Tuesday, 29 September 2009

A weekend away to discover 'Great' Britain

Well that was nice. A couple days ago, that is. After all the manic running around of trying to keep my various projects up to scratch and feeling frustrated along the way (life at the moment seems to be endless rehearsals and admin, when I really need to be playing more gigs and actually sitting down and writing properly, not grabbing the odd half an hour here and there to try and bash out a 'masterpiece') I took my girlfriend, Juliette, away for her birthday. There were several reasons why I felt like making an extra effort this time round; for starters it was her 25th birthday, which as a number looks important, another being that she's been pretty down recently, and another being that I'm probably pretty difficult to go out with - let's be honest, I barely see her, let alone have the chance to show any kind of romantic side. So, with a bit of Google action, I planned a short tour of Pride & Prejudice film locations, because she loves that film/story/TV show, she does. First destination was Burleigh House in Stamford, before the long trip up to Derbyshire to see the gardens of Chatsworth House. Now, I'm not a connoisseur of these places normally, but those gardens were, simply, out of this world, the kind of place where you physically struggle to believe you are not in some kind of film set or some vivid dream where the world is just a bit nicer. After that we stayed in the Peak District, and the next day made the very long trip to Wiltshire to see Stourhead Gardens, which to be frank wasn't as good as Chatsworth, but as I say, I'm no connoisseur and the chances is are I could have just been knackered because, as much as I love my little Ford Fiesta, I'm not convinced the leg room sufficed for what was eventually over 15 hours worth of driving that weekend. Juliette seemed over the moon with every second of it, I thoroughly enjoyed myself too - and let's be honest, it was a treat for my loved one, I wasn't actually expecting to have fun myself. But I did - simply because it got me away. Away from staring at a screen, away from a dingy dark rehearsal room. We travelled across Great Britain, seeing the bits of our glorious country that are often ignored by the media purely because of their sheer beauty. England is a beautiful country, I had a reminder of that this weekend. Every country has it's lesser impressive areas but that could be said about anything (I live in a lovely little flat but Christ, my bathroom is disgusting sometimes), I feel fortunate to have breathed some of the good air that is often overlooked. I also have my Sat Nav to thank for this, for taking us on the occasional less than obvious route. On the way home we listened to radio recordings of Galton & Simpsons Playhouse, the short play of theirs, Impasse, is simply the greatest radio play I've heard in years, even though it was written in the 1960's.

Anyway, back down to the cracking on with attempting to achieve stuff. Got 2 play ideas out of the weekend, need to start finding the time to have nights in to work on them, or else this blog could purely end up being a series of rants from a writer who barely has the time to actually write. One of them is for this year's Christmas show - as previously mentioned last year's show was a creative highlight for me. As much as I said to Colin (Woodham, actor) on Friday night I think I've written enough for the characters of Alex & Buddy (Colin plays Alex), I've had a u-turn, now I've actually thought of a lovely plot for Alex. This Christmas, the character of Alex will be killed off, on stage, but not before there's a bit of a singalong and some nice festive touches. There's also the panto to work on, and of course the Christmas album which I'm working on with Alister Bunclark - the deadline for that (if we are to make a Christmas release date) is getting stupidly close and we're nowhere near done yet, but it's a challenge, I think we'll get there, even if it takes 24 hours in Half Ton Studios with a bottle of whiskey to help us along our way.

Meanwhile, I've signed London singer-songwriter Lu to my Cracking Tunes label, she's very good, do check her stuff out: www.myspace.com/luofficial - she can belt out a tune or two, and looking forward to releasing her Christmas single, at least she's got it recorded in time. At the end of the month we'll be recording the background music for my 'Clowns' audio musical around Kerry's pad, pretty much in the same way we recorded the Matt Corrall Band album, although with a bit more direction. I'm also going to be busy in the studio recording the Eureka Stockade album at the end of the month (well, my bits are being done then, the album will be ready about February time) as well as recording drum parts for Bryan Shore's album - Bryan's a great musician and friend who has been in lots of decent bands over the years (notably The Shivers) and will be interesting to see what we can do with this. Still a little lacking in the gig department though, although The Damsons have been rehearsing a fair bit lately (with our new smaller line-up, having lost a guitarist to artistic disagreements during the summer) so hopefully we'll be out there soonish...

Ah yes, and our Cabaret night, Jiggery Pokery Cabaret, has now been confirmed for a five week run, starting on Wednesday 11th November, expect all manner of messy craziness wrapped up in a heap known as entertainment. Personally, I can't wait.

Currently listening to: Okkervil River (yep, still), Julian Velard, Elvis Costello
Currently watching: This Life box set, Maid Marian and her Merry Men DVD, Peep Show
Currently reading: Tony Hancock: The Definitive Biography

Friday, 25 September 2009

Gig report: Eureka Stockade @ The Cornerhouse

Date: 23.09.09
Band: Eureka Stockade
Venue: The Cornerhouse, Cambridge
Type Of Gig: Main support
Venue Vibe: Cosy, safe
Audience: Really nice although only about 10 of them. Considering we played without Nathan our bassist and sounded pretty weak it was a miracle they put up with us, they did though for some reason or another
Set List: Through Every Darkness, Resistance, Without You, Heroes Fall, Warm Hands, She Got Good, All Alone

Thursday, 17 September 2009

First attempt at lyric writing for a Christmassy song

Hardly 'Simply Having A Wonderful Christmasstime' is it?

Busker In The Snow by Paul Richards

Busker in the snow
If only someone told you
Of their admiration for what you do
Your persistence or your craziness
Whatever it is, you deserve a hot drink or two
Busker in the snow
Is it passion or just mindlessness?
That you are trying to express
I can’t claim I thought too long about this
But either way you deserve a little respect
Busker in the snow

Busker in the snow
You crazy fool, someone would shout
Before eloping into their expensive car
With heating and safety all round
Busker in the snow
Thank you for the show you gave me
As I was stood outside freezing, waiting
You’re better than the commercial dross
Even though you’re covering most of their songs
In your set, only you’ve added some soul
Busker in the snow

Busker in the snow
Respect where it’s due before this weather kills you
I’m not sure which will be the first to go
Your dignity or your frozen body
Either way, they’ll be missed by me
Even though our meeting was limited to a glance of an eye
I’m sorry that I
Was short on change
But if you’re still alive by the next time I’m shopping
You’ll do well out of me, that I promise you
Busker in the snow

Puking, album released, christmas and stuff

On Sunday evening I was sick a fair bit, shortly after the Eureka Stockade gig at the Soul Tree supporting Charlotte Hatherley (the bird from Ash, who didn't bother to watch our set so I made a point of not staying for hers). I actually played really poorly on the night - sometimes the moves just don't really come off the way you planned, and you're forced into labouring any fancy frills in the hope something spectacular comes off. It never does, of course. I was in time though, and the audience probably didn't notice/didn't care that any of the more intracate parts were going slightly tits-up. But I'd like to feel it was actually because I was playing ill as to why I drummed so badly. Or maybe the hangover from Kevin's party the night before? Anyway, tighten up, Richards. Although unproven, I'm pretty sure my random bouts of vomiting was related to the chicken I had for dinner that evening, I hope it was that - just so I know to myself not to ever buy chicken from a garage in Trumpington again, and move on. Being off work for two days is damn-right depressing. Not specifically being off 'work' as such (as much as, weirdly enough, I'm enjoying office life at the moment), but just not doing anything at all with my day. Still, managed to scribble down a few script ideas whilst I was lying there so something good might have come of it at least.

Meanwhile, Matt Corrall Band album has been released - worldwide, and we're all plugging it like crazy. The Eureka Stockade EP is still the biggest seller on my Cracking Tunes label with 27 sales, come on Matt - you can beat this! And make the poor indie label owned by your drummer a few quid in the proccess. People are talking about it on various blues websites I notice, which is good because we've not told them about it, so clearly the word is getting out there somehow. It does still make me chuckle a little the amount of promotion we've done with this one - a fair few hours on myspace and a few emails etc, considering how quickly the album was recorded, but maybe the slapdash route to recording is the way forwards?

Got told the other day I was only allowed to submit one script to this season's programme of new writing at WriteOn in Cambridge. WriteOn is strange but friendly group, with a pretty big following these days. When I first joined, four years ago, it was very much a place to try out new material, but these days the audiences and expectations seem a little bigger and you almost feel bad throwing in just an idea, they seem to want a complete, polished script. Doesn't stop me trying things out though, at the end of the day it is just a Cambridge audience, mostly made up with fellow writers, directors and actor friends who know what you are capable of and accept the fact that not everything is going to work, so in theory I shouldn't care so much. But the thing is, I do - if my work is in front of an audience, I want that audience to be enjoying it, and there's every chance there may be just one person there who will only see one Paul Richards play ever and if he sees the absolute stinker, he may well think Paul Richards is an absolute stinker. And then I get myself into a mess - because I've written 2 new plays, but due to time restrictions this year they can only put one of them on, and suddenly I'm thinking about the potential audience reaction, not what benefit a performance would do for my writing. The plays are 'Sugar Sugar' - a relatively twee, safe comedy with a little twist, or the very recently complete 'Sweden' - which is about guns, and sex, and men who eat other men as a way of disposing the body - the kind of play that shows Paul Richards is willing to push boundaries and isn't just the guy who writes awkward comedies about awkward people in awkward situations, despite what his 4 Edinburgh Fringe productions might suggest. And what did I submit for the new season? 'Sugar Sugar', of course. I annoy myself sometimes. But there was every chance 'Sweden' would have been slaughtered there, and I'm cool with that, for the reasons mentioned above. But with that thinking, how will I ever know if 'Sweden' works as a play after a good few weeks work on it? Will it ever see beyond a folder on my desktop titled 'new projects complete'? Hhhmmmm...

Anyway. Christmas is looming, and I'm now gearing myself up for creatively my busiest one yet. Obviously there's the Christmas show to write - last year's 'On The 12th Day Of Alex' production is still, by some few million miles, the best thing I've written, and I'm keen to top that this year with something along the same lines. Also, I'm keen to develop a panto I put together at short (very short) notice for the Glass Onion in Peterborough last year - 'Goldilocks And The Beanstalk' - I reckon a new draft of that will be nice and tight and should be performable if I can get a few actors together and stick it on somewhere. Also, the cabaret night I'm starting soon (more details very, very soon - just putting on the finishing touches) with award-winning writer/director Gytha Lodge should see the end of the run around Christmas so we'll have a big Christmas special for that. Ah yes, and of course Alister Bunclark and myself are going to have a Christmas hit single with 'I Never Built A Snowman', hopefully, well you never know you're luck, we're gonna try anyway - a good old Christmas jaunty tune with bells 'n' shit, could be a winner with the right promotion, we start rehearsing the song next week and recording a couple weeks later (with hopefully guest vocals from the fantastic Kate Jayne Ward, if she's up for it, hope so because lets face it - neither of us can sing...). Best get some Christmas tune-age on my headphones then and brace myself for a busy old festive season. I, contrary to the song, don't wish it could be Christmas every day, but as a writer/musician type dude I'm getting used to having it for at least 4 months a year.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Gig report: Eureka Stockade @ The Soul Tree

Date: 13.09.09
Band: Eureka Stockade
Venue: The Soul Tree, Cambridge
Type Of Gig: Opening for Charlotte Hatherley
Venue Vibe: Friendly, welcoming
Audience: Attentive, appreciative without overdoing it
Set List: Through Every Darkness, Resistance, Without You, Warm Hands, Heroes Fall, She Got Good, All Alone

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Gig report: Eureka Stockade @ The Globe

Date: 05.09.09
Band: Eureka Stockade
Venue: The Globe, Cambridge
Type Of Gig: Headline
Venue Vibe: Very friendly
Audience: Extremely enthusiastic, very keen
Set List: Through Every Darkness, Resistance, Without You, Heroes Fall, Warm Hands, Broken Pieces, Sharks, She Got Good, All Alone

Saturday, 5 September 2009

London, the final performances of the play, and brilliant nights

Maybe it's because I've been reading an Elvis Costello biography that I'm so inspired, yet equally feeling a bit fiery at the moment. Costello's work rate is enviable - and his creativity is beyond belief, and even reading about it has given me a kick up the arse. I know I do a lot of things, but to be honest - I really could be doing a lot more, I'm barely scratching the surface. I probably need to change my attitude though in the office, just a little, because I'm getting a little stroppy at times, and I don't mean to be. I can't blame that on the book - but it's the frustration that I feel I should be making a living out of writing and drumming that creeps in, especially after the artistic bliss that was the Edinburgh Fringe. A man still needs to pay the rent though, and I do appreciate the work all the same.

Anyway - not entirely sure why I started this post so negatively, because I am on a bit of a high at the moment. For tonight was a fucking good night. On Friday evening (which I still consider to be last night, even though it's officially Sunday morning as I type this) 'With Arms Outstretched' started the first of two London performances. The venue, The Hen & Chickens, is a brilliant place - you can see why the likes of Stewart Lee still perform there - it's small enough to feel packed with only a handful of people, yet with a lovely performance space, perfect for the kind of show I like to write. It's central, next to a tube line, and has a slightly tatty vibe to it which I really like - the kind of vibe that reminds me a lot of what the Boat Race in Cambridge used to have, you just know legends have passed through here. Friday's performance wasn't bad - especially good because the guys once again have had a week off and not had a chance to refresh with a rehearsal. True, so the energy levels weren't the best it's been, and the odd line might have been stumbled upon, but there was no reason for members of the team to feel so bad about it. The problem genuinely is - they've set themselves such high standards over the last month or so, it's virtually impossible to keep it at that level every single time, as much as the desire is there to do so. Lovely audience too - just 20 of them, but they took to it well, and I went home happy. Today was the last performance, but I was stuck with a dilemma - I was booked to play a gig with Eureka Stockade at the Globe in Cambridge, yet, after all we've been through as a team, it would just be wrong to miss the final, final, final performance of the play - I just had to be there. Somehow, I scraped both. Dropped off my drums at the venue at 4pm (my bandmate Rob very kindly later set them up for me, and even soundchecked the kit for me), headed into London, had some dodgy grub at the venue (great venue, but the food wasn't the best, to be honest), and watched the final performance. I almost felt emotional - this has been a good play for me, my reputation seems to have grown because of it, it felt like such a shame it was the final show but all good things have to end somewhere, and where better to end it than a venue as fantastic as the Hen & Chickens? The final performance started with an exceptional amount of energy - the guys were really up for it tonight. It was going so well until the fire bell rang, halting the show for a bit, causing much awkwardness. It was a false alarm, literally, but did stop the show for what felt like a lifetime (but was about 5 minutes). Still, the energy returned, the audience were again lovely (London audiences = chirpy bunch), and the show ended on a true high. I felt strange - and I know the guys did too. It's been a tough run - Cambridge (x 2), Edinburgh (x 7), Burwell and then London (x 2) not to mention the 4 months of intense rehearsals beforehand for the actors, and before then the 3 months of writing and re-writing for me, aided by a wonderful director. We've all put our souls into this, I feel rather sad it's come to an end. Sadness - or just relief that we're all still friends after such adventures, and that it didn't completely go tits up like most of my Edinburgh shows have done? Elements of the show will return; Kevin as a narrator will be back for the cabaret show (more of a compare, but the same style), I will write more for the characters of Alex & Buddy - simply because I love writing for them (and Colin and Vaughan play them so well), but with Victoria off to drama school this team will dismantle slightly for a while I guess as we move on. We've done well - but whilst the London dates were a superb end to a project we're all so proud of, the cracks were starting to show, it's ended at completely the right time, which is most refreshing. Straight after the show ended at 8.30pm I ran out of the venue, and one tube stop later I was on the train back to Cambridge.

9.52pm I was at Cambridge station, by 9.56pm I was at The Globe - 4 minutes early for my gig. I must be honest, I felt very good dashing in, changing the heights of the cymbals briefly, and then going straight into tonight's gig with Eureka Stockade. And the great thing was - just like the last time we played The Globe, it was a cracking gig. Probably the best we've ever played actually, with the help of a brilliant promoter (Sam Inglis) and brilliant soundguy (can't remember his name), the best sound we've ever had, the new material went down a storm, the audience were so up for it - an all round cracking show. Some people in the audience know the words to the songs better than we do; it's a simple, small thing, but on any level, to know somebody is caring that much to not only turn up, but to singalong and enjoy it, is a really flattering and lovely feeling. These are the kind of days I live for, I feel lucky sometimes, tonight was one of those nights.

What with all these projects on the go, I can't remember the last time I had a really, really good nights sleep. I'm exhausted, but the adrenaline continually bounds me over the finishing line - I'm not just limping over it, I'm proper leaping. I probably need to look into the sleep thing at some point, but the week ahead suggests that's not on the cards just yet. Still, if Costello can do it...

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Cracking Tunes

I'm fatigued and frustrated at work, then Steve - the website genius, sends me a link to the now live website for my record label:


The timing of it must have been a sign...