Saturday, 10 April 2010

"Sorry guys, I don't want to play in the band anymore."

Hey people, are you sick of your band? Are you fed up with weekly practices in a room that reeks of cat piss? Have you had enough of playing gigs and not receiving so much as a free half shandy (in a pint glass) from the promoters? Having your ideas disregarded because you’re the mong who plays the keyboard? Well here’s some handy hints to help you on your way to never having to go through any of these experiences again (save perhaps the cat piss one; you may still visit your grandparents regularly).*

1. Replace everyone’s instruments with toy replicas then blame them for "not taking the band seriously" and fire them all one by one, until you're the only one left. Then fire yourself, ending the band and this whole sorry mess.

2. Confess to a number of war crimes despite not being born when such events took place. Eventually get sectioned.

3. At your next practice, instead of turning up, send a cardboard cut-out of yourself flipping the rest of the band the bird, with a looped message on a tape recorder calling each band member a “chuffing twatfarm.”

4. If you’re the singer, at your next gig, improvise offensive lyrics about the weight of the guitarist's mum complete with impressions of her as a Bluto/Mr. Toad-like figure.

5. Announce to the band that you're taking them to the zoo for the day. Then leave them in the zoo and drive home.

6. Make sure the band’s name is registered to you only. Then, insist that everyone in the band gets a tattoo of the band's name on their arses. Once they’ve gone through with this incredibly stupid idea; split up the band and threaten to sue the remaining members if they try and carry on with that band name without you.

7. Variations on the theme of 'doing a shit' somewhere in or on the instruments of the other band members. If all else fails, write 'I quit, jog on bellends' in shit on the bonnet of the tour van/clapped out Fiat Cinquecento Hawaii.

8. Allow your narcissistic personality disorder to repeatedly manifest itself and alienate your bandmates. Then they will sack you.

9. Keep whispering “a laptop could do what you do” repeatedly to each member of the band until one of them finally cracks and lamps you in the chops.

10. Continuously expose yourself on stage/turn up to every practice naked until you are banned/arrested/kicked out of the band.

*Thanks go out to several people on some loser message board who unknowingly helped compile this and the guy who I stole the idea from.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

A Hatchet Job On A Hatchet Job

Hatchet jobs are strange things, really. The sort of thing you lap up with relish if it's done on someone or something you've got a personal dislike of, it's also exactly the perfect way to bait fan boys on the Internet for – well, whatever it is when we get the urge to bait fan boys on the Internet. We've all been there, so that's that. But in spite of the first example I gave, I've got to admit that I find hatchet jobs utterly infuriating when they're on a subject you're completely neutral towards – or worse still, towards a subject you haven't even had chance to form an opinion about.

So, ignoring all I've written, I'm going to attempt a hatchet job on a hatchet job – well, that's not strictly true, but I'm going to lament a hatchet job. This hatchet job, an interview with Florence of Florence and the Machine fame. Firstly, I'll come clean – I didn't have an opinion on Florence and the Machine before reading Laura Snapes' piece, I came out of it desperate to find one. Since then, I've discovered that a) her album is actually very good, b) she's rather attractive. Those are my two main thoughts. And it's going to look like I'm picking on Laura Snapes, but I know people who know her (albeit through rather...weak connections), and from what I can tell she's a perfectly nice person. The truth is that her piece is merely an example of the way pieces of this sort piss me off; she's far from the only one. In fact, as a mark of respect (and partially so should she ever vanity-google/should a potential suitor or interview subject of hers google her), I'm going to refer to her as “the interviewer”, so that when googling, with any luck this piece won't be near the top. Not that it would be on a blog this seldom read, mind. But sod that, it's time to deconstruct.
Florence Welch - hatcheted good and proper

First of all, it's fair to say the interviewer doesn't warm to Florence. Fair enough, there's a pleasing level of honesty in this article, no-one can be left in doubt from even the introductory, pre-article paragraph that there's some hostility here. We then get a rather snooty “Florence listens to music through a Walkman. Well of course she bloody does.”, and then on the subject of her troubles with using an iPod, “how stupid do you have to be to not be able to work an iPod?” The first of those comments is merely meant as an insult, but on the second of those, well, I get a bit in knots with the touch-sensitivity of iPods; it's why I've always used other mp3 players (that and that I hate Apple). How stupid do you have to be? Me stupid, I guess. And insert some kind of primal Tarzan noise from me too.

Later on, we get quotes from Florence with lots of pauses in: “Um . . . I don't know. I mean, I think . . . It's definitely like . . . It's just hard isn't it, it's like, I mean, I completely understand...” Come on, interviewer. Firstly, this is a question on a topic you've admitted is weighty – the troubles with illegal downloading, surely you must have expected she wouldn't have hadanyanswers, let alone all of them. Hell, I don't, but then again I guess I must be Florence Stupid. The fact is, those are the sort of pauses you'll get in any interview. Musicians are a notoriously incoherent bunch, possibly due to a life eschewing monotonous watercooler conversations in favour of determinedly experimenting with lots of rather ineffectual guitar tunings. Pauses happen. Most of the time, they're not printed. Why would you print this here, interviewer? Oh yes, you've already said Florence is stupid, you're just ramming home the point. She's me stupid, yes?

It's a long interview, and I could deconstruct this for as much time as I've got (a lot: currently, the end of the financial year a week and a half ago also rang the death knell for my last period of employment), but it hardly seems worth it. You can see the article for yourself, and you may as well give it a read, it's had a heck of a lot of hits already and the twenty or thirty extra that come through this blog aren't going to make any difference to anyone. But have a look, and see if it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.

It all just seems a tad unnecessary, as if the interviewer is not only trying to turn us off Florence and the Machine's music – and at this point I might add that surely this is a reviewer's responsibility; an interviewer generally is meant to give insight onto the person and to try to be unclouded and impartial, at least with groups they're not massive fans on. And of those who like – or discover that they like – Florence and the Machine's music: are we supposed to feel guilty? I like a wide range of things, from Salif Keita to Saul Williams, Múm to My Morning Jacket, Field Music to – yes, Florence and the Machine. I've never gotten the impression she's possessed of a Forrest Gump-level IQ (in fact, being the daughter of someone educated at Harvard might, in line with general theories of genetics, suggest that she probably isn't thick as two short planks), and from what I've read doesn't seem to have a particularly spoilt, stable childhood – although as in all these things there will be many who have had worse. It just makes me despair a little.

Actually, this article's had another effect on me, in that it's made me feeling guilty for lapping up another infamous hatchet job with relish. When Alexis Petridis gave a rather unfavourable interview with Cardiff band Los Campesinos!, he singled out for particular backhanded scorn singer Gareth Paisey. I enjoyed this because as much as I was not a fan of the band, my (albeit limited) experiences of the person had been somewhat negative. But looking back, my glee at that is part of the problem, isn't it? If we go round whooping and hollering at nasty snide comments and relentless negativity – especially when it's as disguised and catty as Petridis' – where will that leave us?
I'm sorry I revelled in your being hatcheted, Los Campesinos.

We're in a world where a good put-down and an arrogant demeanour are increasingly sought-after in people to hang on to, where the “rant” is actually becoming an art form (and as a fan of people like Ben Croshaw and Charlie Brooker, again I'm as much to blame as anyone). What good does all this perpetuation do? And can we stop it? Can I? Can you?

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Neato Posters

Some fantastic concert posters produced by long-running letterpress outfit, Hatch Show Print. For those of you not obsessed with printmaking, letterpress is a very old form of printing involving moveable type, i.e. the little metal letters that you can rearrange backwards into your text. Then you ink up the letters and press them into the paper so it prints forwards - a press does all this, sometimes powered by hand, sometimes electrically. You can also add images, and print designs in several colours on top of each other. There's the basic idea, and they've been doing this since the Gutenberg Bible! Magic.

You can see the effect of the letterpress printing most clearly in the John Fogerty print, I think - the end-on uncut woodblocks and the metal type arranged around it. The overlapping colour plates are most obvious in the Pixies and KT Tunstall posters.

Letterpress is experiencing a major resurgence right now, and especially in music posters. I think it's so great that people are appreciating the awesome effects you can get with such an old technique. I am learning how to do it myself, and I can tell you it's great fun to do: arranging the type and whatnot, and using those gigantic steel presses. Then the finished product has a fantastic and unique quality to it.

(By the way, I chose these posters because they were my favourites, not necessarily for the bands on them. Although I quite like Keb' Mo.)