Saturday, 28 March 2009

How to avoid burning out

It's a quarter past 2am as I write this, and frustratingly I have too much energy still. I'm up early tomorrow (well, today) as well, which is equally frustrating, as I need to do the normal adult thing of buying food before my recording session, and perhaps even wash up the plates which have been piling for about a week, but that's still a perhaps - whilst I still have plates left, I'm not in danger yet. I'm rambling, I know. I think this may well be a rambly post, lets just see how it goes. I've never been one for cutting to the chase, although as I sit here and write this with my well deserved can of Stella after a long evening, I'm not sure what the chase is, or whom I'm supposed to be chasing?

I've just got back from playing a gig in Huntingdon. For anyone who reads this and is familiar with the area, you'll agree that Huntingdon is a shit hole. For anyone who reads this but isn't familiar with the area, Huntingdon is a shit hole. It was even on the front cover of popular publication, 'Crap Towns: Vol 2'. Naturally, bringing my beautiful drum kit to one of it's liveliest pubs didn't breed great confidence in me, but you know - here I am, alive, sat back in the cosy village, with my beer, and with a few quid in my pocket for my evenings work. Okay, so it didn't start well - turning up, and attempting to open the side door to get my drums in was met with much laughter from the skinheaded, football watching locals who were amused at my apparant lack of strength. I might add, I'm rather strong - nobody told me there was a catch on the door, and instead insisted on letting me struggle for a short while. When I left the building via that exit, having just entered from the main entrance, it was very clear they didn't realise I was opening that door just for unloading, they seemed to think I just fancied leaving the pub via another door. One of them seemed to take offence by this and shouted, rather rudely at me down the street, "Who do you think you are, fucking Jesus?" Now, come on, lets be honest. If I was Jesus, I probably wouldn't be in Huntingdon, playing with the doors. When I started loading my drums in he apologised for calling me such a thing. It felt a little odd being apologised to for being called Jesus - it's not like it's a particulaly bad thing. The gig itself was actually rather enjoyable, twas my second and final show for covers band, Joe Public. Covers aren't really my patch, I don't enjoy immiating another drummer's work, and Joe Jackson says it's 'musical prostitution' and he's a legend. I've been helping out Joe Public though for the last month or so as my old mucker Marto plays keys for them and they were caught short in the drummer department for a while, session drum whore Richards is always around for these things...lovely people, who work very hard to put on a good show, so whilst I'm never going to claim I found it creatively fulfilling I think I've developed a few skills from my brief stint with them, mostly discipline in my playing. And Kevin is a wicked bassist.

Leaving bands seems to be something I'm doing a lot of lately. On Thursday night I played with The Lunar Pilots at The Fleece in Chelmsford, although the gig was late and I couldn't get the morning off work, I felt it was a real return to form following the hugely dissapointing Club NME night less than a week before - now that is a tough, harsh audience, one perhaps more expected in Huntingdon, not Essex. The gig though did have a strange vibe to it, as earlier that day I had emailed the guys explaining that I'm going to quit the band. It's a strange one, leaving perhaps my most successful band of recent years, and not a decision I have taken lightly. The reasons are difficult to explain, sometimes a gut feeling is all it takes. It's the cliche about only having the one life, and I just felt I was investing too much time, hope and money into a project which ultimately just didn't feel right. The Lunar Pilots are the tighest band I've ever been in, with an incredible work rate that I just wish other bands I play in would take note of, but I'm not an indie band drummer at the end of the day, I like to wear shirts slightly too big for me and leave various buttons open, I like to have slightly Cambridge-esque hair, I like to flick my grooves into occassional jazz time signatures. The Lunar's have never argued with this at all, but they'll be happier in the long run with a more direct, rock drummer, somebody who isn't in love with his cow bell. I've agreed to play the final 6 shows with the band, and there's some crackers in there including one supporting Mark Morriss from the Bluetones. All good, really, I feel good about things, certain pressures have been removed and I do have a little more time to myself now, I'm not burning out anymore (I was on the verge, I was just a walking stick of jaded-ness), and I'm still hugely active as a drummer. Going back to my original plan last year (and why I started this blog), I want to make a career out of music, I want to tour. Despite leaving 2 bands in 2 weeks, things are still very much in shape, wink, wink etc...

I was on Saint FM last week by the way, a radio interview and a bit of a play of our charity single, Name In Lights, that was good fun. Name In Lights deserves to be a hit still - it was our charity single for Cancer Research. We only just scraped double figures with the sales of it last year on it's release despite being airplayed by 22 radio stations. It's because the world is a bit ignorant, sometimes, but it's on my 'to do' list to make this work.

Ah yes, and I'm still a writer. I've confirmed my Edinburgh Fringe run for 'With Arms Outstretched' and I'm very excited by it all - it's at a new venue called The Affair, with a tasty 4.30pm slot. I'm alarmed at how quickly that all happened, less than a month ago I didn't even have the idea for this play, suddenly it's going to Edinburgh. Crazy days, good days though. I'm feeling positive, or it's this beer, I'm not sure. Before that we have the Brighton Fringe run, the poor cast have only just been sent the final scripts, but Sarah is a cracking director and will get the best out of them. We've also done a bit of filming, me and Alan have been writing a sketch show and tomorrow night (well, tonight, as it's the morning now) my short piece 'The Promise', which is a rubbish title, is being performed at the Michaelhouse Cafe in Cambridge, the show has sold out which is nice. Now finding the time to work on new material, notably a third adventure for my favourite character, Alex (from the Christmas show, and also with a small part in the Edinburgh show), it's called 'Alex Verses The Fenland Tiger'. In St. Ives apparantly there's a large cat on the loose, and various people claim to have seen it, whilst others dismiss it. I love the Hunts Post coverage of it all, the urban paranoia thing is wicked, and destined for a play. Alex seeing the opportunity to be a hero feels great to write. After that there will be one more Alex adventure, at Christmas, and then I'll move on to other characters. I've got so many ideas, so much more than my fingers can cope with. I've got a feeling I'm going to get somewhere soon, as a writer or a musician. That's not arrogance, it's just a gut feeling that things are looking up. Yep.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Gigs, theatre, cooking etc

It's been a while since I've updated this, but not out of laziness - in fact the the opposite. In the past few weeks I've played to big audiences in London, and audiences of 3 in Cambridge, as well as finally writing *the* script for Edinburgh (as agreed by the cast, hurrah!) and moved house. All in all, it's pretty good fun, but the busy stuff is just around the corner I think...

A couple weekends ago I drummed for The Lunar Pilots at the Purple Turtle in Camden and it's up there with my personal best I think, and this coming from a drummer who generally leaves the stage shaking his head at any minor slip which only he'd noticed. Just one of those really good nights, where all the rehearsals, disagreements and self-promo all felt worthwhile. A big audience, nice sound, the token complimentary friend or two in the audience...this is what I live for, finally a proper good gig which made me feel alive, the confusing but joyous fusion of happiness and achievement. A week later I was back in Cambridge playing at the Bakers with Eureka Stockade, equally tight band and lovely evening but back to the regular slog of the slightly demoralising Cambridge music scene. On Monday James and myself played an acoustic gig, also at the Bakers, in front of 3 people. I'm not complaining; I love gigging, and always have a pride thing going on when performing live no matter how big or small the audience, but it's the nights where you "just need to get through it" that can kill your love of it. Until the next show, that is...

My Edinburgh show is nearing the 100% confirmed stages though. It's a new comedy, called 'With Arms Outstretched' and I'm chuffed with it. I'm really pleased Sunday nights reading with Colin, Victoria, Alan and Heather went well - it's a relief considering the amount of shite I've been getting them to act in recent months. This ticks all the right boxes, the same feel as the Christmas show (and one of the same characters - Alex...Colin plays him so well so it made sense), and some familiar traits usually considered for a Paul Richards play: ROMANTIC COMEDY - TICK, UNHAPPY ENDING - TICK, MUSICAL OBSESSION - TICK, AWKWARD YOUNG MEN CHARACTERS - TICK, PETTY WOMAN WHO ALWAYS COMES OUT ON TOP - TICK, DOMESTICALITY SUCH AS REFERENCES TOWARDS KITCHENS AND JOB STATUS - TICK. It'll be great :-)

Been offered a venue as part of the free fringe, which is part of the Edinburgh Fringe - it's a nice deal, I don't pay for the venue, the audience see it for free. It'll still cost me accommodation and admin fees - probably about a grand, but that's nothing for the Fringe. Still not sure how I can afford it, but fuck it - I'm doing it, so there. Also on the verge of confirming a warm-up date at the ADC Theatre, which is a huge venue. If we don't pack it out we'll look silly, but if we do it could practically fund the rest of the run so it's worth the risk me thinks.

Exciting times, but in all my happiness about Edinburgh I had completely forgotten we have a show heading to Brighton in May. *shit, panic, shit, panic* etc, I'd best finish writing it at some point.

Ah yes, and I'm now finally living by myself, in a small flat in the middle of nowhere. So, there maybe down sides: LACK OF COOKING ABILITY - TICK, A LITTLE FURTHER AWAY FROM MY FRIENDS FAMILY AND REGULAR REHEARSAL SPACE - TICK, THE FACT THE MAIN PIPE TO THE MAIN HOUSE GOES THROUGH MY BEDROOM SO WHENEVER SOMEBODY GOES TO THE TOILET I GET WOKEN UP BY THE LOUDEST FLUSHING NOISE POSSIBLE (ABOUT 4 TIMES A NIGHT) - TICK, THE FACT I HAVE TO REVERSE PARK INTO THE DRIVEWAY WHICH IS STILL AN ISSUE AFTER ALL THESE YEARS OF DRIVING - TICK. But on the good side: I CAN WRITE TILL 4am AND LIVE OFF TOASTIES - TICK. Which is more than enough for now. I feel reborn, no - actually that's a bit dramatic. But I feel a bit fresh about things, even if I seemed to have turned into one of those people that eats homemade salad from a tupawear pot at lunchtimes, which I'd promised myself I'd never be.