Basement practice room, drummer in a parka, hood tight over his head against Teesside, guitar player repeating a muted chord pattern on his (famous) 330. Neither glance nor word swapped. Like the Riverside and the Broken Doll, this essential locus in north-eastern music history is past, now a centre for a more mainstream evangelism and Nath is on his fourth Jag (not the guitar).
Two secret trips up and down the A19 before “bass?” muttered and players names from most recent ‘outfits’ slighted. Bald one suggested. Tries out. A year of 80 mile smoggy drives, 1500 to 2000 miles down the road to ‘avant-rock’ (in)significance. Prep for the first show at the Head of… bass player feedbacks his arse to the ‘crowd’, little Rob smashes his glass on the guitar sound. Gear carried across the road to Dr Browns, supported by the Futureheads, move in to 36 Lime, second guitar suggested, tried out, passed over. No more smog in the valves. Acrylic paint and contaminated ground and culverted burns instead. Fugazi get supported and Ian says “write more songs” – he owns feedback.
Other things happened:
– recording with Fred Tygers of Pang Tang
– Manchester teppanyaki romantic approach (rebuffed)
– group pointing at Lincoln rock-bar ceiling with Sam WMNU
– night bike ride with Archie to Zurich underground bar
– hip-bumping to Once in a Lifetime in Den Helder
– replacing the Peugeot’s back door lock in an Ilkeston scrap yard
– Cottbus squat toilet whitey chuck
– “GET OFF!!”ing soundcheck bass-playing Dan Higgs
– wine and canapes in the Tate Modern riverside bar
– valves fried in rioja
– shoe shopping on Neal Street
….we’ll maybe write more about them. If you can think of any more, let us know on firstname.lastname@example.org
‘Come forward anyway to the now and you probably know if you’re here (because you’re only likely to be here if you are one of those people who recognise some worth in bands with only minute recognition) that we just did a long weekend, the longest stint since 2014 when we made minimal impression on Leeds, Brighton, London, Nottingham and Bradford before slinking home and back to ‘proper life’ as dearest refers to it. The fact that we did a 2018 ‘tour’ probably means Amactivities will be arranged like those of the world cup of football except our abandon-art will over time be reduced to a single matinee show at Heaton PTE club in 2028. (The number of countries taking part in the ‘finals’ of the football world cup is of course set to increase until all the countries in the world compete against one another at the same time in a giant colliseum 24 hours a day every day until only one player is left standing and is declared the world’s greatest ever player and paid $1billion a minute, has his blood replaced with calvin klein obsession and an ear trumpet stuck up his rectum so that everyone in the world can blow hot gas up it marking the end forever of the whole ridiculous diversionary charade.) October 26 2018 we took four hours to pick up a hire van, put ‘the gear’ in it and leave Newcastle so we could play the world’s greatest venue… Wharf Chambers, Leeds. No one was as excited as we were. Well nearly no one.. eleven people were and we knew all of them from bands we’d either been in or played with – the total age of the 14 people in the room was 670… genuine youth appeal? We ponced our way through the wondrous craft beer fridge of Dubrek and the muesli with tahini and molasses of King’s Heath before Cambridge and the “we’re old enough to be their dads” brilliance of Culture CT, their sharp dress and tunes only enhanced by their apparent mutual respect for our thing. Surely they were taking the piss? They were definitely smirking, no? We drove back up gradually dragging the rug of bonhomie out from beneath us, went to Tesco for beans and won’t see each other until the two hour practice to prepare for Christian’s retirement party.’
Coyness about our music is predictable of course but we’re obviously deliberately avoiding the point that, even at our level, our music is still important, to us it’s essential. CRUCIAL to our sanity and self worth and the worst times are when other aspects of life take over and dominate and we can’t lose ourselves in it. The experience of playing with these fantastic musician-people is at the centre of who we are and too often gets pushed to the edges and we fight to re-centralise it – when you tour a band with people you love, when you go to a cafe or gallery or shoe shop or arrive at the person’s house you met through this thing ten years ago and have seen three times in those ten years and always because of the thing and they welcome you in and make you food and fully accept you into their lives for 18 or 20 hours, you understand that there is nothing else like this, that the experience and impact of doing this thing is IT. It inevitably ebbs and flows but always has a shimmering presence, the beauty of it undeniable and central and vital and the people you do it with occupy that space at the centre of your own philosophical venn. Their presence might fade a little when the tide of life is high but when the Sun’s up and the moon’s on the wane and the wind is calm, you get back in the practice room and eventually on the stage and back in the van. And eventually again recording and releasing and playing and fading and re-emerging and flying and travelling. We’ll be doing all of this again soon because we have to and somehow enough people want us to.
A measure of success is getting to do more of the things you do want to do than the things you don’t. Much late night self medication after doing too many of the ‘don’t want to’s has actually enhanced the energy for the ‘do’s. Sleep?
I once drove myself and four eighteen year old lads from Homa Bay to Nairobi and then got the train to Mombasa, a ridiculous ‘sleeper’ journey of Tusker and laughter. Much piss on the tracks. I’ve no recollection of how we found a hotel but I half remember getting so drunk in a pool hall with some local journalists that I left the kids in the bar and staggered back to the hotel to sleep with my head in the toilet. We wandered the Muslim quarter like five huge pink thumbs, were the only people in a thousand capacity nightclub from where we mistakenly taxied to a brothel on the coast where the lads shit themselves and I got into a philosophical conversation with a beautiful Ethiopian while looking out onto a moonlit Indian Ocean. I’m not kidding. Encountering a Komodo Dragon in the beach forest a few days later, I shrugged and wandered back into the cottage. On a previous trip we’d somehow ponced onto a free sunrise hot air balloon ride over the Maasai Mara with fucking savanna champagne breakfast – how was I ever the sort of person who got into a conversation that could make that happen? You can give every part of yourself to a situation when you know it’s good, so transformative that you shift into a version of yourself that doesn’t come out often. Is that it or does it just happen less now? The days of travelling across Kenya in two days are gone?
Four days across Spain with people we love in beautiful places. A 600 mile weekend round trip to Brighton and Notts. Late Girl, Pinnel, Bilge, Ten Sticks, Russets and fucking Chlorine (!!!!!) at 9×9 ‘redux’. We’re constantly excited by our music and its community. The plenty ridiculous posturing, a genuine experience enhancer. We’re only just getting that right. Arse-rubbing monitors, the plastic ewe, hair combing, hot moves. It all helps build the thing, we keep shovelling soil onto our mound, seeing how big WE can make it. It never erodes.