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...

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

'Whatever happened to..?'

So. That's that then.

Except of course, it's not. Not while any of us are lucky enough to have a memory anyway.

The Stranglers / Ruts D.C. tour was everything that I / we hoped that it would be i.e. a thoroughly enjoyable experience from start to finish. If I ever get time to decipher the barely - legible notes taken sporadically throughout the three-and-a-bit weeks of motion and music then a fuller version of the story will appear here but in the meantime I'll just say that it was definitely one of the best tours that I've ever been part of. Both bands played well every night, but as always that's only part of the story - The Stranglers were absolute gentlemen, their crew were fantastic, Bittersweet Catering provided some of the best food that I've ever been lucky enough to taste and I feel almost as though I've shaken the hands of every audience member at every show. Something like that anyway. Great stuff!

There are quite a few reviews of various shows appearing on blogs and beyond, Louder Than War and Retro Man among them - the Ruts D.C. Facebook page will no doubt have links to most if not all of them at some point in the not-too-distant future. There are plenty of YouTube clips too, although I wonder if 'Kill The Pain' from the Manchester show will ever appear - did Baz and JJ really invade our stage dressed as scantily - clad Victorian strongmen wielding inflatable dumbbells..?  

So - what now? Well Ruts D.C. return later this month but more about that then - in the meantime I've got gigs with both Big Al Reed and The Blistering Buicks and The Upper Cut as well as a guest appearance with my old mates Neck this Saturday supporting Ferocious Dog at The Garage in Islington. It's also back to working in Balcony Shirts. Business as usual? Maybe. Until next time.


Friday, March 03, 2017

The new Ruts D.C. single 'Kill The Pain' is released today!

The new Ruts D.C. single 'Kill The Pain' comes out today on Westworld / Sosumi Records - it's certainly one of my favourite songs on 'Music Must Destroy' (incidentally Pete Sargeant has just published a splendid review of the album on Just Listen To This which you can read here - thanks Pete!) so I for one am well pleased that it's out in it's own right. And after what seems like an age of anticipation our tour with The Stranglers finally kicks off in Lincoln next Tuesday; it then winds it's way up and down England, Scotland and Wales (no Ireland sadly, but more about that in a minute) before finishing in Manchester on (gulp!) April 1st. It promises to be an absolute classic, and if you're coming along to a show then do please say hello. Blogging opportunities are likely to be few and far between but I will be attempting to update my Facebook page on a regular if not daily basis so if you're interested in following how it's all going that's the place to be.

And if you are interested in following how it's all going then you can find my Facebook page here. See you in Cyberspace!

As I say it's a great shame that we're not going to get over to Ireland this time - but we are playing with Stiff Little Fingers in Dublin on Friday 25th August before a very special show in Belfast the next night with SLF, The Stranglers and The Outcasts with Terri Hooley DJ-ing. Crikey! Did I really just type that? Yes, incredibly, I did. Hurrah!