Friday, 30 July 2010

SGP and new material

Last weekend was very music based, although somewhat annoyingly I was being the journalist, rather than the musician. Reviewing mega-superstar Pixie Lott play in the tiny village of Pidley was certainly something different for a Saturday evening (my full review of the event can be found here:, and the rest of the time was spent at the Secret Garden Party festival, which is fast becoming one of the permanent fixtures in my yearly diary. Was great fun, as you can imagine, the weather held out and I had plenty of time to just lie in a field jotting script ideas down whilst watching various bands do their thing. Plenty of highlights, but in short - Mercury Rev, Revere and Darwin Deez made the weekend for me.

Last night we had a new material session. I was grateful that most of the actors I invited turned up and gave up their time to read through some of my stuff, and also a few other theatrical friends who's advice is always invaluable. I made the point of inviting down some of my harshest critics, which sometimes makes me feel uncomfortable, and there were points when I felt very down about everything; of the 3 plays there seemed to be a little negativity expressed afterwards; 'The Lonely, The Poor, The Big I Am' doesn't really work at all, 'Falling Apart With Martin' needs to have a reason why the lead deserves his happy ending and 'Totally From The Heart' - whilst littered with lovely moments, needs to be less obvious to the audience. A pretty long night then, but these are all only minor tweaks and people seemed in mutual agreement that with a little re-structuring here and there I've got myself some decent new material on my hands. A productive evening, but not easy to stomach sometimes. I've got to have a new play ready in time for the Lodestar Festival in September, I was hoping that one of last night's plays would fit the bill but I think it's time to go back to the drawing board and work on something completely new - time is tight, but that's all part of the fun...

Monday, 19 July 2010

Recording with Ethan Ash

Spent the day in the studio laying down some tasty drum parts for that ridiculously talented Ethan Ash fella today. I have to say, I've enjoyed pretty much everything I've done in the studio recently, and today was another brilliant way to spent a Monday. It was the perfect level between fun and hard work, with the songs fully taking priority. We recorded at Half Ton, where I spend lots of time, with Rob T producing/engineering, whom I work with frequently. Ethan's songs are superb - they're proper soul songs, and the challenge for me today was to be as laid back as possible, deep down in the groove and lay off any fancy fills. The fact that I'd only had 5 hours sleep really helped a great deal actually - a dozy Paul Richards is a relaxed Paul Richards, and we eased through the day with decent drum takes nailed for all 4 songs. I was booked for 2 days session drumming, but we got everything done today - yet, such is how much I believe in these songs, I'm still going to spend all tomorrow in the studio just seeing how they grow with more instrumentation as I'm keen to see how they develop. And I'll probably eat a lot of Pringles too, such is the nature of these things.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Radio sitcom

It's been a decent weekend, and I reckon the next couple of days are going to be decent too, although my caffeine intake may rise even higher. On Friday evening I rehearsed with Ethan Ash - he's got some top tunes that boy, and his family (who are old friends of mine) are just so nice, the food was good, his dogs are the friendliest I've ever met, and the songs sound great too. On Saturday I met up with a contact (who I can't say yet, because I'd be considered unprofessional and I know that more people than I'm aware of are starting to read this blog, which is totally lovely, I just need to stop being such a blabber mouth sometimes) to discuss all things radio and it looks like I've found an FM-shaped home for our sitcom, with online stuff all to follow too, it was a lovely meeting actually - completely littered with enthusiasm. In the evening I met up for a couple beers and pizza (which of course led to a couple more beers) with my mate Neil, and in the process signed his superb band, Shallow Falls, to the Cracking Tunes label - something I've been meaning to do for a while as I totally believe in the way they go about business, and it's nice that we could do it over beer and pizza - I might make this a rule for signing bands in the future actually.

Today we recorded the radio sitcom - which still has various names - it's either going to be called:

Patrick, Cameron And Their Reasonably Low-Key Adventures


Patrick And Cameron's Reasonably Low-Key Adventures


The Modest Adventures Of Patrick And Cameron

Probably the second one, but we've got a little time to decide. We started early, borrowing equipment from the mighty Rob Toulson, and setting up in Colin's very quiet flat - I'm happy we didn't use my flat now, which was the first suggestion, as Colin has everything a production needs - such as a balcony for well deserved breaks, and a Co-Op just down the road. We worked hard today - Alan our soundman worked ridiculously hard, and the cast were incredibly patient, responsive and above all they knew that we're onto a good thing with this. I've no doubt these are the bests scripts I've ever written, probably no coincidence that it's the longest I've ever spent working on anything, maybe this is where I've gone slightly wrong in some of my less successful projects...5 episodes, all wordy, but direct - it moves along quickly, and the exceptional team of actors pulled it off convincingly. The format themselves is very simple - with Colin (Woodham) and Steve Matthew playing the title roles, and Az Hussein and Vaughan Allanson filling in the gaps - the vibe was lovely, and full of banter, I like this working unit a lot. All 5 episodes (at 10-15 minutes in length) were recorded, including the very tricky final episode which, as everyone seemed to think, entered surreal territory (unlike the rest of the series which is very sitcom-ee), although ends the series on a satisfying note (or as Colin says: "It's like you've really thought this through, Paul" - he almost seemed surprised). 7 and a half hours later and we've got good takes of everything. Next step is the gruelling mixing session, which is going to take a very long time - Rob T is taking over that, and I'll have to sit with him with the script working out which takes from which scenes go in. Could be a very long process, but I genuinely think as a writer it could be the best thing I've done yet. We'll see, probably in a couple months time. In a dream world, the series would be launched on the radio station soon, and there would be enough public demand for a Christmas special. Just because I totally love Christmas. But that would be a dream, I think, but that's what dreamworld's are for, right?

Ended the weekend back at WriteOn, where the networking opportunities seem to have increased enormously over the last year or so. That, and the amount of people who go there who I genuinely consider to be good friends, and who I could chat to for hours. One of those people, Michelle, put some very big ideas into my head tonight, which got me thinking all the way home - I'm excited by certain prospects of the projects she mentioned, but I have to be careful about burning myself out, I've been on the fringes recently.

Tomorrow and Tuesday I'm in the studio with Ethan Ash laying down some new tracks with him, I like drumming to his stuff - it's all very Jack Johnson, controlled, but in the groove, should be a good session and at Half Ton Studios where I always feel at home. And then back into rehearsals with Lu, and then finishing off the scripts for my 'new material evening' in Cambridge on July 29th. And then, perhaps, the radio sitcom, and all these releases I've drummed on really, will be ready for public consumption, which is where the hard work really begins...

Currently listening to: Ed Harcourt - Lustre, Joe Jackson - Night & Day, The Travis Waltons - debut EP
Currently watching: Dad's Army, Shooting Stars
Currently drinking: Far too many energy drinks

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Hedgehog Collective - Cambridge Comedy Festival

I'm knackered, I am. I think that's a pretty standard start to most of my blog entries, not sure - I'm not updating this as much as I should at the moment. Anyway, I engrossed myself in the Cambridge Comedy Festival this weekend - saw 6 shows in 2 days, one of which was mine - but more than on that in a second. Firstly - the Cambridge Comedy Festival is a bloody great thing for the city. Being positioned in early July makes it perfect preview time for Edinburgh Fringe shows - hence why the the calibre of act is pretty high. Also, due to the fact that the shows are previews, the ticket prices are particularly low - yesterday for example you could get to 3 decent quality shows for a tenner. By show 3 yesterday it felt like I was back at the Fringe, only I was about 20 minutes from home. James Sherwood, the third comedy act we saw yesterday, was stupidly good - I saw him last year in Edinburgh and his piano/witty song thing is an appealing prospect, but yesterday his new material was even stronger and he's certainly a rising talent. Today, after our show, we dashed over to the Junction to catch the ever amazing Pappy's, whom, even when trying out their new show which is so new I was told later on it only took them 4 weeks to write, were still fantastic - it's messy, disorganised but performed with such enthusiasm and good nature that you can't not like them. We also saw the much raved about Penny Dreadfuls, whose artistically impressive form of comedy took a little getting used to because it's so damn clever, but now, a couple hours later, I actually think they are fantastic and almost feel guilty for not showing much appreciation at the time.

Anyway - our own show, The Hedgehog Collective. Lots of tension today. Mostly because the dress rehearsal on Wednesday didn't fill us totally with confidence, and because the venue today seemed reluctant to let us in early to rehearse because of a communication error. The first run-through behind closed doors was very concerning, but a second dress rehearsal followed by a spot of lunch seemed to do the trick. We had a lovely audience - loads of them, which was nice. The cast, despite having issues with lines earlier in the day, turned it on and didn't disappoint. On paper it's all good; the laugh-to-audience-member ratio was higher than last year I think, everyone seemed to go away happy. Looking at what Pam Jenner - our director, has to deal with, what with everyone going on holiday at various points of the rehearsal period, it's a miracle she made the show happen and let's be honest about this - everyone has played a part in this show, but Pamela Jenner made it happen. There's nothing to be down about really, although I just had a niggling feeling in my mind watching the show in it's entirety today for the first time that some of it wasn't actually that good. There was lots of lovely ideas and moments in there and enough to make it worthwhile for everyone, but the actual material itself was a bit hit and miss, in retrospect. I accused myself of being cynical, and then realised my co-writer, Alan Morgan, completely agreed with me.

Still, onwards and upwards, even if I wasn't too happy with some of it, this show can be considered a success, if one that I'm happy to put into a box for now. Next week we record the radio sitcom, 'The Modest Adventures Of Patrick And Cameron', which I've had written for months now and can't wait to finally start producing it. A week later I'd very much like to premiere some new material in Cambridge, but should probably get myself a cast or something first before booking a venue.

It's all good really. I've laughed a lot this weekend, as you'd expect/hope to at a comedy festival. They say that laughing is good for you and helps you live longer, I reckon I've gained at least a day somewhere along the line.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Recording with Lu, Trip 35's, sketch shows

I don't know what's up with me right now, but I can't seem to stop doing stuff - like I have lost the ability to switch off for an evening. Either way, I'm happy enough - the sketch show is now finally starting to look like a show after a totally excellent rehearsal yesterday in which we even realised the show was over-running so had the luxury of dropping yet more material. The cast are great, the director is great, the scripts are looking better than they do on paper, my co-writer Alan and I can finally sit back and let the others get on with it. The show is next Sunday - it's a one-off performance for the Cambridge Comedy Festival and hopefully we can repeat the success of last year's show, which was surprised us all greatly.

Today I've been at the incredible High Barn Studios in Essex to record drums for Lu's forthcoming new release, with the ever-brilliant Rob Toulson producing/engineering. It's a lovely place to make music - high wooden ceilings, grand piano, that air of 'good people record here regularly' about it. And it's so much easier when I know the engineer - Rob knows my kit inside out as he's recorded it a million times before at his regular studio (Half Ton Studios in Cambridge) and as I drum for his band, Eureka Stockade, he also knows my drumming and if there's a better take in me. Also, it's helped greatly that Lu and I have been rehearsing like crazy over the last couple of weeks, as we know this material pretty well now. We're booked in for 2 days, the plan for today was to simply spend hours getting everything sounding top-notch, before recording tomorrow, but we're already ahead of ourselves as we've got one track down already - 'Beyond', which I reckon is the best thing Lu's ever written (certainly from a record label point perspective). The plan is to nail top quality performances of 5 tracks - although judging on how long we spent nailing 'Beyond' I'd be more than happy to come out with 3 or 4. All in all, a cracking days work - although my Sat Nav let me down a bit with the weirdest way home - and I swear the way I entered the M11 wasn't right/legal...

Just got back to listen to the first 3 tracks from the Trip 35's album that we recorded last month - that's the one that we did in a very DIY manner in Richard's girlfriend's lounge. The songs are wordy, experimental and as lo-fi as you can get, but I'm proud of them - 3 have now been mixed by Chris (our fiddle player), they can be heard here:

I can't wait for the rest of the album to be done. Because by then the Under The Streetlamp album will be mixed, and of course there's the Eureka Stockade album (which I recorded my parts for last year) and whatever we record tomorrow on the way too - I knew all this studio work would eventually see the light of day. Good times.

Right, got to re-write a sketch, write my column for the Hunts Post, and organise a 'new material night' for my 2 new plays, and then sleep to prepare for the caffeine-led recording tomorrow.

Currently watching: The Worst Week Of My Life (DVD), This Life (DVD), The World Cup
Currently listening to: Ed Harcourt - Lustre, Divine Comedy - Bang Goes The Knighthood

Friday, 2 July 2010

Gig report: Lu and Tom Tilbury @ The Haymakers, Cambridge

Bands: Lu, Tom Tilbury
Venue: The Haymakers, Chesterton, Cambridge
Date: 02/07/10
Audience: Sparse, but lovely
Sets: 6 songs with Lu (which included one cover), and 7 with Tom I think
Notes: My first gig in ages. Well, a couple months. There's been a growing concern in my head that my writing is completely taking over my drumming at the moment - which is cool because I've written a hell of a lot this year. But suddenly out of nowhere comes all these little projects out of the musical woodwork. With our big recording session taking place on Sunday/Monday coming, Lu and I have been in intensive rehearsals to make sure we don't let ourselves down. Rob Toulson - genius producer/engineer/friend has fixed us up some time at High Barn in Essex and I'm thrilled to be there. Lu is a brilliant singer/songwriter/friend and I'm thrilled to be her drummer. It's all good, this. We rehearsed a lot this week, and after a relatively shaky start it's now sounding awesome, and that's not a word I use lightly. We rounded off the rehearsals with a cheeky support slot tonight at the Haymakers in Cambridge, as they say one gig is worth 10 rehearsals, which by now means we've rehearsed lots ahead of the studio malarkey. The gig itself was barely attended - we were on just after 8pm, but those who did see us - basically Rob T, Tommy T, my mate Marcus and my mate Anita, were very kind, as were the locals and other bands on the bill who passed through at various stages. But it was good just to do a gig of some kind with Lu, because we've been meaning to for a while. The songs are jazzy and give me space, but space which I shouldn't abuse - a couple years ago I would have been parradiddling all over them, but now they come across as sensible, well constructed vehicles for Lu's incredibly good vocal ability. We were a little shaky, but it was a good set, I'm happy enough. I then went from drum kit to conga and bashed my fingers to pieces for Tommy Tilbury, who's indie tunes are worthy of much more exposure. I've done a couple gigs with/for Tom this year and I always enjoy them, he likes his funky bits in songs which gives me a decent run out. Not that it's all about me, of course, but some kind lady was "amazed" by my hands. I've tried to explain it's not an art form - I just hit things very quickly and hope for the best, but she mistook it as modesty. I enjoyed tonight a lot.