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Blog Archive: November 2018

Christmas Video Completed
This morning I finally completed a project what myself, The Validators, and The Items On My List have been working on for LITERALLY MONTHS: this year's Christmas VIDEO!

As regular readers will be aware, work on this began WAY back in September when The Validators exhibited symptoms of Not Exactly Enthusiasm for the song I'd originally written to be this year's Christmas single. The aforementioned Tinsel On My Tree pointed out that she'd already told me a MUCH better idea, for a song about this being out last Christmas in the EU, and upon review it turned out that she was, as ever, CORRECT.

A song was thus written to these new guidelines, a demo version was provided to the Validators, approval was granted, and then the following month we commenced recording sessions. The usual procedures then applied to THIS activity (when you have been in a band together for TWENTY YEARS you do tend to find that your procedures are both DEFINED and COMPREHENSIVE) until the track was HONED to perfection, at which pointed I applied my BRANE to the video.

The story was agreed quite early, following contributions from all stakeholders (I know I always say it, but The Validators really are JOLLY GOOD at this sort of thing - if we ever turn our skills to WORLD DOMINATION then all would fall before us) and the general format, which i can only describe as A MODERN EPISTOLARY NOVEL hem hem, was agreed quite early on, but it took AGES to do the actual IMAGERY. I had originally intended to star in it myself as SANTA, but that just looked RUBBISH. Luckily myself and The Partners In My Partnership found a NEW STAR during a trip to our local department story who suddenly CRYSTALIZED the entire CONCEPT. When you see the video you'll understand what I mean!

Next there was a PHOTOSHOOT, conducted this time by The Pictures In My Album, and then about a FORTNIGHT of putting the whole thing together. For reasons of EASE I ended up assembling the various images in POWERPOINT (again, when you see the video you'll see why I did it that way), which turned out to be a dead good idea, but did involve a LOT of copying, pasting, sizing, text formatting and so on. It took AGES to do but, rather wonderfully, utilising this method meant that EDITING the final video was a piece of CAKE. I even learnt how to force Powerpoint to export slides as high-definition PNG files in the process - I bet Godley and Cream never had to edit THEIR computer's registry when making a video! THEIR LOSS!

There was then a final round of discussion with stakeholders which, again, garnered excellent results. The Validators are pretty much THE BEATLES of ROCK ADMIN - who needs Brit Awards when you can conduct a full virtual team meeting by email and have action points ACTIONED by 7.30am the following day?

The upshot of ALL of this is that the video is now DONE and is ready to be UNLEASHED on Monday morning, alongside the song and indeed the entirety of the revamped Christmas Selection Box album on iTunes, Spotify, and ALL of that sort of thing (unless you're in certain parts of the world, for reasons explained elsewhere, in which case you'll need to get it on bandcamp). It is, I think, going to be QUITE the Thing - not only a lovely Christmas song with a FAB video, but also pretty much GUARANTEED to bring down the government and end Brexit!

posted 30/11/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Pre-tour Photo Shoot
For the past couple of weeks Mr M Tiller and I have been endeavouring to make a mutually agreeable appointment to discuss some of the finer aspects of our TOUR next year, including doing some PICTURES and VIDEOS for promotional purposes. He suggested I go over to his place in Camberwell on Wednesday of this week (aka YESTERDAY at time of writing) so I checked in my diary and saw that I was somewhere with work for most of that afternoon. On further investigation I realised that I was going to be at Camberwell College of Art! PERFECT!

Thus I spent a very happy afternoon at Camberwell College a) finding the room I was Giving Training in b) working out where the projector was and how it worked c) GIVING the Training what I was there to Give, and then d) heading off to chez Tiller. Upon arrival Matt made me a VERY posh cup of coffee (he ground the beans himself! I saw him do it!) and then we went into his front room to do some short VIDEOS. Matt works in TELLY and so has gathered together various bits and bobs of KIT over the years, and so we had Actual Lighting for this session. It looked very nice when we watched it back, photographically at least, even though the content was mostly the two of us LARFING at each other and forgetting the tour dates.

Shortly after that Matt's cousin-in-law arrived to take PHOTOGRAPHS. She is a Professional Photographer so there was some more time spent with LIGHTING and DEPTH OF FIELD and PHOTOGRAPHER THINGS, but then the SHOOT began and it was ENORMOUS fun. "I don't even have to direct you!" she said as the pair of us titted about, pulling silly faces while variously hiding behind a sofa, pretending to be superheroes, and almost falling over.

It was a very pleasant end to a working day which will hopefully lead to some quality Promotional Materials. I shall ALERT you as soon as they are available to VIEW!

posted 29/11/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Very Cherry 13
I had a lovely facebook message from Mr G Jones yesterday, telling me that there had been a REVIEW of A Very Cherry Christmas volume 13 which mentioned how much they liked my contribution, The Christmas Robot.

This pleased me NO END. It's always nice to get a good review of course - whatever GRUMPS say - and it's such a long old time since we actually RELEASED anything that COULD get reviewed that I'd sort of forgotten how nice it actually is! I was also pleased that the review gets EXACTLY what I was going for in the song.

Most of all it was a nice reminder to ME that this stuff is actually meant to get out into the WORLD. For the past couple of months we've been hard at work prepping Christmas Selection Box for OFFICIAL RELEASE, by which I mean not just adding a couple of songs as we usually do but unleashing it upon iTunes, Spotify and all that sort of thing. We're adding a whole bunch of new songs to it, including this year's CHRISTMAS HIT which will not only celebrate Christmas but will also DEFINITELY bring down the government, along with a couple of extra HITS - more on THESE when release day comes around on the 3rd of December.

This process has been helped along a GRATE deal by those lovely people at Emubands, who sort out our digital distribution for us. I filled in all the forms and uploaded all the relevant tracks, and they very kindly, and quickly, got in touch to tell me what I had done WRONG. The main error was that I'd included a bunch of cover versions and then clicked "Worldwide Distribution", which meant that I'd have to go round getting CLEARANCES for several territories. They offered various ways to deal with this, the easiest of which was simply not bothering with the difficult ones, so I'm afraid that people living in the USA, India, Pakistan and (I think) Japan will just have to stick to Bandcamp. Sorry!

However you choose to enjoy it, the whole SHEBANG will be released in a couple of weeks. In the meantime I say let's get Christmassy NOW - we've had to sit through Brexit all year, we deserve a bit of festive cheer!

posted 21/11/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Return Of Representation
This blog may appear quiet, but beneath its metaphorical waters there has been a MAD FRENZY of activity, for LO! I have been doing THE WRITING!

Regular sufferers of my MIGHTY MUSINGS will be aware that a year or two ago I very nearly got signed up with an AGENT for my book 'Storm House'. It got as far as me signing a contract, but not quite as far as THEM signing it, as the Agent who'd liked the manuscript moved to another job JUST as it was happening. It was all a bit distressing, and I ended up releasing the book MYSELF instead last year, which was a whole LOT of fun.

The Agent Who Wasn't had told me that 'Storm House' was actually a CHILDREN's book, so I sent it off to a couple of Children's Novel competitions and BLOW ME if it didn't get longlisted for BOTH! One of these, the Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction competition sent me some GRATE notes, including a suggestion that the reason it hadn't got SHORTlisted was that it didn't feature children enough in lead roles. I took this as a CHALLENGE and did a larger re-write, which I then sent out to MORE agents.

To cut a long story short, there then followed a LENGTHY period of rejection, followed by a request for a full manuscript from one agent, followed by a telephone conversation, followed by a MEETING, and then an envelope containing a contract whicj THIS agent had ALREADY SIGNED!

Thus I was, this week, in the very happy situation of being able to email all the other agents who had not yet said "no"to tell them that I had Taken On Representation and was no longer available to them. HA! It did feel good I must say, although it was a little bit of a struggle to find the time to do it because the above mentioned MEETING had then led to a REVISIONS OUTLINE which in turn has led to me doing a MASSIVE rewrite of the book to bring a LOT more younger characters in. There's name changes, age revisions, a whole bunch of new characters, LOADS more monsters and an entirely new subplot. Perhaps most of all there's a change to the TITLE and, most fun for me, the generation of an APPENDIX giving a whole history of the institution.

I have been enjoying it ENORMOUSLY! The current plan is for me to finish this big re-draft by the middle of December so that My Agent can read it over Christmas and then come back with (hopefully smaller) further revisions so that he can take it out round publishers early in the New Year. It is RATHER EXCITING but, as I'm sure you can understand after last time, I'm doing my best to contain it all by not saying too much (I hope) about it. All being well there'll be some news next year, but in the meantime I've got a whole lot of typing to get on with!

posted 20/11/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Academic Experimentalism
I spent a large chunk of Saturday at WORK this weekend... or at an old work anyway. For LO! I was attending Transitions 8, the Comics Studies conference that takes place at Birkbeck College where I spent MANY years in gainful employment. It was slightly odd being back there, although it was reassuring that, even after so long away, I was still able to get Mildly Lost trying to get to another floor. Some things never change!

The highpoint of the day for me was right at the start, when Dr M Gray gave the keynote which was party about her book on Alan Moore but also contained a range of "beefs" she has about the field of Comics Studies. It was all very politely done, including the complaint that Comics Studies is too polite. She was saying, as I understood it at least, that the FIELD should be more confident in itself so that different theories/schools/ideas could argue with each other, rather than all trying to be Team Comics. She also mentioned that Comics Studies had a lot of FORMALISM in it (i.e. talking about the structure, the panels, the FORM of comics rather than what's in them or how they came to be or what they MEAN), to the detriment of other areas of interest, which led to people throughout the rest of the day saying "Sorry, I'm a formalist" in a very polite way. It was dead good to have something right at the beginning which put the cat amongst the pigeons a little bit, and rather pleasantly WARPED all the talks for the rest of the day.

I am very much NOT a formalist so I must admit I did find some of the talks about... well, formalist, but there was plenty of good stuff too. My main concern, I must confess, was my OWN talk, which was coming at the end of the day. When I first arrived the organisers came over to apologise for sticking me and my fellow PhD-er Mr G Lawley on at the end, and then for the fact that they'd had to move around various parallel sessions so that we were the only thing on in that last slot. "You mean we're HEADLINING?" I asked. Apparently you CAN look at it that way, but i don't think anybody else was.

When our session finally came it was, to be honest, GRATE fun. Guy did an EXTREMELY interesting talk about the history of American comic books before Superman, which consisted, amazingly, of only five years of STUFF. There were descriptions of Cultural Production, there were interesting What Ifs, and there was a demonstration of How Comics Are Made using a folded up broadsheet newspaper that was FASCINATING, also ILLUMINATING!

My talk was called "Doctor Doom as The Avatar Of Supervillainy In Not Brand Echh" and it was based on a bunch of BLOGS wot I'd written a while back for my Marvel Age Doom blog. I was a bit NERVOUS about it because I was trying a different presentation technique, as I've always been a bit disappointed in how my previous comics talks have worked out. For each one I'd pretty much written the whole thing down and then read it out - I've done my best to LOOK UP and engage a bit, but someone reading off a piece of paper is always a bit DULL, and I always think that if you're going to WRITE a paper then the best thing to do would be to ask people to READ it themselves, so I was determined to improve my SKILLZ in this regard.

I've also been doing quite a lot of presentations at WORK since I started my current job, and that's really made me see that it's better to try and say LESS in order to get more Actual Information across. ALSO it turns out that slides are NOT just for either a) lists of words or b) Dave Gorman-style gags but can ACTUALLY be used to c) guide YOURSELF through what you're talking about. THUS I tried to carry this over to my Comics talk, and built a set of slides to help ME as well as the audience.

On top of all of that, I wanted to set myself up for something where I could ENJOY myself and tit around a little bit, like what I do at gigs. As it turned out this, and all of the above, TOTALLY happened. It was FAB! There were actual GASPS when I did a slide showing the enormous number of comics I was looking at, which was EXTREMELY gratifying, and at one point I saw a Leading Comics Academic wiping ACTUAL TEARS of LARFTER from his eyes.

I was a bit worried about what would come in the questions, so was a bit surprised when the above Notable Thinker put his hand up and asked "Do you ever find out what's under Doctor Doom's mask?" but luckily I have extensive experience of answering questions like that from my NEPHEW, so was able to fully respond. Someone else asked WHY Marvel thought it could do humour, and where it had come from, and this forced my BRANE to think on the spot and come up with a Fairly Sensible Answer.

What I am trying to say is that it went DEAD WELL and I was, and am, VERY PLEASE about it. It does feel at the moment that all of the Transferable Skillz wot I picked up in all these years of ROCK are finding new homes in other areas, and I have to say that I rather like it!

posted 12/11/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Christmas Is Coming
There has been much Validators Activity of late, as we exercise our IMMENSE Teamworking SKILLZ to prepare the latest version of our CHRISTMAS album, Christmas Selection Box for release.

For LO! this year we are going to put the WHOLE album onto iTunes, Spotify, and all that sort of thing so that it can be heard and enjoyed much more widely. For too long Christmas Playlists have been made which do not feature, for instance, Roy Wood In The Blue Note, which is frankly a CHRISTMAS CRME.

We're also taking the opportunity to add several more songs to the tracklisting, not least our forthcoming single Last Christmas (in the EU), which is not only one of the most festive tunes we have ever done, but is also pretty much GUARANTEED to bring down the government. We're now at the stage where Frankie has done the main mix and we are all getting him to tweak tinier and tinier aspects of it. It is, I am fully confident, his FAVOURITE part of the process.

Meanwhile we've also been working on a track called Christmas In The Future which is, basically, an ART project. I asked The Validators to send my roughly one minute of what they thought Christmas might sound like in THE FUTURE and then, while they set to work, recorded a narration a bit like what Phil Spector does on HIS Christmas album. None of us knew what the others were doing, so when I put it all together i was DELIGHTED to discover that it did indeed sound VERY futuristic and VERY Christmassy!

Also, it's only a minute long, so it's a lot less hassle to listen to than the Phil Spector one.

We've also got the order of tracks to sort out, but I'm full of hope that we'll get everything done by this time next week, at which point I'll get it all uploaded to iTunes etc ready to be UNLEASHED by the start of Advent. There's going to be a brand new VIDEO too, it's going to be the best Christmas EVER!

posted 8/11/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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