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Blog Archive: May 2023

The Beths
Last night I went to an ACTUAL GIG featuring not one but TWO bands I really like. Executive Summary: it was GRATE.

The headline act were The Beths, who I first heard of about a year ago when I asked on Facebook for recommendations of Good Bands to listen to. The Beths were mentioned more than anyone else and I quickly realised why - basically, if they were any more up my alley they would be round the back, in the yard, and using the outdoor toilet. It's indie music with big old tunes and choruses with Excellent Lyrics, which is very much what I like. I have since bought and loved all three of their albums, so was Very Excited to get to see them as most bands I like are EITHER long finished OR playing to 7 people in a pub OR a million years old and on their 900th record, so seeing a band in their POMP was a rare treat.

Another of my favourite recommendations on that list was Lande Hekt. It took me a while to get into her album, but then when i did I REALLY DID, so I was BLOODY DELIGHTED when I found out she was the support act. THUS I booked tickets, HARANGUED Mr M Sutton to be my gig buddy for the evening, waited about three months, and then it was HO! for The Electric in Brixton!

My excitement was such that we actually got there a bit early, before the support had even started, but that did allow us to nab an EXCELLENT spot, just behind what I thought was The Disabled Area. It turned out to also be The VIP Area, which meant there were a few twits doing Ironic Exaggerated Dancing and Making Sure Everyone Knew They Were There, but it was still quite sparse so it was like being on a RAISED PLINTH with a GRATE view.

The Beths are from New Zealand, and there was a NOTABLE and HEFTY Kiwi presence - it turns out there are still LOADS of them in London, and they are still VERY FRIENDLY INDEED. It was one of the nicest gig audiences I've been in for ages - I accidentally knocked into several people on the way to and from the loo and they were all so pleasant about it it was difficult not to bump into more of them.

Lande Hekt came on and was DEAD GOOD. I had done HEAVY REVISION beforehand which consisted of listening to her album again and again, but hadn't realised she had released several other EPs and SINGLES too. THUS there was lots I didn't know, and I realised that, for me, I really like it when I DO know all the songs - I have had lengthy debates about this sort of thing with Certain Percussionists I Know who have very much the opposite view, but for me I like to have 1 (one) new song and loads of HITS. In this case, there were ALSO loads of hits, which was BRILLO, and I am now going to head to Bandcamp to get the other stuff too!

Talking of sets with 1 (one) new song and loads of HITS... that is EXACTLY what The Beths came on and did, and it was AMAZING. COR! They have SO MANY HITS that it was only when I got home that I realised they HADN'T done "Happy Unhappy" which is one of my FAVOURITES. Still, there were TONNES of others, with nearly every song greeted with LOUD HOORAHS within 2 seconds of the intro starting. It felt like an alternate universe where The Beths were one of the biggest bands in the planet doing a low-key greatest hits set in preparation for Glastonbury or something, and to be perfectly honest that is a universe that I would very much like to live in.

It was bloody fantastic, and reminded me why going to gigs is so very excellent. The only disappointment is that I've now probably got AGES to wait - possibly even YEARS - before they put another album out!

posted 26/5/2023 by MJ Hibbett
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Return To Dinosaur Planet
Alongside all of the OTHER stuff going on there is another SECRET PROJECT what I have been working on now for LITERALLY YEARS that has been secret because... um... well, now I think of it, I'm not entirely sure! It is still very much ONGOING so - SPOILERS - this blog does not end with me saying "And that is why I am leaving my job and going to live in the Cayman Islands for tax purposes" or anything, but I thought it might be nice to FINALLY explain what I've been doing.

So, a few years ago I self-published a BOOK called "Storm House", which some lovely people were kind enough to BUY with CA$H. Before that the book had originally been with an agent, with plans to sell it to Normal Publishers, but JUST when I was about to sign a contract with them (i.e. about a day away from so doing) that agent went on maternity leave and the agency decided not to go ahead with taking me on. This was NO FUN AT ALL and QUITE DISAPPOINTING to say the very least so I decided to release it myself. That was GRATE fun, but after a while I thought it might be worth another go trying to get it published in Actual Book Shops. With this in mind I got myself a copy of The Writers And Artists Yearbook and started going through the lists of agents again.

To cut a very very very very long story short, after many rejections and unanswered emails I eventually got through to someone who liked it and I got myself signed up with a LITERARY AGENCY - a real proper one too! I then spent a couple of YEARS re-writing "Storm House" several times to make it into a Proper Kids' Book, and then another YEAR or so seeing if we could sell it. I am sad to report that we DID NOT sell it, so all in all it was probably a good thing that I put it out myself!

HOWEVER, his was not the end, for during COVID TIMES I sat myself down and wrote ANOTHER book, and LO! this one was an adaptation of Dinosaur Planet, because why wouldn't it be? However, rather than do a straight adaptation of the original I took onboard the (MANY) INSIGHTS gained from the re-writes to the first book and set out from the start to make it suitable for kids. This involved making the CHARACTERS into children, so that now Terry is about 10 and his COUSIN (not his Grandad) is the one who has all the theories about dinosaurs. More than this, however, a whole NEW character emerged with a whole NEW story who links together loads of the original bits of plot and adds in several GRATE new bits, and also JOKES. For example, there's a bit I particularly love involving a dancing competition on a roundabout near New England. It is, I think, JOLLY GOOD.

It has been an ENJOYABLE but also STRENUOUS experince, which is by no means over. The book was finished last year and then MY AGENT (I really like saying "MY AGENT" and I must admit that the ability to say that more often in public is a big part of the rationale for finally blogging about all this!) sent it out to publishers. They then sent back very nice rejection letters, some of which included WISE THORTS, and one in particular generated some VERY good ideas which me and MY AGENT (it's cool isn't it?) discussed at length.

The upshot of all THAT is that I then did ANOTHER massive re-write which made it all a lot shorter and funnier, which I sent over to MY AGENT a couple of weeks ago. Since then I have been working on an OVERVIEW of the SERIES - yes, the SERIES - which is destined to go off with the main book when it gets sent out again. I do not mind telling you that doing this has been some of the BEST FUN of the whole (incredibly lengthy) process, as I get to sit around thinking "Oh yes of course, in Book Four they can go to COSMIC PETERBOROUGH" or "AHA! So THAT is when The Space Poo reveal what they really are!" and so on and so forth.

It does feel nice to say (or type) this out loud at last! It has, as I say, been a VERY LONG PROCESS with lots of twists and turns and also lots of me wanting to give up entirely, but at this point I'm feeling more hopeful than I have in a long time that it might actually GET somewhere. I am really keen to UNLEASH some of this new stuff onto people, and though I cannot do so as yet I'm hoping to be able to at least TELL you about it in a bit more detail soon!

posted 18/5/2023 by MJ Hibbett
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Football is GRATE!
On Friday night I headed home after a couple of days of being GROWN UP and also PROFESSIONAL to watch a FOOTBALL MATCH of high importance. For LO! after a long season of Generally Not Being Quite As Good As One Might Have Hoped, Peterborough United had jammily made it into the play-offs!

I have had a proper SEASON TICKET this season so have watched a LOT of games live, but sadly I could not do so this time (despite having BOUGHT a ticket) because of the combination of WORK STUFF (as mentioned yesterday) finishing too late and mostly THE RAIL STRIKES, so I could neither get THERE nor get BACK. As it happened it was probably for the best, as I was UTTERLY KNACKERED after all that ACTUAL WORK and would likely have collapsed on the train there and ended up in Newcastle or something.

So it was that we gathered on the sofa instead, with a Now TV One Day Sports Package to watch the mighty Posh take on Sheffield Wednesday. I must admit I was expecting a somewhat gruelling contest with Posh trying to defend against a team who Had Scored Lots More Points Than Us. What I was NOT expecting was a BLOODY BRILLIANT game full of GOALS! It was incredible, everything seemed to go our way to a LUDICROUS degree and this bunch of players who SOME PEOPLE have been quite RUDE about on a regular basis (not me, of course, I respect their professionality) were actually DEAD GOOD. It was AMAZING!

I did miss BEING there, but it was also pretty good being at home with the relevant ACCOMPANIMENT and also easy access to the fridge and GRUB, although I did miss out on the third of the four goals because I'd gone to the chippy!

It was 4-0 to us in the end, with another leg to go later this week at Sheffield. I am now full of HOPE that this means we are off to WEMBERLEY, where we are UNBEATEN, and then going up up up into The Championship. When that happens I will be DELIGHTED, and anybody who says I have ever felt otherwise is talking nonsense. Last time we were in the Championship (i.e. LAST season) it was a constant source of joy and I for one did not moan AT ALL about us constantly being beaten by teams who were better than us (i.e. all of them). I fully expect NEXT season to be completely different and to see us battling for promotion into the Premier League. NOTHING CAN GO WRONG!

posted 15/5/2023 by MJ Hibbett
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A Model Professional
Last week was SUPER BUSY with some distinctly NON-ROCK escapades.

On Wednesday I went up to Manchester to attend Figshare Fest, the annual get together of European users of the research data repository system Figshare. As I am Important Manager of the UAL Research Data Repository I was there to REPRESENT us.

The event itself was actually happening on the Thursday, but it had an early start so I headed up the day before and THUS got to relive a bit of LIFE ON THE ROAD. It's several years since I used to be Arriving At A Premier Inn At About 6pm at least once a week, back when I was doing 50+ gigs a year, and doing it again like this was weirdly NOT quite as exciting or fun as I remembered. I did get to go out and about - first for some Vegan Junk Food (vegan junk food is the JUNKIEST of all junk foods, it was ACE) and then a DELICIOUS pint of Atlantis Pale Ale at North Taproom, which was all GRATE, but then I had to go back and sit on my own in a ROOM at the end of it all, which was less so.

Figfest itself, however, was DEAD GOOD. After four or five years of DOING this job I know a couple of people to say hello to at these events now, and was VERY BRAVE and spoke to a few more, including one EXCELLENT chap who told me all about DMP Online. The nice thing about an event like this is that it is a SAFE SPACE where you CAN get over-excited about an online system that helps your researchers to put together Data Management Plans for research bids, but I realise that out in the wider world this is perhaps NOT quite as thrilling, so will say no more about it... but it was DEAD EXCITING!

The talks were also DEAD GOOD for much the same reasons, including one from Edge Hill about generating ARTS research profiles that made me want to jump up and shout "HECK YES!", although I managed not to. We also got some FREE SOCKS too, which is a Conference Freebie that I think more events organisers should look into.

It was a good day, and even MASSIVE DELAYS to trains heading home was not enough to dim my enthusiasm for what had gone before, especially because I plonked myself in Avanti Standard Premium and didn't get charged for it. HA! Take THAT, Doctor Beeching!

Then on FRIDAY I went to a WORK THING all about "Continuous Improvement". Continuous Improvement, as far as I can make out, is all about improving, but continuously. The benefit of this - and you may want to take notes here - is that things get better, and keep doing so. I know this is a lot to take in.

To be blunt, it was NOT QUITE AS ENGAGING as the previous day, but I was PROUD of myself because at no point did I THROW A WOBBLER or STORM OUT or MAKE POINTED REMARKS (well, not much of the last one anyway) and spent much of the day thinking to myself "Come on, you're here now, you might as well do it" so that I did ENGAGE with the TASKS. The best bit was making a big Lego model for one of those tasks where you do that, and when they asked our group to describe ours I got to say "We have REJECTED your BOURGEOIS NOTIONS of colour co-ordination". It's good fun sometimes, working in an Art College.

I also popped over to TATE BRITAIN, where I was v excited to see a) an installation made up of tonnes of RICE where you could see the paw prints of a MOUSE what had run over it and b) that the Turner Gallery is open again. I do love a bit of Turner, and I stood briefly in it going "COR!"

However, the big excitement of the day was yet to come, for LO! there was FOOTBALL ahead!!

posted 14/5/2023 by MJ Hibbett
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The Book Of Doom (and Dennis)
While all this ROCK preparation has been going on I have also been toiling away on some other projects, notably the EN-BOOK-IFICATION of my PhD thesis.

Last year I put together a PROPOSAL what I sent off to a Grown-Up Academic Publisher and, after some to-ing, fro-ing and REVIEWING, it got ACCEPTED. Since then I have been working hard on turning the thesis into an Actual Book that people could Actually Read, and I tell you this: it has not been EASY.

For a start, a PhD thesis is a very different proposition to an Actual Book, as the thesis tends to include all sorts of stuff that no normal reader wants to know, like huge showing off about your methodological research, how you came round to deciding to do the research you're doing, what the failed attempts were, and ESPECIALLY a long, long list of all the things that this specific thesis ISN'T.

This last bit did my head in at the time. It's recommended so that when you have your VIVA you can say "AHA! The reason I did not do the thing you think I should have done is explicitly written in the thesis itself!" and it has to be said that it proved to be quite useful when the time came, but it was a DELIGHT to be able to go through and take it all OUT again. Similarly there was a whole section about how I periodised The Marvel Age which a) is GRATE but b) is a whole other thing and c) is being published elsewhere (hopefully) so doesn't need to go in.

I thought this was all going to be fairly peasy, but it turned out to be anything but. Going through the thesis I discovered that making it into a book about the IDEAS rather than the CHRONOLOGY of doing it meant that I had to do a complete re-structure to make it make any sense at all. I also found that there was TONNES of repitition which needed to be sorted out, and also (WHISPER IT) some MISTAKES that needed to be corrected.

It took flipping AGES, but even THAT was not the biggest job. For LO! the aforesaid reviewers had all suggested that doing the whole thing about Doctor Doom wasn't enough. It was all well and good using him as the case study for my Unified Catalogue Of Transmedia Character Componenents, they said, but they wanted me to do it on some other characters too to show that it wasn't just a Doctor Doom Assessor. This meant, in effect, doing the WHOLE PROJECT all over again!

All right it wasn't quite that drastic - the Catalogue was all worked out so I didn't need to do THAT again, but I did need to identify a CORPUS and SAMPLE of texts, read all the texts, get the information out of them, ANALYSE it all, and then write about it. After much THORT I eventually decided to analyse a (much smaller) bunch of texts about DENNIS THE MENACE!

"Ah!" you might say, "but WHICH Dennis The Menace eh?" This is an excellent question, and the answer is BOTH! For those who don't know, there are two entirely different characters, both called Dennis The Menace, with one appearing in newspaper strips in the USA and the other in The Beano in the UK. In what everybody calls "Comics' greatest coincidence" (because it is) BOTH these characters were first published on THE VERY SAME DAY in 1951, entirely independently of each other, and have carried on ever since. It is WEIRD, but also TRUE!

I thought it might be a good test to carry out an analysis of them to see what the Catalogue could come up with. THUS I put together a sample of texts featuring both characters throughout their history and used my CATALOGUE to see what was the same about them (SPOILERS: mostly the name), what was different (pretty much everything else) and what these differences could tell us about the cultures they came from (A LOT). It turned out to be a GRATE thing to do full of FASCINATING stuff which I very much look forward to unleashing upon a waiting world at some point soon-ish (soon in academic terms anyway, a while away in normal human terms!).

At the moment I'm waiting for some comments to come back before I go through and do a final draft and then - OH JOY - I have the pleasure of Sorting Out The References And Formatting. This is something I used to do for my old boss at Birkbeck, and it was clear that he handed it over to me because it is A MASSIVE PAIN. Still, I'm hoping to get it all done in the next few weeks and then it is HO! for Peer Review! I'm sure that will be FINE!

posted 3/5/2023 by MJ Hibbett
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A Silver Jubilee Of ROCK
Yesterday I promised you news of EXCITING FUTURE ACTION from the Artists Against Success Bandcamp site and today I intend to fulfill that mighty promise in FULL. For LO! We are working on a NEW COMPILATION ALBUM! Well, I say "we", it is mostly Mr FA Machine doing the hard work, but a) I am doing some fancying around and b) it is my blog, so WE it is.

Frankie suggested doing this in order to celebrate TWENTY FIVE GLORIOUS YEARS of Artists Against Success - a Silver Jubilee of ROCK, if you will - reaching all the way back to the distant days of our very first single Clubbing In The Week/Only Everything featuring Sienna and ME, way back in 1998.

Since then we've put out several compilations (also available on our Bandcamp site) and also many OTHER OUTPUTS by many many excellent OTHER BANDS, some of whom do not even feature either of us, and so the idea is to do a NEW one featuring ALL of the bands we've EVER put out - or at least as many of them as we can actually get hold of. THUS over the past few weeks we've been contacting AAS ALUMNI to ask for a track - old or new, released or unreleased, under the same name or new - that we can put together and UNLEASH upon the world in a few weeks time.

So far it has been going REALLY WELL, with a TONNE of HOT TRACKS already received. It is going to be a GRATE package when it is complete, covering a VAST RANGE of different types of ROCK. It's also going to feature some new stuff from ME and various ASSOCIATES, but I shall tell you about that another time. For now, ready your thrill receptors for a JOLT of ROCK later this month!

posted 2/5/2023 by MJ Hibbett
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Return Of The Blog
It's been quiet around here - ALMOST TOO QUIET - for a while, and that is because a) there's been all sorts going on but b) not much of it has been anything for the blog. HOWEVER! And very much HOWEVER MORE! That is all about to CHANGE.

For LO! Mr F A Machine has been hard at work building up the Artists Against Success bandcamp site, which features a METRIC TONNE of archival material from the days when the label was ACTING like a label and putting out all sorts of stuff, rather than just albums by ME. This includes some of our GRATE compilations, including Now That's What I Call Valid (the first EVER online compilation album - someone tell Norris McWhirter), our fifth anniversary BEST OF No Sales: No Sellout, and even I Preferred The Earlier Stuff (A Uk​-​Indie List Compilation), the TAPE compilation that PRE-DATES and indeed FORETOLD AAS itself!

I was going to say "And Best Of All - IT'S ALL FREE!" because it IS - if anyone wants to pay CA$H we'll find a charity to give it to, but you in no way have to - but then I realised that there is MUCH MORE to the site than just that. For starters, it is doing important work unleashing albums that NEVER CAME OUT IN THE FIRST PLACE. This particularly applies to Where Were You When Diana Died? the INCREDIBLY long-awaited album from Sienna that was meant to come out in 2006 but... um... didn't!

Frankie has been toiling away in the archives and has put together an EXCELLENT 21 song selection which covers the band's entire recording career and it is ACE. INDEED, he has done such a thorough job on ANTHOLOGISING that there was nothing left to use for the NEXT thing we've got coming out on the label.

What's that? "What next thing?" you ask? AHA! Yes, there is MORE to come from AAS, and I shall tell you about that... NEXT TIME!

posted 2/5/2023 by MJ Hibbett
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