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Blog Archive: February 2014

Total Hero Team - The Album! Movie! T-Shirt! Badge!
After literally MONTHS of going boggly eyed staring at a computer screen mixing the audio and then the video, I am IMMENSELY happy, not to say RELIEVED to announce that the Total Hero Team ALBUM is out today, as is the accompanying MOVIE, T-SHIRT and BADGES.

It is what is known as CROSS-PLATFORM SYNERGY.

The ALBUM is a spliced together version of the podcasts which we've been putting out for the past six weeks, with the start and end titles removed to, hopefully, make it a singular listening experience. You can get it from our bandcamp page on a pay-what-you-like basis i.e. you can get it for free if you like, or you can give us some CA$H!

The MOVIE (hem hem) is a brand new specially created full-length VIDEO adaptation of the album using a series of photographs to create a FUMETTI/Photo Story version of the story. It was huge fun to TIT ABOUT in my living room doing the pictures, but it took AGES to stitch all together into a film, so I REALLY hope people have a look at it - you can find it over on YouTube, or indeed just her:

Then there's the accompanying T-SHIRTS, featuring Mr John Allison's rather wonderful full-cast poster, which we're making available through Music Glue. They're done Print-On-Demand, so if you buy one please do take a picture and send it in, I'd love to see how they come out in real life!

And then finally there's badges. There's only a few of these left over, so if you didn't get a chance to get one after the live shows now you can!

Obviously tea towels, lunch boxes and wallpaper are all in the pipeline, but I think that's about enough for now. As I say, it's been a lot of work to get this all sorted out but I'm very happy with the results, and hope you enjoy them!

posted 28/2/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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Validators Reunited
I headed back to Leicester after work on Tuesday, a town I'd not been to for... ooh, just over 48 hours, for the first Validators' band practice of the year.

I met Mr FA Machine at Leicester station and we popped over the road to The Hind for a pint. It's one of those pubs that hasn't changed at ALL since I first went in over 20 years ago, and is one of those pubs where it might be nice if it did a little bit. There were five pumps on the bar, all of them off, but we had a LAGER BEER/Guiness anyway and a Delightful Catch-Up, before Mr T Pattison rolled up to pick us up, his car full of the agonising aroma of Just Finished Chips, and we headed across town.

We were booked into a NEW (to us) rehearsal studio, which was also a very OLD (to us) rehearsal studio - Stayfree! We used to do ALL our practices, and indeed recordings, at Stayfree when we first started out, before we relocated both to Derby. While we were away it upped sticks and moved across Leicester to Frog Island where it now occupies a HUGE space at Lock 42 and, though a bit damp and cold (it IS right next to the canal) was otherwise Surprisingly Nice.

It's also about 500 yards round the corner from Mr T "The Tiger" McClure's house, tho he still drove round as he had an AMP with him, also a rather nice ukulele which he had HAND BUILT and brought to show off to us. It was NICE!

Emma wasn't attending, as she had HOMEWORK to do, but we were otherwise quorate so got set up and commenced to ROCK. We warmed up/set levels with The Lesson Of The Smiths then got to work on one of our new songs, Burn It Down And Start Again, which sounded GRATE. I don't think it's THE HIT of the new stuff, and is the most straightforward one so far, but it isn't half fun to play!

Next we did one that SURELY - SURELY! - is a HIT: (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock. GOSH-A-MIGHTY it's got so many HOOKS in it, it's fab! Tim had come in with a New Idea of how it should sound (as we'd BICKERED about it at previous rehearsals) which I approved of fully because it made it sound pretty much how I'd wanted it to in the first place - don't tell him I said so though, it'll spoil it. He reckons there'll be handclaps, which I can go along with, also SYNDRUMS which I can ALSO go along with, mostly because if Tim starts playing an electronic drum kit I will finally have the chance to turn his volume DOWN!

We put some MORE new bits in this time, including a CLASSIC PATTISON FILL (it's the one that goes "BANG BANG!" just before the start of the next bit, you'd know it if you heard it) and reminded each other that it would look better if we DIDN'T stand there GRINNING LIKE IDIOTS at The Good Bits, as we should make like we do Good Bits all the time. This plan lasted right up until we got to the KEY CHANGE at the end. Come on! We've only been playing together 15 years, managing a key change it AMAZING!!

After that we did 20 Things To Do Before You're 30 which has slightly less BITS in it than (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock but is ANOTHER definite HIT, i reckon. It was a joy to play, although I was a little upset when Tim pointed out a possible problem and said "The thing is, you're approaching 50." "NO," i pointed out, correctly, "YOU'RE approaching 50." The cheek!

That concluded the new songs we'd previously worked on (well, apart from Can We Be Friends? for which I was meant to be writing a new chorus, but had forgot), so we had a go at We Did It Anyway. The early issue with THIS one was that the way I was playing it made it sound VERY VERY MUCH like 20 Things To Do Before You're 30 - I mean, it's a different song with different chords, but the RHYTHM was similar. We paused for thought, then Frankie suggested we try it a bit "Mariachi", "like Dance The Night Away", he said. Unsure which song he meant we asked him to sing the first line then ALL joined in. AHA!

We started playing and, over the next twenty minutes, got a FABULOUS GROOVE going. We SWUNG! Tom got a MAGIC RIFF working and the whole thing WORKED. Humorously there was one bit when we all NEARLY STOPPED then forced ourselves to carry on - I had to halt the song and say "We're going to have to do a stop there aren't we?" LOTS of our songs have STOPS in them so we do try NOT to do them too often but in this case, as Tim said, "It's like GRAVITY, pulling you in!" We had a GORGEOUS stop in the middle of the first double verse, and Tim asked if we could do ANOTHER double verse somewhere, as it sounded so good. "If people like it they can listen to it again" I pointed out, CORRECTLY again.

We then discussed the ending, and Frankie suggested repeating the last line and slowing it down, which he said would make it like (i think) Rodgers and Hammerstein. We tried MANY ways to do this, eventually settling on THREE repeats with a double length last verse. The temptation to do a CLASSIC BLUES ENDING was almost overwhelming, but we managed to... not resist at all, but I'm sure we'll be able to get over it by the time it's recorded.

With five minutes left we had a dash through The Peterborough All Saints Wide Game Team (group B), the version from MY TRIBUTE ALBUM which a) was good fun and b) has a RIGHT old fashioned ending. HOORAH!

We packed up, very happy with our work, and headed towards the station, stopping off for a pint in... The Hind again. As I say, it's an OK pub but I'm not sure I'd like it to become our official Post Practice Pint Place, even though the landlord did come over and say we could have a gig sometime, "once you've got yourselves established".

We discussed Big Birthdays (Tom's 40th is soon, and Tim is already planning TIMFEST for his next big birthday in 2018 - we agreed that DRESDEN would be an EXCELLENT venue!) and soon it was time to head home. I hopped on a train and was HOME just over 90 minutes later - if we can do practices THIS way it's all going to be peasy, and if they all go as well as THIS the next album is going to be GRATE. Who knows, we might even be able to have it ready for TIMFEST!

posted 27/2/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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Roundhouse Rising
I got to bed quite late/tiddly on Saturday, so wasn't quite as SUPER ALERT as I'd've liked to be for getting up EARLY on Sunday to catch the train back to London, to go and take part in a panel for CMU at the Roundhouse Rising event at the Camden Roundhouse.

I was THRILLED to be asked and looking forward to it a lot, the only downsides being a) the getting up early and b) having to go to Camden. I got over the early wake-up easily enough, but CAMDEN was worse even that I expected, as it was a SUNDAY and so the whole area around Camden Town station was full of tourists AS WELL as the usual ranks of wazzocks, show-offs and idiots. I don't understand WHY Camden is always full of tourists - do they not have tat shops and junkies in other countries?

ANYWAY I got through the THRONGS and emerged into Chalk Farm, where suddenly all was pleasant, friendly and NICE. After some Getting Lost I eventually found the stage door to The Roundhouse and got in just as Mr Chris Cooke, organiser, was arriving. I was there EARLY as my train had unexpectedly got in on time, so I had time to tell Chris about Project G - as soon as I told him the Main Idea he said "ooh, think of the press you could get!" which was EXACTLY what I wanted to hear!

The room filled... and filled... and filled, until it was TOTALLY RAMMED. Mr Dave Green had come along too, and I think he and I were the oldest people in the room. It was all YOUNGSTERS, and i was very pleased to see that the slight majority (i think) were women. It seems to get a bit taken for granted that there ARE young women interested in doing GIGS these days, but back when I started out (around the time of the Corn Laws etc etc etc) there were almost NO women involved in the sort of lower league gigs that I did, and still do. I know there's a LOT that still needs to change in the world of ROCK, but I do think PROGRESS is being made.

Chris did a VERY interesting talk explaining copyright to a crowd which asked LOTS of questions. It was like being back at a CONFERENCE, like the sort of thing I used to organised YEARS ago, but this time about something INTERESTING and with people asking questions because they wanted to know the answers, rather than just to demonstrate that they were THERE, like what academics do.

My panel was next, and I sat with Gabby Young and Laura Kidd to talk about being a DIY musician. They had lots of interesting things to say, and I tried to a) NOD VIGOROUSLY in order to look like i knew what i was on about and b) make some REMARKS if possible. The best thing was that we all AGREED that, basically, you have to not be a dickhead and be NICE to people, and treat doing gigs like a chance for ADVENTURE and FUN rather than monetising it... which was a little bit against what we were meant to be saying, but worked out OK. Everyone also started out by talking about not wanting to use The Terminology of "product", "content" etc etc... and then totally DID the more we talked about it.

It was, as stated, VERY interesting and also lots of FUN - in the krazy world of ROCK, and especially in the arena of Solo Artistes, we don't get many chances to just talk SHOP and so when we do i always find it fascinating to hear other people's opinions and experiences. It was GRATE!

After our panel there was a break, and Chris said "Laura, Gabby and Mark will be around if anyone wants to speak to them." I thought to myself "HMM. I wonder how many people will want to 1) talk to the inspirational young women, or 2) listen to a daft middle-aged man?" The answers to those questions were: 1) EVERYBODY 2) a couple of polite people who got stuck near me. This did give me time, however, to put some CDs on the chairs - I'd come back with a pile un-given-away after Leicester, so got rid of them there. HA!

Dave and I had a HALF and a biscuit each for lunch, then went back for more, including another GRATE talk by the founder of Music Glue, which gave me MORE ideas, this time for some MERCHANDISE for when we release the Total Hero Team ALBUM at the end of the week. ALAS tho the weekend FINALLY caught up with me around 3pm and I had to leave, waving goodbyes as I did.

When I got to Camden Town station I found it CLOSED so had to spend a LOT more time in Camden than I'd hoped for, but eventually I got down to Mornington Crescent station and was soon ZOOMING home back to the Olympic Village, having had a pretty bloody marvellous weekend. I need a bit of a rest now though!

posted 26/2/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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The Final Show Unless We Do It Again
Saturday morning dawned at a VERY leisurely pace. Usually when I'm in Leicester for the comedy festival i have Other Stuff to do during the Saturday, but this time all I had was a Late Lunch date with my old pal Mr C Lawson, so I LOAFED ABOUT a lot, watched telly, and then SLOPED into town for a wander round (including a look at the re-opened Silver Arcade, which was VERY posh), before meeting Chris in The Globe. We had a GRATE lunchtime, one of those daytime pub sessions which begin sensibly but end with you both going "All right, one more can't hurt can it? OW! WHAT IS THAT BRIGHT LIGHT OUTSIDE?"

I wobbled back to the Ibis to fetch my guitar then met Steve in The Pub, the pub which is called "The Pub", where he was watching Rugby. As usual I thought "OK, let's give this stupid game another go" and, as usual, I realised that Rugby is BORING and RUBBISH. It wasn't on for long though, so we picked ourselves up and headed over to Firebug to watch Max and Ivan in "The Reunion". We were VERY pleased with ourselves for actually going to see a SHOW while we were at the comedy festival (this was my sixth year and my first show seeing something else!), and I enjoyed it a lot. It was two blokes playing lots of characters, though instead of using WIGS and HATS they used lighting and sound effects. It was good!

Then it was back to the Criterion for more PIZZA and a return to BEER (i had SENSIBLY been on the diet coke since lunchtime in an effort to sober up a bit) and then the wait to see if people turned up. This time they DID, we had about 35 people in, including Mr Alex Dawson, Mr Dave Dixey, Mrs Angela Cox, Mr Mark Collins and Mr Tom "The Tiger" McClure. Everyone was WELL up for it, and the show was HUGELY enjoyable - if it does turn out to be the last one ever it was a GOOD one to go out on. We did it as well as we ever have, I think, though still had space for some LARKS. I'd wondered what to say when we got to the end about Fufu returning to fight again, but when we got to that bit I said "Fufu will be back to try again... whenever you want him to, on the internet" for LO! we're releasing the VIDEO version at the end of this week. Saying it out loud like that made me realise how glad I am that we're keeping a version of it FOREVER!

We returned to the pub area for some LARFS and CHAT, marred slightly by Steve's coat DISAPPEARING. Someone was seen wandering off with it, too quickly to stop, so it may have been nicked or just taken by mistake (a spare coat was lying around so you never know), but Steve bore up MANFULLY. Other than that there was more DISCUSSION (Mark made an HILARIOUS remark, saying Project G could be titled "Waiting For Ringo" which... er... makes a LOT of sense when you know what it is - honestly, if you see me in a pub, ask me and I'll tell you ALL about it. AT LENGTH) and BEER, culminating in me and Steve wandering home via a traditional last pint in the Firebug.

And that was the show done... in theory, anyway. As we were doing it I thought "this doesn't feel like the last time we'll do this at ALL", but then I realised I thought that during the last show of Moon Horse too! We HAVE applied to do it at a festival of New Musicals during the summer, so you never know, and I have a vague hope that people might BOOK us once the full length album and VIDEO versions come out. I've really enjoyed this show, but must admit that I'm a little disappointed it didn't get the attention/reviews/ALL THE AWARDS that I think it would have deserved, hence I hope there's a little but more to come. If there's not there's not, but I'd like to think Fufu really WILL be back to try again sometime!

posted 25/2/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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Leicester Comedy Festival
A very busy weekend started well with a lunchtime meeting with Mr John Dredge. He and I have been having regular lunchtime meetings during which we NAG each other into writing sketches for Radio Shows. This has turned out to be an EXCELLENT scheme - not only have we forced each other to write several scripts, it's also been a DELIGHTFUL way to spend a lunchtime and also produce THORTS.

For instance, just before we finished I was telling him about my idea for a 2015 Edinburgh show, which would roughly be about lower division football, possibly called "Proper Football". I'd told The Audience In My Auditorium about it earlier in the week and she'd said "That sounds boring", and John said pretty much the same thing. I had to admit he could be right, and wailed "I just need to find something to do a show about that other people are interested in but that I like A LOT also." "Well", he said, as we put our coats on, "you like The Beatles."

And there and then an IDEA presented itself, fully formed, with such INFINITE BRILLIANCE that it was all I could do to remain standing. I'll not go into it in any depth here, so I can check if i can DO it or not, but I will tell you it is codenamed "Project G" and is AMAZING!

A couple of hours later I met Mr S Hewitt at St Pancras, ready to catch our train to Leicester and the comedy festival for the "final" (unless we do it again) performances of Total Hero Team. On the way I told him about "Proper Football" and he looked distinctly unimpressed, but that was FINE as it was just the lead-in to telling him about "PROJECT G". He tried to look thoughtful but I could tell it was BLOWING HIS MIND. Here is photographic evidence of it happening:

Speaks for itself, I think.

We soon arrived in Leicester, checked into the Ibis (usual suite, though this time I had a WHISTLING WINDOW which I ended up spending MINUTES fiddling about with to stop the INHUMAN HOWL that came from it when the wind blew), watched "Pointless" (TOURING!) and/or Curling, then met up and strolled over to the Criterion for the show.

We met this year's students (students from the Festival Management course at the Poly/DMU always do the door at The Criterion during the festival, it's VERY handy), ate some lovely Pizza, drank some lovely beer, and waited to see if anyone would be coming to see us. As it happened eight people did - this is our lowest ever audience for a Leicester Comedy Festival show, but VERY FAR from our lowest audience for this show, and also they were DELIGHTFUL, chuckling throughout and applauding wildly at the end. I thoroughly enjoyed DOING the show too - as ever, it's only when we get to the last few performances that I think "HA! I could do this forever, it is a) peasy b) fun" and, as ever also, I worked out a NEW BIT that FINALLY made sense of the "Thanks... but no thanks" line at the end!

All done we wandered over to The Swan & Rushes for a PINT and further discussion of how Project G might be enacted and then to The Ale Waggon where, slightly bizarrely, we bumped into a pal of Steve's! We had a lovely chat then Steve went off for a NIGHTCAP, while I, suddenly FLAGGED, went home. It had been a long but MARVELLOUS day, and a GRATE start to a weekend that would play out similarly!

posted 24/2/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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Singing Alan Moore To Alan Moore
On Wednesday night I found myself heading up to Northampton for an unexpected gig. Mr Robin Ince had emailed me on Monday, asking if I fancied popping up to play with him and Mr Michael Legge at their Pointless Anger Righteous Ire night. "Why not?" I thought to myself, so headed up... though not before spending a large part of Wednesday afternoon trying to work out how to play The Ballad Of Alan Moore. He is, after all, Northampton's favourite son and also one of my all-time HEROES, so it would have been rude not to, though GOODNESS ME it has some STRANGE chords in. Usually re-learning my own songs is PEASY as they only have three chords, but this had SEVERAL!

Anyway, I got to the venue, the NN Cafe, to find that it was nice and small and so i wouldn't need a soundcheck. I got a beer and went upstairs for a chat with Messrs Ince and Legge. This seems to be the thing to do if you're EITHER a comedian OR an Rock Band, as these are the only groups of people I know who ESCHEW Chatting To The Audience. It was all rather jolly, but still felt a bit naughty to be sitting in a HUGE cold attic rather than saying hello to people.

We came downstairs and the first half kicked off - the basic idea of the show is that they talk about things that annoy them then the audience votes on whether it's Pointless Anger or Righteous Ire. They then take suggestions of similar from the audience - it's rather an ELEGANT way of framing them getting ANNOYED, and was VERY funny!

Just before the break Robin started talking about getting their guest on to do a song i.e. ME - there had been some brief mention of maybe doing this, so I could possibly sell some CDs in the interval, but I'd forgotten about it! Thus I wandered on and said hello then had to COVER while I got my guitar out and TUNED it. I did It Only Works Because You're Here, which went down all right, though once I'd got offstage for the interval i did realise that I'd just done my BEST song, and had to go on and follow it with four more!

On stage I'd noticed that Alan Moore HIMSELF was sitting on the front row! As I say, he is very much one of my all-time HEROES, and so I WRESTLED with whether or not i could, or SHOULD, do my song about him. On the one hand, it might seem WEIRD and he'd come out for a fun evening without being HASSLED, but on the other... well, i couldn't really NOT, could I? Thus I came back on and did THIS:
  • The Peterborough All-Saints Wide Game Team (group B)
  • The Ballad Of Alan Moore
  • Get Over It
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • It was a HUGE amount of fun - Mr Alan Moore took the whole thing very well, and I got to say the "Thank You" bit directly TO him. I'd worried that Normal (i.e. non-comics reading) People in the audience might not understand half of it, especially the bits about alternate universes, but this didn't seem to matter and it was a DELIGHTFUL experience, which led to the rest of the set going pretty good too. It was certainly the NICEST one of these comedy-type gigs I've done - i have learnt before that comedy audiences prefer SLOWER songs, so did all of the above at a much slower tempo than normal. It seemed to work!

    I sat back down and Robin said that if people wanted to buy CDs they should hassle me - Alan Moore himself shuffled over so i gave him a copy of Dinosaur Planet, and then very quickly had to RUSH OFF to get my train, stopping to WAVE to the audience before i went. They all waved back, it was lovely!

    Only when I left did the full factual force of FACT hit me: I'd sung the Alan Moore song TO Alan Moore AND Alan Moore now owns a copy of Dinosaur Planet!

    I staggered into the station to find that Northampton is one of those stations where they've decided to improve things by HIDING STAIRWAYS and REMOVING ALL SIGNAGE. I had a PANICKED five minutes of running around desperately trying to the entrance to the station, then to find my platform, then trying to work out how to GET there, but eventually MADE it, sat down, and breathed a sigh of relief. What a WEIRD, but also FANTASTIC evening it had been!

    posted 21/2/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    Early Retirement
    It's finally happened - after eleven and a bit years my two-year contract at Birkbeck is finally DEFINITELY coming to an end!! There've been many extensions, with an extra year added at the last minute for both of the last two years, but THIS time it is not to be, for LO! I received an email from HR on Monday telling me that March 31st shall be my last day in employment.

    I've been expecting it for SO long that I thought confirmation wouldn't make much difference, but to be honest it has SURPRISED me that it's finally happening, and my BRANE is struggling a bit to cope with the idea that, come April, I won't have an Actual Proper Job to avoid doing!

    The current plan is to take a few months to have a go at FREELANCING and to see if i can make a go of it trying to WRITE stuff. I've got loads of scripts to finish off, or start, or work out, and various AVENUES to wander along, including the Nick Writing Program, which I've just finished off my entry for, and trying to write some sketches for Radio 4 shows. However, if anybody out there has any WORK offers they would like to offer me, especially if they involve WRITING of any kind (WURDZ and/or MUSIC), then do please let me know. PENURY doesn't really suit me!

    In the meantime I intend to do some RESEARCH into my new area of work i.e. watching telly and going to the pictures. This began right away, post-notification, as we went to see THE LEGO MOVIE on Tuesday. GOODNESS ME but it was GRATE - so many BITS of GOOD STUFF (my favourite was "Spaceship! Spaceship! SPACESHIP!"), a PLOT that kept on and on being surprising, but best of all a MESSAGE that was a) interesting b) not straightforward c) COOL. I liked it a GRATE deal!

    posted 20/2/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    Bonus Tracks
    The fourth episode of the Total Hero Team PODCAST is out today and it's just a little SHORTER than usual.

    When I say "a little" I mean RATHER A LOT. Crikey, I know that that "chapter" always FEELS a bit shorter than the others when we do it live, but I never realised quite HOW much until I came to do the editing. It's only about two minutes long! I felt that this probably wasn't enough to justify people's time downloading it, so I have added THREE bonus tracks to the end, all of which are demo versions of songs written for the show but which never quite made it in. The songs are Buttering No Parsnips, I Dream Of Superheroes and All About The Booty.

    The first one, Buttering No Parsnips, was originally meant to be Chester Champion's RIPOSTE to Smart Alex's I'm So Much Cleverer Than You, but that song became such a TOUR DE FORCE when Steve sang it that poor old Chester's response felt a bit weedy. I had several goes at songs for this part of the show but none of them had a chance against Steve's big number, so in the end we used Smart Alex's NASTY sarcasm instead. As per usual, that ended up becoming one of my favourite BITS.

    I Dream Of Superheroes was one of the first songs I wrote for the show, and appeared right at the start, just as we arrive in the pub. I liked this one a LOT on its own but in the actual show it always felt like a DRAG, slowing everything down before it had really had a chance to get going, so after trying it in various places eventually we had to concede defeat and LOP it out. I was finally persuaded of the WISDOM of this when I sat down to remove TEN MINUTES from the whole show, and saw this as an easy way to get 20% of my job done in one go. It's a shame though, maybe I can get it in as a CHILDHOOD FLASHBACK for Tony in the movie version?

    Finally All About The Booty was one of the very first ideas I had for the show, as something that could happen with the character who became The WomanDroid. However, by the time I got round to writing it the song didn't fit, which is a TERRIBLE pity because, as you'll hear if you listen to it, it is a DEATHLESS CLASSIC OF ROCK!

    These'll also be on the end of the "album" version of the song which'll be out in a couple of weeks, though without the INCISIVE Audio Commentary you'll hear on the podcast. Next week it's back to more normal service, with all MANNER of thrills!

    posted 14/2/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    Chiz Chiz
    We're having a FALLOW year for Fringe shows this year i.e. once Total Hero Team finishes (in Leicester next weekend - tickets still available!) we won't be learning up a new one for the 2014 Fringe. This is mostly due to the FACT that I'm finishing my MA, and so need to use my time writing up a script for THAT, rather for another year of titting around with Mr S Hewitt.

    For NEXT year though, I have been having THORTS. We've done three of these two-man shows now, so I'd quite like to have a go at doing something with a slightly larger cast. I'd also like to do something that people would want to come to see REGARDLESS of whether they've heard of us. That was part of the early thinking with Total Hero Team, "People LOVE Superheroes these days," I thought, "so let's do a show about THAT!" This never worked: every time I said "It's about Superheroes!" people ALWAYS replied "Which ones?"

    I also couldn't help noticing at Edinburgh last year that there were LOADS of shows about Doctor Who, and they were ALL getting huge audiences of people going JUST because they were Doctor Who fans. On days when our audiences were TIDDLY I would look COVETOUSLY at these audiences and think, "I want some of that!" I don't mean I want to CA$H IN on Doctor Who, rather that I felt SAD that we lost out on audiences for our GRATE show simply because it didn't have a big enough HOOK.

    THUS i have been on the lookout for something WITH a sufficient hook that I could use as the theme for the next show. I've thought about this before and EVERY time I do I think "Jane Austen!" but alas I really cannot be bothered to go through the books trying to work out how to make them into a musical, and even if i COULD I have visions of Steve in a BONNET and have to then go and have a bit of a sit down in a well-lit room.

    I've been through all SORTS of ideas for things that I could adapt - I'm after something that i LOVE (because I'd be spending a year doing it!), that other people would be interested in, that would suit my "style" of writing, and that would suit a CAST that would probably be mostly Middle Aged Blokes Titting About.

    Then one day I had an idea SO UTTERLY OBVIOUS that I cursed myself - OF COURSE! Molesworth!. It's such a perfect fit that I couldn't understand how on EARTH i hadn't thought of it before. I got out my tattered copy of the complete set of books (i also have individual copies that I bought as a TINY from the Puffin book club, but they are KNACKERED) and flicked through, chuckling at the idea of doing it LIVE and MARVELLING at how much of it is ALREADY in play form. It was ideal - i LOVE it, other people do too, we could do a GRATE version with Middle Aged Blokes Titting About, and i think MAYBE i could bend my writing style to fit it hem hem hem. I gave Steve the book to read for HOMEWORK!

    Before getting started, however, I thought it might be wise to check that i COULD do it. It turns out that Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle's estates are run by the same company, so I emailed them to politely ask if the rights might be available. The only adaptations of Molesworth I know of are when people have tried to UPDATE them with an adult Nigel, so I wondered if maybe there was some reason that nobody had ever tried to do the books themselves.

    ALAS my answer came a week or so later - the rights to the books are OPTIONED, which means that the likes of me cannot get at them. CURSES! Thus is the world DENIED the chance to see ME as the Gorilla of 2b, or Steve in a blonde wig skipping around saying helo birds helo sky. CURSES AGANE!

    Still, from the ashes doth grow fertile new ideas, and as I was complaining about this situation over tea to The Pupils In My Form the other night I was suddenly struck by a NEW IDEA, so GRATE and so ALSO OBVIOUS that MY VERY CUTLERY SHOOK! I have yet to discuss this with my colleague yet, so will save the full details for another time, but I think it may work. And may require the display of our KNEES!

    posted 13/2/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Day Trip To Glasgow
    On Sunday morning I headed NORTH, off to play at the Pop South All-Day-And-A-Halfer in glorious GLASGOW. As I set off I thought "I appear to be travelling for nearly seven hours to do a gig, and then travel seven hours back. It's basically a day trip to Scotland."

    It was a LOVELY journey though, hours and hours sat READING and gawping out of the window only slightly marred by a MAD DASH across Edinburgh Waverley to make my connection to Glasgow, where i LEAPT on the train with my backpack, guitar, and wheely suitcase of PROPS and knocked over a plate of Complimentary Shortbread... which i then PARTOOK of five minutes later. Well, it would have been rude not to.

    I was met at the station in Glasgow by Mr S Hewitt, who was gradually recovering from the exertions of the previous day's ROCKING. We went to the Ibis (usual suite) then hopped into a TAXI for the Glad Cafe. On the way Mr J McGee rang to see where we are - i think he may have been waiting for us before he started!

    The Glad Cafe hides behind a tiny door in the side of one of those MASSIVE granite tenement buildings they have up there. You go down a corridor to the large cafe itself, and then further inside the building to find the venue. Mobile phone reception was ZERO! We got in to find The Bobby McGees just kicking off, with Jimmy getting heckled by his Mum and Dad! "I wonder which one is Jimmy's Dad?" i thought... for about ten seconds, before spotting a man who was CLEARLY Jimmy's Dad, GRINNING!

    They were GRATE, as indeed was Mr David Leach who was on just before us. As ever he was DELIGHTFUL, and made me even more determined to get Totally Acoustic going again, so I can get him ON! There was also quite a bit of wandering around chatting to people, like a subterranean indietracks or something, also BEER, but not too much for LO! soon it was time for US to hit the stage.

    We'd decided NOT to use the microphones, as everyone seemed to be being very lovely and patient (NB and hungover!) and we made a big point of saying how LONG the show would be, as it always seems a big ASK for people have to stand up all the way through. It all worked LOVELY though, we had a THOROUGHLY enjoyable time, people seemed to like it, and we gave away loads of CDs at the end - WINNZ!

    The rest of the day was more beer, more chatting, and an AMAZING band - "A New International", who totally blew my MIND. They were the best Band-I've-Not-Heard-Of-Before that I've seen in about a DECADE. Very very different to the NORM, like a cross between a folk band and Orange Juice, but also AMAZING. There were huge songs and trumpets and accordians and everyone singing and violin and a really unusual singing style which, all put together, sounded GRATE. I liked them a LOT, and SAID so to as many people as I could find - it made me wish I had the EAR of Important Rock People, so I could tip them off!

    When all was done we all strolled round the corner for a PINT and a WHISKY in a nearby pub, then it was home to the IBIS and their SUPER comfortable new beds. OH but they are delightful!

    Next morning we regrouped and got the train to Edinburgh, where we found ourselves with an hour or two before our next train, so popped out and up to The Halfway House. This is one of my FAVOURITE Edinburgh pubs and is a place of Importance in MY LEGEND, for it was here that Steve and I sat at the end of our very first Edinburgh watching the Olympics and a) I told him we'd be doing Dinosaur Planet next, and b) he declared his intent to be part of the 2012 Olympics. That all worked out pretty well, and the Winter Olympics were on the telly , so I was waiting to see what would happen THIS time, but in the end we simply RELAXED with a delicious pint and watched the curling. It was GRATE.

    We toddled down the stairs and got our train, and reflected on what a lovely weekend it had been. Who says a day trip to Glasgow is a daft idea?

    posted 12/2/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    Ruining A Teenager's Life
    I think I may have scarred my nephew for LIFE, for LO! on Saturday I took him to see Posh play Leyton Orient and - against all my expectations - it was REALLY GOOD.

    Usually one hopes that the first time you take a young person to see lower league football will be awful enough to safely put them off FOREVER, and our trip started this way with vicious WIND, SLEET and FREEZING temperatures. We got into the ground and found crappy seats* near some ODD people and also some Rough Youths who SWORE throughout the afternoon. I'd told Max, my nephew, that there would be SWEARING, fully expecting a lot of it to come from ME, but my goodness my dear, the LANGUAGE!

    We were all set for a cold, miserable, dull afternoon... but then it was GRATE! When I was a lad and got taken to football games it was DREARY, largely featuring a mixture of inept teenagers and knackered old blokes all running after the ball at the same time, but here we saw ELEGANCE and PASSING and even some THINKING, it was really quite amazing, not least because most of it was coming from Posh!

    At half-time I found that having a LAD with you is a big help getting your cup of coffee. Not only was Max able to WEND his way through the crowd to the front, but there he found that the shop was staffed entirely by middle-aged ladies who saw him, ADORED, and took his order early. HA!

    When we went back to go to our seats we found that they'd opened up the lower, uncovered, area of the seating, so went and sat there. Apart from the fact that we were now exposed to the elements and thus BLOODY FREEZING (I lost all feeling in my hands and feet! That hasn't happened for YEARS!) it was GRATE, as we were RIGHT near the touchline. It was still 0-0 at this point but the Posh fans were in AMAZING voice. In years gone by this has very much NOT been the case, but they seem to have found new voice lately and, indeed, new SONGS so they (and we) were BELLOWING away, much much more so than the home crowd who were pretty much SILENT... until, vastly against the run of play, they scored a GOAL.

    It was ROTTEN, and all fell silent for a few minutes (from our bit at least, Leyton FINALLY started singing at this point) but much to my surprise NOBODY GAVE UP. As stated above, in previous years this would be the cue for DISMAY from fans and team alike, and I have seen both bunches GIVE UP many many times, so it was ACE to have my expectations confounded. I also BEAMED WITH UNCLE PRIDE when I heard a small voice next to me shout "Come On Borough!"

    Still, all looked doomed until, at 88 minutes, Britt Assombalonga scored a GRATE goal - oh! the cheering! the jumping up and down! - and then, two minutes later, Tommy Rowe score AGANE! People were dancing around and shouting, one man was so excited he ran up and down the row of seats in front of us. IT WAS COMPLETELY AMAZING!

    The last few minutes featured some FRANKLY RUDE singing, some MILD REMARKS made also in song, and a lot of GRINNING Fenland types, unable to believe what had happened. As we left the ground Max and I talked about how GRATE it had been, and what other potential Posh games there were coming up. As I dropped him off at the tube station he said he was going to look on YouTube for other Posh goals.

    And it was in that moment that I realised just what I had done. I had ONE JOB that day, to put him off terrible football, and I had in fact make him not only LIKE it, but think it was QUITE GOOD. I think I've got to take him again, and hope that it's AWFUL next time!

    * FOOTNOTE: apparently Leyton Orient are claiming that Posh fans destroyed seats. I must admit that we caused some damage to seats ourselves by INADVERTENTLY SITTING ON THEM: Max SAT DOWN and the back fell off his!

    posted 11/2/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    Do Something Different
    I went to a talk about storytelling by the marvellous Laurie Hutzler on Wednesday. I saw her last year too and had my MIND BLOWN, so went again just to check she was still AMAZING.

    She totally was - she talked about how stories WORK and how to MAKE them work, though at times it felt like she was more talking about LIFE and we were in a PRAYER MEETING or something. I know I found it hard not to keep leaping up and WHOOPING and saying "TESTIFY!" It was ACE.

    One of the (many) things that stuck with me was when she talked about how the definition of madness is doing the same thing and expecting different results. Now, I've worked in Mental Health and i'm PRETTY SURE that isn't they definition they use, but still it's good advice, and advice which I have actually TAKEN.

    For instance, I used to hope that one day someone would come to one of my gigs, or listen to a record, and say "Hey! I somehow intuit that this guy might be able to write a book or script, and as head of Big Books / Big Telly / Big Films plc ltd, I shall pay him to do so!" After ten years of ROCKING around our great nation and making several ALBUMS I finally had to face the fact that this was unlikely to happen, and so did something different i.e. went on a course about writing screenplays, in the hope that that might work instead.

    It hasn't yet, but I've only been at it a year. Ask me again in 2023 and we'll do a comparison.

    Another thing I've tried in the past was Waiting For Someone To Come To Me. This is a scheme tried by many people, where you CREATE stuff and then wait around to see if somebody happens to be passing your window, hears you singing/typing/drawing, and pops in for a look. Obviously I am too much of a SHOW OFF to do this for long, preferring always to leap around going "LOOK! LOOK AT WHAT I DID!" and though this hasn't (as yet) made me MILLIONS of pounds (or, indeed, POUNDS) it has been an awful lot of fun.

    Which is a very long-winded way of saying that the latest episode of the Total Hero Team podcast is available now! Episode 3 features possibly the BEST songs in the show - It Only Works Because You're Here, Get Over It and I'm So Much Cleverer Than You - as well as some RATHER SPIFFY sound effects. I do think it's rather good!

    I've also started work on the VIDEO version of the whole thing, using the photographs I was on about the other day. If all goes to plan we'll be launching the whole series on YouTube AND the complete ALBUM version on Friday 28 February, coinciding with the final episode of the Podcast. After that, I expect Mr Big from Big Radio to come round and offer me a job!

    posted 7/2/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Trip To The GP
    As part of moving to a completely new place (with a completely new postcode - always a good way to find out which companies update their postcode tables on their websites... er... apparently) I signed up to a brand new GP practice. I thought this would mean getting super swift attention but, as I found out when I went to sign up, they keep you waiting for appointments for at least 15 minutes even if there are NO OTHER PATIENTS in the building. I guess they have to maintain the same standards as pharmacists?

    They weren't particularly organised either, so I wasn't surprised yesterday when two people rang me twice each to ask me to come in for an Over 40s Check-Up. Well, I was quite surprised they'd ask ME, as I'm only Thirty Thirteen, but I like to show willing, and booked an appointment... eventually, once they worked out how to use the booking system.

    When I arrived they gave me a form to fill in, so they could "improve their service". It seemed a bit odd to ask me to do this BEFORE I'd experienced any of the said services, so I made some notes about them being a bit disorganised, and also pointing out that the form was not anonymous. They stood there while I filled it in, so I carefully FOLDED it to hand it over. Thinking about it now though, maybe they gave it to me beforehand for a REASON?

    For LO! things went downhill from there. I sat in the DESERTED waiting area and waited the allotted 15 minutes after my appointment, even though there was nobody else there. Just as I was about to go in the receptionist came over with a sample TUBE and asked for a Urine Sample. I was prepared for this - last time I went they'd done exactly the same thing, so I'd not Gone Before I Went this time. CUNNING!

    I emerged from the loo to find the GP and receptionist in conversation. We went into the surgery and I handed over my sample. "Oh, we don't do urine samples anymore" she said. This was somewhat surprising - there was a box containing about 100 other samples right next to her, and I had JUST been asked to do it. I can only assume the policy changed while I was in the toilet? Maybe that's what they'd been enacting while I was waiting?

    Still, I was there now, so it was time to do the health check. "I'm just going to ask you some questions", she said. This sounded familiar, so I merrily said "Ah! Are these the same questions they asked when I signed up, a couple of weeks ago?" She looked alarmed, checked the system, and then looked more surprised. "Yes. You did all the tests a couple of weeks ago, and they were fine. Oh. I don't know why they asked you in then. Sorry."

    So I came home again. At least living nearby meant it was less than five minutes to get back again! The moral of the story would appear to be that GP Surgeries, like CHEESE and WINE, need a few months before you should try them!

    posted 6/2/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Normal Day
    Since moving into our new flat The Pictures In My Sunday Supplement and I have been behaving unusually NORMALLY, like a Normal Couple or something, and this reached its APEX when we Had Some People Round For Nibbles on Sunday afternoon.

    Okay it was The Hewitts and we did some ROCK ADMIN while they were round, but STILL: we even went to the PUB afterwards for a NATTER. I expect to have an IKEA LOYALTY CARD and a LABRADOR before the year is out.

    The rock admin section of the afternoon was to get some photographs taken for the forthcoming YOUTUBE version of our Total Hero Team Podcast. Long ago I thought about doing a proper FILM-style version of the show, but realised this would be ENORMOUSLY hard work, and so concentrated on doing an audio only podcast. However, when it came time to release it I did wonder about maybe putting it on YouTube too, so The Likes In My Comment Section suggested we could take PHOTOGRAPHS to accompany the sounds. We discussed various ways of doing this, and on Sunday finally decided that Steve and I would strike POSES representing each major "beat" of the story, which I'd then string together to make a kind of Fumetti video.

    We had a bit of a job working out where to take the pictures, until Meg suggested standing in front of our big windows with the curtains drawn, which turned out GRATE as it looked like we were in a THEATRE, like Morecambe & Wise or something (NB in all comparisons of this kind, i am totally Eric, all right?). With this settled we had a fun half hour of me and Steve throwing SHAPES while The Shutter On My Lens clicked away. "You and Steve are good at posing", she said, and I tried to look SURPRISED. Here we are, POSING:

    NATURALISM at it's best!

    With that done we went to the PUB leaving me in no state to do any EDITING when I got back (we watched the film "Once" instead - it was all right, but crikey, BORING songs). I've still got half the audio episodes to get edited, but once i've done THAT I'll get going on this next bit. The PLAN is to release the six episodes on VIDEO when the final audio one comes out, and ALSO to unleash a BANDCAMP ALBUM version with the links taken out. It's going to be a PROMOTIONAL EXTRAVAGANZA!

    posted 4/2/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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    Oh What A Lovely Show
    Myself and The Cast In My Play were off to the THEATRE again this weekend, because we are dead sophisticated like that, also because we got some FREE TICKETS. As I may (perhaps?) have mentioned we've recently moved to THE OLYMPIC PARK, and a couple of weeks ago the company that runs it all emailed to ask if anybody would be able to do an interview about their experiences so far.

    I am normally shy and retiring, obvs, but do like to help out where I can, so did the interview (which, coincidentally, has just gone online this morning) and thought no more of it. Imagine my DELIGHT then to get another email a week or so later offering us some FREE TICKETS to the premiere of Oh What A Lovely War at Stratford East, just round the corner. We said "Yes please!"

    This is a revival of the original production, which was done there in 1963 - I mostly know this because we went to a GRATE talk a couple of years ago given by Murray Melvin. They also did a version of it when I was at school which, I was ALARMED to realise, was longer ago now than the time between our school's version and the original. SCARY.

    So we arrived at the theatre to find it RAMMED with people. I thought it was going to be a bit GLITZY and had not only worn my Good Jacket but also my Best Shoes, and was, to be honest, a bit disappointed to find out it totally wasn't. I mean, I know it is a Good Thing when THE THEATRE is seen as a normal thing for normal people and I too have watched shows wearing trainers, but come on guys, is ONE dickie bow somewhere too much to ask for?

    At least SOME people were being CLASSY i.e. us, because we not only had WINE before it started, but ordered interval drinks too! GET US! Actually this was a bit scary as I've never done it before, and got a bit worried about how I'd find them when it came time, but in the end I asked a Nice Man who pointed at them. PHEW.

    Anyway, the show itself was pretty good, especially in the second half when it was Properly Moving. All the way through I kept thinking "WOW! this must have been INCREDIBLE in 1963!" because it's so packed with innovations and exciting new (in 1963) ways of doing things. Now all its innovations are used in commercial theatre e.g. "Jersey Boys" also used a bare stage, simple props, signage etc etc, but back then it must have been MIND BLOWING. However, this was also a bit of a problem, as it was such a faithful revival of the original (barring a Michael Gove joke near the start) that it struggled sometimes to be an actual thing in its own right. It all felt a bit distanced, and the parts where they interacted with the audience felt slightly unreal, as it they were recreating the original interactions, rather than drawing us into the experience.

    Apart from that it was really well done, and a GRATE way to spend a Saturday night out. Two theatre visits in a row for us and I must say I'm rather enjoying it. I'd go again, and this time not worry so much about shoes!

    posted 3/2/2014 by MJ Hibbett
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