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Academic Experimentalism
I spent a large chunk of Saturday at WORK this weekend... or at an old work anyway. For LO! I was attending Transitions 8, the Comics Studies conference that takes place at Birkbeck College where I spent MANY years in gainful employment. It was slightly odd being back there, although it was reassuring that, even after so long away, I was still able to get Mildly Lost trying to get to another floor. Some things never change!

The highpoint of the day for me was right at the start, when Dr M Gray gave the keynote which was party about her book on Alan Moore but also contained a range of "beefs" she has about the field of Comics Studies. It was all very politely done, including the complaint that Comics Studies is too polite. She was saying, as I understood it at least, that the FIELD should be more confident in itself so that different theories/schools/ideas could argue with each other, rather than all trying to be Team Comics. She also mentioned that Comics Studies had a lot of FORMALISM in it (i.e. talking about the structure, the panels, the FORM of comics rather than what's in them or how they came to be or what they MEAN), to the detriment of other areas of interest, which led to people throughout the rest of the day saying "Sorry, I'm a formalist" in a very polite way. It was dead good to have something right at the beginning which put the cat amongst the pigeons a little bit, and rather pleasantly WARPED all the talks for the rest of the day.

I am very much NOT a formalist so I must admit I did find some of the talks about... well, formalist, but there was plenty of good stuff too. My main concern, I must confess, was my OWN talk, which was coming at the end of the day. When I first arrived the organisers came over to apologise for sticking me and my fellow PhD-er Mr G Lawley on at the end, and then for the fact that they'd had to move around various parallel sessions so that we were the only thing on in that last slot. "You mean we're HEADLINING?" I asked. Apparently you CAN look at it that way, but i don't think anybody else was.

When our session finally came it was, to be honest, GRATE fun. Guy did an EXTREMELY interesting talk about the history of American comic books before Superman, which consisted, amazingly, of only five years of STUFF. There were descriptions of Cultural Production, there were interesting What Ifs, and there was a demonstration of How Comics Are Made using a folded up broadsheet newspaper that was FASCINATING, also ILLUMINATING!

My talk was called "Doctor Doom as The Avatar Of Supervillainy In Not Brand Echh" and it was based on a bunch of BLOGS wot I'd written a while back for my Marvel Age Doom blog. I was a bit NERVOUS about it because I was trying a different presentation technique, as I've always been a bit disappointed in how my previous comics talks have worked out. For each one I'd pretty much written the whole thing down and then read it out - I've done my best to LOOK UP and engage a bit, but someone reading off a piece of paper is always a bit DULL, and I always think that if you're going to WRITE a paper then the best thing to do would be to ask people to READ it themselves, so I was determined to improve my SKILLZ in this regard.

I've also been doing quite a lot of presentations at WORK since I started my current job, and that's really made me see that it's better to try and say LESS in order to get more Actual Information across. ALSO it turns out that slides are NOT just for either a) lists of words or b) Dave Gorman-style gags but can ACTUALLY be used to c) guide YOURSELF through what you're talking about. THUS I tried to carry this over to my Comics talk, and built a set of slides to help ME as well as the audience.

On top of all of that, I wanted to set myself up for something where I could ENJOY myself and tit around a little bit, like what I do at gigs. As it turned out this, and all of the above, TOTALLY happened. It was FAB! There were actual GASPS when I did a slide showing the enormous number of comics I was looking at, which was EXTREMELY gratifying, and at one point I saw a Leading Comics Academic wiping ACTUAL TEARS of LARFTER from his eyes.

I was a bit worried about what would come in the questions, so was a bit surprised when the above Notable Thinker put his hand up and asked "Do you ever find out what's under Doctor Doom's mask?" but luckily I have extensive experience of answering questions like that from my NEPHEW, so was able to fully respond. Someone else asked WHY Marvel thought it could do humour, and where it had come from, and this forced my BRANE to think on the spot and come up with a Fairly Sensible Answer.

What I am trying to say is that it went DEAD WELL and I was, and am, VERY PLEASE about it. It does feel at the moment that all of the Transferable Skillz wot I picked up in all these years of ROCK are finding new homes in other areas, and I have to say that I rather like it!

posted 12/11/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Christmas Is Coming
There has been much Validators Activity of late, as we exercise our IMMENSE Teamworking SKILLZ to prepare the latest version of our CHRISTMAS album, Christmas Selection Box for release.

For LO! this year we are going to put the WHOLE album onto iTunes, Spotify, and all that sort of thing so that it can be heard and enjoyed much more widely. For too long Christmas Playlists have been made which do not feature, for instance, Roy Wood In The Blue Note, which is frankly a CHRISTMAS CRME.

We're also taking the opportunity to add several more songs to the tracklisting, not least our forthcoming single Last Christmas (in the EU), which is not only one of the most festive tunes we have ever done, but is also pretty much GUARANTEED to bring down the government. We're now at the stage where Frankie has done the main mix and we are all getting him to tweak tinier and tinier aspects of it. It is, I am fully confident, his FAVOURITE part of the process.

Meanwhile we've also been working on a track called Christmas In The Future which is, basically, an ART project. I asked The Validators to send my roughly one minute of what they thought Christmas might sound like in THE FUTURE and then, while they set to work, recorded a narration a bit like what Phil Spector does on HIS Christmas album. None of us knew what the others were doing, so when I put it all together i was DELIGHTED to discover that it did indeed sound VERY futuristic and VERY Christmassy!

Also, it's only a minute long, so it's a lot less hassle to listen to than the Phil Spector one.

We've also got the order of tracks to sort out, but I'm full of hope that we'll get everything done by this time next week, at which point I'll get it all uploaded to iTunes etc ready to be UNLEASHED by the start of Advent. There's going to be a brand new VIDEO too, it's going to be the best Christmas EVER!

posted 8/11/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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The clocks went back by an hour at the weekend, but if felt to me as if they had gone back THIRTY YEARS, for LO! I spent most of my free time doing HOMEWORK!

Admittedly this homework was mostly about DOCTOR DOOM and MARVEL COMICS, but still, I felt Mildly Oppressed to be sat at my desk typing up an ESSAY about The Production Of Culture Approach as it might be used to Periodise The Marvel Age when, surely, all my pals were out on their BIKES and/or hanging around outside Our Price. It turns out that doing a PhD involves a LOT of homework, but I'm having to do a bit more than usual at the moment because of some extra tasks that have come in, notably a BOOK CHAPTER!

For LO! I got a VERY exciting email last week telling me that my proposal to write a chapter entitled "Doctor Doom: The Transmedia Supervillain" for a new book about Marvel had been ACCEPTED! It's only accepted to the stage of first draft at the moment, so if they don't like it they can still say no, but it's all RATHER thrilling. This first draft is due in mid-January, which would be plenty of time if it wasn't for the fact that I have a) a conference presentation about 'Not Brand Echh' to do in a couple of weeks and b) a whole different chapter about Periodisation to hand in for the actual Phd not long after that and c) a massive Confirmation Document to complete so that I can carry on doing it too.

THUS I was chained - CHAINED - to the laptop for a large part of the weekend, but OBVS it could have been a lot worse. When I worked at The University Of Leicester I was offered the chance to do a PhD in STATISTICS, and almost did it until somebody said "You'll be spending 5 years doing this, so it has to be something you're really interested in and care about," which I wasn't and didn't, so luckily I SWERVED that particular NIGHTMARE. I AM interested in Doctor Doom and DO care about Transmedia Archeology though, which is lucky because that person was RIGHT!

I've now completed a Production Of Culture analysis of Marvel Comics from 1961-1987 (it is QUITE INTERESTING and also features lots of PICTURES) and on Sunday evening I presented a first go at my presentation to The Slides In My Powerpoint (she is one lucky lady!) so now I can spend some time planning out the Confirmation stuff and MUSING upon the Book Chapter. A little while ago I was having a mini-MOPE because there wasn't much going on. Now there's almost TOO MUCH!

posted 30/10/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Coal Drops Yard
I work in London's Fashionable Kings Cross area of London, where there are always new things popping up, or being rebuilt. For instance, my proper office is in the Granary Building, which used to be... well, a granary building, but is now the main site for Central St Martins.

It's all very funky and exciting, especially when something new opens that you can go and have a nosey around, and so it was last Friday when the Coal Drops Yard area opened up. It's right next door to the Granary Building and all the time I've been coming here - first for PhD stuff and latterly for Actual Job - it's been boarded up, so it was a bit of a shock to wander out at lunchtime and see a whole new ZONE ready for looking at.

Originally this was the coal yard for the industrial site that sat here next to the canal and near Kings Cross and St Pancras stations, but the whole thing has now been cleaned up and re-tooled as a SUPER CHI-CHI shopping destination. It looks GORGEOUS, especially the two roofs which scoop around and up at one end like two waves crashing into each other. Apart from that though it's weirdly pointless. I, and everyone I know who went to have a look, came back and said "It's all very nice, but I can't see why I'd ever go there again." The shops are SO chi-chi that it's hard to work out what they actually are - you walk past some and think, is it a cafe? is it a shop? or is it maybe an art gallery of some kind? There appear to be NICK NACKS available, but does anybody need quite that much tat? One of the shops seems to concentrate on chocolate, but my boss claims that he saw a bar of chocolate that cost FIFTY QUID, which surely can't be right can it?

Usually in places like this you can find a PUB at one end, but at Coal Drops Yard everywhere looked like it was a RESTAURANT, with staff congregating at the doors to show you to a table or - more likely for ROCK AND ROLL REBELS like me - keep you out. I walked around the whole area and honestly could not work out what the point of any of it was!

CONVERSELY they've just opened a new PUB in St Pancras station, right at the back where the HS1 trains go from. It's ALWAYS full, even after only being open for a week, and when myself and The Maths In My Retail Plan popped in last Tuesday it was clear that EVERYBODY knew EXACTLY what it was for, and were thoroughly enjoying it. I predict that the PUB will last a lot longer than most of the chi-chi nick nack shops down the way!

posted 29/10/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Bandcamp Rationalisation
Last week I received a TXT from Mr R Kirkham, asking for THORTS about It Only Works Because You're Hibbett. This is the tribute album to ME that Ray organised a few years ago, and my thoughts on it can mostly be summarised as "HOORAH!" but he was after something a bit more practical than that.

He'd originally put the album on his own Bandcamp site and made some CDs, with all proceeds going to a NATURE charity that we agreed on, but now that the physical copies have sold out he was wondering what would be best for the long-term future of this EPIC and MARVELLOUS creation. It seemed sensible for me to download it and then stick it up on my OWN Bandcamp Page, partly so that Ray didn't have to worry about ADMINISTERING it, but also so that it would be HIGHLIGHTED to anybody who came visiting to look at our OUTPUT.

So that's what we did, and you can now find it on the above mentioned Bandcamp Page. I hope this means that more people get to hear about it, because I think it is GRATE. There's a whole host of ALLIES and CHUMS on it - listing any of them would mean having to miss some out, so I would suggest you go and have a look for yourself. If you read the tracklist and think "COR! That sounds FAB!" then you can find out whether you are right - HINT: you will be!

posted 26/10/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Quiz Machine
Last night I took a trip back in time, and also down the road, to see 'Henry Cage: Quiz Machine' at 2 Northdown, just round the corner from my work. This was the new show from Mr Harry Carr AKA Harry from the MA, and there was a whole bunch of fellow ALUMNI in attendance. It was dead good!

The pre-show featured Ms E Morgan for our traditional periodical chat about How It's All Going - for Emma it appears to be going QUITE EXCITINGLY with things in ACTUAL DEVELOPMENT - and towards the end Ms M Malm, before we went round the corner to meet up with Ms M Velevitch and Ms L Hayford for the show itself. It was LOVELY seeing everybody again, and seems VERY hard to believe that we finished the MA four years ago. That can't be right can it? I'm prepared to believe we might have STARTED it four years ago, but that seems like AGES since it was all over. I always think that one of (if not THE) best things about that course was the other people who were on it - hanging around in the pub with them on Wednesday nights was certainly my favourite part of the teaching anyway - and it was fab to lurk around with them in a Theatrical Space again.

The show itself was dead good too. I've seen a couple of Harry's shows before and he has always been a WHIZ at doing Audience Participation without making anyone feel BAD about it. He got people up on stage and, while staying in character and being funny, made them feel part of the show without forcing them to do things they didn't like. It was also deceptively CUNNING - it was set up like a pub quiz, which allowed for JOKES all the way through (PROPER jokes too) but then a SUB-PLOT to develop which built even more jokes into it. The best bits, according to me, were a) the way he immediately got audience members to pretend to be team leaders and shout out their scores at the end of each round b) the catchphrase "I'll allow it" and c) ending with getting everyone to stand up and sing a Christmas Carol. This latter felt bizarre at the time, but it was a lovely way to get the whole audience united, and also standing up ready to applaud when he left the stage!

It was, all in all, a fab night - a reminder of fun times in the past and a sign that those kind of times can carry on!

posted 17/10/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Gigs And The Got Them
A couple of weeks ago I had an upsetting 24 hours when I had NO GIGS BOOKED AT ALL!

It happened just after we'd finished the show at The Gladstone Arms. Suddenly, for the first time in over a decade, I had ABSOLUTELY NO GIGS booked in the diary. It was awful!

I was, however, terribly brave about the whole thing, not least because I knew that there were gigs AHOY, and indeed by Sunday we had got one BOOKED, with Totally Acoustic returning for a Christmas Special on December 6th. I'm not bringing these shows back on a particularly regular basis just yet, but I HAVE missed them, so I'm hoping to do a couple more next year too.

With that under our belts MORE gigs flowed in, with one in January in DERBYSHIRE tentatively arranged for The Vlads (more details of that one when it's properly sorted out). Then there was a GIG AVALANCHE as no less than FIVE gigs were slotted in over the rest of the week - as previously mentioned Mr Matt Tiller and I had been plotting some gig-getting, which all went extremely smoothly, though the first one was a bit of a MAD DASH.

We'd looked at a list of possible places to play around February/March time, and one of the nominated locations was Leicester. I realised on the Friday that, actually, that was when The Leicester Comedy Festival was on, so had a quick look to see what the deadline for show submissions was.

I checked this at about 11am on Friday 5 October. The deadline turned out to be 5.30pm on Friday 5 October!

There thus followed a FLURRY of activity. I decided NOT to contact the promoter at The Criterion to ask for a slot because a) that is where Steve and I usually did OUR shows, so it would have felt like CHEATING and also b) they're not THE quickest people to answer emails, so instead I emailed the Cookie Club, who we went to last time to do Hey Hey 16K at The Globe. Amazingly they got back to me RIGHT away and, with a phone call and a LOT of emails between Matt and I, the whole thing was BOOKED and PAID for with over an hour to spare before the deadline. It was, I think, the easiest fringe show I have EVER booked!

After that Mr T Eveleigh got in touch and offered us gigs in Sheffield and Croydon, then Matt sorted us out shows in Manchester and Bristol too! We were both slightly FLABBERGASTED by how straightforward it had been. Tour booking is usually A GRIND, but this had been easy. Almost... too easy?

We're hoping to get in a few more shows, possibly Plymouth and then one in Camberwell and finally back at The King & Queen (probably for the next Totally Acoustic) and then we'll have a RIGHT proper tour all booked. It looks like next Spring is going to FLIPPING ROCK!

posted 16/10/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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A Trip To Edinburgh
I left work at lunchtime on Thursday to catch a TRAIN. It's the sort of thing I used to do all the time when I was in Regularly Touring Mode but haven't for AGES, and in this instance it wasn't for ROCK anyway. For LO! I was heading to Edinburgh for a CONFERENCE!

The whole thing had been booked through work, which meant that - STEEL YRSELVES - I had to travel all the way there in STANDARD class! As I always say, booking first class just means you got ORGANISED a bit earlier, and the LUXURY of getting a single seat all the way is not one that we should allow THE WEALTHY to have all to themselves, THUS my use of that particular carriage is an act of CLASS WAR which, it just so happens, also entitles me to free biscuits. It ALSO makes the trip much more relaxing, as if you've got a single seat it means you never have to worry about LOONIES coming and sitting next to you. And yet you try telling that to the Finance team at your work and they don't believe you!

There were no loonies to report on either leg of my journey, but it was still MUCHO BUSY, especially on the way there, and it wasn't quite the luxurious afternoon of reading comics, gazing out of the window, and eating free biscuits that I usually look forward to. Still, I got to Edinburgh in the end and strolled through that GORGEOUS city to the Premier Inn in New Town. COR but it is a lovely place, Edinburgh, I like it a LOT!

I popped out to get some TEA after I'd checked in, and did a bit of CUNNING SHOPPING which I must remember to do again in future. I really fancied a cup of TEA - I drink Peppermint Tea when I'm out and about because a) tea-style tea NEVER tastes any good outside of your own home and b) Peppermint is, so far, almost impossible to mess up - and I'd noted that it would cost 1.75 for a cup in the hotel. HOWEVER, a whole PACK in Tesco round the corner only cost 80p! I believe this is what the young people call WINZ - i had THREE CUPS before bed time! Take THAT, so-called Costa Coffee!

The next morning it was still DAMP so I got the bus across town to the conference hotel. The driver seemed DISGUSTED that I didn't know that all single tickets in Edinburgh cost the same, but I managed not to HULK OUT and instead enjoyed the trip down Princes Street, VERY glad not to be walking along it in the rain. I hopped off next to The Waldorf Hotel which is where the conference was. It was DEAD POSH inside and rather nice, though my dears I am sorry to report that when they brought the food out for lunch most of the plates were MUCKY! Clearly they have diverted New Dishwasher Money into the Fancy Napkins Fund instead.

The conference itself was about Research Data Management and was Quite Interesting. Whenever I go to a conference I always think it is going to be about STATISTICS, despite the fact that I've not been to one of those in YEARS, so tend to be pleasantly surprised that I'm still awake after ten minutes, but this one was actually RELEVANT to my Professional Interests, and gave me some IDEAS. It was good!

It all finished just before 4pm, leaving me with 90 minutes before my train left, so I decided to do the honourable thing and go to THE PUB. I was trying to work out a route that would avoid both Princes Street (BORING) and too many HILLS, then remembered that I'd walked past this hotel every day when we did Hey Hey 16K so followed that route down to the Grassmarket and round past Sneaky Pete's. It felt weird to be doing it without a Hula Hoop over my shoulder!

Like a FOOL I waited until I'd gone a long way down Cowgate before turning left up to the Royal Mile, which meant I had to MOUNTAIN CLIMB up the SHEER FACE of an extremely inclined street, and was out of breath by the time I got to the top and stumbled into the whisky shop. Once I'd made my purchase and recovered myself I went round to The Halfway House for a quick drink before getting my train home. It's a LOVELY pub which I will always remember as the place where a) Mr S Hewitt and I watched the closing ceremony of the 2008 Olympics and a) we agreed to do 'Dinosuar Planet' the next year and most importantly b) he declared his avowed intent to take part somehow in the 2012 Olympics. We did both!

It did feel weird to be saying goodbye to Edinburgh after such a flying visit, but I have high hopes of going again soon. I'll book my own ticket this time though!

posted 15/10/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Mad Day
Things have been a little quiet in ROCK lately, but they haven't half been busy at WORK. Yesterday, for instance, was a bit of a MAD DAY.

It started off with a trip to the London College of Communication in Elephant & Castle, where I went to talk to an Artist/Lecturer about ways to capture Practice Research on our computer system. It was DEAD INTERESTING and also entirely compliant with my professional interests. Talking about this sort of thing is always fun, but I am especially enjoying it at the moment because I am getting close to Actually Knowing What I'm On About. I've been in this job just over six months now and I've reached the blissful point where not all questions result in my SWEATING WITH DREAD. It's quite nice!

I then hopped on a tube and went to High Holborn, to explain our system to some people involved in the Teaching Pathway. At UAL academic staff are either on a Research, Teaching or Knowledge Exchange Pathway, depending on what they mainly DO, and so far our system's been mostly set up to work for Research. THUS I'm now going round talking to people on the other pathways to see what they could actually USE it for. This also is great fun, and also SENSIBLE as I haven't a flipping clue what they might like it to do!

With that done I zoomed off to Oxford Circus for a quick nip into GOSH before returning to Elephant & Castle to attend a Committee where I was giving a PRESENTATION. I have also now reached the point where I can not only TALK about the systems but also ANSWER QUESTIONS without wanting to run away and hide under an easel somewhere. The meeting was GRATE as everyone seemed DEAD KEEN, as they were at my NEXT meeting which took me back into town and to The London College Of Fashion for ANOTHER presentation. I'm always AFEARED when I go there that EITHER everyone will sneer terribly at my outfit OR worse still STEAL my Unique Look for next year's collections. In actual fact they tend to be lovely, and this time were even MORE keen on the system. It's all a bit weird really, I keep expecting people to REJECT any idea of new computer stuff, but instead they say "But this is amazing and will solve all of our problems!" It's like appearing in an advert for washing powder!

After that i got back on the tube AGANE and headed back to Elephant and Castle one last time, for the launch of The Comics Research Hub at LCC. This is the rather brilliant plan for bringing together ALL the various Comics Studies research that goes on across the six colleges of UAL - we are basically a WORLD LEADER in this field, but nobody seems to notice because everybody's spread out across different sites and departments. Seeing everybody gathered together in the room was RATHER exciting, like when THE AVENGERS have a meeting of ALL the members and even George Perez struggles to fit them all in!

It was also a bit weird for me because there were people there from BOTH my aspects of UAL - the PhD AND the actual job - so I found myself in the odd position of SWANNING AROUND a little bit introducing people to each other. Luckily there was also time for some FREE BEER, so it wasn't all out of the ordinary, but CRUMBS it was a busy end to a busy day!

And then this afternoon I'm off to a Conference in SCOTLAND. What has happened to me? I thought jobs were supposed to be boring?!?

posted 11/10/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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Two Johns, Jilted and Otway
Last night myself and The Synapses In My BRANE met at Great Portland Street to go and see John Otway and Jilted John. The gig had originally been at Koko, but then the venue was closed down for some reason and the show was moved to 229, which was MUCH better for us. Koko is one of those old Victorian theatre venues that always feel too dark, MUCH too cramped and, for some reason, too expensive, and is also in stinky CAMDEN. 229 was much handier (and right next door to a Pizza Express doing their ACE vegan pizzas too) and actually dead nice. We'd been there a couple of times before, and remembered it as a long thin basement, but I think it must have moved next door, as we went through a different entrance and the room we found ourselves in felt like a Hotel Ballroom. It was under a hotel, so it might well have been!

You can always tell if you haven't seen Otway for a while by the presence of NEW JOKES. We guessed we hadn't seen him for at least a couple of years, which meant there were about THREE new gags! I've been going to see him for thirty years now, and the set/act has not changed that much in all that time - it develops much like a GLACIER - so it was a bit of a shock to be laughing at gags I hadn't heard before, especially when some of them were actually Quite Good!

He was, as ever, GRATE, and it's lovely now to hear him tell his stories and realise that we were a (tiny, but still) part of some of them. I'm always amazed, when I see him playing non-headlining gigs, to realise that there are still people going to gigs who somehow have never SEEN Otway before! Especially at a show like this, where everyone else was at LEAST our age and had clearly been to at least SOME gigs before, yet many of them were laughing in SURPRISE (rather than everyone else's comfortable DELIGHT and RECOGNITION) at some of the jokes. I can only surmise that they must have been doing it on purpose, saving their first Otway gig for a special occasion.

He was supporting Jilted John, who was dead good, but it did make for a bit of a strange combination. Here was John Otway - an ACTUAL Punk Legend with TWO hits - doing the support for a PRETEND Punk Legend with ONE hit, which was a PRETEND Punk song even at the time! I guess maybe the fact that Jilted John hasn't done around 2,000 actual gigs since the 70s means it's a bit more special to see him!

As the second half of the gig went on it slowly dawned on me that this was a SHOW - the songs were linked together, and told chronological stories. Was the set based on a MUSICAL maybe? I don't know, he didn't make a big thing of it or anything, but it felt as if there was more to it than met the EAR. I was, I must admit, a bit disappointed that John Shuttleworth didn't come on for the encore, but John Otway DID, and it was hilarious watching everybody realise that he only knew the "Gordon Is A Moron" bit for the main song (which, wonderfully traditionally, they did a second time at the end).

It was dead good but, as I say, a bit confusing. Did I see a Punk Rock show? A pastiche, tribute, or recreation of same? Or something ELSE?!?!?

posted 9/10/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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The Gladstone Arms
Saturday was that most delightful of days: one full of THE VALIDATORS!

For LO! not only did we have a GIG booked in the evening, but we also had a RECORDING SESSION in the afternoon, to do some DRUMS for this year's Christmas song. When the song was written a couple of weeks ago we all got A Little Bit Excited about it, and decided that we needed to make an effort to record it properly (or at least not improperly). Tim had thus suggested that he, Emma and Tom set off for London a bit early (Frankie had already booked his train, so his timings were IMMOVABLE) and then we meet in a rehearsal studio in Holloway to do some recording.

So that's what we did! We were in a place called Storm, which was actually very nice. I'm continually surprised by how PLEASANT most rehearsal studios are these days. I spent a LOT of time in them during the 1990s when they were uniformly cold, damp, smelly and AWFUL, but these days they tend to be CLEAN and even have GEAR in them that works. Kids today with their habitable rehearsal space and functioning equipment, they don't know how lucky they are!

Tim had brought his CAJON and various other bits of kit with him, although it turned out he hadn't brought the RIGHT bits of kit, so had to manhandle it all together somehow from furniture. Meanwhile Tom and I set up our respective recording devices in separate parts of the room, to try and get a decent spread of sound, and prepared to record, with me standing next to Tim, singing and playing guitar as a GUIDE.

After the first take Tim very gently suggested that I sing NOT QUITE SO LOUDLY - partly so that we would get as clean a take of the drums as possible, and partly because the end of the song has a KEY CHANGE so the less of my inability to a) play the chords b) hit the notes which made it onto the recording, the better! I thus found myself basically stood behind him, WHISPERING the words as we went along, which actualy seemed to work quite well. We then did the same for ANOTHER song (details of which are UNDER WRAPS at present) before settling into a brief PRACTICE and then heading off to South London, where we were due to play a gig at The Gladstone Arms.

As previously discussed it is a LOVELY pub, made all the lovelier than the arrival, just a few minutes after us, by Mr FA Machine. The Validators were COMPLETE at last!

The sound was done by a very nice, very enthusiastic, very DILIGENT Romanian chap, and sounded GRATE. We had a good old NATTER and were joined by various CHUMS and lovely people, and then at about 8pm we went on stage (or "corner of the room") and did THIS:
  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • Can We Be Friends?
  • Have A Drink With Us (Drink Doch Eine Met)
  • Being Happy Doesn't Make You Stupid
  • Two Nights, One Pub
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • We Did It Anyway

  • It sounded, by all accounts, DEAD GOOD - as I say, the soundman was GRATE, and playing in that formation, with all acoustical instruments modestly amplified through the same PA, alongside Tim's Cajon set-up, means that we can actually HEAR each other and react accordingly. There was one GRATE bit where a song started too slowly, and I remembered that if I just sped up a bit then everyone else would too! BAND SYNERGY!

    I must admit that I did get a bit distracted by a table sat right in front of us who insisted on HAVING A VERY LOUD DRUNKEN CONVERSATION throughout, but that is more me than them. I am out of practice at Not Taking It Personally! Otherwise everybody seemed to be well into it, even those who did not know us, and I was once more especially pleased with the end bit to Two Nights, One Pub, which is dead good.

    After our set there was more chat before it was time to say farewell to The Validators as they set off back to The Midlands. It really is DEAD NICE when we have a couple of gigs in close proximity like this, as you get to carry on conversations from last time and, indeed, discuss how GRATE it had been the last time too! Talk of our Christmas Curry hung in the air as we went our separate ways, but hopefully there will be time for a get together again before that!

    posted 2/10/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Alison Alien
    Today sees the debut of another video from John Dredge and The Plinths - 'Alison Alien', what you can see right HERE:

    It has been created by Popaisy Productions using the simple ingredients of Mr J Dredge, a green screen, The Breakfast Club and COMPUTER WIZARDRY, and looks, I think, GRATE!

    Keen eyed colleagues will note that the song itself came out earlier this year when we released The Emergency EP. The idea then was to release a video for every song, one a month, and we did pretty well until it came to the last song as someone else had embarked upon the project, but never finished it. Luckily for us (and all POP FANS) the delightful people of Popaisy took on the task and created the masterpiece you see above.

    Further Plinths output is forecast in the future, INDEED I spent a healthy chunk of Sunday afternoon recording extra GUITARS for the next EP, which is sounding rather SUPER. There's a little way to go before its all done, not least because I'm probably going to have to re-do my BASS playing, but it's sounding good so far!

    posted 1/10/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Marching To Birdsong
    It was a very wet morning on Saturday as we headed to Hyde Park, there to gather for the start of The People's Walk For Wildlife. We've been to several starts of marches here, usually for Badger Cull Demoes, but this was quite a bit bigger. When we got into the park I set to searching for the tell-tale black and white of The Badger Army, but instantly saw a HUGE crowd of people standing around in front of a Proper Stage.

    As we got closer we could see home-made Badger placards (like what we had), but also ones featuring Hares, Bees, Bats, Foxes, Newts and all sorts of other wildlife that's under threat. It was like a gathering of the CLANS, with all the different wildlife lovers of the country coming together. It was also very soggy, tipping it down throughout the Speeches part of the event, which began with a selection of tunes which The Tracks In My Shuffle theorised had come directly from C Packham's iPod.

    The next hour of speeches and music (which, as is the rule for these sort of things, ran late and turned into an hour and a half) became DISTINCTLY WEIRD for me when Chris Packham introduced a couple of musicians, one of whom was BILLY BRAGG, and the other was our own G Petrie! There was Grace on stage singing "Big Yellow Taxi" with B Bragg paying guitar for her! Grace who used to support acts in various long-demolished pubs in Leicester in the early 90s! With Billy Bragg as her sideman! Later on she did a song on her own and, as ever, I thought "I hope she's going to be all right playing to all these people" and then remembered, AGANE, that even though I think of her as a teenager playing in The Victory, she is ACTUALLY an International ROCK Star of immense skill who could do this sort of thing in her sleep. She was GRATE!

    Alongside all that were speeches which, as I say, massively over-ran, despite the best efforts of the organisers. Most of the speakers mentioned that they only had two minutes to speak, with one person SPENDING two minutes telling us why that wasn't long enough, which I always find Somewhere Fatiguing, but eventually we were all done and the march commenced.

    This bit was BRILLO. The first twenty minutes were spent crossing Hyde Park, which was LOVELY - more marches should be done on grass, it's much easier on the feet! Before the day itself people had been asked to download an mp3 of BIRDSONG (specifically birdsong that had disappeared from England in recent times) and play it on their phones as we walked along, which was FLIPPING LOVELY. It felt slightly surreal walking through the posh bits of London traffic apparently surrounded by BIRDS, but it was much more restful than having to chant things all the time. It was also GRATE having a banner EACH to wave!

    Eventually we reached Whitehall, where I was disconcerted to find MORE speeches which, as is the rule, we couldn't hear most of because of speakers MUTTERING. I always find this Quite Troubling: surely if you KNOW you are going to speak in front of 10,000 people, you would spend a LITTLE time working out what you are going to say, rather than just RAMBLING? Thankfully George Monbiot came on towards the end and did a PROPER SPEECH which was dead good. Still, the quiet did give us more time to appreciate the birdsong, which was augmented by the sound of some VERY confused parakeets sitting in the tree that we were sheltering under!

    It was a bit of a soggy stomp, but a good day all round - it was done to promote The People's Manifesto For Wildlife, which seems to be a Thoroughly Good Thing, so hopefully us being there helped a bit!

    posted 25/9/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Course Of Empire
    Friday evening found myself and The Paintings In My Gallery meeting up in the CAFE at the National Portrait Gallery for some post-work ART. We met in the NPG cafe purely because of its handy location and charming ambience, the fact that it was HAPPY HOUR (2 for one on BOOZE) had absolutely nothing to do with it!

    Once refreshed from the working week we wandered round the corner to the National Gallery to go and see the Ed Ruscha: Course Of Empire exhibition. We had a bit of trouble finding it because we didn't know how to pronounce "Ruscha", and the staff we asked seemed not to understand. "Rothko? Not here..." began one, before a lengthy discussion on that particular artist. Eventually we repeated it enough times (and actually almost correctly!) before she went "Oh RUSCHA!" and pointed us along the corridor.

    The aforementioned Dates In My Diary had picked this exhibition to look at because she thought it would be compliant with our interests, and she was CORRECT, for it was ACE! It was two sets of five paintings, one done in black and white in the 90s, depicting the rooftops of various small town businesses, the other the same buildings in colour about ten years later. The two versions of each scene were shown together and it was DEAD GOOD. It told a story (it was on because it was named after Thomas Cole's Eden To Empire which was showing elsewhere in the gallery), it was FUN, it was FREE and also it was VERY SHORT - all ten paintings were hanging in the same room, so you could stand in the middle, turn 360 degrees, and see THE LOT.

    It was fab and I would highly recommend it, especially if you can get to the NPG Happy Hour beforehand!

    posted 24/9/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Catalogue Logging
    This week I have undertaken an onerous ROCK ADMIN task which has stretched my patience to the very limit, as it has forced - FORCED - me to go through most of my own back catalogue, thinking about my own songs and reading my own lyrics. As anyone who knows me will guess, this has been AWFUL.

    Oh all right, no it hasn't, I've had a lovely time! I can never understand people who claim not to like their own stuff - either they are FIBBING in an attempt to look COOL in the eyes of idiots (surely not!) or are telling the truth in which case WHY are they going round inflicting it on other people? Listening back to your own stuff is even MORE fun when it's OLD stuff that you have half forgotten about, as then it sounds like someone else wrote a song SPECIFICALLY TAILORED to your own thoughts and opinions!

    The impetus for undertaking this task came from my esteemed publishers Wipeout Music, who emailed last week asking for some help. They're currently entering their entire catalogue into a new database and required a load of METADATA for every song, and so are having to go through THE LOT adding in song codes and other information by hand. For some reason they assumed that I would have most of the information about my own songs easily to hand, so wondered if I might be able to do my bit myself?

    I'm sure I don't know WHERE they got THAT idea from - I am much too busy smoking doobie joints and ROCKING OUT to know anything at ALL about metadata, and certainly do not have some kind of "Database of ROCK" to hand recording in-depth information about songs, albums, PRS Codes, ISRC codes... oh, hang on, I TOTALLY DO! Thus I happily volunteered, and have spent the rest of the week a) copying across codes, song lengths, filenames etc into the spreadsheet they sent me and b) going through every song to add QUALITATIVE information.

    This last bit has been the MOST fun. Each song has fields for "Mood" and "Lyrics", the first requiring a single word like "Happy" or "Sad", the second needing a brief representative section of lyrics. I assume both of these are so that Soundtracking/Advertising Types can do a quick search of the database to find, for instance, a Happy song which features the word "sozzled" or an Angry song featuring the word "architecture", so I've been trying to get 2-4 lines of lyric for each song which both captures the ESSENTIAL ESSENCE while also containing relevant KEYWORDS.

    This has actually turned out to be a lot easier than I thought, as for most of my songs that is what the CHORUS is. It's much more difficult trying to boil down the MOOD to something sensible, and it's noticeable that certain words crop up more often on certain albums. "Nostalgic" comes up a lot for A Million Ukeleles, for instance, while there's an awful lot of "Christmas" on Christmas Selection Box!

    The main problem, however, is that it's making me think "This song is dead good, why don't I play it at gigs more often?" Of course at the moment the answer is "Because you're not DOING any gigs!" but, in a broader, long-term sense, the answer is something like "Because it has that weird chord in that you had to overdub on its own in the studio after an embarrassing hour of incompetence" or "Because the middle eight sounds like the Bon Jovi song you clearly ripped it off from". Still, maybe if I DO get round to doing gigs again I'll actually make an effort to LEARN some of the older, non-gigged, songs again.

    For now it's an enjoyable stroll through the back catalogue, which turns out to be FLIPPING LENGTHY. There's 156 songs in the database, and that's just the ones that were RELEASED on COMPACT DISC and iTunes, there's at least as many again that came out in other directions. How did I ever manage to maintain a COMPREHENSIVE DATABASE at the same time?!?

    posted 21/9/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Gigs And The Getting Of Them
    On Tuesday night I went to BOROUGH, to meet Mr M Tiller and to case out a VENUE.

    The venue was The Gladstone Arms, where me and The Validators are playing next Saturday (the 29th, we're on first at about 8:30pm). It feels like AGES since I last played a venue I've never even BEEN to before, so I thought it'd be good to go and have a look. I am glad that I did, because The Glad is a LOVELY little pub, with nice beer, a most pleasant atmosphere, and Easy Access To Transport Links. It's quite small too, so if you're planning to come and see us (and if you live within 80 miles of central London then surely YOU MUST) I would advise getting there in a timely fashion!

    The MEETING was to discuss the possibility of me and Matt going out on TOUR next year. Over the past few weeks I've been trying to book some gigs, with very little success. I emailed 14 (fourteen) promoters in London, and of those only THREE replied, with just Bark, who are putting us on at The Glad, saying "yes". This was a little bit disappointing, not least the fact that the VAST majority of people didn't even bother to reply - I ALWAYS reply to people who ask to play Totally Acoustic (except for one person whose Facebook message disappeared for some reason - this was about 6 years ago and I still feel bad about it), even when they have clearly emailed very venue or promoter in London asking for a gig for their Death Metal Band. Surely that is just MANNERS?

    Anyway, I'd mentioned this on the social media and Matt had sympathised, having had similar luck himself, so we got together to see about going round the country together instead. We agreed immediately that we would NOT be doing this in a VAN, nor would we be going out and STAYING out, but rather would try and do somewhere between 5 and 8 gigs over a roughly six week period. This seems MUCH more sensible and do-able - I mean, I of course could happily hit the road for a whole month and eat nothing but Jack Daniels and motorbikes, it is Matt's health I am thinking of.

    We got a LIST of places to try, three each to start with and then other batches to follow that, and agreed a rough area of DATES to do it in. The next stage is to start ASKING - I'm going to start with PALS, so even if they say "I haven't put a gig on in ten years!" or similar, at least I'm sure of a reply!

    posted 20/9/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Christmas Is Coming
    It's that most wonderful time of the year, when the thoughts of all indie bands turn to Christmas!

    For LO! September is when deadlines start to loom hazily over the horizon, and you realise that if you want to have a song on a compilation, even if it's one of our own, in early December, it needs to be sorted out by November, which means recording in October, which means you need to write it... NOW!

    I had already written ONE song, but it felt more like a "me" song rather than one for The Validators, so I was thinking maybe I should do something else. I discussed this matter with The Links On My Chain who said "I've already GIVEN you a GRATE idea for a song - " and continued to re-relate her idea for a song about how this would be our last Christmas in the EU.

    This is, obviously, a TREMENDOUS idea, and by the time we'd got home the general SHAPE of the song was fully formed, requiring just a few more ideas from The Validators, and then a couple of days of bits of TUNE arriving in inconvenient places (thinking of a chorus is almost IMPOSSIBLE when you are in a rehearsal room SPECIFICALLY to think of a chorus, but it's EXTREMELY easy in the middle of a Very Long And Important Meeting), before it was completely finished. Then all that remained was a half hour to record a DEMO for The Validators, et VOILA! "Last Christmas (in the EU)" was complete! And also, BLOODY GRATE!

    The next stage will be to record the band version, which we're planning to do a week on Saturday in LONDON TOWN. The Vlads are coming down to the big city on Saturday 29 September for our gig at The Gladstone Arms (everybody come and see us!) so we've booked into a rehearsal room for a couple of hours so that I can record AT LEAST Tim's drums and Emma's vocals, hopefully Tom's violin too, then add MY bits at home later and send THE LOT back to Frankie (who's coming down on the train so won't be in the rehearsal room) to MIX. We are quite excited about this song as it is a) dead Christmassy b) DEAD POLITICAL, so we're keen on getting it right!

    I'm planning to release this song, and ALL of our Christmas songs so far, on iTUNES this year, so that they can find their way onto Christmas playlists and such like, and all being well there will be a VIDEO and even some PROMOTION. It's been a quiet year so far for The Validators, but we're planning to finish it with a BANG!

    posted 19/9/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Saturday lunchtime found me heading for Leicester, or to be exact Woodhouse Eaves, for the ROCK EVENT of the Season - PATTISONISPHERE!

    This was the long-anticipated extravaganza to mark the 50th Birthday of our own Mr Tim Pattison, which was taking place in the Village Hall. Tim's original plan was to get EVERY band he had EVER been in to reform and play a couple of songs during the course of a day long festival of ROCK. Luckily for his own sanity (and all of ours) this had been whittled down over time to a much more reasonable three - The Torture Garden (his first band proper), Prolapse (hence the low-key warm-up last week) and us.

    Once I'd got to Leicester and checked into the Premier Inn I strolled across town to St Margaret's bus station. "It's so much better these days," I thought, "now that there are big signs clearly telling you where the buses go from." The only trouble with this was that MY bus was not on ANY signs, and it took some PANICKY QUEUING in the info centre to discover that the signs were "playing up", followed by a DASH back to the other end of the station to catch my bus.

    Five minutes into the journey I was joined by Mr T "The Tiger" McClure, and we arrived in Woodhouse Eaves not long after to find it a HIVE of activity. The Torture Garden had just finished their practice in the scout hut (which would serve as DRESSING ROOM later on!) and so PA systems were being moved into the main room, lights were going up, food was being brought in, and all manner of people were dashing about setting things up and moving things around. It was all quite exhausting!

    Soon Mr F A Machine arrived and we were able to drag Mrs E Pattison away from her Project Management duties for long enough to have a sound check. Last time we played the Village Hall the sound wasn't particularly great, and I was AFEARED that this would be the case again, but as usual I had forgotten that the REASON you do a soundcheck is to get the sound right, and that it will ALWAYS sound a bit weird to start with. EVERY time we do a soundcheck I panic at the start, and have to remind myself that the POINT of this is to sort it out!

    With that all done we left Prolapse to take their turn and Emma to continue her work, while me, Frankie and Tom popped down the road to the pub, where we were joined by Mr M Petersdorf and family, not long arrived from distant GERMANY. We had a right old chinwag, which continued when we moved down the road to the OTHER pub in the village, as the first one had been fully booked for food. It was all a bit GLAM in the second pub, demonstrated most clearly by the fact that we were soon also joined by Sorted Supremo Dave Dixey!

    After dining we headed back to the Village Hall, which was now full of PEOPLE and a PARTY in full swing. I had been following text message updates from The Points Of My Plan who had got the train to Loughborough and taxied it from there, so was a) relieved b) DELIGHTED when she rolled up not long after us. Now the PARTY could truly get going!

    What followed was a BLOODY BRILLIANT evening of boozing, yacking, dancing, eating and occasional interruptions for ROCK BANDS. The beer was supplied by Mr Jimmy Machine, who had come with Mrs Joanne Machine bearing a barrel of BEER what he had made himself - it was DELICIOUS. The dancing meanwhile was provided by DJ TURK, demonstrating all the skills, and even more of the LARFING, that he used to demonstrate all those many years ago back at The Tube Bar!

    Tim had got himself different OUTFITS for each of the acts, and he looked VERY dapper when The Torture Garden took to the stage, wearing a paisley shirt, waistcoat and sunglasses. I think it was meant to look funny, but it actually really suited him, as if he was meant to STILL be a GOTH and dress accordingly! It was pretty fab to actually SEE The Torture Garden, which we have heard about SO many times over the year!

    It was pretty fab in a lot of ways really - the GRATE thing about being in a band with the same people for SUCH a long time is that you end up intertwined in each other's ACTUAL LIVES, so at things like this you bump into FAMILY who feel like your own cousins and PALS from other people's work or villages who feel like your own. It's lovely, especially when it leads to an ANIMATED conversation with your bandmate's brother-in-law about the current season at Peterborough United!

    Prolapse were on second, and it was STRANGE to say the least to see them in a Village Hall, playing NOT at the usual high volume, but it seemed to work! Then it was our turn, and we went armed with SURPRISES. Unbeknownst to Tim, The Validators had spent the previous few weeks organising Pattisonisphere t-shirts, with a BACK PRINT sort of like The Reading Festival adverts, with EVERY band he'd EVER been in listed on it. THUS when we took to the stage I was able to say "Tim! THE BAND are wearing Pattisonisphere t-shirts!" and then we all removed our OUTER GARMENTS to reveal matching t-shirts beneath. I passed Tim his shirt and he looked BLOODY DELIGHTED by the whole thing - also ASTONISHED! It was GRATE!

    We then did our set, which went like this:
  • Billy Jones Is Dead
  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • Do The Indie Kid
  • Easily Impressed
  • Dinky Doo
  • We Did It Anyway
  • Notable surprises for the birthday boy including having to do a DRUM SOLO during Do The Indie Kid, Frankie's introduction of the 'Brooklyn 99' theme tune during Introducing The Band, and Emma singing an un-setlisted rendition of Dinky Doo towards the end. It was all in all RATHER a lot of fun, and I think Tim liked it. We certainly did!

    Afterwards there was further hugging, boozing, eating (there were PILES of Samosas and Pakoras, it was ACE), yacking and DANCING, including a mass Validators Dance Frenzy when The Cure came on. Eventually though it was time to go, and myself and The Songs On My Playlist headed into the night to wait (AGES!) for our taxi, and then to go back to The Premier Inn.

    The next day felt a lot like the aftermath of Indietracks, as everyone was poised over their phones hoping for MORE pictures and MORE comments on how GRATE it had all been, as a way of making it all last a little bit longer. Lots of people said that Tim and Emma should do it again - I for one would heartily agree!

    posted 10/9/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Reunion Interrupted By Racket
    I went to a GIG last night, for the first time in AGES. It had been so long, in fact, that I forgot how gigs WORK and turned up just after 7:30pm i.e. at DOORS. What was I thinking?

    It all turned out fine for LO! I was at The Moths Club to see Prolapse, and being there so early meant I ended up sitting in the front room for about an hour chatting to a parade of CHUMS who came strolling through the door. It was lovely, also slightly unnerving, as everybody looked a) THE SAME and b) simultaneously OLDER. It felt like I was living through a memory of a similar night somewhere TWO DECADES ago, except everyone seemed quite a lot HAPPIER now, and also a bit more excited about the fact that we were all OUT!

    I last saw a lot of these same people a couple of years ago i.e. the LAST time Prolapse did a reunion gig! That meant that we'd already done a lot of the "I haven't seen you this century!" stuff back then, so this time there was more general catching up. It was like going to a really nice reunion, except with some people making a RACKET every now and then so you had to stop talking.

    The first such noisemakers were FIVEHEAD from Leicestershire, a band SO YOUNG that one of them had been one of the Actual Children in our 'Do The Indie Kid' video! He seems to have grown up VERY quickly - we only put that out, as far as I recall, last year? They were dead good, doing their first London gig and everything, although I did feel for them halfway through when a LEAD broke and they had to stop and fix it. Some things never change!

    After they'd finished there was even more HUGGING and saying hello to people I hadn't seen for AGES, before Prolapse rather selfishly interrupted us all and started doing a gig. Scottish Mick was saying that they had only done two practices in the past 23 years (we are much more professional and have done THREE TIMES that many) but it sounded GRATE. I tell you what, their drummer is VERY good!

    The whole gig was actually a low-key warm-up for Tim's birthday party this weekend, to mark him turning FIFTY earlier this week! It's all a bit strange - I spent much of the set stood with Sorted Supremo Dave Dixey, and we were discussing the fact that his own FORTIETH birthday party seems quite recent (NB it was 18 years ago) and at the time we all thought he was becoming VERY OLD.

    It was a lovely evening, though I must confess that I am feeling ALL MY YEARS this morning. How did I manage to do this sort of thing three or four times a week EVERY week? And how am I going to cope with doing it all AGANE at the weekend? PRAY for me!!

    posted 7/9/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Return of The Plinths
    On Sunday I was up bright and early (for a Sunday anyway) to head South to distant WALLINGTON, where John Dredge & The Plinths were booked in with Mr Andy Brook to do some more recording at The Brook Recording Studio.

    It took me AGES to get there due to a) TRANE connections and b) getting slightly lost in Wallington. The Brook used to be a studio AND a vegetarian cafe, but the vegetarian cafe has now moved to Hackney, so when I searched for it on my phone it kept trying to give me directions back to EAST LONDON again!

    When I finally arrived I was greeted by Andy B and found that Mr Andy Harland (DRUMS) and Mr John Dredge (ARTISTIC STYLINGS) had already got set up, so we were able to leap straight into ACTION. As with the last batch of songs we recorded, we had had no rehearsal AT ALL and, in fact, had not even been in the same ROOM with the songs together, let alone played them. I'd recorded all the guitar parts at home and sent them to John, who added vocal medleys and lyrics before sending the LOT to Andy H who practiced them in his house. The whole process of writing and recording songs this way has been VERY interesting to me, not least because John puts CHORUSES and LINE BREAKS in places I didn't expect, but it's a bit nerve-wracking when you arrive to record them and realise that none of you have you have ever played them with other people before!

    Despite all that it went REALLY well! The first song had a vaguely complicated structure but we did it all in ONE take, and then the others (which were all SHORTER and mostly verse/chorus) were all finished in two or three. It was PEASY!

    We recorded FIVE songs - four for the EP and then a special EXTRA one that is to be unleashed next year to mark an OCCASION. I am under EMBARGO so cannot say WOT occasion, but the idea is it's like doing a Christmas Song or one to mark a sporting event, but neither of those. The EMBARGO is so that nobody else NICKS it and e.g. records and releases their OWN Whitsun Anthem.

    With all the basic tracks recorded we then did John's vocals and my Guitar, all of which was again a DELIGHT due to Andy B's CALM and CALMING nature. As we discussed at the time, most Studio Engineers are REALLY nice people who are EXTREMELY patient, probably because if they WEREN'T like that they would go absolutely BERZERK having do deal with idiots in bands all the time!

    The whole thing was done and dusted in about four hours, leaving us to return to our homes and see how much I can SPOIL it all by adding BASS on top and mixing it. The plan next is to get the songs all done and do some VIDEOS again, much as we did last time - there will be more news on this as soon as it occurs!

    posted 4/9/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Barrels of Art
    Saturday found myself and The Items In My Catalogue once again heading out in search of ART. Spoilers: we found some!

    Our first stop was Hyde Park, where we were planning to undertake our annual look at The Serpentine Pavilion. Earlier in the morning the aforesaid Letters In My Bundle had been chatting to our Postman (it's called East Village where we live and it sort of IS a bit like a village - we expect Mrs Marple to turn up to solve a Complicated Society Murder any day now) and he'd mentioned a huge installation of BARRELS. When we arrived in the park we wandered down to the lake to see if we could spot it and GOODNESS ME you could not help but see it because it is BLOODY MASSIVE!

    The official title is The London Mastaba by the artist Christo and it is a HECK of a thing - a HUGE pile of what looks like stacked multi-coloured oil barrels LOOMING out of The Serpentine. It looks BEAUTIFUL and also like something out of a SCIENCE FICTION film, as if there's an enormous SPACESHIP in the lake and this is just the top. It also follows you around the park, peeking out from behind trees. It seems UNREAL, and it was only really the FACT that there were loads of people out in BOATS (it was a lovely day) LOOKING at it that convinced me that it was real.

    It is, in short, GRATE, and well worth a look. Unfortunately after that the actual Pavilion was a bit underwhelming, though the exhibition in the gallery next door, all about the Mastaba, was DEAD good. Seeing the plans for all the unmade ones made the real one seem even more BIZARRE.

    Also in Hyde Park, between the lake and the pavilion, we passed a tree which was making a RIGHT racket. Standing under it and looking up we realised that an entire FLOCK of Starlings was sitting in it and having an EXTREMELY ROWDY DEBATE. I have honestly never heard the like, it sounded like somebody had made a recording of birdsong and was playing it over a SPEAKER what they had nicked from the Brixton Carnival.

    After all that I went to Tate Modern to see the PICASSO exhibition, which The Angles Of My Lines had a) already seen b) recommended. It's all about Picasso's work in 1932 when, evidently, he did a LOT. There was room after room after room of stuff, and it was amazing how VARIED it was. My favourites were the big colourful paintings of women sitting down, especially Reading and Nude Woman In A Red Armchair which were GORGEOUS. When I was at school the ONLY bit of Art Appreciation we did in ART was about PICASSO (other than that we drew a lot of pictures of plant pots and, of course, went on a school trip that forged my destiny in ROCK) and seeing those paintings reminded me of the teacher going on about how Picasso painted movement, and CRUMBS you could really see it in those pictures. I also really liked the head sculptures, which looked like something out of "Yellow Submarine" (or possibly vica versa).

    Other parts of it were less enjoyable but still dead interesting, and it was amazing looking at the DATES of them all and seeing how busy he'd been. It's amazing that he found the time to have an exhibition AND an affair in the same year!

    All in all it was a GRATE day of ART what I would highly recommend, especially the BARRELS - they're only there for a couple more weeks, so if you're in London between now and 23 September I would suggest popping over to Hyde Park and having a LOOK!

    posted 3/9/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Transferable Skillz
    Today I have been Working From Home and so have taken the opportunity to book a tour, set up Eventbrites links, make a comic, and write a press release.

    And it has ALL been for WORK!!

    It's all in aid of the LAUNCH of the new Computer System what I have been put in charge of. The TOUR will be me going round all 6 of UAL's Colleges to do Introductory Sessions in using the system, and we're using Eventbrite to manage attendance. The comic is something we've commissioned from the marvellous Mr John Miers to promote it in a "UAL-y way" and which I am trying not to spoil with some TEXT (I keep saying we are doing it "Marvel Style", which makes me STAN LEE and John JACK KIRBY!), and the press release is the text for our intranet and newsletters.

    The whoe process feels EXTREMELY similar to ROCK, and the transferable skills are certainly coming in handy, ESPECIALLY with booking the gigs... I mean introductory sessions. It turns out that the bookers for training rooms at Arts Collegs are JUST as varied as Venue Owners, with some very swift to act and informative, and others... less so. It's JUST like tour booking too, as dates are booked, fall through, re-booked and moved, and then it's all VERY satisfying when it's all finally finalised. I am thinking of getting t-shirts made!

    The TOUR starts in October, by which time I hope to be able to share the final comic with you. In the meantime I've got a meeting tomorrow with the record company... sorry, my boss. I wonder if I can persuade him that we need BADGES?

    posted 30/8/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Full House At Rochester Bingo
    On Bank Holiday Monday the Days of My Leave and I went off on a DAY TRIP. We'd had a look at various options and settled on ROCHESTER because it is dead easy to get to from our house via HS1 and it has a CASTLE.

    It turned out to have SO MUCH MORE, for LO! it was bloody GRATE! Getting there was totally peasy, and as we crossed the road from Rochester railway station we saw the Tourist Information office straight ahead. It's always a good idea to find this first, as they tend to have Local Maps which you can NAB, and which come in VERY handy if you've, for instance, printed off a numbered self-guided walking tour of the city which doesn't come with a map of its own.

    We then set off down the High Street consulting the map and guide and LOOKING at things. I flipping LOVE self-guided walking tours, as it gives you a route round a new place full of FACTS, and unlike a normal guided tour you can wander off as you wish. Our first major deviation from the route was to go STRAIGHT into the Cathedral rather than walk round it first - I do like a visit to a Cathedral, ESPECIALLY when they're higgeldy piggeldy with loads of different AREAS, and ESPECIALLY especially when they are full to the rafters with extremely (but not TOO) friendly volunteers who are eager to tell you even more fascinating FACTS. I say "you" but in my experience they always HOME IN on The Directions Of My Route and discuss local history with her, leaving me to stand in the background somewhere nodding helpfully. This is reportage, not complaint - if I was in their position I'd do exactly the same!

    The best bit of the Cathedral was in the CRYPT where they had a copy of the Textus Roffesnsis, the first written down book of LAW in the UK, predating the Magna Carta by SOME YEARS. I'd never heard of it before, which seems odd, but it was dead interesting - it basically told all the local parishes which bit of the Roman Bridge they were responsible for keeping in good repair, but in the grand scheme of things was a precursor to WRITTEN LAW.

    Outside the Cathedral you could see the GIGANTIC Castle, LOOMING. Cor, it is a BRILLIANT castle - the walls are pretty intact and VAST, and inside them is the GINORMOUS Keep. We paid to get in and it was totally worth it, as you are able to walk up the stairs right to the top, SIX STOREYS HIGH! We discussed it and don't think we've even BEEN in such a Castle-y Castle, it was WELL worth the admission.

    After some refreshing refreshment we wandered on and saw some DICKENS places, such as the house that he based Mis Haversham's house on in Great Expectations. In the book it's called 'Satis House', which was a bit confusing as, ten minutes prior to this, we'd seen an ACTUAL house called 'Satis House'. Later on we saw Eastgate House which Dickens had used in another book and called 'Westgate House'. I do like Dickens - A LOT - but he does seem to have been a bit crap at thinking up names for things!

    Later on we went to look at The Poor Travellers' House, which used to house Six Poor Travellers and which Dickens based the story 'Seven Poor Travellers' on (with himself as the plus one). It was lovely, especially the garden, and as with everyone in Rochester the staff were dead friendly. The only slightly odd thing, for me, was that people seemed to think that Dicken's story was REAL, despite the fact that the Information Boards inside said that the story was set at Christmas, but he'd visited and written it in MAY. This disparity was more than made up for by the fact that the garden behind it had a Curry Plant that REALLY smelt of Curry! It made me HUNGRY!

    In between these two Dickens events we saw some more recent local history when we walked past a Cafe and saw Billy Childish, inventor of The Medway Sound, sitting outside it. I was explaining to The Strings On My Guitar who he was as we walked further down the street, and when she asked if I was sure it had been him I was able to say "Yes, look, there he is!" and point at a MASSIVE painting on the side of a wall with his face on it! Thanks, massive painting!

    With Castle, Cathedral, Dickens AND a bonus Billy Childish under our belt it felt like we had scored a FULL HOUSE in Rochester Bingo, so took our leave of it, ZOOMING back to The Olympics in just half an hour. It was an all-round GRATE day out - if you have a chance to visit Rochester I would HIGHLY recommend it!

    posted 28/8/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Still Here!
    It feels like most of my blogs recently start (or should start) with "Sorry for the lack of news lately" because there's not really an awful lot of ROCK going on at the moment. It's not for lack of trying though - I've emailed about a dozen venues and promoters over the past couple of weeks, and had one rejection, two promises to have a listen, eight non-responses and, beautifully, one YES (a full band gig at The Gladstone Arms on Saturday 29 September).

    OTHER stuff is very much happening, not least with my job which is not only INTERESTING but also FUN, which I am still finding a bit odd. There's also been some more ART, with a trip to the National Portrait Gallery last week with The Choices Of My Curation to see The BP Portrait Awards. We try and go to see it every year, but it's been a bit GLUM in recent times. THIS year, however, was GRATE - lots of dead interesting, and often quite moving portraits painted by artists who seem to actually LIKE the people they're painting.

    I've also been squeezing in some of THE WRITING. As recently reported, I've embarked upon a re-write of the first Storm House book, and it went a) very quickly b) really well. I'd had a suggestion that if it was going to be accepted as a proper Children's Novel (it wasn't written to be one, but apparently it IS one) then it needed an actual child as the hero. I wasn't sure about this, but had heard it so many times I thought I might as well give it a go, so changed it so that the hero, Joanne, is the same age as her brother Shaun. To my amazement this turned out to be a BREEZE to do and made all SORTS of things MUCH better. The plan is to send this off to a few more places like agents and competitions, to see how it goes down, and then think about maybe changing the sequel to match.

    Talking of which, I've just started a re-write of THAT too - I'm not planning to do ALL of it right now, but thought I'd take the opportunity to do at least the first few chapters, so that I can make sure the TONE carries on from the first one. So far I have done THREE PAGES (NB that's three Word pages, which I think works out at about 12 in Normal Book font) and have LARFED quite a lot at my own jokes. I think that's a good sign!

    So that's what is occurring. There IS more music stuff coming, like The Plinths heading back into the studio soon and the aforesaid GIG, but I apologise in advance if the next update takes ages and is all about BOOKS and TRIPS again!

    posted 24/8/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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    Friends Ends
    A couple of nights ago myself and The Day, Week, Month and Even My Year completed an odyssey of cultural adventure. For LO! after EIGHT MONTHS of viewing we finally reached the last episode of "Friends" on Netflix!

    We have been watching it EXTREMELY regularly ever since the earliest hours of the year, when Netflix announced that they had the streaming rights to it, and it seems we have NOT been ALONE. Apparently it is the MOST STREAMED show in the whole country, and thus there have recently been several Think Pieces about it in The Media, mostly consisting of pillocks saying things like "Oh it's nostalgia" and "How could they all afford such big apartments?"

    These are both idiotic remarks, because a) a large proportion of the people watching the show were not BORN when it started and b) this is addressed IN CONTINUITY: Monica's NAN left her the apartment in her will! After all this time I was quite surprised to see the stupid kind of snobbery about "Friends" STILL going on, as if the fact that it had not only stayed popular after all this time, but was the MOST watched show on streaming, was all a coincidence and that it was actually tawdry rubbish and we should all be watching documentaries instead.

    The reason "Friends" is still popular is because it has excellent writing, good acting, likeable characters, decent storylines and a LOT of jokes. It is, I think, the American answer to "Dad's Army", another show that idiots MOAN about because it's still more popular than NEW shows, but which people LOVE for exactly the same reasons as they love "Friends".

    And yes ALL RIGHT I guess that analogy DOES suggest there's an element of nostalgia to it all for some of us. CURSES! One of the added DELIGHTS of watching it now, here in the futuristic world of the future, is spotting new things appearing for the first time and requiring New Jokes, like when Chandler suddenly gets a laptop, or EBAY of all things pops up towards the end. There's also the comfort of having watched most of them before too, and remembering how storylines end just before they actually do.

    Mostly though it's because it's so well done that you don't even notice it. Maybe that's why DREARY sods think there's nothing to it, because they prefer to watch things that point out how CLEVER and IMPORTANT they are all the time, rather than having to work it out for themselves. It's so full of JOKES and nice character touches, especially as it gets past the first couple of series, that it's a joy to watch it develop. Watching it all again I especially appreciated the way that Rachel and Monica develop and get to have a whole range of stories about their own personalities, rather than just being the Attractive Women who are there when The Men are making jokes. I also, once again, came to feel sorry for Paul Rudd, who spends most of his time in the show Nodding At Other People's Remarks.

    But now it is done and we are once more ADRIFT without a long-running sitcom to watch. Over the past few years we've done Cheers, Frasier, Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Community, Parks & Recreation and How I Met Your Mother, so we are RACING through the Great, Long, American Sitcoms. If anybody has any other recommendations for long-running (i.e. at LEAST seven seasons) FUNNY half-hour sitcoms that are on Netflix OR Prime, I would be very pleased to receive them!

    posted 17/8/2018 by MJ Hibbett
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