Saturday, 27 February 2010

The Phantom of the Factory

So, since our drummer exploded I have had to get the old the Phantom Limb out. The drum machine. I been enjoying using it again, actually. Probably because it involves the process of de-constructing the songs I've recently written. Which is always fun. It also calls for decisions on arrangements, that can otherwise be put off.

Mike and I rehearsed with the Phantom Limb at The Arts Factory, opposite Holloway Prison on Wednesday night. I rehearsed there for a while back in the early 90s when I was teaching my girlfriend at the time to play the drums. We had a White Stripes thing going on. The place hasn't changed much. New amps. Looked like the same old drum kit, though. Small rooms, but good value at nine quid an hour. If you have a loud drummer, or you are a loud band, though, it isn't a suitable rehearsal space for you.

For two old gits who live equal distances north and south of it, who want to sit down and get some new songs together with a drum machine, however, it is perfect.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Happy Birthday to me

I'm 43 tomorrow. Bit of a crap age, 43.

However, to make up for it, after working at the school for three or four hours and then picking up my daughter from school, we will be rendezvous-ing with my wife for a birthday burger and chips at The Diner in Camden. (Stylish - Ed). After that, I'm off out to rehearse with Mike and the Phantom Limb.

As I am making some money again, I recently treated myself to a couple of new Boss guitar effects pedal to add to my Boss collection of Chorus, Flanger, Digital Delay, Compressor, Overdrive, Distortion and Acoustic Simulator. So I am looking forward to trying out my new Dyna Drive and a Phaser pedals, both purchased on E-bay for 60 quid a piece. (Not bad - Ed)

Being that it's just me and Mike again for a while, I recently dug out my old pedal board in a flight case that my mum and dad bought me 25 years ago. Unfortunately, I couldn't get it to work. It use to hold and power 6 pedals. Shame. I could have got it fixed - probably still will - but in the meantime, and as I am making some money again, I bought a new 6-way power supply, and a canvas pedal bag/board thing (See below), which is great for stage use and for transporting in my bicycle pannier when I cycle off to rehearsal with my guitar on my back.

When I discovered the Boss Dyna Drive, I had to have it. Basically, it's the overdrive pedal I should have invented. It's one which reacts to the intensity of your performance. It will perfectly suit my playing, I am sure. I tend to need a clean sound when I pick and strum through verses moderately hardly, and a over-driven sound when I strum harder through choruses and so on. I want this, without the glaringly obvious switch from clean to fuzz which sounds so clumsy, even when Cobain did it.

I bought the Phaser, just cos I've always fancied one.

To add to this, I dug out an old Zoom multi-effects pedal unit that I had stored away, and I've stuck that in the mix so I can utilise it's wah and volume pedal, and tuner, and whatever else isn't covered by the Boss department.

Expect to see my pedal set up in Pedal Power next week.

I have also done a bit of admin. on the Phantom Limb's drum tracks and deleted any obsolete patterns and songs, to make way for new ones. In the process, I have also reminded myself how to use the blasted thing. This is fits in pannier number two.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

The February half-term blues

The RTYD social networking sites have gone a bit quiet lately. Maybe it's the English winter blues? The February half-term blues, even? There's not much new membership. Very little activity on the feeds. I'm not stressing though. After the Xmas/New Year blog posts about my frustration with it all, and me sounding like I was tearing my hair out trying to find ways to monetize the thing, I have been working more at the clinic and at a local secondary school. This on top of the school runs, has left me less hair-tearing time. Which is good 'cos it's really thinning up there. Working has taken the pressure off it a bit. Hobbified it again. I have a more balanced view of RTYD now, which is good.

I will continue to promote the gigs - not too many though, 'cos they're becoming a pain to organise. The more you do the more pain you get. Dates keep getting cancelled, bands pull out at the last minute. It's not worth the stress. And there's no money in it for all the effort.

I'm going to push the new automated musicians ads site, because I think the strength of the network is in it providing a place for mature musicians to connect and advertise. It's not in the amount of entertaining written contributions from members, that's for sure.

Whilst they have a band, mature musicians who work and have a family to care for, can only just find the time - and/or get the permission - to rehearse and gig. They don't have time to support other musicians doing the same. They have no need for a social network for mature musicians. They've got Facebook, anyway. Who needs musicians going on about what strings they use when you can read about, and comment on, what your old school friends are having for breakfast.

When their drummer has a bizarre gardening accident or explodes though, maybe then, they will need RTYD.

So, I'll keep spinning the plates, I'll keep thinking of ideas that would be helpful to mature musicians out there. I'll probably even keep blogging. But I ain't gonna keep stressing about it.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Pocket Rocket is dead. Long live Pocket Rocket.

So my recent attempt to up the frequency of rehearsal and the level of commitment to Pocket Rocket resulted in our drummer leaving the band.

Last week, Nigel called me to confess, that after much thought, he didn't think he would be able to make the level of commitment that he knew I wanted from him. He is a creative director at an advertising agency and can't be sure he will always be able to finish work in time to make weekly weekday evening rehearsals.

He lives in Surrey; and we play in London. If he plays a gig on the weekend, it's seven (sober) hours out of his day spent driving in and out of London, loading and unloading his drum kit, for 30-40 minutes of performance. He is also currently going through a divorce, so he needs to be with his kids on the weekends, not with his band.

The knock-on effect of all this is that my life-long friend and stalwart bass-man, Michael Wilson and I are going to go back to the musical drawing board for a while. (So much for cracking on! - Ed).

We have already dusted down the Phantom Limb, our old faithful drum machine. We're going to get some new songs together. We do plan to build a new band. An electric band. But possibly a sedentary one - I don't know? I fancy sitting down for a while. Maybe it's 'cos I'm tired. Maybe it's 'cos I'm pissed off. Maybe it's 'cos I'm tired of rock-posturing. Maybe it's 'cos, temporarily at least, I want to get away from the four-piece, in-your-face, alt-rock thing, that leaves us feeling in no-bands-land between the blues men and the indie kids.

"I can't see myself missing Nigel any more than I might miss, uh, Ross MacLochness, Ronnie Pudding, or Denny Upham, or Danny Schindler, or any of those..."

I will of course miss him dearly.

But the band must go on.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Monday, 8 February 2010

Strange Behaviour & Engine Room of the Apocalypse at The Libertine

Engine Room of the Apocalypse are loud. Very loud.

They are a three-piece. On synthesized-guitar and bass, are brothers in noise, Neil 'Wilf' and Guy 'Gumbo' Willetts, respectively. In the engine room of their apocalypse is drummer Iain 'Wine Bar' Young. Prog fan. Nice guy. Quiet guy. Til he plays the drums.

Below is 'Wilf' modelling synth-axe through Line-6. It's dark, I know, so you'll have to take my word for it.

They write political songs and play them in a prog-metal stylee. And LOUDLY; did I say that already? They are not covered in cream, but they do cover Cream. Not White Room, but a song with a similar riff (Clapton was clearly already running out of ideas)

I've got a soft spot for Strange Behaviour. They are the quiet heroes of the RTYD scene. They write well-constructed catchy blues-rock songs. Once in full swing, lead singer and guitarist Gerry Hobday, school caretaker and axe-man of his own apocalypse, can often be caught lost in the moment. Gone. Seventeen again. Feet dancing on effects pedals. Looping and wah-ing away in the bedroom that he never left - in spirit, anyway. And all the time in their engine room, Barry Simmons, bass; eyes closed, pick in mouth, and Richard Slater, drums; hold the fort. Provide the cover.

They always look so at home. There is no pretence. Just good old fashioned blues-rock 'n' roll. They are doing what comes naturally to them. And doing it so well. Buy their new CD. Buy an old-fashioned hard copy. Here

Sunday, 7 February 2010

The trouble with ROCK-TIL-YOU-DROP... there's not enough, what they call, UGC. User Generated Content. In a further attempt to encourage more of this UGC stuff, I have come up with the following:

'Juke Box Jury', will hopefully encourage reviews and comments on music made by RTYD-associated bands. (In your dreams - Ed)

'Pedal Power', part of the Musicians' Network discussion forum, is designed to inspire guitarists to post photos and explanations of their effects-pedal set ups. (Life's too short - Ed)

And then there's my brand new website: TRAINSPOT-TIL-YOU-FUCKING-DROP.

Ever get the feeling that you're banging head against a brick wall?

Thursday, 4 February 2010

An insight into the current domestic affairs of Potent Rodent

So Potent Rodent begins rehearsal at Enterprise Studios, off Denmark Street, from next week. I've spoken to each member of the band individually and made it clear that I want to re-start weekly rehearsals for the foreseeable future. I hate to come across as quite so bossy, but I am getting frustrated by the lack of progess.

After a honeymoon of a year and a half, things started to go awry; Friday night rehearsals were unsustainable because social engagements and child-care-commitments caused too many cancellations. Sporadic rehearsal just isn't worth it. It's frustrating. So we're gonna do a weekly Monday-Thursday night, instead

I want to be in a band that rehearses weekly and plays regularly; and that is fun to be in. This is the last chance for this line-up to prove that it has longevity. I hope it can.

We also need a backing singer, or backing singers. Could be female, male or hermaphrodite. The ability to play an instrument would be a bonus (as long as it wasn't a guitar, of course), but is not essential.

So if anyone knows someone who might be up for it, please let me know. Cheers, Toby