Tuesday, 23 February 2010

A little step in the right direction

It's all good, you know. Just generally. Last night I met up with our Brighton Fringe director, Gytha, who is continually impressive - she really knows her stuff and I think 'Cat Food' is in good hands, which is a great weight off my slightly burdened shoulders. Today, alongside playing a decent gig, I found out my short play 'Letters To Sparkle' is going to be performed at RADA, which is a huge leap forwards, I'm pretty excited. Which is not always a good thing because it's nearly midnight, it's a Tuesday evening and I have work in the morning, but I'm really moving in the right direction, I guess slowly I have been for a while, but for once it actually feels like the endless writing, drumming and causing mischief is going to get me somewhere. Perhaps. I'm happy at the moment, anyway.

Gig report: Under The Streetlamp @ The Haymakers

Band: Under The Streetlamp
Venue: The Haymakers, Cambridge (main support)
Date: 23/02/10
Audience: Sparse but responded well
Set: Sunny Rainy Tuesday, Do I Don't I I Do, Anything Nothing, I Never Win, What She Did To You, Last Excuses Of Summer, Honest Lullaby
Notes: Our last gig for a while as Alister 'Percy' Bunclark heads off to Mexico this week, he'll be gone for about 6 months which is a shame because we were really starting to fly as a band - both in the studio and on stage. Tonight's performance was fairly caffeine-based, a little brash and the jazziness was at times lost in the fast tempos of the set. Saying that, it seems to go down well this way - especially in a more 'rock' venue such as The Haymakers. I love playing in this band, nobody else lets me get away with some of the showboating I do with 'Streetlamp - and rightly so because normally it wouldn't work, but it does when I'm on stage with these rascals. A good gig.

Friday, 19 February 2010


Why do all exciting projects come with big amounts of paperwork? Things are taking shape here, but with a few creative projects confirmed it's suddenly all about the admin - for the forthcoming Matt Corrall Band tour (which is now back to being a tour of Europe, having realised that the China idea - whilst great, was going to be littered with more problems than we needed) we have to still confirm further dates alongside the Holland performance as well as local warm-ups and confirm who is actually in the band, for Brighton rehearsal schedules need to be sorted and we still need to know who is actually in the play, plus there's the forthcoming murder mystery evening performances of my little whodunit 'The Murder Of The Razzle Dazzle Rose' to confirm etc etc, I'm glued to my email, it's fairly exciting, but doesn't go beyond 'fairly'.

Meanwhile I've managed to spend a few evenings in to finish what will be the Edinburgh script, if I decide to do Edinburgh this year - it's all slightly up in the air, see, as there are other opportunities being mentioned (for me as a musician) which I can't mention here because this blog is public, although I'm wary of letting my thoughts getting too excited because bad things happen when my expectations raise...anyway, it's written, just in case and if not I've got a decent play to do something with in the future. It's called 'Totally From The Heart', and is about heart attack victims, and really is the darkest thing I've ever done, in a good way I'd like to think. It caused some weird reactions with me whilst writing it - I almost felt emotional towards the characters, started to care for them a lot more than I normally do, like I was convincing myself of their plight. Maybe it was the whiskey, but I've never written anything genuinely moving before, took a lot more out of me than the average awkward farce I often bash out.

In the meantime I started filming some new comedy with my good friend Rich, it's been a while and whilst we may not do anything with it unless it's really good, we've got ideas and I've got a camcorder, and we had a few spare hours, makes sense to just do these things sometimes. Ah yes, and recording started last night for the Under The Streetlamp album - that was an intensive evening. The problem being Alister, our pianist, flies out to Mexico for many months next week so we needed to move quickly to get this done before he goes. His parts, and my drum parts, for 9 tracks are all in the bag though - mostly because Rob @ Half Ton Studios is the most patient and hardworking engineer you could ever meet. Recording for the vocals and bass take place next week in another lengthy, gruelling session, followed by many hours of mixing, in time for an early summer release. Next week I also start rehearsals with Lu, and hopefully my 'special' new project which I can't mention, and the week after I'm back in the studio with Bryan Shore. By the time that's all done, the Eureka Stockade album should be complete...I love being a drummer sometimes, especially when there's so few of us around.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Brighton stuff

Just registered the Brighton show, another £175 spent on a creative project which I may never see again but don't want to turn this blog into a rant about money because I CHOOSE to do these projects...only registered the one show in the end, 'Cat Food', although yesterday's readings of new material was pretty successful. In fact, everything apart from 'Reviewing Jonathan' seems to work - 3 out of 4 plays certainly isn't a bad ratio, I reckon I'm getting better at this. But I just felt the whole concept of 'Some Plays' - which is 3 short plays on one billing, wouldn't work in Brighton - they do work as individual pieces and I'll put them on somewhere at some point, but 'Cat Food' was really, really strong just from the readings yesterday - there's a couple lines that need tweaking but it feels structurally sound and I'm gonna focus on making this as good as it can be rather than stressing out with 2 shows. The play itself runs for 2 nights in May, and it's on twice a day, so 4 performances, which makes it worthwhile, plus a few other places beforehand I imagine. Going to have a long old think about casting though, it's all getting a bit routine and I get the feeling some of my regular team aren't taking it as seriously as they did before, and I've got to look after myself sometimes and do what's best for the production, even if that's not easy.

Had an interesting evening last night, went out with friends, enjoyed their company greatly, and it now looks like we're not touring Europe in June...because we're touring China instead. I love the way life throws these little surprises at you, sometimes.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Friday night

It's a Friday night and I'm sat in my tiny flat by myself, having just eaten a microwave cheeseburger and enjoying a can of Carling. Is this how my life is heading? Hope not/don't think so - I could have spent a romantic evening at my girlfriend's flat but I had to come home to print off the scripts for tomorrow's 'new material' day, which I am more than a little anxious about. I'm anxious because I'm not too confident about the material I've churned out this year to be honest, 'Cat Food' has potential to be a real winner and I feel like I've hit top form with that, whilst 'Jason's Last Night In Town' also has great potential. But will anybody really like 'Honey I've Been Really Struggling' - only if they get the Camera Obscura and Ed Harcourt references perhaps, and on reading back 'Reviewing Jonathan', one of my other short plays, even I think I'm weird. We'll see though, we've got some of my trusty regular actors - Colin, Vaughan, Heather, Juliette there to tomorrow, as well as 2 excellent newcomers - Emma Spearing and Cara McLean, both of whom I respect greatly, so it should be either a) interesting or b) embarrassing - depending on how my latest ideas are recieved. And as always there's a real shortage of male actors, a problem that would be solved if Kevin learnt how to answer his mobile.

It's been a good, if exhausting week. After the fun of the Haiti gig on Sunday evening, I spent Monday night back at one of my regular recording haunts; Half Ton Studios in Milton, with the ever excellent Rob Toulson behind the desk. I was recording with Alighting, all felt a bit nostalgic but I came away feeling I did a really good job for them - the whole splashy ride and hot-rod trick seemed to suit their Cambridge Folk Festival-tailored sound a treat, and we discovered this fairly early in the session which was a bonus. Tuesday was supposed to be my quiet night in/catch up on cleaning evening, but Jess and Alister from Under The Streetlamp came around and we got really drunk instead, how childish, but much fun was had. Wednesday I enjoyed the rare pleasure of actually catching a Spurs game on TV and an even rarer pleasure of watching us win convincingly, and last night I went to the launch of 'Lol-a-thon', which is a new comedy night for Cambridge that my good friend Andy Higson has organised. 10 comedians on the bill so obviously a little hit and miss, but headliner David Trent (whom I had the pleasure of randomly booking for a Jiggery Pokery Cabaret show last year) was immense and worth the cheap entry fee alone. So, here I am - creatively more inspired than ever, with more ideas than ever, but also having more fun than ever - which takes up so much time.

Much to do, urgent priorities need to be booking up the Brighton Fringe shows (depending on how tomorrow goes we'll know how many of them) - we have the venue waiting for us which is lovely of them, and I also need to sort out the Under The Streetlamp album recording before Alister buggers of to Mexico. I'm still not sure if I'm going to do the Edinburgh Fringe this year - and I never thought I'd say that. I have one or two doubts at the moment - like would my life be enhanced by a fifth fringe show? Would this script I'm working on for it be actually better than the last 4? I need to develop, I need to move on, and sometimes self-producing doesn't help that. It also takes a long chunk of my year up, and I can't help but feel I could be spending the time trying to write 'the' radio sitcom that I always knew I could - that really would be progression. But then again August without the Edinburgh Fringe is like December without Christmas. True, I could just go there as a spectator - but being at the Edinburgh Fringe without a show of my own would be like Christmas without presents, which, as we all know, would be rubbish.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Haiti gig

I'm exhausted today. I need to somehow get out of this Red Bull loop, yesterday's Haiti gig was a brilliant but long day so I drank a lot of caffeine to get through it - today, slumped at my desk, I'm drinking a lot of Red Bull to get over the fact I drank a lot of Red Bull yesterday so didn't sleep too well. And tonight I'm back in the studio which certainly won't be an early night, ahhh...

Anyway, the Haiti gig itself was a decent little day. My own expectations of raising thousands and every band playing to a heaving room of enthusiastic gig-goers never really happened but then again that'll teach me for having expectations in the first place; I have too many of them and it barely ever works out. But I do appreciate how well it went, we had 15 bands playing over the course of 11 hours and by the end of it we were only over-running by about 10 minutes. This of course is nothing to do with my stage management skills as they're practically non-existent, but it says a lot about the professionalism of those playing. I don't think there was a bad act all day, I enjoyed it - in particular The Travis Waltons (was there a better song than 'Millionaire' played all day? No. In fact, I don't think there would have been a better (original) song played anywhere in Cambridge all weekend than 'Millionaire', it's superb) and The Violet Bones, but it would be unfair to single out individual bands too much because everyone did their bit. As did Pete the soundman who consistently kept the show moving, and Jess and Rachel for doing the door and telling me things were 'okay' on several occasions when I needed to hear it the most. Not a huge crowd to be honest, but it was a Sunday, and it was short notice, but a nice consistent room of people who enjoyed it all a lot. We raised just under £240, not a massive amount - but considering it was only £2 to get in, people were very generous. I like people. I'm too tired to write much more apart from a quick review, purely for the archives, of the 4 gigs I played during yesterdays lonnnnggg day.

Set: Baby Lie, Silent Eyes, Here Comes The One, New Beautiful Day, Nothing Left To Rain, Broken Hymn
Notes: First time I've played with Alighting in 8 years, a little unplanned but nice songs and I kept myself in the distance so I didn't impose myself too much. Would have liked to have known the songs a little better so I could have thrown a few tricks in there, but from an audience perspective as a whole it worked very well.

Set: My Babe, Too Tired,Spoonful,I'm Tore Down, The Spider and the Fly, Walking by Myself
Notes: First gig with the Matt Corrall Band. One of those strange gigs where I wasn't comfortable with the material, but I was comfortable enough with the genre (pure, often filthy, blues) to wing it convincingly enough. We need to be much tighter than that for the tour, but 2 rehearsals in and for a Sunday afternoon it was very pleasing.

Notes: Our first show as a five piece, although only James and I knew the songs. It did show, sadly, and could have looked terrible on stage if it wasn't for James' honesty and humour, which made Losers look very likable, if slightly unprofessional. We went down very well all the same, which goes to show that even if musicians are dropping notes, and even playing in the wrong key, if the songs are good you can get away with most things.

Set: Do I Don’t I I Do, Sunny Rainy Tuesday, Anything Nothing, I Never Win, Last Excuses Of Summer, Honest Lullaby
Notes: Our first gig in 18 months. I've never felt more comfortable on stage - like putting on an old pair of socks to find they're still warm and fit a treat. I loved every second of it, I want to do it more, I need to do it more, fortunately the feeling's mutual.