Sunday 27 April 2014

OMFG ppl r akshly rding ths

Yesterday evening, in the lengthy gap between sound check and gig, which is always a difficult time for any musician. Made a little easier now that I have to drive to pretty much every gig I do these days, as before, the temptation to sit at the bar and get mind buggeringly drunk for the usual three or four hours was always too alluring. This always led to some utterly stellar and amazing performances in my earlier career, though somebody once had the temerity to suggest they were not as good as I remember them being (See Homer Simpson's recollections of his evening vs Marge's version of events in the episode “War of the Simpsons” for clarification on this (Good luck, youtube says NO)).
However, this image sums it up quite nicely, drunk me is the one at the top by the way....

Ways to spend this gap vary from band to band, and can include I-spy marathons, zen wrestling (that was an odd afternoon) arguing, jolly sing-songs in the back stage area (if you think this is a good idea, you are wrong, and I will not play with you) and the obligatory groupies and drugs (though sadly those days are long gone for most of us).

But I digress, yes, yesterday evening, in that now more easy for you to understand gap, I wandered over to a different bar from the one I was playing in to meet one of my oldest friends (this isn't the point of this either) and ran into a bunch of other utterly unrelated people. Several of these unrelated people, and the band's manager told me that they were very much enjoying reading my blog (Hooray! He finally got to the point, far too many tangents, including this one, sorry). Panic has now set in, as I assumed this blog had as many readers as my last one (which was read by me, once, to check that I had been writing it, I could link to it, but I probably won't) and have been happily just writing jolly self-indulgent tosh that makes me chuckle a bit, and will probably mean nothing to anyone else. I now realise I must do better, last week I just quickly threw out an idea I had half thought about, to make sure I'd written something, hastily posted it, and then realised a few hours later that I had forgotten to write in most of the main points I had wanted to make in the piece anyway. Hence this weeks blog will be left on the hard drive til at least tomorrow, so I can go back over it and do this thing properly, like I did with that Kate Bush one that everybody liked so much. (this is me from the future, telling you that I am doing exactly that now, editing away like an editoring thing).

And so, you are now thinking, still self indulgent twaddle, writing about the act of writing about the act of not managing to write a book, not only self indulgent, but ludicrously post modern, slightly ironic, and perhaps a bit pretentious now as well? Yep, you're probably right. Interestingly, back when I was seventeen, and I first started thinking I might like to be a writer, I did think that my obviously brilliant views and musings on life would make excellent reading for people. However, at that time, there was no real outlet for such tosh, I clearly wasn't going to write Das Kapital for the next generation, or become the foremost philosopher for my times, as I could barely concentrate on one thing long enough to finish writing a song (and if you've heard my songs, you'll understand why that really shouldn't take that long).

So I agonised for endless amounts of time trying to think of ways to work all my wondrous philosophies into works of fiction, and attempted my own science fiction utopias to illustrate my political and philosophical genius. And as a consequence I got very bored with everything I tried to write, and gave up. I went on to try and write a hysterical comedy about a group of lobsters who have to take over from the four horsemen of the apocalypse which also fell by the wayside, but that's an entirely different matter.

The appearance of the blog around the turn of the millennium should therefore have been a light bulb moment for me. I could write endlessly on any subject I liked, publish it online, and away you go, millions of potential readers, and a clamouring from the national newspapers to get me to write a regular column for them (now there would have been an ethical dilemma, what if the Mail or the Sun had picked me up and asked me to write for them? Would it have horrified me to think that they thought I'd fit in? Would I take their right wing money? Of course I would, but I'd be forever wondering why the Guardian and the Independent didn't want me). But no, it never even occurred to me, so I carried on working for the post office instead, wrote a couple of things and published them on my old website (still out there somewhere, no idea where, probably on geocities) and promptly forgot about them.

Blogging by its very nature is wildly self indulgent, and I am firmly convinced that most blogs out there (and I have read pretty much none of them in case you're wondering) are the same as any 13 year old's diary. A long boring list of what somebody has done that week, pictures of what they ate, musings about boys/girls that they fancy (possibly with embedded jpgs now as well as endless fucking selfies) and shite of that nature. Why anybody would want to wade through all the tripe in the hopes of coming across something worth reading is beyond me. I suspect that the allure of peeking into the lives of our friends is what drives us to read twitter and facebook feeds, and thus, ultimately, blogs, in the same way as people once read heat magazine and tatler to get glimpses into the lives of the rich and famous, it is far more interesting to dig inside the lives of people that we actually know (or indeed used to know twenty years ago, they're the ones who we really want to know about aren't they?). So I hold out little hope of these utterly self indulgent mutterings ever reaching a wider audience than people I have met that have been foolish enough to “friend” or “follow” me on social media. I do not mind though, as I have said before, I am writing this entirely for my own ends, as I can compare the blog count to the page count on the novel, and shame myself into doing some work.

I made an earlier attempt at blogging on that most wonderful of websites h2g2, which I used to spend a great deal too much time on back in 2001/2002. There was a very lengthy blog detailing how I recorded the “Audio Pornography” album on there, which may be the dullest thing I ever did write. I suspect nobody ever read that either. The last blog I wrote on blogger, called “Anarchy, Chaos and Custard Creams” very much still exists, but I decided to abandon it to start this one, as I expected this one to deal strictly with the art of procrastination itself, and my exciting developments as I write my wondrous novel. Which I suppose it does a bit, and thus it was a good idea. Hoorah, well done Dave, good decision. Though if you do find that old blog, it has the same description as this one, as it was a last minute decision to start entirely anew, and I was editing it to make it into this one.

Anyhow, the point being that ironically, I cannot understand why anybody reads blogs, I have trouble understanding why people (and that includes me) write such things, and I feel utterly humbled and flattered that no less than 5 people have told me in real life that they really enjoy reading this. I am terribly bad at accepting compliments in general, and if somebody tells me how much they enjoyed the gig after I've played, I will immediately apologise for anything I felt was done wrong, and inform them of the gammy wrist/dodgy finger/headache that prevented me from playing at my best. Thus this whole thing has been terribly difficult for me to get, I had assumed that the more often I wrote stuff, the less people would bother to read it, but the opposite appears to be true. My previous blogs only very rarely got posted to, and had hardly any readers, while this one is updated every week, and is consistently getting decent statistics. Luckily, these don't also tell you the statistics for those who looked, and got bored and didn't finish, unlike my bandcamp account, that brutally tells me how many people only listened to a bit of my song, or skipped through that one. Slightly soul destroying to read those stats, I try not to look at them.

Many apologies are necessary to my cousin, who noted last week that I should be more pithy. I have inadvertently made this weeks blog much longer and even more vague. Personally, I quite enjoy this slightly rambling style, and I rather suspect that I have no point to get to anyway. Apologies to anybody else finding themselves now slightly bewildered as to what this was about, I am no longer sure, but it feels like it was worthwhile. I expect I have once again forgotten what I actually meant to write about here, and will have to rewrite the whole thing later.

By the way, as I write this, I have just finished chapter four on the novel, and am about to start scrawling notes for chapter five's structure, and hoping against hope I don't feel the need to introduce any more new characters at this point, as I seem unable to stop.

Monday 21 April 2014

The importance of doing f*** all once in a while

Further to what I wrote here a month or so ago, I am going to point out to you why it is important to occasionally sit down, and do absolutely, positively nothing at all. Proper fuck-all, as Mickey Flanagan would put it.

As I already said in the earlier blog, I firmly believe that all great art comes from utter boredom, if we are constantly entertained, it will never occur to us to do anything ourselves. This is still true. However, this weekend, the weather has been pretty lovely for the most part, so I have been finding myself sat out in the garden, with some kind of beverage in my hand. Now whether the beverage has been a cup of tea, or a pint of cider, the effect is the same. Devoid of the telly, or the radio, or whatever record I would normally put on, my brain suddenly starts to work a bit better.

Equally, when I am out wandering the moors with the dog, my brain goes a little more smoothly for the same reason, however, when it is trying to cope with navigation, checking Rizla hasn't got stuck in a hole, or started chasing sheep (or more often, being chased by sheep, the big wuss. It is embarrassing to own a sheep dog who is terrified of sheep) it is not at optimal thinking about stuff level. If one is sat, doing genuinely, absolutely, totally and utterly fuck all for a bit, then the ideas actually start to flow a bit.

As usual, this weekend they mostly flowed about things that I am not currently trying to work on, but I have redesigned the garden, figured out most of the ideas for how to rebuild my studio shed, and had a couple of excellent ideas for future reference if I try and write another book at any time. My actual book is still where I left it last tuesday night, when I last wrote a bit of it, as you can't see a laptop screen in the sun, and if I write it on paper, I'll just have to go and type it all in again. And I am very lazy. The summer house seemed a good idea, but when it's proper sun, I want to be actually in it (and by in it, I mean wearing long sleeves, a big hat, and covering any other exposed bit in goth factor 5000000 suncream).

I did eventually give in to the urge to do stuff though, and one of the song ideas that has been floating around my head for months, became a fully finished, working song. Bit of paper and a pint of the appley stuff in the sunshine made all those lyrics come flooding in finally, happy times. I did try and record some stuff in the studio, but looking out of the window at the lovely sunshine made me want to not be indoors. So I stopped. I was going to get stuff done today, but then the sun came out again, and I am now looking longingly out of the window again, wondering why I came inside to write this. In fact I may stop now, as it is not that important, but I wanted to not have wasted the entire four day bank holiday weekend.

Of course, wasted is a subjective term, as I have spent a great deal of time out in the sun, chatting with my lovely wife, and several of my very good friends, I have strolled through beautiful countryside with my dog, I have drunk a goodly amount of winkleigh cider, and we cycled to the pub in Exbourne for lunch today (cycling hurts a great deal it has to be said, but I have got the hang of going up hills, so might start cycling to work now as well). All of these are good experiences, and certainly not wasted time. Worth remembering what's important sometimes.

Anyhow, remember to do absolutely nothing occasionally, put down the remote control and stare out of the window blankly, have a bit of a sit down without listening to the radio, or anything else. Make a bit of time to be on your own, just you and your many, many thoughts, you may finally make sense of some of them, and come up with that grand plan for something you never thought you'd get your head around.

 Enough of this, I'm off to the pub, it's nice in the beer garden as well.

Monday 14 April 2014

Sorry I didn't "like" your Facebook page

There are many things I like, I like cider, I like the view across the moors on my walk to work, I like listening to records, and I like lasagnwiches. I like things that I have seen, heard, tasted and so on and so on. This is pretty normal stuff, and we all like things. When Facebook first reared its ugly head and the like button began to appear everywhere, I liked indiscriminately, every tiny thing I saw online that I enjoyed, I liked it, and that's “liked” with the click of a mouse, as it made sense. If you like it, then “like” it. However, it soon became fairly apparent that it would drive anybody unfortunate enough to be one of my “friends” utterly nuts, if their feed was clogged with all my “likes”. I clearly like too many things, which is no bad thing. I have cut down, and limit myself to one daily mash article a day now, though it should be all of them really.

As soon as it dawned on me that all the liking was essentially market research for big business, it took a bit of the shine off it for me. Luckily, I'm not sure my immense liking of Smokey and the Bandit, Discworld books, and reams of faintly amusing fake news articles helped them target the adverts any better at me. Particularly as I am tin-foil hatted enough to use Iron with ad-blocker installed (non-geeks, check with your IT support, they'll get this). And then it got worse.

The sudden currency of “likes” is not so brilliant, particularly for those of us stupid enough to put ourselves out there as musicians in the public eye (or ear, or whatever you like). Plenty of festivals and promoter types out there now won't put you on if you don't have a certain amount of “likes” which lends itself to a fairly shitty deal for all. Basically, if you are young types, who do mass social media on a huge scale, you can call in all your mates to “like” the page, without them ever having heard a note you've played. So there is now a clear advantage, akin to the old style battle of the bands where the audience voted, and it became a “whoever has the most mates wins” type affair,

This has led to a nasty phenomenon, by which people I had previously considered perfectly reputable and normal, are now sending begging messages every other day pleading with me to “like” their pages. I shall be frank with you now, if I have been to see your band, and enjoyed it, I will “like” your facebook page. If you have some music and videos on there for me to listen to, and I have time to get round to listening to it, I will “like” your facebook page. If it is just a page, with a few photos on it and a list of gigs, and I haven't been to see your band. I am not going to “like” it anymore. Time for the “like” to mean something rather than a stream of mates giving you a pity click.

Also, if you are running a business, and need likes, if it is something I am not in the least interested in, and you are going to fill my newsfeed up with pictures of cakes you are trying to sell, I will not “like” that either. Plenty of people will, and I will probably share the link with people who I think might, that's what social media is for after all. If you “add” me to a group you have set up for your business/crochet group/dog-bothering club without even mentioning it to me beforehand, then I will probably leave on principle. Unless it's really interesting dog-bothering.

By the way, if you have seen me at one of your gigs, or know for a fact that I have listened to some of your work, and I still haven't “liked” your page, then I probably don't actually like your music. Sorry, I am sure somebody out there does though. Or I may have forgotten all about it, either way is good.

If this sounds like the bitter ramblings of an ageing muso, then I am afraid it is not so, the phenomenon of the “like” has been excellent business for Carnivala! As we have a couple of teenagers in the band who can call up more likes than you can shake a shitty stick at. And I never really liked trying to gig Plastic Squirrel stuff, as it is mostly just for my own enjoyment because nobody else writes music I really like. I'd just like to level it all out, so that when somebody “likes” my page, I know they actually liked it, and aren't just trying not to offend me. Can we reclaim the “like” for things we actually like, not just things people we like are doing, that we now have to “like” as some kind of social nicety. I know many of you are already doing this, as I have (for some insane reason, as I don't think I know this many people) 288 facebook “friends” and a mere 73 “likes” for my Plastic Squirrel page. It's ok, I don't expect you to like it, even I don't most of the time.

By the way, those of you following the ongoing battle against procrastination, no, I have not written a word in the last week, I've been rebuilding basses, my studio, and rehearsing and gigging with bands, also writing songs for a future Plastic Squirrel release. There has been a certain amount of lying in front of the sofa, and sitting in the sun as well. This week may see more productivity though as I finally finished the online coding course last week. I learned that I don't like coding, and I am not especially good at it either. Which was a thing worth learning in my opinion.

 Oh, while I have your attention, please go to or and like my facebook pages. ;)

Sunday 6 April 2014

Things I learned in a dry fortnight

Firstly, and most importantly, and very happily, I learned that I definitely do not have any kind of drink problems. Yay, go me, and woop-de-do etc. Easily deduced by the fact that I did not feel any better for it, and did not feel any worse for it either, in fact I was fairly indifferent to the whole experience. However, I must go back to the beginning of the story for any of this to make sense.

A couple of weeks ago, I had an incredibly heavy weekend of drinking, and it left me feeling utterly drained and weird. I also felt that I couldn't have got away with not drinking that weekend, which is of course ridiculous. But, there was a wedding on the Friday (got to have a drink at a wedding) and a very good friend of mine, who I always go out drinking with, was down from the Thursday night to the Monday. Being fairly well known as a chap who likes a drink, it would, of course, have required an interrogation from anyone who I had answered “No thanks, I'll just have a glass of water thanks” and I am not good at being interrogated. It is easier for me to just say “Thanks very much, I'll have a pint of the most gut-churningly strong cider you can find please”, this is a patently ridiculous state of affairs for anyone. Now, as you may gather from that last bit, I am not one to shy away from a drink, in fact, I like a drink, usually a little too much, but by the end of this weekend, I was positively wishing I was the sort of person who can just say “no thanks, can I have something made entirely of fruit please?”

So I embarked upon an experiment, I decided to spend two weekends not drinking, just to see what happened. As reported above, I felt fine, in fact, I was much more chatty with people I was with, despite my belief that without a drink I am incapable of conversation. Turns out that is not true. I swapped the habitual bottle of wine that lives on the table next to where I sit in the living room for various cartons of fruit juices, and they were quite nice. I did the maths on how much I wasn't spending on booze, and was surprised at how much it worked out at. That is getting donated to an undisclosed charity of my choice (and I would urge anyone reading to do the same, even if you don't do the dry weekends, do the maths and donate what you normally spend in a couple of weekends of drinking to your favourite charity, it's quite an eye opener really). As an exercise in self awareness, it is unbeatable, every time you would normally have a drink, write down what it would have cost you, and total it up at the end of the week. You will wonder why you are spending this money.

I have seen other people I know try to stop drinking for as short an amount of time as two weeks, and some have reported that they feel a whole lot better health-wise, and others have been struck with cravings for booze. The fact that neither of these conditions have affected me has very much led me to the conclusion that drink has no hold whatsoever upon my person, and can be allowed to stay on my list of hobbies, and favourite things to do. Also, my new found discovery that I can be sociable without drinks, and a love of fruit juices, means that those summer afternoons where I have to go and play a gig in the evening will be much more enjoyable again now, as I can still sit outside drinking and talking bollocks with people. Just without the alcoholic content. Total win win situation.

The hardest thing to do, has, surprisingly, been to explain to people why I am not having a proper drink. There have been worried looking faces asking me what's wrong, largely due to my long history of fairly heavy drinking. It is not unreasonable for them to have assumed that my liver has finally packed up. In fact, I did use that very line to my step-daughter when she asked me why I was drinking fruit juices (sorry Rudi, was in no mood to explain this stuff at length that day). As it is, there is nothing wrong with me at all, even less than there was before, when I was fairly sure I was propping myself up with booze. Turns out I am a fully functioning human being, whether with, or without alcohol in my system. Good times. Even the two pints of Thatchers I just had with lunch were merely OK (first proper drink in a fortnight, after a 14 mile walk). Not the godlike relief from the drought that you might expect. Just a couple of drinks, and the cup of green tea I have been drinking while I write this was pretty good too.

By the way, I managed to write about three more pages of my book this week as well, so this is a guilt free blog of a tangential nature. Dave does occasionally write something.

 My challenge to the world is this, give up our own personal favourite vice for two weekends, and donate the money you have saved to a charity of your own choice. Whether it be booze, chocolate, shoes, junk food or china ducks, the results may surprise you. Given my immense cynicism of most modern charity collecting, I will not go for nominating certain people, I would even say that you don't have to actually give it up. Just total up how much you have actually spent if you don't, and donate that. To whoever you find deserving, the world will be a better place for it, and you will have learned something. You don't even have to tell everyone what you've done on a social network, you can keep it to yourself and feel good about it if you like. I would have, but I thought it was a good idea that could do some good, and thus I wanted to share it.