“My heart is hurting but my shotgun is working…”

A quick note to say: I got the new Lemonheads album yesterday, and it’s fucking mint. I’ve always loved Evan Dando as a songwriter, and I think he’s been improving with age (to date my favourite Lemonheads album is Car Button Cloth). This time round he’s got Karl Alvarez (the Descendents) and Bill Stevenson (the Descendents and Black fucking Flag) in as his rhythm section, and he’s even got J Mascis doing some lead work on a few songs. Talk about a fucking supergroup. Only had about 3 spins so far but it’s sounding great. Highly recommended.

Also, I’ve got some shit for sale on ebay – they can be found here. If you buy them you’ll be contributing towards my going-on-a-proper-holiday-for-the-first-time-in-about-5-years fund, so bid generously.

I have aso been listening to Calexico, and the new Tailors stuff, which is awesome.

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One Year On

Today is the first anniversary of the last ever Million Dead show (and in fact the 5th anniversary of the first MD show, but whatever). This puts me in a pretty weird reflective mood, understandably enough. All the cliches about bands being like relationships are depressingly true; we all had a lot emotionally invested in MD, and even with this much distance it’s hard to know what I think about some things. There’s still some unsettled issues, niggling doubts and so on. But hey, that’s my problem. Looking back on it now there are a few things I can say for certain – it was a shame the way it ended, but I don’t think it realistically would have lasted much longer anyhow; I’m immensely proud of all the music we made and everything we achieved.

This post is more about the last year though, since MD broke up. We made the decision to go our own ways about a month before our last show, so we all had time to consider our next moves. I decided to try my hand at what I’m doing now, which was simultaneously a very easy and a very hard thing to choose. It would have been so facile to form another shouty / angular / post-HC band, and to get snapped up by a label and release an album which the fans would always say wasn’t a patch on MD, but to be secure and comfortable. But my heart wouldn’t have been in it. On the other hand, while my heart has very much been in my music in the last year, there have been times when it’s been really fucking rough. No matter how friendly and positive people are, if you’re on the road on your own, no money, little prospects, playing a pub with 20 people in it and then sleeping on a stranger’s floor a long way from home, dreaming about playing Reading / Leeds to thousands of people… it’s easy to get disheartened. I have to admit there have been times in the last year when I’ve considered jacking it all in for an office job. I feel a lot more vulnerable on tour on my own, there’s no support network. Sometimes I just want to go home.

But I shall moan no more! The last few months particularly have seen things really shift up a gear. I had a meeting yesterday with the powers that be which really drove that home – we discussed singles, videos, mastering, artwork, touring with a band, agents, lawyers, accountants… and I’m feeling pretty fucking vindicated. Allow me my two seconds of victory here – it’s coming together, and I worked my fucking arse off to be here, and I’m proud. Plus the album is going to kick you all in the nuts (figuratively speaking). So, in conclusion then, a strange and often very difficult year, but, dare I say it, I’m starting to feel like I’m out of the woods.

So today I shall toast MD with a tear in my eye, and then I shall play my own songs and rock the fucking house.

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Chris Simpson

When I was about 14 or 15 and starting to immerse myself further and further into the arcane world of underground punk / hardcore / indie, there were a few bands that were milestones for me (if not for the scene as a whole). The bands that open your eyes and ears to a whole new scene and set you off at a new tangent. One of the most crucial of those for me was Mineral. It’s weird loking back on it now, after all that’s come in the wake of “emo”, but at the time they really blew me away. They had a subtle but shuddering heaviness to them which was unlike anything I’d heard before, and the lyrics were (and are) very powerful too. After they split, Chris Simpson, the singer, was briefly in a band called The Gloria Record, but he’s now touring on his own – you can find his stuff here.

The upshot of all this is… As much as I’m supposed to be cutting down on London shows at the moment (i.e. not playing every other day), I just got asked to play a show with Chris at the Brixton Windmill on October 4th. Its pretty awesome for me – getting asked to play a show with a childhood hero. To top it all, Jamie Tanaou (a.k.a. The Remarkable Rocket) is also on the bill. Come on down.

Lamacq Live last night was great – it was a privelege to play the last one. You can listen again to the show if you missed it here (or if you just want to relive the wonder). Richard Hawley was also ace, and very friendly. A big hello to any new fans.

Apart from reliving some Mineral glory, I’ve been listening to the Levellers all day, for reasons I can’t begin to fathom, but it’s ace.

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Sense & Sensibility

Currently chilling out in Cambridge, at my sister’s house, getting ready (mentally) for tonight’s Radio One shennanigans. Bit of a crazy weekend just gone – on Saturday I played two shows. The first was at 93 Feet East and was the Smalll Town America Records annual chairty all dayer. Much fun was had by all – I particularly enjoyed sets by my old friend Leila, Irish compadres Oppenheimer, and all-round mentalists Tiger Force – and over ‘a31500 was raised for Cancer Research. Good stuff. After my set I had to run to catch a train to Cambridge to play at Farmageddon Festival. Due to various lies and half-truths told by the bastards at National Rail Enquiries, I got to the festival 5 minutes after I was due onstage, and literally ran into my set and started playing. Which was fun… Much decadence ensued afterwards, and I am now paying for my sins.

Also worth mentioning is the fact that the album is finished, tracking-wise. The mix is underway, but it shouldn’t take too long – the rough mixes I’ve taken away with me sound pretty damn fresh as they are. Predictably enough I’ve listened to it 9000 times since leaving Oxford, and I’m not bored yet, which is surely a good sign. The final tracklisting is coming together in my head, and I’ve started scouting out the artwork too. Very excited…

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“Today New York Kind Of Looks Like Beirut…”

So, five years on from 9/11 (please, 11/9, just for once?). We were getting ready to go into the studio and record the first Million Dead demo CD that day. I was hanging out with my then-girlfriend Saraj, when her aunt called and said we should probably switch on the TV, as there’d been a terrible accident in New York. Just as my arse hit the sofa the second plane came in and hit. Pretty disturbing stuff. I remember discussing it with the other MDers in the studio the next day. Politically it is the defining moment of my generation, and the ‘political’ lyrics that I wrote for MD reflect that (see me quoting myself above…). I guess I just finding it interesting to think about how the world has changed in the last 5 years. Opportunities squandered… I feel like there really was a chance, in late 2001, with everyone sympathetic to the USA, when a real sea-change in Western foreign policy could have been affected. And one was, but not quite the one I was hoping for. We’ve fucked up so badly it’s almost comic. Osama bin Laden’s stated primary aim was not to militarily defeat the west; it was to redraw the world into two opposing camps – jihadists and the west (with their moderate muslim allies). He has succeeded in spades, with blundering Western cooperation at every stage. We are fucking retarded. The world is so much less safe now than it was then.

In other news, Ben from Million Dead is now a medical anomale. But it’s good to know he’s going to be OK. I’ll be bringing him some grapes tomorrow then.

Also, on September 18th I’ll be playing the last ever Lamacq Live Lounge on Radio 1 from 9pm, along with people like Richard Hawley etc. Tune in.

Jay (Beans On Toast) as posted his “sequel” to Thatcher Fucked The Kids on his myspace site now – it’s called “I Shot Tupac Shakur” and you can find it on his myspace.

I am listening to Ryan Adams, for my sins.

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Pillow Talk

I’m pretty wiped out now. Tracking the album is almost, almost finished – I’ll be in Oxford for two days next week to lay down one more set of vocals, maybe a touch more balalaika, get my mum to do some harmonies and to put down the cello parts. And then we’re done. With the exception of a few shows here and there I’m going to be taking some time off while Ben gets to grips with mixing. The whole process should be done by the end of the month (hopefully). Then it’s a question of artwork, deciding the tracklisting, mastering and all that jazz.

Bits and pieces: The End Of Days festival in October has been cancelled, so no show there for me I’m afraid to say. The last part of the Europe diary is now up – here. I bought the Armando Iannucci Shows DVD the other day, and it’s total fucking genius, highly recommended. It’s now lunch time, and I’m going to go eat.

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Europe Part Four

Exactly what it says on the tin – here.

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Photo Dispatches From The Front Line

Thought it’d be fun to upload a few photos from the studio while I have the time. It’s the weekend again, so another little break, as we’re recording in Tarrant’s folks’ house, which means we need to observe some domestic restraints. We have been working fucking hard though, and it’s all going well – today was synth, banjo and harmonica day. Anyhoo, on with the visuals:

This is me with my first banjo. I am so excited about this, words can hardly express it. It’s a FUCKING BANJO!! It sounds like a banjo, looks like one, smells like one… It’s fucking awesome and it sounds like pure fucking sex.

This is Ben (Dive Dive) showing how excited he is about the fact that we have another 12 songs of vocals left to record. He loves it really.

The tools of the job – a banjo and a cheap Yamaha keyboard. Seriously, we’ve been using the “alpine horn” setting as a soft pad synth (ala Bruce Springsteen etc.). I love the people who designed this thing, the sounds are so wholesomely insane.

And that’ll do for now. Another European update tomorrow, methinks.

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And Such Is Progress

I’m back in Winchester for a 24 hour break from recording. The main point of this post is to say that part 3 of the Europe Diary is now up and running, so go check it out. There are two more installments to go, which will be up when I’ve had the time to write them. Meantime, in Oxford, we’ve finished all the drums for the album, and all the acoustic guitar parts too. Next week we’ll be finishing bass, starting vocals, bringing in cellists and so on. Progress continues to be speedy. I’ve also been plugging the gaps on the Automatic tour with other shows, so cast your eye over the gigs page to see if I’m coming anywhere near you anytime soon. And finally, Ben MD has set up a Kneejerk myspace page, if you care.

I saw Emily Barker play the other day, and she was thoroughly excellent.

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Notes from the Underground

A quick update from Oxford. I’m mid-way through week two of recording. We’ve nearly finished all the drum tracks and we’ve started laying down acoustic guitars. The work ethic here is really good – relaxed but determined, and we’re working pretty fast – looking to finish tracking instruments ahead of schedule at the moment. Then there’s the business of mixing, and even deciding what is going on the album and what isn’t – we’re looking at having at least 19 songs recorded, with possibly a few covrs and traditionals thrown in as well. I really like working hard on something, really losing myself in focus on a specific project. Days off are a chore. Tonight I’m off to London to play wth Dashboard Confessional, which will no doubt be fun and worthwhile and all that, but I’d rather be holed up in Tarrant’s basement knocking out bass parts or something until the small hours.

I think that’s Ben Dive at the door now, ready to start recording. Adios.

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