Tuesday, December 29, 2020

That Was The Year That Wasn't

What follows was written quickly. Rather like this year it's a bit disjointed but, rather like this year, it is what it is.


‘For a minute there, I lost myself...’

Well. You know that things are getting weird when you find yourself quoting a line from a Radiohead song.

We're in the middle of the Christmas holiday, nearing the end of the strangest of years. Pretty much everyone I've talked to on the phone in the last few days is bored. Lost. Desperate.

When will this all end? Indeed, where will this all end? I've been asking myself that a fair bit lately. Maybe you have too? 

I miss people. I never really thought that I would, but I do. At least I think that I do. I've always spent a lot of time on own - not particularly through choice, it's just how things have worked out. I've never had lots of friends, I've not got much to say for myself, women get bored with me - often when they discover that I don't think about very much other than guitars - and I often find social situations with lots of people difficult to cope with.

Ah - but hang on a minute? I've got friends. I talk to people when I'm out and about, occasionally about things other than guitars. Every once in a while some of them are women. And aren't gigs 'social situations with lots of people'?
Gigs. I remember them. Maybe you do too? They were great weren't they? Well, I thought that they were. I wonder if they will ever happen like we used to know them again. 

Sometimes in the last few months I've wondered if I would ever play another gig. That's not a good thing to find yourself thinking. Having said that The Slogans have managed to play three shows since we last spoke - a Sunday afternoon 'sit-down-three-piece-without-the drums' show in The Dolphin in Uxbridge way back in August (I really must update this blog more often mustn't I? More about that in a minute...) and then a whopping two gigs in October, and on successive Fridays at that. We played another sit down show at The Horns in Watford on the 16th, then Dylan made a triumphant return behind the kit the 23rd at The Cavern in Raynes Park. All were highly enjoyable, although I'd be lying if I didn't say that the third show beat the the other two in the fun stakes. Mind you I realised that I wasn't anywhere near match fit at the Cavern show as I was sweating by the second song and not playing particularly well. I got going in the end (I wouldn't have mentioned it here if I hadn't!) and we were due to make a return visit to the venue in December - but, of course, we didn’t. 

It now feels as though Ruts D.C. have postponed more gigs than we've ever played - we haven't of course, but that’s what it feels like. Incredibly we’ve released two - count ‘em, two! - albums this year (since you were wondering- the live ‘40 Years Of The Crack’ recorded on our 2019 UK tour, and ‘ElectrAcoustiC’ which features reworked old songs; both are available on our website) and have somehow played two - count ‘em, two! - gigs. Both of these were sit down shows at The New Cross Inn earlier this month (the 14th and 15th December) and while both were ostensibly acoustic I used an electric guitar for a fair bit of the evening. We were supposed to play three shows, but as we were getting our gear together for the first gig we heard that London was going into Tier 3 of Coronavirus restrictions on the morning of our third show. Much incredulity followed, followed by much swearing... the shows went well, and then we all went home. That was that for this year.

And I even went to some - well, three - gigs. I saw Steve Simpson with his new band The Waders a couple of times at The Cavern (both shows were excellent) and witnessed the mighty Menace at The Holroyd Arms in Guildford. The bands were standing, the audience were seated and I don't mind admitting that I was almost euphoric at times. I really like music. That hasn't changed.

But at least I managed to play some shows. There are many increasingly despondent musicians that haven't played at all this year. Do you remember that ridiculously offensive 'Fatima' advert? Vile wasn't it? Leaving aside the fact that there were some excellent parodies out in no time at all it seemed to me that it was yet another example of how this increasingly appalling government have absolutely no idea whatsoever how to handle the situation. I for one have long been fed up with ghastly toffs telling us what we should think and do - now an endless procession of faceless ministers appear on television instead, none of whom take any responsibility for the current chaos. Tens of thousands of people have died, hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs, physical and mental health problems are increasing at a frightening rate and this gang of goons will all get peerages and houses big enough to be seen from outer space. It would be funny if it wasn't so sad. The tiers of a clown indeed.

In an attempt to make some sort of sense of things and indeed to put my time to good use I decided to try to learn a few things on the computer. Among other things I've had a go at making DVDs (you want a gig bootlegging from YouTube? I'm your man!) and perhaps more constructively I've been finding my way around Garageband. This as you may know is a recording app, and after much brow-furrowing I used it to contribute guitars to 'World Of Sunlight' by Pete 'Joyless' Jones back in the summer - since then I've recorded my parts for a new Alvin Gibbs & The Disobedient Servants single (our 'History' EP was also released back in June - under normal circumstances this would have been a really good year for me in terms of record releases!) and quite a few new song ideas. I still get a bit stuck here and there, but I'm quite pleased with progress so far. Lots of people are recording at home these days - so does this mean the end of recording studios? Will they be yet another casualty of 2020? Let's hope not - the three days Ruts D.C. spent at Perry Vale Studios with Pat Collier recording 'ElectrAcoustiC' were highlights of my year. Admittedly highlights have been few and far between this year, but you know what I mean I think. And surely I could have written more blog posts? Well I could - if there was anything to write about. You'd soon get tired of me ranting on and on about how evil The Tories are over and over again - I'm certainly getting fed up with thinking about it.

So - what now? There's a vaccine or two around, and talk of 'getting back to normal' sometime soon - but will we? Will the world we knew ever return? It's quite a thought isn't it? I'm optimistic that it will - most of the time. Pubs are closing at a depressing rate, often as a result of governmental incompetence which has resulted in the rules changing so often, and I fear that many venues will go the same way. I wonder if people are losing the habit of going out - then again a lot of folk sound as though they would go to the opening of an envelope if it got them out of the house. 

Well - that was 2020. Let's see what 2021 has to offer. It will be better.

It will be better - won't it?

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Lucky Seven

Mine is on the left,
theirs is on the right.
I have just - just! - returned from Regent 7 Guitars. This is a new company set up by luthier Mike Hobbs and Surrey Spray supremo Dave Francis with the intention of producing handmade instruments based on classic designs. I was contacted by Dave a few weeks ago (I used to teach him guitar back in the 1990s, he's now loads better than me!) who explained the idea of the company and, remembering that I have a 1963 Fender Stratocaster that was once owned by Paul Fox, asked if I would be interested in taking it over to their Ewell workshop with a view to them taking some measurements and producing a copy of said guitar. I thought about it for, ooh, at least half a second before saying yes... as you might expect for a self-confessed nerd like myself it's been a very interesting few hours. They're looking to launch the company at The London International Guitar Show at Kempton Park Racecourse on Sunday 25th October (hopefully!) and to this end have been industriously producing instruments to wow the assembled multitude with. From what my opinion is worth I think that they have every chance of success - the guitars look and feel great, and with pick-ups being supplied by Monty's Guitars they sound great too. In these uncertain times it's difficult to do anything creative let alone start a musical instrument company from scratch but hopefully things will go well for Mike and Dave - and you never know, I might even get a guitar or two myself...  

I'm at the table, Segs is in the mirror.
In other news the Ruts D.C. '40 Years Of The Crack' live album is finally available. Fank gawd for that! I spent rather a long time in Segs's front room signing 500 double vinyl albums and 500 double CDs - which was no hardship at all. You live your entire life to do things like that! Well, I do anyway... so many people had shown great faith in the band by pre-ordering them that I don't mind admitting that it was something of a relief when they finally arrived. They're currently available from the band's online shop but they're selling fast so if you'd like one then I wouldn't hang around if I were you... and if you've got a minute, have a look at the band's new website here - it's had something of a facelift during lockdown so see what you think.

It should have been The Rebellion Festival in Blackpool last weekend, but of course it wasn't - instead an online version of the festival took place on their Facebook page which you can catch up with here if you missed it when it went out live. It's well worth a look as there's loads of good stuff on it - but here's something that you won't see there. It's a short-but-sweet clip of T.V. Smith And Friends roaring through The Adverts classic 'Gary Gilmore's Eyes' at last year's festival - joining Mr. Smith are Pascal Briggs on bass, Jennie and Mandy from The Crows on vocals, Attila The Stockbroker on violin, Jamie Oliver on drums and your humble narrator on what Jimi Hendrix memorably referred to as The Public Saxophone. You can see here on Pascal's Facebook page - even though I say so myself we made a rather good job of it, especially as it was unrehearsed. 

Hopefully we'll do something like this again at next year's festival. 

Hopefully we'll all be out gigging before then. 


Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Still burning

Malcolm Owen died 40 years ago today. 40 years! Where on Earth has that time gone eh? 

As someone who is lucky enough to play the music of The Ruts on a regular basis I know, both from speaking to countless people and from the reaction that music still receives, just how much it still means to people - and I know that music will live on forever.

To reflect this Episode 9 of Ruts TV was a something of a Malcolm special, although it also featured Paul Fox heavily too. Dave and Segs reminisce about them alongside footage of The Ruts, Henry Rollins talking about the influence they had on the punk bands in America and more - if you missed it when it went out live last Friday you can see it and all the previous shows here. That's the end of series 1 - Ruts TV will return in the not-too-distant future, albeit in a slightly different way, but there'll be more news as and when we have it.

With Britain attempting to claw it's way out of lockdown Ruts D.C. are looking at yet more cancelled shows (bah!) and are still waiting for copies of our '40 Years Of The Crack' live album. This is all but inevitable due to backlogs at printers, pressing plants etc but we'll hopefully have the first batch soon - at which point Dave, Segs and myself will have to sign 500 albums and 500 CDs. Quite how we're going to do that in these days of social distancing remains to be seen, but I'm sure we'll find a way. It can be ordered along with all other band merchandise including face masks - yes that's right, face masks as demonstrated by Dave and Segs here in possibly the most bizarre advert ever! - via the band's online shop.

Talking of record releases the new Alvin Gibbs & The Disobedient Servants EP 'History' is available now from Time & Matter Records - it's currently available as a 500 copy limited edition 2 x 7" single numbered set (how cool is that?!) which I'm told is selling well, so if you'd like one it might be good to move quickly. You can also order it via the T&M link above, and why not get volume one of Alvin's autobiography 'Diminished Responsibility : My Life As A UK Sub And Other Stories' while you're at it?

Retro Man is an excellent blog that's well worth following - Steve's always-enthusiastic writing covers all manner of bands from the obscure and oblique to the mainstream and more, and I was delighted to be asked to contribute to his series of Lockdown Lowdown podcasts. He asked some interesting questions as well as inviting me to choose some music, and you can hear the result here - cheers Steve!

And life in lockdown has produced a very unexpected - from my point of view anyway - collaboration with ex - Public Image Ltd and Department S bass player Pete Jones; a few weeks ago (gawd knows how many weeks exactly, time doesn't seem to matter anymore does it?) he sent me a backing track with a 'see what you can do with this' directive. In a situation such as this I tend to default to either (a) backwards guitar, (b) slide guitar or (c) a bizarre combination of the two; in this case option (a) seemed to be the best bet, along with a riff that might sound just a little bit like a rather obscure Deep Purple track. I'll leave you to find out which one - it was an accident, honest! 
One of the things I've been attempting to do lately is to learn how to use GarageBand, the free recording thingy (that's a rarely used technical term!) that comes on a Mac computer; I've been doing reasonably well, but hadn't encountered how to record backwards guitar - at which point I discovered Pete Johns, an Australian chap with a mind-boggling command of said recording medium. After a wee while - ok, quite a long while - on his website and YouTube channel I was ready - the resulting track 'World In Sunlight' can be heard here, and incredibly will be available as a download next Friday 24th July. That's my birthday, and I'm bound to say that having new music released on that particular day is one of the best presents I'll ever get, particularly in these uncertain times.

Oh and Liverpool have won the Premier League. I was beginning to wonder if I'd ever get to see that happen again - well done lads, I never doubted you for a minute... well, not that often anyway... 

Saturday, May 30, 2020

'Most peculiar mama...'

I've worn glasses for almost as long as I can remember. I've worn them in public for a little bit less time than that - I've never considered myself to be particularly vain person, but as a terminally shy adolescent who already feared that the chances of any young lady being even vaguely interested in talking to him were, to coin a phrase, less than zero I rather foolishly decided that the addition of a piece of scaffolding to my acne-ridden features was unlikely to improve matters. Ironically when I started going to watch bands (or maybe specifically to watch the guitarists in bands) I realised that wearing a pair of specs would greatly enhance my enjoyment of the performance. I also realised that it stopped me squinting and/or gawping aimlessly every time I tried to look at anything that was more than a couple of feet away from me, which, oddly enough, meant that I became a little more attractive to young ladies. Good news all round then - although it must be said that the words 'a little' are quite significant in that last sentence.
So - why am I telling you this? Well every so often I realise that my eyes have changed - you tend to assume that they've got worse, but I believe that this isn't always the case, especially as you get older - and when this happens I generally make an appointment to have my eyes tested by an optician. This usually results in them relieving me of several hundred pounds, followed by me spending a couple of years wondering if my new glasses really are better than my old ones. Then the whole process is repeated. Simple eh? 
But what I don't do is test my eyes by jumping in the car and driving 30 miles. And then driving back again. You'd have to be a complete clown to even consider doing that now wouldn't you? Especially if you'd previously driven over 250 miles anyway?
I've never met Dominic Cummings, and, at the risk of stating the obvious, I can't imagine that I ever will. I'm sure suits us both just fine. Have you heard the term 'don't judge a book by it's cover'? Of course you have. Well, just for a laugh, have a look at a picture or even better some film of Mr. Cummings - how do you think he looks? Interesting isn't it? As I'm in what passes for a good mood in my little life I'll be polite and say that he looks to me to be an odious little creep, which you might argue makes him ideally suited to be the Chief Advisor to Boris Johnson. You remember Boris Johnson don't you? You don't see much of him these days, but he's that lying toff who, bafflingly, is currently The Prime Minister of Great Britain. Now, leaving aside the fact that anywhere that has someone who would struggle to get a job on a television game show in charge of it shouldn't really use the word 'Great' in it's name, the most obvious course of action here would be for the Prime Minister to get a new Chief Advisor - after all, in these times of Coronavirus lockdown it's probably a good idea to have someone who can be trusted to stay on the right side of the law of the land giving you a helping hand. But no - apparently a much better idea is to make a rare appearance to defend said advisor's action, and then let said advisor sit in your back garden defending himself and his aforementioned actions. That's much better isn't it?
Hmm... is it me or have I missed something here? Rather like Mr. C appears to have missed the bit in The Highway Code where it says that you shouldn't drive a motor car if you haven't got good enough eyesight - after all, as he himself put it, 'I believe that in all the circumstances I behaved reasonably and legally'? Or maybe he just wanted to contribute to his infamous 'herd immunity' directive by driving up and down the county spreading the virus far and wide - after all, it's at best unlikely that he didn't at least have to stop for petrol on the way... meanwhile as the vast majority us play by the rules domestic abuse and mental health problems rise as countless people have lost work and in many cases watched their businesses go to the brink of collapse, while others can't go to funerals for family members and loved ones. And this pillock thinks that what he's done here is justifiable? 

Enough of such nonsense - let's get back to the music. Ruts D.C. contributed a song - 'Kill The Pain' in case you were wondering - to the 'Vive Le Rockdown' online festival last weekend. Organised by Vive Le Rock magazine and raising funds for The Music Venues Trust it was a rip-roaring two-and-a-half hour roller coaster ride (I should write this stuff for a living shouldn't I?!?) with a splendid rendition of the Tom Petty classic 'Learning To Fly' by The Cockney Rejects probably the best track for me. You can watch the whole thing on the VLR Facebook page here if you like - we're 10 minutes from the end...
The '40 Years Of The Crack' album cover.
Pretty cool huh?

Ruts TV has gone from strength to strength since last we spoke - the show now goes out on the band's Facebook page (here!) every other Friday at 8 pm (although it's available to watch after that if you can't make it then) and it's featured all manner of interesting items over the last few weeks. Well I think that it has, and judging by the amount of positive comments I'm pleased to say that many people seem to agree with me. Mind you, it didn't exactly go according to plan last night, when Episode 6 was blocked by Facebook as Universal Music objected to the promotional video for 'Something That I Said' by The Ruts being featured. Bah! 
Our live album from last year's '40 Years Of The Crack' tour is out next month - if only we could play some shows to promote it - and there's also a new band t-shirt which makes a contribution to both The Music Venues Trust and The NHS available to order here if you fancy treating yourself.

Of course we've also all received the very sad news that Dave Greenfield of The Stranglers has died. We've toured with the band several times over the last few years, and while I can't pretend to have known Dave well I've always found him to be friendly and cheerful whenever we've spoken. He leaves behind a enormous body of work - it's very difficult to be a distinctive-sounding keyboard player, but Dave certainly was that and a whole lot more. He'll be greatly missed by the band's millions of fans worldwide, and by everyone who knew him personally and could call him a friend.

And sadly The Rebellion Festival has joined the 'postponed-until-next-year' list - I don't mind admitting that I had thought that it might have happened as scheduled in August but have to agree that they've made the correct decision. And we should have been on tour in America this week - that's been rescheduled for next May. Hopefully.

In these increasingly crazy days it's perhaps tempting to look back to simpler times... in the Eighties and Nineties I played in a band called The Price. Don't worry if you haven't heard if them, you're not alone.... our fifth member/roadie/referee Eastberg (it would take to long to explain the name!) is currently attempting to compile a gig list (if you came to a show and you know the date, or even better have a ticket or poster advertising it then all contributions are most welcome!) and is also running a band Facebook page, which has recently featured photos from our East German tour in May 1990 among other delights. If you'd like to see these pictures and much more besides then click here - and was it really 30 years ago? Yes, incredibly, it was. Three decades! Amazing.

Time is funny stuff isn't it? Well, it certainly is at the moment...

Thursday, April 30, 2020

'Strange days indeed...'

So then.
‘We never bothered to scream,
when your mask went on...’

Self isolation
Social distancing

How is it all going for you?

I was on the phone to a musician mate of mine the other day who during the course of our conversation said something that has come back to me more than a few times lately - 'the thing is Leigh, people like you and me are probably a bit more used to self isolation than most people are'.

He's not wrong.

I think that a lot of people are finding out some, shall we say, 'interesting' things about themselves at the moment - from the vacuous airhead whining of useless 'celebrities' stranded in their mansions with only a swimming pool or two to amuse them, to the pub bore (remember pubs?!?) who doesn't complain quite so loudly about the lady that lives opposite who 'shouldn't even be in this country' as he's realised that nurses do a little bit more than just leave for work at irregular hours, the times they are a-changing. Indeed, the times they have a-changed. Will they ever change back again? Who knows - apparently a significant percentage of the country actually prefer the current lifestyle to what up until this point in proceedings has been considered to be 'normal'. As I say, times have changed.

Obviously these are not good times to be a musician that relies primarily on live performance for income. Ruts D.C. 'should' be out on our first acoustic tour as I type this - it's been rescheduled for August as discussed in the last blog post, which I have a horrible feeling may be proved to be a rather optimistic piece of planning. Attempts to move this year's Punk Rock Bowling Festival to the Autumn have sadly proved impossible so it'll be happening next May, as will our projected visit to the USA. We're touring Britain with The Stranglers in October and November before a series of European shows, and there are other gigs coming in - well, that's the plan anyway. Will any of it happen? No one knows.  

But we've not been idle. Our live album '40 Years Of The Crack' is due for release in June, and to this end a promotional film aired on the band's Facebook page a couple of Fridays ago. It was followed by a live Q and A session with Segs, all of which constituted the (ahem!) 'launch' of Ruts TV - the plan is for this to feature band footage (much of it previously unseen) alongside items recorded by us during lockdown. An ambitious idea in many ways - and if ever there was a time where plans change then this is it - but to this end I've been attempting to get to grips with Garageband (I've messed around with it in the past but didn't learn it 'properly, if you know what I mean) with a view to recording items for broadcast, and also to send new song ideas over to Dave and Segs and indeed to receive ideas from them. In the meantime episode 2 of Ruts TV featured previously unseen interview and live footage from The Fleece in Bristol a few years ago, while tomorrow night's show will feature The Ruts on the Belgian television show 'Follies' in 1980. Excellent!

And Alvin Gibbs and The Disobedient Servants have some new music due for release - the 'History' EP (actually 2 x 7" singles - how cool is that?!?) was recorded last year and features four new songs including one written and sung by your humble narrator. Yes, that's right - sung. I'm not sure how this happened either... if I could re-record every note of it then I would but, hey, that's just me being self-critical. Hopefully. Available from Time and Matter Records now!

Right - time to get on with... er, something or other... well, you know what it's like at the moment...

Thursday, March 26, 2020

'Nobody told me there'd be days like these...'

Well I don't know about you (obviously!) but I seem to have rather more time on my hands than I was expecting to have at the moment. Maybe you have too? So what better time to (a) write one of those blog postings that I keep saying that I must get around to writing, and (b) play a game of Spot The Difference. Well, why not eh?

Here are two posters - the one on the left is for the first ever acoustic tour by (ahem!) up-and-coming young London dub rock band Ruts D.C., while the one on the right is for The Punk Rock Bowling Festival, which takes place every May in no lesser location than Las Vegas, USA. 

Now here are two more posters - the one on the left is once again for the first ever acoustic tour by (ahem!) up-and-coming young London dub rock band Ruts D.C., while the one on the right is once again for The Punk Rock Bowling Festival, which takes place every May in no lesser location than Las Vegas, USA.

So can you - yes, YOU! - spot the difference between them? Tricky isn't it?

Actually it's not very tricky at all is it? I must make the next competition more difficult...

I first started this blog all those years ago as an attempt to become more computer literate, to improve my typing skills - which if I remember rightly were pretty much non-existent at the time - and because I thought that it might be an interesting thing to do, not least as it gave me a way of documenting my increasingly unusual (and often rather obscure) attempts to play the guitar for a living. I gave it the impulsive title 'Leigh's Mad World Of Guitars' without very much thought; I've often wondered if I should change it - maybe one day I will - but it's been hard enough to find the time and if I'm honest the inclination to contribute to it over the last few years, let alone to wonder whether it's name should change. As previously discussed I tend to use Facebook for music-related stuff these days, and as a result the blog feels a little bit like something from another time in my life - which I suppose in many ways it is. Looking back through it I don't really know how I found the time to write as much as I did in the early days, although maybe a more interesting question is to consider what I used to do with all those thoughts before I started writing them down here... but if ever there was a Mad World it's the one that we have 'suddenly' found ourselves in now.

Coronavirus. Was there ever a time when it wasn't the most used word in the English language? It's hard to remember isn't it? And how about terms like 'self-isolating' and 'social distancing'? From people saying things like 'I don't know what all the fuss is about, it's only a cold' to the same folk crossing the road with a look of abject terror on their face if they see anyone within several yards of them has taken a few weeks, but it's certainly happened. As I write this all restaurants, pubs and clubs are closed and gatherings are limited to two people - that's certainly something that I never thought that I'd ever type! All but non-essential shops are closed, the streets are as empty as they are on Christmas Day - well, they certainly are around these parts - and with many people working from home the World seems a very different place to the one we all now only dimly remember from just a couple of weeks or so ago. Supermarket shelves are empty, people are fighting over bottles of hand sanitiser and toilet rolls are suddenly the rarest thing on Earth. I was in the Post Office around the corner from me the other day, and when one of the lads behind the counter mentioned that they would be receiving a delivery later in the day I heard a voice from behind me say 'I'll 'ave 200 of 'em'. It was a giant, not-particularly friendly-looking man, and he wasn't smiling - now that's an upset stomach... all this panic buying has of course resulted in shortages of all sorts of things, which isn't too clever from the point of view of, say, an NHS worker who can only visit shops at a certain time of day due to shift commitments, or an unemployed or elderly person with limited financial resources at certain times of the month. Still, I'm sure that doesn't bother Mr. 200 Toilet Rolls, or indeed any of the other blockheads who work on a similarly self-centred level to him.

As for me - all gigs are fairly obviously postponed or in some cases cancelled altogether, my work at Balcony Shirts is on hold and as a self-employed person I've long since stopped joking about bankruptcy. I began the last blog posting with the words 'as Ruts D.C. ready themselves for a return to showbusiness' - well, that seems a very long time ago now too. We've got things to do - there's a live album from last year's '40 Years Of The Crack' tour coming out soon, there are songs to write for a projected 2021 release (I do like a bit of unashamed optimism, don't you?!) and more, but who knows when we'll next be able to get together? We're looking at sending song ideas to each other via The Internet - time I finally learned how to work GarageBand properly then... we were due to be playing a Rock Against Racism show in Brighton this coming weekend with another one in Brixton early next month so these are now being rescheduled as are quite a few other shows. And we're once again accompanying The Stranglers around Britain on their 'Final Full U.K. Tour' in October and November - tickets are selling well, and surely we'll all be back to 'normal' by then? There are also dates for Alvin GibbsThe Disobedient Servants and The Slogans that need changing - but when do we reschedule anything for? How long is our new Mad World going to be around for? And how much madder is it going to get? 

Hmm... the answers aren't there, but the questions most certainly are. 

Wherever you are, stay safe and stay cool. We'll meet again, don't know where don't know when - but I know we'll meet again, some sunny day...

Sunday, March 01, 2020

Ruts D.C. European Tour, November / December 2019

As Ruts D.C. ready themselves for a return to showbusiness here's a look back at last year's November / December European tour... 

The stage is set - Das Bet, Frankfurt, November 29th 2019

Friday 29th November, 10.30 am, Room 21 of the Goethe Hotel, Frankfurt

'She said... I know what it's like to be dead...' I like The Beatles. I really like The Beatles. I mean I really like The Beatles. Sometimes I don't listen to very much else, and this is definitely one of those times. And today I really really like 'Revolver'. I've got something I can laugh about. Good day, sunshine.
Actually it's quite a grey day outside, but at least it's not raining. It was raining last night when we arrived at Das Bett in Frankfurt to load our gear in for our gig there, and it was still raining when we left there 7 or so hours later. At least that didn't stop a very enthusiastic audience coming to the show, but more about that in a minute. 
We - Ruts D.C. - are on tour in Europe. 12 shows in 12 days, 7 of them supporting The Stranglers in some very impressive venues, the rest club shows with us headlining. It's good to be back on the road (maaan!) although the road is long, with many-a winding turn - well, it certainly was yesterday as we travelled the 360-odd miles from Paris to Frankfurt, and it's the best part of 500 miles from Stuttgart to Bologna tomorrow. A long and winding road indeed.

But enough of the increasingly awkward quotes from not-particularly cool songs - how did we get here?

'Made it Ma,
top of the World...'
On Thursday evening we - tour manager Liam, Duds the driver and Dave, Segs and myself - stayed in the St. Albans B & B in Dover; this set us up for the 8.45 am ferry to Calais and the subsequent drive to gay Paris where the rain did nothing to dampen our enthusiasm at seeing our name (literally) up in lights at The Olympia. It's impossible not to be aware of the heritage of the place - from Edith Piaf to Jimi Hendrix and from Jacques Brel to David Bowie via Iggy Pop and indeed The Beatles, they've all graced the stage. And what a fantastic venue it is, from the drive-in backstage area to the astonishing foyer it lived up to it's legend with ease. Our breathless 45 minute support set started with 'Something That I Said', ended with 'Psychic Attack' and went down well with all concerned, although nothing quite prepares you for a shirtless Jean-Jacques Burnel coming into the dressing room to ask how the show went. 'Great' replied Segs cheerily, 'everyone said that I have a better physique than you'. 'Well, they would' smiled JJ. A good start to the tour.

And last night, the first of our 'solo' shows - a 90 minute roar through most of 'The Crack', a fair bit of 'Music Must Destroy' and all points in between. Das Bett is a excellent club, the audience was up for it from the first song - great stuff all round. 

Right - it's Stuttgart tonight so it's time for a shower now - on the road again...    

Monday 2nd December, 12.07 pm, carriage 5 seat 33 on the 11.45 am train from Rome to Turin 

Well. You never know do you? It goes to show you never can tell.

So there we were, less than 10 minutes away from The Orion, looking forward to another gig with The Stranglers and bemoaning the fact that we were on the Rome ring road rather than passing by The Colosseum when a previously unheard and not-even-vaguely nice sound came from somewhere beneath the bus. It was a kind of grinding noise. And as if by magic we stopped moving, and didn't start again. Bugger. I'd just replied to a message from Jim the Stranglers's drummer asking where we were and if we were ok by saying something like 'see y'all in 10 minutes' - as I say, you never can tell can you? 
backstage at Goldmarks. Weird 

There are no good places to break down are there? This one could have been worse, but not much - as vehicles careered past us (and, strangely, the odd pedestrian - what on Earth were they doing there?) Duds had a hi-vis vest on and a red warning triangle out in no time while Liam went into a not-inconsiderable amount of mobile phone action. To cut a long-ish story short-ish, a very nice chap called Maximilian made three journeys to get the band, Liam and all our gear to the venue while the ever-heroic Duds stayed with the broken bus - he and it eventually got towed to the venue around 10 pm. We just about got set up and soundchecked before the doors opened at half past seven; we roared through our set as Liam made phone calls, sent emails and generally worked his magic on what until that point was looking like a distinctly unmagical situation while we played our show. We ended up staying on the outskirts of Rome (still nowhere near Colosseum - bah!) and we're now on the afore-mentioned train while Duds and Liam are in a hired van hoping to get our gear and baggage to Turin in time for tonight's show. Crazy times - and it had all been going so well... a great night for us at Goldmarks in Stuttgart - where we played a slightly different set to the previous night as there were people attending both shows) and a splendid support show in Bologna (where it was great to catch up with Marz from The Valentines and his lady Angela) had set us up for a good night in Rome. We played well - perhaps very well given the circumstances - but it was a very fraught time. In a effort to clear my head and to have a break from the backstage wheeling and dealing I went out to watch some of The Stranglers's set where I met some people from Coventry who had come all the way over to Italy to see us and who didn't actually know that The Stranglers were playing. Amazing. As I say, you never can tell - let's see what tonight brings...

Wednesday 4th December, 11.10 am leaving for Cologne

It's misty. Oh. ok, it's foggy. Actually that's a point - when does mist become fog? For that matter when does fog become mist? Hmm...

So here we are in our 'new' van, and very nice it is too. I believe that it comes courtesy of The Rumjacks via our friend Mark Sabin who, when he saw various Facebook posts detailing our plight in Rome contacted various people on our behalf. What a splendid chap - I really must get him a drink next time I see him.

When last we spoke Dave, Segs and myself were on a train bound for Turin. I spent much of my journey hemmed into my window seat by a (presumably) Italian goddess asleep in the aisle seat next to me. I don't think that she looked at me once during the journey - actually thinking about it she probably looked at me once and then decided not to look at me again. Ah well.

After arriving in Turin we took a taxi to The Hotel Galant where we managed 30-odd minutes of relative calm before taking another taxi to The Teatro Della Concordia just after 6 o'clock - after grabbing a bite to eat the call came through that our gear would be arriving any minute. Sure enough as the clock struck seven times the indefatigable Duds and the ever-exuberant Liam arrived, giving us 30 minutes to get the gear in, set up and soundchecked before the doors opened. Once again all hands were on deck, once again we somehow got it all done. It's amazing what you can do when you have to isn't it?
Live at Lucerne - thanks Martin!

When we started our show at 8.15 there must have been, ooh, 30-odd people in a venue that must hold at least 20 times that amount; when we finished 45 minutes later there were probably a couple of hundred more. They saw a show that for the second night running could very easily have not happened at all but which once again turned out to be better than it perhaps had any right to be. And last night we played Sedal in Lucerne - Martin and his team made us all very welcome (he designs the most wonderful posters as you can see here) and we played a very good show to a very enthusiastic audience. I do wish that they wouldn't let people smoke in venues though - they did ask people to stop while we played and put the air conditioning on but I suppose we've all got used to playing in clearer rooms these days. Sadly our stage fans had to be left in Rome due to lack of space in the van so it was bloomin' hot on stage - hopefully we'll be able to buy some more today. First World Problems eh?

Tonight we're in Cologne with The Backyard Band - we played with them last year and I really liked them so I'm looking forward to seeing them again tonight. We then rejoin The Stranglers for gigs in Amsterdam and Hamburg before journeying North for our own show in Husum - no, I don't know it either - then finish the tour in Berlin on Sunday. This means that we're now over halfway through our '12-shows-in-12-days' stint - I feel tired but not exhausted, and given the madness that has befallen us on the way everyone is in high spirits and pretty good shape. Let's hope that things stay that way.

Friday 6th December, 10.43 am, on the Amsterdam ring road

'Headache? Tense nervous headache? Take Anadin.'

Do you remember that advert? It's funny what comes into your mind sometimes isn't it? Well, it's funny what comes into my mind... 

Stage passes for the tour.
I could probably get a
few bob for these couldn't I?
I've got a headache at the moment, although not necessarily of the tense, nervous kind. It may be at least in part attributable to drinking until 2 am in Dan Murphy's Irish Bar near the venue. Or maybe I've just got a headache. In which case nothing acts faster than Anadin. Or something. Still 'twas a great night last night - The Milkweg is a classic venue, and with the show a sellout it was full when we started at 8 o'clock and even fuller (is that good English? It's not is it?) when we finished 40 minutes later. It was absolutely packed for The Stranglers, or it certainly was for the last part of their set, when I found myself wedged against the bar at the back of the hall - not the worst place to find yourself, although it did get a bit pricey... back to our show where, to continue the 'First World Problems' theme, both Segs and myself had odd moments with plectrums. I dropped mine during our first song ('Something That I Said' - we've started all the Stranglers support shows with this song, a good choice I think) and only just managed to get one out of my back pocket in time for the guitar solo (as I say, first world problems...) whereas Segs somehow cut his thumb opening a can of beer near the end of our set - as often happens if you cut your hand it bled profusely, although as he put it, 'it helped my plectrum stay on my hand'. On seeing it after the show JJ just calmly asked him 'did you hit someone?' A fair question I suppose. or certainly a fair question if you're Jean-Jacques Burnel. As I say, a splendid evening all round - unlike the previous evening at Helios 37 in Cologne where my amplifier decided not to work. Well that's not strictly true - it was fine during our soundcheck, to such an extent that our new friend Chris the sound engineer complemented me on how good it sounded ('at last, someone who knows how to work an amplifier'. What a nice chap!) And it sounded great after the show, when I decided rather nervously to try some trouble-shooting and it worked with no problem whatsoever. It was during the gig that it didn't play the game - total silence is never a good start to a show. Fortunately we had a spare, but it took me a few songs to get going - overall not a bad gig, but our standards are high, and we felt that we'd dropped back a bit from the previous night in Lucerne. Still we were definitely back on form last night, and we're in Hamburg tonight which is usually a good one for us. Oh and before I forget, The Backyard Band were excellent. Check 'em out, you won't be disappointed!

Right - time for a sleep to get rid of this headache. Hopefully.

Sunday 8th December, 10.29 am, leaving Husum
The obligatory 'on the road' photo -
going from Italy into Switzerland

Well as I said earlier I hadn't heard of Husum before, but what a great place. We arrived early afternoon yesterday and so had a bit of time to look around, which of course involved the triumphant sighting of a Guinness sign (oh yes!) and a meal in an Italian restaurant (implausibly attractive waitresses!) before heading out of town to The Paulsen Hotel where I managed an afternoon nap - rock 'n'roll eh? We returned to The Speicher to set up around 6 pm - it's a great club with friendly people, which set the scene for a top evening. Perhaps surprisingly it took a while to get going; maybe there was a bit of a language barrier or possibly it was one of those venues that people go to whether the know the band who's playing or not - for example Segs saying that it was Malcolm Owen's birthday was met by almost total indifference and indeed silence. Still things picked up and with much dancing and merriment it was very much a case of 'all's well that ends well'. And there were more first world problems to contend with, this time for your humble narrator when my mobile phone went dead. As in 'dead' i.e. not working, black screen, the lot. It turned out that the battery went from around half charge to 0% in a few seconds - when you get these things they don't tell you that they don't actually work do they?

The previous night we supported The Stranglers at Fabrik in Hamburg - no delay in getting going there, as we left the stage to a reception that many headline bands would have been happy with. Great stuff - and talking of headline bands, The Stranglers were excellent, although as I have observed on a number of occasions in these hallowed pages, they usually are.

So - Berlin tonight, the last night of the tour. I really must work out how many miles we've travelled. I must also work out what on Earth I'm going to do with myself when all of this is over.

Tuesday 12th December, 10.49 am at home

It's always weird, coming home after a tour.

You feel tired... empty... or something.

I've just worked that we travelled over 3,500 miles in the buses which, leaving out the 600 mile flight home, means that we averaged over 250 miles a day. No wonder I feel a bit... something or other...
Great photo eh? Thanks Rikki!

But what a show to end on - Huxleys in Berlin used to be Neue Welt, which saw appearances from The Clash, Jimi Hendrix and (gulp!) Adolf Hitler among many others. And since Hendrix also played at The Paris Olympia it means that we began and ended the tour on a stage previously graced by The Experience. That's a nice thing to be able to type... 'twas a great gig to end on, with 'H-Eyes' making it's first and therefore only appearance on the tour - it was a requested by Rikki from The Stranglers road crew, who took some excellent pictures of us throughout the tour. The Stranglers were brilliant, Vom and Andi from Die Toten Hosen came along as did Mutti and Monica from Muttis Bookings, and quite a few of us ended up in The Franken Bar until the small hours drinking far too much - as I say, a great gig to end on. 

Hopefully there will be many more shows with The Stranglers - it's a great double bill that works so well on many levels for both the band and the audience -but in the meantime Ruts D.C. have got work to do. We've got a live album to put together and songs to write for a projected new release - but first I've got to do two weeks worth of washing. More First World Problems eh? When are we back on tour?!?

Ruts Dc, Husum, Germany, December 7th 2019