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Sunday, 31 March 2013

The Lost Weekend

All good stories apparently require a beginning, a middle and an end.
I'm never sure if that should be slavishly adhered to, but for today I'm going to go with that and take you all back to Friday morning.

The beginning.

I woke when Kelly did.
It was around 6.45 am and once awake I very often fail to drift back into the embrace of sleep.
So I lay there looking at the cracks in the ceiling considering what I had to do in the day ahead.
The first thing was a trip to Glasgow to drop off Evening Hymns tickets, get some posters printed and distributed, and then drop off some flyers to Pivo Pivo.
Then after that I would have to hot tail it back to Kilmarnock to accompany my daughter to an appointment that she had.
Once the evening meal was done and dusted the plan was to grab an hour or two of sleep before I then had to head out to do a twelve hour waking night-shift.
My thoughts then took me to the next day.
On my return from work I would snatch two hours sleep, and then Kelly and myself would meet Robbie and Angie for us all to return to Glasgow and participate in the Anti-Bedroom tax march.

As usually plans often seem to be made to be then cast aside.
I made it to Glasgow, covered the printing, distributing of posters and flyers and left the tickets with Tickets Scotland and made it back in time for my daughters appointment without any real hassle.
In an era of mind blowing technologically advancements my day had run like clockwork.
Until we arrived at our appointment to find that it had been postponed with nary a consideration to informing us.
A tad annoying, but what can you do?
I wasn't to know it at the time, but in hindsight this is when everything began to unravel.
There was no chance to get my head down before my shift at all and by the time I returned home from it I would have been awake for twenty six hours straight.

Fast forward to that point.

The middle.

Shattered I slipped into bed, but sleep was not initially welcoming.
By the time I managed to quieten all the random thoughts in my head and slip off I would roughly say that I had an hour of sleep.
As my feet hit the bedroom floor and I staggered to the bathroom the last thing I wanted to do was go to Glasgow.
My back ached, a headache was forming and over all exhaustion was nipping at my heels and trying to bring me down.
So why didn't I just succumb and fall back into the heat of my bed?

The answer is that I don't lean towards talking the talk, and I'll admit that I partially egotistically pride myself on walking the walk.
In this case quite literally.

The first obstacle to our participation was thrown into our path by network rail.
Easter Saturday is apparently the perfect day to begin engineering work on the tracks.
Our train would take us as far as Barrhead and then we would be travelling by bus to the city centre.
This threw the timing out completely and Kelly and myself resigned ourselves to missing the start of the march, although we would still manage to join it and catch the rally in George square.
So once we embarked from our bus we speed walked towards Glasgow Green and joined the march as it snaked into the city proper.

There was a healthy turn out.
A very impressive start to the day for us.
I'll not hazard a guess about numbers, but it will be approximately double what the police say and half what the organizers claim.
That's always been the way of it.
There was a tremendous buzz about being part of something like this.
On most days I find myself taking a stance against horrible levels of apathy and participating in the march allowed the old batteries to be charged again.
It's hard to consider yourself to be alone when there are these large public expressions of opposition.

However once we reached George Square everything began to fall apart for me.
Robbie, Angie, Kelly and myself managed to get right down the front to hear the speakers, but in hindsight I wish I had just left the march at that time and told myself that I had already went above and beyond the call of duty by actually attending, but no, instead I stood there and listened and watched as every single failing of Scottish protest politics was given a platform to make an arse of itself from.

There was no physical platform so unless you were at the front you wouldn't have seen anything, but that's okay as no one one there to see the message, but to hear it.
Scratch that.
The PA didn't work, then it did, then it didn't, then it did and.......well you get the idea.
Between passing the microphone the speakers played pass the megaphone.
I have no idea how many people could hear what was being said, but beyond twenty to thirty feet from the front the people drifting off sort of said it all.

Of course there can always be technical problems, but there should also be plan Bs to.

All the hard work that the organizers had undoubtedly put into the day will be forgotten and in the main people will remember not being able to hear, or see, anything in George square.
For the next god knows how long it was farcical.
Some very relevant and passionate speakers words were left to fall like confetti at their feet, and to be horribly frank there were some speakers whose style of ranting should be left in the pub.
One of two things that left me holding my head in my hands wondering what the fuck was going on was the 'Master of Ceremonies' style of introducing speakers.
A political rally was sounding more like a Radio Clyde pop extravaganza.
Let me hear it for (insert guest speakere here)........put your hands in the air.............lets hear it for the people at the back who canny hear etc etc.
Then the other thing was a minority of the speakers doing similar by shouting soundbites to get a reaction.
At any second I expected to hear one make an attempt to split the crowd into two and have them participate in a sing off.
Everyone on the right (not politically) say hey, everybody on the left say ho.
Ugliest moment of the day was when some people to the side of the guest speakers counter protested with shouts of 'liar' and 'shame' at one specific guest.
Not that this was the ugly part, but the admonishments from MC Proletariat and her supporters was the ugly bit.
Here were people all around waving placards proclaiming that protest should not be made illegal, and then we were hearing an attempt to silence a very small portion of the crowd.
Oh the irony.
Now I have no idea who these people were, or what their problem was.
It's entirely possible that I would one hundred percent disagree with their stance, but if we silence one portion of society what path are we walking down?
Volunteers who were there to manage the event were very quick to head n their direction to remove them, or silence them.
This isn't something that I am comfortable with and those around me who I don't know strongly agree with my loud opposition to them being silenced.
Apart from attempting to disallow them to have a voice there was also a dangerous aspect to outing them from the stage.
Here we had a crowd in the thousands, a crowd of unhappy people who to an extent want to release the tension they feel, and then we have their focus directed to a very small minority of malcontent voices.
Who would have slept easy that night if these individuals were sent home bleeding?
Not me.

Who cares though?

I'm sure this morning anyone expressing any concern about that will be drowned out by the thunderous noise of mutual back slapping.

The end.

Now I know people will claim that I am focusing on the negative and can't see the wider picture.
That's their prerogative.
What I took from yesterday was that in the main people are supportive of abolishing the bedroom tax, that some individuals involved in the campaign are passionately pushing for this - and doing so in a laudable and courageous manner - and that people power is alive and well.
Unfortunately it was also confirmed for me that Scottish politics will always carry the amateur hour comparisons with it, even at a grass roots level.

If the wider world were watching then I am glad that they will in the main see crowds of people and weren't there to witness what a bag o' shite it often dropped to the level of.

Really Scotland. 
Is this the best we can do?

Apologies to Edinburgh and the other cities involved.
I sincerely hope that the voices of the people were heard with more clarity at your rallies.

So the end of the tale is that I stepped through my door at 8.45pm after a nightmare journey home that was organized by network rail, and I am left wondering if one hours sleep in fifty was really worth it.
I'll not be giving up the fight against this unjust tax, but if the game is upped then maybe next time as just a punter from the streets I will not be left so disillusioned.

PS. The fella from the Black Triangle was a credit to the his organization and he provided what was one of the very few highlights.  

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Suede - Bloodsports

Ah. The return of Suede, and nothing has changed at all.
Comforting to an extent.
While like many I advocate that artists should push at the boundaries there are some that I am quite open to listening to who are happy to maintain a position that they are comfortable with.
Suede are one of those bands.
If they had returned with an electro dub space opera I may have enjoyed it, but at the same time a small voice would whisper 'where's the animal nitrate' and I would have listened to it.
So Vive le Suede.
Here they are simply doing what they do and doing it damn well.
The break has certainly provided us all with enough time to miss them, and that absence has definitely made my heart grow fonder.
I don't think it has crossed my mind how much I had missed them until now.
I suppose I should expand on saying that nothing has changed.
I actually mean that literally.
They haven't lost anything at all.
The fire is still there.
The passion is to the fore and while they have delivered what we can call a Suede album it's not one that just tiredly ticks at boxes.
There's a good chance that when they sat down and decided to return that they communally decided that it wasn't worth doing unless it was done correctly.
Writing songs that echoed the past, but were a facsimile of that time were never going to cut it.
They needed to pick up from where they left off and maintain the thread, but at the same time ensure that every single note was delivered with the intent to ensure that this was not a cash in.
A throw away exercise of creating a product that they could tour with, but only to hang the back catalogue off of.
If that was the case then they should all be currently giving each other a pat on the back because they didn't just manage to hit a self imposed benchmark, but instead delivered something far more magical than they may have considered themselves was possible.
If you hated them before then you are still going to hate them.
Maybe even more.
If however you felt that their demise left a hole then here's the album that will fill every single nook and cranny of it.

Stonehouse Violets - 86

There's a thin line that very few indie bands can see.
On one side of it is the rather twee sort of thing that people who wear spectacles with clear glass in them do.
On the other side are the bands who know a bit about the stuff that goes on when the sun goes down.
It's this way.
If I mention Keane and Black Rebel Motorcycle club then where would they naturally settle?
On the same side of the line?
I don't think so.
Coldplay and Glasvegas?
You can play that all day with your mates now.
Anyway Stonehouse Violets have definitely got both feet on one side of the line, and it's not the one that provides girls with boys that they can take home to meet their parents.
There's a swaggering style to the music that lifts it from the rut of of the mundane.
That slight shading that allows the songs to grab some attention.
Of course since Oasis nudged every young band in this direction there has been a million and one of them doing similar, but out of them all there are really only a handful that can carry the attitude forward and stamp a bit of their own authority onto the sound.
Stonehouse Violets are doing that.
There's probably a bucketful of influences that they are dipping into that aren't obvious to the ear, but just add enough to bend the sound very slightly towards them being one of those bands who should be filed away as 'one to watch'.
Probably best to catch them now before the self destruct.

The Rag N Bone Man - Headbutts & Uppercuts

How can you describe The Rag N Bone Man?
Brutal is one word.
Uncompromising is another.
And brutally uncompromising are two that go together rather nicely when you think about it.
On first listen some may consider it a primal scream of a rant, but I would advise that they keep with it.
In among the lo fi howls of rage, the distorted guitar and thumping drum is a naked soul looking to engage.
Okay the engagement might leave you with a burst ear drum, but that's a small price to pay.
There's not many doing this sort of one man band thing, and in Scotland I can probably count them on all the fingers of the one hand of someone born in Ayrshire.
That will be two for those who don't know.
Unless of course it's the left hand and then it's six.
Of the two that I know of there is the also excellent Homesick Aldo who musically could be thought of as the Dr Jekyll to to the Rag N Bone Man Mr Hyde.
There have been some whispers that Headbutts & Uppercuts could be Jack White at his most deranged, and while there is that to it, you would really have to take Jack to the outer limits of derangement and then kick him hard another couple of feet down the road a bit to come close to what is going on here.
It's the blues, but an angry version of it that is probably the colour of a dark bruise.

The Other Side - Can you see it coming.

Traditional rock bands have always managed to weather the storm of passing trends.
Mainly because they don't mess with the template.
You can turn up at a gig any week in the last forty years in a club and find a rock band with their heads down ploughing through the same old riffs.
There's nothing wrong with that.
There's a certain admirable bullish attitude being displayed as they give the punters what they want.
It's not a turn off for me, but given the choice I usually gravitate to something that leans towards throwing a spanner into the works, and that's where The Other Side come in.
With their latest album they are musically treading the same path as other bands of their ilk, but the spanner being added to the mix is in the lyrics.
Forget your damsels in distress, your fairies with boots and the space dragon.
That's not where The Other Side are coming from.
With the Tolkien fantasies cast to the side they are sharply going for the jugular and tearing the curtain down that the bankers and successive governments wish to lurk behind.
Social ills are dragged out into the light and battered senseless with the hammer of righteous rock and roll.
Midway through the album you get a distinct impression that the oft illustrated rock god that adorns many a record sleeve would perfectly suit the donning of a V for Vendetta mask.
Not a bad thing in my opinion.
Come the revolution I wouldn't mind seeing a berserker riding into battle on behalf of the people to the accompaniment of The Other Side being blasted out as the call to arms.
I suppose what I'm trying to say is that the band are well worth checking out.
Especially if you are sick of the same old same old in the rock world, and equally sick of the world we are living in.


Monday, 25 March 2013

An angry wee man rants.

I have a friend called Tammy.
That's not a fake name.
It's not an assumed one I am using to hide her identity.

She came to the UK just over fourteen years ago to start a new life.
From the moment she stepped onto the soil of this little island she has worked, and worked hard.
She has paid her taxes without fail and has aspired to start her own business.
Being employed in low paid positions and getting a fledgling business off the ground has often overlapped.
See what I mean about being hard working.

On top of that productiveness as a citizen she hasn't looked to lock herself away and failed to integrate.
She has been a staple on the music scene for years and has fully immersed herself in the British way of life.
Currently she is very much in love and lives with her partner who is UK born.

She's not what the media and the government want us all to think about when we consider migration to the UK

In a small way I guess what I am doing here is holding my friend up to say look at her.
I'm proud of her as a person, as an individual.
Her never say die spirit, her refusal to lie down and let life kick her is something that should inspire others.

Instead here we are with the government wanting to push forward plans that would exclude my friend from receiving benefits if she was out of work for over six months.

Fourteen years of contributing tax.
Fourteen years of supporting small businesses in her community.
Fourteen years of being a law abiding citizen and they say that's tough.

It would cost her £850 to nationalize.
It's something that she has wanted to do, but never been financially in a position to accomplish.
Low paid jobs don't magically conjure up £850.
Especially when you live in London. She hasn't asked everyone to rally to her side and provide the money, but instead she is considering selling all her belongings and starting from scratch.

Now this is bullshit and I am angry.
I don't really know how to express just how pissed off I am.
Anyone who thinks she isn't getting a raw deal is fuckin' delusional.
My friend Tammy has taken nothing from this country, but she has given it plenty.

The people in government who are wishing fervently to implement these proposals should be looking for work in the agriculture sector because all they seem capable of is spreading bullshit.

This is just an attempt from the conservatives to claw back the support from those who migrated to UKIP.
It has nothing to do with the economy at all.
It's nothing more than a misdirection style of governance.
Look at this hand, don't look at this hand.
Here we are reading headlines about how a few million might be saved with this measure while over in the shadows some are wiping their arses on billions of tax payers money.

It's nonsensical.

Do you know what I am really saying here?

I'm going to make it very clear.

If you are fuckin' with my friend then you are fuckin' with me.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Tragic City Thieves - Darling (What Can I do)

This is one of my favourite bands.
Now I don't want anyone mistaking that comment for the band being a favourite local act, or a favourite unsigned one or or the other little things that others will throw into the equation.
What I am saying is, and I want to make it very clear, is that they are one of my favourite bands.
There's nothing else needs to be added to that.
In my head I don't differentiate Tragic City Thieves from anyone else because of a degree of success.
It wouldn't matter if they never sold a record or sold a million.
What I like about them isn't rooted in anything other than when I hear them I fuckin' love it, and when I see them I equal fuckin' love it.
I think I once described them as the the product of someone opening up my head and creating a band just for me.
Maybe I didn't say that, but damn I've thought it often enough.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Michelle Shocked has been saved, but from what?

Well Michelle Shocked has certainly managed to get a few peoples panties in a twist.
With a rant in front of a San Francisco audience that included the comment that God hates fags she has managed to draw an inordinate amount of attention on herself.
As of now no one knows if her tirade at homosexuals is rooted in a bit of a breakdown - rather sad if that is the case, or if she has just decided that as a born again Christian that she is looking to make a stance on the issues at hand, but none the less the whole debacle has thrown up a huge deluge of comment.
With the rest of her US tour dates, with the exception of two, now being cancelled by the venues it doesn't look as if the incident will be soon forgotten either.

Now here's the rub.
Among all the many opinions expressed there's quite a few referring to her right to freedom of speech.
Of course most liberal minded people are quick to support that right, but isn't that right sort of suited to a time and a place?
What I mean is that in an interview she can express her opinions on same sex marriage, homosexuality in general or the price of a pint of milk if she wants.
Similarly from a pulpit she can preach whatever she wishes, and if she wants to picket a dead soldiers funeral then while I would harbour a great deal of disgust about that, at the same time I can very grudgingly accept that she can do that to if she is sick enough to want to.
However if I bought a ticket on the premise that it was to see her perform some songs that she had written, then isn't that what I should expect rather than an insight into her current views on homosexuality?

Not many people are realistically calling for her to be silenced, but instead that she should have respected her audience and given them what they had paid for.

There's something rather dishonest about luring people in under false pretences.
From comments made by those who were backstage it seems clear that she was intent on giving the audience something that they didn't ask for.

Of course I totally disagree with here views.
I suppose I should just make that clear.
Her tirade was an ugly reminder that some people harbour illogical assumptions about other peoples sexuality and aren't shy in promoting their ignorance.
I can feel comfortable in saying that on my blog as no one is paying to read this and I'm not saying anything that no one hasn't heard from me before.
There's no surprise here or intent to mislead anyone.
That's me sort of exercising my rights to freedom of speech in an appropriate environment.
Maybe Michelle Shocked is thinking that she should have done the same right now, but as her thought process seems to be leaning towards the fundamental it's doubtful.

It would be rather sad if instead she is perceiving herself as a Joan D'Arc figure who feels the heat of the flames of the media and public opinion licking at her toes.

It all seems a bit hypocritical to.
Not that hypocrisy is anything that I find to be surprising whenever religion is shoe horned into a point of view.
Lets be honest here.
Those who use religious tracts to support their anti homosexual views are often just cherry picking what they want to suit an already held opinion.
I wonder if Michelle feels as strongly about everything that is written in the Bible.
Maybe when she gets back to gigging she will express some support for slavery and such as that's all in there to.
Only this time she could do us all a favour and pre-warn us that the ticket price doesn't just cover a couple of tunes, but also an uncomfortable tirade.

I've always enjoyed her music and shared her political views in the past, but it looks like we have lost Michelle to the dark side.
If that hate filled exclamation of anti homosexuality is the result of being saved then it's safe to say that you can leave me downing in my non belief.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Sonic Templars interview

I'm sure that by now you guys will have read the Stonehouse Violets interview.
Care to comment?

Yeah we did, and laughed.
Not at them, but with them.
They're mates and it was like listening to Mike on a night out.
That being said it was a brilliant bit of self promotion and I admire the attitude they have, and it is similar to our own in so many ways.
If you don''t believe 100% in yourself then what is the point of doing it really?

As for yourselves do you share that same sort of self belief in what Sonic Templars can deliver?

We believe 100% in what we do.
Similar to Stonehouse Violets we know know how good we are.
The only difference is that we are more quietly confident in what we do, we tend to let the music do the talking.
But that's just a different approach.
There is no right or wrong way to promote yourself, as long as you have the belief and can back it up.
We feel that we are getting better and better with every passing song and gig, tighter as a band, and with stronger songs and lyrics.

You've been gigging a lot lately and getting some rave reviews and picking up fans at every show.
Up until a point that's sort of a necessity for bands as it's the only way to get your name and reputation as an act to see cemented in, but at the same time there must come a point when you consider that this part of the job is done, and it's then better to concentrate on quality rather than quantity.
Is that where you are at just now?

That's exactly where we are just now.
We spent the whole of the last year and a half doing exactly that: gigging as often as we possibly could to get our name spread about and established to an extent.
There were some great gigs, like supporting the View at a sold-out Grand Hall in Kilmarnock, but also some meaningless ones too as I'm sure any other band will tell you, like playing to the janitor sweeping up, but it had to be done to get the name out there.
We did a tour of Scotland last summer too to promote our debut EP which picked us up some new fans in Dunfermline, Perth etc..
But this year we made a decision like you say: pick quality over quantity.
We were getting loads of offers for gigs so we decided to pick and choose the ones that suited us best in terms of pushing the band forward.
We decided to do almost all gigs on a weekend, and make them more of an event, with loads of promotion and hype.

So, next steps. There's the co headlining gig in Pivo coming up and then what?

We recently won a showcase at Stereo, Glasgow.
It was a competition to pick the best band to support Jiezuberband and Preacher at o2 ABC in Glasgow on 27th April.
Over 200 bands applied to it, and then they were whittled down to just six to perform at the Showcase.
The bands themselves and UUC Management then picked the best band on the night, which happened to be us.
We're delighted with it because all the acts were fantastic, and some of who are doing exceptionally well.
We played a cracking gig though so we were confident about it.
It was a good way to make some new fans and contacts to.
Apart from that we are currently recording our 2nd EP entitled 'Minds in Transit'.
We've a batch of songs that we are extremely proud of, and its a natural progression from the 'Breaking Silence' EP.
The songs are more progressive than the last one, with a lot more thought going into arrangements and lyrics etc..
I'm not saying the last EP lacked attention to detail, but that's where we were at at that time and particularly myself as a songwriter.
But with 'Minds in Transit', everyone is involved in adding their parts onto the songs, Fraser has written a song too which will be on there as we felt it fitted into the vibe of the EP.
We're quietly confident that the EP will capture people's imaginations.
We've got an EP launch night planned for the 25th May at Nice n' Sleazys to, more will be revealed about that in the next few weeks, but there the date. It's out there now.

I don't know if you want to share the info, but I heard a wee whisper that there was some major players sniffing around you.
Is that true?

'Tis true, but I cant really discuss much about that just now, I'm not being wanky and I'd love to spill it, but I've been sworn to secrecy haha.
Then there's the fear that if you mention it publicly I could jinx it, or if it falls through be accused of being a bullshitter.
I've learned to keep some things close to my chest.
All I will say is that we have a couple of meetings coming up to find out more about the offers, so we will take things from there, but it's all good.

So what would that mean to the band?

As long as the deal was right then it would mean a lot to us. We have worked hard and feel we deserve the right deal.
There are so many other bands in our situation as well, hard-working and just looking for that 'right place at the right time' moment. We have been in total control of everything we have done to date and we will make sure it remains that way.
Artistic control is everything to us.
If it wasn't we could have already put ourselves into the hands of others to mould us into something that we're not.
We we released 'Breaking Silence' and we will release 'Minds in Transit' on Newtown Products.
Andrew from Newtown Products has been a big help to us, he simply puts out the music on the label without fuss or trying to steer us in any 'direction' which is exactly the way we like it.

Oh, I didn't know that you were doing it with Andrew.
I've always been impressed with his labels output. He has this great attitude towards the artists that he works with.
I think it's more a fans approach. He likes what he hears so there's no angle for him. He doesn't want to change anything at all.
Do you feel that approach is like a breath of fresh air?

It's definitely more of a fan's approach, and the fact that he's still out there playing in bands himself helps, so he approaches it from a songwriter/band member's perspective, and not a business one.
So I feel that this approach is a TOTAL breath of fresh air yes. There's no sinister marketing ploy, no 'strongly advising' that you should turn that guitar down or 'make that less heavy'. Just a respect for what a band/artist wants to put out, and that goes right down to copyright and artwork

I'm going to mention a very small negative point here that others have commented on to me and it's something that I agree with.
In the studio you guys have a very vast epic sound going on.
It's sort of like the sound of a band that needs the large venue/stadium space to breath in.
Yet while I have seen you live, and with a good sound it comes across well, there has been times that maybe club sized venues have failed to provide what you guys need to promote that aspect of the music.
Would that be a fair comment, and if so how do you feel about it when to an extent a part of the gig is out of your control and you are aware that the audience are getting a performance that due to technical restraints may fall short of what you guys know you can deliver?

That would be a fair comment yes, but I don't necessarily think its a negative comment (the bit about out-growing the club sized venues).
We are always pushing to get towards the bigger venues anyway, I'm not saying we don't enjoy the small venues because its great to be right in the faces of a baying crowd.
But maybe the style of songs we are writing are a subconscious reflection of our statement of intent: to play the bigger stages, we thrive there.
Some of our songs are straight in-your-face guitar-driven rock sung with attitude, and then particular songs, like 'Breaking Silence' and 'Temptress' suit the smaller venues due to the aggressive, stripped down sound they have, but we do have more of the songs with the vast, epic sound you mention.
I wouldn't want to dilute or compromise the sound we get in the studio for they songs though just for that reason, because that epic sound brings them to life, so it IS disheartening if the venue size falls short of capturing what the band can sound like on a bigger stage, the only way around this is to pick the right venues. This is so important because the sound of a venue can make or break any band.
The vast epic sound you mention will be a lot more prevalent on 'Minds in Transit' too, that's the direction we are moving in.

Would you ever consider just taking the bull by the horns and doing something similar to Jiezuberband and booking a big venue with the attitude of not just using it as a pr stunt, but to do it because you know that a stage like the ABCs with its state of the art sound system that they have would just push everything right out there and really provide the best space possible for the band?
Would it be a realistic prospect or, would you look at the costings and such and think that it would be a do or die throw of the dice for the band?
It's nice to dream, but in the real world pushing things to financial ruin and then seizing victory from the jaws of defeat are often just to be found in film scripts.

I admire what Jiezuberband and Preacher have done.
They have obviously been planning this for a long time, and with the stage they are at as bands felt that they can pull it off.
We are unfortunately not at that stage yet but I would never say never about anything relating to our limits as a band.
So for us at the moment it's not a realistic prospect, but I would not rule something like that out in future.
If we felt we had the financial means and the support of a solid fanbase to pull it fo then we would grab at it.
Right now we are putting any money made from gig tickets straight into the recording money pot, we also have a video in the pipeline then a potential tour, so all money is being used for they purposes just now.
We all have an idea in our heads and are looking at taking it all step by step.
One day we will with a bit of luck on our side be able to look back and say 'we did that'.
Not that others did it for us, or that we took an easier road, but that we did it all with like minded people like Andrew from Newtown Products.

Bandcamp  Facebook

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Jericho Hill - McSorleys - 16/03/13

Jericho Hill are classed as a punk Johnny Cash tribute act, but no one should mistakenly think that what they do is like Johnny Thrash, or simply leans towards playing speeded up versions of the classics, because that's nowhere close to what these guys do.
Nowhere close at all.
Instead there's some added guitar flourishes that add a bit of a bite and a rumbling bass that give the more traditional acoustic guitar and drums something to rest back on.
It's far cleverer than just picking the tunes up a pace and messing about with the vocal delivery.
More a punky vibe than anything else.
That being the case the band sit perfectly on the line of paying homage, but falling short of being stuck in the rut of being mere copyists.
In the Glasgow bar McSorleys they played a sharp set of classics that delivered on all the favourites, and also managed to slip in the more modern tracks from the America series like Depeche Mode's Personal Jesus and NIN's Hurt, that similar to the Man in Blacks vintage hits had a little of a push on them rather than being note by note renditions.
I guess what you get when you see Jericho Hill is a bit of a spin on the music that allows some freshness to be blown into them.
I doubt many would disagree with that.

The initial set that the band played flew past and from a cold start they finished to a few brave souls getting up to dance.
By the time they picked up their instruments to begin the second set it was the audience that was reaching the stages of being warmed up, and it was a real pleasure to see a band manage to pull such a reaction from a crowd.
Two songs into the second set and the place was heaving with people dancing.
It was as if the touch paper that had smouldered through the first set had finally worked up enough heat to spark a fully fledged flame into life.
Highlight of the night for me were two songs that showed the band off in fine style.
The first was the Violent Femmes track 'Country Death Song' and then Dolly Parton's 'Jolene'.
Both, while not being Johnny Cash songs, had plenty of the Cash spirit woven through them to keep everything on track, and I suspect if you had managed to get a few drams into June back in the day the version we heard of Jolene is exactly what it would have sounded like.

An exceptional band, but as I had to leave as I was a slave to public transport one I managed to miss seeing finish the night.
Rest assured it would have been in fine style though.


Let's not beat around the bush.
'Vinyl' is a low budget film.
It's more akin to a television special than what people currently expect from a cinema release, but that's not to say that it's a substandard movie.
It's just that I think that some cinema goers of a certain age will baulk at what is often called, 'the gritty realism', and which often means that the film was made within very tight financial constraints.

What I mean by that is that it looks dull.
In an age where CGI is king and technicolour has been left in the past to bring us a bigger, brighter and more crisp viewing experience Vinyl does actual look as if it could have been filmed on a digital camcorder bought for fifty buck from a cash generator store.

Then there's the filler such as footage of a caravan park where you get to see some kids on a cheap holiday looking at the camera and such.

These are of course minor quibbles, but ones that may be picked up on.
To be fair the good points far outweigh the criticisms that may be levelled at it though.
The acting itself is of an acceptable standard, especially from the main cast.
No surprise there.
The script is entertaining enough, albeit for some clunky dialogue in places, and the pacing of the story is well played out.
I personally found it to be very enjoyable and would recommend that given the chance people do go and see it on it's short theatrical run.
Just keep in mind that what you are going to see is not a Hollywood blockbuster and you will be fine.

For those who don't know what the film is about then let me tell you.
This is the film whose story is a fictional account of when The Alarm hoodwinked the British music industry, and the media, when they created a young band called The Poppy Fields to front a single that they were releasing after they found that many doors were stubbornly being held closed to them due to their age.

It's a broad side swipe at the industry and probably more relevant now than when The Alarm initially set the wheels in motion for the original swindle-esque caper.
Some may say nothing much has changed, but I would argue that it has gotten worse as lip syncing teens dominate the releases, while companies who manufacture acts appear to be at the fore front of what is called the music business in the present.
That being the case this is a timely reminder that what we have is not representative of what is out there, but instead of what the money men want us to hear.

So while nothing was really learnt from what the Alarm did, we do get to be reminded of it here, and can blissfully wallow in nostalgia as we watch some aged fictional rockers stick two fingers up to the establishment and win out the day.

There's a nice wee cameo from Steve Diggle (Buzzcocks) in it to.

Well worth throwing a tenner at.  

Friday, 15 March 2013

Big Country - The Journey

With the release of The Journey, the Mike Peters fronted Big Country are in a way stepping into a lions den and inviting the truculent to air their criticisms.
When the band originally reformed the gathering storm of protest from fans looked as if no teacup would be able to hold it.
However the naysayers soon found themselves having to order a portion of humble pie when they took to stages and with some aplomb turned the spluttering flame that was Big Country into a wonderful conflagration of sound that would burn every minor critique to ash.

Part of the success of the second (third to the pedantic) coming of Big Country was undoubtedly down to the bands understanding that Stuart Adamson could not be left behind.
That his memory should be honoured and the material approached with a degree of reverence that it deserved.
Not that the reverence would be coached in sombre tones either, but more that it would be a reverential celebration.
So with each gig they all reinvested in the name, and the bands history, and then even the most begrudging fan was ultimately swept along in their wake.

Quite simply put all was fine in the Big Country.

Now the storm clouds are gathering again with some fans taking umbrage that new material that is obviously sans Adamson is on the horizon.
It's partially understandable as this album will always be considered as the beginning of a new chapter.
A chapter of a story that some are happy to have considered to have ended.
Of course it's an individuals right to hang onto the past as tightly as they would wish, but this isn't a release that closes one door merely to open another, and instead it's more a stepping stone from the past into the future.

Once heard it would be safe to say that similar to how the previous live dates won the fans over that this will do likewise.
Mainly because it is still recognizably Big Country.
If the band wanted to move in a new direction then a name change would have been the best option for them, but the direction they are taking is really just another step down a path that the original members and Stuart had already charted out.
To my ears it sounds like a natural progression, and that's what will win the day out.

I can imagine that with each writing and practice session that the band themselves would have been tweaking and tinkering with every single song until they had something that they knew was of a standard that would be acceptable to the fans, and then when they went in to record it that they then turned it up a notch with the consideration that it is better safe than sorry.

In fact that about sums it up. 
It's a Big Country album for Big Country fans.
Hats off to them.
They did exactly what some thought they couldn't.
Big Country as a brand seems to be in safe hands.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Punk Rock Rammy Gigs

You would think that in this age of technology gone mad that communication with others would have improved.
In one way it has.
I can now know what a mate in Australia had for lunch, but in the glut of all the information I may not pick up on a gig that's happening in Glasgow.
It's now a double edged sword.

So anyway. here's what Punk Rock Rammy in Glasgow is doing.
Now some may wonder why I am spreading the word about another promoters gigs.
All I can say to that is you don't get it.
There's only competition if we perceive it in that way.
At the end of the day here's some great gigs being put on by an ethical guy and he deserves our support.
I'll hopefully be at The Bouncing Souls, then play it by ear from there on it.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

4 Past Midnight Tour

The guys tour diary is filling up nicely, and very soon a some US tour dates will be announced.
Glasgow is of course the date for the album launch and tickets will soon be available online from Tickets Scotland.

Please feel free to get in touch regarding booking queries. Info is on the poster.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Vampire Junkies featuring Texas Terri

Oooh. Vampire Junkies featuring Texas Terri.
When that dropped on the matt I was very surprised.
I hadn't even heard a whisper about it.
With the cellophane wrapper trailing in my wake I had it on the stereo within seconds.
Guess what?
It's everything I wanted it to be.
The music is exactly what needs to be backing up Texas Terri.
In gang parlance the guitars are screaming we've got your back.
The drums are pounding out a war cry.
There's only five tracks, but that's plenty to get your teeth into.
It's got the blood of the Stooges and the New York Dolls painted over its scraped knuckles.
You would swear that it had crawled from the gutter of the Bowery after washing up there when it was chased out of the Motor City.
That's not that it sounds like a lost master tape from the seventies though.
This is so fresh that if it was meat then it would be so rare it would look like someone had just introduced it to a grill before slapping it down in front of you.
Remember when there was a resurgent of glam rock bands who melded a punk attitude to sleazy rock and roll?
It was something that you can hear on a few bands debuts before the major labels watered it all down and packaged it as hair metal.
Well there's a whole lot of that lipstick smeared fuck you attitude going on here as well, but it's all 2013 baby.
In my head this is the sort of album that should be riding high in the charts.
It certainly shits all over the pre-packaged and passion free dross that I keep hearing being pushed at people.

Frightened Rabbit - Pedestrian Verse

Frightened Rabbit have never been mentioned on the blog, and there's a reason for that.
While I think the band are talented and have a good ear for a song, there's just something about them that falls short of grabbing my attention and hanging onto it.
As they aren't submitting anything for review I don't feel the need to write anything about them either.
For me to scribble something about a band then they either have to have sent me something to review and then I will feel obligated to give them a mention, or maybe I've bought their latest release and I'm impressed enough to sing their praises, or lastly that I have seen them live and they get named as part of the review.
So when it comes to Frightened Rabbit I would have to say that up until now I have never received anything to review, bought anything that bowled me over, or seen the band play live.
That's really covering it.
Now with Pedestrian Verse they have finally whispered in my ear, and after revisiting the album again and again I would have to say's okay.
Part of my reluctance to leave the damn thing alone was because lost of people who I share musical tastes with love the band.
So while I would have maybe let go of it after a week or so I kept listening to this one trying to hear in it what others do.
Maybe I'm still on the road though as now I can comfortably put it on and nod along to it, smile on occasions, pick up on a clever lyric and yes, I am enjoying it.
That's not the whole story though.
While I have reached beyond the point of failing to see what the fuss is I'm still far off from jumping in with both feet and proclaiming them to be some second coming.
I mentioned once that they sound like a Scottish Arcade Fire tribute band and I didn't see the need for one of them.
That was a comment that didn't go down that well as I quickly realised I was the lone dissenting voice in the company I was in.
You would have thought that I had just got a mates results in from the DNA test and had to deliver the news that he was adopted and his biological parents were in fact Fred and Rosemary West.
Every time since then when I have been asked about Frightened Rabbit I usually have to give an answer and add onto it 'but don't shoot the messenger'.
Now here I am damning them with faint praise again.
Aye. The allegedly best album they have ever released is fine.
It's as majestic as claimed, it has some damn fine songs on it, but right at this moment it's still not raising any hairs on my neck.
Maybe I will see them one day and they can make me eat my words.
I'm open for that.
Never say never.
It took me more than a decade for Jeff Buckley to click with me. Now I think the man was a genius.
So maybe in 2013 I'll be back to say 'do you know what? That frightened rabbit are no bad'.*

*No bad - The highest praise a Scotsman will ever give anything ever.

The Alarm - Oran Mor - 09/03/13 (Glasgow_

The Alarm.
Sold out gig.

Six words that naturally work together.
You get a great band, a music loving city, and some rabid fans, and then when they all gravitate towards each other the magic is made.

On tour promoting the release of the movie Vinyl - a film that covers the time that the band hoaxed the charts and media by delivering a single under the name The Poppy Fields - the band are probably sounding as urgent as I have ever heard them.
Part of that is certainly down to the material that was freshly written for the soundtrack.
Mike has very obviously keyed into the roots of the band from as far back as when he and Twist were playing as The Toilets and injected the music with a late seventies punkyness.
It's a very welcome addition to the sound of the band, and one that certainly gets the heart racing and the blood being pushed to parts that it maybe hasn't managed to reach since the mid eighties.
For fans of the band it's conceivable that the new songs sound like an imaginary missing link between the Toilets and the Alarm.
That's of course if we neatly forget about Seventeen, and that no bad thing.
Not neatly forgetting Seventeen, but recreating a period in time that could be picked up on as a stepping stone that felt their feet as they went from the seventies to the eighties.

The set flows very well.
From Alarms classics to fan favourites to a section left to kick out the jams and get the new material road tested it all works and passes by with dizzying alacrity.
One minute I'm welcoming the band on stage and the next the lights are up and everyone is drifting away.
It wasn't a short performance, but more a hit and run one that had all the vim of youthful intent.
For guys who have been around the block a few times you could have closed your eyes and very easily imagined that this was a show from some young guns who were wanting to take on the world, and that is as it should be.

I wouldn't care to think about how many times I have seen the Alarm as it makes me feel old, but without exaggerating it this show was up there with the best of them.
The rendition of Spirit of '76 was worth the ticket price alone.

Major plus point for the night was also the take up on people volunteering to be added to the bone marrow transplant list that is championed by Love, Hope and Strength.
Fifty seven people in one night.
Now that's something that should be applauded as loudly as the band were.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Dirt Box Disco - People Made of Paper

There's some words that people seem intent in carving in stone.
Punk is dead are but three of them.
Of course punk isn't dead though.
What happened was that the original premise was co opted by the leather and studs crew in the early eighties and the wider perception of what punk is was misinterpreted.
Well that's my take on it.
No longer was it a celebration of tearing up the rule book with anarchic glee, but instead it was about writing new rules.
The punk police had arrived to join the party and it was the start of a downward slide.
I guess the easiest way to show the divide between what it was, and what it became, is to go out of an evening and visit a gig.
Those like The Damned, The Stooges and The Stranglers to name a few can still fill the larger venues.
Now where are the others who redefined what the general public thought of as punk rock though?
Playing pubs to eighty people if they are still together is the answer.
Thankfully the original premises pulse never weakened to the point that punk left the building.
Instead some clung onto it, and as with Dirt Box Disco, refused to let that final nail be hammered into the coffin.
With their debut album they shook things up a fair bit and delivered a fun filled manifesto of intent, but I doubt anyone was ready to commit to thinking that their next release would be one that blew the roof off.
Personally I thought that we would have seen an incremental improvement, an improvement that would continue over a few albums until finally we got to immerse ourselves in a release that that would be a fat free work of raw passion that levelled the competition.
Who would have thought that they would have delivered it so early with 'People Made of Paper'.
In punky parlance this is the dogs bollocks innit?
With their tongues firmly in their cheeks they're wearing a huge shit eating grin and with each track daring us to not to love them.
I heard them once described as a punk rock Steel Panther and I can see where that comes from from, but I would still disagree.
Steel Panther are an excellent parody of a scene, whereas Dirt Box Disco are no parody.
Instead they are a full on punk band who have a sense of humour.
Fuck smashing the system when there's a party over there that can be crashed.
This album is actually a joyous celebration of doing what the fuck you want, and that's as punk as you can get.
People Made of Paper is the album that delivers the middle fingered salute at all the po faced punters out there who think they are different because they are still clinging onto their membership of a club that is as mainstream and unbending as all the shite that they allegedly hate.
I bloody love it and if you give it half a chance then I suspect so will you.
They are out on tour with The Misfits in the UK soon.
Best get there early and see the best band of the night is all I'll say about that.

Stonehouse Violets

From a wee chat this is what comes of it.
Similarly if you have a drink with Mike of Stonehouse Violets then there is no way of knowing how the night will end up.
You have been warned.

ItsaXXXXthing - So who is the best band in the world Mike. Go on share it with us as you have told me often enough?

Mike - Well it's us isn't it? We are the best band in the world!
When I say that I mean in my opinion of course, but fuck it. Unless you truly believe that you are the best then what is the point?
If you are going to do anything in life you have to give it one hundred percent and believe in yourself.
I don't need anyone telling me that we are good.
I already know that.

So you are better than everyone from The Beatles to Oasis to the guys that can fill stadiums just now?

Well let's just say we are in the same niche as them. People just don't know it yet.
We are the Sex Pistols, The Rolling Stones, Primal Scream, The Clash and every other band who defined the rules for themselves.
There's a rule book that people keep talking about.
I've got it in the toilet, but not as reading material.
It saves on buying toilet roll and I reckon I'm half way through using it.
That's all the rock and roll rule book deserves.
Me wiping my arse on it.

So is this a front. Sort of a swaggering Oasis thing?

Not at all.
Oasis had the right idea though.
It's like this. If you want something then it's rare for anyone to just give you it.
That's a life lesson right there.
If you want something you have to take it.
The more you want it the harder you will work to get it and the more you will hang onto what you have got.
Fuck anyone who gets in the way of what we want.
It's dog eat dog.
We will work with anyone who wants to help us and as long as the deal is fair for all parties then it's not a hassle, but without wrapping it all up in bullshit we know what we want and we want to keep our eye on it, and if anyone wants to get in our way then their name goes down in our wee black book.

Like a hit list. Ha?

Nah. We just list them under the title 'Fuckers' and we wont tolerate them.
When things pick up for, us as they will, there will be the 'fuckers' hovering around for a slice of the pie and if their name is in our book they aren't getting a slice.
The good guys are on our team and they are the ones who are welcome to jump aboard for the ride.

Fair enough then. So who is on the list?

You will see them outside the gigs looking for a guest list pass and asking people if they know who they are.
No one will be giving a toss.

What would you say to the people who would say that I have heard this all before from shit like Towers of London?
That it's just the arrogance of a front man?

Ha. Remember them? They are an example of a band who can talk the talk but couldn't back it up.
Once people see us live they know that they have nothing to do with us.
I don't feel embarrassed about blowing our own trumpet.
For me this is just facts getting expressed as I see them.
If some people disagree then that's fine.
They're wrong, but they are allowed to be wrong. Ha
I suppose of people want to take what is really a confidence in myself and the bands abilities and think it's arrogance then I can see where they are coming from, but it's our job to make music and play shows that make them see that the claims I'm making are true.
It's not really a case of empty boasting.

What about the mainstream music press. Has there been any interest?

Not so far, but we aren't trying to kick their doors in.
I've not read the NME since fuck knows when.
I couldn't tell you anything about it.
Who else is there?
Q, Mojo?
Do they feature new bands?
Every time I see them in the newsagents it's Led Zep on the cover, or Bob Dylan.

So you aren't interested in them featuring you?

No, that's not what I am saying. Exposure is exposure after all, but the whole music business is crumbling.
For every label that is in dire straits there's a million bands putting out their own stuff, and for every mainstream magazine there's a million blogs like this one.
It's all changing.
I guess what I mean is that I don't care.
If it's the NME that want to agree that we are the dogs bollocks or joe blogger from then fair enough.

Do you think the confidence you have could put people off?

Well I hope not. To go back to the start of the interview when I say we are the best band about I mean that with all my heart.
The thing is that I think that every member of every band should think the same way.
If you say it out loud then you have to deliver on it. It urges you on.
We can play with bands who have members who we would call mates, but it's like professional boxers going into a bout when we step on stage.
We want to knock them out in the first round and they should have the same attitude about their performance and go for it.
Once the gig is over then we are mates again.
Like the boxers we can shake hands and hit a club for a drink together.
Remember that baseball film with Kevin Costner in it. It's like that. Believe in it and make it happen.
I don't have room for entertaining self doubt in my head.
This band I am in is the best and we will do everything that we can to maintain control of our own destiny.
When someone asks us why we are doing one thing or another then we just tell them straight.
Take gig bookings.
Now someone could look at us playing a 200 capacity club as the headliner and think why aren't they supporting a major band in a 1000 capacity venue.
The reason is that we could get a crate of beer for the support slot and play in front of the eighty people who have turned up early enough to catch us, or we can blow the roof off of the club in front of people who are there to see us, and with a good deal with a promoter we can then go home with some cash that can then be used to record, pay for professional photographs, get a van and a hundred more things that will help us get out to more people.
We want to play for people, entertain them on our terms.
It's an attitude that others should go with.

But similar to how you wouldn't knock back an interview with the NME you would still consider a major support slot?

Well yes. If we liked the band. We would probably look on it as the chance to see a band we liked for fuck all rather than winning over fans though.
Although we would still give the gig one hundred percent. We don't do substandard.

So what's next for the band?

L-R Stewart Sonic Templar and Mike Stonehouse Violet 
Your gig is on the cards. It's the Sonic Templars and us in Pivo. As you know it's going to be another sell out. The only tickets left are the ones in Tickets Scotland and they might be in single figures by now.

What do you think about The Sonic Templars?

They're brothers in arms. They know the score and they will bring it on. I love them.
All bets are off for the performance though. They will storm it and so will we.
Battle of the Titans mate.
See I'm not that arrogant. If I wasn't playing at the gig I would be down the front for The Sonic Templars.
I want to take over the world, but so do they.
I wouldn't right any of us off as it may well happen.