September 30, 2008

My Exciting Life In ROCK: European Championships Correspondent at 6Music

Filed under: Uncategorized, mj hibbett — mjhibbett @ 1:22 pm

One of the big INSPIRATIONS for releasing the “Shed Anthems” EP, and especially for having “The Fair Play Trophy (again)” on it, was the HUGE amount of FUN I’d had at Christmas when me and a HORDE of PALS had gone into Broadcasting House to record a version of it for Steve Lamacq’s New Year show. The THRUST of the show was that we were broadcasting from a year in the future, and so I’d done a lot of talking about how we’d released “The Fair Play Trophy (again)” as a single, and it’d been a MASSIVE HIT.

I guess Mr Lamacq must have felt some responsibility for making this HAPPEN, as come the summer he invited me in to be his European Championships Correspondent. The idea was that every week (he had a Sunday afternoon show at the time) during the championships I’d come into the studio to perform a BRAND NEW version of the song, with lyrics cunningly re-written to reflect events. This was all VERY exciting as I have long cherished the idea of being a ROVING SONG REPORTER. I LOVE writing songs to order, as it’s all the fun of songs without the hard bit of thinking of a THEME first, and the fact that I was going to be SWANNING into The BBC, as a TEAM MEMBER (if only briefly) was like a dream come true.

Just don’t mention Richard Stilgoe, all right?

Writing the first version of the song was a MASSIVE struggle - I don’t really know much at ALL about The Football, so had to do a LOT of research to make sure I didn’t mess it up, and only got it finished a couple of HOURS before I was due in. When we went on the air Mr Lamacq explained THE PLAN to The Listeners, then said “So, it’ll be a different version every week, but starting today he’ll be playing the original single version.” I was FLABBERGASTED! I’d SWEATED BLOOD over this version, and it turned out I could have got away with just doing the normal one!

The next week was no less difficult, especially as its first draft was REJECTED by The Grass On My Pitch and, when I sent it in a HUFF hoping to DISPROVE her opinion, by Official Fact Checker Mr Tim Pattison. As ever I went back to it thinking “PAH! What do they know?” and ended up writing a MUCH better new version. Luckily I put the new lyrics up on my webpage, as I LOST them on the way to the studio and, if it hadn’t been for BBC Printers, would have had to have done it all over AGAIN.

Mr Lamacq was away on official business that weekend so had pre-recorded the show mid-week, but in order for me to keep my bit as up to date as possible I waited until the FRIDAY before going to sit in, basically, a CUPBOARD with the Engineer Guy. BBC Engineering Guys are AMAZING. They really do know their stuff - I completely messed up the last verse but, rather than do it again, he managed to SPLICE it together with a re-take of the last bit, gaily LEAPING over my inadequacies in timing and inability to ever play anything the same way twice.

The next week was in some ways slightly LESS glamorous, as most of 6Music were off at Glastonbury, so the offices were DESERTED. However, this meant that, as Mr Lamacq was broadcasting LIVE from the site, there was a whole studio set up in Broadcasting House to accommodate ME doing a Live Satellite Link-Up. This was a WHOLE lot of fun, though I do fear that, without someone in my eye-line doing “please stop talking now” GLARES, I may have BLATHERED ON just a touch.

The nicest thing was that I was getting USED to it all, especially things like me and Tim’s weekly Football Conference (he moved from FACT Checker at the start to LYRICS PROVIDER by the end, he’s very good a IDEAS is Tim) and the whole experience of FLOUNCING into Central London of a Sunday afternoon to BROADCAST to listeners everywhere. I thus became very RELAXED - everyone else was dashing about ensuring the show went to plan, I just sat back and, well, YACKED ON.

So it was with a tinge of SADNESS that I rolled up next week to do my LAST session… although this was somewhat mitigated by rolling up with THREE Validators and assorted CHILDREN to do a final BIG BAND version. We’d played a gig in Leeds the night before so came down EN MASSE still filled up with ROCK. We got there nice and early so we’d have time for a bit of a practice in THE HUB. I’ve not been in recently, and I know they’ve relocated it so that it may now be the ultra-glamorous ROCK NERVE CENTRE that it always SOUNDS like when they broadcast gigs from it, but back then THE HUB was the Staff Rest Room, so you’d always see members of STAFF wandering in and out. They also had a table football game in there, on which I taught Miss Edie Pattison the RUDIMENTS of SPINNING - if she’s ever representing Team GB in The Women’s Olympic Table Football, you will know who to thank.

Edie also helped Tim set up his drums, as we were ASSEMBLING them in THE HUB in order to enable a) a quick entrance to the studio and b) a PRACTICE. The odd thing was that Edie would PLAY the drums too, so you’d keep thinking “Eh? That was a bit of a JAZZ FILL for Tim wasn’t it?” and look over to realise it wasn’t him who’d played it.

When it was time to go in it became clear that we were MUCH greater in number than previous, and I distinctly recall Mr Steve Lamacq looking AFEARED as Tim set up his small, but still powerful, drum kit RIGHT beside him and proceeded to WALLOP it. After a quick chat we were OFF, and I have to say that, after the previous week’s EASE this was NERVE WRACKING. It’s often like that playing as a band - I get so CONCERNED about the WELFARE of everybody else that I FORGET that I’m meant to be playing MYSELF, so mess up, put everyone else out of joint, WORRY about it, and go round again in a DEADLY CIRCLE OF FEAR. That’s my excuse anyway - it’s because I CARE TOO MUCH.

Soon it was all over, to much CHEER and RELIEF, and after a brief trip to the PUB (which didn’t allow children inside, HENCE the brevity) we said our goodbyes, The Validators heading back to The Midlands and myself and The Hook In My Hit going to PUTNEY for an Otway gig. Otway gigs are always UTTERLY AMAZING and this one was no exception (especially as he was doing an All New Set), although I wasn’t entirely able to appreciate it due to being slightly DAZED. It slowly dawned on me that this had been one of the BEST things I’d EVER done in ROCK. Just to be ASKED to do something as a) proper b) DAFT c) laden with potential for DOOM was exciting enough, but then to go on and not only DO it, but have a WHALE of a time in the process, was something altogether more special. It really was like a dream come true, it was fantastic!

September 25, 2008

My Exciting Life In ROCK: 12/6/2004 - Hobgoblin, Brighton

Filed under: Uncategorized, mj hibbett — mjhibbett @ 2:56 pm

Looking back through my MIND for details of these gigs it’s funny the sort of things that spring to mind. It might be a song we played, a friend we made, or perhaps the subtle architecture of the venue itself. In this case the things that immediately spring to mind are Aldi’s supermarket and a young lady’s breasts.

For some people that’s pretty much the ideal Saturday night, but it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I thought this was going to be my chance to do an interview for a National Magazine and get a proper live review - the journalist in question was extremely keen on coming and had emailed me a couple of days before to make sure it was all going ahead, so on the train down from London I’d been rehearsing some Witty Remarks and Telling Points which I wished to get across to The Kids. Once I arrived at The Hobgoblin - a pub which had all the signs of being a ROCK pub in normal life, by which I don’t mean gentle hints, but ACTUAL SIGNS saying “ROCK” - I got a telephone call from him, telling me that his excitement at the prospect of talking to ME hadn’t extended quite as far as checking which date it was happening, and that he was actually meant to be doing something else that night. Ah!

THUS it was that I went upstairs feeling slightly DESPONDENT, finding the area DESERTED except for The Lovely Brothers, having a VERY Lovely Brothers emergency. For those who’ve never SEEN The Lovely Brothers a) please rectify the situation IMMEDIATELY and b) you should know that they’re a sort of punk rock/baroque performance theatre/comedy prog rock outfit, KIND OF like Jilted John crossed with Caravan crossed with a TERRIFYING art collective from the 1970s. Actually, the thing about The Lovely Brothers is that DESCRIBING them makes them sound like PRECISELY the sort of band I would usually LOATH, but when they PLAY it all suddenly makes an ALARMING sort of sense.

The emergency was that they were missing a drum pedal, and that the owner had gone to a RESTAURANT with it. A restaurant? What sort of band has members who disappear into Restaurants with items of Percussion? Answer: The Lovely Brothers.

I made my way to the stage and commenced my soundcheck, during which something rather unusual happened: the venue FILLED UP. Normally when I’m soundchecking people FLEE, but this time they FLOODED in until the room was RAMMED. It was a hot hot night, and there was only JUST enough space for me to come off stage (signifying End Of Soundcheck) and then be PUSHED forward back onto it by the MASS of bodies, ready to ROCK.

It was AMAZING, also a bit SCARY, but I need not have worried as the gig went BRILLIANTLY. The only LOW point was when I did my song “Never Going Back To Aldi’s”. People just sort of LOOKED at me, incomprehending, and when I finished to scattered, half-hearted applause a lone still voice from the back of the room called out “We don’t have Aldi’s in Brighton. We have Lidl”.

Ah. That would explain it then. Things soon picked up though and by the time I finished with a version of “Boom Shake The Room” SO LOUD that the ROCK LANDLORD had to wiggle his finger in his ear and tut theatrically while sweeping up falling plaster downstairs (probably) it was all getting a bit OVERWHELMING. The situation was only added to when a HORDE of people (six of them!) bought CDs, and I caught sight of a young lady striding PURPOSEFULLY towards me with a pen. I was suddenly struck with FEAR - as I say, it was a hot night and she was wearing a low-cut top, so when she LEANT FORWARD and asked for my autograph I was TERRIFIED. Yes, I know this is the OPPOSITE of the correct ROCK attitude, but the idea that she wanted me to write on her KNOCKERS (medical terminology) set me QUIVERING with DREAD. What was the correct etiquette for doing so? Was I allowed to hold onto them to get a grip? And how on earth would I explain it when I got home?

LUCKILY she then proffered an ARM, and I realised that THAT was what she was after. PHEW. In the circumstances, LIMB SIGNING seemed quite normal and sedate, although it’s not something I’d ever done before or since. I don’t know if it was the ROCKNESS of the pub, the hot evening or the SEA AIR, but at the time it seemed no more remarkable than thanking somebody for coming.

After me there was the MARVELLOUS Anal Beard, a band who were frankly too a) TUNEFUL b) NICE for their name and then The Lovely Brothers. As well as being hard to describe, The Lovely Brothers are also, for some reason, always SIGNIFICANTLY MORE GRATE than I ever remember them being. When arranging my travel for the evening I’d been AT EASE about the fact that I’d have to leave before they finished, but stood watching their first couple of songs it was INCREDIBLY difficult to DRAG myself away from the monstrous theatre of absurdity and ROCK that they were laying on.

On the train home I deeply REGRETTED the fact that I’d missed the bit where they all stripped off their jumpsuits and did press-ups while singing about Arnold Swarzenneger. As I say, it’s difficult to describe, but I bet it was BRILLIANT.

September 23, 2008

My Exciting Life In ROCK: 11/6/2004 - The Grapes, Sheffield

Filed under: Uncategorized, mj hibbett — mjhibbett @ 4:32 pm

This was a night of Behaving Like A Proper Grown-Up Band… mostly. The Properness got going right from the start in that we were HEADLINING - not just going on last, no, but Actually Properly Headlining, with our name the biggest on the posters and EVERYTHING!

Said posters were pretty DARN exciting, advertising as they did support from Peter Green and James Taylor. Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac and James Taylor of… er… James Taylor? Well, no, not really, just a chap called James Taylor (who I don’t think realised he had a slightly more famous name sake) and the Pete Green who was THEN known also as Pete From The Regulars and is now of course known as THE Pete Green, all-round acoustic troubadour, songsmith, and owner of a Corporate Juggernaut. I recently played a gig with him where somebody DID ask if he was Peter Green from Fleetwood Mac - you’d think that’d happen ALL the time, but apparently not.

Anyway, the Proper Headline Band finished their Proper Headline Band Soundcheck (first!) and then Tim and Emma went off to their HOTEL. Hotel! Get them! Nowadays of course I am a regular visitor to the Ibis’s and Travelodges of this world - when they say “Have you stayed with us before?” I chuckle KNOWLEDAGEBLY, raising an eyebrow as if to say “Look upon me, I am a MAN OF THE ROAD! No, not a Gentleman Of The Road, that’s Grandparents’ Polite for TRAMP. I mean I ROCK… can I have my key card now please? There is a complimentary tea bag with my name on it upstairs” - but in 2004 we were all JUST getting used to the idea that maybe spending 30 quid or so on a ROOM for the night might be WORTH it for the ability it gave us to drink BEER.

With the Pattisons savouring their Complimentary Shortcake Biscuits the rest of us retired to the downstairs bar to sample some BEER and had a fully fledged DISCUSSION about Promotional Opportunities, Television Ventures and Recording Plans. Man alive, it was like being on a MAJOR LABEL or something! All right, it all occurred in a pub and nobody took our ideas into the secretarial pool to have them typed and faxed to offices in other territories, but STILL. To celebrate these momentous discussions (I’ve no idea what we agreed, but I’m sure it MUST have been momentous) we went off to DINE, enjoying the traditional Band TEA of Chips And Cheese. I LOVE Chips and Cheese, although I was a little alarmed this time by the fact that the chap in the chippy took my bag of chips off to a SECRET PLACE round the back to put the cheese on. This is NEVER a good sign - when Bar Staff do it with your PINT it is a WARNING, and it carries across to all such items. The cheese did not seem to have spent a lot of time in the company of ANY dairy animals, though I suspect it might have been used to cushion boxes of electrical equipment in transit.

As I mentioned a little while ago, at this time Tim had JUST taken over responsibility for SETLISTS. He has since FLOURISHED in this position, though the early days did see some difficulties in aligning his desire to play ENTIRELY DIFFERENT SETS every night with my desire to play something we had a chance of getting to the END of without completely messing up. On this evening we stumbled on a startling solution - Frankie suggested we start NOT with the usual “Things’ll Be Different”/”The Symbol Of Our Nation” combo, which we’d been starting ALL gigs with since they were released as the first two songs on Rolling Stone’s Album Of The Year (no, I don’t intend to stop going on about it any time soon), but with a DIFFERENT song! This seemed to completely SATE Tim’s desire for new stuff, and amazingly it DID make it feel like we were playing a different set to normal.

Never let it be said that these posts are not a MINE of ROCK TIPS: keep your drummer happy by starting with a different song every now and again!

It kicked off a GRATE set where, towards the end, I looked out and realised that not only had most people there come here SPECIFICALLY to see us, but that they were DANCING and SINGING ALONG! It was FANTASTIC - whenever that happens it’s a MASSIVE thrill, and it NEVER happens enough for us to get even VAGUELY blasé about it. Not by a long stretch. Such was the GOOD VIBE that it led to ENCORES, which this time featured our TRADITIONAL (well, it would have been if we’d DONE many) encore choice of “Fat Was A Feminist Issue”. This was our big AVANT JAZZ song which featured me eschewing guitar in order to do BEAT poetry, and so it always led to some LARKING ABOUT. This time there was a lot of STAGE BUSINESS about the fact that I had consistently and repeatedly MOCKED Mr F A Machine over the years for his tendency to go on LUNATIC DIETS. I particularly remember the time he decided to ONLY eat potatoes for a week. Or was it NOT eat potatoes? Possibly both, one after the other. Anyway, with that in mind you can imagine his DELIGHT when I’d told him earlier in the evening that I’d recently tried the Two Bowls Of Special K Diet. This HAPPY BANTER led on to what I think is my favourite EVER heckle, when someone interrupted my discussion of DIETING by shouting “No, you’ve lost quite a bit of weight”. THANK YOU!

It was a brilliant night, the edge being only SLIGHTLY taken off it by the fact that Tom and I had a 90 minute drive back to HIS house, so I only got a few hours sleep before having to get up at 7am next day in order to catch the train I’d pre-booked. It’s experiences like THAT that led me to come around to thinking that maybe, just maybe, a hotel room is WORTH it. Especially if you get a cooked breakfast!

September 18, 2008

My Exciting Life In ROCK: 27/5/2004 - The 12 Bar Club, London

Filed under: Uncategorized, mj hibbett — mjhibbett @ 2:29 pm

After all the talk here of gigs going wrong, or being frightening, or not happening at all, sometimes there comes along a gig which is just GRATE. THIS was one of them.

The reasons for the goodness were the standard reasons for Good Gigs since time immemorial. Lots of my friends came, also other people, they all enjoyed it, they clapped, and I went home with my lovely girlfriend, DRUNK. If there are other Gig Performance Measures of any worth, I am not aware of them.

In fact, the only POSSIBLE way to improve that sort of gig is to get to do an ENCORE. Now, the ENCORE is a tricky subject in the world of ROCK - even SPEAKING of it feels subtly WRONG, as a) doing so may JINX the likelihood of further occurences and b) oh la-di-da, look at Mister ENCORE, aren’t we quite the STADIUM ROCK DANDY?

I shall be BRAVE however and speak of it, for the big question is: when do you do encores? It’s always annoying when you go and see a band, especially the sort of band who were once SIGNIFICANTLY more popular than they are now, and they go off having NOT played The Hit, thus DEMANDING that you call them back. All right, it’s all part of the RITUALS of ROCK, and nobody minds too much pretending that - oh wow! we all enjoyed the gig SO much we refuse to leave until the band come back on and do another song! - but when that happens there’s always the risk they’ll do ANOTHER “One From The New Album” and we’ll have to sit through ten minutes of THAT, and THEN do all the clapping again, just so when we get home and people ask we can say yes, they did do The Hit. Eventually, and with bad grace.

Some ARTISTES react to this with a hardline policy of NO encores, which in some ways is even MORE poncey. Saying “we don’t do encores” is like being one of those INTENSELY smug American teenagers who wear PROMISE RINGS, which basically say “YES, i am SO INCREDIBLY SEXY that MILLIONS of birds… sorry, LADIES would wish to have sex with me, but I am also SO AMAZINGLY GOOD AND HOLY that I am not going to take them up on the offer. Although I am not also so HUMBLE that I am not going to GO ON AND ON ABOUT IT.” I managed not to have any sex for HUGE SWATHES of my youth without having to have ANY kind of jewellry to help me. All I needed was body odour and SKULKING, it’s EASY!

So yes, saying “we don’t do encores” PRESUMES that you are constantly PLAGUED for them, and I personally think that when you go and SEE such a band then you should stop clapping IMMEDIATELY the final song finishes, leaving them to walk off stage in SILENCE. Hey, if they’re not going to do any overtime, why should we? Also, please turn the lights RIGHT UP so we can see them CLOCKING OFF.

Clearly there is a happy middle ground to be had, and I would suggest it is this: you do an encore when people ask PROPERLY. This has to be defined quite clearly - I’ve played with MANY Local Bands who think a single CLAP (technically known as An Applaur) qualifies as a DEMAND for more, and will DASH back on within SECONDS to inflict us with another ten minute bongo EPIC - and I would say that ASKING PROPERLY is when you’ve got offstage and the clapping has died down but then gone up a bit, with at least THREE people (at least two of whom you should not be directly related to or LIVING with) saying one of the following “More”, “Encore”, “Again, again, do another song” or “Hoorah”. I am available for legal consultation on the matter.

Anyway, this particularly gig DID see me doing an encore, but also having to explain the mechanism of encores to the audience. As I say, it all ROLLICKED along with everyone having a fine old time, and the room was FULL of applause (plural) as I finished. It was FAB. I was just clambering down from the stage as the clapping died away, when everyone stopped and GLARED at me. I turned around to see everyone being CONFUSED, also slightly disappointed, as I started to put my guitar away.

“Aren’t you going to do an encore then?” someone asked, sadly. “Er… it doesn’t look like it,” I said, having been lead to believe by the cessation of clapping that nodody wanted me to. “Unless anyone would like another song?”

Yes, I know, it is this kind of SHAMELESS VEGAS-STYLE SHOWMANSHIP that gets ALL performers a bad name - it’s one step away from inflatables, fireworks and a hydraulic dancing dinosaur - but I felt it was necessary this time as people clearly didn’t understand how the process worked. They soon got the idea though, and I was back on stage doing a final song within SECONDS.

It was a BRILLIANT gig, so brilliant in fact that my BRAIN woke me up at 6.30AM to tell me again how FANTASTIC it had been. I work for a University, so 6.30am is tantamount to the MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT - THAT’S how excited I was about it!

September 16, 2008

My Exciting Life In ROCK: 15/5/2004 - The Blue Posts, London

Filed under: Uncategorized, mj hibbett — mjhibbett @ 12:42 pm

This gig was a PRIVATE BOOKING. Every now and again someone will, perhaps foolishly, ask me to play at their birthday party, wedding or general DO, and I am always VERY happy to agree. Playing at someone’s PARTY is VERY difficult to mess up - everybody there will pretty much definitely be ALREADY drunk, ready and willing to have a good time, and even if you’re rubbish they can’t boo or throw things because you were specially invited by THE BIRTHDAY BOY! Best of all, if things DO start to go downhill you can always get everyone singing “Happy Birthday” and sneak out the back way, LEGGING IT for your escape vehicle.

This handy emergency plan was unnecessary on this occasion, although it was Slightly Scary in other ways. The DO was to celebrate the 30th Birthday of Mr S Hewitt, also known on the interweb as Carsmile Steve. The FRIGHTENINGS came when I took to the stage (i.e. the corner of the room where we’d cleared some space) and realised that the room was full of MUSIC BLOGGERS. At the time this was something NEW, EXCITING and on the very WISPY WHITE WATER bit of the CULTURAL WAVE, Web 2.0 was just a reading on Spiderman’s measuring jug, and if you wanted to have some kind of online diary/log book then by jiminy you had to work out how to do the HTML yourself.

This technological barrier had TWO effects on the kind of writing you got online - firstly it made it difficult (though not impossible) for GORMLESS WAZZOCKS to treat the world to the full list of videos of people being sick that made them ROFL, and secondly it meant that those who DID have the facilities to give opinion tended to be a bit EGGHEADED.

I was probably exaggerating internally for effect, but as I looked around the room I was SURE I saw people STEEPLING their fingers, raising quizzical eyebrows, and GAUGING the ALLUSIONS contained within MY OUVRE. I began somewhat NERVOUSLY, gradually persuading myself that they probably weren’t ALL thinking “His use of simile is naive at best” and that the people looking the MOST INTENSE probably just needed a wee.

Earlier on I’d been talking to someone who’d broken off halfway through a sentence to say “Hang on… aren’t you MJ HIBBETT?!??!” (JUST like that, with exactly that punctuation) and as we went along I realised that the BENEFIT of an audience who were actively interested in obscure music was that they might actually have heard some of my songs before. With this reassuring thought duly logged everything went FINE, especially when we got to the end and discovered together that Serious Music Bloggers know ALL of the words to “Boom Shake The Room”, and are not afraid to SHOUT them.

I “came off stage” (walked towards the bar) and suddenly found myself transported BACK into a PARTY. It had felt like a gig, SOUNDED like a gig, but as soon as I’d ended the last song I’d found myself WREATHED in sweat with adrenalin HIGH while everyone else turned back round to their tables went back to their in-depth arguments about Top 10s and ROCKISM.. I felt like I had been badly photoshopped into somebody else’s FLICKR set.

This feeling was soon EASED by the application of several pints of delicious, also CHEAP beer. The Blue Posts is a Sam Smiths pub, a chain which seems to pride itself on being THE place to take visitors to London who keep going ON about how expensive beer is in the capital. It shuts them RIGHT up - Sam Smiths do have pubs outside of London, although I don’t think the effect is quite as great there.

The other thing about Sam Smiths pubs is that nowadays they have a NO MUSIC rule. They SAY that this is so they don’t have to pay PRS, also to allow CHATTER, but I couldn’t help noticing that this policy came into force mere WEEKS after I’d played this gig…

September 11, 2008

My Exciting Life In ROCK: The Shed Anthems Radio Tour

Filed under: Uncategorized, mj hibbett — mjhibbett @ 11:46 am

One of my FAVOURITE parts of putting out a new record is when you get to go on the RADIO to talk about it. It doesn’t happen to me that often, to be honest, but when it does it’s GRATE.

Most of the reason for this is that, in general, people who work on the radio are LOVELY. It’s by no means UNIFORM across the professions but I HAVE found over the years that there are significantly less PILLOCKS doing RADIO than people doing Written Down Press. My SECRET THEORY is that if you’re doing RADIO stuff you’re more likely to START doing it because you’re enthusiastic about MUSIC and want other people to hear it, whereas when you start WRITING about music it’s because you want other people to hear your opinions about it. Is that fair? I have met several LOVELY people who earn their living writing about music, especially recently, and it may be that I’ve just managed to avoid SHOW-OFFs off of the radio, but it has GENERALLY seemed like that. Maybe another factor is that, in PRINT JOURNALISM, you can rave and HYPE something up safe in the knowledge that your readers will probably never HEAR what you’re talking about or weren’t AT the gig you’re reviewing. On radio you pretty much always have to PLAY the song you’re banging on about DIRECTLY after the banging on has concluded, so have to have the MATERIAL to back it up.

Anyway, like I say, getting to go on the radio is ACE, and I had TWO lovely visits to mark the RELEASE of the new EP. The first of these was for the now defunct b3ta Radio Show on Resonance FM. Back then their studios were based on London’s Famous Denmark Street, where all the music shops are. Swaggering down the road with my guitar I felt like a fully fledged member of The Rock Community, setting off to meet Mr Rob Manuel in the 12 Bar Club. As we’d never met in real life before and I said “You’ll recognise me because I’ll be the one with a guitar”. This was perhaps a bit of a daft thing to say, when meeting in THE Musician’s Bar on THE Musician’s street, so I ended up looking for the only person there WITHOUT a guitar, and that was Rob.

We went over the road to the studio and did a pretty LENGTHY interview and some songs, during which I FORGOT the words to “Hey Hey 16K”. Luckily Rob was wearing one of the first batch of “Hey Hey 16K” t-shirts which had the LYRICS written in full, so I performed the whole thing STARING at his chest. I also did the RADIO PREMIER of “The Lesson Of The Smiths” and realised, not for the last time, that trying to take out all the swearing as you go along isn’t quite as easy as it seemed before you began. There’s so many choices of MINOR SWEARS to put in instead of BIG SWEARS, you tend to get a bit distracted!

I introduced “The Fair Play Trophy (again)” by saying “And this is my new single”, and then felt a) like a bit of a ROCK WHORE and b) slightly GUILTY when I realised I was singing a song about THE FOOTBALL on what was, loudly and proudly, a HARDCORE GEEK show. I mean, it’s not like I’m NICK HANCOCK or anything, and YEARS go by without me going to see a proper match, but by the time it was over I felt like an INTERNATIONAL HOOLIGAN, FRIGHTENING local shopkeepers. Still, we finished with “Easily Impressed” and all was well - it’s good for sorting things out that song!

The other appointment was a week later when I headed out EAST to ESSEX, to do a live session for Phoenix FM in Brentwood. It’s a proper fully fledged Community Station now with Offices and a Wall Of Presenter Photographs, but back then it only had temporary licenses and was broadcasting from the top room of the local community centre. The night when I rolled up there was a TEENS DISCO going on downstairs in the hall, so I had to be ESCORTED in through a HORDE of surly looking 14 year old boys, LURKING around trying to look as if, at any moment, they might smoke a cigarette. Inside was a HELLISH NIGHTMARE OF SCREECHING, as all the 14 year old girls danced together and, well, SCREECHED.

We were grateful for the sanctuary of the (mostly) soundproofed studio, where I drank some Complimentary BOOZE (bought by the station, a.k.a. Steve and Paul) before doing an interview and SESSION. It was fun, if a little CRAMPED, as the room was so TINY that the other two had to sit VERY STILL while I played, otherwise I would have had an EYE OUT with my GUITAR. They also took a Publicity Picture, for the ANNALS, so I pretended I was playing a REALLY COMPLICATED JAZZ CHORD. Even though it’s pretend, you can tell that I’m doing it wrong.

The MOST exciting part of the evening though was getting a lift back from The Station Manager (Paul again), as he had GPS in his car (Global Positioning, I mean, not a selection of local doctors). It seems strange now but back then, FOUR YEARS AGO, I had never SEEN a GPS system and it was still a massive novelty, so I spent most of the half hour journey back to Leytonstone LOOKING at it, saying excitedly “LOOK! It knows we’ve turned the corner! AND THAT’S MY HOUSE!!!”

See, lifts home from the station manager - that’s the sort of thing you GET with Radio, it’s LOVELY!

September 9, 2008

My Exciting Life In ROCK: Shed Anthems

Filed under: Uncategorized, mj hibbett — mjhibbett @ 12:37 pm

Even while the mad whirligig of Hey Hey 16K Mania (that’s DEFINITELY what Future Historians will call it) was slowly dying down there was still WORK to do, as we moved forward in our Plan Of ROCK.

The plan for our next single came from MANY directions. First and foremost was that I’d had SO much fun singing “The Fair Play Trophy” on Steve Lamacq’s New Year show - especially the bit where I talked about what a MASSIVE hit it “had” become - that I fancied one last shot at releasing it. I also wanted to put out “Things’ll Be Different” from Rolling Stone’s Album Of The Year 2003 just as an excuse to go out and do some more gig, and there was also the small matter of the “Select-A-B-Side” competition, which rather required an A-Side to put it on with!

Thus was born “Shed Anthems”, the name chosen to AMUSINGLY echo “Terrace Anthems” (as in football chants) and “House Anthems” (as in The Dance Music). We REASONED that a) The Humble Shed is a GRAND metaphor for The Independent Record Label, being somewhere that a Gentleman might go to pursue his HOBBIES and b) one could argue that a Shed is next in the sequence after a Terrace (of houses) and a Single House.

I thought this was quite clever… until our distributors saw the title and categorised it AS a dance album, put it in completely the wrong category for ordering and, as it was an album, QUADRUPLED the dealer price! When I pointed that this error meant nobody would be able to find it and, even if they could, might BAULK at paying TWENTY QUID for it, they begrudgingly said they’d fix it but that it would take about a month to put it right in the catelogues and online stores. With this in mind they advised that we should delay the release by at least six weeks. I VERY SLOWLY and VERY CALMLY explained that perhaps this might have SOME SMALL DETRIMENTAL EFFECT, as it would mean we’d be releasing our Euro 2004 tie-in single TWO WEEKS AFTER THE COMPETITION HAD FINISHED.

Aaah, Distribution! Talk to ANYBODY who’s put their own record out and they will have their own DELIGHTFUL stories about the problems they’ve had with distributors. With some notable exceptions (and they’re VERY notable because they ARE such exceptions) most record distributors are inefficient, uncontactable and somewhat reluctant to COUGH UP CASH.

The first distributor we had was actually all right - OK, they never paid our invoices on time and had no idea what was going on, but they DID answer the phone and talk to us. This was largely because we KNEW the person who was working on our records, and when she left we pretty much never heard from them again. Our next distributor was fine for the first few months and then went DEADLY SILENT. We ended up having to go and visit their OFFICES, where MYSTERIOUSLY all of the people we usually spoke to were “out to lunch” (for three hours), but we were assured that everything was FINE… only for them to go bankrupt a couple of weeks later, owing us several hundred pounds and a LOT of CDs.

We spent a couple of years without distribution, taking advantage of the PAYPAL to sell our stuff directly to people who wanted it, and only returned to it for this EP in order to get it listed on Amazon, ready for the MASSIVE HIT that I had predicted on the radio. The experience only REMINDED me of how appalling they usually are. It would be two more years until we’d dip our toes in these waters again, and we had to go to the world of FOLK MUSIC to do it. The company who do our distribution for us NOW not only answer the phone, they also SEND emails, post sales sheets without being asked AT ALL, let alone threatened with legal action, and PAY UP promptly when you ask them. They’re lovely!

As I say, talk to ANYBODY who’s put their own record out and they will corner you for HOURS to RANT about this sort of thing - BE WARNED!

So ANYWAY, we conducted negotiations between band members as to what we’d put ON the EP and came up with a mix of Designated A-Sides, Chosen B-Side, and a couple of new songs. The first was one called “City Centres”, written after a long in-car conversation between me and Tim discussing how ANNOYING all those articles are that you get in Newspaper Supplements saying that all city centres are now EXACTLY THE SAME, just because they tend to have the same range of chains in them. As we AGREED, if you’re so witlessly dull that the ONLY THING you look at in a city centre is the names of the shops on the high street and completely IGNORE the architecture of the buildings, the landscape around them, the layout of the town itself or - here’s a thought - THE PEOPLE WHO LIVE THERE then yes, maybe if you’re particularly thick, they do look a bit similar, but otherwise NOT SO MUCH.

Another was “Let The Weird Band Win”, which was the first song we ever JAMMED as a BAND. JAMMING songs is a difficult and frightening terrain to navigate - you often find that a song which FELT like a MASSIVE GROOVE whilst In The Studio is actually just LONG AND TEDIOUS, and you always need a JAM CHAIRPERSON on hand to say “that’s enough verse - now perhaps a chorus?” ALSO all JAMMING is subject to the immutable rule of jam: the first song you try during ANY session will always turn out GOTHIC. This is TRUE and FACTUAL, and one can only assume the entire GENRE of Gothic Music came about because Siouxsie Sioux had a train to catch one day and didn’t have time to try again. “Let The Weird Band Win” was the SECOND song we did that day, and seemed to come out all right.

The final piece of the ROCK JIGSAW was the EP cover, and this was probably the easiest bit. For several years I had been staying over at Machine Mansions whilst visiting Derbyshire, and had come downstairs every morning to COVET the SHED of Mr Francis Albert Machine. It used to sit, LOOKING at me, from the end of the garden saying “Yes! I am a SHED! The birthright of any Englishman! Haven’t you got one then? AHAHAAAAHAHAHAA!” The picture on the sleeve of the EP is the view from his kitchen window and, oddly enough, is also NOW the view from the living room window is his new house, as he took his shed with him. I think he did it just to TAUNT me.

Thusly equipped with a fully functioning EP we were ready to ROCK, starting with a STRING of Radio Appearances. Next stop: BRENTWOOD!

September 4, 2008

My Exciting Life In ROCK: 9/5/2004 - Railway Inn, Winchester

Filed under: Uncategorized, mj hibbett — mjhibbett @ 11:59 am

Of all the political pressure groups in the world, pretty much my favourite is the Hunt saboteurs.

For starters they’ve got a RIGHTEOUS CAUSE - I partly grew up in the countryside and am of FARMING STOCK, but when I had some foxes ON MY LAND a few years ago I somehow managed to fight my COUTRYSIDE URGES and DIDN’T round up 30 (very close) relations, get dressed up like a bunch of radishes, mount horses and go riding over other people’s back gardens in the hope of watching some deliberately starved dogs rip the poor animal apart. No, I moved the cat plates further into the kitchen and kept the door shut so the foxes couldn’t smell it. It is the countryside way.

Secondly they are ADMIRABLY single issue. What do hunt saboteurs do? They sabotage hunts. EASY. My experience of Grass Roots Politics has constantly been BLIGHTED by people trying to turn EVERYTHING into a part of The Movement and, by doing so, impeding ANY progress, so that you can’t even organize a Jumble Sale for the scouts without first deciding what the committee’s position is on El Salvador.

The reason for this is possibly to do with the THIRD GRATE THING about them - they actually get off their arses and DO something. They don’t put up posters round town, they don’t spend all their time wording petitions and they don’t hold cocktails parties to garner support amongst movers and shakers in the media, they get up bloody early and go off and sabotage HUNTS. And THAT is probably why, fourthly, they are one of the few pressure groups to actually WIN. You know hunting? It’s ILLEGAL.

All right, yes, I know there’s still plenty of rich bastards out there going untruncheoned, still enjoying their “traditional” pursuit of forcing one bunch of animals to viciously murder another for their own amusement and getting away with it because, well, because they’re rich bastards. But still - the law is now on the side of GOODNESS and NICE PEOPLE, and that doesn’t happen SO often that we can let it go by without celebration.

And all THAT is a long-winded way of explaining what I was doing all the way down in Winchester, because this particular gig was a benefit for the local Hunt Sabs. Typically it wasn’t to pay for a fact finding mission or to arrange a workshop or pamphleteering, it was to buy a new motor for their LAND ROVER so they could piss off MORE rich bastards, with greater efficiency. HOORAH!

I was thus VERY happy to attend, but a little ALARMED by the publicity. One thing I DO find a bit odd about Hunt Sabs is that, like anti-Vivisectionists, they do seem a bit keen on showing you the most HORRIBLE pictures they can find. I mean, I get the point of it, to confront people with the REALITY of what they’re campaigning about, but does it really need to be on T-SHIRTS? So many times walking through town on a Saturday you’ll see anti-vivisectionists wondering why nobody will come near their stall, which is festooned with horrific images of animals in pain which make you want to RUN AWAY. WH Smiths must be chuffed to bits when they set up outside Dixons, and find a FLOOD of people dashing in to escape.

And this was very much the case here. My friend Ray, the organizer, had pinned a HUGE photograph of a dismembered fox to the door. To even get INTO the venue part of the building you had to push against its AGONISED FACE and, to be honest, if I wasn’t going through to do a GIG I would have thought twice about it myself. Surely a nice picture of a Basil Brush in an oily pair of dungarees, fixing the motor, would have been more appealing?

The gig itself was lovely, even though my bit did suffer somewhat from so much waffling (I know, I know, it’s hard to believe) that I had to cut out quite a few songs. It was also my last gig in Winchester, as the aforementioned Ray had finished his course and was heading home to the Midlands. It was a shame, as I always had a good time in Winchester, although a few months later I would begin a GRAND TRADITION of gigs concerning Ray that would continue to this very day.

September 2, 2008

My Exciting Life In ROCK: 7/5/2004 - The Adelphi, Hull

Filed under: Uncategorized, mj hibbett — mjhibbett @ 9:57 am

Even when you’ve got an Album Of The Year in Rolling Stone and an International Internet HIT on your hands you still need to do GIGS and so at the peak of what, surely, future sociologists will call Hey Hey 16K MANIA we headed off to HULL. As I detrained I was ALARMED to find that there was no security on hand to hold back the baying crowds, and I can only assume they’d cleared the station especially for me, as despite the STORM of publicity about our arrival the station seemed deserted. Earlier that week I’d done a telephone interview with the Hull Daily Mail which, I was GLEEFUL to discover, was printed in full, and when we got to the venue I found that our pal Mr Eddy Bewsher had gone to town on all local papers and, perhaps more importantly, his massive social circle, to ensure that people turned up. It was like being in BROTHER BEYOND or something!

Eddy needed to extra work because the only people playing all night was US. For some mad reason I’d decided that the best support act to have for MJ Hibbett & the Validators was a promising young solo artiste called MJ Hibbett, who wasn’t likely to bring in all that many people who weren’t already coming for the main act.

Still, as Morrissey teaches us, when you’re the headline act you can choose who you LIKE, and this particular act went onstage and had a WHALE of a time. Supporting myself meant that I wasn’t able to do some of the songs I ALWAYS do, like “The Lesson Of The Smiths” or “Easily Impressed”, as we’d be playing them as a band, but it was BRILLIANT to do “Boom Shake The Room” last, get everyone singing along, and know that I’d be able to come back later for MORE.

Tim had recently been TASKED with responsibility for writing setlists - INDEED this may well have been the first time he acted officially in this capacity. It might sound like an easy job, but it’s a MINEFIELD of ETHICS and POLITICS. Certain members of the band would prefer to do pretty much the same set every night, as that way they can be sure they ONLY do songs that a) go down well and b) they know the words to (I wonder if you can guess WHICH member of the band that is?). OTHERS have a seemingly SUICIDAL urge to do songs we’ve either not played for YEARS or have NEVER played, and BAULK at the idea of playing songs that people might actually LIKE. THUS the nearest The Validators ever get to proper On The Road ROWS is when Tim tries to miss “Easily Impressed” off the end and I THEATRICALLY raise my eyebrows at him until he puts it back. It’s just like METALICCA really.

THIS time Tim had “hilariously” written “One Last Party” as the last song. This was the closing song on Rolling Stone’s Album Of The Year, which featured no guitars, bass or violins but a LOT of euphonium, trumpet, tambourines and The Choir of The Women’s Royal Engineers. OH YES. So PUMPED UP was I by the events so far, however, that I was leaping about like a mini-Liam Gallagher saying “COME ON! Let’s DO it! OH YEAH! I’m READY!”

Seeing the MADNESS in my eyes Tim relented and we went on to ROCK, though his hilarity was to come back to haunt him. We had a GRATE gig, stumbling only once halfway through when I suddenly realised there were about 50 people there who’d come to see US. How on earth had that happened? None of them seemed very American, so we couldn’t thank Rolling Stone, and the lack of either Norwegian Infant Schoolchildren or that many obvious IT Professionals meant it wasn’t Hey Hey 16K either, so clearly it was the aforesaid Mr Bewsher, who gallantly KEPT putting us on over the years and KEPT dragging his friends along. I hope we’ve always been sufficiently grateful - being gracious is often FORGOTTEN in these circumstances, as the urge to jump up and down drinking beer shouting “I AM GRATE!” tends to takes over.

As, indeed, does the urge to do STUPID THINGS. When we came back for an ENCORE, I decided that, rather than play one of the songs we had in reserve for such occasions, we should instead perform Johnny Nash’s 1972 pop-reggae classic “I Can See Clearly Now”. It’s a lovely song, and I do actually know all the words… but none of The Validators had ever played it before. They’d made a pretty good attempt at playing it, in the circumstances, but my popularity rating within the organisation dipped somewhat while they were doing so.

I swiftly learnt my lesson and made attempts in future to CALM DOWN, but the whole experience did force me to be a bit more understanding when reading of ROCK STARS behaving like… well, like ROCK STARS. All it took for me to hit CELEBRITY MADNESS was a few pints of real ale and a half page feature in The Hull Daily Mail, GOODNESS KNOWS what would have happened if it had been ME on Norwegian Telly, rather than just a video!

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