppose it was always going to be hard to come back from a tour like the last one and be able to slot straight back into things, and I will say that for the most part it's all been ok - but there's a nagging in my head. And it won't go away. 
I often get asked how I go from playing bigger shows to smaller pub gigs, often within a day or so of each other - I've realised over the years of doing it that they all basically amount to the same thing. There will be someone who attends a small gig with a covers band who enjoys themselves as much as people who go to the big shows and vice versa. A case in point - my first show back after the tour was at The Dolphin in Uxbridge with Al and the boys, and was a pleasure to play as was the Sunday afternoon appearance at The Horns in Watford a couple of days later. In between them was the afore-mentioned Neck show where we bought the proverbial house down. However as we all know you don't get something for nothing in life, and it must be said that all of this has made the near-catastrophic Upper Cut Dolphin show on Good Friday so hard for me to stomach - even though we play together relatively rarely these days we're usually a good tight band, but on this occasion (and despite having had a rehearsal on Tuesday evening) all of our collective ability appeared to desert us as we floundered our way through an excruciating show. I sat up much of the night pondering the band's future (my oh my it was a long day in the shop on Saturday!) and came to the extremely upsetting conclusion that we might not have one, which is a great shame. But nothing lasts forever does it? The next night's Buicks's gig at The Three Steps in Cowley went at least some way towards restoring my faith in my ability to play in a band (I'd seriously wondered about it around 4 am that day!) so maybe it'll all be alright in the end. Let's hope so anyway.

In the meantime Ruts DC are playing The Grand in Clitheroe as part of the Into The Valley festival this Saturday night. Oh there you go - I feel better just for typing that. It doesn't take much sometimes does it? Happy Easter y'all!

Yeah I know, it's all a bit garbled, too much whining self pity, non-crisis after non-crisis - but you should see what I've left out! Fear and self loathing in West London - back to 'real' life indeed...

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

'Whatever happened to..?'

So. That's that then.

Except of course, it's not. Not while any of us are lucky enough to have a memory anyway.

The Stranglers / Ruts D.C. tour was everything that I / we hoped that it would be i.e. a thoroughly enjoyable experience from start to finish. If I ever get time to decipher the barely - legible notes taken sporadically throughout the three-and-a-bit weeks of motion and music then a fuller version of the story will appear here but in the meantime I'll just say that it was definitely one of the best tours that I've ever been part of. Both bands played well every night, but as always that's only part of the story - The Stranglers were absolute gentlemen, their crew were fantastic, Bittersweet Catering provided some of the best food that I've ever been lucky enough to taste and I feel almost as though I've shaken the hands of every audience member at every show. Something like that anyway. Great stuff!

There are quite a few reviews of various shows appearing on blogs and beyond, Louder Than War and Retro Man among them - the Ruts D.C. Facebook page will no doubt have links to most if not all of them at some point in the not-too-distant future. There are plenty of YouTube clips too, although I wonder if 'Kill The Pain' from the Manchester show will ever appear - did Baz and JJ really invade our stage dressed as scantily - clad Victorian strongmen wielding inflatable dumbbells..?  

So - what now? Well Ruts D.C. return later this month but more about that then - in the meantime I've got gigs with both Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks and The Upper Cut as well as a guest appearance with my old mates Neck this Saturday supporting Ferocious Dog at The Garage in Islington. It's also back to working in Balcony Shirts. Business as usual? Maybe. Until next time.

Friday, March 03, 2017

The new Ruts D.C. single 'Kill The Pain' is released today!

The new Ruts D.C. single 'Kill The Pain' comes out today on Westworld / Sosumi Records - it's certainly one of my favourite songs on 'Music Must Destroy' (incidentally Pete Sargeant has just published a splendid review of the album on Just Listen To This which you can read here - thanks Pete!) so I for one am well pleased that it's out in it's own right. And after what seems like an age of anticipation our tour with The Stranglers finally kicks off in Lincoln next Tuesday; it then winds it's way up and down England, Scotland and Wales (no Ireland sadly, but more about that in a minute) before finishing in Manchester on (gulp!) April 1st. It promises to be an absolute classic, and if you're coming along to a show then do please say hello. Blogging opportunities are likely to be few and far between but I will be attempting to update my Facebook page on a regular if not daily basis so if you're interested in following how it's all going that's the place to be.

And if you are interested in following how it's all going then you can find my Facebook page here. See you in Cyberspace!

As I say it's a great shame that we're not going to get over to Ireland this time - but we are playing with Stiff Little Fingers in Dublin on Friday 25th August before a very special show in Belfast the next night with SLF, The Stranglers and The Outcasts with Terri Hooley DJ-ing. Crikey! Did I really just type that? Yes, incredibly, I did. Hurrah! 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Love Sculpture

As the Stranglers / Ruts DC tour grows ever nearer I seem to be spending rather a lot of my time changing strings, checking leads, working out how many stage clothes I need (where the hell am I going to keep my hats?!?) and of course making sure that I've got enough t-shirts, underpants and socks for our jaunt. It's all glamour this rock 'n' roll lark I can tell you... meanwhile the always - well - worth - reading Aural Sculptors blog has just published an interview with, of all people, me. Hilarious - I never for one minute thought that anyone would ever want to interview me. Me! You can find out what I think about, ooh, all sorts of things - it's even got a picture of me with hairMe me me it's all about me! You can have a read of it here if you like, and there are also some downloadable live recordings of a Price gig from way back in the 1980s and a show T.V. Smith and myself played at The 12 Bar Club in 2012 (get them here and here - go on, you know you want to!) for your (ahem!) listening pleasure. Great stuff - thanks Adrian!

Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks played three shows last weekend, at The Sunningdale Lounge in Sunningdale, The Dashwood Arms near High Wycombe and The Riverside Club in Staines. The latter was notable for the fact that Al all but lost his voice in the first set which involved some fairly drastic rethinking of the set list although it all went well in the end. It was also notable for featuring the great John Sorrell AKA Johnny Squirrel on bass guitar as Dave was gigging elsewhere - it's always great to see Squirrel, and his playing was effortlessly excellent as ever. 

This week The Upper Cut return to Ye Olde George in Colnbrook on Sunday, which in hindsight I perhaps should have turned down as it's getting very close to tour - time. Ah well, I'm sure it'll all be ok - after all, you can only spend so much time counting t-shirts, underpants and socks...

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

'I wanted to look like one of The Flamin' Groovies...'

The new Ruts DC single 'Kill The Pain' comes out on Westworld Records on March 3rd just in time for our tour with The Stranglers - it's from our album 'Music Must Destroy' and features Jake Burns and Kirk Brandon on backing vocals. You can see the Graham Trott - directed promo video on YouTube by clicking here - excellent!

In the meantime I am once again currently in the grip of the dreaded ManFlu. Bah! I seem to have had it rather a lot lately, or it certainly feels as though I have - maybe I've not got rid of it properly, if you know what I mean. It's certainly getting a bit boring... since last we spoke I've cheered up a (little) bit - there have been gigs with The Upper Cut in Reading and with Big Al and the boys in St Albans, Burnham and Colnbrook, all of which passed without too much incident; I'm out and about with Al and co. this weekend although if I feel like I do now I fear that I won't be going anywhere. Time for some paracetamol and an early night - give me something to kill the pain, as someone once sang...

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Magic And Loss

Some of these blog pieces more-or-less write themselves, some take a bit of coaxing and some take a lot of work. A lot of work, as in a 'why am I doing this to myself?' - style lot of work. This one is quite hard to write because of the subject matter, which is strange as there should be a lot of positive things to say about friendship, kindred spirits, feeling part of a team... they're all good things, but you don't get something for nothing do you?

I was on my way home on Thursday night when my phone made the slightly annoying car horn - type noise that it makes when I receive a text message. I should change the sound, but I never seem to get around to it. Or something. Anyway I took the phone out of my pocket and read the message. Then I read the message again. And again. It was telling me that Tom Edwards had died. But he can't have. He's only young. And he's Tom, he can't have... 
I first meet Tom a couple of years of years ago, but he's one of those people that it's hard to remember a time that you didn't know them, if you know what I mean. I played the 'I Need A Dodge' gig at Koko with him in 2015, went to the Marshall factory with him, saw him play with Adam Ant, played the riff to 'Day Tripper' on his guitar in Abbey Road Studios... I still don't really know what to say about it all, other than that he was a fabulous musician and a lovely man. I'll miss him - and I know that I won't be the only one.

Harlow is perhaps not the most obvious place to provoke any real emotion, or so you might have thought - but if you'd have been there on Saturday night then you'd have known that 'emotion' was most definitely on the agenda, as after several false alarms The Square finally closed it's doors for the very last time. I first played there with The Price in 1986, and just over 30 years later I played three songs at the last ever gig there. But what a last ever gig it was my friends... 
First band on The Orphans feature Oliver son-of-Simon-from-The-Newtown-Neurotics Lomond on guitar (to be pedantic, on my guitar for most of their set as he broke a string on his) and roared through a breathless half hour set (guitar, drums and vocals - not a bass guitar in sight!) to the approval of the rapidly arriving audience. After saying a quick hello to Steve Lamacq - if I remember rightly he was involved in getting The Price our first gig at the venue - in the downstairs bar it was back upstairs to catch local heroes The Newtown Neurotics who bought the proverbial house down. To be fair they were on safe hometown ground but their excellent performance didn't rest on any laurels, with frontman / songwriter Steve Drewett in fine form throughout. And what can I say about Eddie And The Hot Rods that I haven't already said in these hallowed pages? They've always been one of my favourite bands, and this show was as good as any I have ever seen them play. But it was different, very different - from my point of view at least.
Back in December I went to see The John Otway Big Band at The Borderline; I'd have gone along anyway as they're always well worth seeing but I went up to meet Hot Rods guitar hero Richard Holgarth (who also plays for Otway and was the sound man at The Square when The Price used to play there) to discuss the possible purchase of a Gibson SG guitar that he was considering selling. During the evening the subject of the Square's imminent closure came up, and he invited me up to the gig. At some point I said something like 'I'd love to play at that' - at which point he suggested that I play with Eddie And The Hot Rods. I thought about his offer for, ooh, two or three milliseconds before saying yes...
As I fought my way through the sold out crowd towards the stage I reflected on the situation - no rehearsal, not even a run through at the soundcheck, although I did have a chance to try my guitar through the amplifier that I was borrowing for the occasion. We only decided which songs I was going to play with them in the pub opposite around 3 hours ago. I eventually got to the stage as Hot Rods singer Barrie introduced me  - I never thought that would ever happen I can tell you - and I picked up my guitar. 'Are you ok?' said Richard cheerily as I tried a couple of chords - yes I was ok, and I was even more ok when 'Hard Driving Man' started. And there I was, little old me playing with Eddie and his Hot Rods. If you'd have told me that I was going to do that 40 years ago... 'Gloria' was next before we were joined by Jim Jones (he was DJ-ing after the gig) for 'Born To Be Wild' - and all too soon it was over. The gig, my time in The Hot Rods, one of the great independent venues, everything. There were more than a few tears, with more than a few of them coming from me. It had  been a lousy few days. You don't know what you've got until it's gone do you?

Oh and in case you're wondering, I bought the SG. Of course I did. Well, something good had to come out of it all didn't it?    

Yeah I know this isn't very well written and is all a bit garbled - as I say, sometimes this is quite hard to write... sad times...