Music: Met Marc & Mogwai

It was a breath of fresh air. Something very different, and very special to light up the middle of a working week.

My friend Richard, a friend since the age of about 4, with whom I have been in a band on and off since I was 18, is a Studio Manager at the BBC. Richard had mentioned a few months ago that I would be welcome to come along and watch one of the sessions on BBC 6music whenever he was on his shift for Marc Riley‘s program.  Last night, Mogwai were playing, and this presented a great opportunity to see Richard at work as well as a fascinating band who I’ve admired for a long time.

It was a truly enthralling evening from start to finish. I arrived at the Media city studios at about six and the sound checking that just about finished. I walked in to the studio to be very warmly greeted by Mogwai and Marc, which was strangely familiar for some reason. Meeting at DJ Is an unnerving experience because their voice is simply very familiar to you. When you say hello in the flesh, they seem like they are already part of your network. Marc presented something extra here, probably very predictably, by being incredibly warm and genuine. There was no pretension, not even the slightest hint of celebrity or any of that nonsense. Just a simple, warm chap (who just happened to once play bass in The Fall).   The “music” day was blighted by the death of Kevin Ayers at 68, which is the type of thing make anyone feel humble anyway.

For people who know anything about a band like Mogwai, the feeling was similarly remarkable in its ‘down to earth’ factor. Five people who play instruments. No pretension, no divas, just very nice to see people at work making such fascinating and polished tunes.  Their album out on Saturday is a soundtrack to Les Revenants – a French film, and they lovingly played three tracks from it.

Richard Aside from all that, seeing Richard at work was pretty enthralling for me. I’ve had an interest in sound engineering, and the qualities of the audio experience since I got my first computer and started to make music that way.  Seeing somebody handle a live band playing in a small room in front of a large national audience with such calmness and serenity was wonderful.  It certainly took a lot of qualities that I do not possess. Multitasking is a large understatement. But very calm. Incredibly, scarily calm.

And so, inevitably, after tidying away a few leads and mic stands, we went to the pub and had a couple of pints.  It’s really should have been more, but it was -2°C outside, and I had to cycle home 17 miles. I’m glad I didn’t have the third point. But it was really great to see Richard. An evening of live music, cycling and beer, then.  Pinching myself.   Thanks Rich.

Photos here on Flickr

 

John Shuttleworth: If Nick Clegg was called Nicholas

Lovely to hear John Shuttleworth on the Vote Now Show late on Radio 4 last night. The track’s here if you missed it – his wonderfully crafted lyrics are a great take on the three horse race that’s unfolding before us…. I think he has a point. If Nick Clegg was called Nicholas, he would inevitably get less votes.

Here’s the track for those of you who missed it:

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(updated: download link here by popular demand of the flash-starved iPhonites)

Lyrics:

If Nick Clegg was called Nicholas
Voters would think him ridiculous
But as he’s just plain “Nick Clegg”
People assume he’s a right good egg

If only Gordon and David
Would shorten their names as he did
Think of the votes they’d get
from an admiring electorate

Wouldn’t you put a tenner on
Somebody called Dave Cameron?
He sounds a like a friendly bricklayer
Or even a professional darts player
(“Dave, you require double-five”
– Well – he wants number 10)

If only Gordon was Don Brown
His ratings would never have gone down
A Don you would never close a door on
Whereas Gordon is a moron
(he’s gone a bit quiet hasn’t he – the lad who did that one)

By the way, I wonder if you knew
That Nick Clegg’s a former member of Kajagoogoo
Oh no – that’s not Nick Cleggs that was Nick Beggs
Apologies I’ve made a slight boo boo

If Nick Clegg’s was called Nicholas
Voters would think him ridiculous
But as he’s just plain “Nick”
He’s as solid as a brick
He’s the one the others must lick
Shame his middle name is Benedict
(no I’m only joking… )
Oh – and a lovely reference in the lyrics to ‘Gordon is a Moron’ re: the 1978 hit by Jilted John (Graham Fellows – or John Shuttleworth in a former punk skit role) – flashback below.

Merchandise: For the Masses

“Five years in the making” makes any album sound epic, doesn’t it.  Merchandise are a friend-of-a-friend band that have become just a friend band now.  Brad asked me to build the Cityscape Records website some time back, then I shortly after rebuilt the Merchandise website.  Along the way I got to listen to their music and things grew and grew.  I do enjoy their poppyness lots…

I’m lucky enough to be – in some sort of VIP way- in receipt of a pre-release of the album ‘For the Masses’ that will be coming out in June, and thought I’d tell you all that it is well worth the wait.

Putting two fairly anthem-like tunes up fron in positions 1 and 2 (‘Listen Up’ and ‘Sometimes’) is a smart move. You start buzzing straight away. Still getting used to some of the new tracks but all satisfy in their own way. ‘Prescription’ and ‘Enemy’ are certainly not the happy-go-lucky type of track that the beautiful ‘sometimes’ proves to be listen after listen.

Great work Brad and Con – everyone buy this in June and help Bolton’s best kept secret become Bolton’s best known band.

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Jenny: 18 = me: old

The little baby that my sister in law Fiona and her husband Graeme had in 1991 – not very much further back than yesterday, it feels, is 18. Like millions of others before me, the coming of age of a close relative has really brought home to me how quickly time flies and how there is bugger all we can do about it. I think the traditional solution is to ‘party’ – if that’s acceptable as a verb [I did use an inverted comma]. Continue reading “Jenny: 18 = me: old”

Tune… The Difference between an object and a non-object

Short bit of music – the first for a while – inspired in part by the dark weather we’re living under this August and in part by the sporadic and fickle nature of the people I follow on Twitter. Also was playing a lot of guitar this week and wanted to have a break from that.

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Billie Jeanellium

In memory of Micheal Jackson, I started to mess about with music again the other night, and came up with this fairly stripped down version of Billie Jean… basically nicked the drums and vocals, the rest was re-done from other instruments… it’s a top tune, and there’s not much to be gained by remixing it or messing around too much, unless you’re as god-like as Bushwacka or indeed Ian Brown.

Anyways… have a listen…

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PS – my parents in law are called Bill & Jean.  Amazing.  It could have been about them.

Remix of ‘Glitterati’ by Merchandise

Bolton friends and wonderful pop band Merchandise have just ‘released’ my remix of their track ‘Glitterati’ on their website.

The remix was an interesting experiment in cutting things back to the core; the original vocals by Brad Wood are used from the track but nothing else and I decided an orchestral arrangement would go well with the reflective mood of the track. The idea behind this was also inspired by Cinerama’s ‘Airborne’ which featured David Gedge’s vocals directly on top of Cello and not much else. It’s something about the subtle but definitely northern dialect that lends itself to this and something that Brad shares with Gedge.

Listen (for a limited time only!) to my remix on Merchandise’s website here: Glitterati (Minnellium Mix). The remix will also go out on CD as a B Side to a single in the new year.

In praise of the rockafeller skank.

This doesn’t come easy. I’m not a mainstream person. Well, I am, really – that’s what all this is about, but I don’t occupy the middle ground that easily still. I’m 38 and it’s getting so much easier. My love of the Carpenters and Doris Day will be confessed openly soon (and if you think I’m joking, Stop, wait a minute Mr Postman and Move Over Darling).

I was sorting out the overcrowded and badly tagged iPod this evening for the first time … ever. The pleasure that a clean brak has given me is possibly a bit anal but I’m happy to admit that a tidy home is a happy home.

One thing that’s never been on there is FGat Boy Slim’s “You’ve Come a Long Way Baby” album from 1998. I never got round to burning it as Katie and I (and th near neighbours of our house in Gloucester Road, Cheltenham) had played it seemingly to death in 1998.

However, a bit of an audio audit has rekindled the flame that played it to death in the first place. Despite being a mainstream radio staple, The Rockafeller Skank is just a plain old killer and summarises the era. Chapeau, Quentin.

>The Rockafeller Skank

Tune of the spring: ‘Sometimes’ by Merchandise

Every once in a while I get to hear a tune and it grows – I guess we all do really – and so often for me these seem to be in spring and early summer for some reason. Last year, ‘Mathematics’ from Cherry Ghost hit the spot for Dave’s catchy number one.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been helping Brad from Cityscape Records put a couple of websites together, and one of their bands – Merchandise – put out their first ‘big’ single launch on Monday – and in the last few weeks, I’ve heard the single – ‘Sometimes’ – so many times but it’s one of those dreamy summer Zeitgeist moments that hits the spot for me every time at the moment. It’s uplifting, it’s twee, it’s melancholy, it’s simple, but above all, it’s just catchy and after two listens it’s inside your head for good. Great tune.

Great catchy tune – download it on the Cityscape Records website or watch the video below…

Oh, and please visit Merchandise‘s lovely website.