Ninety-Nine Problems and a Pitch ain’t One

My film-making ambitions have largely withered and died but I found the following scrawled on the back of an old song lyric by my bed the other morning.  It was under a dusty pile of books dating back at least a few months and I have no clear recollection of having written it.  Presumably I was half asleep at the time.

What follows is verbatim:

Scotsploitation – there’s got to be a market for this sort of thing?

The Cumnockance – haunted house movie set in East Ayrshire.

Possil Kickboxer II: The Drum – sequel to Possil Kickboxer featuring a Kumite-style finale set in Drumchapel.  No need to actually make Possil Kickboxer.  That would be a load of pish.

The Creature from the Blue Lagoon – post apocalyptic Glasgow tale featuring a mutated special fish supper.

Dinnae

There is no pitch note for Dinnae.  Just an off-the-page squiggle indicating that sleep was suddenly upon me.

So there you have it.  Expect to be hearing about a Kickstarter campaign for The Cumnockance very soon.


My Postie’s a Prick

Been buying in a few VHS tapes and the likes for reviewing purposes on the soon-to-be revived Ritual Objects blog.  I’m waiting for a couple of parcels.

So, it’s just past midday, postie’s due and I’m in the kitchen getting a brew on when I hear a loud “bang” from the close, like a door slamming.  I go to the door and look through the keek-hole in time to witness the postie taking one of my parcels – he’s right outside my door, mind – raising it to head-height and slamming it down on the concrete, while muttering “fuck this!” or some-such.  He uses enough force that it bounces back up to about his shoulder.

I tear open the door and ask, I think justifiably, “What the fuck are you playing at?”

He looks a bit like a rabbit caught in the headlights and says, “Oh, sorry, I dropped that,” while hastily handing me a small stack of three parcels and some mail.

“Did you fuck – I just watched you through the door-” indicating the keek-hole “-and you deliberately bounced it off the fucking ground.”

“Sorry, I dropped it, I apologise.”

“Sorry, I just watched you throw it.  It better no be fucking damaged.”

While he starts trying to make a joke of how tough a climb the stairs are, I slam the door in his face.

It occurs to me I’ve heard him do this before with parcels – the loud “bang” – I’d just never realised what it was I’ve been hearing.  I’ve had damaged stuff before which has almost certainly been down to this wee shite.  Today’s parcels each contained four VHS tapes, well packaged but not enough to stop several of the boxes from shattering.  I’ve had identically damaged tapes before – now I know why.  This is really taking the piss.

I suppose I’ll have to put in a complaint.  Slapping him until he cries would probably be frowned upon.


Life’s being a bit heavy handed with the irony today.

That moment when the exercises you do to keep your constantly-aching-after-35-years-of-guitar-playing fingers working reopen the cut you got when a screwdriver slipped while setting up your guitar. On the anniversary of Hendrix’s death as well.

Life’s being a bit heavy handed with the irony today (“heavy handed”!  Geddit?!). I was going to say I’d slap the next person who tells me they’d “love to be a musician” but I wouldn’t risk it. I’d probably lose a thumb.


It’s a digital world about which I could give increasingly less of a fuck.

From what’s left of channelnowhere.com:

… well, it happens to us all.  Great big hard drive crash.  Months/years of work lost, as well as applications and so on.  Channel Nowhere’s websites have all fallen victim to local storage hell, so please bear with us as we try to clone a sow from the devil’s own silk purse.

And there you have it.  Normal service might be resumed eventually.


Doing away.

Well then, that’s another month by.  Currently, I’m trying to restructure/streamline Channel Nowhere (as a businessman, I make a pretty decent guitarist and I’m afraid the whole thing has become rather onerous, not to mention messy).

There was supposed to be a whole big release for the re-master of Pennies On My Eyes but after months of dragging on it now seems more prudent to just get it out there.  Physical copies will be available online in the next few days and from the next Craig Hughes Two gig which is at The Vestry in Dundee on Saturday July 2nd as part of the Almost Blue festival (8pm start).

In about a fortnight I’ll have some concrete news regarding more live work and a recording/release schedule for the rest of this year into 2017.  Until then look for an update or two at the Ritual Objects … blog.  Unless I decide to bin it, right enough.


Ritual Objects

BLOG NEWS

The Tapes For My Walkman/Tapes For My VCR blogs have been merged into Ritual Objects of Sight and Sound.  The new blog is much the same deal as its predecessors, and all of the original content has been carried over, but the focus now is on physical formats in general (as opposed to just tape).  It’s still a work in progress as it’ll take a while to update everything but the first new review has just gone up, Prince’s Chaos and Disorder.

If you were a subscriber to either of the original blogs you might want to double check that you’re still subscribed and receiving updates.  It appears that during the merging process, the subscriber list for the …Walkman blog was kept intact but not for the …VCR one.  Either way, I’m not convinced that individual subscriber settings will have survived the name/URL change so please do check.

LABEL NEWS

In the Ritual Objects spirit, the reissue of Pennies On My Eyes finally goes physical at the end of June, with a limited edition hand-stamped CD and tape run.  Over the following month my first two albums will be given the same treatment with the Hard Times … EP reappearing on CD only.  Of course, all titles are still available to download and stream from all the usual suspects.

 

 


Prince.

It was 1984, I had not long turned fifteen.  I was reading music magazines or maybe comics in a newsagent’s in Stirling, radio playing over the shop’s speakers.  There was a sound then, over those speakers, a flurry of fuzzed up notes, melting into a weird vocal – guttural and wordless – all serving to introduce a sparse, utterly original, quite brilliant record that held me transfixed till its finish.  Singular lyric, great guitar solo, audacious keyboard arrangement.  Like nothing I’d heard before. Like nothing anybody had heard before.

When Doves Cry. Prince.

I’d been playing guitar for around three years, it was mostly all I thought about.  I’d been teaching myself, wearing new grooves in old vinyl, lifting the needle from the end of a solo back to its start and again and again.  I was one of several budding guitarists at my school.  We were all trying to do the Eddie Van Halen double-tapping thing, some AC/DC, some Zeppelin.  But here was something else.  Something … other.  A wildness, a fluidity, an attitude at once familiar and new.

As soon as I could, I bought Purple Rain, the perfect album.  1999, Dirty Mind, Prince and Controversy followed, as and when I could afford them.  For You wasn’t available in the UK at the time but a friend went on holiday to the USA and brought me back a copy.

When I was sixteen I got to go on a school trip to the south of France, despite having already left school.  Paisley Park was never off the radio.  That’s how I remember it.  Once back home, I got Around the World in a Day, I think for my birthday.  By now, Prince was my favourite musician.  Not necessarily as a guitarist, where in honesty he had some competition for top spot, but across the board – composer, keyboard player, bassist, drummer, singer.  He could do it all and frequently did.  By the time Parade came out, an album on which he played comparatively little guitar and virtually no lead, I didn’t care.  It was wonderful.

In 1987, I first heard Sign ‘O’ the Times on a car radio as I was getting a lift to work.  I had to ask the driver to please shut up so I could listen to it properly.  It sounded like Gil Scott-Heron collaborating with Albert King and it turned out to be the title track from one of the Great Albums.  Not that I could have known that at the time.  I just knew it was something special.

In 1988, a nineteen year-old me and some friends went to London, on a trip fraught with missed coaches and wrong trains, to see Prince on the Lovesexy tour.  I was lucky enough by then to have seen what are now considered some of the all-time greatest live acts:  Thin Lizzy, Queen and Iggy Pop as well as other great musicians and showmen.  But that Prince gig was, again, something else.  Yes, the showmanship was phenomenal – two sets performed in the round, the huge stage featuring a basketball court, on which Prince proved his skills, and a car.  However, in amongst all the lights and the dry ice and of course the dancing, it was the music that made it so special.  Great songs.  Great band.  And, ohdearlord, the guitar playing.  Transcendent.

In 1990, for my twenty-first birthday my mum gave me concert and train tickets for my girlfriend and I to see Prince on The Nude Tour.  I remember being in a bad mood before the gig started.  Then, expecting a Lovesexyesque extravaganza (it was the same venue, Wembley Arena), it turned out to be a stripped-down affair.  Basic lights, standard stage set-up, no real “show”.  I was disappointed.  Until, that is, a couple of minutes into the set.  Then the music took over.  This tour was between albums – after Batman, before Graffiti Bridge, heavy on tunes from both.  My abiding memory is of a massive blues ballad ending up with Prince on top of the piano, blasting out an epic guitar solo.  I had to wait till the release of Graffiti Bridge a few months later to find the name of the song – a favourite to this day, it was The Question of U.

Throughout my twenties I drifted away from listening to a lot of the sounds I’d enjoyed in my youth.  I suppose that’s what you do.  Prince, however, was an exception.  Maybe his newer albums were not all as vital as his earlier work but in 1993, three days after my twenty-fourth birthday I, again with some good friends, saw him rock Celtic Park in Glasgow (the ticket was another birthday present).  Stadia make awful venues but that show was perfectly judged and had the best outdoor sound I’ve heard.  Before the main set there was a screening of the video for the as-yet unheard single Sexy MF – irreverent, funny and cool as, well, F.

The album that followed was one of the best of Prince’s ’90s releases, bursting with ideas.  Its title was the symbol which Prince would soon adopt in place of a name, marking the beginning of his much publicised break away from the major label system.  The final time I saw him live, with another good friend, was during this period, as “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince” at the SECC in Glasgow, in March 1995.  I was twenty-five.  Basically this was The Gold Experience tour although we didn’t know that at the time as the record company was apparently refusing to release that album.  A couple of hits and a cover of Sex Machine aside, almost all the music that night was new.  Prince played bass on a few songs.  It was fantastic.  On the way out, venue staff were handing out free cassettes (probably The Gold Experience though they might have been an unreleased New Power Generation album.  The tapes were all gone before we could grab one).

Of course, as his relationship with the industry fractured, his own business model changed beyond recognition.  Now, he could release as much music as he wanted, with mail-order only cassettes of demos and oddities and limited release jazz-fusion instrumental albums  interspersed with more conventional mainstream fare.  Albums were released very differently territory-to-territory, several major US releases only available elsewhere as imports, UK releases given away free with newspapers, CDs included in the price of a gig ticket.  Hard to keep track of and often frustrating but at the very least remarkable.  Also inspirational.

After leaving school, with the exception of the occasional unfortunate but brief detour, I had worked almost exclusively in and around music.  From working in record shops to gigging in bands to busking.  When I finally committed to full-time musicianeering, Prince’s practical deconstruction of the music industry encouraged me to make that final push at the grand old age of thirty-eight.  Since then, on a very small scale, I’ve been releasing albums, EPs and the occasional single through my own label on various formats, some for sale, some for free, while having tracks out there on free-to-download and magazine cover-mount compilations.  It’s no Paisley Park but the influence is undeniable.

On Thursday, April 21st, I got a text from one of my best friends, the one I was with at that 1995 SECC gig.  It read simply “Prince just died”.  Later that night, watching Purple Rain, I found myself in tears.  I am forty-six years old.

Prince’s work was integral to many of the best times in my life, his music varied enough and deep enough to score some of my darkest as well as happiest hours.  It may not be immediately apparent but his music informs mine intimately.  He changed forever the way I would not only play but listen to and actually hear music.

It all comes back to that one time when I heard a sound I’d never heard before, reading music magazines or maybe comics in a newsagent’s in Stirling, radio playing over the shop’s speakers.  It was 1984 and I had not long turned fifteen.