Believe Beer

It’s slightly weird even typing what I am about to type, but here goes nothing; I have my own beer! The good folks at Signature Brew got in touch a while back and asked if I’d be interested in ‘designing’ my own beer. That was a new one for me – I don’t know masses about beer, other than that I like drinking it a whole lot. In the end I learned a lot, had a fun evening getting hammered, and ended up with a beer with my name on the label, which is pretty much the pinnacle of any road-dog’s ambitions.

The beer is called “Believe”. There’s a video of me trying to figure out what my beer should taste like here, and you can preorder your own bottles here. Hopefully it’s tasty as hell. Try it out.

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El Dorado

Coning in at under 4 weeks, the American tour we finished on Sunday night in New York was a short one, a whistlestop bounce between the coasts. Nevertheless, we had a ton of fun, played my biggest US shows to date, and made firm friends with the amazing Jenny Owen Youngs and Larry & His Flask. Thanks to everyone who came out to the shows, and to the crew (Eric, Casey, Greg and Grizz). Next time we hit this country the tour will be longer.

I write this blog from Burbank, California, the same place we were before the start of the tour, when we were working on pre-production for the new album. We’re now back here for the whole of this month to make the record. We are working with the amazing Rich Costey (that’s the reason we aren’t recording in England, incidentally; I’ve wanted to work with Rich for a long time). It’s exciting and daunting in equal measure. I’m pretty confident in the songs I have this time around, and I really feel like this is an opportunity to work on being a recording artist, using the studio as a proper tool. Or something like that. Time will, of course, tell, but I’m putting my bets down now on this being a good one.

So! To the studio. I’ll try and post some photos and videos of the working process as we go along. Wish us luck!

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The Road Most Traveled

A humid morning in New Orleans. The US tour is rolling ever onwards. By the standards of this country, this has been a pretty short run, and it’s weird to think we’re in the final stretch now. I mean, we only played one show in Texas. Eh? Nevertheless, we have some cool stops ahead of us – Atlanta, Birmingham, Baltimore, NYC. And then we hit the studio hard to make the new album. Exciting times.

My good friend Chuck Ragan has gone and published a book. Actually, it’s a compilation of entries by lots of different people, including members of Gaslight Anthem, Hot Water Music. At The Drive-In, yours truly and many, many more. The book is all about how to survive the road, a life lived on the move. I’m very proud to have been asked to be part of this, and having had a quick flick through the finished thing, I can say that it’s a great book and a treasure trove of advice and information. The book is called “The Road Most Traveled” and you can get your copy from Amazon right here. Enjoy.

Right, time for some Cajan cooking for lunch…

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Beans On Toast Live At The Scala

I’m sure most people reading this are familiar with the work of my good friend Jay, aka Beans On Toast. After all, he opened the Wembley show, I’ve mentioned him in a bunch of songs, he’s long been one of my main musical inspirations and sounding boards, I produced one of his albums, and he put me up this summer. All round lovely guy.

One of the sadnesses of touring life is that you often miss important events – weddings, birthdays and so on. Later this month I’ll be missing a special day for Jay in London and I’m genuinely sad about this. But if you live in or anywhere near London, you can get there and enjoy it for me.

Beans On Toast is headlining the Scala in London’s Kings Cross on September 27th. It’s miles and away his biggest headline show, he has a full band, and he’s recording it for a live album to boot. Tickets are £6.50, it’s 16+, and you can get yours right here.

Seriously, I cannot recommend this show highly enough. Get down and have a blast for me.

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There’s been some pretty confused discussions about my politics in the last day or so. Here it is for the record. My politics are based on principles like democracy, individuality, equality of opportunity, distrust of power and, above all else, freedom, including economic freedom. They’re not the same as when I was 19, or indeed 23 – a few more years kicking around the world has made me adjust my views a little, although the basic principles remain the same. Once I would have called myself an anarchist. These days I suppose the word “libertarian” does pretty well for me, though I suspect it’s a little over-intellectual as a description. I just think the world works better when people are left alone to do what they want as much as possible.

Incidentally, here’s some things I’m not: “Tory”, “conservative”, or “Republican”. If you don’t know the difference between these and libertarians, I suggest reading up a little before slagging me off. I don’t consider myself “right wing” either. I’m just not a leftist.

A lot of people have been treating this as some kind of reveal. Given that the journalist was quoting from an interview from 3 years ago that seems a little odd to me. There’s something about it in the FAQ on here, and Poetry Of The Deed (2009) had a song on it called “Sons Of Liberty” which was about this kind of thing. As it happens, I don’t want my music to be particularly political (as I’ve been saying for ages) so I don’t talk about it that much. But it’s not like I keep it secret either. A lot of the fuss here to me seems to be because some people have had an idea of what they want me to be, and have discovered I’m not that. Sorry, I guess, although I’d say that it’s be much worse for me to pretend otherwise to please them, or sell records, or whatever.

At the end of the day, some people will disagree with my politics. That’s fine. I’m not trying to tell anyone what to do with their lives  Most of my friends disagree with me, not least Billy Bragg and Chris T-T. But, being adults, we understand that intelligent people can disagree about stuff. Despite occasionally running my mouth (a bad habit of mine, which I’m working on) I don’t think people who call themselves socialists are evil, mad, stupid or deserving of being attacked; I just see the world differently. In everything I do, I try to treat everyone with equal respect and consideration. I’d hope that the way I’ve gone about my music career would attest to that to some degree. I’ll drink a beer with anyone.

One small specific point. Obviously I think the BNP are repugnant. They are a socially right-wing / racist party, but their economic policies are pretty authoritarian left wing. I happen to oppose them strongly for both of those reasons.

So there it is. I really don’t want to talk about this much more – today has fucking sucked, actually – but I hope this clears things up for some people. Peace.

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Burbank, California. I’d call it a suburb of Los Angeles, but seeing as I’ve never been able to find the mythical centre of this city, everywhere feels like a suburb. Searching for gold in LA, what a cliche, haha. The band and I arrived on a long haul flight from London yesterday and are now wearily engaged in combat with time zones. It’s great to see the boys again, to be out into the great wide open, to be back on the American landmass. The summer was lovely – I spent proper time in London for the first time since about 2004 and was amply cared for by my good friends at the Wheelbarrow – but now it’s back to business.

I thought it’d be a good idea to blog here with a general update on my plans for the rest of this year and into next. Obviously, we have the US tour starting in Boston (tickets going fast – Americans, please don’t start shouting at me if shows sell out in advance) which is awesomeness all in itself. After that, there’s the UK tour in November, and then a run of shows in December which I’ve been casually referring to as the Celtic Fringe – shows in Wales, Ireland and Scotland (a few more to come as well). Making time on the road, as per usual.

The other use of my time before Christmas is, perhaps, more exciting. The reason I’m in Burbank right now is for a week of pre-production for the next album. Pre-production is where you get in the room with your producer of choice and start working through the songs, tearing their guts out and putting them back together, picking which tunes (I have about 25) are going to make the best album and so on. Once we’re done with that, we have the tour to bed the new stuff in with the crowds; and then, for the month of October, we will be back here to make the album proper.

Two small thoughts. I was initially a little wary about recording in southern California – it’s kind of a cliche, if nothing else – but in the end, it’s more important to me to work with the producer I want. Rich Costey is someone I have dreamed of working with for many years, and it’s very exciting to be in the studio with him. Also, there was once a plan for me to add more solo shows in the USA in October, and I certainly told a few people that. These are not now happening in that time-frame, alas, as making the new album takes priority. But! Never fear. I will be making them up as soon as possible next year.

If everything goes to plan, the new album will be out in March 2013, with some singles preceding it. In one final cliche for this blog post, I’m very excited about the songs, the prospect of the finished whole. Obviously I would say that, or else I’d still be writing. But yeah. I’m in a good place, creatively.

Right, breakfast, then to the studio. Adios for now.

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Make Way For Mongol Horde

I’m back in London after a busy festival weekend – Strummer Of Love, Beautiful Days and V Festival. Hyper-busy, but a lovely way to finish off the summer’s gigging.

Well, I say “finish”, but… It’s been a reasonably open secret for a while now that I have a side-project band in the offing. It’s kind of heavy, noise rock, maybe a little bit “hardcore”, and a lot of fun. It features me, Ben Dawson (of Pale Horse and Million Dead) and Matt Nasir (of the Sleeping Souls). We are called Mongol Horde.

We released two songs over the last few weeks – “Casual Threats From Weekend Hardmen” and “How The Communists Ruined Christmas“. To celebrate our coming out, here’s a new song: “Tapeworm Uprising”.

We are playing on the Lock Up Stage at this year’s Leeds (Friday) and Reading (Sunday) festivals. We may also have some warmup shows coming. Check us out on twitter and facebook for more info. Enjoy.

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New Releases

I’m back from my brief holiday. I walked the entire length of the South Downs Way – just over 100 miles through the hills of Hampshire and Sussex, from Winchester to Eastbourne. It was amazing, I heartily recommend giving it a go sometime. To top off my break, I also saw Refused last night in London, who were completely awesome, as expected. Anyways. Back in action now, and there’s some various bits of news for y’all to have a look at.

First of all, the Wembley DVD. This is being released in the UK on September 3rd. It will feature two discs – one with the full show, and one with Greg Nolan’s tour film and a bunch of other cool stuff. Details and preordering can be found here.

For people outside the UK, fear not! Firstly, you can always order the above package from Xtra Mile (although it will be a UK region disc). Beyond that though, the good folk at Epitaph are releasing a compilation CD called “Last Minutes & Lost Evenings“. This is a two disc set. The first disc is a compilation of what I consider to be my favourite songs from the releases before “England Keep My Bones”. It’s kind of a primer for new people coming on board in Europe, North America and so on. The second disc is the complete live show from Wembley, with region settings appropriate to wherever you are in the world. Details can be found here. This is being released on October 7th, though you can preorder it now. We are also working on getting the DVD extras from the UK release out to everyone further afield as well. And if you’re in the UK and fancy getting this release yourself, you can order it here.

Finally (for today), I’d like to remind people about my next London show on August 20th at The Roundhouse in Camden. It’s a benefit show for ABLE2UK, a great cause, and I’ll be playing a solo set; there are tons of other cool people playing too. Tickets are still available here.

Right, have fun everyone, see you soon.

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Fields Of June

Emily Barker is an old friend and collaborator of mine. Many of you may have seen the two of us sing her lovely murder ballad duet, “Fields Of June”, at shows lately. Well, the good folks at Xtra Mile are releasing that song as a 7″ single, complete with music video and everything. Hurrah!

Youcan have a listen to the track now right here (the video is coming soon, I’ll post when it does) and you can buy the white vinyl 7″ right here. You can also buy the song on iTunes UK here. Happy shopping!

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So the last 12 hours have been interesting. I posted some thoughts on some shennanigans I witnessed backstage at T in the Park, and then got inundated with poorly-written bilge for a while on Twitter. You can have a read on my feed here.

I have no interest in rehashing the specifics of what happened, it’s not, in itself, a massive deal to me. I still don’t really know who Nicki (sic) Minaj is, and I don’t really care. I have no opinion on her music, for all I know she’s a genius. Good for her.

The central point I wanted to make, and the thing that got me pissed off in the first place, is about respect. A lot of bands (and me) spend a lot of time talking about respect for the people who listen to your music, the people in front of the stage, the “fans” (I still hate that word) or whatever, and rightly so; personally, I feel that showing up late and not apologizing is a little weak. But the thing that got to me yesterday was more about respect for a different group of people: the crew.

There are an awful lot of people who work on making shows and festivals happen who don’t get to stand in the middle of the stage and bask in anyone’s adulation. In fact, it’s the vast majority of people. This includes my crew (sound guy, guitar tech etc.), the stage hands, the promoter who books the show, and the hundreds of people who run the backstage organization, and more. These people all work their arses off, they’re there from first thing in the morning to last thing at night, and they don’t get paid as much as the musicians on the stage. Without them, nothing would get done, there would be no shows for anyone to enjoy. I couldn’t do what I do without my crew.

Running a festival is a logistical nightmare; it takes a lot of people an awful lot of time to make sure everything runs even vaguely smoothly. If there’s one person in the midst of this who has a pretty easy, highly paid job (show up, mime, go home) who refuses to do this, and thereby fucks up the day of all the hard-working, sleep-deprived, exhausted, under-appreciated festival crew, well, that pisses me off. It means everyone has to do a ton more work just to make sure that the people at the festival and all the other bands don’t have their day ruined.

For some reason, doing this when you’re holding a microphone makes you “artistic”, “difficult” or maybe a “Diva”. In any other walk of life it’s called being rude, selfish and inconsiderate. Of course, Henry Rollins already said this better than I ever will.


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