23 August 2009

day 44 - black diamonds
With only two weeks to go before El Gran Drugstore Roadshow is switched back on, having spent nearly 7 years gathering dust in the corner, I've been wondering what is going be like to, once again, set up camp alongside Mike and Daron, and all the other lovely characters that have travelled along the way with us. Will the old magic still be there? Will it shine?
We'd spent so much time touring, probably a little more than we should have had, but I can confess, that although soundchecks and interviews can become a bit of drag after the 500th time, I have never, not once, felt bored or not excited about any of the gigs. From big Festivals to tiny rooms, every single show had the same sense of occasion and importance to me. I have not counted, but I probably must have sung 'Superglider' hundreds of times, and every time, without fail, I'd tremble at the prospect of that highway, where someone was gone for good.
Some of the emotions contained in some of the songs are absolute - they can never change. It is like looking at a picture. I don't look at it everyday, but every time I do, it stirs the same reaction within.
I will now tell you a Drugstore Road story, one that I think, says something about us.
Most British bands tour the US in the summer. I have no idea why, probably because the venues are available or some other reason that I don't know of.
The summer's fine in the big cities, like LA, Austin, NYC, as there's always people, and we'd always managed to sell out. But somewhere between the east and west coast, you travel through a lot of 'University Towns', that in July and August turn to dustballs, as all the students head back home, and you're lucky if you spot a moving tumbleweed.
We had just finished a tour supporting Leonard Cohen's son, which had been a great laugh, we'd blown the poor guy offstage each and every night, even his crew just wanted to hang out with us.
Supporting bands get a great kick out of a situation like that. So we were tired, but on a high. Finished the tour and went-off to do a few dates of our own. The schedule was preposterous, sometimes we had 2 or 3 gigs on the same day - plus the usual malarkey of radio sessions and interviews. It was exhausting.
We turn-up to do this gig in a little University Town in the middle of nowhere, in the mid-west, which was almost completely deserted.
Did soundcheck and went off to get some mexican food.
Just before the venue was due to open, the owner talks to our tour manager, the memorable Steve Boynton. He says - "Look guys, there's a wedding party happening tonight, the mayor's son, no one, I mean, no one's gonna come and see this little english band. Why don't we cut our losses, I'll send the staff home early, pay you guys 80% of your fee, and you guys can have a night off?".
When Steve told me, I was not pleased: "What?! No gig? Are you crazy? Been waiting all day to play, furthermore we signed a contract. We have to play, what if someone turns up?". Boynton tried to dissuade me, saying that both band and crew could do with the extra night off, but, as you guys can guess by now, the gig went ahead.
The Bar owner was right - no one, not a single soul turned-up. The wedding party was right behind the place, and from the stage, we could actually hear the loud PA blasting country songs.
We carried on playing. Half-way through the set, the bar staff, 3 in total, had left their posts and were sitting by the stage, listening on.
By 'Solitary Party Groover' one of the staff had joined us on stage on tambourine.
Finished the set, to the cheers of our audience of 3, who were shouting for more. Went back onstage and played for an extra 1/2 hour, as if nothing else could have been more relevant or important.
Got paid. Went back to the sleeper-bus, had a couple of Jack'n'Cokes with band and crew. Went to sleep as happy as a girl can be. We had just played a great gig.
no expenses spared for the upcoming Dingwalls gig:

20 August 2009

day 41 - of weeds and grasses
This is a personal story, but one I hope, drugstore fans may be able to identify with.
The scene: a conversation of the school Headmistress and a pupil, a troublesome 10 year old girl. The Headmistress is trying to explain that life is like one beautiful football pitch, where every season, since time began, the Head Gardeners take great care and put much effort into keeping the lawn in perfect condition. But every now and again, and particularly during the rainy season, a few little weeds spring up here and there uninvited. The weeds are quickly removed, as soon as they're spotted, for the grass must remain as homogeneous and as weed-free as possible, so the games designed by man can run smoothly, and everything can remain as pleasant as everything ever was and will always be.
The Headmistress then explained that most people are like grasses, they are ever so slightly different, but roughly the same shape. They grow through life as units, but together they form the whole base of society. A few others though, are like weeds, although from the same basic material, their shape is different and they stick out in the fields. Some welcome their arrival, arguing that they add colour and variety to the picture; but most feel uncomfortable, for they bring an unsettling edge, as if deserving of more sunlight. She then said that, together, grasses and weeds formed the full picture. And that each had their own particular form of beauty. The grass on the football pitch could only be appreciated from a distance, whereas the weed's delicate beauty, from a closer inspection. And If you were a grass, you should take comfort in the fact that you will never be on your own. And that if you were a weed, you should make the most of the extra sunlight, but must be ready for the gardener's fork, for it will inevitably come.
I have previously stated my obsession with shapes, and have now made the connection that, in Drugstore, I've found a place where I don't need to fear the gardener's fork.

8 August 2009

day 29 - rough demos released from the cave!
from the Oxford dictionary: roughadjective: 4- lacking sophistication or refinement. 5- not finished tidily; plain and basic. 6- harsh in sound or taste. 7- not worked or correct in every detail.
*** w a r n i n g ***
This is just a random selection of a few new demos.
1. if you can, listen on Headphones. 2. this stuff is For Your Ears Only, I trust you guys! - 3. Enjoy!
---------------------------------------------------------------------- 1 - LIGHTS OUT
This was written last week, on the new guitar. Seems to capture my own predicament, standing at the edge of the cave.
2 - AQUAMARINE, a duet
This is meant to be a duel of two desperados. Beware, as I'm doing both His and Her's Vocal parts, and had to impersonate the voice of a broken Hombre!
This is a point of reflection. I keep adding more and more dubs. One of these days the portastudio is gonna turn to me and say - "I just can't take it anymore...". This is an edited version, as the track goes on forever.
This was written this week, in the wee hours, at the end of a long night at the cave.

2 August 2009

---------------------------------------------------------------------- day 28 - looking out of the cave window
On the eve of the release of a few of my demos, which may well be in future referred to by drugstorelogists, as the 'primitive cave sessions', I've been thinking about how over-precious most artists are about their output. Every micro-dot, every single note and action is scrutinized ad-infinitum by a team of well-meant professionals, who all share a vested interest in that artists' work, and of course, by the artist himself and collaborators.
I have spoken to a couple of people who could not understand why I would want to put some sloppy little demos up for public scrutiny, as they argued that, given that fans have been waiting for so long, they could well wait for a little longer. They meant well, but failed to understand that the reason why I decided to do this is rather more complex than at first glance; It's not merely about putting a few home-demos up on a blog, which is a small thing for any musician to do, but it's about stepping out of the cave, which is for me, some step.
Although I don't want to go into details, as that would be spoiling the book ('My life at the Drugstore' maybe?...!), to have any understanding of the present, we need to have some grasp of what preceded it.
The past 7 seven years went by like a hurricane. At first, it was a gentle summer breeze. Then, as the party was truly over - and there was some serious tidying-up to be done, drugstore's little helpers were back at the Pole. I had a major legal battle to deal with, which consumed the best part of the following two years; The next two were spent climbing out of the rubbles.
I have won the legal case, without any legal help, and am pleased to be out of the skip. But music did suffer, as there was simply no available space in my head.
I think a small amount of hardship is not altogether a bad thing, as it's a pretty good way to refresh your perspective and to find out the stuff you're really made of.
I did start writing again, without thinking too much about it, and met Daron last year, when we talked about doing a London show.
And so it seems, that for once, I did get my timing right!
I have no idea whatsoever what is going to happen next, just as a little over a month ago, I had no idea I would be sitting here writing a blog or recording some demos. Maybe some little label or publisher will show interest, or maybe no one will care.
You're free to love it or hate it, treasure it or delete it. I'm really not that precious.
Even if it never goes beyond 'Anatomy, the Blog', all I know is that it is meaningful to me, and that it now belongs to the soundtrack of my cave.
---------------------------------------------------------------------- day 22
Last few days have been intense, overdosing on adrenaline, ideas and lack of sleep. Did a rough mix of a new song 'Lights Out', which was written the day the new guitar turned-up.
Was pretty pleased with the result, but the following morning decided to do a re-mix, add a couple of extra dubs, but ended-up wasting the whole day trying to re-create what I'd done the night before, to no avail; So, decided to go back to the original mix, which had been done at 4 o'clock in the morning, the previous day (day - night - morning - I'm struggling to keep track). It sounds pretty rough, but I think it captures something, something I can't quite describe, something good.
Whenever I work on stuff is always this intense and a little crazy; It's like jumping into the deep blue sea, you can just about see the shore beyond in the distance, and you just keep swimming away.