Wednesday, 27 June 2012

noise of art 2

mick and carol dolby at MDM

On Monday of last week I headed north on what I call the London Midland bus. It is a slow train that stops everywhere but it is quite a relaxing journey providing you can find a seat, which I did. The sky was brooding and threatened rain. Summer is not what it was but what is? Still life is good and I hope the weather might improve.
The hardwood trees of Leafy Warwickshire are magnificent at this time of year. Great stands of ancient oaks fill the vista for miles in every direction. The rain has been good for trees and the shady canopy each provides is lush and emerald bright in the occasional dappled sunlight.
Later I am chatting with the bass man long into the night as we catch up on events since last we met. The time has flown.
A couple of years ago I rarely spent much time sitting around with a guitar playing for pleasure or to provoke half an idea to reveal itself in a new song. That has changed. I am rarely far from a guitar that is out of its case and ready to go. It was not long before I had to pick up Bob’s beautiful Martin acoustic guitar. He knows his axes and bought himself a beauty when in the USA. This beauty has the warmest sound and is a delight to play.
I play some new sketches and fragments of songs still unfinished. I am fishing for feedback that can be used to complete the writing. We explore the songs from a conceptual perspective and it is a pleasure to work in this way. We begin to layout a methodology that will push us both to think outside the box and push the envelope.
We spend a lot of time reminiscing. There are so many common childhood memories and iconic events that shaped our lives.
On Tuesday we head out to take my Signature Squire stratocaster guitar to a guy Bob knows. He looks after Bob’s guitars so that is good enough for me. We arrive at the shop in Kenilworth. Up a flight of stairs that reminds me of little old guitar and amp workshops in Denmark St (Tin pan alley) in London. Every thing here looks right and in it’s place.
MDM Music is run by Mick and Carol Dolby. It is a great little shop with a range of well-chosen guitars and basses. It is clear Mick knows his audience and there is some thing for every one. Mick remembers the EBB and coming to see us locally back in the day.
I was impressed by the range of retro valve amps and other audio relics on display. This is the emporium of an enthusiast and collector. There is an old Selmer twin valve amplifier that Mick shows us. It reminds me of the very old days when this amp was on a lot of guitarists wish lists. Vic Unitt had one when we had our first rehearsal with him at The Nelson Hall in Warwick. That day we both got an electric shock from each other as we inadvertently touched guitars. It was down to old wiring and phase anomalies. Anyway we were both thrown across the stage and landed on our backsides. What a way to start out!
The next day Bob and I go back to the shop and the guitar is a good un. Mick has done a nice job on the set up and it plays much better. This little Squire is gold. It looks and sounds just like a 62 Fender and costs about £300. Mick reckoned it was the best Stratocaster he’d ever had in his shop at any price so, there you go. I like it too so I’ve bought another one on ebay. I can take both anywhere with worrying about them too much. The old originals are a different matter all together.
After picking up the guitar and carrying out a few other chores Bob and I headed to Warwick for lunch. We arrived in the Market Square where I posted a few cd s. The place is still dead and dull. I have since checked out various websites to see if my critical eye let me down and to check if my old prejudices against the place have lead me to an unfair evaluation. They go on a lot about local traders and family business which is all well and good. I like to see some one’s name over a shop as opposed to the euro chain shops that fill our high streets but any one needing any thing that you couldn’t have bought off a wagon train in the old west would need a visit to nearby Leamington.
Could I buy a pair of cool shoes in Warwick or a nice t-shirt – a packet of Shitake mushrooms or a packet of guitar strings? NO!
I made a list of what I think most people would deem essential shops that are not part of the local scene. It is a long list. The all day breakfast consumed opposite Warwick Museum was quite ordinary so that one would be tempted to look elsewhere if breakfast was required next day.
Warwick is lovely to look at but conservative in the extreme. To answer those who have asked, the answer is no – I won’t be retiring there or any where near there.
Ethelfleda started the settlement of Warwick to make a stand against the Danish Vikings who used the River Avon to advantage. I think it a shame the Danes were not more successful in the area. We might have a different kind of County Town and a more vibrant one.
Wednesday was also rehearsal pre-production day and Bob and I did a little work before hooking up with Rick for Thursday and Fridays rehearsals.
Thursday dawned and we all met up at Sam’s rehearsal room near where the River Avon meets the River Leam on the edge of Warwick’s boundary with Leamington.
This was our second time of meeting up and it took only a short time to get going. We worked on three or four songs including Six white horses and the Half light. It was fun to sing the entire arrangement of the latter with out words for the verses. I made it up as I went along employing my new phonetic lyrics.
The more I do this the more natural it seems and it seems to communicate the vibe of the music. The chorus is finalised though and I love singing it. We played Evening over rooftops at Bob’s request and a few other bits and pieces.
We began work on a brand new song that has the working title of A mess of men. This is fun and has a riff that is truly mighty and as Rick described it, a little bit mad. Rick had set up his own kit for these rehearsals and this made a huge difference. I was intrigued by his tuning and the range of percussive sounds he produces. He decides a Bodran is needed for the new song and that he will bring one the following day. We kick around some backing vocals and chat a lot. Later I write two verses for the new song. Personally I am all for the leisurely rehearsal plan. I hate rehearsing when every thing is written and settled but at this stage it is a lot of fun.
A discussion around less is more produces a huge fat backwards bass. The note is plucked then the volume control is turned up giving the sound a slow attack like a bowed bass or cello. The Bodran is flappy and the sound of real skin lends itself to the atmosphere of my fake medieval melody. I’m transported away to the wilderness of a romantic, far northern  place and I feel a yoik coming on. My head is spinning when we come to “the bells – the bells” then cacophony in space and mandolin from hell played by Marilyn Mansons dad. A kind of alternative solo really …thank you for asking.
There is a long way to go but the foundations are good and we continue to develop a common understanding and most important of all we get on well. Communication is easy and direct. This is good fun and a tonic to me.
Suddenly there is a new love song in the air or where ever embryonic music resides. It’s just a sketch but I realise with a bit of work it’s another good ‘un. It’s Bob’s song in a way. It provides a working theme and I realise I have to come up with a viable way of finishing around six or seven new songs. Never been there before though some songs do take me a long time to finish and this time I am writing the basic core of the songs for a three piece outfit. The sugar / acid coating can come later, where appropriate.
So after more chat into the early hours I fall asleep after another satisfying day. We are knackered.
Next day I ride the Virgin Bullet back to London Euston. It takes just 50 minutes which is really cool. I am looking forward to the next episode as we progress towards some thing very different and hopefully some thing very special. I deserve it, the guys deserve it and so do you. Keep the faith.


Saturday, 9 June 2012

In Ilfracombe

east down manor

Back in the day and after Blackhill Enterprises, the Edgar Broughton band were unfortunately tied up with a management company called World Wide Artistes and part of the deal was accommodation in North Devon in a wonderful house called Eastdown Manor. This is where we wrote and made the demos for the album Inside Out. It was a mixed time with a constant campaign to get our management to do the right thing. This was mostly beyond them due to their complete lack of imagination and criminal tendencies. The worst crook of the lot was a character called Wilf Pine a thoroughly useless pirate who didn’t have a creative bone in his body. Wilf liked to bully people and I’ll never forget the day we sat outside his office listening to him berate and insult the band Stray who were a nice bunch of guys. They looked quite crestfallen and embarrassed as they left his office and we went in. Our personal roadie Chris immediately sorted the situation by telling Mr Pine that if ever he treated us badly or harmed us in any way he, Wilf, would never be able to enjoy a quiet drink again. Wilf was terrified of hallucinogenics and he was told that he would get a nice big trip if he crossed us. Job done. He appeared to have a sneaking regard for our stance and never did cross us. By the way Wilf that promise still stands and you are a pathetic  old man now so keep your distance ha ha!
Any way we all lived at East Down Manor, the home of Sandersons the wallpaper people for about a year and a half. The entire crew lived with us along with a couple of Afghan Hounds that belonged to our Chris.
We had some good times there but I had a few low periods too. The entire beginning of Side by Side on Inside Out was inspired by a visit from our great friend and lawyer Brian Livingstone who got me out of my bed and into a good mood with the help of a little mescaline. Very nice too! I remember that day as we all piled into a little cake shop after a visit to The Valley of Rocks with Brian and the band, wives and crew. We were off our skulls but the two elderly ladies who served our cream teas were quite pleased to see their entire cakes and other goodies consumed in one fell swoop. We were generally well behaved even when totally smashed and we left the ladies with a big smile on their faces.
Brian later helped us successfully sue World Wide Artistes and to have all rights returned to us. This was a first in UK Music biz history and was covered by Private Eye in a piece that lampooned the World Wide Artistes crew unmercifully. 

looks fishy to me

I was down that way again near Ilfracombe last weekend to play a surprise bithday gig for Jim and Gail. It was Gail's 60th. Jim and Gail run a very nice B n B in a lovely setting not far from the coast. 


The gig was at Combe Cottage a restaurant run by couple  Paul and Kate. Kate is the chef and Paul runs front of house. It is a very nice eatery and I am sure you will get a warm welcome if you call by. The gig went well and I was very impressed that Jim kept it all a secret from Gail right up until the last minute. I must thank Steve and Lyn who picked me up from Barnstaple station and took me back the next day. Also thanks to Steve for supplying the amplification.
I slept like a log that night and the next day the entire assembly from the night before showed up for an amazing buffet that really was splendid. One of the high lights of the afternoon was meeting Grant, Gail’s son, and his partner. Grant, not yet thirty is a platoon commander in the British army. It was a fascinating insight to get part of the Afghan story from some one who knows the score. I say again the kids are all right and so are the young men and women I meet at all of the FDPFAFDW gigs. Good luck Grant and be safe.
I’ve been going to Ilfracombe since I was a tot. My parents used to head west for the annual two weeks holiday ( the Coventry fortnight ) and while most kids we grew up with never travelled far in the school holidays we would set out on a Friday night and arrive on the coast by morning on a motor bike and side car.

On this occasion I didn’t get to see the sea at all. Water , water every where and not a drop to fish. Thing is even a light spinning rod is a bit awkward to carry plus all the other bits and pieces and it seems rude to say to my hosts  - I plan to spend most of my time alone on the rocks or a beach.
I have had some marvellous times in Devon and Cornwall but I couldn’t live there long term. The pastoral / semi-urban life is all a bit cosy and remote from where I consider the action to be. It is a lovely place to run away to but I’d be running back to where the change happens quite quickly. There is a lack of modernity in attitude and even language. The rural life is a good life but I don’t see the big positive changes, born out of integration and looking at the bigger picture, happening in the west as they are in the north and south.
I would guess that like Jim and Gail, most of their guests are Christians. There is no doubting the strength of the bonds between them and the good things that grow out of it all. These are people who do good things for others as a matter of course. I am very happy to have met them and enjoyed myself immensely. Thanks to all for a memorable trip.
I'm off to rehearse in the Midlands next week so I'll report back on what transpires when I return.


Friday, 1 June 2012

through a window

photo from outside a shop window in Wigan

Hi every one. I think I should apologise for being a bit lax with this blog over the past weeks. I hasten to add, by way of mitigation, that I have not been idle. Well – not all of the time though I have been on a few none fishing trips where the weather and all things, some of them sweet, conspired to thwart attempts that were a little half hearted in the first place. Ah well, in September I am off to Pembrokeshire for a two-week mission in quest of the elusive European sea bass. A local guide has been enlisted for a days coaching and guide to the best marks. A top day with a top tide has been selected so I shall expect to have a great deal of pleasure, especially if we get the little Indian summer we often get in September. Last year we missed it and it came in October. We have had the strangest winds that have blown quite strongly, almost all of the time,  since September last year. Huh! Any one might think I care. Actually I do and this last week, with a gentle mostly southerly blow the milder weather has been very welcome.
Lately I have become much more interested by being in the countryside, especially by any kind of water, than in the city. I have no desire to leave London at this time though. I love the place but a wistful feeling that inspires a small, increasing desire to run away and to be in a great space arises from time to time.
I’m off to Ilfracombe tomorrow to play another FDPFAFDW gig. I love them all and I have quite a few to do this year. There are some dates still free if any one wants one. You know how to get in touch.
I was going to say how busy I have been and that I have not simply neglected to tell you what’s going on here. I seem to have lots to do and the more I do the more there is to do. I take this to be a good sign. It helps that I can do all of the admin from where I am sitting, writing this. There is nothing quite like working on your own as a solo performer to sharpen the discipline and the ability to get things done. Any real screw-ups are down to me and since I started out, wondering if the Fair days pay for a fair days work idea would catch on and what else might be tried out, I have had not had one screw up.
I have been hard at work finishing a few new songs and collating ideas for future projects. I am also writing some more sections for the book which seems never ending to me. Every time I get to the finish I need to go back and explain or clarify what is going on. Another problem is that almost any thing I have to say or might write down would be quite at home in Instantanium and do you know? – any thing you have to say could fit equally well. In fact a lot of what you have already said is enshrined there ha ha!
There are some more gigs on the gigs list for this year. See GIGS page on web site.
I am so enjoying playing and singing right now. I’ve just re-strung my Tanglewood acoustic guitar with some long life, light gauge strings by D’Addario. They are stunning. They are 20% easier to play and the tone would enhance any guitar. If you play acoustic try them. They cost about £12 quid but are the single, most affordable improvement I have ever come across. Enough tech non-sense. Except – I am having a great time with the Roland Looper pedal. Instead of using to record loops to play to in real time I’m turning it into a library of noise that I can kick in, on a foot-switch, when ever I like.
It's gonna be ..........“F+*@ me – what’s that noise”?
“ It’s just Edgar’s pedal”!
Nothing changes then. Just a different noise.