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Blog Archive: March 2016Down To Margate
I've lived in East London for just over 13 years but have never been down to Margate on a bank holiday... until now! For LO! on Good Friday myself and The Obtuse Reference In My Rhyming Slang got the High Speed Spanish (Spanish Main, Train) down to the aforesaid Margate in order to sample its DELIGHTS.
And the DELIGHTS were many, much to my surprise as I thought it would be more like other seaside towns in the area that I have been to also i.e. Not Salubrious. Maybe it was because it was such a LOVELY day but I thought Margate was NICE - there were big golden beaches, happy faces, lots of little cafes and a general VIBE that made it feel like we were all on the front cover of a Beano Summer Special.
Frankly it wasn't at ALL like the Thanet that you hear about on the telly, although whilst sitting in a CAFE having some rather exciting SUN RIPENED VINE TOMATOES on ARTISANAL TOAST (it is very much East London on sea!) we did see three big fat racists stomp by wearing England flags carrying some HORRIBLE placards. It made me Quite Annoyed, so I looked at them. STERNLY.
After that though it was all delightful all the way. After a quick visit to the Turner Contemporary (best bit: big windows) we set off on The Turner And Dickens Walk from Margate to Broadstairs, which turned out to be EXACTLY the sort of walk I like i.e. well documented on a MAP, reasonably well sign-posted, and not too long! We strolled across farmland (farm news: fields full of cabbages REALLY smell of cabbages), through The Longest Churchyard In Britain, past a restored windmill, and were just thinking "Wouldn't it be nice if we could find a pub?" when we stumbled across The Four Candles, apparently the smallest brewpub in Britain. I don't know if that's true or not but I DO know that it is one of the NICEST. Ooh it were lovely, we had a couple of DELICIOUS halves and sat outside in the GLORIOUS sunshine (as forecast by Tomasz Schafernaker on the telly and used by The Degrees In My Temperature to select the day of our trip). It was like SUMMER!
Eventually we had to tear ourselves away and stagger into Broadstairs Actual, which was noticeably POSHER than Margate with actual proper seaside-y bits that reminded me of Whitby and/or Cornwall. We had a mini-picnic on the front, watching an old chap stood on a band-stand singing to a backing track for a SIZEABLE crowd, and then wandered off along the cliff tops, where we ended up chatting to a MARVELLOUS lady who VERY proudly told us she was 83, walked this route every day, had worked at Hammersmith Hospital, had had two husbands and MUCH MUCH MORE, including slightly fuller than I would have liked details about losing her second husband. She was a) talkative b) GRATE!
We ended our trip with a look round the harbour before heading back to the High Speed Gene Kelly Singing In The, which took us back to the old East End, where we agreed that our Bank Holiday outing had been a SUCCESS. It was a GRATE start to a very long weekend!
posted 31/3/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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Tiger VS Frankie - The Dawn Of Validation
Last night Mr T "The Tiger" McClure and Mr FA Machine were in Snug Studios, working with Mr R Newman on the final MASTERING of our forthcoming album, "Still Valid". I say "final" but I was pretty sure before they went in that it wouldn't actually BE the final session - it never turns out that way and, indeed, it didn't this time either!
I didn't feel the need to travel all the way to Derby for this session for several vital and important reasons i.e. 1) it's a long way 2) I knew it wouldn't be particularly exciting and most vital and important at all 3) I trusted the pair of them to get it done. One of the many delightful things about being in a band like The Validators for SO LONG is that it's a bit like MISSION IMPOSSIBLE in that whenever I email the band it EXPLODES 60 seconds later. No, hang on, that's not what I meant - what I meant was that we have a MENU of EXPERTISE in all sorts of different areas from which we can pick the best combination of people for the task at hand. For example, if we need two people to go in and tit around with keyboards, percussion items and Making Silly Noises then OF COURSE I would be up there like a rocket and expecting Mr T Pattison to come too. If, however, I want people who will listen intently to what we've already done, check it's all roughly in tune, sounds PROPER, and WORKS then I would call up the aforementioned McClure and Machine.
Having said all that, it did feel strange to be sat at home watching telly, well knowing that an album we'd spent YEARS making was being finally put together approx 113 miles away. On other occasions I have PESTERED Tom (who is almost invariably there for this bit) to find out what's going on, but this time I thought I'd best leave them to it. As well as doing some final mix adjustments and MASTERING they also had a big list of other jobs to do, including intro and outro THINGS, "radio" edits (taking out swears), checking the unused tracks and getting STEMS, so probably would not benefit from me sticking my nose in. THUS the first I knew of a successful completion was a TWEET from Frankie saying it was "DONE" and then the appearance of FILES in my Dropbox.
Next morning there were emails from both of my colleagues, Frankie bemoaning the lack of THRILLZ (they had clearly worked hard!) and Tom saying that he'd had a listen on the way home and noticed some minor TWEAKS that were still needed. We agreed long ago in our ROCK CAREER that we would always take the time, if it was available, to go back and FIX things like this - if you say "Oh it'll be FINE!" and LEAVE it then you end up spending the next 20 years thinking "I wish we'd fixed that" - and so, as suspected, there'll be another (hopefully shorter) session before it's all REALLY finished.
But then it WILL be finished! At last! I'm also very close to finishing off the album artwork too, which means that in the next couple of weeks I'll be emailing Key Production (who did our last album - or more specifically did our last album when the first two attempts with other manufacturers went wrong) to ask for a QUOTE and then it will be time to start ORDERING! The current plan is to officially release it end of June/start of July, with various gigs, videos, and hopefully some PRESS, but all being well I'll have some copies for sale at GIGS as soon as its ready. I must say I'm rather looking forward to people finally HEARING it, partly because we've all worked so hard to get it done but mostly because it's GRATE!
posted 23/3/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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Come And See A Showcase
Over recent months I've been going on about some of my SHORT PLAYS what I have written and have been performed in places various. I'm sure many people have thought "This is all well and good, but when is he going to put several of them on at the same time, possibly with pieces by other people, at a cost of less than a tenner?"
Good news! Your THORTS have been answered, for LO! THREE of my short plays (Marjorie Meets Gareth, Gareth Meets Marjorie , Architecture & Mortality and The Invention Of Sex) are going to be performed as part of the Lost City Writers Showcase at City University on April 14th and tickets are available right now for just seven quid! Who says I ain't good to you?
This is something we've been working on for MONTHS. The idea was first suggested by the City University Alumni Office after Ms Emma Morgan and I had a readthrough at The Poor School. They wondered if our group ("Lost City Writers" i.e. various CHUMS who did the MA in Creative Writing together) would be interested in doing a readthrough at the college. "We'll pay for NIBBLES" they said and we said "You had me at 'We'll pay for NIBBLES'!"
It's taken a while to get everything sorted out but now, at last, it's about to happen. The night will be in two halves of about 40 minutes each, with PIECES by myself, Emma, and Ms N Racklin. It's a really good mix of STUFF and it would be LOVELY if we could get some people down, so why not pop along if you're about? It's only seven quid and, if you don't like it, you can always try to get your money back in NIBBLES!
posted 17/3/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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First of all, apologies for the long delay in writing this blog. I'm sure fans of Totally Acoustic the length and breadth of the country - NAY the WORLD - have been desperate to find out what happened at the show a couple of weeks ago, but I'm afraid this REPORT was delayed by me going on holiday the next day... and then, when I got back, thinking "I might as well wait until I've done the podcast before I blog about it."
Well, the wait is OVER for LO! I have done the podcast and you can hear it RIGHT HERE! You may well notice, in your listening, that the starting theme tune is missing rather the usual LEAD BARITONE during the OOH in the theme tune. This is because Mr S Hewitt was not in attendance. If this sounds scarcely believable then a) I feel your pain b) I took a photograph of him not being there to prove it.
Has there ever BEEN a sadder chair? I think not. Anyway, somehow I struggled on SANS Steve and did my set THUS:
This was my first ever LIVE performance of Hills And Hollows and I did it as a POEM because a) that was how it was originally written b) we had POETRY later in the night so it seemed fitting to do it that way and c) I had no idea what the chords were on the recorded version, as it was done as a JAM. It seemed to work OK, I might do it like that again!
After me we had Mr Royston Vince and a HOST of guests doing a LOVELY set full of covers, also HARMONIES. The band that gradually accrued around him featured a young man doing that thing where he plays drums by sitting on a BOX and slapping it. It always sounds dead good, and makes me wonder why drummers make such a fuss about having gigantic KITS. Guys! Just get a box!
Next up was Ms Molly Naylor who, after worrying about whether to use a STOOL or not (the King & Queen now has a BAR set up where the performance area is, and there had been bar stools set up before it), did a WONDERFUL set that made me feel bad/stupid for saying "Poems is easy" earlier on. I really like the fact that we have loads of POETRY at Totally Acoustic these days, it's always GRATE and she was no exception.
We finished with the ever-marvellous Mr Martin Austwick who had also bought a BAND with him who sounded FAB. Indeed, I feel they may have got TOO used to sounding as good as they did, as they tried to engage the audience in some participation involving MASSIVELY lengthy and complex harmonies. Chaps! We are an audience! We will go "WHOO-OOH!" and possible singalong with the chorus, but we shall leave the fancy stuff to YOU. Although, actually, thank you for thinking we might have been up to it.
It was, as ever, a lovely evening which somehow ended up with me getting DRUNK and staggering out at 10:30pm suddenly aware that I had a plane to catch first thing the next morning. As stated previously, that all worked out very well indeed, but I think for the NEXT show I'll try and stay in the country for a couple of days afterwards!
posted 16/3/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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The Trains On My Platform and I headed SLIGHTLY NORTH on Saturday night, to BEDFORD, where my play Captain Wonderful was being performed at The Place Theatre as part of the StageWrite Festival.
Getting there seemed PEASY as we were going from The Olympics to St Pancras on the javelin train then going directly from there to Bedford. However! There are two entirely different sets of platforms run by different companies which send different trains between the two stations, and we went to the wrong one! We spent a CONFUSED few minutes looking at the train times board and saying "But NONE of these times were on interweb version" before The Times Of My Departures realised what was going on and directed us back upstairs, past a couple of barrier guards who were clearly very familiar with this sort of thing, and onto the correct train. Phew!
We got to Bedford at high speed and then wandered across town, passing a West Indian Social Club on the way. "It's just like Peterborough" I thought as we then saw a Polish Club. "All it needs now is an Italian Social Club" I thought... then turned round and saw it!
We met Bedford resident Mr J Kell in a nearby pub, which was GRATE because a) we hadn't seen him for ages and b) him writing a SCREENPLAY version of Dinosaur Planet a few years ago was one of the things that got me interesting in The Writing Again. After a bit of a chat my PARENTS arrived in their car and we all headed off to The Theatre.
Ooh, it was right nice! If you look on their website you won't see much to indicate what it's actually like in there - it was LOVELY, much like the StageWrite people we met during the course of the evening. As the aforesaid Actors In My Cast would later point out, it's amazing when people spend so much of their free time DOING stuff like this i.e. putting on a whole week of new plays just so that people can come and see them. It was fab!
We shuffled in and watched the first play, "Lions" by David Weir. It was about a man waiting to be presented with an award while the secrets of his past gradually seeped out. It was interesting, ENTHRALLING, funny in places and all round dead good, and was followed by a Q&A session in which the audience asked questions of the author and were themselves asked to respond to questions that the author had submitted with their piece. I must admit I'd forgotten all about this bit. "Do you have to do that?" asked my Mum. "Aren't you nervous?" I have to say I wasn't - partly because I'd had a PINT, partly because I'm not entirely averse to showing off, but mostly because it all felt quite separate from me as MYSELF. It was AGES since I'd entered the competition, I wasn't IN the play, and I hadn't read it since I'd sent it in, so it was as if someone else had written it!
This feeling only increased when we came back to the bar for the second half of the evening - the play itself! It was brilliantly done (all "off book" i.e. read from scripts) by the cast and really well directed and for most of its duration I sat NODDING vigorously. "Yes, that is RIGHT!" I kept thinking. There's a whole bit about the origin of Spider-Man and the fact the Shakespeare has lots of supernatural elements that I nearly hurt my NECK during, such was the level of AGREEMENT. "Whoever wrote this has the right idea about EVERYTHING!" I thought.
On other occasions when I've seen my own stuff performed I've been AFEARED and anxious, but I really enjoyed it this time. It was GRATE! Afterwards I went and sat with the cast and GRINNED HAPPILY about how much fun it had been. Even better, when it was all over, I was presented with one of the two Captain Wonderful t-shirts that feature in the script!
It was an all round EXCELLENT evening spent with delightful CHUMS and FAMILY which ended with an even easier journey home in time for a celebratory DRINK. The Theatre: it's really rather good fun!
posted 15/3/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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Twenty Five Years Of Voon
Today is an auspicious day for LO! it is the TWENTY FIFTH ANNIVERSARY of the first ever Voon gig!
It wasn't my first gig, or my first performance, or even the first thing Voon (me and Neil) ever did, but by GOLLY it was a big deal at the time. It still feels like one now - this was the evening that The Gods Of ROCK said unto me "Oi! Hibbett! This will probably be your thing for the forseeable - get used to it."
To celebrate this SILVER JUBILEE I have done two things. Firstly I have RE-MASTERED our first EP "Yoghurt Flange" and put it up on Soundcloud, HERE:
I've put all four tracks together to a) preserve the original TAPE experience and b) to make it easier to sort out all the FIZZ and HUM that was on it. It sounds surprisingly good I reckon, all things considered, though there was nothing I could do about how POOR my vocals are on "Stop Wasting My Time". Also how rubbish the lyrics are - I still feel bad about them a quarter of a century later.
As ever with all things Voon I am reminded how much BETTER at all this Neil was - my songs all sound a bit FORCED and TRYING, whereas his are EFFORTLESSLY GRATE. This also applies in the SECOND of the two things I have done - a facebook PHOTO GALLERY of the EP's recording sessions. We did these in the loft of Mr C M Lawson on Brazil Street in Leicester and I wrote NOTES on the back of all the photographs - notes which I have painstakingly (and often painfully) typed up for you "enjoyment" right here in the future. I thought I was being dead clever, actually I was being a bit of a twit!
Anyway, I hope you enjoy this celebration of a BYGONE TIME and who knows? I've got a TONNE of other photographs under the bed and BOXES of tapes, I might do some more one day!
posted 11/3/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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What I Learnt On My Holiday
Hello all, sorry for the SILENCE of late but I have been on HOLIDAY to TENERIFE. As well as being an ADVENTURE (we booked last minute rather than our usual six months in advance AND it was to a NEW PLACE!) it was also a Learning Experience. Here are some things what I learnt:
- Hummus totally counts as a LIQUID as far as hand luggage goes, but the nice people at Gatwick security are prepared to let you go off and SCOFF it before going into the Departure Lounge. We didn't, but it was nice to know we had the option.
- Two people fit MUCH more comfortably on a row of three aeroplane seats than three do. Thanks, Mysterious "Emma" Who Missed Her Flight!
- Tenerife is REALLY HILLY. It makes Edinburgh look like Peterborough.
- Shopping for essentials when you know the only bus back to your hotel goes in 10 minutes is DEAD exciting, though you may end up with more SALAD and BEER than you probably need.
- A hotel reception with live entertainment suddenly becomes MAGICAL when most of the other guests (mostly in their mid-60s) get up and start ballroom dancing.
- Having a hotel breakfast every morning is BRILLIANT. Pancakes with strawberry yoghurt? YES PLEASE!
- The package holiday Welcome Meeting is a thing of DELIGHT. Our REP was like someone off a TELLY programme, very much giving the impression that a) she would rather be in Tunisia, where she'd been before here and b) she was the sort of person who would never visit a MacDonalds (but loved Primark).
- Tourist Information in Tenerife is not a very friendly place to be on a Saturday lunchtime. "Can't you just DRIVE?" we were asked when trying to book a bus trip. "All the travel companies are CLOSED!" ("YOU IDIOTS", she didn't say but STRONGLY suggested).
- Tenerife is keen on food labelling and also has at least THREE veggie restaurants. El Limon is Quite Nice for fast food but CRIKEY El Mana was AMAZING! If you happen to be just off the coast of AFRICA I highly recommend it! We also found another place by ACCIDENT near the Botanic Gardens (which were lovely, and made me sing the Language Of Flowers song in my HEAD all the way around) but didn't go in. REVIEWS!
- Tenerife is also DEAD CHEAP, has its own ALE breweries, and also its own LAGER, Dorrado, of which we drank a LOT. It also seems to have NO IDEA about measures of whisky - we asked for a couple of Jack Daniels at the bar in the hotel and were told there was only enough in the bottle for one. When we said it would be fine there turned out to be about a PINT of bourbon in there!
- If your phone BREAKS on the first day of your holiday it is actually QUITE NICE, especially if the main person you use it to ring is right next to you the entire time. Even when you haven't got it in your pocket, however, you still find yourself thinking "Is that my phone ringing?" approx every 10 seconds.
- There don't seem to have been many famous people who come FROM Tenerife, so if one VISITS then they tend to name things after them. They are MAD about an explorer/scientist called Alexander von Humboldt who was there for SIX DAYS, and Agatha Christie had a whole BIT in the Orchid Garden (REVIEW: really nice) because she'd been on holiday there once. I fully expect there to be an MJ Hibbett Bar Stool in our hotel next time we go!
- Cosmos Travel are not very good at giving locations for pick-ups for their bus excursions. On our last full day we spent AGES wandering between three possible points of pick-up (after having to go to a hotel the day before to check because the shop we were supposed to be outside had changed its name) and saw NO BUS. The Times In My Schedule rang them and they insisted it had BEEN, but who knows WHERE? Instead of that we HOPPED on a bus taking the LONG way round to Santa Cruz - VERY adventurous, we hadn't even RESEARCHED it beforehand, let along booked in advance - where we had a most pleasant STROLL around. Santa Cruz felt a bit deserted, has a Tourist Information point approx 10,000,000 times more helpful than in Puerto Cruz (a Nice Young Man drew us our own walking route!) and we found a VERY nice bar for more DORRADO. Dorrado! It's as fun to say as it is to drink!
- You tend to recognise other people on the same holiday package as you, see them around, and give them NAMES. My favourite of these were THE SISTERS, two SPECTACULARLY grumpy women (retired teachers according to me, retired local government administrators according to The Meetings In My Diary) who were ALSO like sitcom characters. They were sat behind us on the bus into town one morning when we saw a Burger King ahead. "Burger King!" said one. "Hmph!" replied the other. "The last three burgers I had were really disappointing." This, I feel, is possibly the MOST AMAZING THING anyone has EVER said! Did she count them? Was the one before much better? Why didn't she stop at two? It was like an Alan Bennett monologue in a single sentence!
- People in Tenerife love dogs and are VERY good at picking up the POO. It was noticeable. They also like to have PUBLIC ART everywhere you look. Perhaps the two are somehow linked?
- Black sand is a bit WEIRD as you expect it to make your feet dirty when you're Dipping Your Toes In. NEWSFLASH: it doesn't!
posted 10/3/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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The Social Media Angle
After bemoaning the demise of REVIEWERS yesterday I'm happy today to bring news of two things that ARE still going.
First of all - RADIO! Last night I went through my lists of DJs and radio shows and was delighted to find that the vast majority of them are STILL AT IT! Approximately 70% of the people I looked up were still broadcasting, still excited, and still happily playing GRATE songs. It was a beautiful way to spend an hour or so being a) delighted to see enthusiasm alive and well and b) reminded of the GOOD TIMES I spent in the past with these excellent people. I VERY much look forward to having more of the same with them in the near future!
The SECOND, possibly slightly less exciting, thing that is still going is The Validators' Twitter Account. I originally set this up about four years ago to protect the NAME "The Validators" from that bunch of twits who were tying to STEAL it (as detailed HERE) but hadn't really done much with the actual account. After all, if people want to know what's going on with The Validators then surely they can follow MY twitter account? That way they get the added bonus of finding out what I've been watching on telly!
Anyway, while I was going through all the radio and website contacts I thought "Hang on, shouldn't I be doing some TWITTER stuff as well?" for I am NOTHING if not up to date with the happening trends of late 2013. I've been told several times that these days you need to LEVERAGE your TWITTER PRESENCE in order to contact media types, and one way to do this is to send them messages. I've always felt a bit embarrassed about doing that sort of thing - my twitter account is MY twitter account, and it always feels a little VULGAR to use it to bother people I don't actually know - but I do accept that it is sometimes necessary. THUS, I reasoned, why not reactivate The Validators account and use THAT for all the Official New Album communications?
With that in mind I logged back on, updated our profile pic, explained what I was doing, and then started FOLLOWING people. I'd forgotten how much fun it was to go through finding people to follow and then getting recommendations for MORE and MORE accounts to follow, it's like drunk shopping on Amazon or collecting TRADING CARDS or being Captain and picking a TEAM at school ("No, YOU can follow the NME"). THE POWER!!!!
It's all set up and looking DEAD professional, so all I need to do now us remember NOT to leave it three years until I tweet from there again. You can follow us if you like to see how it goes, but I'm pretty sure I'll do better this time. Goodness knows there's going to be enough going on, with various VIDEOS and SINGLES and GIGS all planned, and then I can use MY account for making HILARIOUS remarks about things on telly!
posted 2/3/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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The Times They Am A Changed
The only thing wrong with being as PUNK ROCK and INDEPENDENT as what I am is that it isn't half a lot of WORK. For instance, at the moment I'm having to curtail my usual activities (riding harley davids into paddling pools, taking cough syrup etc etc) in order to spend time updating my PRESS LIST ready for when the new Validators album comes out. Other, LESS PUNK, International Rock Stars, would have a MANAGER to task a PR PERSON to do it, but then they would not learn the things what I have learnt.
For instance, the main thing I have learnt thus far is that Things Have Changed. We last put an album out in 2012 but that was Dinosaur Planet and much of the PUBLICITY was through sci-fi/geeky sites rather than conventional music types - the last proper actual full-band INDIE record we did was Regardez, Ecuotez et Repetez in 2009 i.e. almost SEVEN YEARS AGO! Back then there still WAS a physical music press you could send things to. BLOGS were just a few people talking about records, and you had to send out Actual CDs to everybody months in advance if you wanted any chance of getting a review. Also, you didn't have to PAY for coverage, at least not officially.
NOW it seems that everything is online, and it's all downloads and PDF press releases. There's hardly any magazines left, and music review sites CHARGING you to have a review is all open and acceptable. I'm also told from various WISE sources that the main avenue of promotions these days is to PREMIERE an exclusive track/video/something on a website as a way of getting TRAFFIC.
It's all a bit confusing and NEW so I thought I'd have a look at the places I USED to send our music to, to see how many of them are still going. The answer is "Almost none of them" - an hour spent checking my old list of review sites is an hour spent reading MANY variations on a final "Thanks for all the interest, I just don't have time to keep up with this anymore" post. While I was busy with dinosaurs, it seems, nearly everyone else packed it in!
So it looks like I'm going to have to be a bit creative when the album comes out and maybe try and sidestep (what's left of) The Media and maybe try and do some VIRAL videos again, or Utilise Social Media or... oh I don't know. Maybe I should just HOG the work photocopier for an hour or so then head out into the NIGHT with a bucket of wallpaper paste and a pile of POSTERS. That's still a thing, right?
posted 1/3/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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An Artists Against Success Presentation