Jun 292014
 

Fact: you can’t beat live music. Nothing comes close to the atmosphere that exudes from a bunch of musicians playing their hearts out on stage. These days getting to a gig is a rare treat (childcare and money usually being the main obstacles) but from the late 90s to early 00s I was a regular gig-goer. I’ve lost track of the bands I’ve seen live but I might attempt a list for ‘L is for… Live’. We’ll see how my memory is!

Lancaster, as much as I love the city, is hardly a hotbed of live music venues. At uni we’d usually head to Manchester for gigs by train or, when Scru’ got his mum’s car (called Henry) he’d drive. Funny story: we nearly got car-jacked once while eating a post-gig kebab in the car in Salford… (‘S is for… Scary’?)

In November 1998 I saw an advert for a band called [spunge], I’d not heard of them but it said they were a ska-punk band. It also said they were playing in Lancaster at The Yorkshire House. A little pub close to the uni’s nightclub. For whatever reason I couldn’t persuade anyone to come with me so I went on my own… And I’m really glad I did!

I was probably late as I don’t remember any support band so I grabbed a pint, paid my £2 entry fee and waited for the band. When they came on I was greeted by a bunch of lads only a few years older than me with an awful lot of energy. They played mostly their own songs as well as a few covers like ‘500 Miles’. I was instantly hooked, bought their EP, “Kicking Pigeons” and chatted with them for a bit afterwards.
image
I’ve seen them numerous times since that night and will always recommend them if you want some lively, happy music.

So, K is for Kicking Pigeons.

 Posted by at 8:00 am
Jun 272014
 

When I used to like dance music no one ever asked my why I liked it, I was just allowed to get on with it. When I saw the light and moved into the church of punk-rock and metal I found a growing number of people would ask me why. Odd questions like “why do you like that style of music?”, “isn’t punk dead?” and “do you like The Verve?” – no, no I don’t… It was like I had to justify my musical taste just because, at the time, it was ‘different’.

The most annoying part was, and sometimes still is, being told that “rock music is full of swearing and bad messages” or being accused of only listening to it for the swearing”. Yeah, whatever :/ In the mid 90’s I got into a band called de Heideroosjes, a Dutch punk band. They had a number of songs in various languages and dialects. I had no idea what was being said but I loved the music – so bang goes the accusation that I only listened to that style for the swearing.

parental

And, anyway, even if I was listening to it just for the swearing, would that really have been a problem? I mean, yes swearing isn’t big or clever (although a carefully crafted insult can be utterly hilarious at times) but surely it’s the overall lyrical theme that is more important? Take these (admittedly cherry-picked) examples below (warning: contains swears and rude stuff):

Sit down beside her like a spider, hi there girl, you mighta
Heard of me before, see whore, you’re the kind of girl that I’d assault
And rape then figure why not try not to make your pussy wider?
Fuck you with an umbrella, then open it up while the shit’s inside ya
I’m the kinda guy that’s mild but I might flip and get a little bit wilder

“Stay Wide Awake” – Eminem

 

Paddy cake, paddy cake with no hands
Got me in this club making wedding plans
If I take pictures while you do your dance
I can make you famous on Instagram

Shake what you mama gave you
Miss behave you,
I just wanna strip you, deep you, flip you, bubble bath you
What they do, taste my rage, drop cable
Not what you will and what you want and what you may do
Completely separated til I deeply penetrate it
The I take it out and wipe it off
Eat it, eat it, love and hate it, over stat it, overawed
Every where you been can you wiggle, wiggle for the beat on double G again?

“Wiggle” – Jason Derulo

 

I don’t slag no one
I don’t even judge
Don’t give a shit ’cause I’m not gonna budge
I just want to be who I want to be
Guess that’s hard for others to see

I’m not a trendy asshole
I do what I want
I do what I feel like
I’m not a trendy asshole
Don’t give a fuck
If it’s good enough for you

“Smash” – The Offspring

Of those, I’d rather my kids heard ‘Smash’ – yes, it has a couple of swears in it, but the message is a much nicer one…

So, J is for Justify – as in do I really need to justify my taste in music?!

 Posted by at 4:41 pm
Jun 262014
 

My last post was about my band at uni, Space Monkey Three, and how we acquired our name. For today’s post I thought I’d continue that theme…

In the last week of uni, around June 2001, we eventually got around to recording a bunch of our songs at the local studio, the Lancaster Music Co-Op. We’d already recorded most practices onto tape just for listening back, but decided we should have a proper record of our work.

It was a bit chaotic on the day as Jim’s guitar had been playing up recently – then it decided to stop working… So he was rushing around trying to borrow a bass from a friend and me and David were trying to get hold of him to see what was going on. Anyway, we got it all sorted and got set up in the studio. The word ‘studio’ might conjure up big, wide open spaces with space for artistic freedom, large glass-fronted fridges filled with multiple beverages, panoramic windows between the control room and the studio… Well, sorry, but here ya go:

studioWhile I have recorded in a nicer studio (like the one described above), the Lancaster Music Co-Op wasn’t it. However, that’s not to put the Co-Op down in any way! It’s a not-for-profit group run by, and for, musicians in the local area – they’ve also been going nearly 30 years so it really can’t be that bad, can it? It was also cheap, friendly and very professionally run.

We recorded 8 songs in total and then David went off to take his drums home while I started recording the vocals and Jim sat there staring at me, playing air-bass. Probably. I honestly don’t remember actually! One of the songs, “I Do Not Want To Be A Laboratory Technician”, was a slightly less serious one sung to the tune of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”, only 15 times faster. When David returned to do his backing vocals, which were only in the chorus for that song, he burst out laughing. It was actually the first time he had heard the lyrics properly and he hadn’t realised how silly it was. I think the line that tickled him most was one of the job suggestions of “grow a bum and lay some bricks” – like I said, it wasn’t the most serious of songs!

IsThisTheBestTheyCouldDo

In the end we called it “Is This The Best They Could Do?” – we thought it was quite fitting. So, without further a do, here’s a bit of info about each song we recorded that day as well as a link to the mp3 file so you can here it in full.

 

Don’t Push It

[right-click and ‘save as’ to download mp3]

This is a song about a love-hate relationship – wanting to escape the problems but also just wanting to get things fixed. It’s also about wanting to be accepted for who you are. It’s actually has quite a deep set of lyrics now I come to look into them again! The small music break after the 2nd chorus was completely by accident. One time when we were practising David thought we’d reached the end and stopped playing while I carried on. Then he did a couple of ‘blats’ to come back in when he realised. We loved how that sounded so we kept it in.

 

Means To An End

[right-click and ‘save as’ to download mp3]

Jim wrote the lyrics for this one, so hopefully he can correct me on the background story if I get any of it wrong! We both worked on the music and structure in the cellar of 77 Balmoral Road in Lancaster. And the chord progression for the chorus are a direct rip off of “Single Dumb Brunette” by Cephas… Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, maybe. The song itself is about about being overwhelmed by someone’s presence, and just feeling so hated because they were stopping you getting anything done; they were so controlling. The kicker being the last verse – it turned out Jim was addicted to TV and not getting any work done!

 

Bit Of A Complex

[right-click and ‘save as’ to download mp3]

Another one of mine. I wrote this after having a really great weekend away with the Christian Union – everyone was really friendly and chatty all weekend. I made a load of new friends and it really spurred me on. That was until we returned and it was as though I never existed. I was just another face in the crowd, no one important. After I wrote it and looked back at the lyrics, part of me wondered if I was being a bit petty about the whole thing and I couldn’t decide if I was being too harsh or not. That’s what led to the title of the song – it wasn’t a question, it was a statement, I knew I had a bit of a complex about the whole situation. But it felt good to write it and get it out and it stopped being an issue to be honest! Musically it’s quite a fast, driving punk-rock song with a lot of palm-muting for good measure.

 

Stupid?

[right-click and ‘save as’ to download mp3]

This was another of Jim’s songs. He wrote this in first year at uni (1998-1999) as I remember jamming in his room in Furness College working on the music. I’m not even sure if we’d started the band by this point… The song is about struggling but not being a quitter – instead relying on help from God. It’s actually a really short song, so the verses are repeated and there’s a relatively lengthy musical breakdown partway through. It still only just reached 2min 31s though! It has a killer bassline and some pretty fast vocals. This was, and still is, one of my favourite songs to play – if only because I knew David hated playing it near the end of a set because of the speed of it!

 

I Think I’m A Sandman

[right-click and ‘save as’ to download mp3]

The ultimate mash up of 80s pop hit “I Think We’re Alone Now” and 90s metal classic “Enter Sandman”. We also mashed together “Space Cowboy” with “Walking On Sunshine” but that never got recorded properly. Fun story though, we could never remember the words so it became:
Some people call me the space monkey
Some people call me the gangster of love
Some people call me Maurice (whit whoo)
Some people say that I’m a puff…

So, yeah. Probably the worst mash up you’ll here but I think this defines how serious we were as a band!

 

Questions Not Answers

[right-click and ‘save as’ to download mp3]

This is definately a break up song! But written from the side of the person who knows they’ve messed up one too many times. It was or slowest song but one I loved singing because I was just starting to be more aggressive in my vocal style.

 

I Want

[right-click and ‘save as’ to download mp3]

I wrote this back in 1995 which is pretty much a lifetime ago. It was, I think, the first song I ever wrote. It’s a simple, fairly cheesy, worship song. We punked it up and added a bit of a heavier fill to it too.

 

I Do Not Want To Be A Laboratory Technician

[right-click and ‘save as’ to download mp3]

Ha! This song tickles me every time. I wrote it during a boring, complex lecture about protein structure with Professor Ian Nieduszynski – a ridiculously clever man, with a ridiculous name and a ridiculous habit of adding an ‘ah’ at the end of each sentence: “…which then forms the protein-ah”, “…which of course proves evolution-ah”. I ripped off the tune from “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” (the Me First and The Gimme Gimmes version) and wrote a song about not wanting to be a lab-tech. It was a silly song that went through a list of all the jobs I could do instead:

Don’t want to be a lab-tech, clear up mess;
It’s not my ideal job injecting mice in their heads.

I could work for the BBC or drive a van from A to B,
Could try my hand at butchery.
I could teach your kids to count, play in a metal band – really shout;
Sit in a road and be a roundabout.

I could work at Morrisons, join the Air Force – drop NAPALM bombs;
Be a cleaner and hoover rooms.
Inland Revenue, tax collect, or be a doctor, talk about sex;Grow a bum and lay some bricks.

Could do accounts and use my brain, or be a voluntary vampire slayer;
Or I could be a football player.
I could be a duck farmer, work at the zoo and feed llamas;
Or lecture like Nieduszynski-ah!

 

There you have it, that’s what I did during my uni years. I am actually quite proud of it – warts and all. So feel free to download the songs and add them to your playlist. David (“Dave The Nut”) went on to play for the world-famous The Toy Dolls – I like to think we were his platform to stardom. The bugger has never said thanks to me though… 😉

So, I is for “Is This The Best They Could Do” – quite frankly, no, it wasn’t!

 Posted by at 5:55 pm
Jun 242014
 

I started Uni in Lancaster on 28th September 1998. I was nearly 18.5 years old and I was ready to put away childish things (like being called ‘Maff’) and become an adult (called ‘Matt’). During fresher’s week I was chatting to someone at a nightclub about Green Day and got onto the subject of their album “Kerplunk!” and, in particular, the song “Who Wrote Holden Caulfield?”. Neither of us could remember the first line of the song though. With perfect timing a lad walked past wearing skate shoes, a huge wallet chain and none other than a tatty Green Day t-shirt. I grabbed him and without any form of introduction shouted at him “what’s the first line of Who Wrote Holden Caulfield?”

He looked at me like I was a complete stranger that had just grabbed him and shouted a random question at him. And rightly so. Then he replied “a thought burst in my head” and a new friendship was forged with Jim.

Jim played bass and loved the same music as I did although we still managed to introduce each other to new bands. He was also mates with a local drummer, David, who played at St Thomas’s Late Evening Service (St T’s LES). I can’t recall the ins and outs of the whole thing but we ended up starting a ska-punk band. There was only one small problem though, we couldn’t play ska!

So we started off with a few covers to get to know each other’s styles and then started writing some of our own stuff too. Jim and I were punks at heart and David was a hardcore drummer – so the resulting sound was a slightly heavier punk/rock mix. It was fun, and when I listen to it I still really like the style we had. Ok, so my vocals weren’t always in the same key as the music; Jim’s aim wasn’t that great and he hit the odd bum note; and David was a self-proclaimed music industry whore who once scared the CU sound guy by shouting ‘bollocks!’ at him during a sound check one night… But we had a laugh. And curry. Lots of curry.

We were finally ready to gig, we just needed a name… I’m proud to say that I thought of the name we all agreed on: “The Linda McCartney’s”. It was perfect, it had a great ring to it and reeked of punk! We were a bit concerned about the former-Beatles’ wife not wanting her name to be taken in vain or wanting us to use her vegetarian food brand as a name for our crappy little band though. So to get around this before it was an issue we changed the spelling: “The Lynda M Cartney’s” (with the McDonald’s arches for the ‘M’). What was that about copyright…?!

So, we played our first gig supporting some little indie band at one of the bars at uni. They were pretty dire to be honest. But we’re had fun, I think. We had beer at least…

David did (still does do) a lot of work for Meltdown Christian Hard Music conference and he somehow managed to persuade them to let us play. Although a lawyer friend insisted that we change our name… So here the hunt for a new name began!

We had numerous brainstorming sessions using the old rule that if you still like a name after 3 days then it’s a keeper. I can’t remember the exact order but here are a few of the names we considered:

Tonk” – this is the sound you make when you hit a drum. It goes “tonk”. I’m not sure what the exact rejection criteria was for this one but we decided not to use it. Thinking about it today if day it may have sounded a little too childish.

Spume” – this is the froth you get on polluted rivers. It sounds too much like “sperm”. End of.

Torque” – sounded too ‘metal’.

Hello Colin” – these were the last words David’s granddad said to him. To this day he still doesn’t know who ‘Colin’ was… As much as I loved this name, it didn’t survive the 3 day test.

In the end we settled on “Space Monkey Three“, or “SM3” for short. This was in honour of a talking space monkey that David owned. An albino monkey in a spacesuit that was created and sold to honour our Lord Jesus Christ’s 2000 birthday… Go figure!

So, H is for “Hello Colin” – my almost band!

David (rear) and Space Monkey (fore) - 2000

David (rear) and a Space Monkey (fore) – 2000 [I’m pretty sure THE Space Monkey was bigger; this was his little brother?!]

Rock-star poses! - 2000

Rock-star poses! – 2000

About us - 2001

About us – 2001

 Posted by at 9:00 am
Jun 222014
 

Warning: this might get a bit deep, personal and emotional. I’m not going to re-read it or edit it. It’s straight from the heart and I have a feeling it’s going to be quite a long one too.

Music has always been a big part of my life – I can listen to a certain album and be reminded of a specific time in my life. For example, MxPx’s “Slowly Going The Way Of The Buffalo” reminds me of 1998 as I started uni in Lancaster. Therapy?’s “Troublegum” reminds me of playing pinball on my French exchange trip in 1995. Matt Redman’s “Blessed Be Your Name” brings back memories of my friend’s early death and of my Dad’s fight with cancer.

Memories are gifts, we receive them by spending time with friends and family. Sometimes we get some crap presents that we don’t really want, likewise we’re not immune to crap memories either. Past regrets and mistakes have a way of lodging themselves in your memory banks and coming up to kick you in the nuts when you least expect it. I’ve had a few months of that recently…

If I could take what I’ve learned
From all the mistakes I’ve made
From the pages that I’ve turned
From the lost games that I’ve played
I’d be a better person for it
Better than deciding to ignore it
It meant so much to me

MxPx – ‘Misplaced Memories

I can’t change the past. None of us can. And as awful as some of my past has been, I don’t actually think I’d want to change it. Yes, I’ve hurt people and been hurt myself; I’ve done some stupid things that even 10 or 16 years on I still can’t explain why or come to forgive myself. So why wouldn’t I want to change it? Well, it’s been written down in history and it’s as much a part of me as all the great things I’ve achieved. Music is like that too; every song I hear is a part of my life in some way. Whether that’s to remind me of a particular place, to remind me of friends who are no longer here or to give me support when I’m feeling down – it’s all a part of what makes me who I am.

At different times the same song can have totally different meanings. Take, for example, Paramore’s “We Are Broken”. During the good times it’s a reminder that there’s a great God up there, wrapping His arms around me to keep me safe day to day. And in the bad times…:

My mouth is dry with words I cannot verbalize
Tell me why we live like this
Keep me safe inside
Your arms like towers
Tower over me
‘Cause we are broken

Paramore – ‘We Are Broken

…it’s as though my heart is screaming out that I know I’m a failure but I can’t quite explain why, or put it into words. I just know that I’m broken and need fixing.

I’ve written a lot of songs in my life and when I read back through the lyrics I can easily recall how I was feeling or what was going on around that time. Some of it good, some of it bad, some of it just plain silly! I’d love to know what was going through the writers’ minds when they penned the songs that have helped me over the years but, to be perfectly honest, I have enough of my own memories and thoughts already linked to the songs.

Those who know me well will know that my social circle isn’t particularly huge, but the friends I do have are, quite simply, great. Just like music gives me support and helps me out, I have a few great friends who do the same – and in recent weeks and months, they have been the best gift I could have ever asked for.

So as a musical gift to my friends, here is Pennywise with “Bro Hymn”:

Ever get the feeling you can’t go on
Just remember whose side it is that you’re on
You’ve got friends with you till the end
If you’re ever in a tough situation
We’ll be there with no hesitation
Brotherhood’s our rule we cannot bend

When you’re feeling too close to the bottom
You know who it is you can count on
Someone will pick you up again
We can conquer anything together
All of us are bonded forever
If I die you die that’s the way it is

Pennywise – ‘Bro Hymn

So, G is for Gift – the gift of music and of my friends. The future’s going to be awesome – because we’re going to make it that way!

 Posted by at 9:00 am
Jun 212014
 

Here’s me playing and ‘singing’ a song with one of my previous bands, seventyseventimes (or 77x for short) that was recorded back in 2008. It’s a cover of a great song by an American ska-punk band, The O.C. Supertones. You can’t really see me, but I’m the one in the red that’s behind the big pole in the middle…

Two fun facts about this gig: 1) The tent we were playing in nearly collapsed because of the wind and 2) the guys thoroughly enjoying the set were members of the great UK ska-punk band Sounds Of Salvation!

So, F is for “Forever” by The O.C. Supertones.

 Posted by at 10:00 am
Jun 202014
 

I’m not a particularly morbid person but there have been some special people in my life, both family and friends, who have either lived a long life and died or have been taken from us tragically young. This post isn’t for anyone in particular, it’s just a song that I like for both the lyrics and the musical style. It’s called “Eulogy” and it’s by a band called The Flatliners who I saw supporting NOFX back in 2009.

It’s just a great reminder to remember your friends and loved ones, even when they’re gone. Yes, it’s hard to lose someone you care about – whether they’re family or friend. But the very fact you care about them means you’ll also have some great memory that should never be forgotten.

The sun shows no mercy this morning
I’m staring thin-eyed as the rolling ground comes to a halt
A heart once close has stopped beating
But it’s memory lives forever
And our blurry eyes will make some sense of this

You will always be remembered
You will be celebrated
You will never be forgotten
These tears still haven’t faded

I feel I’m awake today with this memory that was once misplaced
And I never thought I’d live to see this overpouring sadness
Our eyes wide, receptive
A family without a faith learns that hands around them will help give direction
And our mourning hearts will skip a beat at every single mention
You will not be forgotten
And we will sing

You will always be remembered
You will be celebrated
You will never be forgotten
These tears still haven’t faded

You’re not lost, you’re not lost
You’re watching over us
You’re not lost, you’re not lost
Oh just listen to these words we’re screaming out
Oh god, it’s gotten so loud now
You’re not lost, you’re not lost

You will never be forgotten
You will never be forgotten
You will always be remembered
You will be celebrated

So, E is for “Eulogy” by The Flatliners.

 Posted by at 10:00 am
Jun 192014
 

All of my guitars (two electrics and one acoustic) use strings – six on each to be precise. That’s why they’re called stringed instruments; clever that, isn’t it?

For as long as I can remember I’ve used D’Addario strings and have found them to be excellent quality. I rarely break strings (I do strum very hard at times too) and I see this as a testimony to the quality of their strings. Another nice touch is that the strings are in vacuum-sealed bags so even if the pack is quite old the strings won’t have ‘rusted’ in any way.

If you’re interested, I use 10 gauge, nickel-wound strings on my electrics and 12 or 13 gauge copper-wound strings on my acoustic.

So, D is for D’Addario Guitar Strings.

 Posted by at 10:00 am
Jun 182014
 

In 1995, just before my 15th birthday, I was on a school exchange trip in France. I hated the guy I was paired up with and I spent all my time there playing on his pinball machine, listening to Therapy?’s Troublegum album and dossing off to drink Kronenburg at the local bar. The pinball machine took Francs and so my host probably didn’t mind me being antisocial as he thought I was filling up his holiday fund. However, his little brother (who I taught sarcasm to and got on better with) told me the key was stuck underneath with blu-tack. So he opened the door and flicked the button for free credits. Sweet!

When the French were with us in England they followed us to all our classes so they had someone they knew. However when we were in France they just gave us our own timetable and we were on our own! We were all bored stiff with a bunch of French kids we didn’t know from L’Adam. I made friends with one kid who liked my Therapy? t-shirt and we all subsequently skived off to the local pub. Our hosts were clueless because they just dropped us at school and didn’t see us until home time anyway. By the end of the 10 days there were about 12 of us who were now regulars at the bar, drinking bad French beer, playing pool and listening to The Offspring on the jukebox.

I took a bit of a shine to one of the girls in our group and at one point she commented that I should learn to play guitar. So I did.

On my return I stole my brother’s guitar and amp (he’d stopped playing anyway, so I assume it was OK). I think it was also his ‘how to play guitar’ book… And I taught myself how to play basic chords, read tablature and master a few strumming techniques. But then I came to a standstill…

That was until I was at the park at St Ives in Bingley (West Yorkshire) with a mate of mine who’d brought his guitar with him. We were sat up in the treehouse and he taught me about ‘power chords’. Basically these are an easy way to play chords without having to learn too much boring technical stuff. Considering my genre of choice was punk rock, the power chord was a god-send! There was no stopping me then.

And that, boys and girls, is how/why I started to play guitar. That was nearly 20 years ago…

So, C is for Chords on a guitar.

 Posted by at 3:25 pm
Jun 172014
 

I’ll let you in on a dirty little secret of mine. Not many people know this about me, only a few close friends. It’s quite embarrassing but I like to believe everyone goes through phases like it…

Whispers: *I used to like techno/dance music*

There, I said it and I’m glad that’s out in the open now! Top acts such as 2-Unlimited, Corona and other 90’s artists used to live in my walkman and keep me company on my various paper rounds. I can’t remember the exact reason but one day I borrowed one of my brother’s tapes – it was Megadeth’s “Countdown To Extinction” mixed in with Metallica’s cover the the slightly sweary song “So What”. I was hooked – gone were the days of the chart friendly Dutch techno-pop duo, for I had discovered rawwwwk! I was about 14 at this time.

In 1995 for my 15th birthday (yes I’m comprised of 34 years of beauty and awesomeness(!)) I got a CD player. It was actually the first CD player in our house so I was quite special. Tapes were so old fashioned, so I had to buy some music on CD with my birthday money. I’d seen a song on MTV at the time, it had some guys being wheeled into a mental institution who started playing their song.

basketcase

This was was, of course, “Basket Case” by Green Day – a band that would pull me away from heavier rock/metal to discover 2nd-wave American punk-rock. A musical preference that has been a staple part of my CD collection for almost 20 years. Bands like The Offspring, AFI, Pennywise, Guttermouth, The Vandals, Rancid and NOFX – proper bands that are still making awesome music now (although Green Day have gone a bit poo recently).

So, B is for “Basket Case” by Green Day – the first CD I ever bought.

 Posted by at 9:10 am