Finally able to sit and sum up what has been an incredible week; a week which involved five days on tour with Levellers. When I was 15 years old, I was a big fan and I guess I never really thought I’d get to say that. We took in Cardiff, Brighton, Bristol, Norwich and Nottingham, all of which were either sold out or pretty much there.
When I arrived in Cardiff it’s safe to say I was just a little nervous but each and every member of the band and the crew (including main support Seán McGowan and his band) were so friendly and welcoming that any nervousness didn’t hang around.
The friendliness and welcomingness (totally made that word up but keeping it) wasn’t contained to the crew however. Levellers’ fans were just awesome. I was the opening acoustic act, so was on within an hour of doors opening. I thought that might mean me playing to a handful of folk who turned up early to get a good spot on the barrier. But no chance! Most nights there were already a couple hundred people in and the last night in Nottingham was 80% full by the time I took to the stage!
Not only that, people joined in. People sang. People clapped. People listened. People didn’t mind that they’d never seen ‘this chap’ before. Writing ‘people’ so many times just made me realise what a strange word it is. This was all followed by people folk coming out to buy CDs and T-shirts and coming to say hello. Such an awesome week.
Nottingham was particularly enjoyable for me. I’d lost most of my voice the night before and was really worried about singing, but I was very fortunate in that the front few rows of lovely humans were already familiar with my music. They sang along throughout keeping me buoyant. My highlight – of probably the whole tour – was getting two halves of Rock City to duet ‘against’ each other, during which Leveller Simon came and joined me on harmonica.
My daughter Flo was able to join me in Cardiff and Bristol and my pal and band mate John Hare joined us in Bristol with his cornet and accordion. Both were awesome and again made to feel welcome by all.
Huge thanks to all those involved in the crew and to those of you who came out early to the gigs and made me feel at home.
Massive thanks also to Seán McGowan and his band, Brad, Dean and Jay, for late night bar and restaurant fun. We should totally do that again some time.
This was a bit of an escalation of an idea. Wooden peg changer extraordinaire Claire Cressey made me some mini False Alarms with whom I immediately fell in love. Before taking a photo of us all, I felt Robin needed an ‘actual’ drum kit so I built one using some Fablon, toilet rolls, cocktail sticks and silver foil. I added some cymbals and a hi-hat, made of course from Ferrero Rocher wrappers.
Then I started to feel sorry for everyone else, so I made a bass rig for Tom and a guitar rig for Brad, and John was given a keyboard (I tried making a cornet but after several failed attempts I gave up). Brad, Tom and Ben were given pedal boards, Robin’s carpet was slipped under his kit, and guitar stand, towel and setlists were slung into position. All ready for the photo.
Then I thought it would be fun if they were actually on a stage of some sort so I made one out of a cardboard box and some old shelving. I then made a backdrop using a glittery shirt I had bought from a charity shop for our dear friend Liz Dando’s glitter party, shortly before she sadly passed away. I thought she’d be well up for being remembered in what I thought was going to be a fun band photo.
I then thought you can’t have a stage without mic stands, stage box, monitors and speakers so I made some using quadrant moulding, cocktail sticks, balsa wood, beads and various threads. The speaker fronts are sandpaper (60 grade FYI). So, all ready for the photo.
Then I thought I’d need some kind of lighting rig if I want it to look more realistic. So I set about building one using dowelling, more silver foil and TV aerial connectors. This was by far the most difficult and fiddly bit, and it took a couple of days, but I was happy that I was finally ready for the photo.
But then I thought, seeing as it had taken me so long to build the set, that it would be fun to actually try to make some kind of music video. So, with no real idea of how I was going to do it, I decided on Es Tut Mir Leid and asked Claire to make me a few more characters. She got to work and sent me the security guards, the card bearers, and the front row cast of mainly regular gig-goers.
I then ordered another 60 wooden pegs and spent the next few days painting audience members with a little help from my son Silas. Crowd barrier had to go in of course and I added a few beer bottles made from electrical connectors. They’re supposed to be Heineken but to be honest we can only usually afford Perlenbacher.
In the meantime, John Leonard, when he wasn’t busy with his main band Ferocious Dog, started to join us for gigs. I’d already built the mic stands and monitors and there’s no way I was making another, so, again with Claire’s help, he joined us on stage but without a mic. At a recent gig I’d noticed he’d always find his way onto someone else’s mic, so I was sure he wouldn’t mind. Even though the banjo is incredibly low in the mix on this track – some would argue ‘non-existent’ – I thought I’d let him join in.
Still with no idea of what I was going to do I bought some LED strip lights and in the style of an 80’s school disco made the stage flash just a little bit too much.
The only thing I could think of was to try my hand at stop motion animation, so I watched a few tutorials – practised with a little tale about my earplugs wandering off to see Benny while in bed with him at Roystonbury – and then blacked out the dining room and set to work for two weeks.
Moving each figure and each ‘cymbal’ a millimetre at a time I started the quite tremendous task of making us all move around. When I was roughly happy with the ‘movie’ I started the equally tremendous task of adding mouths to everyone and getting them chirping along, roughly in time.
Over 10,000 images later with aching arms and tired eyes, and England out of the World Cup, I felt I was pretty much there. A few finishing touches involved adding a smoke machine (obvs), some more lighting, a bit of feedback from Brad for the beginning, and an actual audience for the end. The latter was recorded at Middlezoy Arts Festival last night (14/07/18), thanks for clapping longer than you normally might.
As I type, the finished video is uploading and I’m feeling a little empty inside because I have just demolished the set (lighting rig being most painful), thrown most of it away and put the dining room back to normal. It’s been a big part of my life for the last couple of months and it not existing any more feels very strange.
So there you have it. An idea to take a simple band photo ended up being a mammoth work-it-out-as-you-go-along task making a music video.
I lost my mum, also a ‘Liz’ two months ago and she knew I was planning to one day do a music video for this song, which was one of her favourites. So, although I am quietly pleased with the final outcome, there’s more than a tinge of sadness that neither Liz ever got to see it.
Hi All, I hope you are all well, and that you had beautiful summers filled with beautiful festivals and beautiful people. I know I did.
I am very pleased with my new video for most people’s favourite song from the new album Besta Venya. It was created by the exquisite human that is Rich Kingston at Young Rascal and is sung so beautifully by the delightful Saoirse Casey.
One of the best things about touring is stumbling across other musicians/singers and having the occasional jam together. On my recent tour with Chris Webb however, it was a little different.
A few weeks ago Emily Larkin put her history books down and came to a gig in Cafe Filou (one of my favourite places to play) in Steinhude, near Hannover. She had never been confident enough to sing on a stage before – apart from the odd school concert. We talked a bit about music we liked and she agreed to sing a song or two with me. She hadn’t even finished her first line when I realised I had to have her singing on my next album. Not willing to wait until I had a new album ready, I invited her to a video session in Duisburg with the lovely Alex Schroer a couple of days later.
Here are the fruits of that session. It’s a cover of The Weakerthans’ My Favourite Chords.
Oh don’t worry, she’ll still be on the album.
Emily, Chris and I will be playing at Salt Cafe in Bristol together on Friday 8th September.
Seriously. Anyway. So I finally made a record. Wrote the songs, recorded the songs, got them mastered and sorted the artwork – with help from me dad.
It’s out. It’s scary. I’m pleased with it.
It’s late and I’m tired because I’ve been editing a video for like EVER. You can watch it over there to the right. It’s a video for my second ever single release (the first was in 1992) and is for the song Down With The Yoof.
If you would like to buy the album it is currently only available on CD (again on the right there) and will be available from your favourite digital outlet from Monday 1st May.
Course, all this ‘right’ gubbins won’t be the case if you’re reading this on your phone but I’m sure you’ll find it somewhere.
Right. Definitely bedtime. Cheers for all your support x
Hi All, So I finally got round to finishing my album. Twelve more songs – or at least pieces of music – for your pretty ears. It will be available here from Monday 3rd April and you can pre-order (and pay) by clicking HERE. It will be available digitally on all platforms from Monday 1st May. I’ll also have a few copies at gigs from 10th (ish) March onwards, so feel free to get one from me then.
Hope all is wonderful. I have had a very busy summer of festivals and it’s all been rather lovely. I realised however that it’s been a couple years since I made a record so I thought I’d conjure something new up. I’m currently in Spacewolf Studio in Wells, Somerset and hope to have finished something by Christmas.
I’ll probably start annoying you all about it soon.
Just back from my first visit to 2000Trees. What a glorious festival. So well run and such a friendly vibe throughout, even in the cuddly-fighty-pits. I had the great pleasure of joining Ben Marwood, with my mandolin, for a couple of songs at the end of his Axiom set.
For ‘Singalong’ Barry Dolan AKA Oxygen Thief/Non-Canon joined in on vocals and impeccable kazoo solo, and for ‘District Sleeps’ Frank Turner got up to sing much to the crowd’s delight. Ben had been unable to play for the last couple of years due to ill health so it was so good to see him back and at his very best. Not that he had to sing much of course, as every beautiful human in the tent knew every single word which they shouted out in his general direction.
Hi, Firstly apologies for being really rubbish at posting on here. I have been rather busy if it helps.
Since my last post I’ve toured Germany and Holland three times and made many new lovely friends at festivals and gigs around the UK. I’ve also been busy writing and I reckon I’m only one or two songs off a new album. Most of the summer will be spent doing festivals with the band but I have a few solo shows too. Really looking forward to my first 2000Trees appearances this week. They’re only fringe gigs but I’ve heard so many good things about the festival so I’m grateful to be involved.
My next trip to Germany is in September when I’ll be doing a few gigs with Lonely Tourist. He’s really very good.
Hi. Just home from a glorious tour with Gaz Brookfield and Ben Wain. It was so much fun and I had the pleasure of making so many new friends. We have about 7 weeks off and then we hit the road together again, this time overseas. During the last tour I sold many of the new T-shirts which have this design on them
I have some left so I’ve added them to the online shop over there —->
In other news I’m delighted to say that I’ve started work on a new album which will hopefully be available by the end of the year.