Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Same as it ever was?

Monday 7th August, 3.17 pm

As I write this, in shaky Biro in a reporter's notebook in the back of the bus somewhere on the Southbound M40 there is much to reflect upon. The Rebellion Festival is invariably a great thing to be part of and this year has certainly been no exception, but somehow this gathering seemed to go further than most. Ruts D.C. played two shows - an all-guns-blazing Saturday night electric set and an emotional performance to close the acoustic stage last night as well as nipping across to Hebden Bridge on Friday evening for a gig at The Trades Club where we were joined by Baz Warne of The Stranglers for two songs. I also spent a fair bit of time behind the Cadiz Music merchandise stall with Richard and Blaise as well as catching some great performances from T.V. Smith and The Skids among others. There were the usual unwisely late night drinking sessions (it was getting light as I stumbled through Blackpool on the way back to my hotel on Saturday night / Sunday morning) but that's just about par for the course - all things considered I don't feel too bad (it feels as though I rarely got to eat anything more substantial than sandwiches) although I suspect that I'm heading for an uncommonly early night tonight.

Our Saturday show on the outdoor Casbah stage was preceded by a suitably energetic Neville Staple show and was followed by a wonderful performance from Misty In Roots - I'm sure that I wasn't the only person excited to see the words 'Ruts' and 'Misty' on the same bill again after all these years. Earlier in the day we were interviewed by a BBC film crew for an upcoming documentary on the festival - as always it was Dave and Segs that they really wanted to hear from but I managed a few words here and there. They also filmed a fair bit of our show - I wonder how much if any of it will make it into the finished programme? There were a few fraught moments here and there - I got locked out of our dressing room ten minutes before the show and only just made it to the stage in time having had to run up and down gawd knows how many flights of stairs to get the key and then get changed. Maybe this meant that I didn't have time to get nervous - either way our performance was, even though I say so myself, a stormer. We'd played well the night before but this one really took off, with the middle section of 'In A Rut' featuring the riff from 'Interstellar Overdrive', a cover of 'Suffragette City' (which began life as an impromptu run through at Monday's rehearsal and which then somehow made it onto the stage) and the final song 'Psychic Attack' provoking a near riot. In contrast last night's acoustic show in a very full bar (possibly dangerously so) took everything back to basics, with rarely performed songs from 'Music Must Destroy' rubbing shoulders with Ruts and Ruts D.C. classics and grown men being moved to tears on several occasions. And that was just on the stage.

This coming Saturday we're playing at the splendidly - named Zebedee's Yard in Hull with The Stranglers and Big Country - The Spiders From Mars were from there so maybe 'Suffragette City' will make it to the stage again. In the meantime there is much to reflect upon. I've always been somewhat over-romantic (some might say pretentious, and let's face it, they may well have a point!) about the power of music, how it brings people together, the emotions that it can evoke and how something as seemingly insignificant as a mere pop song can sometimes mean everything to the listener - well I've seen all of that and more proved time and time again over the past few days. I feel as though I've shook hundreds of hands and been in almost as many photographs with people who wanted to say how much they enjoyed the shows, what a song or songs means to them, even to ask how I get a particular guitar sound - we stopped at a service station a few minutes ago and a couple come over to say how much they liked the acoustic gig. You can't buy moments like that, even if you wanted to. Suddenly the road home feels more like the road back to the real world, whatever that is. It's an amazing feeling to be told that you make a difference (however small) to people's lives, maybe even that you contribute to making life a bit more bearable when it all gets too much. That's something to be proud of don't you think? Well, I think that it is. 

So - now what? More gigs, including some Irish shows with Stiff Little Fingers later this month. Oh, and we're talking about the next album. Of course we are. The road home goes on forever...

Tuesday 8th August, 7.52 pm 

Ah! The usual post - Rebellion ramblings that seem to say very little but that somehow say everything about the previous few days. I bet that I said almost the same thing last year, and the year before that, and the year before that...

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Blackpool beckons...

It's that time again... Ruts D.C. return to The Rebellion Festival this week - we're playing The Casbah on Saturday night, closing the Almost Acoustic stage on Sunday and will be absent with leave for a gig in Hebden Bridge on Friday night. I'll also be putting in a couple of stints on the Cadiz Music merchandise stall (and I suspect, behind our band's stall too!) as well as stumbling from venue to venue and indeed bar to bar for the rest of the festival so if you're going along I'll see you there. I'll also be attempting to update my Facebook page as regularly as possible so expect the usual blurry pictures and semi-incoherent rambling - a bit like this blog I guess. Which reminds me...

It was my birthday last Monday. Some people don't like birthdays but I'm rather fond of them... the day began with the journey home from Nottingham where the previous night we had given a spirited performance at the nearby Deerstock Festival amid scenes of muddy madness that wouldn't have been out of place at Glastonbury or indeed Woodstock. There was a hole in the roof right above my side of the stage - I know this because rainwater landed down the back of my shirt neck as I played the opening riff to 'No Time To Kill', which resulted in a, shall we say, less-than-accurate rendition. Let's hope that never makes it onto YouTube... back at the hotel the bar was closed but we had much of our rider to work our way through, although enough of it survived for Segs to hand me a paper cup full of Vodka and tonic at 11 o'clock the next morning. I wouldn't usually indulge that early in the day (honest!) but it would have been rude not too wouldn't it? At we neared Beaconsfield Services on the M40 someone (oh ok, me!) remembered that there was a pub on the site - The Hope And Champion serves White Riot pale ale and is highly recommended if you're not driving... details of the afternoon are at best sketchy, but in the evening I accompanied Big Al and Pete from the band to the jam night at The Three Wishes in Edgware - I'd not attended such an event for quite some time (I got somewhat disillusioned with many of the rather childish goings-on) but I don't mind admitting that I thoroughly enjoyed myself, although I'm not sure how or indeed why. As I say, I like birthdays... oh and The Upper Cut gig at The Dolphin in Uxbridge a few days earlier went well, which was something of a relief given that our recent performances have been a bit rough to say the least. All in all a very good weekend. I think.

Right - time to gather my things and go, as T.V. Smith once (almost) sang...



Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Excuses excuses...

So there I was, minding my own business at RnR Studios in Uxbridge (The Upper Cut were rehearsing for this Friday's 'it's Leigh's birthday - in - a - day - or - so's - time' gig at The Dolphin) last night, when I ran into local noisy boys Vain Galen. I remember the lads from back in the early '90's when they were in bands like Need and Substance - after exchanging pleasantries and catching up on our respective band's accent to megastardom (well, something like that anyway!) Wayne the singer observed that I'd 'stopped writing' my blog and that he still checked it every day to see if I'd put anything new up. I mumbled a suitably pathetic excuse about 'not having much time these days' and attempted to change the subject as quickly as possible - but by the time I'd got home I'd realised that it had indeed been ages - ages! - since I'd so much as looked at my blog, let alone written anything here. And I'd said all those things in the last few postings about how I was going to make more of an effort, and to get back into writing regular postings... yeah, right. OK, so I have been busy working in Balcony Shirts as well as gigging with Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks, Department S and more - but surely not so busy that I couldn't find time to write anything here for over six weeks. In my defence your honour I have been updating my Facebook page regularly but, well, that's not really the same is it? As my old English teacher used to put it - 'must try harder, C-'... so as I go back through all those very scribbly notes that I made during The Stranglers British tour and the German shows with Die Toten Hosen, I will once again say that I'm going to make much more of an effort to get some postings up here - after all The Rebellion Festival is on the horizon which is always a big event in my little calendar, and Ruts D.C. have plenty of shows coming up so there should be lots to write about. Well - there should be shouldn't there? In the meantime here's a photograph of some Ruts D.C. 'Kill The Pain' beer, courtesy of our fan and friend Mattais in Hamburg. And why not? It is my birthday on Monday after all. Cheers!


Friday, June 02, 2017

From Down Under to The Underworld

Much has happened since last we spoke...

Ruts D.C. played five shows in Germany - after an inauspicious start that involved what might politely be described as 'total chaos' at Gatwick Airport we arrived in Berlin to find that our baggage hadn't made it across and so played at SO36 using borrowed guitars (amazing work by all at Muttis in getting this all together) and even though I say so myself, played it rather well. Instruments arrived next morning along with my clothes and effects pedals although Segs's stuff was sadly still back in Blighty so after a bit of shopping on his behalf we carried on to Hannover and Hamburg before heading to Magdeburg and Flensburg for arena shows supporting Die Toten Hosen. These were every bit as extraordinary as we were hoping that they would be - as always the scribbly notes were made on the way round so more words on the subject will hopefully (possibly?!) appear here before too long, but in the meantime the band and indeed my Facebook pages were updated regularly so there's more of the story there if you're interested.

After arriving home on Wednesday afternoon it was straight back to basics for your humble narrator with a day in Balcony Shirts yesterday; I'll be with Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks tonight at The Halfway House in Rickmansworth (we played in front of over 5,000 people on Tuesday night - I wonder how many will be there tonight?) before Ruts D.C. play The Camden Rocks Festival tomorrow night. We're on at The Underworld at 7.30 - that's a good spot isn't it?



And talking of good spots, we're supporting The Stranglers in Australia and New Zealand next February! Oh yes!



Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Shiny Happy People

If only my copy looked like this!
'God Save The Queen' by The Sex Pistols was released 40 years ago this week. I was 15 years old and, in that strange way that you want to be older when you're young, really wished that I was 16. I bought the single from the record shop (Crowley's?) in Windsor Street Uxbridge (which is now Nightfly Records, next to Balcony Shirts) more-or-less on the day that it was released, and since my Mum and Dad didn't want any of that punk rock lark in the house I had to smuggle it into my room when I got home. I also had to keep it secret from my little brother Terry who of course would have liked nothing better than to have outed me as an enemy sympathiser. This meant that I had to wait for the house to be empty before I dared to play it, which necessitated going home during my school lunch break. Listened to then (over and over again, sweaty from running, excited and nervous as I was half-expecting Mum, Dad and Terry to burst in with an eviction notice) it sounded like one of the greatest records - no, one of the greatest things - ever made; listened to now it sounds like, well, pretty much the same thing to me. It remains one of the great 'them and us' moments in music - it lost me some friends, gained me some more and in a weird sort of way helped to set the course for my little life. Can something as 'unimportant' as a pop record do that? This one could.

Ruts D.C. are off to Germany this coming weekend courtesy of our good friends at Muttis Booking Agency - we're playing shows in Berlin, Hannover (Hanover? Is that how you spell it?!) and Hamburg before supporting Die Toten Hosen in Magdeburg (The Price played there in 1990, our gig was attacked by right-wing skinheads - not good!) and Flensburg. We've been rehearsing today (and sounding rather good, even though I say so myself) and it's always great to play in Germany so hopefully these gigs will all live up to expectations - as with the Stranglers tour I'll be attempting to update my Facebook page as often as I can while we're there, and no doubt the usual tales of drunkenness and cruelty will appear here at some point in the not-too-distant future as I appear to have remembered how to write a blog piece. That's good isn't it? Now if you excuse me, it's time to play the Pistols album. Sometimes only the best will do - it's the only way to be, as someone once sang...

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Everybody Hurts

It has been a long time since I rock 'n' rolled... well maybe not rock 'n' rolled exactly, but it's been a month since I last wrote anything here. That is quite a long time isn't it?

After the 'my computer's at the menders for ages' saga sometime near the end of last year I mused in these hallowed pages as to whether I might have, for want of a better term, lost the blogging habit. I'm beginning to think that I just might have done just that although I guess that the fact that this posting exists rather contradicts that thought. I've kept my Facebook page updated, but that's 'easier' to do isn't it? Maybe I don't have very much to say for myself at the moment? Perhaps I'm busier than I used to be? It's probably a bit of both... or maybe it's the post-tour crash that I didn't think was going to happen? On the surface at least I didn't think that it had effected me too much - I felt much more obviously upset by the catastrophic Upper Cut performance referred to in the last posting for example - but maybe I was just delaying the inevitable.

It's been very busy in Balcony Shirts, to such an extent that I've just worked 7 days in a row and am likely to be in there for a fair bit of this week too. There's nothing that puts 19 shows with The Stranglers into perspective quite like this sort of conversation :- 

'So d'you print t-shirts in here then?' 
'Yes, yes we do - we're a t-shirt printing shop.' 
'So can you print me one then?' 
'Well we can have a go. What would you like on it?' 
'I dunno - what do you think?'

As you might well imagine at that moment I've got more than a few ideas as to what they should have written on their chest, but I've been known to say something like 'well I'd have a picture of The Who (or whoever - it literally makes no difference who...) from sometime in the 1960s (or whenever - it literally makes no difference when...) but I doubt that's the sort of thing you'd like'. After that anything can happen.

Ruts DC have played a couple of shows since last we spoke - our performance at The Grand in Clitheroe was thought by us to be below par although thankfully many were they who assured us that it wasn't (it's better that it's that way round don't you think?) while a boisterous gig at The Zikenstock Festival near Lille in France saw much stage diving (they like that sort of thing out there!) and general jollity all round. Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks have been out and about too - highlights include a show at The White Swan in St. Albans which was curtailed after only 2 songs of the second set to allow those present to watch the Joshua / Klitschko boxing World title fight, while last weekend's 40th birthday party gig had your humble narrator musing to himself as to whether or not there might be some nice-looking young ladies present, then realising with some amusement that considering 40 years old to be 'young' meant that he / I am now officially 'old'. And it that all wasn't weird enough I saw Bob Dylan at The Bournemouth International Centre in (you've guessed it!) Bournemouth - his Bobness rarely if ever does what might be expected of him, and a set where he either played grand piano (often standing up) or wielded a straight mic stand in the slightly-disturbing manner of a not-very-good Rod Stewart tribute act without touching a guitar once wasn't necessarily what I for one would have predicted. Add to that the fact that the set mostly consisted of jazz standards (I believe he's just released an album of them) like 'Autumn Leaves' and 'That Old Black Magic' with the odd Bob classic thrown in here and there (often radically re-arranged - many didn't seem to recognise 'Tangled Up In Blue' until the title line, and I don't think many got 'Blowin' In The Wind' until it was all but over, if at all) and you had a show that more than a few audience members were none too happy with. Me? I loved it. Of course I did - he's a contrary old bugger, but all the better for it in my not-so-humble opinion.

I wouldn't mind ending up like that. Maybe I have ended up like that? Oh well - more whining self pity and non-crises again another time. Maybe even sometime soon...

Monday, April 17, 2017

Losing My Religion

So - as the Stranglers / Ruts DC tour recedes into the dim and distant past it's back to 'real' life. But what is 'real' life exactly? Playing gigs with The Upper Cut and with Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks? Working in Balcony Shirts? Looking forward to playing with Ruts DC this coming weekend and beyond? 
  
Well I guess it's all of these things and more. Some are more enjoyable than others (the gigs with Al and the boys have all been great, the solitary Upper Cut show sadly was not) but that's inevitable isn't it? The Neck gig supporting Ferocious Dog at The Garage in Islington was something of a classic, and it's been busy in the shirt shop too. Oh and I went to see The Who give a great show in Birmingham, with PT on fine form and playing brilliantly (were they mini - humbuckers on his Stratocaster? Ooo!) throughout. Life - 'real' life - goes on. 

All well and good - but I don't mind admitting that I'm feeling a bit... er... lost. I suppose it was always going to be hard to come back from a tour like the last one and be able to slot straight back into things, and I will say that for the most part it's all been ok - but there's a nagging in my head. And it won't go away. 
I often get asked how I go from playing bigger shows to smaller pub gigs, often within a day or so of each other - I've realised over the years of doing it that they all basically amount to the same thing. There will be someone who attends a small gig with a covers band who enjoys themselves as much as people who go to the big shows and vice versa. A case in point - my first show back after the tour was at The Dolphin in Uxbridge with Al and the boys, and was a pleasure to play as was the Sunday afternoon appearance at The Horns in Watford a couple of days later. In between them was the afore-mentioned Neck show where we bought the proverbial house down. However as we all know you don't get something for nothing in life, and it must be said that all of this has made the near-catastrophic Upper Cut Dolphin show on Good Friday so hard for me to stomach - even though we play together relatively rarely these days we're usually a good tight band, but on this occasion (and despite having had a rehearsal on Tuesday evening) all of our collective ability appeared to desert us as we floundered our way through an excruciating show. I sat up much of the night pondering the band's future (my oh my it was a long day in the shop on Saturday!) and came to the extremely upsetting conclusion that we might not have one, which is a great shame. But nothing lasts forever does it? The next night's Buicks's gig at The Three Steps in Cowley went at least some way towards restoring my faith in my ability to play in a band (I'd seriously wondered about it around 4 am that day!) so maybe it'll all be alright in the end. Let's hope so anyway.

In the meantime Ruts DC are playing The Grand in Clitheroe as part of the Into The Valley festival this Saturday night. Oh there you go - I feel better just for typing that. It doesn't take much sometimes does it? Happy Easter y'all!

Yeah I know, it's all a bit garbled, too much whining self pity, non-crisis after non-crisis - but you should see what I've left out! Fear and self loathing in West London - back to 'real' life indeed...