Tuesday, 23 December 2014

So that was 2014

2014, that just flew by, didn't it? I'm having my yearly reminisce about the last 12 months, now that I'm finally in a position to slow down for a couple of days and enjoy the somewhat excessive festivities. It's not been a bad year, this one...January started off with gigs with FRED'S HOUSE - a band I continue to spend most of my gigging/recording life with (and love doing so), alongside a studio session with PILLARS. I recorded a whole album overnight with Alister Bunclark, Chris Lawrenson and Trevor Jones under the name of BLEARY EYED BY DAWN, it was a cold, exhausting session but I still enjoy the recordings a lot now. I also played live with THE PRISONER OF MARS, and - alongside writing various bits of new material, filmed series one of our online sitcom, AND THEN THINGS GOT COMPLICATED FOR EMILY AND MICHAEL with Izzy Rees. It was launched a month later and it's still something I'm really proud of.

Apparently all four episodes of series one were later shown on a cable channel in Michigan, but I'm struggling to find any evidence of this apart from an email from their producer. Either way, it's a lovely and fun concept, and came out remarkably well considering it was all filmed on my old iPhone. In February I started a run of lounge shows for my GETTING LOST IN MY HOMETOWN piece - this is a show I performed 59 times this year and has been my most successful production to date, picking up a string of decent reviews (and one bad one, but we won't mention that), although let's be honest - the early lounge performances were pretty weak. It got better, I rewrote and rewrote as you should do until it became a 'proper' show. It was my second ever completely solo show, and the first one I've actually cared about. Also that month, we (Fred's House) played at the Cambridge Corn Exchange as part of the Chinese New Year Celebrations and we were the only non-Chinese act on the bill. It was a brilliantly confusing evening. I entered the studio to record drum parts for the new FLAMING JUNE release, played at Trinity College with THE DOWSING SOUND COLLECTIVE and, in the space of four weeks, made my début feature-length film, THE MANY STRUGGLES OF OSCAR PIKE. It's as lo-fi as they come, but there's something about making a whole movie on a phone that is a bit of a victory. I worked with a lot of lovely people on this movie, special thanks should probably go to Guillaume Tucker for the French reggae scenes - they were scary to film (especially as the audience at that open mic session didn't know we were making a film so their reaction to our scenes was hostile, which was perfect for the footage but also a little unnerving). The piece itself, a rather bleak movie, it has to be said, featured the talents of Vikki Gavin, Abi Sage, Jessica Smith, Marcus Hood and Daniel Smith alongside myself as Oscar, plus a nice cameo from Gaf from Fred's House as a bassist in the final scene. Although it's downbeat, it was a happy time making it.

In March I played my first gig of the year with TREVOR JONES, performed, tweaked and generally bettered the Getting Lost... show, and we filmed a promo video for the Fred's House title track, Bonnie and Clyde, which involved lots of wool. 

We then started a UK tour to promote our début album - a tour which saw us perform in Chesham, Hertford, Bedford, Harborough Magna, Stroud, Bristol, Norwich, London, Leicester, Thriplow, Bishop's Stortford, Finedon, Milton Keynes, Cardiff, Bracknell, Cambridge and Market Harborough. I made a documentary on the road but to be honest, we were all so nice to each other and there wasn't any disasters at all so it doesn't make for interesting viewing; it's just basically us being happy and audiences really liking us. I can send you a private link if you want to see it, but nobody really wants to watch a band getting on well, do they? The tour stretched into April and was a success, with a live album later emerging from the Bedford performance, which was probably the best date of the tour. In the brief gap between tour dates we had the première of Oscar Pike, and my book was released, THE STATIONERY SELLER AND OTHER SHORT STORIES. I might as well stick a link here, just for the sake of it, although I'm pretty sure everyone who was gonna buy it has bought it by now, but here it is. With the band stuff briefly calming down, in May I accepted a second Edinburgh fringe show for the year - confirming that I'd be taking a show called THE PAUL RICHARDS DISASTERS up there alongside Getting Lost... and then I toured the latter around the UK. It was my first ever solo tour as a comedy performer and was a tough one. I went to Halesworth (they didn't get it), Liverpool (they forgot they booked me and offered me £50 to go away), Leeds (nice show but venue too big, it was a struggle) and North Creek (I confused them). I also organised and performed at a huge charity event for Wood Green Animal Shelter, and we (members of Fred's House, plus band friend Chris Bradbury) recorded a World Cup single. A pop song for England manager Roy Hodgeson, Roy! was a pleasure to be part of, despite it looking a bit UKIP when making the video. For some reason I can't get the video to work on here, but here's the link

June was just daft; recorded with The Dowsing Sound Collective (a track called Reality Checkpoint as part of the Cycle of Songs project, later available on an app for Tour-de-France), festival season kicked in with gigs everywhere with Fred's House, I organised and hosted a charity event for Magpas at The Ferryboat in Holywell, performed a bunch more lounge shows as Getting Lost...continued to grow into a better show and then I performed it publicly in Wales (cracking show), Ludlow (above a Chinese takeaway, not the best) and a 3 night run at the Barnstaple Fringe (all 3 nights a joy). The same weekend as Barnstaple I was also scheduled to play a festival gig with Fred's House; somehow I managed to just about do everything, cutting it all fine but that weekend I drove over a thousand miles but it was all very much worthwhile. I filmed a sitcom version of The Paul Richards Disasters and launched it online, but I've now removed it as it just wasn't very good. Promotion for Roy! continued, with us taking over a radio station for an hour and also recording and releasing a regular podcast as World Cup fever hit the nation, we were also played on Radio 5, among other things. As the fringe got nearer, press coverage ramped up and brilliant independent film-maker Karen Cann interviewed me in a really nice way: 

As if June wasn't busy enough, in July I decided to release a short story a day on YouTube for the whole month. I did so, under the title of ALL I'VE GOT IS AWKWARD. 31 short stories, I reckon about 15 of them were quite good, you know. More festival gigs, a studio session with Prisoner of Mars, and then a particularly ridiculous weekend when I played 2 sets with Fred's House in Cardiff, had 5 hours sleep, and then played two shows with The Dowsing Sound Collective at the Apex in Bury St Edmunds. I performed Getting Lost... at the Etcetera Theatre in Camden, and then in Haslemere, where I got so lost on the way home I somehow drove to Portsmouth. And then I had the Reading Fringe; 2 performances, the first was great, the second I was very late for thanks to major traffic problems. Stressed, arriving in Reading 10 minutes before my show was due to start but still not at the venue, I decided to dump my car and run to the venue, set in hand. I ran for a short while, before realising I wasn't where I thought I was, and then ran back, getting cramp along the way, falling over, into a road, nearly getting hit by a moving bus but managing to scramble away in time. Eventually found my car, my sat-nav took me everywhere apart from where I needed to be, eventually made it to the venue 40 minutes late and did the show. Got a 4 star review that day. Also that month I foolishly confirmed a third show for this year's Edinburgh Fringe, a dark comedy called THE MOMENTS OF MADNESS THAT MAKE US: THE DEATH OF A STORYTELLER. Confirming and then writing a show 2 weeks before a festival is basically creative suicide, I should have known better. We filmed and released a second series of Emily And Michael, I was just as proud of this one as I was the first four episodes, and the stage version of The Paul Richards Disasters, which I appeared in alongside the superb Kimberly O'Brien previewed in Cambridge. The stage version was so much better than the sitcom idea. 

August? Well, that would be the Edinburgh Fringe, then. A dramatic, rollercoaster of a month. I performed 33 times in 21 days. In short, Getting Lost... generally went down very well, sometimes exceptionally so. There was only one day when I found myself telling the audience, "look; you're not enjoying this, I'm not enjoying this, how about you go and find a show you like and I can go and get a beer?" but the rest of that run was more than fine. The Paul Richards Disasters was fun and well received, The Moments of Madness... was largely ignored. I love the fringe; it's a struggle, it's a triumph, it's what I live for. Naturally, I made a film about it: 

Also up there, I started filming scenes for my new film, 50 Ways to Leave Your Drummer. I still haven't finished it, but not far off; I reckon there I'll have a feature film done by February.

A day after returning from the fringe I was back to being a drummer again with Fred's House, and I played 7 gigs in 9 days, and moved house. Also, on returning from the fringe, I quit the day job. I just saw enough in myself in Edinburgh to know that maybe, just maybe, I could go full time at this. And the drumming, of course. Obviously, I hated the day job with a passion, which made the decision a bit easier, but still; it remains perhaps the most exciting but foolish thing I've ever done. I also played my one and only gig of the year with THE BRITISH IBM and also played live with the wonderful CLAUDIA MCKENZIE AND THE BRADY BUNCH and another one with Flaming June.

I needed to calm down a bit; October was luckily a little easier. Studio sessions began for the second Fred's House album and we also recorded the Christmas single then too, I also played more shows with them and also Flaming June and ANDY BROWN. I also organised a charity event for Macmillan Cancer Support, recorded an album with my close friend, Matt Corrall called PAUL RICHARDS READING SOME SHORT STORIES WHILST A MAN CALLED MATTHEW PLAYS HARMONICA GENTLY IN THE BACKGROUND and performed Getting Lost... in Leeds. I created a character called Skanky Lad and made a 15 minute video called THE UNFORTUNATE ADVENTURES OF SKANKY LAD which nobody really enjoyed. I still think there's mileage in that concept though, with a bit of work, for next year.

November; my first month as a 'professional' saw me back on the road with Getting Lost... with performances in Kings Lynn (great fun), Bury St Edmunds (sold out, quiet audience but very friendly), Lewisham Fringe (nobody turned up, nobody at all - not one person. Show cancelled), Castle Actre (they put me in the main bar, not the function room, but I won them over eventually - lovely people), Colchester (hell. A career low. Hell.), Banbury (a complete joy) and finally the last ever performance in Maldon (a wonderful night). My second collection of short stories, MY CAR DOESN'T DO HILLS, was released containing 25 little adventures - ahem, here it is, here. And naturally, gigs happened all over the place, as usual. And suddenly now it's December, a month I've had my eye on for ages because I like Christmas projects very much indeed. The Fred's House Christmas single was released and it's very festive thing indeed:

My Christmas novella (a short novel) which I wrote in October was released - it's called HAVE YOURSELF A RIDICULOUS LITTLE CHRISTMAS and is here, I wrote 24 short episodes of a series called THE IZZY REES AND PAUL RICHARDS ADVENT CALENDAR and filmed them with, well, Izzy, as you might have guessed. She has been a joy to work with again this year, I've worked with Izzy a lot over the last four (or five?) years and we've still not really fallen out, apart from *that* one incident at the fringe this year when she accidentally ended up being a gooseberry on a date I was on. Our Christmas feature film, made in October on my mobile, CHRISTMAS WITH EMILY AND MICHAEL was released, complete with very low-key première, and it's been going down well.

The Dowsing Sound Collective Christmas gig was, without questions, one of my favourite things of the year simply because it just shouldn't work...it just really, really, shouldn't, but such is Andrea's vision and ambition and the fact that everyone buys into that vision to bring it to life, is such an amazing thing. The Christmas gig at the Cambridge Corn Exchange just felt great, it was one those nights; a spectacular, exhausting, exhilarating evening that I'm still thinking a lot about now. And of course I had a couple of Yuletide stage shows myself, the sometimes worryingly dark PAUL RICHARDS WILL MAKE YOU FESTIVE (run of Cambridge shows plus a couple of lounge performances) and FUNKY PANTO: 8 PANTOS IN AN HOUR with Izzy and a brilliant houseband featuring Claudia, Marcel and Edd, which went down surprisingly well considering how quickly it was out together.

The above video was courtesy of Antony Carpen from Dowsing, by the way.

So here we are then, Christmas, finally, hurrah! A chance go back to the family home (which is an hour away, meaning I can listen to Driving Home For Christmas 20 times en route). Just looking back over the last 12 months I'm happy. See, when projects come and go so fast, when things get done so well but so quickly, you tend to forget about how good some of them really are. I'm pretty sure I've missed out a few things but I've rambled enough already, but it hasn't been bad. I've been lucky enough to have met some of my comedy heroes backstage this year (Alex Horne, Adrian Edmondson, Arthur Smith) and with Fred's House I've been on the bill with some of my favourite artists (Slow Club, Chris TT, Mark Morriss). I've moved house twice and my car still hasn't died despite the fact that I've put it through another 30,000 miles this year - my little old Fiesta is made of strong stuff.

Quickly some stats:

Gigs played in 2014: 101 (well, will be once the last one of the year, on New Year's Eve, is done)
Full shows performed as a comedy performer: 92
Books written and released: 3
Feature length films written/produced and released: 2

This is me; knackered. Give me a few days to do the whole family thing and then next year I'll come back fighting. 2014 was good; 2015 is the year when things will really start to happen. Let's do this! MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The Christmas show, the Dowsing show

Christmas really shouldn't be this stressful, but I guess a lot of people are saying that for different reasons at this time of the year.

It's been an exciting couple of weeks; being professional is a bit of a rollercoaster to say the least. Before, if things don't work out, you can say "ah, well it's just a hobby" but now when it all goes wrong it's your LIFE. I've never had a show cancelled before as a comedy performer and I had 2 cancelled in the same week recently. Both due to poor ticket sales; both very much out of town performances so I (obviously) had no following there. It's a proper kick in the gut, it's impossible to not take it personally even though you know you've done everything you can to get people in. And, I know I've said this before, but it shouldn't be about audience numbers, it needs to go back to being about the art; if that's okay, everything is okay.

Audience numbers weren't great for the Cambridge performances, but I was doing 4 nights, and those who were there (I've made a list of you all, just in case I ever earn enough to reward you or something) seemed to really enjoy it. I enjoyed myself a lot, it's such an odd show - the idea being that I don't know what I'm doing, although of course it's all very, very scripted and I'm in 100% control of the situation despite what the audience may think. It's a fun concept, elements of which will end up in next year's Edinburgh show.

We had the Dowsing Sound Collective Christmas show on Sunday night and it was, without question, my favourite gig ever. Maybe it's because I was expecting it all to fall apart, such is the complexity of the project. Maybe it was because it was just bloody brilliant in every way possible; the arrangements, the voices, the musicianship, the camaraderie...it's just one big giant ball of epic musical bliss. The audience noticed that too, clearly, hence their conga during the show. It was just a raucous, unpredictable party that everyone bought into. When we get it right, like we did on Sunday, it's just a thrill, a thrill that no other project can possibly ever give you. I'm continually flattered to be their drummer, it's a real privilege.

The comedown is hard to take, we played a stripped-down set tonight in Ely which was nice, and for now I guess people can turn their attentions to Christmas. I've still got a panto to get through first, that opens tomorrow (well, technically today), the signs are this will be a good one, but who can really tell?

Monday, 1 December 2014

Great shows, terrible shows, that time of the year when everything comes out

I haven't updated this blog for a while now; it's ironic that even though I quit the day job I actually have less time than I used to. It's probably because I care more, pretty sure that's what it is. I'm working harder than I ever have done, just to prove that this can be done.

I've been working on some new material recently; the show which I thought I'd be taking to Edinburgh next year, Layby, just doesn't work. It's a shame; tried it out at a new material night and although there were some absolutely cracking moments in it, I can just tell this a show I wouldn't want to be doing for more than a couple months. And that's thing - the next solo show has to be a show that lasts all of next year, it has to be a show that's flexible for both comedy clubs and theatres, a show I can tweak without ruining it's chore elements.

Getting Lost in My Hometown became that for me. True, so I had some bumpy rides with it - the huge charity event in Godmanchester, one or two of the Edinburgh performances, but on the whole it's been a show that has been so good to me - from the very early lounge shows right up until last night, the final performance. My patience has been tested recently, though. In Castle Acre they put me in the main bar, not a function room, in their bid to attract more of an audience. A pub! Should never of worked, but really, really did. But then in Colchester I found myself in the same situation and they hated it. I'm not being arrogant here; I'm used to my shows being liked. True, so they never leave people crying with laughter and with them unable to breath due to sheer joy, but they're gentle enough to either be enjoyed or politely ignored. In Colchester they hated me though. I hated them too. It was a tough evening. Paul Richards a year ago would have crumbled with that one. Paul Richards in 2014 can happily chat in the corner of a pub or an hour and get paid for it. The next couple of shows, Banbury and the final one in Maldon were both spectacularly good, as was the BBC Radio Essex performance, so I'm happy enough, In short; 59 performances - Liverpool, Ludlow, Colchester, 1 of the Edinburgh shows and Lewisham didn't like it, but I did well with it everywhere else. I'd be more than happy with that sort of return for next year's show, whatever that may be.

As a drummer I've been busy recording with Fred's House for the second album, which is already shaping up really nicely. Also, the Dowsing gig at the Cambridge Corn Exchange is creeping up and I have some drum stuff with a few other acts lined up for next year.

As a person I'm promoting everything at the moment because, in case it escaped you, it's basically Christmas now. I have a new book out, a film, 2 shows and the band have a festive single. I don't know if it's possible to promote everything in one go and keep the attention of potential audiences, but it looks like I have no choice in the matter and will have to give it a go. Either way, Christmas is awesome and we're nearly there, guys, nearly there.

Monday, 10 November 2014

An odd weekend

I've got four shows to write, so really shouldn't be distracting myself with this but, well, that was an odd weekend - and purely on a professional level, too.

With my first week as a full-time arty dude being just a bit slower than planned (although I did write the festive novella, which has now been proofread and is virtually ready to go), I was looking forward to this weekend of shows. In fact, I was anxiously gearing myself up for them. The first one on Friday in Bury had sold out, which was amazing. I arrived fashionably two hours early and thought about things far too much. They were a nice crowd, but they weren't a laugh-out-loud kind of crowd, they just sat and smiled throughout the whole thing. I'm grateful, but there was that niggling doubt in my head that they were just being polite. I don't know, for some reason during the show it felt like I lost my way a bit, nobody would have noticed but the alarm bells rang a bit in my head. This was the 57th time I performed this show; it ended with a warm applause, and then another warm applause when I came back on to pack away, so I must have done okay but I know, deep down, that was by far my best performance. No excuses; nice venue that I know well, a show I know well, just sometimes it's difficult to be completely on it.

On Saturday, fired up because I was below-par the previous night, I drove to London to perform at the Lewisham Fringe. I decided to drive because driving in London is always difficult and I just felt the need to stretch myself a bit. The drive itself, both ways, was a doddle. A slow doddle, but still counts. The show? Well, it just didn't happen. I'd been plugging it like crazy, but not one single person turned up. You can't make people turn up to your shows; I'm not sure what else I could have done. London is a tricky beast for shows, remind me to stay away from it for a while, that was just awkward and horrible.

Got back to Cambridge by 5.30pm and decided to drive down to Bristol, it's only 3 hours away and this is a small country - when 606 football phone-in stuff is on the radio any car journey just flies by. Really great to drink beer with Matt, and to see Anna for her 30th. She made us all go to a club, which, despite my polite protests, was remarkably enjoyable.

On Sunday morning I drove back to Cambridge and moved house. Yep, that's how I roll. My reasons for leaving the last place were mostly financial (and being freelance it's good to keep my overheads as low as possible), but this new place is seriously great and I feel very at home already. If anything, it's too nice and I may get too comfy to do stuff, we'll see...

Thursday, 6 November 2014

"What are you doing on Monday?"

As my final day in 'proper' employment came to a close last week, my (then) boss asked me, "so, what will you be doing on Monday?"

It was an important question; she wanted to gage what exactly my plans to be an 'artist' actually involved. I get the sense she was secretly hoping that I'd say "I have no plans, please take me back to your wonderful world of spreadsheet slavery" so I made a point of not saying that. Annoyingly, my show for Monday in Somerset was cancelled due to poor ticket sales. They weren't bad, if it was a local show I would have done it, but it's a long way to go and fuel is quite expensive and I probably would have lost money on it, which isn't great given the situation. But telling the boss that on my final day...it just gave her the opportunity to turn to my line manager and raise her eyebrows. She did that a lot in my time there.

Taking days off is acceptable, I don't plan to have any until next Saturday (when my young lady is back for the weekend so I can actually see her), but your first day? I was never going to let that happen, so I've spent the week writing a Christmas novella (half a novel), with the plan to nail it before the week is out and get it out there. A couple days before that I performed the solo show in Kings Lynn, then dashed to Market Harborough to play a long gig with the band, and the next day I had meetings about how to do the whole self-employed thing (tax returns etc) and then a photoshoot for next year's Edinburgh show. I've also found the time to work on the press release with Griff and Vix ahead of our Christmas single, went to dinner with good friends Adam and Vanessa (who seem really, really into the idea of '50 Way to Leave your Drummer' - must finish this film at some point) and play a gig in London. I also turned down a job doing telesales. Tomorrow the solo show heads to Bury, Saturday I'll be performing in London, Saturday night I'll be in Bristol socialising (but let's be honest - there will be an element of networking involved, as always), Sunday I'm moving house, again.

And then suddenly it's mid-November and I'm on a proper run of the solo show and all things Christmas kick in. I could have done with Monday off, really.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

It'll all be okay. Calm down, Richards

That's what I tell myself before going to sleep every night, before beginning a fictional television interview with myself. Sounds deluded? Not at all, if anything it's modest because I bore myself so much, so quickly, I sleep really well.

But I think it will be, this whole 'turning professional thing'. I'm in my final couple of weeks of working out my notice in the day job but they've already replaced me (charming!) so I've got very little to do apart from make something of myself. Which is cool because I really need the time at the moment, tour dates from management hasn't quite worked out so I'm doing it myself. I've sent out 182 emails in 2 days; got 4 show offers already. These are on top of existing bookings - Leeds, Kingsbridge, Taunton, Bury, London, Essex.

The last few weeks have been super busy, with recording for the new Fred's House album continuing (sounding beautiful) and gigging with them (AlexFest in particular was superb), Andy Brown and Flaming June. I hosted a charity gig for Macmillan Cancer, confirmed my panto (FUNKY PANTO) and the house band to go with it. I've finished editing the Emily & Michael Christmas film, only for Izzy to (rightly) spot a couple things, which I'll now tweak - we should still (just) be on schedule for an early December release with that.

A couple weeks back I recorded a lovely spoken word/harmonica album simply titled, 'Paul Richards Reading Some Short Stories Whilst a Man Called Matt Plays Harmonica Gently in the Background.' It was recorded with my very close mate, Matt Corrall, who is a genius (as both a designer - he does all my artwork, and as harmonica player). 7 short stories of me sounding a little flustered at times, but his playing is brilliant and somehow compliments it. Anyway, it's available in the usual places as a pre-order and is out on November 24th.

On Sunday the new-look Dowsing band got together with the choir for the first session of the season and it was so much fun - remarkably smooth, the Christmas gig is going to be amazing. Christmas is very much the buzz word at the moment...

Tonight I performed the solo show for the first time since Edinburgh; it was a warm-up performance before the Leeds show at the weekend. Literally haven't touched it for two months, not looked at the script or anything. It was a gentle warm-up; a lounge show around my mate Phill's house. I've performed a lot of shit around his house over the last couple of years but both he and his many housemates always respond well so it felt like the perfect time to return. It was okay tonight - by the end it was great, I felt, when I got angry and shouty it was like I was back on form. The start was as shaky as anything though, but that's to be expected. Anyway, I know the words, well - most of them, enough for it to look like a show anyway...it'll all be okay. Calm down, Richards.

Monday, 29 September 2014

But is art enough?

Scruffy man, 33, incredibly gentle but old people are scared of him. Has quit his job but has quite a long notice period...he has until 31st October. Has a car which is evidently on it's last legs (but plans on touring in it for a living), rents a property that is probably slightly out of his price range - even with a 'proper job' (but who wouldn't want to live in a Victorian cottage in a lovely village next to a church?), keeps forgetting to get a haircut so now it's almost a mullet (but he's pretending it's intentional), has started dating a girl who has just moved to Leeds (but she's only there for a year and they like each other very much). In a successful band and is very much in demand as a musician; can confidently hold his own for an hour onstage as a comedy performer. 7 offers for the novel (which still isn't finished) and with genuine industry interest for his playwriting skills. Has just under five weeks to turn this into a living.

It feels like I've sent hundreds and hundreds of emails over the last couple of weeks...actually I have. I feel like I've been spamming people (maybe that's why nobody ever replies) but only with honest questions and show offers that I hope they will find appealing. I'm getting a sense that the arts industry is the same as any other profession; it's purely a numbers game. Tour dates are slowly trickling in - it's harder now that I'm self-employed because I can't just give the show away like I used to (and quite enjoyed doing), I've got bills to pay and a point to prove. My tour dates so far are all for early November which is handy as it looks like I have a bunch of professional lounge shows for the middle/end of that month. There's too many TBC's for my liking, but if I can get those over the finishing line and confirm one or two more things then my first month should just about be okay. I have offers as a drummer too but that feels tricky, because I'm running out of evenings and the big key to being in demand as a musician is often flexibility and availability but we'll see. I'll worry about December as soon as November is booked up, but I have a Christmas show and a panto lined up.

We've finished the filming of our festive movie, Christmas with Emily & Michael, which sees Izzy and I reprising our roles from the little YouTube sitcom only in a format that is suitable for the big screen (and filmed on a better camera) alongside Phoebe and Stephen, both of whom were great. I'm editing it as we speak, in between writing this, because my software is a bit slow. For the other film, Fifty Ways to Leave Your Drummer, well...this one is taking a while, being sacked by 50 different bands will take time, but we've got some more amazing footage recently (including a spectacular on-stage sacking by The Hired Gunns), I still think I'll have everything I need to be in a position to edit this by Christmas. I tried out some new material the other night at CB2 and most of it didn't work, which was a shame, but that's what new material nights are for and I'm certainly not precious of anything I write when it's this new, and I have a new book coming out in November, My Car Doesn't Do Hills. Later in November I'll be trying out two new stage shows, The Unsurprising Death of Oscar Pike and Layby: Loneliness of the Long Distance Drummer - which will probably be my tour show for next year. Fred's House continue to gig everywhere and recording starts this weekend on album number two, I gigged with Claudia McKenzie the other night, I'm back with Flaming June this weekend and last week band sessions begun for the latest Dowsing Sound Collective show. I'm drumming and writing like a madman, and when I finally shake off the day job I'll also get to sleep too. Just need to send another couple hundred emails first...

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Making the jump

I really enjoyed the Edinburgh Fringe this year; it felt like for the first time (in eleven attempts) I had a show that really, really worked - a show I was comfortable with, like I'd finally found myself. I came back from Scotland to a bunch of gigs which I loved very much, but then I had to go back to the day job. People have often said to me, "I can't believe you have a day job" - this is of course relating to the fact that I have so many other commitments (not the fact that somebody as illogical as me could get one in the first place) but the thing is...I have rent to pay, I have a car, I have quite a nice social life.

Something changed coming back to work this time around; normally I come back from the fringe, having failed miserably, and my office chums are all chatty, and asking questions about how it went...like one of their team had gone into the big scary world of artistic adventures but has returned to be 'normal' again for another twelve months. This time I came back to the office and it didn't feel right...I was energised in my drive to work, I was up for putting in a good shift of spreadsheet stuff but as soon as I walked in I felt drained, my skin felt dry, my expression felt flat. This isn't me, anymore, I couldn't fake it any longer.

Yesterday I resigned from my comfortable, safe little office job, where I type information into a computer all day and hear lots of corporate talk. I work with nice people, I have a desk by the window.

I had to go. When the boss announced it today, the reactions of my colleagues was one of slight confusion and even, well, concern...why would I leave without any set plans? I liked this.

I leave the restrictions of the 9-5 on October 31st. I have tour plans for November/December, I'm not convinced this will be enough to make a living, but I'm also filming three feature-length films, writing a new stage show for Christmas (Paul Richards Will Make You Festive) and a new hour-long comedy show for next year (Paul Richards: Layby). There's a second collection of short stories coming out in two months time and my novel is making good progress. I'll also drum a lot for money, I think, and probably get confused by tax returns. It's a scary new world, but I'm 33...if I don't do this now, I never will. Wish me luck, I'm making the jump.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014


After a full run at the Edinburgh Fringe, any performer with an ounce of common sense would probably take a little time out to rest, or at least adjust to 'normal' life again. However, in my position, being away from the band for the best part of a month meant only one thing...the gigs were going to build up. 5 hours after arriving home from rainy but beautiful Edinburgh I was back on the road and, in the space of 9 days of being back, I've played 7 shows with Fred's House already. It's a treat to be back, I've missed it all; my drums, the tunes, my bandmates. We've been dashing all over the country again playing some festivals (some of them great, others less so - but that's how this circuit works) and the odd private function. This is a special band, you know, and people outside of the project seemed to have noticed too - the following continues to grow, there's a continued buzz about it all. Last night we were back in a tiny rehearsal room working on material for what will eventually be the second album; the new stuff that Griff and Vix have come up with is brilliant, they're growing as songwriters and as a unit this band are growing together too. Another gig tonight (a corporate show), and then another three shows this weekend - a welcome return to London, and two festival slots, plus I'm back with The British IBM for a special one-off gig.

In between all of this I've been moving house. Possibly bad timing considering my schedule, but it all worked out okay in the end. I've moved closer to Cambridge into a very nice Victorian cottage in a peaceful village. It's a very quiet house, something I'll have to get used to, but I can see myself writing some good stuff there. I'm itching to write new material, just need to unpack first before finding my perfect creative slot, although looking at my schedule for the next couple of weeks I get the sense I may be living amongst a sea of boxes for a good while yet...

Monday, 25 August 2014

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

"Look, Paul - this is great, but this isn't for me," said a man called Ian, putting his hand up politely and standing. As he left he gave me a tenner and wished me all the best. Twenty minutes before that, I'd met Ian outside the small venue. I was flyering for a show that nobody seemed to know about; it was my third production of the same run and the one that was perhaps a show too far. Ian said he'd watch it, but it clearly wasn't his thing. It was just awkward. But he was a nice chap; I appreciate him giving it a chance.

That wasn't typical of this run though. No, far from it, this was a good run. My best Edinburgh Fringe ever? Yep, without question. Not without it's problems, but plenty to cheer about. So, I had three shows up there - Getting Lost In My Hometown (which I'm really proud of, it's turned from being an awkward lounge show to a confident, shouty piece of near-stand-up comedy), The Paul Richards Disasters (the one which has three plays in an hour and was very much me going back to my comfort zone, but really worked because of it) and The Moments Of Madness That Make Us (the risk, the third production, the one that didn't really click). Leaving at 5am, we had checked into our digs by 3pm and Getting Lost...opened at 4.15pm that day. Cutting it fine, sure, but that's the magic of it all. 7.45pm that day, The Paul Richards Disasters opened to a full room, which was confusing but exciting all the same. That kind of summed up week 1 actually, Kim worked really hard with the Disasters show and we had generally great turnouts (apart from the day when it was just one person, a friendly Australian called Brian - he bought my book afterwards, what a legend), I had my own personal rule of 'must flyer for 4 hours a day' for Getting Lost which resulted in sometimes really big audiences, other times less so, but it still happened - every day, the show happened. Getting Lost ran for 21 shows in a row, it's quite tricky maintaining the enthusiasm for those words but you just do, when you see the audience, the adrenaline kicks in. Moments of Madness, which ran for week 3 only, was always a tricky one; technology failed me every now and then, as did the lack of time to promote it. One day I had a cracking audience in, but that was a rarity, most days I was just grateful it was happening at all. Next year...just two shows at the fringe, that's enough.

I've experienced it all during this run, all with a difficult sub-plot to my own life. Whilst things professionally seem to be moving in the right direction, my father's health back home (which is, sadly, causing enormous concern) reminded me of my priorities. Indeed it was often distressing...with my daily phone call home to check up on things being at 3.30pm, and my first show of the day just after 4pm, there were more than a couple of occasions where I went on stage with tears in my eyes, only to see an audience expecting to laugh, expecting me to make them laugh. And that's where you go into the zone, where you're off on a flight of rambling storytelling fantasy, it's actually quite therapeutic. I tried to come home, by the way, several times, during the run, but the family wouldn't let me; there's nothing I can do, I may as well continue to live my dreams up in the most inspiring creative outlet on the planet.

I had some really great audiences up there; people laughing, hanging onto the words, applauding me like I really am somebody. I had some odd ones too, of course. There was one time where my audience was entirely German and they couldn't really understand what I was saying but enjoyed watching me physically as they enjoyed the (unintentional) slapstick nature of it all, there was one day when my audience were just a French couple who didn't understand a word of it but sat smiling throughout and we exchanged gifts afterwards (I gave them a book, they gave me money...but this wasn't them buying it, this was an exchange between people who somehow found a connection despite a language barrier).

There was only one day where it didn't work at all; I had 5 in the room (which can usually work) but they weren't enjoying it, neither was I. Halfway through the show I stopped the music and asked if they wanted to leave, but they didn't even respond to that, so I turned it back on and told them that we would "carry on till the bitter end". The next day, exactly the same quality of performance, 31 of them in the room all crying with laughter, the best it's ever been. So unpredictable, which is why I enjoy it, because I'm sick and tired and agitated of anything that resembles a routine. The fringe messes with your senses, it's basically a legal high.

During the run I was compared to Miranda Hart, Steve Coogan and Peter Crouch; I accidently said the words "rape and paedophilia" on BBC Scotland (in the context of: "my show is a gentle show. Why is it gentle? Because a lot of shows try to shock you...it's all rape and peadophillia...my show doesn't have any of that." I could just see the producer sweating). We all watched lots of amazing shows (my particular favourites in no particular order: David Trent, Tom Price, Horne Section, PBH, Comedywealth Games, Pippa Evans, Stuart Goldsmith, Comedians Comedian Live, Alex Horne solo, Dan Clark, Bottleneck, Nick Helm, John Otway, Tim Vine, Tim Key...the list just goes on and on), we all watched our friends and venue mates do wonderful shows, there was camaraderie with fellow performers on the Royal Mile, even during the (many, very) rainy days. We drank too much in Canon's Gait till the early hours and compared notes about shows we've performed and seen, I've eaten more pizza than is acceptable, I climbed Arthur's Seat at four in the morning with a beautiful young lady just so we could see sunrise.

I performed 33 shows in 21 days in 3 different venues to a combined audience of 414 people. That final stat might not sound much, but compared to last year...well, things are happening. I have a following, it's not big...I reckon, if you discount the many friends I'm lucky to have, I probably have about 11 actual genuine fans, who look out for my shows, who approach me in the street and tell me they enjoyed the show last year and can't wait to see this year's offering. I've built on my following this year, mostly because in 'Getting Lost...' I finally have a show I can be proud of. I was sat watching another show and the girl next to me was reading my book...I didn't know where to look, this situation is alien to me. And I'm pretty sure it doesn't happen anywhere apart from the Edinburgh Fringe; it's an explosion of joy, beauty and good nature which makes the rest of the year incredibly boring. And next year, I'll be back, with an even better show, and I'll keep on building a name for myself. Not that it's all about that anyway, it's about being inspired, and alive. I feel more inspired than ever, I just need to spend some valuable time with my father and also move house this week, but I'm writing new material - I left Edinburgh with four shows so clear in my head they'll be out there as work in progress pieces before year is out.

Like last year, my venue this year for 'Getting Lost...' was huge; 100 capacity. A friend of mine asked why I returned to the same space when, being just one guy, flyering for himself, who hasn't been on the telly or anything that pulls in audiences, it would be more suitable to go for a smaller space. She then hugged me and said "actually, I think you enjoy the struggle." I felt slightly patronised at first, before agreeing.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Pre-fringe thoughts

Our Edinburgh Fringe run starts on Saturday. The fact that I'm driving up there on Saturday is clearly an example of just how daft things have got; leave Cambridge at 5am, on stage in Edinburgh with the solo show at 4.15pm, on stage with Kimberley at 7.30pm. And then check into the accommodation, and sleep, lots. I get the sense it may take a couple days before I feel human and really hit my stride at the festival this year, which is a shame because reviewers typically turn up early on. As I'm writing this, I feel tired thinking about it all...but I know as soon as I get to Edinburgh, as soon as I see the Royal Mile in all it's glory for the first time, I'll feel excited - the kind of excitement that will last for my whole 36-performance stay up there.

Last week I tried out the third production, 'The Moments of Madness that Make Us.' Having three shows at the fringe can be done, but with this one being confirmed at really short notice you could see the panic in my eyes. Still - it's working, better than it probably should. Two lounge shows and a bit of tweaking later and it feels like a proper show already, and baring in mind this one doesn't open till week 3...yeah, I'll be fine. I'm annoyed with myself though; it was supposed to be a drama. With comic moments. But it hasn't turned out that way...because of the darker moments, it just highlights the comic glimpses even more and they get a huge laugh - more than my so-called 'comedy' shows have ever done. It has death in it - three people die, it has an attempted murder, it has some really tender moments about falling out of love and never being sure of what a 'home' is. But yep, it's hilarious, apparently. Mustn't grumble though, it feels like a strong show already and I'm only just finding my feet with it; it's effectively a duo show with myself and a pre-recorded CD. And the ending has surprised everyone, and perhaps makes them feel a bit awkward about the fact they've been laughing throughout all of it. I performed it publicly for the first time on Sunday at CB2 in Cambridge, on a double bill with 'Getting Lost In My Hometown' - which is now really slick (and so it should be, I've had it all year, it's been rubbish for a while before I found my feet with it - it's only the last month or so it's really come good). Somebody in the audience kindly reviewed both shows and described me as a being a "genius" - which is nice. I'm not, but I was on good form that night.

So the other show I need to get my head around is 'The Paul Richards Disasters' which is - as I've realised, an absolute bastard to learn. And it's a show in which I'm on stage with somebody else, Kim, which is a nice change after all this solo stuff but also puts a little pressure on me to actually learn my lines properly (rather than my usual routine of learning them vaguely and then saying whatever I want judging by the audience whilst making sure I make all the points I need to make) because if I don't that buggers up her cues. The show opens locally tomorrow night for a 2 night run before Edinburgh. The rehearsal on Sunday was a bit worrying because we were clearly quite far off, but last night there was a sense that it's coming together now, and hopefully tonight will see further progress. The preview performances this week may be shaky, but we can pull it off, I think. And Kim is a very quick thinker and is good at bailing me out on stage...

The whole fringe thing is naturally very much taking up my time at the moment, which is why it was so nice to be doing music stuff a lot last week. On Tuesday I played a storming gig with Claudia at the Portland, on Wednesday I recorded percussion parts for The Prisoner of Mars, on Thursday had a lovely dinner with the Dowsing band, on Friday played at the incredibly friendly IF Festival in Milton Keynes with Fred's House and then on Saturday evening we spent some valuable time in the rehearsal studio working on new stuff (Griff and Vix have written some absolute crackers). It occurred to me then; I won't be drumming for a whole month now. What if I forget how to drum?

Three weeks at the fringe is just days away though; I'm reasonably prepared. Some admin stuff to do, but we should be okay to hit the ground running I think. I'm expecting three weeks of jubilation, disasters, magical moments, frustration, unrivalled pleasure. And lots of friends, and lots of beer.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Reading, Buckden, and the weekend where I nearly quit

As far as weeks go, that wasn't the nicest - my father's health once again was causing concerns and I've spent many hours in hospital, wheeling him around. It's been difficult, can't deny that, but he's on the mend - they know what they're doing even if this is taking much longer than planned, and he's an inspiring figure. Because of this I had to pull out of a gig, something I hate doing, but physically it wasn't impossible to get to London to play with Claudia considering visiting times back at the wards. It's a shame, Claudia writes great songs and surrounds herself with really good musicians, it's always a pleasure to be involved.

I did still manage to write the whole of my latest show, The Moments of Madness that Make Us - wrote it in one very intense day (eventually finished it at 3am on Wednesday) and didn't look at it again until today, but more on that in a sec. And I did get one gig in mid-week, Fred's House supporting the amazing Slow Club at the Portland. I'm a huge fan of Slow Club, their new album is genuinely my favourite thing at the moment, and they had Fyfe Dangerfield on bass...it's situations like this which actually blow my mind! Gig was great, but hot - it was a bad day for the air conditioning to be broken...

This weekend I've been performing the solo show at The Reading Fringe. On Friday I dashed over from the hospital, performed it to 6 people, but 6 people who were really enthused by it - I went home happy enough. On Saturday I hit problems; the M25 is a road everyone warned me about, so I allowed extra time to get there. How much extra time do you need? I was crawling for over an hour on it, realising I was in danger of missing my afternoon performance at the festival. Eventually I got into Reading with 5 minutes to spare, but still nowhere near my venue and with traffic being plain daft. I ended up dumping my car and attempted to walk to the venue, only to realise I wasn't where I thought I was, so ended up running back to my car (getting cramp and falling into a road on the way, narrowly missing a bus) and then my sat-nav played up a bit. Pulled into a layby and considered everything...am I taking on too much? Is it time to quit? Is this working? Shall I just try living a normal life for a change? I was feeling pretty low about things, especially after the week I'd had. Eventually got to my venue 40 minutes late but amazingly...I had an audience there, waiting for me. Could barely talk because I was so exhausted, but soon hit my sweaty stride. The show got reviewed and I got 4 stars (out of 5, of course) and a lovely write-up, so I must have done something right.

Then a mad dash across to get to Buckden. Considering my Reading show ran late, I was now running late for Buckfest - a festival I was scheduled to play with Fred's House. Somehow, got there - I was a couple minutes late, but they were waiting for me, and pretty much jumped straight on stage and we played for an hour. Nice gig.

Ended my day by drinking lots of beer with my friends Andy and Amy, we had a nice barbeque and the conversation was cracking throughout. I needed to let off steam; they let me do that, until about 3 in the morning, when the whiskey had evidently took it's toll. It was a long day but - against all odds, I somehow got away with it. Wouldn't like to do that one again in a hurry though.

Today was easier; my dad seemed in better spirits when I popped around to see him earlier (and take my mum shopping), and then I rehearsed the '...Disasters' show with Kim, and then off to my mate Mike's house where I gave a first airing of, 'The Moments of Madness that Make Us'. It's such an odd show, really intense at times, really weird, but with big jokes in there too - perhaps more than my regular show. And half of it is pre-recorded, and you really have to stick with the plot to get it...unlike my other offerings which are, shall we say, more on the simplistic side of things. I wanted to raise the intelligence of my writing, write a show that challenges people a bit. Lovely crowd tonight, I'm itching to do this show again already. So...my thoughts about quitting? Nah, let's be honest about this, I'm still very much enjoying this, all of it, really.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

An intense, but magnificent weekend

The weekend was a rather ridiculous one but, after lots of theatrical tomfoolery recently it was great to focus properly on the drum/percussional aspect of my life. I'm very grateful that I can do both things, but sometimes it's great to just hit my glorious drums with sticks. The dress rehearsal on Friday night with Dowsing was long, but exciting; it was the coming together of everything - the choir, the band, the strings, the trumpet, the beatboxer. It also highlighted the scale of the project, which is sometimes difficult to judge when it's just five of you in a band rehearsal, but the thing I've learnt about Dowsing is that you can never underestimate how complicated this could get. In a good way, of course, I'm quite into complicated things.

On Saturday I was up stupidly early to head down to Cardiff to play at the International Food Festival with Fred's House. The thing I like about this band, apart from the music, of course (that bit is a given or else I wouldn't still be drumming for them after this long) is the way in which we can all be tired, grumpy but still get along. That's the sign of a special bond, that is. The gigs themselves were great; the first was without our lead guitarist Lachlan as he travelled separately and got caught up in traffic (bit unfortunate that three major events were happening in Cardiff on the same day) so it was a 'different' set - still enjoyable, but the material had to be carefully chosen for us to pull it off. We had a lengthy gap before the second performance in which we ate excessive amounts of pizza and Gaf got annoyed that nobody wanted to join him on a boat trip. The second performance was a joy; we were fired up on Red Bull and blasted through it (throwing in a cheeky cover of 'Stealers Wheel' in the middle was a masterstroke by Griff), huge audience - absolutely huge. Nice sound, nice equipment, cracking gig. Long trip home, because clearly after years and years they still haven't finished repairing the A14.

5 hours sleep, and then up for band soundchecks at the stunning Apex venue in Bury. I've heard lots of things about this venue but purposely kept my expectations low...needn't had bothered though, it's a beautiful room, the kind of room that as a musician you want to play every week. Soundchecks flew by, all seemed well. Bit like the show in Cardiff the day before this was another '2 shows in 1 day' thing - which I think always should be the way, if you've taken the time to soundcheck for hours the least you can do is get a couple of shows out of it. The first performance had it's problems, nothing can hide that fact. We seemed to lose communication with half of the band - Dave (our magnificent stand-in bassist) Sam and myself seemed to be on a different beat to Andrea at some points as we were having a few monitoring issues; the odd tempo glitch is usually recoverable, this was pushing it a bit far. Dowsing always has the sense that it could crumble at any moment such is the complexity of the project but it never does. It came bloody close during 'Terrible Love' - ironically probably the easiest song for me as I know it so well, but we just couldn't lock in, I had no idea what was going on around me, I couldn't hear much apart from my battering snare drum, I could feel the panic from everyone else around me. God knows how the choir kept going. It was pointed out to me later on that track got the biggest applause from the audience afterwards, which suggested it wasn't as bad as I had feared. Oh come on, let's be honest, it was. Got through the rest of the first show playing everything down, just getting through it. Audience gave the performance a standing ovation, I went straight to the dressing room and moaned more than anybody should.

Dinner and a good rant before the second show, Andrea remained remarkably positive - she has a lot of faith in her team, it means a lot in these moments. We had another quick soundcheck with the band and got the monitors up a bit, and the second show began. The second show was really strong, we could hear each other better, there was a bit of an edge to it. Everyone seemed on form - collectively it seemed to explode into something remarkable, the smiles had returned, the stress had gone - this was challenging fun, the best kind of fun, I've often found. Our guests for both shows - folk duo Megson, and beatboxer Skilly Skills, were magnificent both times and also incredibly lovely as well, I shall certainly check out more of their work. I went through a wide range of emotions on Sunday - it really is a rollercoaster being part of this. But at the end of the day, The Dowsing Sound Collective is exactly that; a collective. And together - thanks to the way the incomparable Andrea has put this together - it continues to produce magic; spectacular, musical magic.

Things are going up a few notches this moment; a lot of things are there to bother me; moving house - because my legendary landlord/housemate/friend is moving in with the girl of his dreams (I am genuinely happy for him - they are the definition of 'perfect couple') and still not entirely sure where I'll be going yet - looking at a house tomorrow which looks great so fingers crossed, sorting insurance/other legal/admin bits for theatrical projects, the health of a close family member which I've lost countless nights sleep worrying about. And yes; the Edinburgh Fringe is creeping up very quickly. Although rehearsals are behind schedule, there's a very clear plan now to what I'm doing and it'll be fine; we have the solo show (me being me, doing what I think I do best), the sitcom show (which is bloody enjoyable and should be the most accessible of all my shows) and the experimental heavy drama show (which I've poured my soul into - not wishing to give away the plot but it ends with me collapsing from the stress of it all...this could be my finest work yet, but equally could be dreadful). I've started to realise recently I'm a better person on stage; off stage I'm far too chatty which I imagine must get annoying (just ask the ex-girlfriends), on stage I know what I'm doing - I know how to drum, and for the comedy stuff the chatting is considered to be part of the act so I can bloody ramble away. The stage is really where I feel at home; which is cool because I'm on various types of them pretty much continuously for the next 9 weeks or so.

Monday, 7 July 2014


The audience tonight; a couple at the back - couldn't see them but I heard titters of laughter occasionally, a couple further forwards who laughed a lot but they know me and have seen this show before and were anticipating certain scenes (the 'Grace' song for example, and the nightclub bit), a guy who chuckled at the bigger moments but every now and then checked his mobile, a friendly couple - a chap I used to go to school with and his partner, they really enjoyed it if a little worried about the idea of potential audience participation, a couple who I didn't know but who grew to like me during the course of the show - I had them by the end, another couple I didn't know but the woman loved it, the man less so, my mate Julia who is just so nice anyway she was always going to like it, an American couple who laughed outrageously for most of it, I seemed to lose them a bit in the middle but had them back by the end.

And this is where the problem really is. Me. And the fact I spend far too long analysing the audience. It wasn't a bad show tonight, it was one I'd been looking forward to in a while because it's a really great venue, but - as is happening frequently these days, I came off stage with a sense that I hadn't done myself justice. It's now 1.08am, I probably shouldn't be writing this now, but so be it - I like to think it's because I'm performing a lot these days and so it's healthy to share my experiences, or I just need a rant. It was hot tonight; it's a professional venue where the audience are barely seen (unless you're like me and you're actively glaring at them) and the performer is under hot, hot lights. I spent most of the show feeling that the room is so hot, they must feel drowsy so hey - let's do this show as quickly as possible and put them out of their misery. According to my friend on the train back, she said it wasn't hot at all for the audience. If I'm to continue to grow as a professional I need to get used to venues of this calibre, and understand that even if I'm feeling a bit clammy, the audience can look after themselves.

The other issue is a strange one; I know this show almost too well now. I've performed it a lot. I'm bashing through it, absolutely storming away on a tangent. There's a difference between a show being slick and a show that's on auto-pilot and I know that audiences are intelligent and can spot the difference - so in my fear that I'm on auto-pilot (which I was in Surrey at the weekend) I tend to try even harder to please every single person in the room. American man laughed at a line but the guy behind him didn't...who do I go with here? Continue to impress the person who is enjoying it, or try and win over the man who still isn't convinced?

I need to get over this, because whilst I'm second-guessing everybody in the room (which isn't healthy anyway because, well, they might have just had a bad day today so not in the mood for laughter), the show probably does ramble a bit more than normal - the words are still coming out of my mouth, mostly in the order they should, but without as much feeling as the other part of my brain is wondering why a girl on the third row found the word 'sandwiches' written on a flipchart hilarious but isn't enjoying the song.

Don't get me wrong; tonight was a good enough show. They were mostly up for it, I gave them a show that was well worth the £7.50 they paid on the door. I just need to get over a few things that are bugging me - I've spent the best part of a year building this show, from the early lounge shows to the tour to the festivals, it's a goodun, but you wouldn't have thought so by the way I feel, every night, coming off stage. Have I forgotten to enjoy these things? I think it's simple; I need to start bloody well enjoying them, or stop doing it at all.

Anyway, 26 performances to go.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Gigs, recording, challenges

It's been a fairly busy couple of weeks since I last updated this. The 'releasing a short story every day in July' thing has started well - you can check out all the videos so far here: https://www.youtube.com/JiggeryPokery100

It's odd, you know, releasing a short story every day because you feel like you're hassling people, every day, to watch you. Which is weird. I mean, it's nice if they do, I've put a lot of effort into writing these pieces, but at the same time - well, that's a lot of (continuous) Paul Richards, isn't it? I probably wouldn't watch me every day. Best perhaps to leave it a few days and watch a couple at a time. Or don't watch them at all, I'm not really expecting people to, I'm just happy to be writing new material again and quite chuffed that I've got the ideas for 31 new pieces.

I've been drumming a lot lately, which is obviously a great thing (for me). I've never been a fan of corporate gigs, but apart from that one the other gigs have been great fun - Begfest in Bedford in particular was an absolute treat in front of a brilliant audience.

Alongside my regular Fred's House stuff I've been working closely with The Dowsing Sound Collective; our big two shows at The Apex in Bury St Edmunds are next Sunday and well worth checking out because that choir are sounding awesome (and the band are gelling rather nicely too...). We played a shorter set yesterday at Parker's Piece in Cambridge; although it's always going to be difficult only having a 15 minute changeover from the previous act, especially when there was 90 singers yesterday and the band, we got through it and the crowds seemed to be really excited about what we're doing, which is nice. Ah yes, and last weekend I also laid down the drum parts for the new Prisoner of Mars record, which is sounding great, and very dancey - which is a bit of a departure for POM but it's going to be a decent LP I think, he writes good tunes, that man.

Performing solo comedy stuff really confuses me; some days I love it (Barnstaple, Leeds) other days - such as last night where I performed at an outdoor festival and really wasn't wooing that audience, it feels very lonely indeed up there. I guess theatre/comedy rarely works in a marquee at a music festival, I've never seen it work anyway (although apparently it does great at Latitude). It wasn't a bad show, and I get that people want to go and watch the band on the main stage, but it is demoralising when they leave your tent, you do feel like you haven't done enough to impress them. Still, it's all good practice I guess, and I met Ade Edmondson, who is another one of my heroes, so not all bad. Nearly ended up in Portsmouth on the way home due to a confusing diversion, but at least that gave me the opportunity to shout a bit. I'm doing the show in Camden tomorrow night, that's one that I've been looking forward to for a while...

I've had a couple evenings off (mostly due to gig cancellations) recently and it's been nice to socialise again, does feel like it's the calm before the storm though. I seem to be getting offers daily for new projects (everything from drumming jazz to writing the dialogue for a political comic strip), it's flattering but I need to be careful - this may have been a relatively calm week, but the fringe is alarmingly close all of a sudden, how did this happen?

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Barnstaple, Chesham, short stories

At the weekend I had the pleasure of performing the solo show at Fringe TheatreFest - aka The Barnstaple Fringe. And it was actually a pleasure; I do a lot of fringe festivals and, like everything, some are better than others, but this one was probably my favourite. Obviously you can't compare it to the exhausting joy of Edinburgh with it's thousands of shows, but you wouldn't want to - this festival had 33 production companies (105 performances) over four days, with all of the venues close to each other. As a result, audiences found it easy to watch multiple shows without dashing too far; this coupled with excellent ticket offers (6 shows for £15 etc) and superb marketing from the team of volunteers and you've got yourself a winning festival here. The team behind the event are all so rigorously organised...from a performer's point of view it's an easy one; the venues were well equipped, well-staffed and, most importantly, suitable. I enjoyed three decent nights there, the solo show is really starting to gel now and the reviews (both from the press and audiences - who were invited to pin their reviews on the box office wall) were positive. I'd happily perform shows in Barnstaple every week.

In between performances 1 and 2 in Devon, I made the mad dash up to Chesham to play with the band at Bury Fields Festival. 8 hour roundtrip to play a 25 minute set at a festival? Yep. And it was worth it. Nice festival, packed, enthusiastic audience, and I got to meet/have a good chat with one of my comedy heroes - Mr Alex Horne, who was hosting. Cracking afternoon.

Drove just over a thousand miles this weekend in my tired little Ford Fiesta but I didn't feel tired myself; I felt energised by it all. Amazing what a good weekend can do for your self-esteem...

There seems to be more interest in my projects of late; filmmaker Karen Cann interviewed me and made a lovely video out of it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28I_5Bb4y5I

And Hannah from Local Secrets magazine wrote this extensive article about my comedy/drumming stuff: http://mobile.localsecrets.com/ezine.cfm?ezineid=4410

In that article there was a mention of my very new project, All I've Got Is Awkward, which launches on 1st July and will see me release a short story a day for the whole month, all filmed and launched on Vimeo. It's a good way to keep writing, and I've now written all 31 of them, all brand new pieces, secretly quite happy with the way they've turned out. Just need to film them, which may take a bit longer than planned. I'm also editing The Paul Richards Disasters - our four episode sitcom, now all the filming has been done (the final scenes with Abi last week were really strong). I'm also writing a new filmed show (the footage of which has already been shot), and I should find out today if I'm writing a new stage show for somebody else which could possibly end up at the fringe this year (although it's cutting it fine) - more details on those soon. Ah yes, and the second series of Emily & Michael has been launched. Playing four gigs this week (3 with Fred's House, 1 with Claudia), with all this writing/editing I'm really glad I have drums to play.

I was typing last night, about 1am actually so technically the morning, when lots of steam oozed from my laptop. Theatrically this must have looked great - a nice image of a stressed writer and all that, but on a practical level it was a bit of a worry. I turned it off, and hoped I haven't lost all of this footage, words, ideas...to lose all of that really would be a Paul Richards Disaster.

Monday, 16 June 2014


Another reason why The World Cup is so great - especially with those late kick-offs, is because if you're driving back around 11pm from a show there's a match to listen to on Radio 5 and that helps keep you awake, and keep you safe/alive. Football is awesome. Glad we've cleared that up.

I'm currently watching Ghana vs USA on the telly, I should be sleeping. It was a busy weekend. Dinner around Heather's on Friday was lovely - great company, the five of us enjoying free-flowing banter and the fish was lovely. Feels like we're adults, these days. We don't do pubs anymore, we do dinner parties. I like it, but I just pity my friends when it's my turn to cook. On Saturday I drove down to deepest Wales, it isn't that far away at all - but it takes bloody ages because the roads are slow. Still, checked in to a nice little hotel, watched some football, did some writing, looked at my script a few times, and then eventually drove the short distance over to Mid-Wales Arts Centre. Really good night that one - it worked, more than it usually does. Huge thanks to Cathy for hosting and for making me feel so welcome, and for bringing an audience in too. It's a stunning and very alternative performance space, surrounded by beautiful farmland, but I enjoyed myself very much. Back to my hotel room in time to watch England lose.

The next day I drove down to Cheltenham to meet up with my mate Matt for Sunday lunch, a very welcome catch-up, and I even got him to be in the sitcom - we filmed his cameo appearance at a nearby bus stop. I'm nearly there now with The Paul Richards Disasters - just need to film the scenes with Abi on Thursday then it's all down to the editing, for which there shall be shit loads.

The drive from Cheltenham up to Ludlow was bumpy, and Ludlow itself is very confusing and I think I drove the wrong way down a one-way street more than once, not sure, nobody told me off but it's just one of those places. Eventually found the venue (Anita, the organiser, found me wondering the streets with a cajon in one hand and my CD player in the other). Ludlow Fringe has some really great names performing this year (Christian Reilly, Andrew Lawrence) so it was a pleasure to be involved. Not a huge turnout but they really, really tried for me and I appreciate that, and I still enjoyed doing the show - those who did make it seemed happy enough.

Drive home felt long, but the football (and also a Joe Jackson live album) kept me going. I arrived home exhausted and having made a slight loss...but not a huge loss out of this weekend. I know if I'm to continue doing this making a loss isn't the way to build a future, but we're talking £40 here. Considering the miles I've driven (hundreds) and hotel costs, that isn't so bad. If I wasn't doing this show I probably would have spent that money socially anyway, and somehow performing my show in front of new people, interesting, exciting, people, feels like a worthwhile way to spend my money, and my weekend.

Thursday, 12 June 2014


The World Cup starts today, it's incredibly exciting. But I've done something I said I wouldn't do; I've gone and booked myself up for quite a lot of it. This goes beyond actually wanting to watch the matches themselves, football is therapeutic - when I watch the match I don't have the ability to multitask, I like to focus on it, shout at it, drink beer during it (okay, that's kind of multitasking). It stops me from doing other things but you know...that's not always a bad thing, it means I actually get to relax, a chance for my creative brain to recharge.

Anyway, first game tonight and I'm doing a warm-up show in a lounge, first England game on Saturday and I'll be in Wales doing the show...and so on, I'm very booked up at the moment. But let's be honest about this - I chose things to be this way. Projects are exciting and I keep taking on more, diaries are clashing but I'm dashing about and just about managing to get everything done (next weekend is a prime example of that - I have a 3 day residency with the solo show in Barnstaple, but slap bang in the middle of that I have a festival gig in High Wycombe...).

I've spent a lot of time writing recently; writing the second fringe show, writing dialogue for a series of short arty films for somebody else, writing 31 short stories for July (more on that soon), so it was great to be drumming again this weekend. Fred's House utterly stormed Strawberry Fair Festival, I was very proud and also thrilled to see so many good friends there (especially the legendary Julia, who has just returned from her world domination in Australia). On Monday and Tuesday I played two cracking gigs with Claudia McKenzie and her super-talented band, some really great Latin/Samba vibes in there alongside great songwriting. It's nice because for everyone in the project it's a 'second band' for us - we all have other musical commitments that take up more time so this is a no-pressure gig, just good musicians enjoying each other's company and it certainly shows on stage.

The filming of The Paul Richards Disasters continues, with Hind's sterling performance as the 'pretty but evil' Caroline, and I've also performed 2 more lounge shows (another one tonight) ahead of two big venue shows this weekend in Wales.

But back to the football. Last night, to promote our remarkably successful World Cup Track, Roy!, The Free Kicks (aka Griff, Chris, Josh and myself) took over a local radio station for an hour and hosted football-based banter. It was all very Baddiel/Skinner/Euro 96...in a good way, of course. And looking at the schedule of matches, a lot of games kick off at 11pm. Inconvenient for most, but perfect for working musicians/awkward accidental actors.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Terrible Love

Last night was really nice. In the band rehearsal for The Dowsing Sound Collective session we looked at a couple tunes we played at the first ever Dowsing show (back in January 2011...you know - that gig I'll constantly tell you was the best show of my life), Differente and Terrible Love. It reminded me once again just how beautiful that night was, and playing those two tracks - in the middle of what was a very productive rehearsal anyway - added a sense of rousing joy to the session.

Nobody does Terrible Love like Dowsing; okay, so I appreciate The National (who wrote it) are a bloody good band, but with those voices, and that arrangement...it's going to be spectacular, again. Do come to the shows in Bury St Edmunds next month if you can.

It got me thinking about just how great things actually are, and the special things that have been achieved over the last few years. It's great that projects evolve, but sometimes it's really healthy to take a step back and appreciate all the good things that have happened. It made me realise I'm working too fast at the moment with all the band and comedy stuff, it's fun having ideas and the opportunities to bring them to life in an instant, but actually I feel like a tourist being dragged through the sites, not stopping to take them in but merely ticking them off on a 'places I have seen' list.

This weekend I have four gigs, 2 lounge shows and a day of filming...when those are done, I'll take a little more time out to reminisce and I'll probably appreciate some of those moments even more.

It's been a good week; started rehearsals with Claudia McKenzie's band and it was remarkably good fun (her songs and musicians are exceptional - first gig with them next week), I've nailed the first draft script for the stage version of The Paul Richards Disasters and we filmed some scenes for the sitcom version. Now I'm trying to get back into the swing of Getting Lost In My Hometown, having not performed it for a month (performances start again this Sunday). It's all very exciting, I just hope when I look back on these days I will look at them with the same fondness as the glory days of 2011...

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Health, studio, filming, charity

That was a ludicrous week, last week. I would very much like a quieter week, next week, please. Thanks. It started well enough; nice festival with Fred's House, nice birthday celebration with my closest friends, and filmed series 2 of Emily & Michael with Izzy. Not being arrogant; but this second season is a cracker - it's like we've really found our feet with it now, it's probably the final series as it's a limited concept but I'm really proud of what we've achieved here.

The rest of the week was a bit crappy though, due to family illness. It would be weird to go into details on here, but it was serious, so serious, more than anything we've experienced before as a family and I'm so incredibly grateful that my father somehow got through this. Recovery time now, for both him and the rest of us who have been more than a bit distressed by the whole situation.

After a tough few days, I needed to hit those drums of mine and luckily I had a recording session with the Dowsing band on Friday night. Great to be back at Zoo Audio, haven't been there for years but it's a superb little studio and the recording, all part of a project for Tour de France, sounds fantastic. It was a sweaty session, we worked hard, but sometimes you have to work for these things I can't wait for it to go public. The choir added their vocals today, we rehearsed with them beforehand and they're in fine voice.

Last night I was in Holywell for a charity event for Magpas. I agreed to organise and host this show a while back, but what with all the family health stress I was slightly underprepared (indeed I wrote the murder mystery part of it at 2am on the day of the show). As well as hosting, I was in the murder mystery, played percussion for Flaming June, Trevor Jones and Kat Thorpe, and performed my short story, 'Gary from the Squash Club' which is still a personal favourite. We had a few issues - lost a couple acts but got a couple more in, lost a pianist (but I replaced him simply by pressing the 'demo' button on my Casio keyboard, seemed to do the trick). The other acts - Izzy, Jessica, Alexis, Hannah, Anne-Marie were all fantastic, and then my landlord's band, Simply Wed played in the main bar and I got very drunk with my mate Andy. A good night, a chance to let off steam, I really enjoyed hosting it, can see myself doing more of this sort of thing in the future.

Today, after Dowsing rehearsals, I filmed my solo scenes for the new sitcom, The Paul Richards Disasters. Basically, just me in the house, going nuts. No idea what the neighbours think of me, but they're probably used to this by now. Next week I'm filming scenes with Hind, Izzy and Marcus, a week later I'll be doing the scenes with Kimberly (who is also joining me for the Edinburgh run of the stage version of this show) and George, and then just a couple bits with Abi and it's all sorted. I think it works, bit difficult to judge at this stage though.

I took some time out last week to look after the family, when I returned to the real world a couple days later it occurred to me just how manic things are at the moment, had a lot of catching up to do. The band have even had to get a dep drummer in (hhmmm) as I'm away a lot over the summer. Maybe things do need to calm down a little. Last week stressed me out more than I've ever been stressed before, but things are gradually falling back into place now; my father is slowly on the mend, I'm being kept on at the day job (as much as I'm sad to see some really good friends have to leave, such is the nature of this industry), just need to write the second Edinburgh show, and learn it, then I think it's time to sleep...for a couple days or so.

Friday, 23 May 2014

The Paul Richards Disasters

With the current solo show reasonably close to being nailed (the material is tried and tested now, I've performed it fully a few times - it just needs a bit more of a run live before I can start to enjoy it properly), the timing of an offer of a second fringe show was perfect. The offer - for just week 1 at a nice venue with a daily performance time of 7.30pm, works well because I'll off stage by 5.45pm with Getting Lost In My Hometown so I'll have a little time for a quick bite to eat before hitting the stage again. With the solo show running for all 3 weeks without a day off, on accepting the offer I decided that this new show shouldn't be another solo piece and it would be nice to have a little team with me for this one. If I have two shows at the same festival they should be very different, and of course it's nice and healthy to work with other people.

The show, The Paul Richards Disasters, will be more of a sitcom on stage. The plan was to write four episodes of a sitcom of the same name, film them throughout June for a YouTube series, release them in July, and then perform a stage show with the best bits of them, re-written for live performance. The only problem is, I've now written all four episodes and these won't work on stage. I'm really excited about them; they're incredibly adventurous, fast, very physical. They're going to be a bugger to film but I can't wait to get started (I'll have Abi, Hind and Izzy joining me for these episodes) and get them out there - this is the sitcom I've wanted to write in years. But this won't work on stage. As a format, it just won't. So suddenly I need to write a whole new show, with a similar theme, and with the same name, but it will be quite different. Not quite what I had planned then, but I feel fiery at the moment - creatively so at least, I've written 8 sitcom episodes in 14 days, this can be done, and done well I hope.

I turn 33 tomorrow. I think the reason why I've been writing so much recently is because I feel a touch uncomfortable about things at the moment. Birthdays are always a time to measure achievements, success, and I'm really on the right track, things are happening. I'm uncomfortable due to family illness, about to be unemployed by the day job, having to look for a new place to live soon etc - the usual. But there's plenty to be excited about...the positives by far outweigh the negatives.

As a drummer we've enjoyed a little success with our World Cup track, Roy, which has received plenty of airplay (including Radio 5 Live yesterday) and we'll even be on BBC TV next week with it. Fred's House are continuing to storm every gig they play and it's a joy to be involved (even in Peterborough, and as we all know - it's virtually impossible to have fun in Peterborough), Dowsing is creeping back up again and the band rehearsals have been such fun - making music with Andrea, Gav and Sam is so easy, and in a couple weeks time I start recording a Christmas album with Grace Williams. As a writer I've had a scary amount of interest for my debut novel, the first series of Emily & Michael is being screened in Michigan in November (we started filming the second series this week, it's a cracker) and the stage stuff is, slowly, working itself out.

So yep, Paul Richards: 33; still addicted to Red Bull and Facebook, still talks too much in situations where quiet is probably needed, but knows how to hit some drums and write a show. Mustn't grumble, really.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

All I've got is awkward

I have to say, despite typically getting lost (standard) to the venue (road closure, then accidently driving to Ely, and then being stuck behind a very slow lorry, and then a tractor, and then a learner driver), the show in Norfolk started to see the solo show work quite well. The locals were nice, I was a bit jumpy at times but they stuck with it and I could feel this one starting to work. Thank god for that, I was getting a bit worried.

The show on Saturday was the one I was very worried about; a huge venue, for charity, 100 tickets sold. The first time I've ever had to use a microphone for comedy, and again people were expecting conventional stand-up. That probably involves telling jokes or something, I don't really do those. I enjoyed the microphone a bit too much, I enjoyed making noises down it. I'm not sure if the audience enjoyed it as much as I did, but still - the feedback afterwards was pretty positive. With such a huge audience, who didn't know me (with the exception of Marcus, Leigh, Fiona, my bandmates) I could feel the room being divided - some who perhaps didn't like the odd swear word, others who wanted more. I tried to keep everyone happy, without over analysing the situation because it's tricky being on stage by yourself for an hour anyway without worrying about pleasing people.

After my show, the band played. Being a seated audience we tried to get the audience on our side and ended up in what we call 'covers land' - I personally think it worked quite well. And it's great that the band have the ability and options at shows to change things around if need be. I don't have that as a 'comedian', all I've got is awkward. 5 down, 41 to go.

Lots of positives and negatives in my life at the moment, lots of things stopping me sleeping. Dad is ill, I'm cutting down any commitments until his operation is out of the way, I'm suddenly single again (and very confused by the way it happened), but the Emily & Michael sitcom is suddenly generating a lot of exciting industry interest (in both the UK and US), band-wise things feel great - with Fred's House and Dowsing, my debut book is selling well, and our World Cup single is a winner... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_ZboS7Ah5k&feature=youtu.be

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Lost, then

'Lost, then' is the opening slide/image to my solo show, but that shouldn't give away too much of the plot if you're planning on seeing it. You'll probably know from the title it's about getting lost, obviously there's a fair bit more to it than that, but - almost as if I'm being faithful to the title, I've had real issues finding all three of the venues I've performed at so far. The run of shows has been staggered, as it will be for the rest of the year, to fit around other commitments, but by early November I would have performed it 46 times which isn't a bad run, as much as part of me still thinks it's not enough. There's still talks with other venues too, mostly for October, but by then my head will very much be wrapped up in all things Christmas show. The first few 'proper' performances have taken place over the last week and, as always, I've come away with a lot to think about.

The final preview/lounge show around Izzy's was a cracker - it was a relief if anything that it came together so well. And don't get me wrong; everybody that has seen the show so far seems to have enjoyed it (unless they were pretending) but it's fair to say I'm hardly storming it.

I walked on stage in Leeds last night - nice big performance space, and it suddenly occurred to me: shit, I'm a stand-up comedian. How did this happen? This wasn't really the plan. This is theatre. Theatre which has, thanks to the whole going solo thing (cost effective/it's better to fall out with myself rather than drag other people into my artistic tantrums) merged into storytelling comedy, which in return has been billed in quite a lot of places as just 'comedy', which suddenly makes people think I'm a stand-up. It's a simple chain, I understand how this has happened, but suddenly the expectations have changed a bit, and so has my performance. Last night I was even pacing around the stage like stand-up comedians do. I never used to do that. There's jokes in this show, of course there is, but it's all to build the story. Either way, it has taken me a few days to realise what has happened.

The signs were there a couple days before when I checked in to my hotel just before the Liverpool performance.

Receptionist: So, are you here on business?
Me: Kind of.
Receptionist: Golf?
Me: No. I'm a performer.
Receptionist: Performer? What sort of performer?
Me: It's a comedy...play thing.
Receptionist: Where's the rest of your cast?
Me: It's a solo show.
Receptionist: So you're a comedian?
Me: Definitely not.
Receptionist: So you're an actor then?
Me: I don't think so. I'm just...anyway, what time is breakfast?

The opening performance in Halesworth felt particularly strange. They're such a lovely bunch there, and I always (well, both times I've been there) get treated so well by both the audience and staff. The food is lovely, the vibe is friendly, but when I didn't get the first laugh, where I thought it should be, I panicked slightly. How arrogant am I to assume that they, or anybody, will find anything I say funny? Let alone one specific ice breaker. I had them on side shortly after, but by then I was in garbling mode, rushing through the show like some nervous, panicky amateur. I left the stage furious with myself, all of this work I'd put into my performance to produce an energetic but equally coherent and confident show lost in an instant. It's the first show, these things happen, but the 2 hour drive home felt horrible.

Having spent 5 hours getting to Liverpool the next day I was fired up by the traffic issues and frustrations finding the venue; I was annoyed enough to give a pleasantly shouty performance yet tired enough to do it as a pace people would understand. When I got to the venue the audience was so small (2) I got offered money by the venue not to do the show, but I did it anyway. Better performance that time but difficult, you know, to get a vibe going in that kind of environment. Back in my hotel by 9pm that night; a Friday night spent in a single room in Southport with a Ginsters slice, a can of Carling and a television with a bad reception, I already started to realise that touring solo is a test of character.

Leeds last night felt better; big room and relatively small turnout but it was progress, performance edgy but not as edgy as it has been, gradually it's coming together. It's weird; when I've driven home after a great gig with the band I usually can't sleep for hours, the adrenaline is still buzzing around my body. After doing one of these shows I get home and I'm exhausted and ready for bed; clearly being on stage for somewhere between 50-70 minutes, completely alone, is a good workout, mentally.

Anyway, 3 down, 43 to go.