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Blog Archive: April 2020

Actual News For Newsletter Day
I've just sent out this month's newsletter which, in a change from many recent newsletters, is PACKED with news.

A large part of this is to do with People Are All Right, which is VERY MUCH out and available for listening/buying. There's even a brand new video what I've just finished for 'An Office Ballad' which I am Quite Pleased With, right HERE:

There's also a few more ONLINE GIGS, news of my upcoming YACKING on Dandelion Radio and, rather excitingly, information about our RADIO FOUR DEBUT coming up on 11 May. It's on a show all about pebbles, which is possibly the most Radio Four thing EVER, and apparently it'll feature The Pebble And The Boulder from Say It With Words!

It is, in fact, a whole BATCH of news the likes of which we haven't seen for AGES. The only problem is, what on earth am I going to find to tell you next month?

posted 30/4/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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Released At Last!
A very happy RELEASE DAY to one and all, for the day has finally come when I can say that our new EP, People Are All Right is OFFICIALLY OUT!

By HECK but it's been a long time coming - I wrote the song about two years ago, since when we've had to learn it, record it, mix it and then get it all ready for streaming and so on. I don't mind MOST of that process - we always do stuff at this kind of glacial pace, but at least when we're learning and recording we get to go to the PUB afterwards - but the preparing for streaming has been a right old pain in the wotsits. As discussed previously, the whole thing was ready a couple of MONTHS ago but then we had to leave plenty of time so that Bandcamp and Spotify could have a listen to it for possible inclusion in playlists. I said a while back that this was very similar to the way it used to work with monthly magazines and this has continued to be the case insofar as they used to ignore us too!!

But now we are GO which means I can start UNLEASHING the promotional material that I've been sat on for ages, notably this VIDEO what we did, featuring a great young actor called Jimmy Stewart:

It uses footage from the 1941 movie "Pot O'Gold", which is now out of copyright. The clip in the video was hardly edited at all, and it was WEIRD watching it back as I kept noticing the actors reacting to the lyrics, and had to keep reminding myself that they weren't at all. The whole thing works surprisingly well I reckon!

All being well we'll have ANOTHER video out later this week or early next, but in the meantime if anybody's got any ideas about how I could promote the single a bit more I am ALL EARS. Gigs and Radio Sessions are not really an option at the moment, so I'm not sure what we should be doing!

posted 27/4/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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Twitter Spamming
Our NEW SINGLE is out on Monday (although you can buy it from Bandcamp or direct from us RIGHT NOW) so I have been busy doing some PUBLICITY. I talked a while ago about how things have CHANGED since I first started doing all this, and this is EVEN MORE true now, with The Current Situation where we can't even do GIGS to publicise it (not that we had any booked, but you get the idea).

One thing that I know really works is TWEETING at people - I did this a few weeks ago when I was plugging my Doctor Doom survey - but I always feel a bit weird about doing it from my own twitter account because, well, it's my own twitter account! I do use it for band stuff, but I don't like the idea of using it for sending out loads of promotional messages, not least because it would be a massive DRAG for people who follow me AND whoever I'm zapping, as they'd keep seeing the same plug again and again.

Also, obviously, I am ARTISTE and so do not SULLY myself with grubby commerical activities like this. HOWEVER, I have no such qualms about dragging The Validators into the murky world of promotion, and so was DELIGHTED when I remembered that we set up a seperate band twitter account for The Validators a few years ago. I thus proceeded to do exactly what I'd done for the Doctor Doom survey, going through the list of all the people I'm following and TWEETING a message to likely looking ones asking them to have a listen to the new EP. Again, I felt a bit bad about hassling people like that, but I would like people to actually HEAR the single, so thought I'd give it a go.

Happily, everyone so far has been very nice about it, which has been a GRATE relief, with lots of lovely comments. PHEW! Next week I'll be doing it again, we might even have a VIDEO to plug then too!

posted 24/4/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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A Portfolio Career
Throughout my life in ROCK I have lived what The Answers To My Survey has referred to as "A Portfolio Career", in that it is made up of lots of different THINGS. There's the ROCK, obvs, but also the shows with Steve, the PLAYS, the skits with John Dredge, the podcasts, and all the other stuff that has been known to delight audiences sometimes reaching double figures. I like it this way - I guess that I might have been more "successful" at it if I had been like those SENSIBLE bands who stick to one thing, but then again a) it's more likely that I would have been rubbish at that one thing and also b) it would have been really boring. I prefer to think of it all as me staggering round a crowded pub, bumping into EVERY table and mildly annoying EVERYONE, rather than sitting in the corner only annoying a few people.

These THORTS were brought to my mind this week due to the UNLEASHING of the SIXTH (6th!!) edition of the Totally Acoustic VODCASTS, which you can see here below:

This week's show featured The Mini-Skips, GUMS!, and Panic Pocket, three GRATE acts who, as far as I know, don't have an awful lot in common apart from being in this week's show and being GRATE. They all come from different "tables" in the "PUB of ROCK" metaphor what I was using above, and when the show was released yesterday I was DELIGHTED to see it being passed around by the bands and their chums, so that each group would be EXPOSED to the works of the other two acts.

I always loved it when this happened at the LIVE Totally Acoustics, so it was ACE to see it happen VIRTUALLY. It's far too easy, in ROCK and in the rest of this life, for us to just stick to the people we know who are like US, but it's fun every now and again to go and IMPOSE on some totally other people, and be similarly imposed upon ourselves. I always used to LOVE it, approx 17 centuries ago, when I'd do gigs at places like The Bull & Gate, where promoters would just stick together any 3 or 4 bands who'd sent them demo tapes, and you'd end up playing WITH all sorts of weird acts, and more importantly TO their audiences. As I always say, if you only ever play gigs to people who are going to like you anyway then it's PEASY, whereas if you play to a mixture of GOTHS, ROMOS, METALLERS and EMOS all in the same room then you're forced to work out ways to get ALL of them on side. This is not, by the way, looking for a lowest common denominator. It is looking for the HIGHEST!

So yes, it was lovely to see that this sort of thing can still happen, and I'm looking forward to getting some more going with the next bunch of shows - stay tuned for details of who'll be playing, you'll know not long after I do!

posted 22/4/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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Me At 20
Yesterday there was a THING going round the Social Medias of people posting pictures of themselves at 20. My colleague Mr S Hewitt posted a brilliant picture of his old NUS cards looking EXTREMELY fresh-faced, and I thought "Hang on, I've got MY old NUS card somewhere, I could join in!" And LO! I did!

As I said on the Twitters, I thought that picture was an AMAZING idea when I took it in Boots in September 1990... and then RUED my decision over the rest of the year when I had to use it almost daily as ID. I also made the Traditional Remark re: Polytechnics i.e. "for those too young to remember, a Polytechnic was like a University, but for cool people", and then realised that pretty much EVERYTHING to do with this image needed some explanation for THE KIDS. For instance:

  • NUS cards don't really exist anymore, at least not in the same way. I've got something called a "Totum" card now (that I had to ACTUALLY PAY for!!) which gives various discounts, whereas the NUS card was issued as part of everybody's registration each year, and was used by the Poly and other organisations as the one way to prove you were a student. Talking of which...
  • Student Unions don't seem to be anywhere near as much of a thing as they used to be. Back in the dark distant days of the late 80s/early 90s our union building was THE place for Friday and Saturday nights, also any other night, also for daytime drinking, or clubs and societies (which most people were part of), or getting information, or even eating sometimes. I've worked in several Educational Establishments since then, and nowadays you'd be hard pressed to know where the Union building WAS. I don't think we've got anything like that at all at UAL, for instance.
  • Photobooth pictures aren't such a thing anymore either. I used to love going to photobooths, and as you can see from the picture above I spent a LOT of time thinking about them - the one in Boots had a choice of blue curtains, orange curtains or no curtains, and I thought it might look good to use THE LOT. I also thought it would look good to pull that expression, but you can't win them all.
  • Waistcoats! Everybody wore bloody waistcoats back then, what on earth was that in aid of? Had charity shops massively overstocked and were flogging them off cheap? If you see a photograph of students from those days they will a) look oddly wan and poorly b) 90% be wearing waistcoats, rising to 100% if any of them are in a band. I haven't worn a waistcoat since I "grew out of" my three-piece charity suit, I used to think I looked AMAZING in it!

    There's also the use of Official Stamps to VALIDATE things (of which I heartily approve), ID cards that were basically a piece of paper laminated and the row of BOXES at the bottom that could be CLIPPED for some reason. It's basically an ANTIQUE! The only mystery about it all is that it appears to date from THIRTY YEARS AGO. That can't be right can it? Surely i was A BABY then?!?

    posted 17/4/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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    Easter ROCK
    A few weeks ago, back when The Current Situation began, I thought that weekends would pretty much disappear for Home Workers such as I, because we'd be in the same place, doing all the same things. That was before the full reality of Working From Home became clear i.e. it's not just sitting around watching telly, you have to answer EMAILS and actually DO STUFF. This is, of course, a diabolical ruddy liberty taken by Late Stage Capitalism, but it does at least mean that weekends remain in place, especially EASTER weekend, what I have just thoroughly enjoyed.

    For LO! I DID watch some telly, notably The Rise Of Skywalker, but also some stuff that was actually Any Good and not just "And Then A Space Magic Thing Happened". I ALSO also edited together the latest edition of the Totally Acoustic Vodcasts which you can see for yourself right HERE:

    I found this one quite EMOTIONAL I must say, largely from the LOVELINESS of the songs from Frankie Machine, Ruth PO! and The Perfect English Weather, although there is always one person who BELLOWS his way through and, as is often the case, here it was ME. This time I did Easily Impressed, as requested over on Facebook by Mr Danny Richy and CURATED by The Dark Chocolate In My Easter Egg. I quite like the idea of doing REQUESTS, as it means I don't have to think about it too much, so if there's any of my songs you'd like to see me do, let me know via the comments below and I'll try and give it a go!

    posted 14/4/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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    Additional Dinosaur Content
    A couple of weeks ago, when the lockdown was fresh and new, I UNLEASHED a live recording of Moon Horse from me and Steve's show at The Camden Fringe in 2011, with the promise (or was it a THREAT?) that there were other live recordings that I could further PUMMEL people's minds with. Mr M Cresswell asked if there might be a version of Dinosaur Planet in the vaults, and I was surprised to find that there was NOT a full recording of either the one- or two-man version of that show in my YouTube account. We used to record ALL of our shows, purely for The Historical Record you understand, and I KNEW that there were CLIPS of Dinosaur Planet, so surely we must have recorded it?

    THUS I went to my VAULTS (archive drive) and was DELIGHTED to discover that we'd recorded one of the MOST FUN shows we ever did, which was the WEST END FINALE of the two man version, performed in the upstairs room at The Old Coffee House. This was done purely for FUN, as a way to cap off the run before we launched into the above-named Moon Horse vs The Mars Men Of Jupiter show, and I think that comes across! You can judge for yourself, HERE:

    I hope you enjoy it - and don't forget to stick around for the post-credits scene!

    posted 9/4/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Survey Of Doom
    For the past couple of years I have been writing another blog, PARALLEL to this one, in which I have been reading through every appearance by Doctor Doom in any and all media from 1961 through to October 1987. This is NOT (just) a feat of deranged idiocy, it is ALSO part of my ongoing PhD, which currently has the impressively academic-sounding title of "Doctor Doom in The Marvel Age: an empirical approach to transmedia character coherence."

    The QUICK version of what that means is that I'm using Doctor Doom as a test subject to find a way to chart the changes a character undergoes over time and different media. My first attempt to do this involved trying to read/watch/listen to EVERY SINGLE THING that Doom appeared in and then writing down all the keywords I could think of that applied to him within each story. This turned out to be a HELLISH NIGHTMARE as I couldn't work out WHAT to keep in, WHAT to leave out, or how to even describe it all, so instead I decided to try a CHECKLIST of major character signifiers, which I could then simply TICK for each text. This seemed a lot more sensible, but I still needed to get an initial list of tickable options, and I quickly realised that any list that I came up with on my own would be fatally biased from the start, as it would only include and/or prioritise things that I already THOUGHT were part of his character. Spending a couple of decades working in epidemiology has made me quite SENSITIVE about that sort of thing, not least because I am AFEARED that at any moment an excited statistician will MANIFEST and start talking about Bayesian Statistics and I have had QUITE enough of that already, thank you very much.

    SO, I decided that my best bet would be to run a SURVEY, asking other people what THEY thought Doom's core characteristics were. This would not only give me a GRATE starting point for my own investigations, it would also be a VERY INTERESTING insight into ... well, what other people think his core characteristics are! I thus spent a good long time setting up a SURVEY, checking it with The Head Of Comms In My Comm Team and also my PhD supervisors, doing a PILOT with a few Comics Types, and then, last week, UNLEASHING the finished survey upon the world.

    My hope was to get about 20-40 responses, which would be enough to get going with my checklists. I promoted the survey in a couple of comics mailing lists and facebook groups, as well as on the Doom blog and my Marvel Age Doom twitter account, and it was all toddling along very nicely indeed. I was mostly relieved that it actually WORKED, to be honest!

    All that was left for me to do was a bit of promotion on TWITTER. I have seen lots of other people do that thing where they directly tweet Famous People, asking them to re-tweet stuff, but I've never felt comfortable doing it for our music stuff because @mjhibbett is also my OWN twitter account, so it felt a bit weird. Marvel Age Doom, however, doesn't even have my NAME on it, so I decided to give it a go.

    Crikey. It REALLY worked! I went through all the people I follow with that account and picked out lists of comic shops, podcasts, fan sites and comics creators, and then did directed tweets to one group each over the course of four days. One the first day one of the comic shops responded, and I got a couple of extra responses, but GOODNESS ME then the next day MOST of the podcasts responded, retweeted, and often did the survey themselves and all at once I had a HUNDRED respondents. I did the same with the fansites on the third day and... well, nothing happened at all because they weren't interested, but then on the final day I asked comics creators and the same happened as with the podcasts, so I now have well over TWO HUNDRED fully completed surveys!

    This is BRILLIANT for my PhD, even though I am now a bit worried about how much extra work it is going to take me to analyse the whole thing! It was also VERY INTERESTING to notice that the different responses I got echoed almost EXACTLY the equivalent responses I get to music stuff. Whenever I've tried to contact record shops I've had very close to ZERO response to anything EVER, the same as with comic shops, and similarly we've hardly ever had anything from the mainstream music sites, the same as comics sites, HOWEVER radio people have always been BLOODY LOVELY, the same as podcasts for comics, and people who actually MAKE music have been as helpful as the comics creators above.

    What does it all MEAN though eh? One might suggest that THE MAN maintains his iron grip on the commercial aspects of both ROCK and comics, but I could not possibly comment, although it's nice to know that the equivalent to Radio Types and ROCK people are just as nice elsewhere! Whatever it means, the survey is still available for a few more days, so if you have any interest in this sort of thing I'd be very grateful if you could have a go, HERE:

    posted 8/4/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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    Episode Four: A New Pope
    The fourth episode of the Totally Acoustic VODCAST series is up now, on the Totally Acoustic site, as part of the playlist, and indeed right HERE:

    This one features Simon Love and his HEIR, Jenny Lockyer doing a VIDEO-style video, and David Pope from the Just Joans. The presence of David is evidence of one of the big advantages of doing shows this way - I've wanted to get his band on at Totally Acoustic pretty much since it began, but the LOGISTICS of dragging him/them all the way down here for a LIVE show have always made it unlikely. This new way of Gigging From Home, however, means ANYTHING is possible!

    All right, maybe not ANYTHING, but a LOT!

    It also features ME doing Hibbett's Golden Rules Of Beer, which fits nicely with all the people now ordering beer online, but does feel a bit like FOLK MUSIC, describing Ye Olden Days when we could GO OUT. Most of my songs seem to be like that now! I'm trying to do fairly short songs, so as to make it easier for people who want to watch the other acts (I did consider putting in details of when they need to fast forward to, but thought that might be A Bit Much!), but for those happy few who like MY stuff I am VERY MUCH open to suggestions about what songs I should do in future. Leave a comment below if you've got any ideas!

    posted 7/4/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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    Doing The Press
    After all the excitement of Jiffy Bag Day on Wednesday, Thursday brought another long-cherished aspect of putting out a new release: Doing The Press!

    In olden tyme this used to involve even more Jiffy bags than Jiffy Bag day, as CDs would be packaged up to be sent out to magazines and radio shows a good couple of months before actual release day, with a press release and personal letter included in each. It was a LOT of work, especially when it was time to take most of them down to the post office to get sent. When I moved to London I could at least take quite a big batch to The Secret BBC Window round the corner from Broadcasting House and get them inserted into their internal post for free, but it was still a LOT of stamps!

    A decade or so ago, when we were in our POMP, I always resented Doing The Press, as I was sending stuff out to people who I KNEW wouldn't even listen to what we'd sent, but felt I had to do it so that, if nothing else, I could righteously MOAN about it later. As time went by, however, my original Big List got smaller and smaller, as I stopped bothering with most of the Mainstream Outlets (having finally accepted that FOLK ROOTS were not likely to put us on the cover) and focussed instead on the people who actually DID like us.

    As it happens, it turns out that the people who like us are also people that *I* like, and so it has become a PLEASURE to send stuff out to them! THUS I spent a very pleasant couple of hours EMAILING them all - it felt like getting in touch with PALS in ROCK who I'd not spoken to for a while! I've also just about got to grips with SOME of the aspects of modern promotion - we still do a press release, which, as ever, was rigorously edited by The Team In My Comms Department, but now instead of posting CDs I send a LINK to a private SOUNDCLOUD stream. SO modern!

    With that all done the next step is to shuffle a tentative toe into the heady waters of BLOGS and all that. I have precisely NO clue as to how all this works, but some very kind/patient people have tried to explain it to me as "Blogs are fanzines", which does make a tiny bit more sense. The promotional PUSH in that direction commences next week - who knows? some of the LUCKY RECIPIENTS of my PROMO might still be getting emails from me in ten years' time!


    posted 3/4/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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    Jiffy Bag Day
    Yesterday I sent out the latest edition of the newsletter, featuring a SECRET LINK to a page all about our exciting new EP, which is coming out this month. That page allows people to BUY said single - in its EXCITING NEW FORMAT - a few weeks early, and I was DELIGHTED when, not long after the newsletter had gone out, orders started to come in from my REGULARS. These are those lovely people who have been buying our stuff for years - DECADES even. It's a bunch of names that I'm always happy to see pop up, and in many cases I even recognise their addresses. INDEED, it's been such a long time since we last did this that I note several people have even MOVED HOUSE!

    I was even MORE delighted this morning when I sat down for that most wondrous of days in ROCK: Jiffy Bag Day! This is that fabulous day when a new release has first come out and I get to package everything up ready to post all around the world. I haven't done this for AGES, as everything since 20 Golden GRATES (still VERY much available, by the way) has been digital only, and I had forgotten quite how much FUN it is.

    The first batch of ITEMS have now gone in the post (thank goodness for buying stamps online!) and if you'd like to join in the PROPER sales page will be online in a couple of weeks, at which point I will start banging on about the thrilling new format A LOT. However if you can't wait that long then you could always check the newsletter and see if you can HACK IN to the SECRET LINK section - I would be powerless to stop it happening!

    posted 1/4/2020 by MJ Hibbett
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