Friday, 23 October 2009

Gig report: The Damsons @ The Portland Arms

Date: 22.10.09
Band: The Damsons
Venue: The Portland Arms, Cambridge
Type Of Gig: Opening for a charity show
Venue Vibe: Relaxed
Audience: Sparse, friendly
Set List: Be True, Going Places, Goodnight Baby

A quick three songs, opening a charity event for the Mashi Foundation. We dashed over from Radio Cambridgeshire to play this one, on stage very early and generally we were far more controlled/relaxed than our radio set. Nice evening.

Gig report: The Damsons @ BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

Date: 22.10.09
Band: The Damsons
Venue: BBC Radio Cambridgeshire Studios, Cambridge
Type Of Gig: Radio - live set
Venue Vibe: Tense
Audience: No idea
Set List: Be True, Going Places, Goodnight Baby (plus interview)

A really odd show, this one. Such is the nature of these things what we could hear was limited, as a result I often felt like timing was a bit suspect, especially on 'Be True'. As a result we all felt a little uncomfortable with things. Listening back on iPlayer though we actually sounded okay, pretty good actually...the show can be heard here:

Thursday, 15 October 2009

I Like Drumming.

It's been a while since I've updated this, but it's been a while since I've had a spare half an hour to sit down at home, drink a beer and write about myself. Not long back from an ideas brainstorming session with Alan Morgan, one of my two co-writers for the forthcoming cabaret show, Jiggery Pokery (the other being Gytha Lodge, who is currently too wrapped up in rehearsals for her own show, Flash Jordon, which premieres soon then hopefully she'll be back on board). Alan's a great person to bring in when I find myself in situations like this, a bit like the 'I'll Drive Tonight, Darling' show earlier this year - I was committed to putting on a show, dragged in the boy Morgan and somehow together (alongside a frankly remarkable cast and director) the show was a rousing success despite the fact we had about 3 weeks to put it all together. This time round I have 5 shows - a 5 week run, which begins mid-November time, it should be a bit easier as we have the option to put on bands and guest comics, it's just the bits in between we need to write. I've been feeling feeling a bit cocky about it all, to be honest, as the vision in my head of a crossover between Vic Reeves' Big Night Out and Later With Jools is all very logical to a nutcase like me, but as soon as I try to explain it to anybody it just doesn't really work. Tonight was good though - I'm very clear about what I'm writing, Alan is very clear about what he's writing, and now it's the fun bit - booking the bands and comedians. I'm really excited about who we can get - been listening to the superb Gabby Young (like a female version of Joe Jackson, only younger, a woman, and with more brass/latin/jazzy bits) today, we (Dear Old Blighty) supported her years ago in the cellar of CB2 before she suddenly got really established - heard her incredible new album (a freebie from work, which makes it sound even better) and if we can get artists of that calibre on board - you know the type - the kind of artists who are probably too big for it, but aren't - then this show is going to be a real treat for everyone who dares venture down to the Cornerhouse pub in Cambridge on a winter Wednesday evening...

It's been a been a stupidly busy couple of weeks. But in a good way. My good chum Kerry from Dear Old Blighty suggested we meet up for a chat a couple weeks ago. We do this a lot - we're both naturally very creative individuals, and we both have lots of ideas, but for some reason we just never really collaborate. True, so we've written a set of songs that we started performing this year at the Strawberry Fair etc and those songs have an album title of 'Songs About Darling' but Kez seems off the idea of recording the rest of them let alone releasing them, which is a bit of a shame as I think they're beautiful, and apart from that our ideas have ranged from writing songs for various female singers, a Kinks covers band and Dawn Parade: The Musical. None of which have happened, but all of which have been discussed in detail whilst it's clear we're actually just enjoying chatting, like a pair of old women. This time round though it was a bit different. Meeting upstairs at CB2 Restaurant and eating what is probably the most expensive burger I ever wish to purchase, we actually got a project on the go. It came mostly because Alister seems to have drifted out of contact, the impending deadlines for recording a Christmas album was getting all too near and I suddenly found myself with a pile of lyrics with no songwriter to work on them. Kerry liked the idea almost instantly, I went away and wrote a load of better lyrics, and suddenly a whole new project, Busker In The Winter Snow, was born. A week later we were at Kerry's Haverhill pad recording it in the most lo-fi way possible; a tiny jazz kit set up in the kitchen, an upright piano, and a real limit on the amount of microphones available. In between watching Blackburn Rovers verses Arsenal, we recorded the 'album', which eventually ended up as a 6-track mini-album, Kerry very much took the lead on certain creative aspects of it during the rest of the week as I rushed around with other projects, and we just scraped the deadline for getting something to the distributor in time for the Christmas market. Busker In The Winter Snow will be released on 30th November on my Cracking Tunes label - snippets of the album can be heard here:

A day after my chat with Kerry, my old chum James drops me an email. It's been a while. We occasionally play in a 'band' called The Losers together - 'band' actually being a sometimes acoustic guitar and loud drums duo. We both drifted a bit during the year due to other projects, but James fancied a jam, we chatted a bit on email and suddenly we were booked in to a recording studio to record a 5 track time for that elusive Christmas market. We were lucky enough to book ourselves in to the brilliant Zoo Audio Studios in Milton (where I've previously recorded with The Deadlines, Under The Streetlamp and the Name In Lights charity single) at very short notice. Zoo is an odd place - it's hidden behind a hairdressers, the drums are recorded in a room so small you lose your knuckles getting your bass drum through the entrance and spend the session with the door handle digging into your back. But the results are always excellent - because Andy Cross the engineer is a brilliant, brilliant engineer - you don't pay for the studio, you're paying for the knowledge of somebody who gets the job done to a high standard but also really quickly. What's even more of a miracle is that in our bid to make the EP sound like a 'proper' band I searched around for guest musicians and my first 2 ports of call were both available - Jon Ford (my former band mate from Siskin, and The Deadlines, and all round nice fella) on bass and Bryan Shore (my workmate who has played Glastonbury, toured the US and is an all round nice fella) on lead guitar. Suddenly Losers were a band, and James's quirky little ditties sounded like proper songs. One rehearsal, and 6 hours in the studio (plus however long it took James to mix it the next day) later and Losers: EP1 was ready and just scraped the deadline for getting something to the distributor in time for the Christmas market. EP1 will be released on 30th November on my Cracking Tunes label - snippets of the EP can be heard here:

These little studio projects have been great fun, I'm starting to realise being a session drummer is actually the best thing in the whole world. If only people would pay me for it... on top of those sessions I also spent a couple hours recording drums for Rob Toulson last week - Rob's a good friend (and band mate) and had to give a lecture on drum tuning in New York. Next up I'm back in the studio on Sunday with Bryan, returning the favour for him guesting with Losers. Bryan's recording some solo songs soon, looking forward to laying down some grooves for him, he's a great musician - that was really evident this time last week when he suddenly had to improvise over a bunch of songs he's never heard before, should be a decent project. Meanwhile, next Saturday we record the music for 'Clowns' - my new audio spoken word musical - that reunites myself and Kerry with Claudia McKenzie and Marcus Hood for a bit of improv recording with a vague structure. At the end of the month recording sessions start for the Eureka Stockade album - these will be big, polished efforts compared to my recent 'bash it out' sessions, the album itself won't be complete until some time next year but it promises to be a grand affair, with strings and all that malarkey. Also, at some point before the year is out I'll be returning to Stag Studios in Witham, Essex for PROPER PAID DRUM WORK, not sure who with just yet but got a text from Steve at the studio who has some session work lined up for me, looking forward to getting back there as it's a nice studio (was there a lot with The Lunar Pilots, before I left them) and it's the second time Steve has got me session work - the last time was with a band called Pablo Joe and I really enjoyed myself (and was a bit flattered by how much they paid me, to be honest). I like drumming. is looking good all of a sudden, such is doubling our artist roster in a week what with Busker In The Winter Snow, Losers and Lu all having releases in time for Christmas. Need to plug these releases somehow, adding shit-loads of friends on Myspace doesn't seem enough somehow, and I'd like to think all of these acts have a certain commercial appeal - to very different audiences. Lu in particular has a Tori Amos thing going on with her EP that I'm releasing for her ('First Light' - can be heard on, I'll be drumming for her at some point (starting next weekend, actually), you could see that coming, right? I'm a drummer, we're allowed to play in lots of bands. Lots.

Right, sleep I think, I've rambled far too long. Still need to write this year's Christmas show (we all met at Colin's at the weekend and finally watched the DVD of 'On the 12th Day Of Alex' and remembered how much fun we had with that - I need to double that fun for this year's show as the expectation has gone a bit high all of a sudden) and a panto in time for Christmas. It's all good doing the whole 'write it in October, actors learn it in November, it's performed in December' routine, but not when October is slipping by and the writer is knackered. But it's been a good year with plenty of challenges, there's time for a few more yet.

Currently listening to: Gabby Young & Other Animals - We're All In This Together; The Wave Pictures - If You Leave It Alone; Elvis Costello - Spike
Currently watching: Drop The Dead Donkey - series 3 DVD; Peep Show (TV); lots of football.
Currently reading: Tony Hancock - the definitive biography.