May 29, 2008

My Exciting Life In ROCK: 6/7/03 - Loxley Residential Home, Peterborough

Filed under: Uncategorized, mj hibbett — mjhibbett @ 5:17 pm

Never let it be said I play only the CONVENTIONAL gig.

Okay, that probably IS never said, but among my vast array of Unusual Gigs this was probably one of the UnusualIST, also one of the most nerve-wracking. It was my Nan’s 90th Birthday Party and so I’d be playing not just to a crowd of old ladies, but MY ENTIRE FAMILY! Cousins, Aunts and Uncles, Brothers And Sisters - THE LOT!

The nerves were enhanced by the fact that I was going to have to learn some suitable songs. Clearly “Fucking Hippy” wasn’t going to go down spectacularly well (my Nan was deaf, but not THAT deaf) so I set to learning some Music Hall songs. When I was little I’d spent HUGE swathes of the School Summer Holidays round at both my Nans’ houses (two Nans, not multiple properties) watching the LENGTHY seasons of Old Comedy Films they used to show on BBC2 in the afternoons. I’m not sure that they do that any more, but back then you’d always get THEMED films throughout the holidays. I distinctly remember it being Will Hay films one year, George Formby another. ALSO my other Nan had a large repertoire of Old Music Hall Songs that she’d sing to us (”My Old Man Said Follow The Van”, “Has Anybody Here Seen Kelly?”, that sort of thing) so re-learning them was like revisiting some of the lovelier parts of my childhood. It was brilliant.

Less brilliant was the MASSIVE FEAR I felt about the whole thing - I’m sure I’m not the only one to have anxiety dreams about doing a gig where I forget all the words to all the songs, shout abuse at the audience, and then remember that the audience is my entire family, with my Nan sat in the front row. And now it was going to happen FOR REAL! I just prayed that at least I remembered to wear some TROUSERS this time.

FEAR was only added to by the involvement of my parents, who insisted on photocopying REAMS of lyrics sheets for everybody, and generally acting proprietarily. “Everyone will want to join in!” they said “So make sure you sing loudly won’t you? And make sure the words are CLEAR. Don’t slur your words, and stand up STRAIGHT!”

The Fear was still in evidence as I began to play in front of what was , for me, a pretty large audience. I started to think fondly of dark smelly rooms full of drunk people and BEER as I looked out onto that kindly crowd, drinking tea and eating their biscuits, their eyes FULL OF EXPECTATION. Happily it all worked out OK - my parents, Aunties and uncles were VOCIFEROUS in their participation and various siblings and cousins were kicked into joining in too… and I’m afraid I got a little carried away with it all. So much so that during a particularly fevered rendition of “Chick Chick Chick Chick Chicken” I thought to myself “They can give more than this!” and yelled “COME ON! LOUDER! LOUDER!” The old ladies looked a bit shocked, but I tell you what, next time the chorus came round they sang it a LOT louder!

No encore for this one, but I tell you what, the RIDER was amazing - gallons of POP and all the sandwiches I could EAT!

May 27, 2008

My Exciting Life In ROCK: 4/7/03 - The Verge, London

Filed under: Uncategorized, mj hibbett — mjhibbett @ 4:13 pm

Weeks before this gig happened the promoter emailed to say he’d heard my version of “Stan” (by Eminem) and wondered if it’d be all right for him to join me onstage to sing the Dido parts. It sounded like a good idea to me, and I was only mildly disconcerted when he said he’d be doing it “in character” as the evening’s compere, Captain Disco.

When I arrived I discovered him in full COSTUME - a wig, comedy moustache, and a Safari Suit. Why is it when people do stuff “in character” the character they always DO is a Stereotypical Pillock? Does anybody EVER compere Comedy Gigs in Character as a charming, slightly shy, smartly dressed milkman? I was already worried about how the song - which, after all, is about domestic abuse - would work with him dressed like that, and my worries only grew when he showed me the penis shaped water pistol he’d bought with him. “It’s hilarious” he reassured me, demonstrating how he’d poke it out of his trouser flies at opportune moments and squirt audience members.

Now, I’m not really any variety of Prima Donna, I’m usually pretty good about LARKING AROUND and PLAYING THE GIDDY GOAT, and so I put my reservations to one side and got on with the gig. Recently I’d been playing Acoustic Gigs sitting down, just because it’s easier - you get to sit down! However, I’d noticed that this did rather lead to people thinking I was a Folk Artiste and/or JAZZ GUITARIST (STONE DEAF people, mostly, but still) which meant they felt perfectly happy ignoring and talking over my set. THUS I decided to try standing up again, an EXCELLENT PLAN that I would recommend to anyone - sitting down puts you in a PASSIVE position and positively INVITES people to ignore you, but if you stand-up you’re in their face, usually ABOVE them, and can command attention.

It also means you can dance around - no, actually, it means you HAVE to dance around. Having not played standing up for a while I forgot about this and stood RIGIDLY still, which after ten minutes caused my left leg to go numb and I gave me cramp in my feet. Since then I have resolved to always DANCE AROUND like a LOON while playing gigs - it is for HEALTH REASONS.

Standing up also makes it easy to talk to other band members. Mr Tom “Tiger” McClure had travelled down to play with me for this gig and I was just discussing a minor issue of Setlist with him partway through when ANOTHER symptom of my long lay-off from proper gigs was felt, as my phone started ringing. I’d forgotten to turn it off before starting, and ended up having a slightly embarrassing five minute conversation with my MUM in front of a crowd of about forty people, saying “Yeah… Mum… no, fine but… no, I’m doing a gig at the moment and… ” In the end I got everyone to shout “BYE!” to her as I put the phone down, but I still don’t think she realised.

Eventually we reached the last song, and Tom and I GIRDED ourselves for RUMNESS as Captain Disco made his way to the stage. I decided to play it STRAIGHT and just concentrate on singing the song, which is probably a good idea because, as I began to sing the rantings of a psychotic wife-killer I saw, out of the corner of my eye, that Captain Disco had decided to interpret these lyrics by POLE DANCING. The chorus was approaching, and when it arrived…

… it was beautiful. Captain Disco, it turns out, had a LOVELY singing voice, and sang it absolutely straight, with a surprising poignancy that I found suddenly, unexpectedly, deeply moving. Everyone in the room looked SHOCKED, managing to ignore his writhing around on the floor in the next verse so that they were moved all over again when he did it for the second verse.

Sensing, correctly, that all attention was on him, Captain Disco saw this was his chance for the coup de grace: THE PENIS PISTOL! He started to remove it from his pocket… at which point one of his friends MARCHED, tutting and shaking his head, to the front of the stage and CONFISCATED the item. Enough was enough!

May 22, 2008

My Exciting Life In ROCK: ‘This Is Not A Library’

Filed under: Uncategorized, mj hibbett — mjhibbett @ 12:51 pm

When I write about these gigs I usually look back at my old webpage blog entries to see what else was going on around then, and sometimes I notice certain ideas or CONCERNS popping up again and again, betraying my state of MIND at the time. Reading around the release of our second album ‘This Is Not A Library’ - and, in fact, for much of the THREE YEARS before then - I can’t help but notice one specific phrase cropping up again and again. “I think the album’s almost finished!”

Honestly, it’s a bit embarrassing QUITE how often this pops up, starting with “This’ll be finished soon!” around 2000, changing to “It’s almost finished” mid-2001, and then becoming “This is it! It’s finished NOW!” again and again in 2003. And by the way - 2003! Is it me, or does that seem like last year? I know it WASN’T, but whenever I hear people talk about Events Of 2003 I think “Eh? But that was the other week wasn’t it?” Maybe it’s because, for me, SO MUCH happened then that it’s still fresh in the mind. INDEED this would explain why the years 1988 and 1995 ALSO still seem fairly recent to me, as MUCH occurred in them.

Anyway, the reasons I kept thinking “It’s finished! Nearly!” are TWOFOLD. Firstly, there were a lot of MILESTONES passed during early 2003, like the end of recording, the end of mixing and the end of the big meeting in the pub to argue about the tracklisting. The second, probably more pertinent, reason I said it so often is that I REALLY wanted it to be true. The album that became “This Is Not A Library” was begun in 2000 not long after our first album, “Say It With Words” was released. One of the first songs finished was “Easily Impressed” which I got SO excited about I insisted on releasing as a single, thereby using up half the OTHER so far recorded songs as b-sides. A year or so later we’d nearly finished the NEXT batch of when I had a sudden SPLURGE and wrote a whole OTHER album’s worth of material which I felt HAD to go on THIS one, even if that meant turning it into an hour long MEISTERWERK.

I’d desperately hoped that everything would be finished by the end of 2002 as I was moving to London in the New Year, and that would make it even MORE difficult to arrange SESSIONS in Leicester. Unfortunately EFFICIENCY is RARELY part of the Game plan Of ROCK, so I ended up having to come BACK to Leicester a number of times to finish it off, and when the whole thing was FINALLY recorded and mixed I said “THERE! That’s it! It’s DONE!”

It wasn’t. A few weeks later I had to go back and put all the tracks in order and, crucially, fix THE GAPS. THE GAPS are pretty much THE most important thing about compiling an album - never mind the songs themselves, never even mind what order they go in (and surely, that’s easy - Best Song / Fast Song / Slow Song to start with, end Side One [YES SIDE ONE] with Weird Song, start Side Two [YES] with Second Best Song, end with Longest Song, then fill in the rest from there), it’s how much SILENCE there is in between each song that matters. The dread Automatic Two Second Gap speaks VOLUMES about how much CARE goes into some records.

Once THAT was done I proudly announced “It’s FINISHED!” on the webpage… only then to get embroiled in MASTERING. Technical Terminology Explained: MASTERING is when you pay a man £100 to press a button on a machine that makes everything sound louder. Next day I was singing for all the world to hear “that’s the final thing, AT LAST!” and the day after THAT I was having to sort out the ARTWORK, and THEN get on with the Multimedia Extras.

Technical Terminology Explained: CDs can hold two “sessions” of information on them, one is the actual music that plays in your CD player, the other is DATA your computer can read. “This Is Not A Library” came with a MASSIVE suite (SUITE!) of Dynamic Pages containing lyrics and sleeve notes for all the songs, demo versions, unused songs, a band history and a HUGE PILE of OTHER stuff because, well, just because I could fit it on and thought people might like it. It seemed to me - and it still DOES seem to me - that in a time when people can easily download the music to an album, one way to persuade them to buy a CD would be to put extra CONTENT onto them. It’s INCREDIBLY easy to do, you can put MOUNTAINS of stuff on a CD and when people realise it’s actually there they tend to be CHUFFED. And yet The Music Industry has never got behind it in any way and prefers instead to combat “piracy” by a) complaining b) trying to enforce ridiculous laws that will pay Phil Collins a tenner every time somebody LOOKS at a radio and c) CRYING. And why is this? Because they are IDIOTS.

ANYWAY, there was THAT, there was arranging distribution, writing press releases, getting mailing lists and all manner of OTHER things until finally, FINALLY, there was the real absolute LAST thing that needed to be done before it WAS finished: MANUFACTURING. Technical Terminology Explained: MANUFACTURERING is when you pay several men LOTS of money to spend several weeks avoiding your phone calls and promising delivery on days when nothing will happen before EVENTUALLY providing you with the CDs you asked for plus a random number of extra ones. Apparently CD plants are INCAPABLE of turning off The Machine at the right time, so you ALWAYS get extra copies of your album, which you have to pay for.

SO, after the traditional four or five attempts to get the CDs (including at least TWO days taken off work to sit by the door LEAPING every time someone walks past in case THAT’S the delivery van then ringing at 4.59pm to be told “Oh no, it won’t come TODAY - why would you think THAT?”) the day came when they FINALLY arrived. We didn’t get them ALL the first time, only a hundred or so as the rest weren’t ready, and I had to assemble them myself, but when I did, when I was actually HOLDING a copy of our album in my hand, I felt a massive RUSH of emotion, mixing joy, relief, DISBELIEF and FEAR all in one. Would it actually WORK, I wondered? I put it into the CD player, then a computer: ALL WAS WELL!

I went, of course, to the pub. The next week was spent sending out promo copies before myself and The Data On My Disc went on holiday to celebrate our second anniversary. Whilst we were away I WORRIED: would it all be worth it? Would people like it? Would anybody BUY it? Or would it just slip away into the ether, heard only by us and then forgotten?

I needn’t have worried. ADVENTURE was ahead!

May 20, 2008

My Exciting Life In ROCK: 14/6/03 - The Adelphi, Hull

Filed under: Uncategorized, mj hibbett — mjhibbett @ 11:32 am

The way an audience reacts at GIGS differs wildly around the country, but I think you can very roughly say that the further away from the middle you get the easier and quicker it is to get people on your side. For instance, I’ve always found that Leicester people can be somewhat harsh on bands they’ve not seen before while in Scotland everyone’s pretty friendly and/or forgiving. Audiences in London, of course, will applaud ANY old nonsense.

This latter explains a LOT, I feel, about the sort of rubbish show-off bands who go down well in the media and come to a sticky end as soon as they have to play outside the M25. MANY was the time, when I lived in Leicester, that The Latest Scene Sensation As Endorsed By Melody Maker (young people: ask your Dad) would come and play at The Princess Charlotte and go home in TEARS because the audience had stood in SILENCE, LOOKING at them while they performed their TERRIBLY CLEVER Art-Rock Metatextual Pile Of Old Bollocks. Sebastian spent HOURS in make-up, and the provincial clods never even SMILED!

I think the actual Line Of Little Reaction is a diagonal stretching from Barrow to Bridlington, and the further away in either direction you GET from that line the more VOLUBLE the audience will be. I mention my theory here because this particular gig was one of the closest I’ve ever played to The Line Of Little Reaction, and was, initially at least, one of the scariest.

The gig was local promoter Mr Eddie Bewsher’s birthday. We’d never met this esteemed gentleman before, but had been booked because Tom’s sister knew him, had played him our CD, and he’d liked it. Thus Tom drove me NORTH to his hometown, and I got my first taste of The Magic Of Hull. HULL! Where the telephone boxes are painted white! HULL! Nobody EVER goes there by accident, it’s not on the way to anywhere! HULL! After a while you realise it is a little bit of the Midlands, inadvertently placed in The North, and therefore LOVELY.

It really is a GRATE place - like STOKE, which I went to the other week, it’s the sort of city which Lazy Stupid Southern Comedians will make Lazy Stupid Jokes about, but when you GO there it’s lovely. I think the reason it’s slagged off so often is that it doesn’t make a very good first impression - as we drove round very rough looking, knackered housing estates, searching for the legendary Hull Adelphi I thought “But Tom, why have your brought me HERE?”.

Things only got worse when we found the Adelphi itself. The Adelphi is one of those venues everyone’s HEARD of (see also the Charlotte, Bull & Gate, York Fibbers etc) but which you’d not necessarily go to unless you had to. Knowing the sort of bands who’d played there in the past, and going by the name, I was expecting some sort of glamorously wasted THEATRE, a grand art deco building perhaps, or maybe a beautiful old cinema?

No. It’s a house. Not a theatre, not even a pub, but a HOUSE. We were a bit stunned to be driving down a long terrace, thinking “But there can’t be a venue HERE, surely?” to suddenly come across a “car park” (”mud bath”) next to a very dilapidated house with the front windows boarded up and a large extension round the back. “This is it” said Tom, nervously. We saw a man run past, chasing a crowd of children with a broomstick. In the distance a feral hound barked. Nobody wanted to be first out of the car.

We bravely got out and knocked hard on the venue door, eventually gaining access to the QUINTESSENTIAL Toilet Venue. When people NAMED this level of gig “The Toilet Circuit” it was surely The Hull Adelphi they were thinking of. It LOOKS a bit like a toilet but it SMELLS VERY VERY VERY much like one. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had many FANTASTIC nights there, but again, first impressions are not exactly brilliant.

We set up our gear and then headed out to sample one of the many delights of Hull: THE CHIPS. When you are in a Gigging Band you eat a LOT of chips, and the ones in Hull are definitely some of the nicest. Fully fed we headed back to the gig, were introduced to Eddie, and then went on stage to play.

It was SCARIFYING. Throughout most of our set almost EVERYONE in the room COMPLETELY ignored us, and those didn’t just GLARED. I got the distinct impression that I had committed some ALMIGHTY faux pas and that everyone was barely containing their RAGE, waiting until we’d finish before MURDERISING us!

We staggered off in almost total silence, and went to find a corner to sit in and get over it. For half an hour nothing happened, then gradually people started to come over to us, to say how much they’d enjoyed it. The trickle became an AVALANCHE and after another hour we had more drinks than we could manage in front of us and were being HUGGED again and again and again, as we started to meet a RANGE of lovely people who we would be seeing a lot MORE of over the following years. As well as the mighty Mr Bewsher himself - who, it turns out, is one of the nicest people you could meet, with a range of Bizarre Yet True Stories to challenge ALL comers - we met Dave The Gardener. I commented on the fact that he was one of the few people left these days who had an Actual Proper Job (he’s a Gardener, hence the name). “Yes”, he said, “My job is to find beautiful things and make them even more beautiful”. I was somewhat impressed.

As the evening drew to a close people started saying “See you in October!” It turned out we’d been RE-BOOKED without even knowing it, and were POWERLESS to resist. Hull, it’s GRATE!

May 15, 2008

My Exciting Life In ROCK: 7/5/03 - The Albion, Winchester

Filed under: Uncategorized, mj hibbett — mjhibbett @ 11:29 am

Although I wasn’t really doing many gigs around this time the ones I DID do were disproportionately in Winchester. There are many possible explanations for this - a burgeoning scene hungry for Hibbett Action, a wide range of fantastic venues or easy transport links - but the real reason was that my friend Ray was a student there, and so kept booking me to play his gigs. It is, it turns out, Who You Know.

This particular gig was in a pub recently taken over by a friend of his who made the CLASSIC mistake of all New Pub Owners throughout history: thinking gigs are a good idea. I’m sure even in prehistoric times, They Who Hit Stones Hard got booked to play a LOT of gigs by fresh faced new Mammoth Blood purveyors who’d never actually BEEN to a gig but HAD seen The Commitments and thought that ALL gigs were ram-packed booze-a-thons where a cheer would go up every half hour when the bar, just drunk DRY, was re-stocked.

The high hopes of such people are almost always DASHED, and I speak from EXPERIENCE as I have the distinction of being the first and subsequently ONLY artiste to play in all SORTS of pubs up and down the country, where excitable new publicans have decided Friday Night Is Band Night. In most pubs, especially Local Pubs, having some pillock SHOUTING through a PA system on your busiest night does rather tend to send people down the road to a quieter place, especially when it’s someone like me that pretty much nobody has heard of. My top piece of advice in these situations is, if offered, TAKE THE MONEY FIRST. Excitable New Publicans will often offer you HUGE piles of CA$H, unaware that this is not the norm, and if you wait until it’s all over, when it’s just you, him, and the guy who’s come to pick the PA up sitting in an empty pub half an hour before closing time, it’s very difficult to take it.

Actually, if any Pubs Down The Road are worried about new pubs opening nearby, do let me know - my skills as a SABOTEUR are obviously MIGHTY.

Anyway, this particularly night was something of an exception, as it went BRILLIANTLY. The evening started well with a set from the marvellous Mr Owen Tromans - Owen is a Surprisingly GRATE person to play gigs with. I say “Surprisingly” only because the type of music he plays sounds quite Serious and Complex, so you always expect him to sit and glower, contemplatively, from behind a single half of Difficult Continental Beer. This is not the case, indeed, many gigs in that area of the country have been significantly improved for me by a tiddly Mr Tromans greeting the announcement of songs with “GET IN! COME ON! GET IN!” Also, dancing around.

Owen also did me a MASSIVE favour in lending me his acoustic guitar pickup, one of those Dean Markley ones that you just pop in the central hole while you need it and then take out and wind-up when you’re done. It was BRILLIANT, so much so that I went straight out and got one myself - INDEED, I now have TWO, so I’m ready if the original breaks, but it has never done so. It felt like I was part of a Great Acoustic Tradition, as he’d been introduced to them by Mr Chris TT, and I must say it is one of the few pieces of Musical Equipment I would ever unequivocally recommend. It is BLOODY GRATE - stick that in yr adverts, Mr Markley!

Enhanced by this I had an absolutely AMAZING gig. I was sat in the corner of the pub and thought I’d be politely ignored, but ten minutes into the set the whole ROOM was singing along (with songs they’d never even heard before!), BELLOWING for more, and even going All Quiet And Teary Eyed when I did “I Can See Clearly Now” and “Fly Me To The Moon”. Even Old Guy With Dog, Supping Mild (a GENUINE example) smiled by the end of it, and as a direct result of his ASCENT I got to do an encore. It was FAB.

Afterwards we went back to Ray’s house, where there was a PARTY. Usually I would SHY AWAY from this sort of thing, preferring to get some KIP as I’m usually having to get up early next day to go home, but I was so ENERGISED I threw myself wholeheartedly into the MELEE. When a MARIJUANA DOOBIE JOINT got passed around I thought “Heck yeah! I smoked these when I was student, give it here!”

Unfortunately I had chosen to ignore one simple fact: that was a LONG LONG time ago. Since then DRUGS had changed somewhat, and also so had I - the old fashioned MELLOW styled POT that I had enjoyed was now a thing of the past, and I was taking walloping great TOKES (drug talk) on one of these new SKUNK affairs, and so soon found myself feeling A Bit Peculiar. The fact that I was now about ten years older (than me as a REEFER KING, also than everybody else in the room) meant that my only option was to go STRAIGHT TO BED.

This was a student house, so my accommodation was not quite as salubrious as one might have hoped for - in fact it was an inflatable lilo, on the hard kitchen floor. In normal circumstances this might have been OK, but my Altered State meant that I went on to spend a rather frightening 30 minutes ROLLING AROUND, falling - nay, BOUNCING - off my bed every two minutes, before clambering back on to WRESTLE with its ridges before flying once more into the kitchen table. In the end I had to CRAWL upstairs to the party and BEG to be allowed to kip in mein host’s bed. It was a POOR SHOW, but something had to be done.

When I woke up in the morning I discovered the room was SO untidy that I couldn’t find my glasses. I’d left them on top of a book, but as the floor was COVERED with books, also socks, guitars, newspapers and so forth, I had NO idea where they were and eventually had give up, GROPE my way to the door, and ask for some help. When you’re already conscious of being much older than everybody else, having to say “Can someone help me find my spectacles? I’ve forgotten where I put them, and can’t see well enough to find them on my own” doesn’t really help!

May 13, 2008

My Exciting Life In ROCK: 31/8/02 - Bearwood College, Wokingham

Filed under: Uncategorized, mj hibbett — mjhibbett @ 12:44 pm

Wokingham! Scene of so many GRATE ROCK EVENTS like… er… Actually, this may well have been the Premiere Wokingham Rock Event EVER, for LO! It isn’t exactly a Rocking Hood.

I got asked to do this gig by someone who’d seen me accidentally at the Bull & Gate - she was one of the MANY people over the years who’d gone there to see a friend’s band and hadn’t realised that you don’t HAVE to stick around and see the other acts, and so had ended up seeing ME. Draw your own morals from that particular story, but for me it meant a LOVELY day trip out to a part of the countryside that The Likes Of Me very rarely get to see.

I say “Likes Of Me” because Bearwood College is a Private School, and by golly HECK didn’t it look like it - when I finally got to the entrance I had to walk past the Porter’s Lodge and down a lengthy wooded driveway towards the main house, with sounds of MOLESWORTH echoing round my head. By the time I got to the front door my FORELOCK was profoundly tugged and my workmen’s hat was clutched apologetically in both hands. It was all I could do to FORCE myself through the front door, rather than going round the back to the Tradesman’s Entrance.

The gig was part of someone’s birthday party, which was all taking place in a couple of rooms downstairs which looked out onto the LAKE! The school had its own lake, also, I think, a GOLF COURSE! By golly, at my school we thought it was swish having permanent buildings, but this was something ELSE. I spent the first hour or so there being IMPRESSED - this nearly always happens to me when I come into contact with The Super Posh, my first reaction is AWE which gradually but inevitably mutates into CLASS WAR.

THIS time, however, it changed into sadness, as myself and the PALS who’d come with me went for a bit of a wander round the rest of the building. Once past the YACHTING TROPHIES (yachting trophies!) you got to the dormitories… and the air of abandonment and despair was PALPABLE. Just standing outside the door you could feel the years of tearful children left there for months on end by parents too concerned with making money to waste time seeing their own offspring. The worst of it was that you knew the poor little kids dumped in this place would spend the next several years being trained to BE the kind of “success” and money-fixated people who would go on to do exactly the same thing to their OWN children, and then lecture the rest of us about how to live OUR lives.

All right, maybe this WASN’T an exception to the inevitable descent to CLASS WAR, but at least this time I wanted to give our moneyed oppressors a bit of a cuddle BEFORE putting them up against the wall. That’s not a bad manifesto really, is it?

ANYWAY, after all THAT I returned to the party, where the assembled THRONG of Teachers (for that is what they were, and why they’d got the use of the school) were getting progressively DRUNK, as Teachers in a throng will always DO. Soon it was time for me to do MY set, and I had a FINE old time - in fact I got the best EVER reception for the song “If You’re Too Turned On”. It’s about a) using the images of politicians to forego orgasm and so b) how some of the most hateful politicians can inadvertently do SOME good, and THUS has a middle bit which goes:

Oh Enoch Powell, Enoch Powell
Did you think you’d be remembered
As the face that helped a thousand nights
Go on five minutes more?

Oh Enoch Powell, Enoch Powell
You are the loch-keeper of love
There is a river that you’re holding back
But it’s not made of blood

USUALLY this bit would get, at best, a SNIGGER as someone worked out what I was on about, but THIS time I could SEE the moment when one of the teachers suddenly TWIGGED (NB that it’s a river of MAN MILK), as he GUFFAWED so heartily that he fell off his chair! It was FANTASTIC!

After that there was nowhere else to go but down, so we didn’t hang around very much longer - the nibbles had been nibbled, our beer was drunk and so were we, and we headed off to get the train home, away from the dappled sunshine flicking through the trees in the drive, and the tear-washed pillows of children learning about the meaning of money.

We had pasties at Reading Station on the way home too. It was GRATE!

May 8, 2008

My Exciting Life In ROCK: 11/7/02 - An abandoned factory in Hackney, London (CANCELLED)

Filed under: Uncategorized, mj hibbett — mjhibbett @ 1:24 pm

This was due to be a COLOSSAL weekend - a Friday off work seeing Oasis in Finsbury Park , a Saturday dashing round London, a Fighting Cocks gig, and then my OWN gig in Cosmopolitan Hackney on Sunday. What could possibly go wrong?

I was forewarned about possible catastrophe with the Oasis gig, as I’d looked at the running order and noted that all the other bands were APPALLING. Oasis, like many many MANY other really good bands, inspired countless copyists who saw the arrogance, the swagger, the simple-minded Beatles copyism and the unimaginative music and thought “AHA! THAT is what people like about Oasis, I shall COPY them!”, failing to note that the reason people like them is the IMMENSELY GRATE SONGS [NB first 3 albums - YES I SAID THREE - only] which are SO GRATE they actually get OVER everything about them that is annoying. Unfortunately it seemed that Oasis THEMSELVES didn’t realise this, so we had an afternoon of dreary chancers to look forward to, culminating in the dreariest of ALL dreary chancers, The Charlatans. Has ever a band been more aptly named? The only way it could be bettered is if they were called The Band Who Sound Like A Knock-Off Version Of Whoever Was Cool Last Year (e.g. Stone Roses, Primal Scream, Oasis) Whose Next Album Will Probably Sound Suspiciously Like Amy Winehouse, But With An Organ.

I supposed it’d be harder to fit onto posters. Anyway, forewarned is forearmed and so we took the only sensible action: we got horribly horribly BRILLIANTLY drunk. It was GRATE! We BELLOWED along with everybody else when Oasis came on, and the only unpleasant incidents were a) my friend Mileage getting separated from us and ringing up, almost in tears, saying “Help! I’m stuck behind an Ice Cream Van and I can hear The Charlatans!” and b) me becoming SO ANNOYED at my inability to carry a soggy cardboard tray full of beer that I THREW it to the floor… and then remembered it had cost forty quid. And I hadn’t been the one to pay for it.

Next day I was up and about and ZIPPING round The Museums Of London - my top tip, The British Library Museum. BEST! MUSEUM! EVER! It’s like someone said “Hmm, these other museums are getting a bit lippy, a bit uppity, like they think they’re better than us. Let’s make EVERYTHING in our very small single room museum SO AMAZING they will never even THINK to challenge us again”. For LO! THAT is what it is like.

In the evening we went to see The Fighting Cocks at a swanky DO in a grotty abandoned Factory in Islington - the sort of place SO swanky that there’s porn on all the TV screens and the beer costs a fiver. It was VERY London. When they’d finished their bit we went back to the pub: MUCH better.

By the time it got to Sunday, then, I’d had QUITE the Rocking Weekend and was getting a bit nervous about my OWN gig later that evening, especially as the organiser kept ringing and saying “Yeah, the party’s been going on all night, there’s hundreds of people here, still dancing. The sound system is MASSIVE!” I was a bit worried about how hundreds of spaced out ravers would react to ME suddenly walking onstage and singing to them. Badly, I thought.

I was also afeared of how I’d get home - if this WAS a massive all night DO then chances were I’d EITHER be there myself for a long old time OR not be able to get on until it’d all finished, and so I decided to book, and pay for, another night in the B&B I was staying in. Reassured, at least on that level, I set off to Hackney.

Hackney! When they write the big list of Lovely Places To Visit I would GUESS that Hackney will NOT be on it! Hackney! You can smell it from a distance! Hackney! Where they have England Flags hanging up from many of the houses when there isn’t any football on! Hackney! It’s shit!

When I arrived all of the above preconceptions were CONFIRMED within feet of the station - feet which struggled to avoid dog mess and skipped ahead of scary eyed LOONIES staggering around streets that appeared to be lifted from a VERY low budget post-apocalyptic action film. My FEARS only grew as I got closer to the venue, which I could hear from a LONG way off. Hordes of red-eyed bleary faced crusties staggered around the entrance, and not the lovely sort of crusties whose dogs you meet on marches or at festivals, but the other sort, the ones who prefer heroin to cider.

I stood outside the building thinking “This is REALLY a bad idea, isn’t it?” and rang the promoter. I had to stand outside for fifteen minutes or so in FEAR for my phone and myself before he eventually picked up, and told me that, as the sound system was STILL going on and as there’d been VIOLENCE towards the LAST person who’d tried to switch it off, MAYBE it was best to cancel it.

I didn’t know whether to be relieved or annoyed, so decided to try both, and stomped off back towards the station. There was a pub on the way, where there were a suspiciously LARGE number of scary looking men sitting at tables talking to a STREAM of other, SCARED looking men, who kept popping in to give them money. I’d diverted some pals from the “gig” to the pub, and together we drank a hasty pint - the barmaid, obviously a customer of the men at tables, seemed rather confused when I asked for beer.

Just as we were leaving the promoter arrived, apparently dropping in to tell us that he didn’t have any money to buy himself a drink with… and hinting via eyebrow waggling that I could help solve this problem. After paying for a whole extra night’s accommodation and being I was SO annoyed about the whole thing that I reacted by saying “Oh dear” and LEAVING. THAT is how annoyed I was, A LOT!

I got home to my B&B with at least an hour to go before the last train to Leicester would have left, STEAMING with IMPOTENT RAGE about the whole thing. As you may have noticed from other entries, doing slightly crappy gigs is something I actively ENJOY, as is NOT having to do SUICIDAL ones, and I’m hardly a stranger to slightly incompetent promoters for whom I travel many miles to do inevitably crappy gigs, but still. He made me go to Hackney!

May 7, 2008

My Exciting Life In ROCK: 11/06/02 - The Princess Charlotte, Leicester

Filed under: Uncategorized, mj hibbett — mjhibbett @ 11:06 am

Those with a KEEN EYE will have seen that the gap between stories has suddenly grown massively, and that’s simply because I didn’t do many gigs at this point. There were several reasons for this, including an attempt at house buying, the business of LOVE, but mostly the FACT that we were recording an album full of home-made samples, string sections and double-tracked euphoniums. That sort of thing takes TIME.

As stated previously, one small addition to the time taken was just how GRATE it was working with Mr Kev Reverb. He’d always have a tale to tell, whether it be buying Limes for Andy Williams, touring with Crazyhead in Germany, or being on the road with Iggy Pop, and there’d always have to be a break to admire his massive collection of Club Band Promotional Pictures, my favourite being the fabulous RAZZLE, featuring a husband and wife team with more than a HINT of mascara covering black eyes. For both of them.

One of Kev’s finest moments was around this time when I popped in to do an emergency mix of our World Cup Single. We’d originally released this four years previously and had decided to have another go this year with a re-written and re-recorded version. Someone had heard that Simon Mayo was having a competition for World Cup songs on his radio station, so I hastily booked a session with Kev to finish it off so we could get it send in.

Next day I was stood outside the building where Kev’s studio was based, and happily greeted him as he walked along the road. “Hello!” he said “What are you doing here?” “Er… meeting you to mix a single?” I said, panicking suddenly. “Fucking hell Hibbett”, he said, not for the first time - the people who worked the reception desk for the building seemed to be chosen mostly for the youth, how much they liked Conference League Punk Bands of the late 70s, and how closely their IQ matched the number of eyeholes in their boots. MANY MANY MANY were the times I’d book a session only to turn up and find the feckless children on the desk had been too busy discussing Peter And The Test Tube Babies b-sides to actually bother to WRITE DOWN OUR BOOKING, and this was on of those occasions.

Kev, however, was an absolute hero. We RAN upstairs, switched the desk on and RACED through, getting the whole mix pretty much finished within 20 minutes, at which point the band who’d actually booked the session arrived. Kev did the final mastering later that day in his own time and, bless him, burnt it to CD and put it into the post to Mayo for me.

It never got played and nobody ever bought it, but that’s not the point. Mr Reverb, he was a HERO to us.

The only real downside of this was that we convinced ourselves that Kev’s benign approval of our works meant that we were as ROCK as he was. At that time he was part-time bass player in Zodiac Mindwarp (this was when they’d been taken up on a Lordly Whim by Alex From Blur, and when they WEREN’T doing gigs for London Literary types it was Kev who took over the four string) and, as they’d got a gig coming up at The Charlotte, we thought it’d be GRATE if we could do the support gig.

This was clearly a mistake.

Things got off to a pleasant start when we arrived to find the Mindwarp doing their soundcheck. Kev was slumped over his bass in the traditional Fed-Up Semi-Session Player pose, but when he saw us he immediately perked up and went in to FULL ON ROCK GOD mode, much to the surprise of the rest of the band who had never seen him move so much. That, however, was the last fun we’d be having for a while as, even during our own brief soundcheck, we quickly realised that in actual fact we really didn’t rock at ALL, not even a little bit. The nice thing was that the audience were so CONFUSED by this complete absence that they couldn’t even bring themselves to be nasty to us, so either filtered it out of their minds completely and had a chat instead or went away for a drink. There have been several occasions - not THAT many, but more than I’d've liked - when we have absolutely DIED on our ARSES, and this was one of the worst, with the almost total lack of reaction from a pretty sizable crowd only rubbing it in harder. After us a Proper Heavy Metal Band, the sort that in happier times I would openly SCOFF at, came on and threw themselves around, YELPED as if their lives depended on it, and generally showed us how, in this particularly MILLIEU, it really ought to be done.

By the time Zodiac Mindwarp came on those of us who were sticking around had taken comfort in BOOZE, and so were ready to enjoy ourselves. We did, although it was a little odd at times, as they’d finish their hit song “FUCKED BY ROCK” with a massive ZANG, we’d all applaud, and then they’d do it again. And again. And again. Or maybe their hits all sounded the same when filtered through BEER, I don’t know, but it was certainly very ROCK. At the end of the set they STORMED off stage, Zodiac arms aloft, egging on the visibly excited crowd, and slammed the door behind him. The room went wild, there was shouting and clapping and general RACKET for several minutes, with no sign of them coming back onstage.

“What a SHOWMAN!” I thought as the crowd noise built up again in response to the no-show, stamping their feet and shouting for MORE MORE MORE. Again, nothing happened, and it was only as the encore calls began to ebb that we started to notice a rhythmic banging noise. I was stood near the edge of the stage, and realised it was coming from the Fire Exit… which the whole band had STORMED out through and were now locked behind.

I opened the door to reveal a ruffled, rather deflated Zodiac Mindwarp. The crowd looked at him, he looked at them. He raised his hands in the air, shouted “ROCK!” and ran BACK onto the stage to do an encore of one of their massive hits.

It was “FUCKED BY ROCK” again. It was FANTASTIC!

May 1, 2008

My Exciting Life In ROCK: 26/05/02 - Johnny Gogogogo’s Living Room, Leeds

Filed under: Uncategorized, mj hibbett — mjhibbett @ 11:51 am

As you may have noticed, I play a lot of gigs that are not entirely overwhelmed with people. “Sparse” would be one way to describe them. “Pretty much empty” would be another. The NICE thing about this is that I am very very easily excited by the prospect of gigs where there’s GUARANTEED to be an audience, even if it doesn’t reach double figures.

So it was than when Mr Johnny Gogogogo (not his real name, apparently - Steve Gogogogo?) invited me up to Leeds to play at his Barbecue I gladly accepted - he’d explicitly stated there’d be at LEAST four or five people there! Come the day was whizzing Northwards by train with my guitar tucked into the overhead shelving space and as we travelled I couldn’t help but notice the darkening skies and, just past Sheffield, torrents of rain beginning to fall.

When I arrived at his house things had eased off a bit and people were gathering hopefully in the back garden around the fizzling barbecue, tentatively supping on cans of lager and realising that maybe they hadn’t needed to bring their sunglasses. We stood around having a chat and as spit after spot of rain blatted down on us we soon realised that a barbecue was not going to be an option today. The lack of barbecue is always pretty much FINE with me - even when I ate meat I never really understood the appeal, if I wanted to stand around shivering while eating undercooked food covered in insects I’d half defrost a sausage, roll it in ants from the bin, then stand near the fridge. At least I’d be able to watch telly that way.

Anyway, we went inside and had a much more Traditional British event: a GRILL. It was quicker, it was easier, and by HECK it was a lot warmer, and soon we were gathered in the Living Room where I was sufficiently beered up to be goaded into singing. To be honest, that isn’t ever a LOT beered up!

The only slight problem with this was that not ALL of Johnny’s housemates were particularly keen on the idea. They hadn’t minded so much when he was having some pals out in the back garden for the afternoon, but when they invaded the front room there were objections, and when they then started making a RIGHT BLOODY RACKET there were bound to be repercussions. Happily, and in line with the Traditional nature of events so far, this manifested itself in TUTTING and IGNORING. The best example of this was when one of the housemates came into the living room MID-SET to collect her car keys. GLARING sideways at Johnny she picked her way over the people sat on the floor, NUDGED past me, IGNORED the fact that I was sat singing at full pelt about The Peterborough All-Saints Wide Game Team (group B), picked up her keys, and then HUFFED her way out again, not saying a word and CERTAINLY not acknowledging that anything was going on.

I carried on with the bellowing undeterred. I am NOTHING if not A Complete Professional, though I bet if it’d happened to BONO he would have CRIED.

After the gig - and yes, I did do an encore, even though I had to edge round the side of the telly to establish that I’d gone “offstage” and wouldn’t be coming out from behind it until they shouted for more - there was time for more beer before getting the train home where I happily contemplated the fact that, even though I’d gone all that way to play in someone’s living room, I’d still played to more people (and pissed off less people) than at most of my normal gigs.

If I was after fame and fortune it would have depressed me, but as I wasn’t I celebrated with the warm Last Of The Four Pack can of beer that had been my payment on parting. HOORAH!

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