Thursday, 26 March 2009

I ain't got the blues

Forgive me if I've just noticed this, but something has just struck me in my search for bands to fit the bill of a Rock-Til-You-Drop night in Guildford, and that is the proliferation of Blues bands that seem to have their shit together. They don't need no Rock-Til-You-Drop - they is already doin' it. What they have against them is the closing of many of pub-venues on their circuit. I hear from Ian Lloyd of Raw Deal that the Worthing circuit has greatly diminished, and a promoter told me recently that Brighton venues too are closing at a worrying rate.

So, too many bands, not enough venues.

But that aside for a moment, the Blues bands seem to have regular gigs and a circuit to play. They have their own festivals. They even tour abroad.

They have good websites, better than many of the younger bands who only have a dreadful myspace page. They have CDs or downloadable MP3s.

They often have a decent band photograph, too.

Now most of these guys are in their fifties, even sixties. So what have they got over the 40-50 year olds, who it strikes me, by and large are less well organised and presented?

Well, maybe thay have more time on their hands again, now that their kids have left home? More disposable income?

And, well, they got the blues.

Now, the blues is not my thing, as you may have gathered. I like Led Zeppelin, Hendrix and the Doors, and I appreciate a good Clapton-esque guitar solo when I hear one but I came in listening to punk rock and new wave. I like Roxy Music and Bowie. I like Fugazi and the Fall. I like Arctic Monkeys and Interpol. This is all white boy alt-rock - I'm sure you could argue that there is the blues in alot of the song structuring and sentiments and stuff, but the point is it's not the real blues.

I started playing guitar as a means to an end. To make songs of my words. I'm a songwriter first and foremost. I'm not interested in guitar solos and virtuosity. And that's coming from someone who likes a bit of Yes and Pink Floyd.

So I'm starting to realise where rock-til-you-drop has the most work to do. It needs to especially inspire and encourage non-blues, non-covers bands aged 40 (approx) and over to continue to make original music. As well as circuits for old bluesmen, which are largely organised for and by older musicians with a particular taste and musical history, we need live opportunites, showcases maybe, of those bands and performers who don't necessarilty play the blues.

But there's no gig without an audience, so rock-til-you-drop needs to raise the profile of mature musicians making original music so that people believe they are truly worthwhile coming out to see play.

I must be fucking mad.

Be original or die

So I fired an ad out on Gumtree for bands for the Guildford gig. Slipped it through the net that catches those that are banned from advertising there, as I am.

Now, there are plenty of blues bands out that way (Surrey), just visit The Scratchers (at the Three Lions pub, Farncombe) website and you'll find a whole host of 'em. But what about non-blues, non-metal, non-jazz/funk bands that play original material? I know what I mean. I hate to say 'indie' or 'alternative' but these are the best descriptions for these bands.

If bands that made 'indie' or 'alternative' rock, which encompasses 'punk' or 'post-punk' by the way, and spans the late-70s to the present day; if they don't 'make it' - and they should have come to realise and come to terms with this by their late-30s - do they then give up on this music and turn their creative musicial energies to playing covers or the blues or jazz-funk, or do they simply give up? I'm beginning to think it's (mostly) the latter.

Does the imagination for writing original rock music disappear some time in the 30s? Or does interest (from your peer-group) in what your doing take such a downturn that you no longer have an audience, and you have to give up?

Not if you're Paul Weller, it doesn't but if you're not, you do start to wonder who the fuck cares? No one really buys records or CDs anymore anyway. There's enough music as it is. As Axevictim Colin Gillman points out in one of his blogs, you got iTunes, you got Spotify, you got LPs, CDs, Mini-discs, cassettes , too much of the stuff as it is. There are plenty of young bands making very interesting music. Or older established bands and musicians, like Weller, still knocking them out. Who needs an unknown 40-something doing what a well-known 40-something (or 50-something) does so much better, on a bigger scale. Besides, I don't even need to part with a tenner or more to buy his new CD, I don't even need to leave the house in order to get it, I can probably stream it for evermore on Spotify.

On the bright side - I hope there is one - one of my songs has been chosen for use in an independent feature film called 'Ambleton Delight'. It'll be playing on a radio in the background during a scene in restaurant kitchen. So I think, right, maybe this is a perfect time to give that song the publicity and promotion it deserves, that I should have given it first time around in 2003, when I was too weary and dissilusioned with the whole business of making and promoting music to bother with it.

So, I start by redesigning the CD cover to reference the film. It looks great. The film gets it's premier at the End of the Pier Film Festival in Worthing at the end of April, so I fugure I will try and get it played on local radio - that would be a start? So I write a press release on phoney Rock-Til-You-Drop-Records headed paper. Looks fine. But what is the chance of getting played on local radio, I wonder? Is it worth all the effort? And if it gets on the radio in Worthing, what next? Will anyone care? My therapist descibed me as a 'catastrophist' - now you can see why.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Guildford, This is Guildford

Okay. So this is where I'm at. The social network now has 150 members. It is 5 months old. So there's one member joining a day on average. In 10 years we could have 3500 members. Is that good? Well, it is if people are making connections like I have made with one Colin Gillman of Twickenham, singer/guitarist with Magic Ship, and mature musician blogger at This guy makes it all worth while. He has the energy and enthusiasm that we should all be showing if we want to make things happen. He is both supporter and constructive critic of Rock-Til-You-Drop, its aims and its ethos. He has got me thinking. And has inspired me.

After the Dublin Castle gig, I have to admit I started to wonder what the hell I was doing expecting something like it to work. As Colin points out we all have enough difficulty fitting in our own rehearsals and gigs, let alone those of other bands across town. As he points out, you can't park in Camden and in some reppects it's probably the hardest place to start.

So I'm gonna try Guildford. Me old stamping ground. Deluded again that I'm gonna return victorious and appear in the Surrey Advertiser 25 years after being featured for taking my band at the time to London to play Dingwalls.

How the fuck am I gonna pull this off? Do I book the bluesmen or do I hang out for 40-something bands with an edge? Do the bluesmen even need the support and promotion of Rock-Til-You-Drop, or are they doing very well thank you very much - most seem to have their shit together, are getting paid and have great websites. And alot of these bands want paying.

I managed to get my ad on Gumtree in search of bands in Guildford and the surrounding area. This was made problematic by my being banned from posting ads on their site. The only way I can get them through is to not mention rock-til-you-drop and to send them from another email address.

So let's see who goes for the bait. The Boileroom has not yet catered to the older age group which is why they see Rock-Til-You-Drop playing a part.

Wish me luck.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Reasons to be absent, Part 3

So I got another night for Rock-Til-You-Drop at the the Dublin Castle. Scraped it, though. Not the monthly club that I was hoping for, but another night, all the same. Another chance. In June.

About 70 people came through the door there on Wednesday night and had a great night. For an opening night though, that had had press in The Metro, The Times and the Camden local press, this was a bit disappointing.

The second band didn't bring anyone, so that was a bit annoying. I didn't want to have to rely on the bands to bring people, but now I realise that I have to, to a large extent - in the early days at least. Naively, I thought the idea of a club where older musicians and music fans could feel at home, would be enough to get loads of people out that wouldn't normally come out.

I am a dreamer.

Those that came had fun though, and by the end, thanks to the wonderful I, Thalamus and their 30-something fans, the place was jumping. We had a fantastic MC in Mr Dove Jones, and an equally impressive DJ, in the shape and sound of DJ Dog-Headed Men, who kept them dancing, as well as appealing to the nostalgists among us. All the bands were professional in their approach to soundcheck and performance and were a pleasure to work with, too.

It's all very well having an on-line community though, but a physical one is harder to create.
The problem is the original one. The one about getting older and continuing to make music. Remember? The whole basis and inspiration for Rock-Til-You-Drop.

It gets harder, the older you get to continue to make music, and support others making music.

Here are some of the reasons:

You are tired. You want an early night.

You've had a hard day at the office, you're fucked.

It's too far to travel.

It's raining.

You're not in the mood.

You're not drinking this week.

You'd have to go on your own 'cos your mate's not coming out.

You've got a meeting or a presentation the next day.

You'd have to get the train home and you wouldn't be in 'til gone midnight and you gotta be up at 5:30 the next day.... you can't afford to look and feel like a pile of shit.

You've already been out once this week / you're going out later this week, so another night might not go down so well with the wife.

(please send more reasons)

To overcome these excuses/obstacles, perhaps we need a weekend daytime gig - a family-friendly event. (Leave it to me, I'm going to Oxford next week to try and organise just the thing)

I know that older music fans and musicians are harder to get out. This is why they don't have a scene of their own. That is why so many musicians give up.

No audience. No outlet. No point.

It was fun while it lasted, but I'm too old for all that now. Besides, I got a beergut. I ain't got any hair left....

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Featured Artists Coalition

Today is the inaugural meeting of the Featured Artists' Coalition in London. This group of featured artists, spearheaded by Billy Bragg and Blur drummer David Rowntree, aim to push for "a fairer deal for musicians at a time when they can forge direct links with their fans over the internet but music labels are desperately trying to shore up their traditional business models"

"One of the FAC's main roles will be to ensure that as the labels, ISPs and major internet brands such as Google prepare to carve up the music industry, artists get a fair hearing and more control over what happens to their content online.”

Tonight's the night

So tonight is Rock-Til-You-Drop at the Dublin Castle. Hopefully there'll be a good turn out and it will go monthly from May.

Rehearsal was frustrating Monday night. Nigel said the atmosphere was more tense than usual. That was probably my mood prevailing. I was less than impressed that a certain guitar solo hadn't been worked out properly so a certain song could be included in a certain set at the Dublin Castle. And I just felt worn down by endlessly tweeking age-old songs to get them right.

The problem lies in differences in each band member's rehearsal requirements. Nigel wants to rehearse more often. Mike would rather rehearse less often. Lex can't afford it.

I just want everyone to be happy (typical, and not that helpful, really)

And to do their homework and remember what they've worked out at previous rehearsals.


Tuesday, 3 March 2009

The Times they are a-featuring

One week to go before Rock-Til-You-Drop's night at the Dublin Castle. Today the site got a mention in The Times. While it wasn't that large a feature (that's cos it was small) it was the first time in a national newspaper; my dad would be proud of me, and mum, of course. I wouldn't listen to my parent's advice to work on establishing a career to fall back on, so here I am. A self-employed drug addiction treatment co-ordinator (a chanced-upon arbitrary career path), a practising artist (not having had a solo show yet or sold a piece of work in 9 months), the founder of social network (so far no more than a vast act of altruism), an amateur (i.e. non-professional) musician, and a house-husband and school-runner (no complaints about the latter). Always busy but not earning very much. My wife is the bread-winner. She is the one who has so kindly let me spend some time finding myself....again?

When I worked full-time at the clinic I used to use this to define myself in social situations. As I still work occasionally for clinic, albeit in a freelance capacity, I still take this course of action from time to time, if someone asks me what I do; as they did the other night at a fancy dress party that I had half-heartedly dressed up for by applying an adhesive handle-bar moustache and donning a military cap, to achieve a look like something out of Woody Allen's film Bananas.
I couldn't say I was a web entrepeuner, could I? or the founder of a social network....that makes no money? Not in that moustache anyway. So I said I was a drug addiction treatment co-ordinator. That always sets them off, anyway.

Anyway, The Times. That's a result.