Friday 28 March 2014

Why I decided not to go and see Kate Bush, even though I could have got tickets, and could afford it

Here it is, my sinful confession, I am a musician, and I do not like going to gigs. I am not a good punter, and I do not go in for worshipping at the altar of my idols. When I was 16 I heard a song called “Jesus Loves you, but I don't” by a band called The Almighty (you may remember them from 90s heavy metal magazines. Here's a link: -

Maybe not the greatest song ever written, but I enjoyed the line “Kill Your Idols” which I believe they stole from someone else, however, it was the first time I came across it, and I liked it. It made me realise that Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Rotten and Jello Biafra were just blokes, and a lot of what they said was probably bollocks, and they were mostly just as fucked up as I was, but had more time to hone it into profitability. So when some smug twat says to me “I saw them live you  know” with a big smug grin upon his face, I am briefly jealous of the moment in time that they have grabbed, and then realise I would probably have been looking for the bar, or waiting to go home.
I know, in a sudden moment of clarity, I remembered that nearly every gig I have been to (big acts that is, not the down and dirty new bands in clubs and pubs, love those still) I have mostly been waiting for them to stop so I can go home and tell people I saw it. Usually I prefer the support bands, I don't think I can take listening to more than 45 minutes of any one artists music, or even the same genre.
I also remembered that while I utterly adore about 35% of Kate Bush's stuff, the rest is a bit tepid, especially to stand up and listen to after driving all the way to London and paying for a hotel. But that's by the by.
So I didn't buy a ticket, don't want to stand in a room where doubtlessly drinks are not allowed, wait years at the bar if they are, surrounded by people I neither know nor like, to squint for a decent view of kate, and not hear it properly due to some weird acoustic bouncing round my deaf ear, and being blinded by smartphone screens from all sides.
No doubt I may regret it, but I for one am looking forward to hearing the final mixed version, while watching it on my TV with a bottle next to me, and my feet up.
Middle age is fast approaching, and rock and roll is dead.
I like festivals, because you can go to the back, and there is space, and a bit of sky. Plus, if you get bored after 15 minutes, there are at least 5 other stages with stuff you've never heard before playing. I prefer to hear things I have never heard before in a live context. Not some old duffer churning out the same old stuff I've heard a million times before.
No sets over 45 minutes please. Ever.
This is the thing I like best about playing in an originals act, the multiband gigs where I get to see something I would never in a million years have bought a ticket for, or looked up online.“

I like music, not celebrity, and on the occasions I have met people whose work I admire (and it has happened) I am always struck by the fact that they are not golden gods, but ordinary, and usually tired. Except for certain folk musicians who may have to remain nameless, they turned out to think they were golden gods, but were in fact dicks (Dave Pegg of Fairport Convention, you are a genuine exception, you were lovely, thanks for the ciggy). I enjoy music most if I am uninterrupted, on my own, and preferably sat in a comfy chair with a drink (even a cup of tea will do in a pinch). And thus I find rooms full of people sweating on me and screaming with excitement at seeing their idols faintly nauseating.
Your mileage may vary, you may squeal with excitement at the prospect of a glimpse of a perfectly preserved Keith Richards, and possibly getting a photo of you and him with a hearty thumbs up.
I can think of nothing worse (though there is a picture of me and Mickey Mouse doing just this).

The last moment of jealousy I felt about somebody else's gig-going was from a woman I met in London who went to all those mad early Pink Floyd gigs with all the swirly oil lights. That probably would have been cool, not drive to the other side of the country and pay an entire weeks wages to get in and be squashed by a bunch of middle aged accountants in Dark Side of the Moon T-Shirts cool, but cool nonetheless. I would have had to be young, filled with lysergic acid and have never heard it before for it to be cool.
Your mileage may, once again, vary.

On wednesday afternoon I wrote this on a bass guitar forum that I am known to frequent  -

“Brought on by the rush of excitement at the delectable Kate Bush doing some live shows, I sat this morning with my fan's early release pass code to buy tickets, and then didn't use it.

A lot of people agreed with me, and some thought I just didn't like big venues, where you can't see, I added this.

“It's not about the venue size, it's the length of the sets, I rarely even listen to side 2 of a record i've put on these days. It reminds me of something else i like, and I put that on instead. And the adoring "this act can do no wrong" fans who would probably slice me up into little pieces if I were to say "oh i hate this song, it's a bit pony" who keep on cheering til the 6th encore, by which point, I want to make for the doors, but am worried that the 7th encore might be that weird b-side that never gets played ever, and that I love more than anything.

Somebody else said they didn't like going to gigs as an audience member ever, and I almost agreed, but then I said this instead

“I do get this, very much. However, every now and then I see someone who does something really interesting that I would never have thought of, and it sends my writing off into wholly new directions. But it's always a weird support act, or some guy in an obscure tent at a festival. Never someone whose records I own already.

Now that I have got all the preliminary stuff out of the way, I shall endeavour to explain some more,

A couple of years ago, I was at a festival I was playing at, and Ian Anderson (of Jethro Tull fame) was doing the entire of the Thick as a Brick album on the saturday night. This is one of my favourite albums ever and I was enormously excited to get to go and see it, as I didn't want to fork out the enormous ticket prices that the show was commanding around the country.

I went, it was very disappointing, Ian's voice is not what it was, the whole show lacked the energy of the original madison square garden shows, and I left halfway through to catch the end of New Model Army (who were great). Other people told me it was brilliant and they loved it, which just goes to show.

While eagerly waiting for Kate Bush tickets, it suddenly occurred to me that the same thing might happen again, and this time I would have forked out about 300 quid once you total up hotels, getting there, tickets, and feeding yourself in hammersmith. I really want to buy myself a new guitar this year (I know I have loads already, but I have my reasons, which I won't go into here) and this would make a significant dent in that. So I decided not to.

I also was very clear that when it comes to Kate Bush, her newer stuff, is just ok. I don't hate it, but it is not Hounds of Love (although, you really need to chop about 3 or 4 tracks off of that album as well, running up that hill is just the track I used to skip on Now 6 when I was a kid). She has managed to write about 4 songs that will make me cry like a little girl if I hear them at the wrong time, and for that reason I love her dearly. But there is every chance it might be an evening of songs I don't like (which would be in there as crowd pleasers, ironically) and a bunch of new stuff that I haven't had time to digest and get to grips with yet. She is a slow burner, it takes a few listens to get a lot of her stuff, but when you do it is usually worth it. I'm hoping I “get” the Red shoes soon, as it still leaves me utterly cold. Were she to do just the Hounds of Love album in its entirety, I would have been overwhelmed with a need to see it (and probably had another Thick as a Brick moment).

But I digress, I was then reminded of the other gigs I have been to over the years (not that many really, I'm not a good audience member, and a notorious cheapskate). I recall seeing motorhead a few years ago, and by the 4th encore thinking “dear god, they haven't played Ace of Spades yet, I am bored now, and indescribably deaf”. I had wandered up to the balcony by this point, where I could sit down in comfort, and have a quiet smoke (yes, it was that long ago, and I was still under thirty).

I went back even further, and remembered being a wide-eyed fourteen year old watching AC/DC at Donington, and once again, as the 3rd or 4th encore came around wishing they would stop, as it was cold, and I was tired.

Anyhow, despite being a musician, and thus wanting people to come to gigs, I personally don't like it at all it seems. Maybe if it was a tenner or so a ticket, and I lived nearby I would have the odd punt on it, but tickets are a major investment these days, and if I am (as usual) wishing the band would shut up and let me go home about half way through, it is not a wise investment for me.

Don't get me wrong, I love live music, and if there were venues within walking distance of my house, where I could catch new exciting bands for about a fiver a ticket, I would be there every weekend (like I did when I was a kid, though we didn't pay back then, we were normally the sound crew). But once the success is there, and they have to work through 20 years of old “must hear” songs, I have no need of hearing it. And even having said that, I have stood at the back of Milton Keynes Bowl screaming along with Ozzy Osbourne with tears of happiness streaming down my face, and every time Billy Bragg plays the opening notes of Between the Wars on a stage I am in front of, I will again, cry like the proverbial little girl.

But, as a musician, that thrill of the loud blast of overamplified guitars, and trouser-flapping bass, is pretty much what I’ve stood in front of most weekends for the last twenty odd years, so when I have a gig free weekend, going to a gig, is kind of a busman’s holiday. Which is a shame.

I would dearly love to have seen those first Black Sabbath gigs back in the 70s, or Hendrix at Cafe Wha? But that will not happen now. Hopefully one of the many bands I have seen and enjoyed while we've been supporting them (or vice versa) will go on to be as successful, as it is, I am glad to have seen them in pleasant surroundings, and for a nice sensible length set, without having my retinas burned out by a wall of screens.

Apologies for the length of this blog, I am finding this hard to explain, even to myself.

By the way, I didn’t write any of my book this week either, am hoping to make up for it this weekend. There were probably reasons, like the fact I wrote this 3 page apology for not liking going to gigs.

Sunday 23 March 2014

Opinions are like arseholes

This week I have once again been writing aplenty. Things are proceeding well, this blog may become utterly redundant as a result of this productivity. But I promised myself I'd write a blog every week to update myself as to how I was going, and thus I am writing this anyway. I am aware of just how insane that sounds, but it is nevertheless the truth.

I have also spent this week trying very hard to stop having conversations with myself as well. Mostly because I have become so unselfconscious these days that I am doing it in public now. For as long as I can remember I have argued with myself, out loud, as a very useful method of working things through in my head and help with decision making processes, creative ideas and any other aspect of being a human being you can think of. Generally in the privacy of my own home, or while out on the moors with the dog, and utterly alone. I am fully aware that the people engaged in these arguments are aspects of my own personality, and I am not hearing voices or anything as odd or untoward as that, it's just a thing I do, it helps me, and it works. However, as I am now doing it while walking through town, and sat in the open plan office I work in, it is now making me look even more like a drunken tramp than I already do. This cannot be a good thing, however, in my attempts to stop myself I have unfortunately made it worse by shouting “shutupshutupshutup” at myself every time I catch me doing it. Really trying to stop now, as this really looks crazy. Buggrit, millenium hand and shrimp. Anyhow, none of this is relevant to what I was actually going to write about today.

While pondering my blog from last week where I proved that nobody creates anything good any more, I remembered some things. I remembered various times where I have been scathingly critical of music, films and books that I have consumed, and received incredibly emotional responses from fans of them. I am pretty sure that I am emotionally detached enough from things I have had no hand at all in creating, that you can confidently say to me “I think AC/DC are shit, and I have no idea why anyone in their right mind would enjoy their inane screaming” and I would shrug and assume you were entitled to that opinion. I may attempt to engage you in a conversation as to why I personally think that powerage is one of the most sublime pieces of vinyl I have ever listened to, but I would not start raving at you as if you had just punched my mother in the face.

I have received rebuttals like this for my occasional observations of other people's music tastes, and would genuinely like to find out what moves others to identify so strongly with a thing that someone else made. In a similar vein, football supporters appear to have the same problem, does my lack of emotional attachment to things that I have no hand in or influence over make me some kind of sociopath? Possibly. Probably. Oh well.

Equally, saying art you don't like is not art, is not helpful. If someone calls it art, it is. If I draw a smiley face on the back of a stamp and say it is worth 10 million pounds, it is not immediately worth that, but it has been declared as art. If someone is gullible enough to give me 10 million pounds for it, then it's actually much better art than I immediately thought. This may be by the by, and is a point that many people online are never going to concede. I also think that rothko is awful, Martin Creed is a pillock, and that guy who did the slashed canvas (Lucio Fontana, I have google) was a cretin. However, all of them have done pretty well, so somebody is wrong here. It is clearly me.

The web does not help with these problems, as if somebody says “This is a shit thing, I can't see why anyone would like it” they are immediately pulled up for not saying “in my opinion” despite the fact that all art is subjective, there are no facts, and thus anything anybody says about it is de facto their opinion. My personal favourite rebuttal was when I claimed that all music that hadn't been written by me was utterly shite and unlistenable. There were some very entertaining responses, I am entitled to this opinion, although I only held it for about an hour, then I went back to listening to the Russian Futurists, and wishing I could write something that good. Everyone is entitled to hold any opinion they like, and everyone is also entitled to call people up on their opinions as being basically bollocks. But if you genuinely believe that nobody can like a certain thing just because you yourself hate it, then there is actually something wrong with you.

 Just in case you are about to call me up on any of this, all of this is obviously just my opinion. :)

Sunday 16 March 2014

Why no great art is produced anymore (a possible explanation)

Apologies for the lateness of this blog post. The reasons for this are simple, in my spare time at home, I have been writing my book, I have made great progress (by my own meagre standards) and thus, writing a blog post about procrastination would be slightly disingenuous. I am writing this having just finished Chapter 2 (I know, in the 6 weeks since I have been writing this blog about writing a book, I have written very little of the book, and therein lies the very point of the blog) and felt I deserved a little break from the creative process, to write something with less point, and a little more ramble.

I am currently sat in my lovely summer house, which has been bathed in sunlight and heat for the last week (and which I have not had time to use for the purposes of writing in any of that time) feeling distinctly cold, and glad of the heat of my laptop preventing me from freezing. That sentence served no purpose at all, sorry, I just wanted to tell somebody, most of the free time for writing I have squeezed in over the last week or so has been indoors, in front of the fire, trying to ignore the television. Which is rather more to my point.
I got to thinking to myself about why it is that I find it so hard to get time to write, when plenty of other authors from the past had full time jobs and numerous other commitments, and they had no trouble at all fitting it in. And I decided to blame television. Well, not just television, also books, the internet, movies and any other mass media you care to think of.
Way back in the dim and distant past, the story tellers could make an honest living travelling from village to village telling tales of heroes and villains, and good versus evil to wide eyed children and adults round the fire in the night times, as few could read, and for those who could, books were pretty hard to come by. Caxton changed that quite nicely with the printing press, but even then, only the educated and wealthy could get hold of a gripping adventure to read to themselves, and I suspect that they told the storied within to the uneducated around them, leaving a huge amount of time for everybody to be utterly bored in.
As this is where the urge to create and make wonderful things comes from, boredom. Faced with huge swathes of time with nothing to do, people will turn to making stuff up, stories, songs, drawing pictures etc. etc. I am fairly sure that had I not been bored out of my mind one afternoon when I was a young lad, I would not have picked up my Dad's guitar and decided to learn how to play it. And me and my friend Tom would not have then started writing terrible songs, and we wouldn't have started a band, and I might have had a proper career and not still been dicking about with guitars 30 years later, but that's beside the point a bit.

Back in the days of Shakespeare et al, the poor and uneducated would probably get out to see a couple of plays a week if they were lucky, by the 19th century similarly most entertainment would still be from the theatre (I'm including the Music Hall, Opera, ballet and Vaudeville in that) though there would now be books and a reader in most homes, and a piano in the corner for a jolly old sing song in the evening. Still a great amount of time to sit around being bored, and thus possibly inspired to make stuff (and not just the poor and uneducated, even the rich are mostly sitting around not being entertained, even more so, as they aren't having to go down mines and up chimneys for 27 hours a day to earn a living). Cue swathes of poets filled with opium creating marvellous strange worlds for all of us. Then came the movies, radio and Television. All marvellous technological innovations (which more than likely did for the revenues previously enjoyed by actors, musicians, and even the printers printing the books).

Even when I was a kid, the TV didn't come on til late, and it turned off relatively early, even when I was a teenager, all you got after 1 in the morning was pages from ceefax. And a great deal of the output on the 4 channels we had by then, would not have been anything you wanted to watch. A shelf full of video tapes was the answer to that particular problem, but again, expensive, and unlikely to fill all your time. Result, I got to be that bored kid who learned to play his Dad's guitar and wrote songs.

However, today, DVDs are cheap and plentiful, the TV is on twenty four hours a day if you want it to be, and if you look hard enough, you can pretty much find something you want to watch on it at any time of day, all day long. This leads the lazy (hello, pleased to meet you, my name is Dave, and I count myself among the lazy) to relax by just turning on the TV, having a cup of tea (bottle of wine, can of lager, line of coke, syringeful of skag, insert your recreational activity of choice here) and zoning out to something somebody else created so you don't have to be bored. I'm sure I don't need to point out here that most of this output is considerably less good than it used to be 30 years ago when there were only 4 channels that weren't on for 24 hours a day, and didn't have to cram the schedules with filler (I just did though). I think there may be a link. Thus the brain gets the stories it craves, and it doesn't need to make any up for itself to satiate the desire to be entertained.

And that's why I'm going to go back in the house and watch telly for the rest of the evening.

N.B. There are no historical facts whatsoever in this blog, I plucked the whole thing out of my head while out walking the dog. Apologies for any historians now spluttering into their tea at my wild innacuracy, I only have an A level in history and none of it covered any of the areas I have explored in these writings.

Thursday 6 March 2014

Nothing to fear but fear itself

A marvellous quote, from somebody or another, I could google it, but thought it might be more fun to highlight my own ignorance for once. I pulled the wife up for pedantry yesterday, after she derailed my sentence of profound brilliance because I used the word stupider. Which according to this here spell check is in fact a real word. Right that argument shall be resumed later, anyhow, what was the point I was going to make here. Could it be that my own over-inflated opinion of myself is thoroughly undeserved? Probably yes, the fear itself bit is down to why I don't ever write anything.

To elucidate a bit, I am so worried that I will run into writers block at some point in the process, I don't even get started, just in case I spend hours staring at that dreaded blank bit at the end with no idea what to fill it with. I am aware that that is very strange, and more than a little odd. Also that those two phrases amount to exactly the same thing.

Ironically, I just spent 10 minutes staring at this little blank bit I am filling up now, as it may be becoming painfully obvious to anyone following this blog, that there is only so much you can say about procrastination before you end up blabbering on endlessly about nothing in an attempt to avoid the cold hard truth. Which appears to be that I am not doing anything because I am worried about a thing that may not happen anyway.

So, how do I tie all these seperate strands together anyway? What has me being a bit stroppy when Netty pulled me up over my grammar got to do with my fear of writers block? And why is this not the essay on why no real great works of creativity are being made anymore that I had planned to write? Well, I shall tell you, because I started writing this on a different subject than I intended to, possibly I am trying to put off that essay of untold wonders because I am worried that I might not be able to do it justice. So that clears up the last question at least. And for the first two, it is obvious. I do not wish to be exposed as just as stupid as the rest of the world. My fragile ego is based upon my own belief that I am very, very clever. Which I quite probably am not, so when pulled up on it, I react badly. And if I do finally finish something that I think is very good, and it is universally slammed as not very good at all, I suspect I shall react very badly to that as well, thus the fear of my efforts being in vain leads me to not bother making them in the first place.

How very self-aware and clever of me, hoorah, right back up in the happy ego-filled place.

I must apologise for the rather random, disjointed nature of this piece, it is a strange place that I find my mind in at the moment. Hopefully next week will have that afore-mentioned essay on the death of great creative works, and why it is so. By the way, this week I have written nothing at all, but I did have 2 band rehearsals, and started the programming course from future learn. So I don't feel too bad about it. I've also decided never to dep for any bands I don't already know again. It is generally too much work for too little reward, from people with too high an opinion of themselves (just like me in other words).

In the course of not paying much attention while writing this, I googled that quote, turns out it is from Franklin D. Roosevelt, or Batman, or Oingo Boingo, depending on who you prefer.

Addendum: I wrote this blog 4 days ago, and have only just got around to publishing it, as I got very busy with a last minute dep gig (for a band I know very well and used to be in, so sticking to the new rules). I also remembered that I did once create something I am very, very proud of and so far it has been downloaded a total of about 4 times, in the last 7 years since I finished it. It still makes me grin from ear to ear when it comes on shuffle on the mp3 player in my car, so it works for me. Nobody has actually told me it is rubbish, but I feel it's lack of success may be significant in that respect. Do go and download my 27 minute concept album and tell me it is rubbish while you read this blog. It is here....