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Things I did last summer…

Posted on Friday, September 14th, 2007

All through the summer I was invited to play at some small festivals and other events which were, for the most part, pleasing if not a little exhausting. I had imagined a peaceful summer, spent doing all those things I never have time to do, just popping away for a weekend here or there to do a show. Didn’t really work out like that as I always forget that most of the shows I do involve travelling great distances, careful rehearsal and all the other things that are part of my life, you know, like, losing my luggage, being selected for secondary screening and third degree at every airport I travel through and the other adventures I encounter every time I leave the house. So my summer didn’t really provide much rest and relaxation and I certainly wasn’t really very productive. Playing live is reproductive which doesn’t really count.
When arriving back into France after that little adventure in Seville I started to, perhaps regret, just a little, having spent the last few years giving France such a hard time. Curiously, the simple act of crossing the border gave be the impression of coming home, even if home was still two days drive away. That’s quite a nice feeling. I can’t say I have felt it for a few years.
One of the concerts I played was at Heyres, in the south of France, as part of the Midi Festival, an intimate gathering of Electronica, in a beautiful setting, the Villa Noailles, sitting atop a hill overlooking the Riviera town with an incredible view and an interesting history, it being a favorite hang out of Man Ray and Jean Cocteau. I was welcomed warmly and everything about the way the event was organized was warm and friendly. The gentleman who invited me, Frédéric Landini, was very nice indeed and I’m not just writing that because I want to get invited next year, he was really cool. However, it was strangely disconcerting to be playing a concert in France where no-one was running about being stressed and obnoxious. What was also a bit strange was that I played in the afternoon, without the benefit of my Lumiere film to hide behind which almost guaranteed that I’d do something stupid in full view of the public. Well, I don’t like to disappoint. A consequence of my clothes being stolen in Seville was that I had no shoes, so I had to go on stage wearing some flip flops, which, is not really very fucking cool. Worse though, was that when I tried to press one of my effects pedals, I pressed about five of them at the same time, because the aforementioned flip flops were about the same width as the snowshoes that arctic explorers wear. So I had to stop playing, take off my shoes and play in my bare feet, which was realllllllyy fucking embarrassing, maybe worse than wearing flip flops in the first place. It was not, as my loving family pointed out, attention seeking behaviour.

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me at midi
Doing a road trip is usually fun, doing one with your family on board, while you have some concerts to play is, well, interesting. It’s nice to cross a few boundaries every now and again, my life normally being so compartmental. Switching back and forth between artist and dad several times a day is something which, in our home, most often happens without effort although put me on a stage and have my six year old at the front trying to take a picture of me with the lens cap on and I’ll not be sure how to act.
Of course my instinct is to stop playing, put down my guitar and go to her aid but I’m guessing that’s not the right thing to do in that circumstance. That, and I’ve already stopped to take my shoes off a couple of minutes before and it could be taken as a sigh that I’m not really concentrating.
Then of course there the big one, the teenage daughter along for the ride as well. Who knows what goes on in her head as she’s watching her father looking uncomfortable on a stage with a guitar around his neck?
In fact, who knows what goes on in her head? Period.
I’ve had some totally surreal exchanges with her recently, the most outstanding of which I started to scribble onto a paper napkin as we were eating at the time. She was talking about turning up at some event or other dressed up as a persocom, to be precise, a chobit, a metal eared human looking robot or rabbit, I may have misheard.
I looked blank. “You know nothing about Cos-Play, do you dad?”
I looked blank again and scribbled some more. “Oh, no, you’re not going to write that into your web log are you? That stupid little window into your pathetic miserable little life”.
Too fucking right, I am.
I really wish that she’d been brought up by normal people.
Anyway as we sat eating a pizza my whole family criticized the way I pronounce dogshit in French. They broke it to me, gently at first, but then with a little more persistence, that when I tried to talk with the audience in French, no one understood a word of it and they were all being polite by not pointing and laughing.
To have the opportunity to pass the time with my girls, while rambling about the continent playing my guitar, well, it seemed a pleasant place to be right at that moment, even if they do remind me how retarded I can be all the time. You can’t really ask for much more than that. Unfortunately it doesn’t give me much to write about in a web log. I mean, come on, who really wants to read about me getting on OK with things. There’s no entertainment value in that, is there. Still, it doesn’t happen often, so indulge me.

Next, I ventured back to the country of my birth to play a couple of shows during the Edinburgh Festival, which were in a really unusual venue deep in the heart of the old town. Edinburgh is a great place to experience at any time, but during the festival it buzzes like no other place I’ve ever been. The atmosphere is only marred slightly by the presence of an unusually large number of mime artists.
Can’t say much about my shows, I think they were OK, or at least nobody told me that I sucked. What I do know was that they were really late at night and I dozed off just before showtime, only to be awakened by the applause after my introduction (which no one had told me about). Thus I entered the stage with that look of a startled rabbit, caught in the headlights of an oncoming car. I’m useless at the best of time after having a nap; it takes me five minutes to recognize my surroundings so I probably appeared even dopier than usual. Whatever. I found out what tired really means the next morning when I climbed to the top of Arthurs Seat with Violette as I had, in a moment of insanity, promised we would do before we left Edinburgh. I managed to survive the ordeal without being hospitalized although I ached everywhere for days afterward. I played Glasgow as well on that trip in a tiny little venue with candles on the tables, and met a nice bunch of people after the show, hung around and talked shit. That was fun.

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me@punkt

After that, well I was invited to Kristiansand in Norway to appear at the Punkt festival. That was a real quick trip but included six flights to get there and back but nothing untoward happened to me at airport security, no planes were missed, no luggage lost as Madame Guthrie was with me and things like that don’t happen to her. She has a smile, you see, which melts people. No one would ever lose her luggage or remove her toothpaste. Arriving in Kristensand at night left the biggest surprise for the morning, when, on opening the hotel room curtains, was revealed the sheer beauty of a small Norwegian coastal town, with the full complement of blue sky, water, mountains and trees. Soundcheck was at 9am so we had the rest of the day to look around and took up an offer made by the festival organizers of a little boat trip around the fjords, stopping at a little island for a delightful lunch of fish soup and returning a few hours later. It was like being on holiday. Lovely. The only problem is that my Madame now imagines that I get spoiled like this every time that I travel to do a show and therefore has ceased to believe me that what I do is hard work. I was very impressed with this festival, and I not saying that to get invited back there either. I loved the venue and the care taken over the production. I was able to use multiple projectors in the theatre which is something I’d do more often, given the chance.

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me@punkt

Don’t know when that’ll happen though, as I’m kinda really needing to get some new music done, my studio needs to have a little life breathed into it and a layer of dust brushed away. It’s been a while since I wrote any music, for me at least. It’s overdue.

Seville

Posted on Saturday, August 4th, 2007

OK…OK….OK, I know, I only write about stuff when things go wrong and It must seem like when many weeks pass without me writing that things must have, apparently, been OK.
Well, I have to agree, this is probably the case.
But hear this one out. It’s a doozy.
Seville is, acknowledgedly, the artistic, cultural, and financial capital of Southern Spain. It is the capital of Andalusia and therefore somewhere which sounds worth driving 1700km to have a look around, make a nice concert and, more importantly, if given the chance, taste some interesting new dishes. So I was happy and grateful to be invited to play at an open air festival there, in an old monastery, a most historical building, claiming a tree planted by Christopher Columbus after returning from the new world. How cool. Why not?
So jump in the van with a somewhat less than rock’n’roll attitude, rather more of a, well, a let’s take the children, I can’t remember the last time we spent some time together, kind of an approach..
It was a nice drive down there and I felt glad to see the sun and blue sky which seemed to be evading most of Northern Europe this year. It was a fairly relaxed journey which I spent listening to audiobooks while driving, with a stop of in Bordeaux at my favorite restaurant, one in Vitoria to pick up a teenage child and another in Madrid to break the journey. On arriving in Seville I met my production host, Andy Jarman,who warned me about leaving my musical equipment in the van as Seville is a city with a lot of crime. I was able to have him take my equipment to his place rather than leave it in the hotel or street. However you have to park somewhere I parked on a busy, well lit street as he suggested and emptied the vehicle of valuables which we duly did.
However, with the experience of recent events it was really not too much of a surprise to arrive back at our vehicle the following morning to find the left hand window broken in and all of our possessions either scattered all over the place or, in the case of all of my clothes, missing. My six year old daughter Violette had her clothes and some of her toys missing too and seemed thrilled by the idea of being robbed however my other daughter, Lucy Belle was gently sobbing saying ‘motherfuckers…. motherfuckers…..motherfuckers have taken my vans and cyberdogs’.
I had no idea what she was talking about as she is, of course, a teenager but later found out she was referring to her shoes and really strange big trousers which young people of a certain ilk take delight in wearing.
The strange thing is the thief largely ignored the items that I would have stolen had I been a Spanish junkie, you know like Lucy Belle’s credit card and cash, which she had, rather stupidly, left in the vehicle.
No, it sort of got me thinking that this person needed middle aged mans clothing with teenage girl underwear and all of our dirty laundry. Well, you know, I’ve not much experience of Spanish people so maybe that’s normal.
Another curiosity of stealing my clothes is that it was over 35 degrees and while I could understand stealing, let’s say, a Speedo, it seemed a strange choice to run off with a navy blue woolen suit, even if the thief would look very dapper indeed while wearing it, if not a little sweaty as I would have, had I had the fucking chance to wear it..
Anyway, I digress; I’ll get back to my tale. I fashioned a quick repair to the broken window with cable ties, the things which, increasingly, seem to hold everything in my life together, locked up and headed off to the police station to make a report. This took about an hour and consisted of contemptuous policemen grunting at us, shrugging a lot and regarding us with a look that said ‘what did you expect, you tourist filth?’ I understand that there is not much to be done in a situation like we found ourselves in at that moment, no rounding up of the usual suspects and no team of detectives following up leads. The only lead I had anyway was that the thieves would probably be dressed, well, just like us. I didn’t want to end up in a Spanish prison so we quickly left.
On arriving back at the van I experienced a strange feeling of déjà vu. Well not quite déjà vu as this time it was the right hand window which had been broken in, while we were in the police station, and this time it was a more professional and thorough job. What had been missed by the first thief wasn’t missed by the second one. To be robbed on a busy city street in broad daylight is quite something, even for someone from Scotland.
Welcome to Seville.
Now, call me old fashioned but this situation was starting to become, as my firstborn would put it, a little irksome. There seemed really very little to be done except smile and get on with it. So, we went to the venue, the aforementioned old monastery, and soundchecked, which was rather pleasant, ate and then tried to return to the venue only to find ourselves locked out. I imagined Christopher Columbus beating on the same gates shouting, ‘Come on guys…. hey, guys……let me in……I have some seeds’.

Seville.jpg

I spent most of the show looking at the audience to see if any of them were wearing any of my clothes. I played as well as I could,which was not bad for someone who knew he would smell real bad the next day. No really, I kinda, sorta, um, er, well, how do you put it, mmm, enjoyed the performance. I could see the moon and the stars as I played and it sounded just lovely. Just for a moment I forgot that someone needed my dirty laundry more than I actually did and that felt just fine….
Trouble was, the next day I had to go to France.

Lonely Planet

Posted on Thursday, July 5th, 2007

Words fail me right now.
Anyone who has ever read my weblog will understand that I have a special gift in life, namely blurring the boundaries between what is unlikely and what is possible while traveling by air. This time, with a direct ticket from New York JFK to Paris CDG it’s only natural that I should end up in Toronto, right?
The concert I did a few days ago was obviously just an excuse for me to travel and therefore gather interesting and self deprecating little vignettes for me to entertain y’all with. You see, right now as I start to write this I’m sitting on the floor of a crowded airport terminal, in a small pool of my own tears. I’ve just been told I can’t fly home with the ticket that I have as it is invalid for travel and, as it is the one provided for me by the people who arranged my concert in Brooklyn, there’s not much I can do about it as I can’t raise them on my cell phone. Did I mention that my cellphone battery just ran out. Or, that they could let me on the plane if I gave them $2500. Or that I don’t have $2500. Or that the wi-fi in the terminal is temporarily down. Or that I am traveling alone with all my equipment and luggage which is less than manageable for one person. Or that I just paid $3 for a luggage cart with a wonky wheel that wants to go around in circles all the time. It goes on…

What to do? I’ve already returned my rental car so I’m a bit stuck at the airport. Umm, OK JFK… Airport hotel, I ask a shuttle driver to take me to the least expensive airport hotel. Fuck, $300.. I’m being held to ransom here, as well they know it. Ah well, at least I can get online. I’ll have a shower, get some food from the restaurant and get online to sort out a ticket.

me…. Excuse me, where’s the restaurant?

receptionist…. We don’t have a restaurant sir.

me…. Sorry, I think I misheard you, I’m retarded, it sounded like you said this $300 hotel doesn’t have a restaurant.

receptionist…. That’s correct sir, however we have a complimentary breakfast consisting of pissy american coffee and donuts with icing so thick you could wax your legs with it.

I ask, already knowing the answer, if there was a bar with little snacks in it but I was answered with a look which said ‘don’t be pathetic sir‘…

I got online, contacted the person responsible about my travel and secured a ticket to Paris via Toronto the next day. From La Guardia. Cab fare $40. I went to sleep and, well, I have to say it is probably the most comfortable bed I have ever slept on and my sleep was deep and refreshing, something I wouldn’t have thought possible given my loathing of spending so much money on something I couldn’t get years of use out of.

Now, recently traveling to South America with my wife I was reminded of how much easier life is for a young attractive woman than a middle aged man with too much luggage. She has such a lovely smile and manner that I feel sure she could smuggle a bomb onto a plane and have the security people carry it on board for her. All it would take is one little flutter of those eyelids or a few words in her charming foreign accent. She is forever getting free upgrades or not having to pay excess baggage charges all because she has a nice smile or so it seems. So with this in mind I thought I’d try it out myself at La Guardia, I mean it’s worth a try right, so I smiled my nicest smile at the security people, who led me off to a small room as I obviously appeared to be high. I was relieved of my toothpaste by an officious TSA officer. This, sort of, pissed me off and I spent the first part of my flight scheming revenge by thinking of witty acronyms for the letters emblazoned on her shirt, you know Totally Stupid Asshole and Toothpaste Security Agent, and the like but I soon tired of that and spent the rest of the flight wondering how to bring down an airliner with a tube of Crest Whitening should I be able to sneak one on next time.

I met a very cool rabbi on the plane, who said lots of prayers out loud as we took off. He explained to me that he prayed for safety, and I have to say, he’s rather good, as we landed without incident some time later. He asked me about living in France and I said my usual joke about it being nice but it would be better with less French people and he answered with the same for Israel. More room for the Palistineans then? I asked, just fucking witcha rabbi….He was cool though and I enjoyed talking to him. He was a kind of high tech rabbi as well as he had loads of consumer electronics, ipods, laptops, cell phones and stuff. And a big assed hat and curls. I’ll have to see if he’s on my space.

Last week my travel to the US had been mostly without incident, unless you call not being able to get on several flights and having to wait in the airport, without incident. I do nowadays. The low point of my eventual flight to New York was being seated exactly one row behind business class, having that curtain pulled over in front of my face to stop me seeing all those people up there getting champagne, food that looks like real food, blow jobs from the flight attendants and all of the other things you can have if you spend $12000 on a ticket. However I felt happy with my seat as I got to witness two old men trying to have a fistfight over the honour of one of their wives, whom the other had been, allegedly, kicking under her seat. It was like a John Wayne movie with things like ‘you will apologize to my wife right now, feller or I’ll bloody your nose’ and ‘the hell I will’. It was really funny and attracted the attention of all the flight attendants, well the ones not busy blowing the business class passengers, whose training had evidentially not prepared them for septuagenarian fisticuffs. If truth be told the wife was so disagreeably ugly that I wanted to kick her myself…

But to get back to my story, I had to wait a while in the airport in Toronto and got a introduction to Canadian culture while viewing TV in the lounge. The program was called Swimsuit Poker, or something of the sort, and featured girls with big breasts, in swimsuits, playing poker. This explains a lot to me about Canada.
I’m sure I gave Air Canada a bit of a bashing in a previous journal and it was probably for good reason. They have really, really uncomfortable planes, a strange thing for a national carrier. There are no-frills budget airlines in Europe with more comfort and facilities. Should there ever be another holocaust I’m sure Air Canada would get the contract for the transportation.

And now, well I’m back in Paris at the airport. Amazingly, my luggage arrived this time, albeit last on the carousel, which, naturally, made me miss my train back to Rennes by about 3 minutes. I have to wait 3 hours until the next one. I’ve a bit of battery left on my laptop so I’ll compose these words for you while it’s still fresh and before the tears dry up.
It’s now 36 hours since I left for the airport in NYC.

Studio B

Posted on Wednesday, July 4th, 2007

My concert at Studio B in Brooklyn didn’t suck but, overall, it was somewhat of a disappointment to me. I found the conditions in the club less than favorable for a nice performance and I didn’t really get into it.
Everyone told me afterwards it was good but I know they were just sucking up …
However what didn’t disappoint was the four pieces of music that I played with my friends Andrew Prinz and Odell Nails who had kindly sat in with me. Yes, that was rather cool. Hope I can do something like that in the future.
I really have to rethink these club shows as they simply don’t work for me. It’s somewhat disheartening to ask for certain requirements, which I feel are vital to my performance, only to have what I ask disregarded by the people in charge of such things, you know lights, sound and that stuff. OK, I played, tried to do my best but, hey, don’t ask me to enjoy it or even give any more than the bare minimum of what I’m capable off. Sounds Harsh? I don’t care. A successful concert requires more than the careful attention to detail that I try to give, it requires a little understanding from those involved in the production and it involves the audience as well, as, lets face it, the concert is pretty much all about the audience. In this instance the audience were warm and appreciative, apart from some fool shouting for ‘from the flagstones’, I played OK but the sound, lights and projection was pretty bad. Why do those people continually try to make my show into a rock concert, cranking the sound level up to deafening volumes and filling the stage with disco lights? Especially as they have been given instructions to the contrary. I don’t understand.

Somewhere Else

Posted on Thursday, June 28th, 2007

I’ve been in the US for the last few days. I have a performance to do on Thursday and, because it’s in a rowdy assed night club instead of a serene theatre type environment, I’ve decided to try something a little different. OK, I’ll still be on the stage trying to avoid the spotlight, shuffling about uncomfortably looking at my pedals, but I’ll be doing so in the company of two other musicians, namely Andrew Prinz from Mahogany who has kindly offered to play bass and Odell Nails on drums. This isn’t part of a grand plan, rather me taking a few risks and, in essence, trying to expand my horizons and learn a little at the same time. Although I’ve recently worked on Mahogany’s album Connectivity, I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Andrew before yesterday and Odelll walked into my life with a large smile on his face only this morning. I find myself very impressed with these people, musically and, more importantly, on a personal level. I feel simultaneously thrilled and terrified at the prospect of sharing my music with two people that I’ve just met and don’t really know. However, their enthusiasm heals my fears. Just for today.

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At moments when we play together it is delicious. At moments it makes me fearful that it may not work. I just don’t know. Right now I haven’t the faintest idea how this will turn out, but I have high hopes that it’ll be luscious and pant wetting. I suspect that whether or not it’s any good the whole experience will be pant wetting for me but that is another story. The plan is that after playing together today and, for a moment, tomorrow we try to figure out, I don’t know, lets say, four or five pieces of my music, and then present them on Thursday night in Brooklyn. It’s a long time since I played with others and, even then, not with my music so I’m curious to see what happens. I hope it doesn’t suck.