Wednesday, 28 January 2009

"Back in the garage with my bullshit detector."

I'm standing in the Purple Turtle in Camden. Outside it's raining and the wind is blowing copies of London Lite across the streets. Inside there is a small audience, most of whom seem to be industry types - I see a ageing manager I recognise from the early 90s, an A&R man whose name escapes me, a dusty old radio promotions guy who I see at every gig I go to... There is an atmosphere of treadmillery in the room. Or maybe it's just me. I'm here, as ever, as a spectator. I'm sitting in the A&Rmchair, commenting from the sidelines, not having to invest money or time in whoever it is on stage. Phew.

Tonight's support band plug in and almost the moment the singer opens his mouth I know it's time to leave. It's not that he's got a bad voice, or that the band are exceptionally awful either. In fact, if they were exceptionally awful I'd be more inclined to stay. They are young and clean and play with energy and determination but it's a heart-sinking spectacle - imagine all the rehearsals, all the intense discussions about the name, the lyrics and the 'look'. As it is I can't tell you what they sounded like or even what they looked like - apart from the fact that they are a three piece and the bassist has nice hair. At one point the guitarist/singer plays a clanging Wellerish riff and my 40-something synapses liven up. But then he starts singing in his dreary voice and the band lose me again.

Me and my gig mate leave after 3 songs and return to the pub over the road. We've both done this many many times. He still does A&R for his own label. Over drinks we have a conversation that maybe everyone in the music business is having this January:

-- Where are the exciting new bands?
-- Is trying to get a major record deal as an indie band now a pointless exercise?
-- Are we too old to be going to gigs?
-- What else could we do instead?
-- Just a half? Why not a pint? I'm having a pint!
-- Will the White Lies album keep its midweek of 1? (It did)
-- Are they any good?
-- Preferred Fear of Flying (WL's previous incarnation)
-- Me too
-- Is that why we're in this pub and not drinking fine wine at The Ivy?

OK, so maybe some of the topics covered aren't entirely universal, but I'm not going to relay the whole thing because it would be an episode of Last Of The Britpop Wine. Compo and whatever the others were called.

Talking of age - and let's face it, that's what I talk about here - one interesting development in music seems to be happening in the life of the older music fan: Playing it.

You may recall that a few weeks before Christmas I went into a studio with my brother to record a demo. Well, since then me and Russell - the Guardian-reading Sly 'n' Robbie, the riddim section with the mostest ear hair etc - we've been lending our 'talents' to another singer.

So far we've had two rehearsals with our new singer, Jess. She's got a proper bluesy voice, writes a robust song and miraculously hasn't fallen down in hysterics the moment we get our groove 'on'. Frankly, I've not had as much fun in a small room with two other people since well, the days of hanging out in the loos at Smashing. The weird thing is, I can't understand why I've not played music for fun for such a long time. It's not as if I'm a particularly adept bass player, but pulling a tune together in 20 minutes, experimenting a bit with arrangments (obviously Russell and I go for a reggae beat every single time then usually end up admitting that it doesn't quite gel with songs that sound like early Van Morrison and slip into a shufflely skiffle thing) well, that's all you need to have a good time.

I suppose it must be like going for a kickabout on a Sunday, or fishing, or playing golf. I don't know, I've never been interested in sport so I may be wrong. The one big difference is that there is normally a competitive edge with sport - it's all maths and size and who's better than who. With us at the moment, the only competition is who out of me or Russell can get away with saying the filthiest thing in front of Jess. How mature. Of course it turns out that Jess can outfilth us both without batting an eyelid. She even suggested we should call our band the Japanese word for getting an erection on public transport. I can't remember it, I'm afraid, perhaps you know. I want us to be called Younger Model.

At the last rehearsal there was a proper band in the room adjacent to ours. When I say proper, I mean young and taking it seriously. It's a great place where we rehearse (I'm not going to tell you where it is otherwise you'll all go and book it) but the one downside is that that you hear others rehearsing when you stop playing. You can see them too. From where I was standing with my wife's bass, slung sexy Simonon-style over me, I could see through the window in our door over to the adjacent room where a bass player half my age and with four times as much hair was giving it the full-on Kasabian. In a flash it became apparent that other bands were at it and could arguably be better. "We'll have their guitarist by spring" I told Jess with mock bravado,
"Are we going to play live?" asked Russell
"Of course, when we've got a name and six songs rehearsed," Jess said confidently.
Russell and I looked at each other - this woman really means it. So we do actually have to take this seriously. Bollocks.

Back at the pub opposite the Purple Turtle, my gig mate and I decide not to bother going back to the venue. We call it a night and walk back to his car. The headliners are on now and we can hear them through the wall as we walk past the venue. I can tell that I don't like them even through the wall. And that's probably what the lustrous-haired bass player in the adjacent rehearsal room said about us.


  1. Always had you pinned down more as a 'Foggy' type when it came to LoTSW, rather than Compo.

  2. ..Talking of age - and let's face it, that's what I talk about here - one interesting development in music seems to be happening in the life of the older music fan: Playing it.
    So right! Jaysus, I'm playing it so I'll remember it - 26 clash songs in 1 hr 15,rounded off with a sweet gene vincent ,all for the love of it!