The Celtic Sessions: Duncan Chisholm – The Gathering / Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill

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Perth Concert Hall
Saturday 5 May 2018


The last time I heard Duncan Chisholm play was in Perth Concert Hall, when he supported the exquisite voice of Julie Fowlis. This time round he took the limelight and offered to a rapt Perth audience a selection of familiar compositions as well as a few from his new album “Sandwood”, named after the isolated beach in north-west Sutherland. Chisholm has spent the past few years visiting there and drawing inspiration for his new project. If you are lucky to have been to Sandwood Bay you’ll instantly understand the music. It’s magical.

Chisholm’s work is intensely evocative of land and sea, and he captures in sound the Celtic idea of “thin places’ – places in the landscape that are closer to the spiritual than others, in pieces like the opening “The Light of Tuscany.” Chisholm’s fiddle soared above a rolling soundscape of piano and uilleann pipes. The music is mesmeric, almost numinous, but always with a directness that belies Chisholm’s sheer brilliance with the bow. The second composition, “Haze across the sun,” is the musical distillation of a Highland Summer morning where “everything” as Chisholm explained in his lilting highland accent, “is bursting with life.” The piece explodes with the combined talents of Chisholm’s “Gathering”: Jariath Henderson on pipes and whistles, Donald Shaw on piano, Innes Watson on guitar, Su-a Lee on cello, Donald Hay on drums and Perthshire’s very own Patsy Reid on violin. The driving traditional rhythms of this piece build to a climactic shout of sheer energy and joyfulness.

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“A Precious Place” brings the tempo to waltz-time. The simple refrain sees Chisholm and Hay (who wrote the piece) lyrical, wistful, and utterly without sentimentalism. But this is just a pause for breath before the Gathering is called again for the jubilant “Dizzy Blue’. Chisholm draws his inspiration from Scots and Irish poets, and the title of this piece is from “Summer Farm” by Norman MacCaig, – “A swallow falls and, flickering through/The barn, dives up again into the dizzy blue.” You could be just there, listening to this. “Running the Cross”, “An Ribhinn Donn” and “The Farley Bridge” saw Chisholm returning to the “Strathglass Trilogy” of albums – “Affric”, “Canaich” and “Farrar”. Again, the evocation of place and the keen feel for the essence of a moment are Chisholm’s recurring idées fixes. “An Ribhinn Donn” is particularly beautiful – a lament for the lost beauty of a brown-haired girl.

It is always a thrill to be exposed to artists new to the ear. Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill opened the evening with wickedly skilful Irish fiddle music. The two play together with the speed and dexterity of the Irish Rugby Team. It was a real joy to listen to new tunes and watch two wonderful performers who held a packed concert hall hanging on each note, as they communicate their own sheer enjoyment through the music. The Gathering were joined on stage by Hayes and Cahill for a finale, introduced simply as a “tune from Donegal”, that was utterly gorgeous and will be one I’ll be searching for just to remember how beautifully a very entertaining evening was rounded out. I left the concert not only wanting to revisit all of Duncan Chisholm’s past work, but to comb again the beach at Sandwood.

Mark Mackenzie

An Interview with David Blair

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Across Scotland this Summer, the words PEACE, LOVE, & MUSTARD will be utter’d over a million times. About 100,000 of these will come from the bouncy lips of Mr David John Blair, the iconic Dijancer of the equally iconic Colonel Mustard & the Dijon 5. The Mumble managed to catch a wee blether with the laddie, & thoroughly enjoy’d the experience…


 

So David, nice to meet ya, can you tell us where you’re from and where you’re at, geographically speaking?
Yo D! I’m (made) from the recycled atoms of collapsing stars. At One with the Cosmos. Geographically on this third rock from the Sun; a wee village called Chryston, North Lanarkshire, Alba.

What’s the best photo of baby David you possess, and can we see it?
I’ll need to ask me maw for that… take yer pick!

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We’ll use both. So, as far as the Scottish cool list goes you’re pretty near the top. Have you always been cool or were you a late developer?
Ha! Cheers bro 😉 I find the concept of being “cool” a weird one. I’m just doing my thing and trying to help folk along the way and enjoy myself as well. Spreading a wee bit of peace, love and Mustard wherever I go. I like using the word ‘cool’ but I’ve always had an outsiders non-conformist attitude and a Timothy Leary approach to life i.e. THINK FOR YOURSELF. QUESTION AUTHORITY. I love the 60s and am heavily influenced and inspired by that decade through The Beatles, The Doors, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Andy Warhol and The Velvet Underground; The Monkees, blah, blah, blah and the whole hippy and flower power counter-cultrure movement spearheaded by legends like Robert Anton Wilson, Terence McKenna, Alan Watts et al. As one of my hero’s, John Lennon, once said, “If someone thinks that love and peace is a cliche that must have been left behind in the Sixties, that’s his problem. Love and peace are eternal.” In 2015 I was in Perú to do an ayahuasca ceremony with Quechuan shamans in the Sacred Valley outside Cusco in the foothills of the Andes. When I met Pachamama during that She (“God” is obviously a She) showed me my past lives so in terms of development I think I’ve been kicking about as some form of energy neither creating or destroying but changing form for a good 13 billion years ha! Or, I could be wrong about that and it was just a phenomenal trip! Guess you’d need to try it yourself for experiential evidence to corroborate or refute my “story”. I have known Colonel John Thomas McMustard (Colonel Mustard & The Dijon 5 frontman) since we were 5 (he was just John back then) from starting Primary 1 together so maybe we’ve been hatching plans for the Dijonverse since then. Maybe. I’m sworn to secrecy on that one until we both synchronously touch the ancient megalithic standing stones outside Dijon in France and then we can reveal The Truth!

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Photo by Andy Hughes

Cool! So what were your favorite confectionary as a kid (crisps, sweets, chocolates)?
Crisps; two bobbers e.g. Tangy Toms, Dinobites, Space Raiders.
Sweets; loved flumps!
Chocolates; Topics and Ripples.

Tasty. So David, where the fuck did you learn to dance like that?
Under 18’s raves, over 18’s raves, watching Keith Flint and Leeroy Thornhill from the Prodigy and umpteen B-Boys and B-Girls and Alan Partridge dancing to Kate Bush and ABBA medleys.

As an integral member of the Mustard Gang you can often be seen surfing the crowd in an inflatable dinghy, wearing a crash helmet. Have you ever fallen off?
Yes! A few times. But like a metaphor for life; it can sometimes get you down. But when you look around, you realise that you have a lot of support around you when you need help who can lift you back up and help you reach your highest potential. We all get by with a little help from our friends.

The first time I saw your band was at Kelburn on a sunny afternoon a few years ago. I said to myself at the time you were a great outfit, and in the interim it seems everyone else in at least Scotland has caught on. Can you describe the rising of the Mustard star?
We’ve been playing live. A LOT. About 100 gigs (50 festivals) across Scotland, Ireland, England and South Korea in the last three and a half years. The legion of 6th Dijons (our affectionate name for our loyal following) has grown after every gig and festival.From a capacity 1,900 at our Yellowland Barras gig in March 2016 with our Yellow Movement brothers and sisters The Girobabies, Jamie & Shoony, Have Mercy Las Vegas and The Twistettes; to be voted the highlight of Zandari Festa in Seoul, South Korea in October 2016 to 9,000 watching us at the Garden (main) Stage at Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival last year, the support just keeps on growing! It’s been incredible and word of mouth adds to that. We all want to have a laugh and enjoy ourselves when we go out and what better way to soundtrack our ‘Peace, Love & Mustard’ than with the power of music!

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Photo by Andy Hughes

So how did the name come about?
The name Colonel Mustard & The Dijon 5 was gifted to the Colonel, when he was just John, at the Glastonbury Stone Circle by a shaman from Dijon in 1997. It was prophesised. John had already mentally formed the band then manifested us into the physical realm earlier this decade. It was an idea whose time had come.

Right… So, what does David Blair like to do when he’s not being musical?
Activism, reading, running, yoga, meditating, avoiding the mundane, plotting how to overthrow the Tories.

What are your favorite Mustard songs to listen to, and your favorites to dance to?
To listen to would be ‘These Are Not The Drugs (You Are Looking For)’. Lyrically it’s a journey and asks a lot of questions about drug use and it’s effects and how we treat it and those who it affects. I particularly love the masked frontman from Mickey 9s, St Cool’s, contribution; “”(Health giving or medicinal properties, Partake to intake for love’s sake of a pair of E’s, The woes of the world caused by hate are all laid at ease, The eyes of your friends will be blessed to remember these, It’s not about the method but about what you love more, The ego of your self or your compassionate core, It’s the key to perception will you open up the door, These are the fucking drugs that I’m looking for…” And ‘Peace, Love & Mustard’ because that’s our mantra.
To dance to would be ‘Dance Off’. Getting a circle at the front and having a dance battle with The 6th Dijon always throws up some interesting shapes. It’s not about who has the best moves, it’s all about feeling free to express yourself and dancing like no one’s watching.

Cool! So where will the Yellow Juggernaut be rolling to this summer?
May is BIG music industry showcase month for us. First up is FOCUS Wales in Wrexham with international delegates from BreakOut West in Canada to Australian Music Week. Two countries I would LOVE to spread the peace, love and Mustard in! Then we’re playing The Great Escape and five days in Brighton! We’re part of the Creative Scotland Scottish Showcase with some of the best talent up here right now. One’s to watch are Declan Welsh & The Decadent West. Like a cross between Mark E Smith and The Fall with the political leanings of Billy Bragg and societal observations of John Lennon in his solo years and with the musicality of Arctic Monkeys. Then we have, deep breath, FyneFest, Enjoy Music Festival, Eden Festival, Cream o’ the Croft, two weeks in Korea as International Peace Ambassadors to play the inaugural DMZ Peace Train Music Festival between the North and South, North East Chilli Fest, Audio Soup, MugStock, Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival, Party at the Palace, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Lindisfarne Festival and… Live@Troon! I think that’ll be the end of festival season for another year!

 

Busy, busy, busy… Who are the organisational maestros behind such an intense itinerary?
The Dijon spreadsheet takes an absolute hammering ha! We all chip in. We have also thankfully been working with our booking agent, Antidote Booking, since the tail end of last year. I would personally like to thank them for everything they have done and for all the help they’ve given us. I used to manage and organise a lot of our bookings and it was driving me insane ha! Some might say I always have been but in the immortal words of Alice (in Wonderland), “I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”

So David, for any future converts to the cause, what does it take to become one of the 6th Dijon?
To become one of The 6th Dijon is easy. You just need a desire to be a part of a music loving community that comes together to be as One. Looking after one another in celebrating the live music experience and having a party with hearts and minds full of peace, love and Mustard. You may say we’re dreamers, but we’re not the only ones. One Love.

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The final question comes from the wife, who loves you! She wants to know what do you think of first thing in the morning?
I wake up every morning (when I’m home) and look at this amazing painting in my bedroom of one of my all time heroes by the incredible Glasgow based artist Marcus Raynal Hislop (The Notorious Gasoline Company)… The comedian and philosopher, Bill Hicks. He entertained and educated me as much as The Beatles, John Lennon and Rage Against The Machine. That line, “It’s just a ride.” comes from my favourite quote of his and is well worth sharing with your readers and memorizing…

The world is like a ride in an amusement park, and when you choose to go on it you think it’s real because that’s how powerful our minds are. The ride goes up and down, around and around, it has thrills and chills, and it’s very brightly coloured, and it’s very loud, and it’s fun, for a while. Many people have been on the ride a long time, and they begin to wonder, “Hey, is this real, or is this just a ride?” And other people have remembered, and they come back to us and say, “Hey, don’t worry; don’t be afraid, ever, because… this is just a ride.” And we … kill those people! “Shut him up! I’ve got a lot invested in this ride, shut him up! Look at my furrows of worry, look at my big bank account, and my family. This HAS to be real.” But, it’s just a ride. And we always kill the good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok. But, it doesn’t matter because, it’s just a ride. And we can change it any time we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings of money. Just a simple choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as One. Here’s what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money we spend on weapons and ‘defence” each year and instead spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would pay for many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace.”


Connect with David & the Dijon 5 @

www.colonelmustarddijon5.com
www.yellowmovement.org

RELEASE DATE: MAY 21

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Teenage Funkland 2: Supersonic

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Continuing Damian Beeson Bullen’s Retrospective adventure thro’ the Birth of Britpop


So, the Seattle-face’d period of anxiety &  self loathing was over, the time of the Orcs had begun. Well not quite Orcs, but definitely dodgy council estate Mancs from Burnage. The one thing these pioneering Britpopeers did keep carrying on from Grunge, however, was proper crunchy guitars, & Oasis had them in abundance. Just listen to the opening of their debut single, Supersonic, when the guitar claws its way down the psychic spine before shattering everything we thought we knew & enjoyed about music

 I need to be myself

I cant be no-one else

Im feeling supesonic

Give me gin & tonic

*

I loved it. From the shaky ploddy drum rattle to the Beatlesque ahhhs, & all those daft lyrics, including lines about cane-sniffing & gin & tonic. On adding the latter beverage to that song called Cigarettes & Alcohol which I’d listened to earlier in the year as the last song on a giveaway NME tape (issued February 12th), I’m like, these guys are just gadgies with guitars. Cool! Thatcher’s Britain had finished, Spike Island was like 4 years earlier, when live music & raving came together as the Woodstock of the Acid House generation. Since then, everyone seemed to have had a major collective come down, but things in that summer of ’94 were just about to change. A new generation, too young to go to partying in the late 80s, were ready & raring to go, & they need a soundtrack of their own.

For once the market adjusted to the music, & a series of definitive albums were released to popular acclaim throughout the year… the retro-rock of Definitely Maybe (Live forever, Cigarettes & Alcohol), Blur’s new-Mod album Parklife (End of a century) & Pulp’s glitzy, disco-intellectual His’n’Hers (babies, do you remember the first time). Oxford trio Supergrass released their honky-tonk I should coco, whose piano-driven tune Allright became the anthem of the summer. Dodgy released their deliciously optimistic album Homegrown (stayin out for the summer, so let me go far) & Beck gave the world his Mellow Gold, whose Loser must be the most famous chorus in the world where nobody knows what they are actually singing. Radiohead released their My Iron Lung E.P., hinting at what was to come in throughout mid-nineties epoch. Ride’s carnival of Light looked after the Shoe-gazers, while Prodigy catered for the ravers. Their Jilted Generation (Poison) was played everywhere & I’ll never forget seeing them play at Newcastle’s Mayfair club, late ’94, a flame-haired Liam rolling onto stage in a see-thro sphere, ripping his way through the clear plastic to begin the first tune.

A few months before that gig in Newcastle I had just found myself in Skegness, your A-typical Yorkshire seaside town. Often battered by the breeze flung ruthlessly across the North Sea from Scandinavian fjords, they often have a certain charm. Places like Scarborough & Whitley Bay are well worth a visit, & the region contains Robin Hoods Bay, a wayfarers paradise of little streets, good ale, old seadogs & their even older shantys. Yet that was the Bay & this was Skeggy. As it was mid-April the place was hardly lively… in truth it was dead. The season was set to begin in a few weeks, so this was the best time to get a job. As I arrived late in the day I bought myself a room in a B&B & settled down for the night. With morning I arose, breakfasted, groomed myself & set off out in the search of work.

Ah Butlins! The paradise of childhood. On several occasions as a boy my family had gone lock, stock & barrel to Butlins for a weeks holiday. It was generally to the camp at Pwhellhi, North Wales, sat idly on the coast & the focal point for the whole of the North West. The affordable nature of the holidays enabled many a working class kid to experience a real holiday, & boy were they good. Games, arcades, football, swimming, snooker, funfairs & archery were just a few distractions for a kid who usually had his head in a comic. Believe me I had a whale of a time & perhaps this was what had drawn me to the camps in the first place. I associated the place with pleasure & escape, & here I was again. Unfortunately, my sacking had been recorded (I had thrown milkshake over this bird who’d try to make me mop the floor – as if!) & I was forcibly ejected from the camp by a burly Security Guard. It seemed all my plans had come to naught & as I trudged along the beach I wondered what the hell was I gonna do. Then I looked at Skeggy & thought, ‘Thank fuck fer that,’ & did the usual thing I did when I was homeless & in a bit of a scrape… I rang Nick.

Now Nick’s mi best mate & the coolest guy I’ve ever had the pleasure to buzz off. We met when we were ten, played footy together for various teams… were rival quarterbacks in the schoolyard when American football hit England in the late eighties… played the Ghost Valley Two track on Super Mario Kart at least a million times… messed about with Live Role Playin & then, as the teenage years took hold, started getting wrecked. The guy gave me my first ever spliff & turned me onto the Stone Roses, took me raving & got me laid… what more can I say, he’s my buddy-buddy longtime. I put my ten pee in the phone box (that’s what it cost in ’94) & dialed that familiar number.

“Alright Nick.”
“Alright Damo.”
“Listen, I’ve just tried to get a job at Butlins, but it’s gone arse over tits… can I come an crash”
“Wait a minute… Mam, can Damo stay… Yeah no worries man.”
“Sound… I’ll give you a bell from Skipton!”
“Reyt!”
“Sorted!”

So I put down the receiver, smiled a smile & left Skeggy… an I ain’t never bin back since.

In the world beyond England’s chilly East Coast the West Indian batsman, Brian Lara, scored 375 runs against a typically weak England seam attack.  It was ten runs more then Sir Garfield sobers, who was the first to congratulate him as he lefty the crease. Elsewhere Stockport had been fire-bombed & a middle-aged Irishman called Paul Hill was released from prison. He was the last of the seventeen Irish who had been wrongly imprisoned by Britain after the IRA hit England in the mid-seventies… you had the Birmingham 6, the Maguire 7 & the most famous group, the Guildford Four. A film had just been released entitled ‘In the Name of the Father’ which showed what had happened to Gerry Conlan at the hands of the British Justice system. After threats with revolvers followed by a hard diet of food & sleep deprivation… a broken Conlan signed the first thing in front of him. Combined with the supression of vital witness statements this served to have an innocent man locked up for the better years of his life.

download (2).jpgAs the train left Skegness I found myself hiding in the toilets to avoid paying my fare… successfully of course. Once I had retaken my seat I sat & pondered upon what the fate had in store for me… little did I know of the fun & frolics that lay in wait. My train meandered back awesterly to Leeds, where I swapped trains & trundled to the old market town of Skipton. Now I’ve never really warmed to Skipton, there’s something a little Stepford Wives about the place, & as the town’s gloomy castle came into view I began to think I’d made the wrong move, rather like going off on holiday & finding yourself in Grimsby. Now as this was 1994, only 6 people in a hundred had a mobile phone, & the concept of text messaging was a twinkle in some clever geezers eye. Hardly anyone was hooked up to the internet so communication relied on the postal service (sketchy at the best of times) & the phone, including queuing at phone boxes when out & about. I rang up Nick, told him where I was & waited the twenty or so minutes for him to arrive. He was driving his mate Easy Ste’s shiny black car & soon I was inside, smoking a spliff, watching Yorkshire turn into the far superior county of Lancashire.

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Barnoldswick, or Barlick as its more locally known, is a remarkable little town of about ten thousand souls, perched right on the border tween the roseate counties, & still divided over which of the two counties they should belong to. It is about an hour’s bus ride from Burnley, which I had undertaken many times since Nick’s family moved there in about 1990. The place is mental… everyone below the age of thirty is a raver… the chief currency of the town is weed & it is here that my eyes were opened to music, drugs & fun. On Saturday nights, after crazy hijinks in the town’s pubs, a vast posse of Barlickers would drive en masse to the After Dark club in Morley… where on a night called The Orbit techno would blare out of the giant speakers, the roman ampitheatre like club heaving with many a raver. Wicked nights were had by all as Joey Beltram, West Bam & Sven Vath brought the club to such a pumpin height that the club easily became the techno capital of Britain.

We next drove down the, long sloping road from Thornton-in-Craven & into the hilly terraced streets of Barlick. On the corner of one stood the Rainhall Food House, an excellent Chinese chippy. O, did I forget to mention it, Nick is half Chinese & his mam ran the chippy for years. On many an occasion I said to myself how lucky I was to have a best mate whose mam runs a chippy & I said it again as I sat down in their kitchen to my favourite dish… it was the same every time, a massive pile of chips, fried rice & chicken curry… bliss!

“So what are you gonna do Damo?” 
“Fuck knows Nick, I’m reyt up fer some adventurin tho.” 

“Well, I’ve just been on the phone to mi sister Michelle, an she says there’s a room goin near where she lives… rents paid up fer two months!”
“Cool… where is it?”
“Wales!”
“Wales?”
“Wales!”
“Cool!”

And that was that. In a relative instance we were on our way, the two of us, best mates ready to take on the world. So this is how the world works… one person’s life effects subtly, yet profoundly, another’s. As I finished off my meal I remembered Michelle. She is Nick’s eldest sister (he has three more younger ones) & has always had a rebellious streak. She’s the kind of girl that ends up living in Wales fer fucks sake. Even as a fifth year at Gawthorpe High School, when I was a first year, I remember her prancing about sporting wild, bright purple hair.  I quietly wondered what colour her hair was now…

Nicky & Michelle in the mid eighties

After some final preparations for our trip we called on Easy Ste. Now Easy is a cool guy, a laugh-a-minute & always carrying weed. He lived with his mum, listening to jungle & drawing funky graffiti on his bedroom walls. He’d offered to drive us as far as Manchester, where we’d catch a train to Wales. Before we set off we all had a bucket & a few hot knives & by the time we hit that Victorian megalopoli we were pretty fuckin’ stoned. It was hilarious watching Easy tryin to find somewhere to park. He did tho, & we went for a farewell beer. Next door to the pub was a music shop, & I remembered that Supersonic had been released the previous week by that new Manchester band, Oasis. I wandered in, found a 12″ copy on vinyl & paid my four quid or so… proud as punch I rejoined the lads.

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“Who’s them?” asked Easy.
“It’s Oasis… they’re pretty good” 

“They look like the Roses,” said Nick.
“I reckon they’re gonna be massive,”

…said I. Now, it would be easy to say I had such an insight, but there was some kind of mystical buzz that surrounded those particular Scallys in the early days. It was the same energy that overtook gingery Alan McGhee of Creation records as he watched them play in King Tuts Glasgow in May ’93. Oasis had randomly turned up & were determined to play 4 songs at this weird city of culture thing with 18 Wheeler headlining. McGhee was up from London,  wondering what all the commotion was about went to see the band & immediately signed them once they stepped off-stage. ‘We thought he was takin’ the piss,‘ said Liam, ‘cos he was all armarni’d up, a bit of a smoothie, like.’

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From here the juggernaut just kept on rolling, picking up young spirits along the way & depositing them all in a field at Knebworth a couple of years later. I’d jumped off way before then, but I was there at the beginning, listening to Cigarettes & Alcohol on my sisters yellow cassette player one dark evening in February. But there was sunshine in that tune, & hope for a buzzin’ summer. Oasis were simply grabbing Britain all by the scruff of the neck & hauling us into the sun. They were to be the flagbearers, & its no coincidence that their earliest symbol was of a warped Union Jack. Backstage at the Word where they were playing Supersonic on TV for the first time, hypnotic-eyed Liam Gallagher give some interesting shpiel about the formation of the band;

I weren’t into music. I’d be like, shut up with that bunch of crap you’re playing on the guitar, you can’t play it, shut up. I was into football, & being a little scally & that.

Things changed for Liam when he saw the Stone Roses as a 16-year old. ‘It was the first gig I ever went to,’ said Liam, ‘And Ian Brown came on, & he was giving it the vibe & all that.’ Liam was inspired to form his a band of his own, called Rain, which Noel caught on his return from roadieing with the Inspiral Carpets. He immediately took over the band, bought them a load of gear, made them practice 4 times a week, & most importantly gave them the cheeky chappy tunes we would all soon love to hear. By March 1994 they were on the road, touring Britain extensively. ‘Certainly,‘ reviewed Ted Kessler, ‘Liam Gallagher could do with shaking off some of his more latent Ryder-isms – the hunchback microphone molesting, the between-song banter (“Cheers, big ears”?). But he’s twice the singer Ryder was, much better-looking – and if he just stands up straight every now and then, he’ll be on Top Of The Pops by Christmas.’

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Backstage at the Word in March, during their TV debut, the Melody Maker were interviewing Noel;

‘If there’s one gripe I ‘ave, it’s this,’ says Oasis leery, cocksure guitarist, Noel Gallagher, swigging from his umpteenth jack & coke of the day. ‘Listen right,’ the fiery Manc carries on, ‘if anybody doesn’t buy my music I’ll be the most upset man in the world.’ We write music for the man who walks dwnn the street to get his copy of the fucking Daily Mirror & his 20 Bensons every day, & he’s got fuck all going for him, he’s got no money. Even if somebody cant afford to buy our record, if they put on the radio & while they’re cleaning the house , & whistle along & go, ‘fuckin’ ‘ell, did you ‘ear that tune?’ That’s what its all about.

As for the Roses comparisons, Liam was basically a Roses fan, & Noel was an Oasis fan. ‘Of course we’re gonna be compared to the Roses. But not even they could write a song like Digsy’s Diner or Supersonic,‘ splurted Noel. ‘And we couldn’t write a fucking tune like fools gold or I Wanna be Adored,’ retorted Liam.Another sample of their fireworky fraternal feistiness came in an interview with the NME, in which we hear

Liam: You want to be Andrew Lloyd Webber, yo do. You f—er.
Noel: Who’s Andrew Lloyd Webber
Liam: I havent got a clue, some golfer or something.
Noel: Right, shut the f–k up then

In the same interview, Noel showed how Alan McGhee was a big fan of their music;

I get a buzz giving new songs to Alan McGee, ‘cos he actually thinks we’re the greatest band in the f-ing world. He phones me up at four or five o’clock in the morning: I’ll get out of bed & its McGee on teh other end, going, ‘I’M FEELING SUPERSONIC! GET ME GIN & TONIC! WE’RE GONNA ANNHIALATE THE WORLD, MAN!” That, in a nutshell , is why we’re on Creation records: ‘cos the ‘prez is up at five in teh morning, reciting the lyrics down the f- phone!”

Whatever & whoever they were, they were ready to inveigle themselves into the British psyche. They knew it was coming. The vast majority didn’t but I did, a poppy Stone Roses would do while the real thing were working on their masterpiece. ‘You wanna know something?’ said Noel, ‘this band, in the next two years, will win the Eurovision Song Contets with a track called All Around the World, It’ll sail it by, at least, 30 points., This is the track to end all tracks. We will win the Eurovision Song Contest. Its like an 11-minute epic. Put it this way, if John lennon would have written this track he’d have been shot 5 years earlier.’

As can be seen from the above footage from’ 92, their cockiness was definitely out running their talent. “All Around the World” was eventually released on 12 January 1998, & it did get to number one; not quite the Eurovision Song Contest triumph, but from an early stage Noel could sense something big was just around the corner.

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With a few beers down our necks & my new record tucked under mi arm, Easy Ste said his farewells & left us to the road. All about us lay Manchester… or to two kids from Lancashire, Madchester. It was a place where Bez would dance about shakin his maracas, where Ian Brown would swagger about cool as fuck. It was a place where you got shot if you even caught a bus thro Moss Side, a place to go shoppin’ at Christmas & ravin’ if you were feelin adventurous. It was the place of the G-Mex, Old Trafford & the Arndale. It was the city of the Hacienda & Sankeys Soap. To a true Lancastrian (none of this Greater Manchester nonsense) we had a simple name for the place… Skankymancwankland. But it was always the music that belted out of Manchester’s bands that mattered the most. From the Carpets ‘Find out why’ on Saturday Morning TV; to parking me arse on the dance-floor whenever Sit Down came on down a nightclub; to having mi bath after footy to Some Friendly, it was always there. We made our way across to Piccadilly station, checked for a train to Cardiff, & made our way onto the train.

“So how we gonna jump it then?”
Asked Nick, who’d never Faded before.
“Easily!”
And off set the train.


TRAINING IN THE ART OF FARE EVASION : THE FADER CODE

1 Remain alert
2 Always keep your cool
3 Trust your instincts
4 Never show your money
5 Know your stations
6 Another five minutes won’t hurt in the loo
7 Know your enemy
8 Know your postcodes
9 The train’s going there anyway
10 When in doubt, clout
11 The train always comes when you’re skinnin’ up
12 It is every Faders duty to baffle & confuse
13 Always remember your free cup of tea
14 There’s no need to rush – unless you’re being chased

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Manchester Piccadilly & the trains south…


TEENAGE FUNKLAND

Part One: The Murder of Kurt Cobain

Part Two: Supersonic

 

An Interview with Daniel Allison & Eilidh Firth

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This Friday sees Edinburgh-based storyteller Daniel Allison, Dundonian fiddle-player and composer Eilidh Firth, Mumbai actor, writer and director Sheena Khalid, and Kashmiri poet and songwriter Mohammad Muneem Nazir begin A New Conversation. The Mumble managed to catch a wee blether with the Scottish contingent


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Hello Eilidh, so when did you realise you were musical?
EILIDH: I started getting violin lessons at the age of five, but I definitely wasn’t up for practicing! When I was ten I joined a local group called the ‘Tayside Young Fiddlers’ when I began to enjoy playing and after that my playing improved more and more.

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Hello Daniel. You are a true international troubadour. What is it about travelling that thrills you the most?
DANIEL: It’s very easy for us to get stuck in habitual ways of doing things, seeing things. Going to a place where nothing and no one is familiar frees you from outdated routines and perceptions, giving you the chance to experience the world and yourself anew. Unless you bring your phone…

You have worked as a chimpanzee tracker. What does that entail?
DANIEL: I worked on a chimpanzee habituation project in a developing nature reserve in Uganda. The job was to habituate chimps to human presence so that eventually tourists could come along and see them. So, we would walk through the forests listening and looking for chimps, in silence, all day, every day.

So Eilidh, you are a relatively recent graduate of the RCS; how did you find your studies there?
EILIDH: I loved my time at the RCS. It was great to be surrounded by people who were so passionate about traditional music. It gave me a grounding in the context around the music – the history, folklore and language – and they encouraged me to start writing my own tunes as well.

Back to Daniel. Creative Scotland have funded you to give four Scottish tours to date, visiting schools as if they were Dark Age courts & you were the travelling bard. Can you tell us a little about the experiences?
DANIEL: I love working as a modern-day bard, but I wanted to have a go at being a ye olden day bard, so I organised tours in which I would walk coast to coast across the country, wild camping and stopping to tell stories at schools along the way. The first one was very hard as I made my schedule too tight, so at one point I walked 28 miles in a day, slept and then got up at 5am to run for miles across the hills in the rain – with horrendous blisters – to get to my next gig. But I learnt from my mistakes and had wonderful experiences, like telling stories outside a chambered cairn on a hilltop on North Uist at sunset, and dancing Strip the Willow down Stornoway harbour at sunrise.

How does travel inspire your creativity & can you give us examples?
DANIEL: I love how people often begin creative practices while travelling, even if it’s just writing down what they’ve seen. I think somehow you can leave self-limiting beliefs at home. For me, I see or do things that stir my imagination, and then at some point they come out in a story. Based on that period in the forest, I wrote a story years later about a Tanzanian boy who is possessed by a chimpanzee, and a novella about an English girl encountering a local shaman while living in a Kenyan nature reserve.

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Eilidh, you are in integral member of the Scottish folk band ‘Barluath.’ Can you tell us about the experience?
EILIDH: We formed ‘Barluath’ while we were still at university and I feel like we’ve really grown up together. It’s been wonderful to travel and perform and I love making new music with them.

What is it about traditional Scottish music that makes you tick?
EILIDH: I love traditional music because every player can put their personal stamp on the music. No two performers will play a tune in the same way. I also think it’s great that the music has so much history surrounding it but it’s still as vibrant and relevant today.

…& Daniel, which instruments do you use when you add music to your storytelling?
DANIEL: My main instrument is the didgeridoo, which I play in traditional and contemporary styles, but I also use Tibetan singing bowls, rattles, chimes, drums, jaw harp and a few other bits and bobs to give texture to stories.

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What does Eilidh Firth like to do when she’s not being musical?
EILIDH: I love getting out into the countryside with the dog or up a hill – he keeps me fit! I’ve also recently taught myself how to knit so you’ll usually find me cursing under a pile of yarn!

Can you tell us about A New Conversation?
EILIDH: A New Conversation has brought together two artists from Scotland and two from India to create new work based through storytelling and music. I didn’t have any experience of storytelling before this residency, so it’s been fantastic to push the boundaries of what I do. I’m particularly excited about part of the show that looks at the links between mill workers in Mumbai and Dundee. The stories from the other artists have been really inspiring and I’ve loved experimenting with music for the show. We decided to call the piece ‘Where I Stand’ and it looks at our connection to our land and place through ancient myths and a reimagining of contemporary stories.

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What will be your contribution to A New Conversation?
DANIEL: The meeting of the mythic and contemporary is a strong current in our piece; I think my job has been to hold the place of the mythic, choosing the right stories and presenting them in a way that shows their relevance to Scotland and India now, and to our own lives as individuals. One story I tell is the legend of a poet who went to live in the otherworld but returned because he missed th madness and sadness of this world. Mohammad and I worked together to explore how his own story of a growing up in and later escaping a conflict zone reflects this tale.

Are you finding connections between European music and stories & that of India?
EILIDH: I knew there would be links between our two countries and cultures, but I couldn’t have imagined how many similarities there would be. I think both countries are going through periods of change and in some ways uncertainties and it’s been fascinating to see the parallels reflected in the stories brought together in ‘Where I Stand’.

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To which places will an audience member’s imagination be taken through the event?
DANIEL: A lot of places! Audiences will experience the murder of a giant, Iron Age warfare, industrial Mumbai, cosmic turtles, Urdu poetry, soul-stirring music and an erotic proposition from the goddess of war. I think that’s plenty to go on.

What does the rest of 2018 hold in store for Daniel Allison?
DANIEL: This year I’m going to be working hard to get my novel ready to send out into the world. It’s a dark and bloody adventure story for younger teenagers set in prehistoric Orkney.

What does the rest of 2018 hold in store for Eilidh Firth?
EILIDH: I’m really passionate about music education and when I’m not performing or composing I love to teach. Over the next few months I’m going to be taking some courses to give me some new approaches to working with young people and taking on some outreach projects to widen access to music. I also have a few jumpers I want to finish knitting and a couple of Munros to ‘bag’!


WHERE I STAND: A NEW CONVERSATION

Fri 4 May, Scottish Storytelling Centre
£10.00

Buy Tickets Here

Gypsyfingers

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The Voodoo Rooms
Edinburgh
27/04/2018


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I grabbed the opportunity to see this wonderful band earlier on this week, when I stumbled upon the Mumble’s interview with Luke Oldfield.  He is the son of Mike Oldfield. How cool is that? Imagine having Mike Oldfield as your dad! I first witnessed Gypsy Fingers back in September, when while on a Mumble Mission to review the rather amazing Australian duo Tubular Bells For Two, Gypsy Fingers were the support act. This is where I fell in love with them. In the interim the band has expanded in numbers. The other two members of this brilliant band, Pat Kenneally on drums and Tali Trow on Bass Guitar, complimented the two front stars with a musical chemistry that is bewitching to behold. Of their arrival, Luke told the Mumble in a recent interview;

 I posted on Facebook asking if there were any drummers or multi-instrumentalists who would be interested in joining Gypsyfingers and Pat Kenneally replied saying that he plays drums and keys sometimes at the same time, which we thought would be perfect! I had met Pat on a recording session previously so I knew he was a talented musician and that we would get on so we went to see him playing with another band so Victoria could see and meet him. We had a rehearsal and it just worked Pat has been an integral part of the band and a great friend ever since. Finding a bass player was more tricky! We had three bass players before we found Simon Hedges, who used to be in a great grunge band in Bristol called Airbus. Simon hadn’t played bass for 15 years since he left Airbus but we were having a beer telling him about how our bassist had spontaneously combusted (by suddenly moving to Japan) and he piped up with “I play bass!” and he was the perfect fit. He is currently working in Brussels for the BBC so we have our fifth bass player Tali Trow playing for us currently, who is also a real asset to Gypsyfingers bringing an extra layer of vocal harmonies with him.

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The Voodoo Rooms was the perfect venue to take Gypsy Fingers in for a second time. Intimate dark, warm and very welcoming. The opening song of the performance was “Eating Me” Gypsyfingers had me totally for the next 90 minutes. The most outstanding track in their repertoire “Eating Me” has been part of Divines DJ sets throughout Autumn, Winter and Spring. The whole of the debut album “Circus Life” Is fantastic and joyful on the ear. However “Eating Me” is a work of perfection. Written by and sung by the very beautiful Victoria Coughlan, Its infectious and Funky and the lyrics deeply meaningful. It still blows me away that the band opened with Eating Me and dedicated the song to myself.

The whole song is choreographed. Its great to dance to. I am a mime artist and Dancer, Bowie is my god, & Eating Me has the same descriptive quality in Victoria’s vocal content and delivery, & is very conducive to dance interpretation of the song. I love the Dancefloors in the Voodoo Rooms. Wooden and sprung. Aye this was Divines fave song of 2017. And it will be part of my Set in the Vishnu Lounge at Eden, in June. Because I knew the source material so well. It was a real treat to be so up close and witness these young masters displaying their art so beautifully. The Oldfield musical genes were very present in Luke’s expert guitar licks and treatments, while Victoria’s unique and folky, vocal delivery and beautifully played keys brought Circus Life to life. I knew that I had just witnessed something very special and that this band would not be playing venues as small as this for much longer.

Venue Choice. 5 Stars,
Entertainment Value. 5 Stars.
Presentation. 5 Stars.
So thats five stars all round..
5 Stars.
Divinexx

An Interview with Gypsyfingers

Following their critically well-received slot as the opening act on Tubular Bells For Two’s UK tour last autumn, Gypsyfingers now embark on their first ever UK tour, with a brand new single, Half World, released to coincide with the dates. A week before they set off on the road, The Mumble caught up with the band for a wee blether.


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Well hello Gypsyfingers I hope we are all well!  First question to Luke I thought I should clear up the Oldfield question first! Just how cool is your dad and what was it like to grow up the son of a Legend? 
LUKE: Dad is cool in a very down to earth way. He has never enjoyed drawing attention to himself or being in the spotlight and to me he is just my dad. I think people have some preconceptions about what it must be like to have a famous musician for a father but its not like that at all for me. My parents separated when I was very young and whenever I used to go and see Dad we would usually spend some time in the studio. For me it just seemed like a very normal thing that my dad was a musician. When I saw him perform live at The Albert Hall in 1993 was perhaps the first time I realised that my Dad wasn’t like everyone else’s Dad!

What age were you when you first saw the Exorcist? 
LUKE: I was 14 and I stayed up late with a few friends to watch The Exorcist in the dark and were all pretty spooked by it. Obviously the music was very familiar to me though so it didn’t have quite the dramatic effect it must have on most people.

What does Dad think of the band? 
LUKE: He doesn’t listen to a lot of music as he is always writing and creating his own music but he likes Gypsyfingers and is pleased that I have revived his old studio – Tilehouse Studios – where he recorded Five Miles Out, Moonlight Shadow and other records in the 80’s. We record Gypsyfingers there and I produce other there bands as well using lots of nice analogue gear including tape machines.

He has obviously been a major influence on all of you. Do you still work closely with him or are you a completely separate entity? 
LUKE: Victoria started Gypsyfingers as a solo project before I got involved so Gypsyfingers is definitely a separate entity from Mike Oldfield. Obviously I grew up with his latest releases – the Blue Peter “Sailor’s Hornpipe” Theme Tune is the first one I can remember – and I saw him play live several times so the influence on me is probably pretty strong. Everyone in Gypsyfingers has slightly different tastes in music, which I think is what what makes Gypsyfingers sound interesting. Victoria prefers classical and dance music; Pat loves 60’s and 70’s rock and my background is in rock and folk so there is a healthy melting pot of musical tastes and ideas between us.

Do you believe that Gypsyfingers’ star is ascending? 
LUKE: It certainly feels like it is! Victoria and I recorded our debut album “Circus Life” as a duo and it took a while for us to find the right musicians to play live with who could help us translate the album to be performed live. We had a great tour last year supporting Tubular Bells For Two and playing some fantastic venues and shows. The reaction from the audiences and press on that tour was brilliant so that has really spurred us on. We are now working with a booking agent and we want to keep the momentum going behind Gypsyfingers and to get our music out to a wider audience so we have our first UK headline tour starting on 26th April and we are currently booking more shows for later in the year.

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With the launch of your new single, forthcoming gigs at The Isle of Wight Festival and Hyde Park and the recent success of ‘Belle Voci’ reaching the voice finals. Do you believe that it is now your time to be loved by the masses and are you ready for Superstardom? 
LUKE: Our new single “Half World” picks up from where a song like “Circus Elephant” on our debut album “Circus Life” left off and shows off a bigger sound thanks to Pat and Simon who play drums and bass on the record. We really hope people like it and we hope that we are taking folk-rock into slightly new territory with it. Our live shows are getting better and better and more opportunities keep coming up for Gypsyfingers. The important thing for us is to keep putting music out and playing shows as long as there is an appreciative audience. If that leads to superstardom then that would be fantastic and yes we would be ready for it.

This question is for everyone; opening last year with Tubular Bells For 2 must have been immense. How do you keep it real? 
LUKE: We had a great time on that tour and it was an exciting opportunity for sure. We are all good mates so its always fun being on the road with Gypsyfingers. We had Simon’s partner Sally Low with us on tour taking amazing photos so the tour was beautifully documented. We like to have a few beers after the shows to hang out and wind down. Funnily enough during that tour Victoria and I drove the van while Pat and Simon took the train, which they really loved. Thankfully none of their trains were delayed!

What is the one thing that lets you switch off, be you and help keep your feet on the ground? 
LUKE: I meditate a few times a week. It really helps to keep me grounded, particularly when things get a bit stressful. I also have a lovely bedlington-whippet called Bonnie who is constantly reminding me of the simple things in life.

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Gypsyfingers being interviewed on Polish radio

What is your favourite moment so far with the band, was there one precise moment when you thought we have got something here! Or has it been very much a natural progression and you have realised what you needed to take you to the next level? 
LUKE: When Victoria and I started working together we didn’t have any rules or deadlines so we were able to experiment and find a sound that we liked and that we thought was interesting and fresh. From the start it has been a very organic progression. In 2014, quite soon after we released “Circus Life” we were offered a gig opening for James Blunt in Warsaw by a Polish promoter. The offer was very much out of the blue but it made us realise that we must be doing something right! It was a great opportunity and we rose to the occasion playing in front of 6000 people, selling lots of CDs afterwards and returning the following year to Poland for an 18 date tour!

How have the guys got on joining the band? I bet it was strange at first; Victoria and Luke were already very established, did you go out and actively seek the additional and members. They ‘rock’ let’s go get them or was it some kid of audition? 
LUKE: Victoria and I were playing a few acoustic gigs here and there as a duo and we felt that our folky acoustic set didn’t reflect our studio sound, which is more textured and ethereal. I posted on Facebook asking if there were any drummers or multi-instrumentalists who would be interested in joining Gypsyfingers and Pat Kenneally replied saying that he plays drums and keys sometimes at the same time, which we thought would be perfect! I had met Pat on a recording session previously so I knew he was a talented musician and that we would get on so we went to see him playing with another band so Victoria could see and meet him. We had a rehearsal and it just worked Pat has been an integral part of the band and a great friend ever since. Finding a bass player was more tricky! We had three bass players before we found Simon Hedges, who used to be in a great grunge band in Bristol called Airbus. Simon hadn’t played bass for 15 years since he left Airbus but we were having a beer telling him about how our bassist had spontaneously combusted (by suddenly moving to Japan) and he piped up with “I play bass!” and he was the perfect fit. He is currently working in Brussels for the BBC so we have our fifth bass player Tali Trow playing for us currently, who is also a real asset to Gypsyfingers bringing an extra layer of vocal harmonies with him.

Is there anything that you actually suck at? 
LUKE: Probably lots of things! Being vegetarians we are all terrible meat eaters but I think that is a good thing.

You all seem super talented and can all play multiple instruments and Victoria can even sing while playing everything! Who is who in the band? 
VICTORIA: We can all play a bit of everything! Our arrangements vary according to which song we are playing. Pat plays drums, piano, keys and he sometimes sings backing vocals as well. Luke plays electric guitar, acoustic guitar and sings, mostly backing vocals but sometimes lead.
LUKE: Victoria is the lead singer and she plays piano, acoustic guitar and french horn. Tali plays bass and sings backing vocals.

Who is the funny one, who keeps you going when things get a bit serious? 
VICTORIA: Pat!
LUKE: Definitely Pat.

I really like the preview of the new single ‘Half World’, can I ask who wrote it and what is it about? 
VICTORIA: Thanks so much! I wrote the original demo when I was playing around with guitar and came up the opening riff – the song just came naturally from there. The lyrics were inspired by recent stories about migrants. People and families forced to make the decision to flee their homes, the painful journey, inspired to survive by the hope of a better life. I have no idea whats that’s really like, I can only imagine. The song title Half World and lyric “my worlds been halved” illustrates the sense of loosing almost everything you knew and dreamed about… including loved ones. It was great taking this song from my demo to the band and then recording it in the studio. Once we played it through as a band on tour the form really took shape and that rocky guitar solo outro emerged. I think the song demands it, and its a lovely contrast to the breakdown vocal section. The march like drum rhythm is symbolic of marching footsteps, and the momentum of the song reflects the long relentless and arduous journey. Luke’s production and direction really helped to bring that to life, and adding the mellotron was fun too!

What are you looking forward most to the Isle of Wight festival or Hyde Park and why? 
VICTORIA: I can’t choose… both are amazing festivals and well known to us, and we are incredibly lucky and honoured to be taking part in both!!
LUKE: They will both be great but Isle of Wight maybe has the edge for me because of its history and also we might get to stay on and check the festival out.

You guys are set for a very busy year any holiday plans or is it all just work, work, work at the moment and where would you go if you had the time? 
VICTORIA: We are super busy at the moment, and love every second of it but we realise its important to step away sometimes, take a break and come back to projects with a fresh pair of ears to make sure you are doing good work. Getting out of the studio is essential but holidays and breaks are always spontaneous. I hate making plans in advance as I often find it heart-wrenching having to leave my instruments behind. I’d love to travel round Iceland for a month or two, maybe convert a bus into a little studio and just travel and record along the way… and then carry on driving round the whole wide world for a few years!


GYPSYFINGERS – UK TOUR APRIL / MAY 2018

  • 26/4/2018   Manchester @ The Peer Hat:  BUY TICKETS

  • 27/4/2018   Edinburgh @ The Voodoo Rooms:  BUY TICKETS

  • 28/4/2018   Glasgow @ The Hug & Pint:  BUY TICKETS

  • 29/4/2018   Durham @ Old Cinema Laundrette:  BUY TICKETS

  • 4/5/2018     Birmingham @ The Cuban Embassy:  BUY TICKETS

  • 5/5/2018     London @ Sebright Arms:  BUY TICKETS

www.gypsyfingers.com

Teenage Funkland 1 : The Murder of Kurt Cobain

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Damian Beeson Bullen’s retrospective

adventure thro’ the Birth of Britpop


Ah, 1994, good times! Writing this a quarter of a century later, those sweet, ebullient days of youth hang like foggy blossom in the memories of my mind… my first beers at 14, my first lay at 15, my first spliff at 16, my first rave at 17…. it was a time when everything was exciting & life was filled with promise. Ah 1994, I remember it well… resin was £15 an eighth, pills a tenner in the clubs, acid £2.50 a tab, speed £7.50 a gram & skunk weed £25 on yer eighth. Beyond my little Burnley bubble, it was the year when Robert A. Lopez of Westport, NY State experimented with obtaining ear mites from cats & inserting them in his own ear, carefully observing and analyzing the results. It was also the year when Barbara Windsor joined the cast of Eastenders, taking over the Queen Vic as Peggy Mitchell, mother of the bald-pated Mitchell brothers. Meanwhile, the Japanese Meteorological Society were concluding their seven-year research on whether Catfish caused earthquakes by wigglin’ their tales. And the National Lottery was born.

 

 

On the telly you had your usual fare. In the morning GMTV vied with the Big Breakfast to set up the viewers’ day (never saw them myself, far too early). In the land of the soap opera it was Neighbours & Home & Away at tea-time (or twice a day for doleys & students), followed by Corrie & ‘Stenders. The Crystal maze was still on, as was Play yer Cards Right with Bruce Forsyth & his bevvy of sexy birds. Have I got News For You catered for the bankers, while Frank Skinner & David Baddiel entertained the footy fans with their Fantasy Football League! In comedy Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced bouquet) made all the pensioners laugh & a certain fat, mouthy lesbian bird called Jo Brand amused everybody else. At the dawn of his career Alan Partridge gave us Knowing me, Knowing You, & the Fast Show had us in stitches. From across the pond The Yanks were giving us pre-Trump Roseanne Barr at her peak, BBC 2 had imported the mad-dash Ren & Stumpy (Mondays, 6-25) while Channel 4 offered the stony huh-huh-huh’s of Beavis & Butthead. As for the all-conquering Simpsons, the family had invaded every home in the isles. As BBC2 were showed us repeats of the first series, Sky One kept us up to date with the latest hysterical adventures of Homer, Bart, Marge & Lisa.

 

In the celluloid realm of the movie, dem dere Yanks seemed to be havin’ a good day. With Raiders of the Lost Ark Steven Spielberg had apparently made the greatest film ever, but he called my opinion into question when he gave the world his Schindlers List. A haunting, emotional & yet very entertaining portrayal of the Jewish Holocaust, he brought that heinous crime to life in a masterpiece of cinematic experience & history. His decision to make it in Black & White only added to the atmosphere, excepting one sublime moment. After seeing a little girl wearing a scarlet coat during an urban clearance by the Nazis, we would come across that same coat later in the film… only in a cart full of bodies being hauled through the death camps. Other films that year included the Shawshank Redemption, released to a tidal wave of apathy, soon to become recognized as one of the great movies of all time… & Quentin Tarantino’s follow up to the startling & curiously unsettling Reservoir Dogs… Pulp Fiction! In it John Travolta became cool again, Uma Thurman was proper fit like, dancin away til she overdosed on coke, leadin’ to a wicked scene. Near comatose she was given a direct shot of adrenalin through the breast-plate & into her heart… she sat up with the needle stickin out of her chest… cool! I leave you with a memory of one particular scene. Bruce Willis walked in on his boss being botteyed by a copper called Zed & his rubber-clad gimp… evidence enough to prove that the Yanks are definitely WRONG! Nearer to home Britain produced the interminably silly Four Weddings & a Funeral, where once again Hugh Grant played a slightly embarrassed, yet vaguely cool Englishman trying to get laid.

In 1994 the Nineties at last began to express themselves. Being able to draw on the Sixties for it’s music, the Seventies for it’s fashion & the Eighties for not what to do (man learns from his mistakes) suddenly the age had projected a persona… nothing particularly new, but a subtle blend of all the cool bits that had gone on before. There was definitely something in the air, a sense of escape from the shackles of the Eighties… to be poor was cool, and all of Thatcher’s yuppies were now holed up in Surbiton des-res. From the many tribes came the many vibes, it wasn’t just Mods & Rockers anymore, the fashion industry fragmenting & it seemed that now, as long as you had a style you were cool. Look at Jarvis Cocker… a tall, gangly, thirtysomething, bespectacled geek was now an urban hero. The people were taking to the streets once again, more peaceably than the Poll Tax riots, their agendas more for Gay Pride & against the cutting down of student grants. There was a problem tho. The music scene, which is in the very fibre & blood of the British, was being taken over quite insidiously by America.

After the miracle of Madchester, with the Roses in hiding, the Mondays on crack; with James, The Charlatans & the Carpets past their peak, there came no new band to get us grooving. Suede shone ephemeral for a while, & their first album still possesses that classical guitar swirl which got us all excited. But then came Kurt Cobain. Based in Seattle the ‘grunge’ sound had rocketed round the world, leaving a trail of long hair & dodgy t-shirts in its wake. Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam & Mudhoney are all famous names from the era, but it is Nirvana & their release of Nevermind which suddenly thrust alternative music into the mainstream. Nirvana were pretty damn good, actually; very clever, with simple song structures, quiet & roaring juxtapositions & hypbotic lyrics.  To the world the band’s frontman was the iconic figurehead of grunge, clad in a Freddy Krueger jumper & wielding his gee-tah like a Celtic axeman. Heroin addiction, a dark temperament & being married to Courtney Love was his downfall.

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IMG_20180413_100821915_HDR.jpgThe story begins at the end of March. Kurt was in Rome & Courtney was in London, reviewing singles for the Melody Maker. That night she flew to Rome, & by the morning Kurt was in Umberto Prima Hospital hospital, overdosing. She did make the SOS call, btw, after finding him on the floor of their room in the Excelsior Hotel, but this sharp & conniving sociopath knew what she was doing. Her band, Hole’s, album was being released the next week, & it was time to ditch the stepping-stone-to-fame that had been her attachment to Kurt Cobain. In an interview made a few years later in the film ‘Kurt & Courtney’, Eldon Hoke, or El Duce, describes the background to the Courtney’s murder of Cobain at the hands of as certain ‘Allen’ – ie Allen Wrench. “Let the FBI catch him,” he had said, & it is no coincidence that two days after half-naming Cobain’s murderer, Hoke was found decapitated on the railroad tracks in Riverside, California. In a recent blogpost of mine, the wife described Courtney Love as, ‘an awkward hero. I was there. She’s no hero. She’s a narcissistic junkie who reaped the benefits of her dearly departed to mutilate her body with Hollywood surgery.’

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The discovery of Kurt’s body at his home at 171 Lake Washington Blvd East Seattle, on April 8th 1994, sent shockwaves across the planet. In Seattle, a spontaneous coming together of the Grunge scene kinda summoned folk at the Fountain under the Space Needle by the Seattle Centre, where kids played Nirvana songs on guitar & lit candles & drank beer. Some would have found a corner to take, I presume, so rife was the drug in the city at that time. My wife is actually from Seattle – her partner at the time played bass for The Geffen-signed band The Posies – & she remembers going along to the vigil, & was taken aback by a young fellow wearing the famous smiley-face Nirvana t-shirt, to which had been added a red-daubed bullet hole in the head. ‘That’s crass,‘ she had told her best friend in disgust. Also quite crass was Courtney Love’s pre-recorded reaction, reading extracts from her own faked ‘suicide note’ & her emotional outburst that Kurt was an asshole for doing this to her family. The ultimate two-faced betrayal of the ultimate two-faced bitch!

 

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So, where were you in Spring ‘94? Some of you were at school, some of you weren’t even born. Some had crap jobs, some had good jobs, some were on the dole. Some were in prison & some were pregnant. Some were in hospital while others were abroad. All in all, everyone was doing something & was somewhere. Me? I was dossing about in Burnley, Lancashire, & that’s where my adventure begins. I had moved into the front room of a two up, two down terraced house in Burnley. The electricity had recently been cut off, forcing me in front of a gas fire for light, heat & cooking (half an hour for toast). All around me lay the unkempt mess of a seventeen year old (messy as fuck)… to top it all off my band had recently split up & mi bird, Jane, had just got spots. For entertainment I was learning bass guitar on three strings of a beaten up acoustic, each one promising to snap at any moment. At this point I could play the entire bass line of Wild Thing & three others… I Wanna Be Adored, She Bangs the Drums & I Am the Ressurection… all by my favourite band, The Stone Roses.

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The author in Burnley, 1994, aged 17

Now then, the Roses. Evidently ace, Manchester’s finest & easily the greatest band since The Beatles, whose influence may not have been as wide as that of the Scousers, but is of a more subtle type that has affected an entire generation. Every decent band since those heady days of ’89 has drawn inspiration from their mix of majesty & groove… Richard Ashcroft of the Verve had their poster shadowing his teenage years, Liam Gallagher was inspired to act after seeing The Roses play, & so on. For me & many others they were the soundtrack of youth, if not life, & whenever I hear one of their tracks, be it on an advertisement or in a club, a special familial moment always occurs. Tracks like Fools Gold are as famous as the National anthem & are as much a part of the country’s psyche as are the drums at the end of an Eastenders episode.

So, it was time to do one. It was Easter 1994, the trees were sprouting leaves left, right & centre, the ducklings were clogging the canals & twinkles began to return to the eyes of the birds. Within me I began to feel a stir, which I can now recognise as the Spirit of Adventure, an instinctual impulse that has driven men from the safety of their homesteads on various crazy missions, where death, or at least a serious accident, await. I was first filled with the spirit as a young boy following the adventures of Asterix & Obelix as they took on the might of Ceaser’s legions. Later, in the weekly Sunday morning race with my sister to see who woke up first & got control over the morning’s choice of video, I became addicted to mister Indiana Jones. Over the years I think I edged it, but through my sisters choice of video I now know all the lyrics to every song in Grease, and all the dialogue of Dirty Dancing… Nobody puts Baby in a corner.

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Adventuring is great fun, exciting & educational, a life being led. In early ’93 I left Lancashire for my first proper adventure & had a wild teenage time touring England as far as Minehead, where I got a job as a burger boy at Butlins. Unfortunately my boss was a Bastard Rovers fan, & I was soon sacked. The money I saved up took me as far as Tarragona, near Barcelona, which was then stolen while I slept on the beach. My mum had to fly me home & I found myself back in Burnley… my adventure over but the thrilling taste of the tour still tantalising my essence & I was still only sixteen. So where to go this time. A stint at Butlins had served me well before, so I thought I’d try again…. this time closer to home in Yorkshire, & sunny Skegness.

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It was time to do one from Burnley. Because of the recent success of the town’s football team, the whole world has now heard of my hometown. For those who have never actually been, Burnley is a misty, old industrial centre of about seventy thousand inhabitants nestled under the gaze of Pendle Hill, that lofty mound where the Lancashire witches would gather & cast spells on pregnant cows. Burnley is predominately working class, which means it’s full of good people, pies & pubs. As a teenager it had everything I needed… clubs, drugs & birds. My family lived there also, including the wonder of my life, mi Grandma Joan. Before I left for Skeggy she gave me a good dose of her home baking & a fiver, which coupled with the thirty quid income support money gave me £35 quid for the road. I spent my last evening in Burnley with my girlfriend Jane; smoking weed, making love & chatting about the future, the innocent enthusiasm of youth bubbling beneath our talk. We slept in a warm embrace til morning, when it was time to set forth. Jane’s mum dropped me off at the train station & they stood on the platform waving as my train pulled away. I waved back, not knowing when, or if, I would see them again.

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Of course I didn’t pay on the train. Almost exactly a year previously I became a Fader (Fare Evader), inducting myself into a wonderful art, skill, sport & blag that has been a constant feature of my nomadic life. I remember my first jump well. After spending three hours in the rain at the top of the M1, waiting for a lift down South, I thought fuck it, lets try the trains… & have never looked back (or paid) since. The train wound through the gorgeous green valleys of Todmorden & Hebden Bridge, past the steep slopes of Halifax, the curry houses of Bradford, the grey megalopolis that is Leeds & into view of the stately Minster at York. Now already I’d seen far too many Yorkshiremen for my Lancastrian liking, but the situation was eased a little as we reached the desolate Moors. A little while later, beyond a windswept wilderness, the train pulled into Skegness & I breathed in the salty air of the coast.

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TEENAGE FUNKLAND

Part One: The Murder of Kurt Cobain

Part Two: Supersonic