22 January 2013

Drugstore - St Pancras Old Church gig auto - Review
Fan on Facebook summed it up better than I could:
 'fun doen't even come close. It was an *experience*.
And a mini-triumph against snowstorm adversity for fans and band.
Thanks to everyone who braced the weather and joined us into that packed little church. good memories are made of this.

ALIVE - filmed by Gary Simpson:

And if anyone fancies, they can buy a digital download of the gig, about
11 songs, some craze rambles and all that stuff. Get it here:


9 January 2013

The sad tale of the real Sweet Chili Girl of St Pancras
Many moons ago when I used to live in the 'flat with no name' in Poplar,  I met a sweet little girl named 'C'.
The rundown Council Estate was controlled by an old skool cockney drug-lord, who manufactured and supplied the whole of the E14 postcode with all sorts of illegal goodies.
As the years went by we got to know the druggist family fairly well and a shared, if muted, respect developed between us. 
During the summer holidays, the girl called 'C', their niece, would turn up on the estate. 
She was a scruffy, quiet looking 9 years old with skinny legs and dishevelled hair. Both her mum and dad were 'inside', doing time for drug supply and robbery, and I ended up befriending her and we soon became tennis partners. 
Did I say tennis? Well, it was really just a couple of cheap plastic rackets and a soft ball, played over the dingy car-park, while the noisy motoboys were busy going round picking up the deadly deliveries.
She was a very sweet little girl back then, - and the following summer, I started teaching her to play guitar. On sunny afternoons we would sit outside my flat overlooking the car-park, and play things like Hank Williams' Jambalaya. She absolutely loved it.
If I had been away touring, the very next day I got back, she'd wake me up with her little voice through the mailbox: 'you coming out?' 'you wanna play tennis?' 'can we play guitar?'.
This went on for a good 3 years, until one summer she never turned-up.
I bumped into her drug-Lord uncle and asked: 'Where's 'C'? Is she not staying over this summer?' -
'The little rat did a runner - foking nightmare - she did a runner..'
That didn't sound right. 
'C'? Running away from home? She did not seem equipped for it. Some 12 year olds, like myself, are already so well versed in the ways of the world, that you can easily imagine them boarding a train or cooking a meal - but not our 'C' - She was just too fragile, like a soft fruit that has yet to develop a hard protective skin.
She probably just went to stay with some new best friend, I thought - I'm sure that's what happened.
Then, a couple of months later,  just as I forgot about her - she turns up - on a Missing Person's appeal on BBC's Crimewatch UK.
And the terrible news: she was last spotted sleeping rough around the vicinity of ST Pancras and Kings Cross - and the inevitable fuzzy CCTV of her skinny, blurry stick of a figure in the corner of the screen. 
She had been working as a street prostitute. She was only 12 years old.
Even as I type this now, I can almost see the darkness descending upon my room - a darkness so dark, no good, no life can ever escape from.
I never heard anything else about her, and have no idea whether she was found, rescued or not, but her story remained locked in my memory, like an unfinished book where the following chapters have been ripped away, and we're left in limbo, hoping for the best, but fearing the worst
Hers is, sadly, not an unusual urban tale, like so many of the faceless, the forgotten, that fall down the grey cracks, leaving no trace behind.
Writing the song 
2 years ago, round about the time I started writing the Anatomy album, I was given one of those funny-cute valentine gifts: a pair of girlie pink undies with Snoopy on it, the kind you'd expect a little girl to wear, but in the same box, there was also a red hot sweet chili pepper charm. 
It was an odd combo: pink innocence next to red hot worldliness. 
That must have triggered the 'C' memory, for within a few days 'Sweet Chili Girl' was written.
It's still a bit of a mystery how songs come about. To be honest, I don't really know how it works, they just seem to occasionally pop out of nowhere, ready-made.
Next friday, we play St Pancras Church, and as you walk along King's Cross, you will notice that the Council has made a big effort to clean-up this old and dirty red-light district, but look a little closer and you will see that amongst the glitzy new hotels and hip yogurt bars, there are still dark alleys, where only the most desperate roams at night, and that darkness still lurks deep right beneath our city streets.

5 January 2013

Dressing room Etiquette + gig day
Bands should never share their dressing rooms, however cavernous they may be. We never do.
This probably comes across real bad, like, proper prima-donna stuff - but it is, as you will see, quite the opposite.
We don't do it so we can spend the day staring at our pathetic figurines in the mirror, thinking; yep, I'm cool - but, so we can deliver the best possible gig, every time.
Some bands love having a big entourage around and carry along an assortment of hangers-on in tow, like a dysfunctional circus troupe.
I've always hated that, and like most decent, cool bands we've met along the way, we try to keep our gig-days self-contained, reserved only for musicians and crew. 
After the gig, that's a whole different party game altogether, where friends, lovers, strangers of all kinds and anyone holding a napkin and a pen is totally welcomed to join the post-gig party. But never before the gig.
Bands are funny little entities, and what we've found from experience is that keeping ourselves to ourselves tends to deliver better gigs, as the slightest distraction affects how the pack behaves, interacts and the flow of the evening.
In the past we used to dread the times our manager, or PR person would turn up earlier and hang around in the dressing room all day. 
They meant well, of course, but part of the problem is that we're reasonably nice people, and whenever there's someone else around, we can't help but try to be a good-host, chat away, entertain - so, by the time you get up onstage to do what you're there to do, some of your precious energy has already been burnt, your voice is a bit tired and you can't quite remember where your tuner is. Not good.
Pre-gig time can also be the band's last-hope-saloon to change arrangements or setlist, for no matter how many bleedin' rehearsals you've had, there's always an extra verse to be added, a chorus to be chopped.
There's usually also so much new information to be digested and organised on the day, that the less different it rolls from a rehearsal, the better.
So - my advice to bands is this:
  • keep your dressing-rooms to yourselves and crew only - it's a sacred space for focus, prepping and bonding.
  • sometimes there may be 2/3 bands on the bill, and only 1 dressing-room available: in this case, try to allocate areas, corridors, loos/wherever for each band - so everyone can have their own haven.
  • friends, lovers and music biz people on the guestlist always want to say hello, wish you good luck before the gig:  don't need to, we know you wish us well. Instead, please come after the gig, preferably holding a cold drink, ready to give us a big hug. That will be nice. 
  • But try to wait a good 15 minutes before you show up, give the poor sods a chance to re-apply mascara, find tic-tacs etc.
  • Lastly: dear bands, please try NOT to leave a shitty mess behind you, like you're trying to say: "fuck the government, fuck my family, fuck everyone. I'm in a rock'n'roll band now - I don't need to clean after meself. wayhey" -
    Just remember: the only person you're gonna be pissing off is the venue cleaner, who, by all accounts, probably already has plenty of reasons to be pissed-off about, right?
  • (down drugstore memory lane: Daron used to be very good at organising the dressing room, both before and after the gig: bottles of water to the left, used glasses to the right, everything perfectly aligned and colour coordinated - I now try to carry his mantle and make sure the only thing we leave behind are hopefully good memories...)
There - now you know how to behave like a proper band on gig day.
As for how to misbehave and be totally improper - I would not know a thing about that - honestly. x x x