Friday, 26 August 2011

Barry Tone

It was probably quite a momentus moment in the history of rock. Bowie was making Low in a French Chateau.  He invited Iggy Pop down to the sessions to get a vibe going. Iggy was a kind of ying to Bowie's yang. Anyway as the sessions progressed they decided to start working on what became Iggy's album, the Idiot. Iggy still sang in a kind of Mick Jagger voice from his days in the Stooges. Bowie gently suggested that he should try singing like a crooner. Maybe is went like "Why dont you pretend you are Bing Crosby Iggy?". Maybe I'm making most of this up but that was the start of something. Joy Division, The Editors, The National and that band from the 90's with that song that went Dum Dum Dum (Crash Test Dummies), Mark Lanegan and so on and so deep of vocal. The rock Barry Tone.

If I was starting a band I would probably look for a Barry Tone as the singer. For starters music critics love it. I've never seen a bad Tindersticks or The National review in my life. There's also rule of rock no 78 that a Barry Tone has to wear a waistcoat/suit combo and look like they've lived a bit. We've all lived a bit but the Barry Tone generally has lived a bit more than the rest of us . The other thing is that women love a Barry Tone. They feel sorry for them and want to mother them. In real life they dont go near dishevelled guys in suits with piss stains on their trousers drinking endless whiskies at the end of the bar but in the rock pretend world you'll see millions of girls at a concert by a Barry Tone Band.

There's a few setbacks. You have to stand still and hug the microphone on stage and look like you are seriously down in the dumps even if youre feeling top of the f**king world. You cant wear a yellow jumpsuit. You probably have to put up with loads of muppet rock lifetsyle journalists turning up at your semi detached house in Cheltenham demanding that you take them to a bar in Soho for a 4 days Barry Tone whisky bender when in fact you'd rather just spend the day watching the horse racing and you have to wash your Toyota and buy a lottery ticket and can they just come back next week? The other hard thing about being a Barry Tone is that you need someone else to kick the chorus in. Okay Iggy and the Joy Division man can lift their voices up for a chorus but your typical Barry Tone is bit like a moped. They can do one speed. When you need that lift for the chorus the poor Barry Tone is still mumbling along in his deep voice with the rest of the band saying "come on man it's the chorus can you not sing it like Bon Scott?".

Anyways I enjoyed the National the other night.

Rutland Weekend Television

We've been trying to get our stuff together for this acoustic gig in Edinburgh. The problem is that we have too many songs. We've now done 5 albums in 5 years and if we're been truthful there's songs we've done that we can only vaguely remember. I remember reading this book about the Rolling Stones and they were getting ready for their 1972 tour. They put  cassettes on of their old records and played them through the PA and jammed along  to learn the songs. I thought this was the height of decadence. Until last week. We put the i pod on top of a Marshall amp and relearned our old stuff. I dont repeatedly listen to our music. I do when it's getting mixed but once you put it out you have to just let it go. I used to know this reasonably famous rock singer from Glasgow and whenever you'd go to his flat he'd be listening to himself and asking you what you thought. Seemed so vain that eventually I thought why dont you just put a mirror up and ask me what you think.

We've been a studio band since 2007 and we only play occasional gigs most of which are quite haphazard. Most of the time our attention is focussed on our new record whether that's writing it, recording it or other aspects. We try and do it all quickly because music is just that day or that week. It probably seems a bit strange to people how much music we do. But then people have become used to the way record companies work which to a time traveller from the 60's or 70's would seem extremely odd.

A typical signed band takes a year to write their record. Then they'll spend 6 months recording and remixing and getting hung up about the sound of the snare drum and whether mix A is slightly better than mix G. Then the record company and agent will book gigs and try and promote the record for a year. Then the band will be so knackered that they want 6 months off. So generally there's a 3 year life to most band's records. This was all well and good in the 1980's but with the internet it's hopelessly outdated. How many good bands recently have come back after 3 years and everything has moved on. The internet means that if someone does something reasonably fresh there's another 10 bands doing the same thing within 2 weeks and the shelf life of bands and records seems to be getting shorter with each year.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Please secure your valuables

So we’ve decided on a title for our album after a little bit of debate. Fili’s usually the master of naming records but this time I fluked the above phrase after seeing it on a fairground ride. It seemed appropriate. The record was mastered this week and it’s sounding andy dandy. Now we just need some artwork (hopefully of Fili as the Queen on a stamp) and then get them to the pressing plant. Here’s the tracklisting.

1/ Instruments of the Orchestra
Song about playing in a school orchestra. My school orchestra had 5 members of which I was one. This song is about that orchestra.  Powerpop like the Cars or something.  Excellent little song.
2/ Jenny teaches rock school
A song about a reasonably well known female Glaswegian “rock star” who Fili once saw in the corridor of Tesco screaming that she needed some “Hummus” or “Pine Nuts” while dressed as a rock chick. It really stuck and we built a song around it. The aforementioned “star” teaches rock school at a local college and buying “hummus” and teaching rap seemed a bit weird but then everyone has to multitask in these days of austerity. Maybe it’s also about me and Fili and anyone who’s got a dayjob. Kind of like an old Stax or Motown record.
3/  Neon Triple X
This is just an 8 second loop of Gordon’s drums playing a glam rock backbeat. All the guitars are actually synthesizers (well nearly). Fili wrote the lyrics about a sleazy bed in. You’d have to ask her exactly what it’s about.  Modern glam rock and pretty great track.
4/ Car boot sale
We had to write a song about this much maligned Sunday morning British activity. We didn’t mention the guys who come round at 7am looking for bargains or the old ladies wh will buy any kind of rubbish. Synth bass line.  Very 80’s like windsurfing or an Audi Quattro.
5/ Stars
Fili sang this in a falsetto. There’s loads of room for the heavy guitars and Gordon’s drums just groove with the Ibanez Destroyer and Joe’s  bass (I think it was a Gibson Firebird/Thunderbird bass as well). Got the lyrics watching a tv programme about this famous female British physicist and she said sarcastically “girls cant do physics” and “we are all made of stars”. Really stuck with me .I think it’s the best track on the album.
6/ Last person alive
This song’s about being chased around by electronic airships and computer controlled Nissans and eventually feeling so lonely that you want to end your life as the world’s getting taken over by machines. It’s all a bit JG Ballard but pretty sweet.  Brilliant bassline to go with the instrumental section. Kind of trying to sound like Coffee and TV by Blur. We even nicked the saxophone riff from “Heroes”.

7/ Trenchcoat
Fili wrote the lyrics about a teenage goth who she knows in Motherwell. I also had to add  little bit about Halloween Jack the Hussy’s uber fan as he wears a big black trenchcoat to Hussy’s gigs. The music’s from a little Korg drum machine and a couple of synths. It’s kind of like a quirky little spacey electronic song.  
8/ Daddy Daycare
About guys who don’t work and their wives do and the father looks after kids. Wrote it about a guy called Sice who used to sing in the Boo Radleys and he was in Q talking about how his job is bringing up the kids and he did all his work in the Boos and was now retired. Great band the Boo Radleys. Anyway, takes its musical cue from Fanclub and Dinosaur jr and those bands just before Britpop. Uplifting.
9/ Just about finished with love
I’d seen the Gruffalo on the TV and all the stuff about foxes, owls and the dark forest. Seeped into my unconscious and this song came out. Fili actually did the “aah aah ahh” backing vocals that sound like a sample. It always makes me think of a song called “Berkeley Mews” by the Kinks as the guitar is similar. Fili really nails the soft/loud singing on this.
10/ Caledonian Sun
We had to abandon another song halfway through the album and I had to write this off the cuff. We couldn’t understand why no one has called a song this. Joe said it had to be last on the album and he was right as it has an optimism about it. Great fuzz bass on the chorus. It’s the demo but Jimmy thought the guitars and keys were all on the money so we couldn’t see the point in re recording everything which had been done in an hour on my laptop and had a loose vibe.
Please secure your valuables will be out later this year.

That record you never unwrapped

That record you never unwrapped
Everyone’s done it. You go into a record shop and there’s all these cheap CDs. You pick a few up and then when you get home they sit on your windowsill for a few weeks. You get some more records, the seasons change and then when you’re tidying up your room you find a bag from FOPP with the CD you bought 3 years ago and which you now cant face listening to.
I was like this with the band the XX. There was so much hype about them in the newspapers and I had no idea what they sounded like and I bought the CD. Then I saw a picture of them and thought they’re copying Glasvegas with their black biker jackets and I lost the will to even put the record into my I pod.  I tried but the phone rang and then I had to listen to something I actually liked. But for a laugh I decided to tell my friends that the new XX album had blown my mind.I’d remembered all the London journalists quotes about “mixing dubstep with Joy Division” and “redefining indie music” and it just flew out my mouth like I was working as their record plugger. I decided to just make up their music in my head. To me the XX sounded like all the best bands I’d never heard which is probably completely unlike what they sound like. At one point I was sitting watching Jools Holland and they came on. I grabbed the tv control off Jo and turned it over. “Hey I was watching that!” she said. I said “I cant watch this band they’re rubbish” even though the real reason was a bit weirder. Still haven’t heard them.
I’m going to see a band called the National this week. My mate’s got me a ticket. I bought one of their records in FOPP years ago and never opened it. Hopefully they’ll live up to my every expectation and be as good as the XX .

Friday, 5 August 2011

August 26th Edinburgh

We’re playing Edinburgh on 26th August. We’ve had some of our best gigs there but also strangely all our top 5 worst Hussy’s gigs of all time were all there. Here they are:
1/ Edinburgh Herriot Watt University
Fili had texted the band in the morning to say that she had food poisoning. She hoped to make the gig that night but she wasn’t sure. We turned up and soundchecked without Fili.  She then appeared ashen faced and ran into the toilets to be sick. We’d set all the gear up. Gordy and Greg suggested that I should just sing the songs since I used to be a singer. I wasn’t sure- mainly because I didn’t actually know the words. I spent the next 3 hours with my I pod desperately trying to learn the lyrics to our set-it was maybe the hardest I’ve ever worked at a gig in my life. I knew the choruses and most of the verses but it was just getting the words in order which was tricky. Fili was sick again and then perked up. She thought she’d be alright to do the gig. We went onstage and started doing Marty. Fili ran off to the toilets which were stage left. The venue wasn’t busy and you could hear Fili’s heaving vomit noises echoing round the room. I sang the rest of the set. I’d just throw in some words like “meatballs” and “anticyclone” where I couldn’t remember.  Have to say the version of Jesus we did was excellent-“Oh you dum dum meatballs up a hill since bet me puppy  on the National”. I think Greg told the audience at the end that “I was just the guitarist and a big hand for James singing his first ever gig tonight”.  Cheeky bastard.

2/ Edinburgh University
We’d been told by the promoter that there would be “an audience of upwards of 400”. She said she couldn’t pay us but we figured that by the time we sold say 30 albums we’d break even, pay the van, our soundman and the petrol and have enough for 3 bottles of champagne after the gig.  The PA system was fantastic and we did a great soundcheck and were buzzing about the gig and headed off for some food. When we came back to the venue at 10pm there were 2 bar staff, the PA guy, Alan our soundman and 2 DJs-but there wasn’t even a dog or a packet of crisps blowing around the venue. We did a great gig. I think this may have prompted Rachel to leave the band as she had quite a good grasp of economics. However, Chris, who was drumming at the time was buzzing afterwards and said “it was maybe his best Hussy’s gig”.
3/ Edinburgh Backpackers
The guy wiring up the PA system had a posh public school accent but seemed to be having a few problems with basic electronics which they probably don’t teach at Fettes College. These problems became more obvious when after the gig we discovered that he’d wired the main PA  power  to the band’s onstage monitors and the meager monitor power  to the audience speakers. The effect was utterly misleading. The sound we got on stage was fantastic. Unfortunately the audience were treated to the Hussy’s as bees inside an empty can of Irn Bru wired up to a 1997 Nokia mobile phone. What seemed to make matters worse was a huge shit that someone had done on the floor of the toilet next to the toilet bowl. It’s closeness to the bowl seemed to underline the sheer pointlessness of that particular gig. I mean surely they could have made the extra 2 feet to the toilet?
4/ That place near the Royal Mile
I think I have to step forward and take the blame for this particular gig. That afternoon I’d bought a Boss tuner. I didn’t realize that a small red dot above the A meant A sharp. Ah the small details in life. Anyway cue mayhem. I eventually borrowed Ronnie’s guitar during the last song as I couldn’t get my own even vaguely in tune. Afterwards Ronnie explained how the tuner worked as he had one.  We got a great review in the Daily Record.
5/ Open air fun run gig
The strange thing about this gig was that we played really well and most of the audience liked it. It was just the surroundings that were strange. We were right down in the open air arena below Princess Street. Every few minutes loads of runners would go by in front of the stage and wave at us and the crowd would cheer them. There were also kids doing stunts on BMX bikes on a ramp right in front of the stage. I said at the start of the gig “Do you want to come up here and play this and I’ll have a shot on the bike?”. In a Glaswegian accent it sounded aggressive but I was just joking. The poor pre teen slunk off after being bullied by a grown man with a cowboy shirt on.