Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Ireland life, Ireland live

Friday 13th January at 10.10 am, in seat 22c on Aer Lingus flight E1233 not long after take off from Gatwick Airport

I don't think that I've been in a plane that's taken off through snow before. Hmm... no, I'd remember wouldn't I? It was a good deal bumpier than I would have liked, but we're up in blue skies now thank gawd.
I really liked this poster!

Neither The Ruts or Ruts DC ever played in Ireland back in the day so tonight's show at The Voodoo Lounge in Dublin is definitely something of an event. Well, it certainly is for me - I first went to Dublin in 2001 with Neck and have played there a fair few times since then although not for quite a while so it'll be good to play there tonight.
Since last we spoke there have been no gigs for your humble narrator, although since I've not been feeling 100% fit lately that for once hasn't been a particularly bad thing. That said I have been to see a few bands - I kinda think that if you're not out playing then it's good to be out watching some one who is, if only to support the venue that putting live music on. Does that sound self-righteous? It's not supposed to, although maybe it does, or indeed is... anyway The Bluerays played at The Halfway House in Rickmansworth last Friday, and very good they were too - with Chris Hunt on drums the band offered up a good selection of cover songs (some obvious, some not-so-straightforward) to the appreciation of the good-sized audience. And it was great to catch up with Chris and to see him behind the kit, I've played here and there with him over the years and he's always excellent.
The now-annual Resolution Festival has been happening at The 100 Club - I've been to less shows than I'd have liked this year but was very pleased to catch a blistering performance by T.V. Smith and The Bored Teenagers on Sunday (sadly a tube strike meant that there were less punters than predicted but 'twas nevertheless a fabulous show) and an excellent show by The Sex Pistols Experience on Tuesday. 
In the meantime Britain is falling apart due to cold temperatures and the afore-mentioned snow - isn't this sort of thing supposed to happen in winter? Ah well - at least we're good at falling apart... anyway it was an early start so it's time to attempt a snooze...

Saturday 14th January at 1.15 pm on the road between Dublin and Belfast

Did you see what I did there? 'On The Road'. I always wanted to say or indeed write that, I sound just like Jack Kerouac don't I? Either that or I sound like a sad and lonely middle-aged man desperately trying to make his life sound more interesting and indeed romantic than it actually is. 
Well it's difficult to think how last night's gig could have gone any better than it did, although when we abandoned our soundcheck as none of us could hear what any of us was playing in didn't necessarily look as though a good night was in prospect. 'Don't worry' said Bob our soundman, 'it'll sound fine when there's a few people in here'. I've heard that a few ti...

4.00 pm in Room 315 at The Ramada Encore Hotel in Belfast

...at which point my pen ran out. Bugger!

As I was saying - the 'it'll sound fine when...' clause gets used by soundmen the World over with varying degrees of success, either because nobody turns up to watch the gig or because loads of people turn up and it still sounds awful. Happily this time Bob was proved to be correct as the place was pretty much full when we went on and the sound did indeed dramatically improve. It's good when that happens... with an audience that could politely be described as 'enthusiastic' the show went from good to great in no time at all - as our new friend John put it after the show, '2017 started here tonight'. Support came from local heroes Paranoid Visions who were probably the best that I've ever seen them which made it a cracking night all round. Hopefully we're in for another good one tonight - promoter Seamie used to play drums in The Bankrobbers who I remember seeing way back in 1981 supporting, of all people, Ruts DC. And if that's not a good omen then I don't know what is!

Sunday 15th January at 9.42 am in the same hotel room

Ooo my 'ead 'urts. Still I've only got myself to blame. As always. Well, that and the drinking

Breakfast I think...

4.14 pm in seat 18C on Flight EZY844 not long after take off from Belfast Airport 

Worrying. Very worrying. Well I think that it is. Well, it is isn't it? How much better an alcoholic drink makes you feel sometimes, especially when you've had rather a lot of them the night before. Maybe I shouldn't be saying that here. Maybe I shouldn't be saying it at all. Ah well - I just have. 
It was a long, long night, but a good one. If I'm honest (and I always try to be - don't you?) I'd have to say that we might have played a bit better the night before but not by much, although the sound seemed to be a bit better in Dublin (which is rather ironic if you think about it given how our soundcheck had gone) which resulted in me missing a couple of cues and accents in songs. Excuses excuses... maybe I'm being a bit over-critical as the audience loved it but you have to keep standards up don't you? Well, I think that you do. The Black Box Theatre seems to put on a lot of very diverse entertainment, and it's great to see such a good venue doing so well - and it was great to see my old mate John Ford who now lives nearby, and I must mention that Stop Stop Start Again provided splendid support too. Another roaringly good evening or indeed weekend - and there's another in prospect next week when we play The Ruhrpott Ska Explosion Festival in Dortmund. Excellent. 
Time for another snooze...

Tuesday 17th January at 2.37 pm, back in Blighty and at home

Somehow - and I for one am not sure how, given how knackered I was - I went to see The Lurkers playing the last night of The Resolution Festival on the way home from the airport. Strange but true. And if you're interested both the Stop Stop Start Again and Ruts D.C. shows are now on YouTube and can be seen here by clicking on the band names in this sentence. See what you think!

Monday, January 02, 2017

'I'm back - in full attack...'

Friday 30th December at 4 pm, in seat 15D on British Airways flight number BA542 not long after take-off.

Well it's been a while since I've done this. Blogging I mean. I think that I've, for want of a better term, lost the habit. Time I got it back then.

Somewhere near the end of October - or was it the start of November? - my computer went wrong. I switched it on one night - to write a blog post if I remember correctly - and the screen remained defiantly white, albeit with a little question mark in the middle. A quick scout around the Internet (we've all got that on our phone these days haven't we? It's funny how you go to use it almost with out thinking isn't it?) revealed that it was likely to be a hard drive problem - so what was I to do? Hmm... I wonder if that computer repair shop down the road could sort it out for me?
Well it turned out that they could. Eventually. My new friend Terry phoned me after he'd had a look at it to tell that I did indeed need a new hard drive ('you have backed it up haven't you?' he asked somewhat ominously and clearly expecting the answer 'no' - yes, incredibly I had, and fairly recently too) and went on to tell me that being an 'old' (i.e. not 'new') MacBook there were limits to what could be achieved. 'How about a hybrid drive?' said he, rather more cheerily than he'd asked the previous question; he'd usually suggest a solid state drive but my ancient device wouldn't be able to cope with that but this would do the trick. Well it sounded like a good plan and was a lot less expensive than I was fearing so I gave him the go-ahead. 'No hurry' I replied when he asked when I needed the computer back. This may in retrospect have been a bit of a mistake.
After a week or so I called to see how things were going. My new mate Terry was still very much my new mate, and he lost little if any time in telling me that things were going well and that he should be able to have my computer back with me by, ooh, the end of next week. 'Oh that great' said I - it was only after I'd put the phone down that I realised that it would by then be over three weeks since I'd had the computer at home. I had several outstanding invoices to send (if you're a self-employed person like me then you'll know what I mean!) and had among other things an increasingly dim recollection of writing something called a 'blog'. I used to enjoy writing that, even if I was never really sure if anyone actually read it. I'd been able to update my Facebook page on my iPhone but writing anything more than a few words was just too fiddly. A snap decision saw your humble narrator purchase an iPad Mini as there were bills to pay online - it's amazing how much of that we all do online these days isn't it? - and anyway, I'd fancied an iPad for a while as it'd be handy for taking away on tour. I'm finding it less fiddly to use than a phone but trickier than a computer - oh well, I'm sure it'll be ok in the end.
In the meantime my afore-mentioned computer reappeared at the afore-mentioned shop. Hurrah! I rather nervously switched it on - it worked. Good! But wait a minute - something was different. Well, actually quite a lot was different. It was... well, it was like I remember it being when I first got it all those years ago. It's not how I remember it before it went wrong. Bugger! Oh hang on - I guess that means that I have to, I believe the term is, 'restore my last back up' from the external hard drive that I've got all this stuff sitting on. Well that should be simple enough shouldn't it? Well indeed it should, but after what felt like an age on the Internet I still could get the bloomin' thing to work. Terry - help!
'You probably need some iCloud settings updating, and maybe a few other bits and pieces looking at - drop it back into the shop and I'll sort it out for you' said my by-now-old mate Terry. Will do. Could I have it back a bit quicker than last time please?
Well it finally made it's way back to me just before Christmas and I'm pleased / relieved to say that it seems to working fine. Having spent years being clogged up to breaking point with far too much music in iTunes it's now less than half full - plenty of room for yet more music then - and it's good to have it back working at something faster than the proverbial snail's pace. I must still keep using the iPad though mustn't I? All's well that end's well - except that I tried to back it up last night (I thought that I'd better have a go!) and it wouldn't work. I'd better look up 'Time Machine Settings' or something like it when we get back hadn't I?

And it's been a while since I've done this too. Flown to a gig I mean. Ruts D.C. have a New Year's Eve gig at The Covo Club in Bologna. I think that the last time that I saw the original band was New Year's Eve 1981 at The Fulham Greyhound. That's 35 years ago. Doesn't time fly when you're having fun. Doesn't time fly anyway?
Since last we spoke here I've been gigging a fair bit, mostly with Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks as well as a Boxing Night bash at The Dolphin in Uxbridge with The Upper Cut which all but erased the memory of our last not-so-good gig there. I've also worked many-a day at Balcony Shirts which has maybe not been quite as busy as at the same time last year, and spent most of Christmas Day ill with food poisoning or something like it. Urgh! I've managed to have a couple of much-needed quiet days after Xmas before before Segs, Dave and myself got together yesterday for rehearsal - buoyed by the recent news that 'Music Must Destroy' was voted Album Of The Year in Vive Le Rock magazine ('I'd like to thank the academy' etc) we spent four very enjoyable hours running through material for tomorrow night's show. 
A lot of people don't seem to be sad to see the back of 2016. There do seem to have been rather a lot of celebrity deaths don't there? Incidentally I was very saddened to hear that Rick Parfitt left the building just before Christmas - one of the great rock 'n' roll rhythm guitarists, I met him once and he seemed to be a very nice chap. And I was never exactly the world's biggest George Michael fan, but you can't deny that the guy could certainly sing... and then there was that little matter of the vote to leave The E.U. (am I the only person that thinks that we won't actually leave?) and the truly astonishing sight of someone who appears to be a complete and utter lunatic being voted President Elect of The U.S.A.; it remains to be seen how we fare in 2017 but surely it can't be quite as crazy as 2016?

Anyway the screen says that we're 51 minutes away from Bologna and I've got 'The Liberal Politics Of Adolf Hitler' by John King to read. That's quite a title isn't it? I'm told by the author that the band are in it somewhere (that wasn't the only reason that I bought it, honest!) so I'd better get on with reading it hadn't I? 

Saturday 31st December at 11.24 am, in Room 354 of The Ramada Encore Hotel in Bologna

Ah, that's better. I sometimes wonder if there's anything in the World that a hot shower or indeed a hot bath won't fix. Not that I had anything in particular that needed fixing, but you know what I mean I think.
It's a lovely sunny morning here, so perhaps I should be out and about rather than languishing in a hotel room. Fair point - but since we have a very long day in prospect (we're due on stage at 12.30 am) a lazy morning might be a good idea.
I bet you thought that
I'd made those names up?!?
'Twas a splendid evening just gone - we were met at the airport by Mars and Angela (I first met Mars several years ago when as a member of The Valentines he was backing T.V. Smith on some British dates) who took us to our hotel for check-in then to The Jukebox Cafe for some food. The Cafe (which incidentally serves such delights as Punkcakes, Eggy Pop and, believe it or not, a Ruts Burger - if you're in Bologna then visit immediately!) is part of The Covo Club - with no table available for a while it was suggested that we had a walk around town which turned out to be an excellent idea. Whilst musicians are lucky enough to find themselves in all sorts of interesting places there's often very little time to see anything other than where you're playing and where you're staying so it was great to be able to see some of the local sights. Mars recalled seeing The Clash play an open air show in the Town Square in 1980 - Topper was late so they played the first few songs with the drummer from the support band Whirlwind on drums before giving a blistering performance. 'It changed my life' said he, looking visibly moved. I bet that it did. They changed mine too.
Outside the cafe a board advertises the (very) imminent appearance of 'U.K. Punk Legends' Ruts D.C.; the jukebox is blasting out early Stones singles and the food is going down very well as is the local beer and wine. We all pretty much ran out of steam around midnight - it had been a long day. A taxi was called but few if any other attendees were leaving - The Jukebox Cafe looks like a good place to be.
Meanwhile I've got Creedence Clearwater Revival playing on the iPod (Keith Richards earlier, it's funny how some songs come to mind when you least expect it isn't it?) and I've got a bit of time to myself, which is good because J.K.'s book is every bit as good as I was hoping that it would be. It's all go isn't it? Well, it certainly will be later.

Sunday 1st January at 2.05 pm, in the hotel lobby

Ah - the wonder of the late check out. Mars spoke to the person behind the desk yesterday who apparently is a regular at the club. That was lucky.
We got back to the hotel not long after 5 am. It had been a long night, but a good one. Opening act Mars Valentines and The Illuminations had warmed the crown up with a set of suitably punky cover versions ('This Perfect Day' sounded particularly strong I thought) and had all looked as though they were having a whale of a time. They went on not long before midnight, and stopped after a couple of songs to open a bottle of champagne (or something very like it) and to toast the start of 2017. And why not? It was Mars's first stage appearance for over two years, and he made a great job of it. And let's face it, anybody who plays a Gibson Firebird has to be alright don't they?
When we were first offered the gig (not that long ago, around October if I remember rightly) I must admit that I for one was a little bemused. Are Ruts D.C. a 'New Year's Eve type of band'? I suppose the answer to that question is something along the lines of 'it depends on where you are on New Year's Eve'. They were certainly the right type of band for The Fulham Greyhound on NYE 1981, and it turned out that we were the right type of band for The Covo Club on NYE 2017. As previously discussed we'd not played a show since November, and while there was no reason that this show shouldn't have been a good one (after all we'd sounded fine in rehearsal) there is often an element of 'ring rustiness' in situations such as these. Thankfully that wasn't the case here, and our 18-song-set-with-a-4-song-encore roared by in no time - always a sign of a good show. Afterwards there was time for a drink (or two) and a chance to talk to some of the audience, many of whom were very emotional about our performance. It's easy to forget how powerful music can be - how it brings like-minded people together, how it can stir up often unexpected emotions and feelings, and how it can mean so much to players and listeners alike. This was definitely one of those nights, a pleasure to part of from start to finish. I often bang on about how lucky I am to be able to play music - I'm not going to do that again here (for once!) but suffice to say that it's good to be reminded of it sometimes... 

Monday 2nd January at 12.26 pm, back in Blighty and at home

So there you have it - a return to blogging after what feels like ages. It's actually only a few weeks, but having written something most weeks for the last 10 (10!) years it's something that's a bigger part of my life than I perhaps realise. I started it to learn to type and to find my way around a computer - despite still being a 'two finger typist' most of the time (thumbs and the odd second finger creep in here and there) I can now get up a reasonable head of steam, and whilst I wouldn't necessarily describe myself as being 'computer literate' I can do more on a computer than I ever could, especially when the damn thing works... I'm still not really sure that anybody reads this stuff, but I'm in too deep to stop now. So I'd better carry on then! Forward!

Oh and I nearly forgot - happy new year y'all!
(Assuming that anybody is reading this…)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

'Normal service has resumed...' - or has it?

So - how much do you think that you use a computer?

How much do you think that you need a computer?

Until the events of the past few weeks I probably would have answered along the lines of 'well, not that much really' and 'not at all, after all we did ok before they were invented didn't we?'

Oh dearie dearie me...

It turns out that - rather like most of us I suspect - I use a computer a lot more than I thought that I did. A hell of a lot more than I though that I did. Not all day every day (honest!) but there's always something to do isn't there? Do you order things from places like Amazon? I do. You do as well? That's tricky without a computer, or at the very least one of those new-fangled smartphones. But you kinda need a computer if you've got one of those don't you, for syncing (now there's a word that none of us used until comparatively recently) and all that other stuff... and do you pay your household bills online? Your car insurance? All those other bills and things that we pay for almost without realising it because you're not actually handing over money and therefore it doesn't feel as though you're actually spending anything? Yep, me too. So does that mean that I, or indeed you, 'need' a computer? Can we (gulp!) really not live without one?

Well let's put it this way - I'm typing this somewhat hesitantly on an iPad that I've rather wildly just bought myself as my ageing MacBook has had to go back to the menders after not quite doing what it's supposed to do... after years of being permanently bunged up with several days worth of noisy rock 'n' roll music the hard drive finally gave up the ghost at the start of November - I took it to my friendly neighbourhood computer repair people who have fitted a new hard drive and restored it to it's former glory. And that, as they say, was that. Except of course, it wasn't. Things are never quite that simple are they? Attempts by your humble narrator to 'restore the last backup' (the things that you hear yourself say these days eh?) have sadly proved fruitless so I've had to get a grown-up - or indeed, a young person - to help me. I feel like Fred Flintstone sometimes. 'Twas ever thus. 

In the meantime I've realised that I do indeed 'need' a computer (or at least something very like one) these days, hence the appearance of the iPad. It's been an interesting 3-or-so weeks - I've gigged with Ruts D.C., T.V. Smith, Department S, Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks and more, shared stages with the likes of The Damned, The Vapors and Eddie And The Hot Rods, worked a fair bit in Balcony Shirts, seen the David Bowie musical 'Lazarus', held a python and a tarantula in a haunted pub in Devon (oh yes!) and probably lots more besides (there's been updates etc on my Facebook page which you can see here if you're interested in such things) but somehow it's all taken place to a backdrop of me thinking things like 'I wonder if they've fixed my computer yet?'. Strange but true. And I still haven't got the bloody thing back...

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

'Normal service will resume shortly...'

My computer is broken. Bugger!

I shall return... soon... I hope...


Sunday, October 23, 2016

'Is she really going out with him?'

And no record looked like it either!
'New Rose' - the first single by The Damned - was released on Stiff Records on October 22nd 1976. I first heard it blaring... no, blasting... no, SCREAMING out of a transistor radio a few days after it's release. It sounding utterly unlike anything that I'd ever heard before. I'm not sure that I've heard anything like it since. It remains one of the greatest records ever made, a sub-three minute blitzkrieg of melody and noise that completely wiped the floor with all that had gone before it. I had no idea if I liked it or not, but I was desperate to hear it again. And when I did, it didn't disappoint. It's one of those very rare recordings that it soars above and beyond the sum of it's parts - although at this point it must be said that the performances of Brian James, Dave Vanian, Captain Sensible and Rat Scabies are all absolutely remarkable in pretty much every way, and Nick Lowe's still-astonishing production created a soundscape that captured every nuance of the band's blistering attack - to make something that almost stands outside of time. If it were released today it would still sound unique, and that's after 40 years of familiarity. I guess that's art isn't it? Well if it is 'New Rose' is important a piece of art as anything that's ever been created. I think that it is anyway. 

40 years to the day after BUY 6 hit the shops Ruts DC played at Norwich Arts Centre as part of the 'Punk In the East' celebrations. I'd not played or indeed ever been to the venue before but have seen it in gig guides for as long as I can remember - the list of bands and artists that have played there is endless, and it's also well-known as the place where Richey Edwards of The Manic Street Preachers cut '4 Real' into his arm in front of then-NME scribe Steve Lamacq. It's a great - no, make that great - venue, which seems to be well-supported locally as the show was sold out well in advance. This always bodes well for a good gig, and I'm pleased to say that it more than lived up to expectations. Ex - Jim Jones Revue guitar-slinger Rupert Orton joined us for part of the encore, and the whole evening was a pleasure to be part of from start to finish. But don't take my word for it - this review of the evening sums it all up and includes photos and footage from the show. Excellent!

Now if you'll excuse me, it's time to play 'Damned Damned Damned'...

Sunday, October 16, 2016

'Time keeps on slippin', slippin, slippin'... into the future...'

Well the busy times are back, hence the lack of blogging. Like an idiot I didn't take any notes over the past couple of weeks, so stories of Ruts D.C. at the North East Calling festival in Newcastle (we thought we were playing at 9 o'clock but were actually on 3 hours earlier - we arrived at the venue less than an hour before showtime) and gigging at The Slade Rooms in Wolverhampton (I loved the backward 'S' on the end of 'Rooms', Noddy and co. should be proud!) and The Brooklyn Bowl in The O2 Arena (a Vive Le Rock - sponsored event that also saw great sets The Newtown Neurotics, Giuda and The Cockney Rejects) have somewhat faded from my memory... I also saw Sharks at The Borderline (where I met Paul Cook for the first time and somehow promised Professionals singer / guitarist Tom that I'd play on their upcoming album - I wonder if that'll ever happen?!) and Paranoid Visions with Steve Ignorant at The 100 Club on the same night (ooh I was tired the next day!) and played gigs with The Upper Cut (at The Dolphin in Uxbridge - not our best ever performance, we really must have a rehearsal sometime) and Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks (where two young Polish girls's dancing at the Black Horse in Greenford enlivened proceedings no end) as well as working many-a day in the shop, to such an extent that this feels like my first day off for weeks. Surely that can't be the case? Mind you I've spent most of it asleep so maybe it is.

 More of the same this week, and next week, and the week after that...

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

25 with a bullet

So there we were - Dave, Segs and myself - in Dave's car on our way to Southend Airport on Friday afternoon when his phone rang. Nothing too unusual there as it rings all the time - as he was driving he had it plumbed into one of those new-fangled hands-free speakerphone thingys that let you answer the phone while you're at the wheel. It was Steve Beatty, head honcho at Plastic Head Distribution and Westworld Records. 'D'you want the good news or the bad news?' asked he. 'The bad news' answered Ruts DC as one man. 'You've missed out being in the indie charts by one sale' Various derisive noises were emitted by all concerned before he asked if we'd like the good news. Of course we would. 'You're number 25 in the Rock And Metal Album Chart' said he cheerily - if he said anything else it was drowned out by our whooping and hollering and the inevitable 'time for a drink then' from your humble narrator. And as this photo shows, it was all true - there we are between Pink Floyd and Guns N' Roses. And we're a couple of places above Lordi - you remember, that mad mob that won The Eurovision Song Contest a few years ago dressed as giant lizards, or something. Hilarious! 

We were en route to France for an appearance at Fiesta La Mass in Rennes the next evening - for reasons unknown (possibly flight availability?) we were travelling out the night before which meant that we got to the festival site in time to see The Angelic Upstarts roar through their set before retiring to The Hotel Voltaire for some much needed sleep. Being there a day early meant that we had time to look around town the next morning with the help of Vincent the promoter's daughter Alice - I'd not been to Rennes before so it was good to get a bit of a feel for the place and indeed to have a splendid lunch before going back to the hotel for a couple of hours. After an interview with the Punks Not Dead radio station (shouldn't that have an apostrophe?!?) we headed
back to the festival site where things were in full swing with local heroes Banane Metalik going down a storm. We met the Italian band Klasse Kriminale backstage, they're all big Ruts fans and very nice chaps to boot. We were due on at midnight although an issue with Dave's monitor meant that we actually started our set a few minutes late. I thought we played well although the onstage sound was a bit, for want of a better word, nasal which meant that it hard to hear each other sometimes - and as we started late we got the almost inevitable 'ONE SONG' instruction sign when we had two left to play. Halfway through 'In A Rut' Segs stopped the band with the words 'we didn't come all this way not to play ''Babylon's Burning'' did we?' He was correct - we didn't so we played it! A good show but maybe not a great one, especially compared to the previous week's gig, but that happens from time to time. We're up in Newcastle for North East Calling this Saturday so let's see how that one goes. And I wonder where (or indeed if) we will be in the charts this week?