Wednesday, 27 February 2013

The February new material evening

Our second new material session of the year took place last night at CB2, another chance to try out some stuff, invite a few guest acts, and generally get a bit nervous in front of people I really like. Gave two pieces a run out - one of them was a dramatically re-written version of a play I wrote originally five years ago called, 'Jason's Last Night Out In Town' which was performed at the Bury Fringe back then in front of about six people. It didn't work then in my opinion for many reasons, but I've been keen for a while to rework it as I've always been of the feeling the plotline works a treat and it just needed knocking in a slightly more comedic direction. It tells the story of a garage mechanic called Jason, who falls in love with a beautiful girl called Jennifer who is a massive Ben Folds Five fan. Although she treats him badly, he soon realises that by telling girls you're a Ben Folds Five admirer they are attracted to you - so he follows the band on tour, pulling random girls all over the world. However, when the band split, his sex life is over...but now, the band have reformed and Jennifer returns out of the blue. I'm quite happy with it now, but it's very, very nerdy on the Ben Folds quotes, and I must remember not everyone is as into it as I am. I played Jason last night, Hind played Jennifer, Paul Malpas played the other man in the garage, and in a slightly strange bit of casting Izzy played my best friend, 'Dean'. It went down well with the audience of 15 or so, but it still needs a further rewrite - after a while, when do you just let things go and move on? We also tried out episode one of the new Oscar Pike YouTube sitcom - 'The Oscar Pike Diaries.' I wrote six episodes last year to be filmed, but after the Edinburgh run of the second Oscar show we just got a bit bored of the character (I've written a very rough first draft of a third Oscar show, 'The Inevitable Demise Of Oscar Pike' but that will never see the light of day) - but on looking back at the scripts of the unseen Oscar sitcom I started to realise how proud I was of this material....I was in a good place last January, I think, these scripts are bright and optimistic. The episode we tried last night, 'Crush' is very typical of the character - I fall in love with Clare, my housemate, get frustrated when she starts dating a confident hunk called Jonny, take some bad advice from a random lady on a park bench, go to make my move anyway and end up accidentally losing my accommodation and living in my car. I obviously took the role of Oscar, Izzy played Clare, Paul M played Jonny and Hind was the old lady - Hind is brilliant at playing older characters (as we discovered in the Christmas show) despite only being 25. I'm under no illusions that, apart from a handful of people who seem to ask me most weeks about a third production, that there is a genuine demand for more Oscar, but I felt so good being back in that character again last night and the audience responded incredibly positively. Once we've got the 'Embarrassment Of Richards' YouTube sitcom (being filmed live on 10, 17 and 24 March), the podcast sitcom  - 'Technically Single' (April) and UK tour of 'Some Plays By Paul Richards' (April) out of the way I'll get this filmed, finally, before we hit the fringe with 'Redundancy Club', which I should probably finish writing at some point. Alongside our stuff last night we had our guests - Jessica and Richard put on an excellent, excellent short film they've made, and lovely band Folkwitch played at the end. Great to see friends make it over - in particular Julia, Georgia, Rhian, Roisin and Andy. My flies were undone for all of the Oscar Pike performance - Julia was the only person who noticed but assumed it was part of the character. It wasn't, I felt a bit awkward when realising this. These sessions are great for me as a writer to keep on bashing out stuff to see what sticks, not a vintage evening, but not a bad night at all.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Gig report: The Dowsing For Sound Collective @ Great St Mary's, Cambridge

Band: The Dowsing For Sound Collective
Venue: Great St Mary's, Cambridge
Date: 22/01/13
Audience: Huge, wonderful

Set: Take Me Home, I Wanna Life, Empty Room, Tonight We Fly, Sweet Disposition, Madness, Every Teardop
Notes: The first Dowsing outing for the year and first with the slightly different name too. This was a reasonably last minute thing, as part of a light festival in Cambridge (the lighting was spectacular, and the whole event was organised to perfection) and although the choir were very much in shape the scaled-down band of Andrea, Gav and myself hadn't actually rehearsed the whole set ahead of the show. We know these songs well though, the thing about Dowsing is that as the main performances are so big these songs are drilled into your subconscious and can generally be pulled out of the bag for other events. The only potential banana skin came in the form of 'Madness', a song the choir know well having recorded it with electronic backing, but one less familiar to me - got away with it though. I think the key sometimes in uncertain situations is to just be stupidly enthusiastic, it always seems to work. It was a fantastic gig tonight - absolutely top notch, a venue that means a lot to us original Dowsers as that's where the first (and still unrivalled, despite everything) gig took place - a gig that, now a couple years ago, made me excited about playing music again just as I was starting to get bored of it all. A packed crowd in tonight, I had friends who couldn't get a decent seat so had to go on the balcony, do you know how proud this makes me feel? Also a crowd that responded enthusiastically, rapturous applause whenever warranted, the choir in remarkably confident voice and as a band us living slightly on the edge but probably playing all the better for it. Dowsing is a magical thing - I'm still trying to work out exactly where it fits in my life because things are forever changing (and with this comes massive doubt - I'm a playwright/drummer - but at the moment I seem to be finding more 'exposure' as an actor/percussionist, I'm not ungrateful or anything, it's just hard to get my head around sometimes) and my schedule is almost at breaking point - but I will make time for this, I have to, it enriches my life more than a blog post can express. Those Dowsers are all lovely too, didn't get a chance to really speak to many of them as I arrived fashionably flustered (a diversion on the road to my intended parking place/I missed the diversion sign because I was listening to Ben Folds Five really loudly), and then afterwards I went straight for a drink with my mate Julia (she went quite of her way to make it to the gig, her second Dowsing experience) who remains probably the most intellectual and exciting person you could ever have a conversation with. I'm knackered - played a 2 and a half hour gig with Trevor on Thursday night, the second time in the space of a couple days on top of the day job (which now ends in May, by the way, then I go full time at this), before belting them hard at Great St Marys...this conga lark is great fun, but as I'm sat here with a Carling and packet of Twiglets I hope I can justify it as exercise.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Gig report: Trevor Jones @ The Royal Oak, St Ives

Band: Trevor Jones (duo set)
Venue: The Royal Oak, St Ives
Date: 17/02/13
Audience: Lively
Set: Lots of songs, lots and lots of them
Notes: This was the kind of gig that really hurts my hands – but the more of them I do the more I know the skin will toughen up again after what has been a relatively quiet start to the year for longer gigs. This show lasted over two and a half hours, and we played it as a duo – yet it never felt tiring or that we were short on options thanks to Trevor’s seemingly limitless arsenal of material. We’ve played this venue a few times and this really felt like a good one – everyone was into it, local harmonica legend Vic joined us on a track and it felt like we were kicking into top gear. This year I’ve already had the pleasure (and it is a genuine pleasure) to play some cracking gigs with The British IBM, Flaming June, Eureka Stockade and Trevor, with more to come (including Dowsing For Sound this weekend), this is why I’m a drummer.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Tour dates

So here we go, the tour dates for April's run of Some Plays By Paul Richards.

07/04/2013: The Art Cafe, Kingsbridge, 3pm
07/04/2013: Caffe Clifton, Bristol, 8pm
08/04/2013: Cafe Irie, Newquay, 8pm
09/04/2013: Bar Des Arts, Guildford, 8pm
10/04/2013: The Dabbling Duck, Great Massingham, 8pm
11/04/2013: CB2 (Upstairs – Library), Cambridge, 7.30pm & 9.30pm
12/04/2013: Moondogs Cafe, Galashiels, 5pm
13/04/2013: The Isle Of Skye Baking Company, Isle Of Skye, 7pm

Going to be joined by Hind for this one, she's great fun - although this will certainly test that because we're on the road a lot, in my little Ford Fiesta. She's insisting that we camp, at least for some of the days, which adds to the adventure of the whole thing, and also film bits of it as a tour documentary. It's a couple months off yet, and before that I've got a few other shows and stuff coming up, but this will be great fun I reckon. Tickets are available here if you actually wanted to see the show:

Had a great meeting with Izzy last night about our new Edinburgh show (we'll announce more details/the title soon, ideally when I've finished writing it), it's a slight diversion from what we've done previously (the main difference being that, for the first time in 9 years of doing Edinburgh, we will be in the 'comedy' bit of the programme, rather than 'theatre', which feels like a significant step). Naturally, the meeting itself only lasted half of the evening, the rest of it was spent drinking and bantering - it's great working on a show with a mate, you know. If my extensive notes for this one are anything to go by, it's going to be a cracking little show - the same goes for the show I'm writing for Louise at the moment, she's proper fired up about doing this properly which is lovely.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Gig report: Flaming June @ Lost Horizons Folk Club, London

Band: Flaming June
Venue: Lost Horizons Folk Club, London
Date: 15/02/13
Audience: Quiet but appreciative
Set: Stop The Ride, Nerves Of Steel, I Know What It's Like, Little Love In A Cruel World, Rumplestiltskin, The Devil's Daughter, Song For The Broken Hearted, Pyscho, Heal Me Believe Me, Wednesdays & Weekends
Notes: Another 'duo' Flaming June gig and Louise's second London show of the week. This felt like an easy night - the journey both ways was comfortable and hassle free (despite headlining I was home by midnight), the food was good and the beer was free. The venue itself - upstairs from a, shall we say, 'lively' pub looked great - candles, lights, cabaret-style seating, and the promoters were the friendliest and most enthusiastic I've met in a long time. A nice evening of quality music, there's something about folk clubs that sometimes make you feel a tad uncomfortable - because the audience are on the quieter end of the spectrum, there's no doubt that they're enjoying the songs and they're certainly paying attention, but compared the rowdy pub circuit it's a very different gig altogether. We played well, by a couple songs in we were really flying and the energy levels were, as ever, bordering on manic. I'm currently writing a stage show for Louise, for her Eartha Tydeville character (I'm also writing the show for Izzy and myself for the fringe), these feel like really healthy, creative times.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Gig report: Flaming June @ The Cornerhouse, Cambridge

Band: Flaming June
Venue: The Cornerhouse, Cambridge
Date: 09/02/13
Audience: Fantastic
Set: Stop The Ride, Rumplestiltskin, Nerves Of Steel, I Know What It's Like, Psycho, Sweetness Weakness, Little Love In A Cruel World
Notes: My second gig of the night, and over to a pretty busy Cornerhouse. We were supposed to be headlining this but due to Alyssa's illness we had to play it as a duo and opted to be main support instead, with the very enjoyable Honeywitch taking the final slot. Because we were a musician down we really ramped up our performances tonight - it was a manic and fast set, which resulted in Louise losing her voice just before the last song, she really was putting everything into it. That was probably something to do with the fact we had such a vibrant audience all into it, and on a personal level it was nice to see Georgia, Rhian, Lucy, Lynsey, Dominique, Onat and Phil all make it down. That was my second gig of the night and I could have easily played a third. See, I've had a relatively lazy day, catching up on emails, trying to take it a little easy after a week of running about all over the place but as a result I just felt fatigued - I'm just no good at relaxing, tonight's gigs were both great - energy seems to create more energy and I'm rather hungry for more nights like this.

Gig report: Eureka Stockade @ The Portland Arms, Cambridge

Band: Eureka Stockade
Venue: The Portland Arms, Cambridge
Date: 09/02/13
Audience: Friendly, loud enough in their appreciation
Set: Violence, Been There Before, Without You, Caught In A Fire, If, Through Every Darkness, All Alone
Notes: First Eureka Stockade gig in what feels like a very long time, but with recording for the second album now taking place and with more shows coming up this band have taken any of the few gaps that remain in my diary. Which is a good thing because I really like Eureka Stockade - it felt like a big sound tonight, and even though our only rehearsal was last night we were pretty tight for most of it. Playing at the new Portland Arms (I still can't get used to it - just feels like a completely different venue now), we were opening for indie heroes and formally quite big band Ultrasound, who are on a bit of a comeback tour. Cramped stage, what with four bands playing (and Ultrasound's huge organ), and it all got very hot and sweaty quite quickly but it was a decent gig. On just as the doors opening, we were never going to have a huge crowd, but such is the power of supporting a known band we still had quite a few in - and they responded enthusiastically enough. Played very new song, 'If', live for the first time, Andy's finest 4 minutes without any doubt. I then had to leg it down the road to play another gig...

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Stuff that I'm learning

I feel like I'm learning a lot at the moment. Perhaps it's because the stagnation of routine is coming to a close (well, when I leave the day job at the end of April), or perhaps it's purely because I'm just over thinking everything at the moment as I plot my next move in life. That sounds awfully dramatic, and to be honest - I'm probably not physically moving anywhere for a while yet, sorry good people of Shepreth who get annoyed with my late night blasts of Joe Jackson and Glen Hansard from the car stereo as I struggle to park on the seemingly-easy-but-difficult-in-the-dark-because-of-the-bins driveway.

Recording for the new Eureka Stockade album started this week - well, Andy and Rob have been working on it a while, but on Monday I was in to work on the drum parts. Our last album was really something I'm proud of, it was years ago now (2 and a bit years?) so glad to be back and working on the new tracks. Recorded the drum parts for 3 the other night - 2 of which crept into the live set last year, and the other one was a completely new track that Andy has written and it's by far the finest thing he's created, I reckon. In a brooding pop-rock kind of way, it's stunning. I couldn't quite hit my stride with this session at first, 'Caught In A Fire' - probably one of the easiest songs in the Eureka repertoire, just didn't feel right for a while, took about six takes, which is about triple my normal amount. We were using the house kit at the studio to save time, and the turning point seemed to be when the stool broke, I got mine from my car and suddenly I seemed to click into gear. So, what did I learn? Either, it's all about being comfortable in a recording session, or I have a very bony backside that needs the well-padded bliss of my 'Big Dog' seat that has served me so well over the years.

The tour of the play is coming up soon, the second week of April. I'm quite excited about the idea of it all - I just love touring, whether it be with a band, or play, there's something glorious about performing to different audiences every night, and I quite like the rush and panic of it all too. There will be plenty of that on this next tour - we are literally all over the place. It's virtually a solo show as before, but with a few key character moments from an actress - this time Hind Shubber, and I'm actually really looking forward to doing these plays again, in fact - I'm actually excited. What am I learning from this? Maybe I do like being on stage after all, which - considering two years ago (the first Oscar Pike show) I was a petrified wreck, this is a bit of a turnaround and not exactly on my life to-do list. But what also did I learn? I should never be in charge of booking a tour again. I'll announce the tour dates next week (still waiting on one of them to be confirmed, the other 7 are sorted) but it is just crazy, I may as well just rename it, 'The Tour That Killed My Ford Fiesta.' And the other crazy thing? On the back of this one, I've already confirmed three dates for a tour in November for a show that I've not written yet...

Just over a year ago I wrote a novel called, 'Big Hopes In Little Winhaven.' I wrote it quickly - I took a week off work, closed the blinds, stocked up on pizza and went for it. It was a great week. I'm quite proud of it. It's a piece of work that's intricate, the characters pile in, it requires a certain amount of patience from the reader. The reader I'd like to believe will be rewarded with a nice enough conclusion where everything comes together, I'd very much like the reader to sigh and feel satisfied by it at the end. I've re-written it various times before letting a few choice people see it. The problem is - those who have seen it are people I like and trust, and there's a real sense that as a novel it just doesn't really work. Bollocks. The issue seems to be is that it's written in my voice which, if you know me, I can just about get away with. But I'm not arrogant enough to think that a) lots of people who stumble into it on Amazon know me and b) even if you did know me, you would buy it anyway. There's enough of me out there already - part of me thinks I'd be better off turning, 'Big Hopes...' into a stage play, or at worse, just drunkenly telling the story to my mates in a pub. For those of you who think it doesn't work because I wrote it in 7 days - I'm sorry, but you're wrong. You can write a novel in seven days. It's just I didn't write one that is likely to appeal. I read somewhere before that people who have written a novel think they have a divine right to have it published - simply because they've gone through so much to write it in the first place. I understand and agree completely, which is why I'm not going to be 'releasing' it into the big wide world, probably ever. If you want a copy drop me a message and I'll happily send it to you. What did I learn here then? I'm probably not a novelist. Not wishing to sound arrogant, I'm doing a lot of things right at the moment, but being a novelist isn't one of them.

There's two Edinburgh Fringe shows that need writing, one that I'll be doing with Izzy, and one for Louise Hamilton. I'll have the first drafts nailed within the next month and then I'll have a bit of time on my hands. Time to give this novel writing thing another go, I reckon.

Currently reading: The Last Party by John Harris (Aidy lent me this outstanding book, I started reading it, left it at my parents' house when the flat flooded, forgot to bring it back, but finally back on it - and what a treat it is too)

Currently watching: How Not To Live Your Life - Series 2, Only Fools And Horses - Series 5, Match Of The Day

Currently listening to: Glen Hansard - Rhythm And Repose, Dexys - One Day I'm Going To Soar

Currently plotting: a rigorous exercise schedule, which is unlikely to be completed.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Gig report: The British IBM @ Q Radio, Birmingham

Band: the British IBM
Venue: Q Radio Session at Q/Kerrang Offices, Birmingham
Date: 06/02/13
Audience: Hard to tell, what with it being a pre-recorded radio broadcast
Set: Sugar Water, Animal, The British IBM, God's Front Porch
Notes: This was a bigger-than-normal gig for us today, and it felt like a real cracker. A fairly hassle-free journey to Birmingham, where we were playing in the offices of Q and Kerrang - it's a really nice looking space, well sized studio and we were well aware that this will potentially go out to thousands. Obviously it's all pre-recorded, so not too pressured today, but we played well anyway - backed by our special guest cellist, Anna, who played on the album with us. The whole set up made us feel very comfortable, the studio itself enthusiastically run, and nice to meet our radio plugger in person too - someone who is working very hard for us at the moment. A decent day for the British IBM, and perhaps one that we needed after a couple gigs this year that haven't been bad, but haven't exactly set the world alight, this was a goodun.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Gig report: The British IBM @ The Dublin Castle, London

Band: the British IBM
Venue: The Dublin Castle, London
Date: 31/01/13
Audience: Pretty busy, lots of Japanese tourists
Set: Make It Happen, Pain In My Heart, Down Like That, Animal, Sugar Water, 3 Years, Guns, The British IBM, Washing Machine
Notes: Legendary venue - pretty much the main reason why we chose to play at The Dublin Castle was because Madness were regulars there, and we all love Madness...everyone does! Great to be on that famous stage, and logistically a pretty easy evening - right next to Camden tube, as far as London gigs go this is one of the easier ones. Felt like a tricky gig to be honest - we were the third act on but the first acoustic act, the obvious dip in volume of our trio stuff directly following a loud rock band didn't work in our favour. I tried using bongos instead of congas for ease of transportation and they didn't cut it at all (they sounded great in the flat the other day, but in a proper venue they just got lost in the mix/sounded like I was playing cardboard boxes), it was nice to see Magnus in the audience - who was in the promo video for our second single, and a few people dancing, but London gigs are tough sometimes, aren't they?