De-brief, Autumn/Winter 2017 – Part 1.

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Post-Tour Blues vs. Festive Cheer!

It was a wonderful tour experience – I was able to travel most of it with my beautiful family and sate that empty feeling of the lonely hotel room/promoter’s sofa, after all your temporary friends have taken the last bus home, muttering of early starts to the office.  I’ve not updated you all about the tour!  Mainly due to having some quality down time gorging on mince pies, and strolling in the crisp winter sun, through long shadows and country air. I’ve emerged from the chocolate induced coma to recall my travails:

Having said I was able to tour avec ma famile, the first couple of weeks I was solo through France and Spain…

hayward's heath station  La Malterie, Lille

After one sleep off the big plane I was Eurostar bound and shuttling through the Chunnel to Lille Europe. L’il Europe. First stop, Lille. To play a show for good old Nico. I also meet, for the first time, some players who are on Crippling Lack. Timothée Couteau, a talented cellist, who will be improvising along with me that night, and Olivier Minne, one of the drummers on the record – will be playing guitar in the opening act tonight (Walter Brückmann). A wonderful evening. Tim cello’d the heck out of the set, and there was some audience participation as a fairly inebriated pair dragged a settee to the front of the stage area, to the consternation of the rest of the audience. They had assessed a boundary that needed crossing from audience into performance. I proceeded to sit down with them, giving a personal serenade. Who knows? Maybe we planned it?

Pleasant budget hotel with a decent breakfast buffet before a leisurely day in Lille before getting the train to Le Mans. I’m staying with Raphäelle out in Le Mans, with a mind to try to record some new material (no more to be said about that for now, we’re reviewing a fairly odd amount of guff, destined for the cutting room floor).

La Sandwicherie, Le Mans  Le Mans

Next show is in a lovely sandwich shop (Le Sandwicherie) at the back corner where an old bakery used to be, for a very small crowd. It’s my first time to the City and it was a nice reception. The local beer (just a couple – trying not to be boozing for the sake of my voice) and the food were delicious.

driving in France  Japanese Garden, Nantes

The subsequent shows were also intimate. My first ever visit to Nantes was a great show to eight people. One of which was barely six months old. I’m not sure, but I think she knew some of the lyrics. The city is a delight though. A pleasant walk around the Japanese garden was a nice gentle pre-gig potter. Trying not to booze on tour is pretty difficult when you like the taste of decent beer, and some of this continental stuff is pretty snazzy.

Nantes, Cafe de La Ribine

Paris was a difficult one to get off the ground, but eventually Olympic Cafe came to the rescue. Not many in and a spontaneous addition of MaJiKer beatboxing along with me made for a unique and interesting show – some magical moments. But I always find Paris a tough crowd. I’d been gallantly escorted through Paris earlier that afternoon by the delightful Adrian Crowley. What a pleasure to catch up with him. At least his niece thought my show was one of the best she’d ever seen! I flopped down to sleep on a kindly donated sofa, my host, Raph’s friend, had been at God Speed! around the corner (ah! that’s who stole my audience!). I had to dash off early the next morning to get a plane to Madrid – where I was playing that night.

Olympic Cafe  Madrid at dusk

Luckily I was treated to a surprise earlier flight than I had remembered booking (I’d got confused), so there was plenty of time provided I got to the airport in time. Sorted. Got to Madrid with time to spare. Check in – Spain always sorts out decent hotels! – showered and fresh – The lovely Eduardo shows me to the venue.

This is what the general consensus was regarding that night’s performance: Not sure if the review is 10/10 for my show or the review itself

Eduardo took me for some proper standing-up spanish food. melt-in-the-mouth lemon marinated shark nuggets, deep fried squishy seaweed, simple mixed wild mushrooms, etc etc. What a delight.

Madrid airport car pick-up  Valladolid

A lovely fill of buffet brekkie in the morn and I trundle back to the Airport to pick up the hire car. I’m off on a little solo road trip!

I pick up a car – a little smaller than expected, but my trusty steed for the next five shows/six long drives. Well the first drive is not too long, just a couple of hours or so up to Valladolid. Passing over icy peaks where my ears popped. I’m struck by how many raptors circle to skies along these journeys. Kite, eagle, buzzard and hawk. I’m generally the only thing on the road for much of the drive. Great headspace.

Valladolid is famous for the storks nesting on the big old architecture. I don’t really have time to seek it out – by the time I’ve squeezed into the hotel parking crevice, shoved my stuff into the room, and had a cafe con milk, it’s time to trek through the dimming streets to the venue. This gig has been a mysterious secret location for the punters until today. Turns out the owner of the bar is newly licenced so doesn’t want to push it with the authorities. I’m shown the space (by my lovely host Juan, who’s hosted me twice before up in chilly old V-town) which turned out to be a small mezzanine area – an exclusive 30 people maximum get to sit up here for my show, and weirdly, the bar downstairs remains open as usual. I battle the sound of bustling bar, while the bar down there heckles up at the mezzanine. Actually the show went pretty well!  Juan and his pals show me their favourite little bar for a couple of drinks to cap off the night.

Vigo. I'm not a sailor Radar, Vigo

The next morning, after a hearty buffet, and a cheery crowd of Japanese tourists flooding the foyer in synchronised map check – all broadsheet city maps spread out like umbrellas in a kind of am-dram interpretation of a Busby Berkley set piece.I set off to Vigo – the car emerging from the crevice unscathed. Some of the landscape is breathtaking – but I’m not in a position to photograph it, lest I swerve into a ditch. I’ve no expectations from this gig – It turns out it was a kind of punt by the promoter which didn’t pay off – they sold 10 tickets and not all of them turned up – I played to a row of six people on the seating one side of the room and three or four standees. I thought it was actually one of my best sets ever – but there will be scant, if any, record of it! I leave Vigo (too early to sit down for breakfast) with memories of fried squid sandwich and a bad full of water and juice – the guy at the venue took pity on me when I told him about my drive the next day. And so – 8 hours straight to make it to soundcheck in the south of France! I know from experience that this is the norm for US, but I’m not sharing the driving if that makes for a little sympathy?

Notre Dame des Forges, Tarnos  Colin Faivre

Highways all the way, fast through undulating hills and high plains, 0n into Basque country where the roadsigns suddenly become even more incomprehensible. Into tunnels as I bypass all the potential wonderment of thenorth coast. Through the western Pyrenees into Basque France. I arrive in a grey and wet outskirts fading industrial docks area, and a beautiful church looming in the dusk. This edifice, shell, now provides a space for art – an exhibition of culture, sound and sculpture, into which me and banjo player Colin Faivré must insert a performance. He plays first with his signature, illuminated from inside, baritone banjo. We play shoeless on a carpeted area – I point my voice into the acoustic space – it manipulated the show into a drawn out ambient affair. What a lovely event. François and family kind hosts.

Delicias, Zaragoza  Delicias, Zaragoza

The next day I must hightail it to Zaragoza. I’m meeting Eduardo again. The drive was glorious – heading into evening sunshine through open landscape of Spain and being the only car on the road most of the time. The auditorium was a nice size although I may have had too much stage – I continue to use the toy megaphone thing Greg Butler lent me, but often is losing it’s impact and the sound goes thin, most likely due to fading batteries. So it becomes even more an incongruent factor in the performance. What fun!

(the thing – don’t tell Greg – is now completely defunct. I opened it up and the circuitry has all degraded – it will need a very expert solderer or new circuit board)

My final show in Spain is a collaborative ‘encontre’ with dance Pepa Cases, in Castellón de la Plana. We’ve not met or practiced. It turned out to be a delightful evening. Pepa bursts in the room as I’m playing and interprets the music in a dance performance that plays around with my space – peeping through my legs and adjusting my mix and cables, as I remain in my performance. And of course, it is always a pleasure to catch up with the very nice Jose Luis.

Castellon de la Plana, University foyer/venue  'encontres' Jaime II University, Castellon

I speed off in the morning without any time to wait for breakfast – I’m dropping the car off at Madrid airport to catch the plane back to England.

just of basque coast from plane

Hold on for the … Next episode

Leg 2: The Continent (House, Boat, Rain, and Shine)

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So to continue, I finished with England. Sorry to not make it to the rest of UK this time, but the modern life takes it’s toll on such  follies…

After a few days of rushing around London pretending to look like I have a purpose, taking in a little Rachael Dadd and Ichi at this little exhibition in Depford, I take a Eurostar Eurochunnel Fast Train to Bruxelles.  I am on my way to Ghent (or Gent depending on Godknowswhat).

Gent

This little odd town in Belgium is home to Kris Bauwens. You may recall I played for him a year ago. He invites a limited audience to fill his front room and provides an intimate show experience. A humble host. Here I meet up with Tiny Ruins, Hollie and Cass are having a convoluted experience of the west of Europe, but more on that later. They arrive in rented car with rented contrabass, in time for us to see a small example of Wickerman-esque oddity pass through the street immediately outside. Men dressed as disturbing pink faries with false noses clatter by as a sinister organ is turned to accompany. Tiny Ruins provide the first act, a delicate rendering of Hollies beautiful songs, clever semi-historical narratives. Also, they have been travelling around the UK in a van hired for one pound. It was pained all over in the colours of the Jamaican flag. It was emblazoned with a massive painting of Bob Marley’s face. It carried some slogan promoting ‘Marley’s Mellow Mood’ a new relaxation drink. It was to be returned to Amsterdam – their destination after the UK.  It recieved negative reaction from all who laid eyes upon it. Poor girls. Thanks Kris. Goodbye Gent. Pissing it down as I left.

Lille

I have a free day here – I travel direct from Gent in the morning to Lille. Raphaelle (Le NoiZe Maker) picks me up and we go to her studio to do some recording.  I try out a set of new songs and capture a load of one takes and some attempts at playing some other bits and bobs.  Some good stuff to work on here so watch this space. After plenty of playing, listening back, eating cheese, drinking coffee and red wine, it is the following day and time to go to La Peniche. The boat again. It is a great opportunity for really nice home cooked quiche. a big bowl of pasta and some homw made humous (it is good). Nicolas at ‘Ad Hoc’ is worth working with for these delights alone. Despite Hollie and Cass making some European geography errors they finally made it for the show in Lille (from Bruxelles via Amsterdam and Paris).  The show was extraordiary from my point of view as when I ran out of musical steam my hand got stuck to the low ceiling, for what seemed like 15 minutes the room was silent as I tried to get myself unstuck. After a great cameo from Tiny Ruins on my new song and a little mid show nap, it was over.  Some firends from our little community in East Asia turned up – they drove down from a reunion in Bruxelles to give me some ‘on the spot guidance’ over a quick drink at Le Drugstore, where I played my first show in Lille in the way-back-when-a-few-years-ago. Pissing it down as I left.

Paris

In the morning be enjoy a breakfast spread from gracious host, Nic. It is nearing afternoon when the ‘Ruins surface. We all speedinly gather our wares for an imminent train. We failed to catch said imminent train. we relocate from Station The Europe to Station The North. And are able to have a coffee before the train to Paris. I have one night before I fly to Spain. You may or may not recall that Espace B is a rearely frequented venue. I have played to an audience of about 5 there. Luckily this time there are perhaps 30 or so.  A small place they keep very dark perhaps to desguise a thin crowd. Anyhow, Collie and Hass are on top form. Consider that audience wowwed. I stride around making noises for a while, spilling my wine and ruining my colonial linens. Oliver ‘Peel’ bears witness, as does The Sound of Violence. Staying at Jesse and Kate’s was oddified by my stresses at Jesse not hearing me becuse he was watching the Hendrix doc on his laptop with headphones. I was almost sleeping on a stairwell. He did however exceedingly redeem himself with a well dressed salad for lunch before I left.  Much appreciated.  It was pissing it down as I left.

Valencia

Too hot. I arrive on aeroplane. They step you out on the tarmac so you can be insulted by the heat. Nacho is waiting. I am hosted by this avid collector, we have sushi from his restaurant on his balcony. He is who you thank for Outbreeding making it to the world. You can hear the Formula 1 cars screaming in the distance. He has scraped togethr a show for me in a club downtown Valencia. With his pursuasion a reasonable crowd assembles. The sound is awkward but the combination of that and a video screen at the back (with a cycle of music video/advert where a girl in underwear and trainers bounces about, some footage of a guy with his own head for his willy and balls, and Fresh Prince of Bel Air) prompts a never before attempted in public, downbeat, rendition of the theme tune to said Fresh Prince of Bel Air (my private rendition is 100% accurate “iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnn West Philadelphia…”). No two the same. There is no time in the morning before the 9:10 train to Madrid. Fast.

Madrid

Not as hot but still too hot. Jose-Luis greets me at the station, he has just come in too. BMW are sponsoring the Dia de la Musica festival. We travel to the hotel in luxury. It transpires that the hotel has been chosen as so far away across town from the venue so the festival have to drive BMW’s through town as part of the advertising sponsorship deal. Convenient. Highlight of the day was the DJ set from Starslinger. And the degradable plates in the catering tent facility place (I hang out for a bit with this guy from A Greener Festival, getting the inside scoop on how green you festival goers really are). I meet and catch a little of Fanfarlo. I watch Julia Holter who was oversold to me I think. But I wasn’t expecting the band. We managed to have a chat before bedtime, she’s alright. The venue was a converted slaughter house complex – a number of ornate buildings rammed with temporary stages, and one set of these hollow edifices filled with a semi-permanent studio/creative space sponsored by Red Bull. The France Spain match – and luckily as I was in an enclosed space with a whole load of Spanish, the result resulted in a pleasant mood. I was watching Sergio watching it, across the desk in the production office, his handle bar moustache lit by the glow of his laptop screen. A bemused look on his face as the crowd outside cheered. The two minute delay online. Live broadcast on a big screen for the festival goers. I don’t follow football. The mini-bar was free. I had the orange juice and an early night. Oh, my set.

I fly back to London – No Luton. Luton is not London. I fly to Luton and get a train to London. I fly back out East the following day. Good times resting with the one I love. We meet in Beijing before heading Seoul and Tokyo for downtime. DO NOT ask about my carbon footprint. I have never owned a car and do not eat meat.