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Blog Archive: May 2015

An Article About Articles
A couple of days ago I was trying to think of something to write a fanzine article about and thought "Didn't I have exactly this problem around this time last year? What did I write then?"

And LO! I looked through my files and found that last year I'd written an article about a songwriting course and ALSO the year before that I'd done one about the differences between ROCK and comedy. I hadn't put either of them up on the articles section of the website, so I did that, and now you can read them if you like!

Having said all that I STILL haven't got an idea about what to write this time, so any THORTS would be much appreciated*!

(* except rude ones)

posted 28/5/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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Macca Attack!
On Sunday night we went to see Sir Paul McCartney at the O2. If you haven't got time to read the rest of this blog here's an Executive Summary: IT WAS AMAZING.

Originally I hadn't been that bothered about going. He announced the Saturday night gig first and I thought "Well, I'm doing a gig in Nottingham that night so I can't go anyway." When the Sunday was announced it took The Hits In My Setlist saying "It's Paul McCartney! How can we NOT go?" to make me realise that, as she said, it's Paul McCartney! How could we NOT go?

If it had been at a different venue I still might not have bothered, but the O2 is my FAVOURITE big venue. All right, it's the ONLY big venue I would really ever go in - having been before I know a) it's mega easy to get to from my house b) the sound is dead good c) the seats are comfy and d) you can actually SEE, four things which most big venues entirely fail to supply. Also we got seats on the AISLE which meant I would be entirely free to do the two things that big gigs usual make difficult i.e. getting to the LOO and back and even more vitally getting to the BAR.

When the day of the gig came around I found myself NERVOUS and EXCITED. Excited because, obviously, this is one of my all time heroes and also IT'S PAUL MCCARTNEY, and nervous because I hoped it wouldn't be slightly disappointing and a bit dull. I'd been saying to people the day before that the trouble with Paul McCartney gigs (from the 3 I've been to and the many I've watched/listened to) is that he plays it really safe. He's got a MASSIVE back catalogue full of all kinds of stuff, but he seems to only want to play the mega mega MEGA hits that EVERYONE knows, rather than just the super colossal hits that only a few hundred million love. I mean, I like "Hey Jude" but did I really want to see him do it again?

He came on and did "Eight Days A Week" first, which was pretty amazing as I've never seen or even heard of him doing that at a gig before. However, the sound was a bit muddy, people around us were jiggling seats, and it felt like being at a gig in a car park. Apparently there were three hours of this, was it going to be OK?

It took about ten minutes for my doubts and worries to evaporate. I went to the bar with EASE to get another beer, and then realised that this WASN'T Totally Acoustic where I have my own table and everything set up JUST to please me, and should therefore enjoy the experience for what it was: a massive communal outpouring of happiness. People all around us were going DELIRIOUS with DELIGHT and pretty soon so was I, right about the time that he did "Got To Get You Into My Life" and it sounded INCREDIBLE! Next he did "Listen To What The Man Said", an international hit of NUCLEAR PROPORTION but, as far as he goes, almost obscure and then - ZANG! - "Temporary Secretary"! Temporary Secretary! And it sounded FANTASTIC!

So that was pretty much it for me, everything thereafter was STUNNING. The next hour or so was an inspired selection of Not Just The Massive Hits, with stuff like "I'm Looking Through You", "1985", "Being For The Benefit Of My Kite" and - BEST OF ALL - "Ram On"! He did "Ram On", i couldn't believe it!

He also, of course, did the stuff I'd expected, like utterly bloody wonderful versions of "Here Today" (which sounded x 10,000,000 better than the already ACE original due to AGE) and "Something". When he did "Let It Be" i looked around the arena to see hundreds of people waving their phones around like super modern lighters and, not for the first time, was PROFOUNDLY MOVED. I kept thinking "This is Actual Paul McCartney! He changed the WORLD!"

The main set ended with "Hey Jude" and I must admit that, rather than being bored of hearing it again, I had A Bit Of An Old Cry. It's talked about of as one of the greatest songs ever because it IS, especially when you're singing it with thousands of other people, all celebrating being human beings together. Also, NOT WANTING TO BE SOPPY, but the bit about "you have found her now go and get her" did cause me to cast SOPPY GLANCES to The Words In My Song next to me. WHAT?

As I say, I was PROFOUNDLY MOVED. I thought I'd be maybe jaded, maybe bored with a three hour set, but it was honestly one of the best gig experiences I've ever had. On top of all the songs, and a huge part of how much fun it was, was the fact that Macca himself was in TOP FORM between songs. On past occasions he's been a bit stagey and showbiz, but this time he was telling stories and Actually Funny Jokes and, with the O2 being such a great venue, it felt like we were all right up close to him.

The two encores were a summary of the gig itself - obscure-ish/odd/amazing choices like "Hi-Hi-Hi" and "Another Girl" then finishing off with "Yesterday" and the closing medley from Abbey Road. I mean, crikey, you can't argue with that can you?

So yes, in summary: I enjoyed that and was quite glad I went! HOORAH!

posted 27/5/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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Hey Hey Nottingham
On Saturday Mr S Hewitt and I met at Kings Cross Station to travel to distant Nottingham, where we were due to do a preview of Hey Hey 16K. We were both feeling a bit "tired" so agreed to spend the first leg of our journey in quiet contemplation and then do our LINEZ practice when we got to Grantham - it being a bank holiday weekend the rail networks had, of course, decided to muck about with all the trains so we couldn't go on our usual direct route.

When we got to Grantham we were distracted by the sight of many many families trying to get themselves and their copious luggages onto a small train heading to Skegness. It was half term so they were all heading off on their holidays, and CRIKEY I felt like I needed one after watching the struggle. Steve had to be restrained from going BERZERK and screaming "JUST get ON the TRAIN!!!" as they dashed up and down the platform trying to find a completely clear vestibule. It looked like some of them didn't manage to get on, which was odd because when the train pulled out of the station the last carriage was half empty!

Anyway, we got on our train, arrived in Nottingham, strode through town and found the gates next to the alley leading to The Chameleon LOCKED, with a "Planning Application" sign attached to them. Were we at the right place? Was this even the right day?!? Luckily PANIC was abated by the arrival of Mr Joey Chickenskin, who was also playing, so at least if we were wrong we were all wrong together. We popped to the pub next door for a swift half, during which our promoter Mr A Hale texted to say he'd arrived and the venue had been opened. PHEW!

We got in, got set up, sat around for a bit, and then welcomed Mr Peter Knight and Mrs Marina Knight. Pete used to be a regular at Totally Acoustic amongst MANY other things but I'd not seen him for YEARS, so was delighted to be doing so again!

Joey got up and did his set of MEATYARD songs which I enjoyed even more after learning the true story of their history, then professional Alexander Hale lookalike Alan Poirot did an excellent set culminating in a new NON-SHAKIRA cover which I heartily endorse (NB: Spice Girls!). At this point the Machine family arrived, also Sarah and Geoff, and we were set for SHOWTIME!

Well, we were NEARLY set for showtime - Steve and I realised that we'd not actually worked out a new way to do History's Re-written to make it more SPRIGHTLY, so we had a quick go and THEN it was showtime!

It all seemed to go pretty well - there were SEVERAL moments when we forgot what we were meant to be doing but I think that adds to the CHARM, and people appeared to follow what was happening, also LARF!

Afterwards there was hugging and thank yous and then a small group of us went round the corner to the Ned Ludd and some PINTS before Steve and I had to wend our way back to the station for our first train, back towards Grantham. Things didn't look too good when we arrived as the platform had a liberal sprinkling of VERY DRUNK PEOPLE. The ancient legend that Nottingham has 7 times as many women as men (which, apparently, WAS true-ish back in the days of the Lace industry) attracts a lot of Stag parties, many of whom had clearly started VERY EARLY. The train was full of beer and sick and sat on the station for what felt like AGES. An announcement came over saying we were delayed because another train had had to call THE POLICE due to people being drunk, so we set off about 12 minutes late... which meant that we, and about 200 other people, were going to MISS our connection to London! ARGH!

When we all piled out at Grantham the driver was very annoyed by the fact that a couple of people were politely asking him what they should do. "It's a different train company," he snarled, "I've no way of knowing." Now, I'm pretty sure that he could have GUESSED that a lot of people would be having this problem, and that he could have rung Network Rail to ask them, and they could probably have held the connecting train by approx 4 minutes to make sure we all MADE this connection, but as SO OFTEN happens with trains he seemed to have not thought of it. MORE annoyance came as we all trudged over to the other side of the station where more staff looked perplexed and harassed to find that, on a bank holiday weekend when hundreds of people would be coming through their station due to planned engineering works, there were hundreds of people coming through their station. They seemed ANGRY that we were doing so and then having the cheek to ask them questions about a situation that they would have had full knowledge of for at least half an hour.

As you can probably tell I found the whole experience a) EXTREMELY ANNOYING and b) a reminder of how train travel used to be when I first started gigging around the country. To complete the experience a tannoy announced that although we had arrived late from Nottingham (i.e. it was our fault for being tardy) and so had missed our reserved seats, they would allow us onto the next train, coming through in 40 minutes. SO KIND!

The next train was a lovely, massive, mostly EMPTY Hull Trains train so we had an entirely pleasant journey back home again and said our goodbyes at Kings Cross in the full knowledge that we'd be back a week later for our next gig, in historic YORK. The preview tour had very much BEGUN!

posted 26/5/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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Overdubs In Derby
I was back in leafy DERBY on Thursday, recording my second batch of guitar and vocals for the new Validators album.

I arrived at Snug just after noon to find Mr R Collins ready and waiting to ROCK. We kicked off with the guitar overdubs, breezing through Can We Be Friends? (which is rapidly becoming my new favourite) before reaching a Very Precedented Difficulty on History's Re-Written i.e. the fact that our guitar player can't play barre chords. Who is this fool oh yes it is me. The start of the song has STRUMS but, due to my low level competence, I was having to LEAP from one to the next rather than gently sliding along the fretboard, so we had to record it in two sections - firstly doing the first and third chords in the sequence, then the second and fourth as a seperate track. Thank heavens for TECHNOLOGY!

We had another competency issue with In The North Stand, although this time it wasn't just down to me! The song starts with Just Guitar, which I'd played (correctly!) along to a click track. However, when the band all come in after the first verse we do so at a SLIGHTLY different speed, due to the fact that We Fear Click Tracks. "It does Ebb and Flow" said Rich, tactfully. He CUNNINGLY re-timed the click to match the ACTUAL speed we did it at, so that when I then re-did the guitar it all sounded CORRECT. Hoorah!

Even MORE issues arose with The Future Is Amazing, tho again not wholly down to me. The guitar was BUZZING slightly when I played a D, and after checking for User Error Rich suggested we put a capo on the guitar and play the chords higher up to avoid this happening. Nothing could be simpler for someone who's spent a small portion of his 20 years in bands actually learning to play properly, but for ME this involved 15 minutes of MY BRANE DISSSOLVING as I tried to transpose a song I don't actually know very well to start with!

We had one song left to do after all that, and this was the one I'd been saving until last because I thought it might be difficult!! The ever polite Mr Collins described Get Over It as "a bit chaotic", others might more accurately label it "a right old racket", but astonishingly, once we got going, I found it PEASY. It has vast weird gaps and sounds like a pack of wolves drunkenly attacking the bin outside a music shop, but as I played along I realised that, possibly for the first time ever, we had recorded a band song in EXACTLY the style I usually play my solo stuff! In the verses I merrily BASHED AWAY at the guitar as if it had wronged me, while the chorus had this weird KIND OF off beat, KIND OF wrong beat, KIND OF stupid way of playing that I use when I get bored of my usual LOUD playing.

I found it a joy to play, and so when we moved to vocals I did that one first. Again: PEASY. It has HUGE entirely differently lengthed GAPS throughout, but once Rich put the guide vocals in I found I could sing along with my own timings easily. It's almost as if there is some method in my idiocy! In fact, all the vocals were fun to do, due in no small part to the TACTFUL working methods of Mr Collins. He has a GRATE system where I sing along to a bit of the track to get the levels/remember how it goes, then do one complete take of the whole song. Then I do ANOTHER complete take, straight away, and wander back into the control room where he goes through it line by line, picking the best version of each. Finally, where there's no "best" ("listenable") version of certain bits I go back in and re-do them until they're OK. It's a lovely way to do it because I know I can always have another go, but also get to enjoy singing the whole song a couple of times and get properly into it.

The only song I didn't have time to do in this way was In The North Stand, although I did do another GUIDE to go with the new intro. That's all right though - as well as Emma doing her backing vocals we've easily got a day's worth of bits and bobs to do (e.g. a couple more violin tracks, a bit more guitar, hopefully TRUMPET) so we can do my last bit of singing then.

I left the building EXTREMELY happy with my work, and trooped across town to meet Mr FA Machine in The Alexandra Hotel for a Cheeky Pint. "Ooh, I've always dreamed of popping in here on my way home from work, but it seemed a bit sad to come in on your own," he said. I was glad that - YET AGAIN - i was making his dreams come true, but did suggest he keep his voice down as the room was FULL of people who had very much come in on their own!

It was a delightful end to a marvellous day, and hopefully the start of a Summer Of Occasional Validation. We've got this (pretty GRATE) sounding album to finish off, and in three weeks we're together again in Congelton for Going Up The Country! I can't wait!

posted 22/5/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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Back To Work
Hello all, I'm back from my HOLS! Why yes, thank you, we DID have a lovely time - we stayed in the same apartment in the same complex in the same town that we have for over a DECADE and, having already been on all the trips and looked at all the history, did pretty much NOWT for the entire week. It was LOVELY.

We got back on Saturday evening but on Sunday afternoon it was straight back to work for me as I was playing host to a recording session with Mr S Hewitt. While I was away Mr J "John The Publisher" Esplen had emailed me with a BRIEF. This is one of those occasional emails he sends me where an advertising agency is looking for a song and have a vague idea what they want. What generally happens is that I have a go and get absolutely nowhere with it, but have FUN doing so, and this looked like no exception. They wanted a duet between two blokes but did NOT want it to be "polished or professional". My speciality!

It wasn't until we were on the way home on Saturday that I showed said brief to The Days Of My Holiday. I wasn't sure what the song was, so when she said "Isn't that the theme tune to The Golden Girls?" I was DELIGHTED - not only do i KNOW that song, I also know most of the words ALREADY!

On Sunday I diligently printed out the words and practiced the song for almost a whole TEN MINUTES (hey, they said they DIDN'T want it too professional sounding) before Steve turned up, and we then spend a very happy half hour BELLOWING it between us until we got a version that we were happy with i.e. got to the end without going TOO horribly wrong. We then overdubbed some ukelele, kazoo, hand-claps and RHYTHM (me whacking the back of a box file and Steve clanking a beer bottle), did a quick mix, emailed it to John and LO! we were all done and off to the pub to celebrate.

As usual I thought "HA! There is NO WAY that they won't use THAT!" a sure sign that they'll end up using something entirely different, but HEY! it was a heckload of fun and an extremely good welcome back to WORK!

posted 18/5/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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Leaving The Country
Well, last night was a rum old do wasn't it?

It all started so well too - the upstairs room of The King & Queen was RAMMED with people, even including some who weren't in either of the bands! Me and Steve did a short, thoroughly enjoyable (to us at least) set, and then Simon Love and A Little Orchestra sounded AMAZING. After the break Keith Top Of The Pops and co were brilliant as EVER, and we all strolled downstairs to continue the jollity and get ready for a fun night of election results as we wended our way to (hopefully) a Labour government of some kind.

As I say, it was all going so well... until 10pm when the Exit Poll came onscreen and everybody's jaws DROPPED. "It can't be true!" I said, and kept saying it until approx 1:30pm when it became clear that things were turning out even WORSE. Bollocks!

Still, in the cold light of day I reassured myself that techically Cameron now has a SMALLER majority and will be at the mercy of his right wing loonie backbenchers. Back in 2010 when everybody else said the coalition would only last 3 months I had a feeling that it'd last the full 5 years (the 5 Year Parliament Act is the ONLY bit of constitutional reform the Lib Dems got in, and they LOVE constitutional reform). This time I have a feeling that it'll all be too much for the LOONIES and that the Tory party will destroy itself over the European referendum (Tory Loonies LOVE destroying their own party over Europe) and it'll all be over by 2018. Well, you've got to have hope haven't you?

I was feeling fairly pleased with this thought as I sat down this morning, ready to start editing the podcast of last night... only to discover that my four-track had gone wrong and recorded NOTHING. ARRRGGGHH!!!

So that's it - I'm leaving the country.

(for a week - we're off on holidays, please try and have a revolution while I'm away!)

posted 8/5/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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Election Day
You find me this morning all EXCITED, for LO! it is ELECTION DAY and i have just been and done VOTING!

This election campaign has a) been b) FELT incredibly long and by the past couple of weeks even I - someone who TAPES programmes about constitutional matters and SQUEALED "Hooray! It's Gus O'Donnell talking about the Cabinet Manual!" the other night and MEANT it - was getting fed up with the whole business. As my close associate Mr P Myland has remarked (in regards to The Football, but still), "it's the hope that gets me". Every time I see an opinion poll saying Tories and Labour are on the same percentage, every time I read an article about how Mr D Cameron can't possibly put a coalition together, I get a little leap of JOY at the idea of getting rid of this shower of hideous shitehawks. And every time that happens a little voice in my head whispers "remember 1992?" and I get SAD.

However, as soon as we set off for Chobham Academy, our local polling station, this morning, I was EXCITED. I love voting, it's the democractic equivalent of going to buy STATIONERY i.e. dead sensible but also THRILLING (NB yes I am one of those people who think Mr E Milliband is a bit of a racy risk taker). Every other time I've voted I've wondered in, gone straight to the table, got my ballot slip, and been out in minutes, but this time there was a QUEUE. A very BIG queue too, of about 50 people, nearly all of whom were looking at their phones and doubtless tweeting "I am in a QUEUE to vote!" This made it all even MORE exciting, like being in a newly democratised country or something (CHANCE would be a fine thing, AMIRITE everybody?). I was hoping to be dipping my finger in red ink at the end!

As we shuffled along I looked around at my fellow citizens and swelled up with PRIDE. There's been so much cynicism and pretending not to care, but here we all were, British people of all shapes, shades and sizes, politely waiting to do our CIVIC DUTY. I live in an EXTREMELY safe Labour seat and for the past few weeks have been a bit depressed about the fact that my vote (like most people's votes) doesn't really make a difference at all, but once in the building I knew that, although voting reform surely MUST come this time around, that isn't the whole story. As we waited with our neighbours we knew that all around the country other people were doing exactly the same thing, patiently queuing to be PART of something bigger than all of us.

By the time we got into the last bit of queue I was genuinely GIDDY with it all, so when The Names On My Paper said "What would happen if you shouted 'Let's kick the Tories out!'? Do you think they'd still let you vote?" the temptation was GRATE. I almost GIGGLED when I got my paper and then, as usual, I went straight to PANIC when I got to the actual booth. EVERY time I have ever voted I am always CONVINCED that I will somehow accidentally put my cross in the wrong place and end up voting BNP or something (whatever happened to THOSE guys eh?) so do it VERY VERY carefully. And then check it again. And then check it AGANE just before I put my paper in the big box.

Into the big box it went though and that was that done. In a funny sort of way it now feels like CHRISTMAS. We've had the weeks and weeks of build up and now it's finally happening so we can sit back and enjoy the day. I'm already thinking of the chums who I know will be staying up, who I can BUG via email as the night progresses, and thinking of the Essential Supplies I'll need to see me through. I do have a GIG tonight (it's Totally Acoustic at the King & Queen, with Keith Top Of The Pops and Simon Love - come! it'll be GRATE, also finished by 10pm!) so chances are I might be a bit piddly and SNOOZE for some of it, but I'm ready for the long haul. Let's just hope it's more 1997 than 1992!

Happy Election Day one and all, and fingers crossed for a Merry New Government!

posted 7/5/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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Into The Woods
I was back on Hampstead Heath with Mr J Dredge this bank holiday Monday, commencing filming on our EXCITING new WEB SERIES!

This one will be using all the facets of modern televisual film making, as not only will it feature 5 (five) episodes with each one taking place in TWO (2) locations but it will also feature my first use of panning AND close up microphones! How's THAT for pushing the boundaries? It's like two years of film school all wrapped up in one afternoon!

Our job this time was to do the outside sections, which meant quite a while filming in the WOODS of Hampstead. Here's a thrilling behind the scenes shot which I feel captures some of the excitement on set:

PHEW! Hope you were sitting down for that one!!

Once all that was done we headed out onto the dangerous streets of downtown Hampstead itself to do one final shot. This took ages as ruddy people kept PARKING where we were trying to film or driving past or talking or just GETTING IN THE WAY. Honestly, what were they thinking of? Didn't they have better things to do on a sunny bank holiday weekend than go to the park?!?

Eventually we gave up on our first choice of location and went round the corner to a quieter spot where we managed to film our last shot without getting run over, though it was fairly close at times.

Job done I headed home and had a check at what we'd done. The film looked GRATE and the sound seemed to have worked as well, which was a HUGE relief! Next job will be to get the inside scenes shot, then we start on the epic journey of EDITS. It's a long way to go - we're looking at JULY before it's released - but this was at least a good start!

posted 5/5/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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