Why Rusty Shipp are the most exciting band of 2016

Does your playlist need something fresher than an explosion in a Febreze factory?  Do you need to hear the band that Captain Jack Sparrow would most certainly have at the top of his playlist (y’know, if iPods were around back then)?  Has your musical collection struck an iceberg, and now it’s sinking faster than Celine Dion at a Guns N Roses concert?

Picture this:
Earlier this week, my life was a meaningless cycle of daily routine, designed to be productive but not exciting (imagine me brushing my teeth, washing my face, and it’s black and white.  Perhaps someone’s playing a Film Noir soundtrack, but maybe not; it’s your mental image after all). Sound familiar? Well, then I discovered Rusty Shipp (the Film Noir turns into a very stylish seafaring monochrome with optional pops of colour; the Beach Boys are queueing to see them… the Beatles already did)…

Okay, maybe I’m going overboard.  See what I did there?

Seriously, though, stop what you’re doing right now (put the cat in the kettle if you need to) and click play, this music will bring new awesome to your life, even if your existence is already perfect; this is Davy Jones Ain’t Got Nothin’ On Me:

Do you need to hear more RIGHT NOW?? Of course you do! Here’s their second song Sinking Scarabs:

See what I mean?  Now I know I just worked very hard to get your undivided attention, but I am confident that I wrote a cheque that this music can cash.  So if you haven’t clicked play, do it now!

Let’s get a bit more serious with the band now:

Rusty Shipp is a 3 piece band consisting of Russ T “Rusty” Shipp (that is his real name) on vocals and guitar, Andrew Royer on drums and Dustin Herres on bass. Their music is described as “surf rock meets punk and grunge” and I’d recommend it to anyone into cool activities that need an epic in-ear soundtrack.  This would also be perfect for a road trip’s playlist music.   Rusty Shipp are based in Nashville, Tennessee, and they’re probably one of the most strikingly creative bands I’ve seen in recent times. They’re inventing a completely new genre here, using elements of surf rock, grunge, hard rock, and even ska.  They have been compared favorably to both Nirvana and Iron Maiden.  Their lyrics showcase storytelling techniques we would usually associate with the great poets of bygone eras (Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner, for example, or Milton’s Paradise Lost) a progressive bassline and a guitar sound that needs its own surfboard! You can find out more about them at their website.

After hearing their latest song, Sinking Scarabs, I was so taken by their music that I had to find out more, so here is an exclusive interview with Rusty, Dustin and Andrew from Rusty Shipp:

How would you describe your band to new listeners in one sentence?
Rusty: Raw, high-energy, Beatlesque songs with a surf rock overtone and philosophical lyrics.
Dustin: It’s got that 90’s grunge sound but a surf rock feel to it.
Andrew:  Very reminiscent of the 90s grunge scene with a little surf rock tossed in for flavor.

I would definitely agree with that.  Rusty, when you moved from Washington to Nashville to take the band to the next level, what were some of the unexpected challenges that you faced?
Rusty: That it’s tough starting a band from scratch because most musicians you find on Craigslist aren’t serious; most of the serious musicians seem to rely on connections they’ve already made in the music scene and don’t resort to Craigslist.

That sounds difficult! It must take so much work to get a foothold when there’s so many bands all trying to get the same exposure.  You’re one step ahead with your very unique musical style, but what are three things that you’d like your audience to know about the band?
Rusty: We make a lot of Canadian jokes for some reason, are actually really nice, laid back, caring guys, and like Taco Bell.
Dustin: We love stupid jokes. We love people. We love Taco Bell.
Andrew: Super approachable, goofy, and we take what we’re doing very seriously.

Wow, so you guys really love Taco Bell.  Tacos are pretty incredible when all is said and done. It sounds like it’s useful to have a sense of humor in order to keep a band together. What’s your favourite thing on your ipod playlists at the moment?
Dustin: I’ve been listening to almost nothing but Dirty Loops and Dear Hunter for the past forever.
Rusty: I’m currently listening to all the recordings of song ideas I’ve made the past decade, pulling out nuggets for future songs.
Andrew: Been a lot of Coheed and Cambria and He Is Legend lately. A little Arctic Monkeys and OK Go to lighten things up a bit.

Wow that’s some pretty inspiring stuff.  I am very partial to the Arctic Monkeys, myself.  What’s the most rock-n-roll thing that you’ve done so far (musically or otherwise)?
Andrew:  I don’t know. I guess I’m not very rock n roll. I’m a little too laid back I guess.
Rusty: I don’t know, but my mom bought me a rock n roll looking jacket for Christmas so I could finally look the part instead of wearing Hawaiian shirts.
Dustin: I wear a fake leather jacket to and from work everyday. That’s pretty rock-n-roll if you ask me.

There’s that sense of humor you both mentioned in question 2!  Andrew, you’re clearly made for surf rock!  So one last question, what’s the thing you’re most excited about for 2016?
Dustin: I’m excited to really start focusing on my music career and making myself become a better artist. Also, I’ve been helping with a church called Church Alive that just launched last year and I can’t wait to see how it grows this year.
Andrew:
I’m pumped to see where this band goes. I think we’ve got a good shot to do some pretty cool things.
Rusty: Making a solid, creative, radio-quality full-length album.


So there you have it, Bryan Adams and Maple Leafs are fair game, Craigslist isn’t the greatest place to find band members, even in Nashville, center of the musical universe, and the band members are really nice guys. Rusty Shipp have a sound that’s set to become legendary, so get in on the ground floor before they get so big, you’ll be staring at their albums on iTunes thinking, “damn, I wish I’d shared them with my friends.” Don’t be that person!  Share this with everyone you know and watch your grateful friends’ faces as they light up with the joy you brought to their lives.  Download their latest song, Sinking Scarabs for only 99c here and whatever you do, subscribe to their Youtube channel here so you are the first to hear their latest music!

Note:  This is not a sponsored post.  I have no financial interest in this band.

The Membranes

If you’re a punk fan, you’ll probably know that the Membranes were an integral part of the punk scene in the 70’s (and the post-punk scene in the 80’s).  If it wasn’t for the Membranes, and the other bands that started up at the same time, there wouldn’t have *been* a scene.

The band has always been about as DIY as you can get – to be any more DIY, their lyrics would have to be about plumbing.  Case in point – when the band first started, they didn’t have a drummer.  Not to be put off, they used two bin lids.

How many bands these days would do that?  How many of the school leavers who start a band would care so much about the fundamental soul of music that they’d make their own bass guitar?  Then, despite not knowing how to play, they invented their own chords and tuning scheme so that they could get the sound they wanted.  There’s a lot of people these days bemoaning their lot in life; the attitude of the ’70s was this – don’t wait around for things to happen.  That was the point of Do It Yourself culture.  In their most recent album, they’re reported to have used a plastic bucket, some rocks they banged together, and a fire escape (like, literally played the fire escape itself).

The Membranes embody everything I love about punk.  They don’t conform to anything.

And while I always assumed I’d catch them at Holiday In The Sun (now called Rebellion festival), I actually ended up seeing them at Thursday’s Therapy? gig.

Surprisingly, they were the supporting band.  Given that I’ve also seen Alice Cooper as a supporting band, that doesn’t really mean what people think it means.  Which pretty much sums up the Membranes.  They are deliciously obscure and delightfully inscrutable.  I love that.

The line up is: John Robb as the frontman and singing and playing the bass and mouth organ, Rob Haynes on drums (and apparently anything else he can hit) – there was also something that looked like a large greek vase with a skin stretched over it, which I thought was a stool until he started hitting it.*  There were also two guitarists – Peter Byrchmore and Nick Brown.

*I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know much about music, but I know what I like and I know that I like stuff that sounds good and I don’t care what instruments (if any) it’s played on.

Here’s some pictures (email invokedelight@gmail.com if you are in the band and want the full size versions of any of these at no charge for use on your website etc, the full size versions have better definition but they don’t fit on my site due to the cost of data):

The Membranes band Leeds 3rd March 2016 The Wardrobe.
The Membranes.
The Membranes band Leeds 3rd March 2016 The Wardrobe.
The Membranes.

What I liked most was the amount of energy they had on-stage.  I mean, they were fizzing with more energy than calcium carbonate that’s had acid dropped on it (which is pretty fizzy).  They seemed to be playing their own thing, as if the audience’s lack of enthusiasm  was inconsequential (the crowd weren’t biting… until they suddenly were).

The Membranes band Leeds 3rd March 2016 The Wardrobe.
The Membranes.

I said yesterday about how when I don’t know the music, I’m quite happy to go along with it as long as it’s sounding good.  Well I didn’t know any of the songs but I was headbanging from my vantage point in the weird side balcony beside the stage.

The Membranes band Leeds 3rd March 2016 The Wardrobe.
The Membranes.

I’ve never seen a warm-up act manage to win over an audience like that… stepping back from my role as a member of the crowd, and going into analytical mode, I was awestruck by the audience’s transformation – at the start, the audience was mostly indifferent, then about halfway through, they very quickly got into it and suddenly there was bouncing and cheering and participating and all that sort of thing.

The Membranes band Leeds 3rd March 2016 The Wardrobe.
The Membranes
The Membranes band Leeds 3rd March 2016 The Wardrobe.
The Membranes
The Membranes band Leeds 3rd March 2016 The Wardrobe.
The Membranes
The Membranes band Leeds 3rd March 2016 The Wardrobe.
The Membranes

Membranes John Robb

Membranes John Robb

My favourite part?  When the mouth organ came out.  I mean, I guess that must be what a mouth organ looks like – I’ve never seen one of those before.

the Membranes John Robb

The Membranes band Leeds 3rd March 2016 The Wardrobe.
The Membranes

So by the time the band finished, I was sad to see them leave.  Before Thursday, although I knew of the band, I didn’t know anything about their music (except that it was recommended by my stepdad who played drums in a punk band in ’77).  I’d only really come to see Therapy? (I hadn’t actually looked at who was supporting, more fool me), at that point when the Membranes stopped, I would have been quite happy if they were the main act or if they’d done a long set.  All in all they contributed to Thursday being a very memorable and outstanding gig out of the long list of gigs I’ve been to so far on my quest to fulfil my Bands Bucket List, despite not actually being on the list because I totally overlooked them when I was writing it.  Don’t make the same mistake I did – they’re not a band to overlook.

Supporting bands get a lot of shit, and sometimes they get too much credit when they shouldn’t have any (the Last Internationale who were supporting the Who really failed to engage me on every level, I couldn’t believe anyone had hired them as a band for such a big event – perhaps this went a long way towards explaining why my patience wore too thin and I ultimately walked out of the Who early and got an early night sleeping on the floor of Dublin airport).  It’s a tricky line to walk, to be a good supporting band, because it takes different skills than being a good main act.  A lot of people think that supporting acts need to be new inexperienced bands who do it for the exposure to new audiences.  Sometimes this works out ok, other times it bombs.  Not many supporting acts understand their role well enough to really run with it.  I think of all the bands I’ve ever seen in their supporting role (rather than their headline act), The Membranes sit up there alongside Anthrax and Alice Cooper as the three best bands you could hire to really get the crowd stoked (and I’d actually say slightly better than Anthrax).

And, as with Anthrax and Alice Cooper, I was left wanting to see, hear and know more about this band.  I particularly liked the part when John Robb said to the audience “ask me any physics question” (I know for a fact that there were at least two physics teachers in the audience).  So someone asked something like “what’s inside a black hole” and the whole audience went silent.  Everyone’s attention was focussed on John Robb.  Everyone was waiting, thinking “what’s he going to say?”  He had clearly thought about all this stuff a lot and knew what he was on about, and I thought his answer was pretty impressive, especially since it was a random question asked by a member of the audience.  I like randomness (all my Youtube videos end with “subscribe for more randomness”), and I like thinking about the nature of the universe.  So I thought that was an excellent lead-in to the next song.

If the universe is being destroyed and remade from one moment to the next, then I never actually saw them because the past no longer exists.  Which means I need to go and see them again.  But when I see them again, they will be different and so will I, because you can’t cross the same river twice.  Hmm…

At the end of the day, if you’re looking for a testosterone-fuelled shoutfest using three (established) chords, go and see Agnostic Front or someone similar.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that side of punk, except that everyone thinks it’s the *only* side to punk, which just isn’t true.  If you’re looking for a thought provoking, entertaining, wide variety of music that defies definition (and thus becomes what punk is supposed to be about), the Membranes are for you.  Or you could take the blue pill instead.

Find the rest of my music articles here.

Bob Dylan, Professional Mumbler.

The sky opened and started pouring sheets of rain over London as we hurried towards Albert Hall to see Bob Dylan.  We were running a little late, and not being terribly familiar with that part of London, we had a bit of trouble finding where we were going. Was this a sign from the Weather Gods that we shouldn’t be doing this?

We arrived drenched and I spent the first half of the show shaking with cold because the temperature inside the Royal Albert Hall was not warm enough to dry off from the October rain.

Bob Dylan Albert Hall rain London 2015
Two drowned rats at a silly angle: This was after we arrived at Albert Hall and my Dearest had a sausage roll. Sorry about the blacking out but he works in a job where he might get into trouble if he gets found on the internet.

Before we go any further, I need to make it quite clear – I have no idea what 80% of the songs were that Bob Dylan sang that night. It didn’t really make a difference. The guy’s a genius. Do you know any other musical artist who can professionally mumble for 2 hours in the Albert Hall, London, and get a standing ovation? No profanities, no “I’m so pleased to be here” no “without you there’d be no us” it was just a man with a sparkly suit (a beautiful ensemble in black with a lovely teal embroidery-and-sequins accent, that was co-ordinated with the rest of the band wearing the same in the opposite colors, I really loved the outfits) doing whatever the damn hell he pleased on stage.  There were a couple of songs I recognized from his latest album – Shadows In The Night – a re-imagining of sorts of some Frank Sinatra classics.  Aside from that, I recognized Blowin’ In The Wind.  The rest was a mystery.

I got the distinct impression that he did this tour out of a sense of humor – he was entertaining himself rather than the crowd, he didn’t feel he owed the audience a single thing. You had to admire his audacity. The amount of time and effort that went into putting this show together, and the music was great. It didn’t really matter that we couldn’t understand what he was saying – consider Enya, for a moment. She invented her own language to make her songs’ vocals sound more lyrical and fluid. She doesn’t perform live tours, of course, because her whole act is so post-processed that it wouldn’t be do-able as a live act. Bob Dylan seems to have taken the concept of music and once again turned it on its head. Do the audience need to be able to discern the lyrics? Are discernible lyrics part of what it takes to make a legendary show? Apparently not.
A thoroughly good time was had by all.

His re-interpretation of Blowin’ In The Wind was phenomenal. But then, it should be – he wrote the original.

One thing I didn’t like from my vantage point, sat behind the stage, two rows from the musicians, was the amount of people who flouted the no flash photography rule. If there hadn’t been a rule, I probably wouldn’t have cared, I dunno. But because of where I sat, it meant there were dozens of people getting photos and I couldn’t get any. Right at the very end of the show, when the band and Bob Dylan took a bow, I got my phone out and caught a couple of quick snaps, but they’ve mysteriously disappeared from my computer.  Maybe the reason he didn’t want any photography is because he’s secretly a vampire and doesn’t show up in cameras or mirrors?????  Or maybe the idiots who left their flash turned on just bugged the hell out of him.
I felt like the night was complete, since I’d also acquired two patches for my battle vest.

Bob Dylan concert London 2015 Royal Albert Hall
Bob Dylan concert London 2015 Royal Albert Hall

I feel incredibly privileged to have seen Bob Dylan (especially with the harmonica) and I don’t think I regret going in any way at all, but I think it’s not for everyone and you have to go in knowing that he probably isn’t going to spend 2 hours singing catchy tunes.

This review of Bob Dylan’s concert is quite short, so I thought I’d ask my Dearest to weigh in with his perspective on the Bob Dylan concert, since he was there too.

DH Says: “Bob Dylan was using his voice like a musical instrument, not like a voice.  It was interesting being behind the stage because you could see all the stuff that was going on that the audience don’t normally see, such as that the whole band used ipads with all the scores, you could see the technical adjustments on the sound set, and exactly how the drummer was playing, that I really liked. It turned it into a very sit-back-and-listen, rather than sing along. Was it because Bob Dylan maybe didn’t like people singing along? I suppose you have to ask, would the same effect have been done if he’d just played an instrument such as the piano or guitar rather than singing. He was using his voice as a musical instrument, I think, rather than a voice. To some extent it worked. Do you think if you had expected the Bob Dylan gig to be like that, then you would have felt differently? I knew the concert was likely to be like that, Bob Dylan’s known for mumbling, so I don’t think that’s the case. But I think part of that is not knowing anything, so you can’t sing along, different music, unintelligible lyrics… I don’t think the Bob Dylan concert was ever going to be an outstanding night, but neither was it a disappointment – unlike Megadeth. I think it comes down to: Do I think its a shame I wasn’t doing something else that evening? Certainly not.”

So there you have it.  We both had a great time seeing Bob Dylan in concert but I think his act can possibly be classified as avant-garde; don’t go if you’re expecting to hear Subterranean Homesick Blues.  Another one for me to tick off my Official Bands Bucket List – the list of bands and musical acts that I need to see before they kick the bucket.

Photographs of Salzburg, Austria

After a two day car drive to Salzburg, Austria, I arrived with a big list of things to do in Salzburg.  I was expecting it to be cold, but instead I found Salzburg to be a mountain-surrounded retreat bathed in brilliant sunshine with clear air and perfect light for photography:

The rathaus and a golden ball in the square

This big gold ball was a mystery, but it features heavily on Salzburg’s postcards and appears to be a bit of a landmark in Salzburg.

Mozart perfume Salzburg

These bottles of Mozart perfume were everywhere in Salzburg.  Presumably it’s a desirable thing to smell like a dead composer.  The tagline on all the posters was “the magic of a nice feeling.”  Mozart’s connection to Salzburg is that he was born here, at 9 Getreidestrasse.  I didn’t feel inclined to seek out the house Mozart was born in, since I was far more interested in how the environment shaped his early music; all over Salzburg you could see Mozart’s music in the landscape; the colour of the buildings contrasted with Salzburg’s bed rock, in which it was nestled like a flute playing alongside a cello.  Salzburg was light, airy, nothing that happened here could be truly terrible.  This flautesque beauty was the enduring mask covering a darker past.

the rocky hill salzburg is built on

It felt like most of Salzburg was roughly hewn from the living rock itself, and the difference in heights could be profound in places.

plaque commemorating Christian Doppler effect Salzburg

This sign gets louder as you walk towards it.  Sorry, it’s a science joke.  Seriously, though, it’s pretty awesome that Christian Doppler (as in, the Doppler Effect) used to live here, I was surprised as I’d thoroughly researched Salzburg before I set off, and there was just so much more to Salzburg than the internet had suggested.  Doppler died aged 50 but, like many of the “great men” from his era, he accomplished so much in his lifetime.  Known as a mathematician and physicist, his work on the Doppler effect (the effect that explains why police sirens to get disproportionately louder as they approach, then they suddenly go quiet as they depart) is how we understand red-shift in astrophysics, and that’s the primary evidence we have which supports the Big Bang Theory.  It was pretty exciting to see a reference to Doppler, the man who identified the origin of the universe, here in Salzburg, a place predominantly known for music and renaissance landmarks.  I suppose it’s the old saying that maths and music go together – where a place is known for music, it tends to also be known for mathematics.  Doppler’s tomb is in San Michele, Venice, so this is about as close as one can get to Doppler in Salzburg.  I’d much rather see a perfume named after Doppler than Mozart – it could get stronger as one got closer to the person wearing it, and fade away unexpectedly as they passed.  The tagline for advertising could be “Smell like the stars of the heavens” (Geruch wie der Gestern des Himmels) as a reference to his eponymous paper on binary stars (Uber das farbige Licht der Doppelsterne und einiger anderer Gestern des Himmels).

The fountain in the square Salzburg

This was one of two fountains that I was quite taken with in Salzburg, in Rezidenzplatz, the plaza where many tourists seemed to gather.  It was beautiful, with an aura of reflected droplets of water, and it could splash a person with water from twenty feet away.  The fountain below has to win points for sheer class in a public park, though:

fountain Mirabell gardens salzburg

I explained what the deal was with this second fountain in my post about Mirabell Gardens back in December 2014.

war memorial plaques salzburg

I think most tourists visiting Salzburg don’t know what these plaques are for, embedded into the pavement, four or five inches square, and starting to tarnish.  Tourists seem to walk around without even noticing them, which is tragic when you know what these are for.  Salzburg’s more recent history is painful to touch, a dark shroud suffocating parts of the city and extinguishing the joy and wonder of Mozart’s and Doppler’s birthplace.  Like when you see someone who has been in a horrific accident, and they keep assuring you that they’re fine… but it still just goes right through you, when you look at the wound.  Much of Salzburg was a profoundly beautiful place with a lot of happy tourist attractions, and you could probably get through an entire visit here without seeing traces of the Second World War if you wanted to.  But there were signs, and it was not very nice.  These plaques are for people who were rounded up and transported, telling the world where they were sent and what ultimately happened to them.  Deportiert means deported.  Ermordet means murdered.  Suddenly the tragedy of Salzburg is vividly real and tragic.  The plaques are to show where these people lived before they were labeled as undesirable.  On the plaques above, you will see this family was separated after they were taken; Irma and Arthur Bondy were both killed at Minsk, the capital of Belarus, by the Third Reich, which leads to a completely different picture of wartime Belarus than we are used to thinking about.  Otto Bondy was taken to Theresienstadt, the ghetto camp in the Czech republic, before being moved to Treblinka, the other extermination camp in Poland.  Rachel Rosenmann was taken to Lodz, the work camp also in Poland.  It is impossible to know when they died, only when they were taken, so whether their suffering was quick or slow, we will never be able to tell.  Just looking at that photo makes me profoundly sad.  Just as Mozart and Doppler are famed citizens of Salzburg who should be remembered for their work, the world should also know the names of all of these people who lived in Salzburg all their lives, then were rounded up and killed.  The people in these plaques were all aged in their mid-fifties.  There were so many of these plaques and I feel very guilty that I didn’t photograph them all, didn’t record every name and every fate.  Then I realized that the plaques do that.  They remember the people who were lost.  Salzburg found them and brought them home again, even if only in name.  When people say the situation with the refugees in North Africa is different to this, they don’t know what they’re talking about.  It’s hard for some people to remember that our side wasn’t actually aware that the Nazis were doing this to millions of people until some allied soldiers walked into Auschwitz when we liberated Poland.  The same thing could quite easily be happening elsewhere.

DSCF2477

This was a big castle.  I think it’s what most people go to Salzburg for.  We clomped up the hill, got to the top, enjoyed the view, balked at the entry fee and came back down again.  The view was nice though and the exercise was probably good for us after the two-day drive to get from the North of England to Salzburg.  There was also some sort of mechanical railway lift type thing (similar to the one at Snowdon).

Salzburg padlock bridge

On a millenial-aged bridge, this vast collection of padlocks evokes a different emotion – love.  In spite of all the horror of Austria’s 20th Century past, people in Salzburg have filled this bridge with padlocks, to show their love for another human being.  People in Salzburg understand suffering and loss, but the city itself endures, the people endure, and in the face of crimes against humanity of such magnitude, the city still loves, is still loved, and the pain begins to fade.  Perhaps if you’re less emotional than I, you could get through a visit to Salzburg without feeling the same way.

When we had run out of time in Salzburg, we reluctantly hit the road again (there were so many things we didn’t get to see) and headed onwards, towards Rome.  We never did find out what the big gold ball was.

A Bad Day For Music: Et Tu, Bowie?

Wow so I was just checking my Twitter and saw that David Bowie’s death was announced today. He died yesterday, at home, aged 69. Cause of death: Liver cancer.

It seems to be shaping up to be a shit year for musician mortality; it was only this morning I was watching Lemmy’s memorial service on Youtube.

When will this wanton loss of musical icons end? He only released his latest album Blackstar (to critical and commercial success) two days earlier, on January 8th.

David Bowie was always the spearhead of popular music, no matter what decade, his style always evolved and was reinvented to shape the next musical era.
Now who will man the tiller of popular music? Who will be avant garde? Who will look good in a mullet??????

Oh dear God we’re all doomed.

Here’s some David Bowie music:

News source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-35278872

So between Lemmy and Bowie, that’s two huge losses to my Bands Bucket List. All the more reason to make time to see the others on there.

david bowie.png
Yeah I seriously misheard the lyrics to Changes.

Born To Raise Hell: Rock Legends Pay Tribute to Lemmy.

Some people might be wondering why I didn’t preclude Lemmy with “Rock God” or “Founding Father of Metal” or whatnot.  I think his name speaks for itself.  There’s Rock Legends, Rock Gods, Founding Fathers of Rock, then there’s Lemmy.  He’s so fundamental and integral to the fabric of sound that any describing words would be hollow and puny by comparison.  Yeah that was the present tense; the universe isn’t going to demand that we undo all music just because Lemmy’s gone – he’s still gonna influence it all just the same.  He lived fast and somehow died old.

So anyway, I was browsing through what was trending on Youtube, and among all the “monkey meets cat” and “Russian doctor punches patient” type videos, I found the following videos from Lemmy’s funeral (that bloke from Motorhead, in case you don’t know who Lemmy was). If you were at all saddened by his passing, you need to watch these. I don’t know what order these speeches were made, so I’ve put them in order myself, starting with Mikkey Dee (Motorhead’s drummer) who had a brief word:

Scott Ian, the Bassist of Anthrax, gave a speech about what Motorhead meant to him in 1980, which I think a lot of us can relate to (and this is the funniest speech I heard at a funeral):

I was particularly moved by the fact that Slash gave a speech, since I’ve commented before on the fact that they’re kindred spirits. Here was someone who isn’t usually comfortable with being the centre of attention, doesn’t usually say a word during his performances, but who was speaking up about what a great guy Lemmy was:

And, I believe this came at the end because the video ends with someone saying “Lemmy has left the building,” Dave Grohl from Nirvana and Foo Fighters. The sound and picture goes around 1:52 (and again at 7:11) but the first thing Lemmy said to Dave Grohl was “I’m sorry about your friend Kurt.”
From there on, the sound becomes difficult to make out, maybe if you turn it up and have actual speakers instead of shitty headphones in a laptop, you might have better luck with it than I, but sadly it’s a 10 minute video with bad sound. Worth persevering if you’re a hardcore fan and want some closure on this though. If you ARE on headphones, take them out at 7:32 to avoid the high pitched whistling noise at 7:35, but then the sound comes back at 8:00 and it’s worth hearing:
(UPDATE: LINK ADDED OOPS):

If you need to see more Lemmy, this is the German interview that he gave shortly before his death, which Scott Ian (or was it Slash) refers to in the memorial service:

This Swedish interview from 1985 is also a laugh a minute, really shows Lemmy’s personality:

And I’ll shamelessly leave you with my favourite Motorhead song (I know it would have been cooler to pick something more obscure but oh well) I hope you’ll join me in getting your cigarette lighter out for the guitar solo,

BECAUSE LEMMY WAS FUCKING BORN TO RAISE HELL:

Lemmy’s work on Earth is done, which leaves us with one question:
Who’d win a wrestling match; Lemmy or God?

Battle Vest

In particular musical subcultures, especially heavy metal, thrash and death metal, the concept of the battle vest is well established, and you will see many 30-40 something men, usually bald and walking around built like a tank, sporting a battle vest at particular concerts and festivals. In the course of trying to work through my Bands Bucket List, I’ve seen quite a few. I’ve even got one of my very own.

I would go so far as to say, you can tell how metal a festival or concert is by the number of people wearing battle vests (and motorcycle club attire).  I was the only one at Bob Dylan (but there was a guy with a mohican a few rows away).

What is a battle vest?

It’s a jacket, usually made of denim or sometimes leather, often with no sleeves (particularly in colder climes such as Nothern Europe, where slevelessness is metalness), which has patches affixed to it.

I feel very strongly about the procurement of patches.  The patches in question are not just a collection bought on the internet declaring which bands I like (well, it can be, but that’s for amateurs, and if you’re 18 and have emblazoned your jacket with a Pink Floyd patch, you’re clearly just making a kindergarten collage out of a perfectly good piece of clothing), they’re all representative of the bands I’ve actually seen.  Hence “battle vest” because it’s a chronicling, in embroidered patch, of the battles I’ve survived, the moshpits I’ve been crushed in, the number of times I got trampled by enormous 30 something bald men or had to sleep in a tent that should have been marketed as a child’s swimming pool.  Sounds like hell?

That’s metal.  And there’s nothing like it.  The battle vest is a modern day Bayeaux Tapestry, and you just can’t buy them (well, you probably can, but that would defeat the point of the journey).  Every single one is different, and those patches will stand up to a lot of damage before they need replacing.

The denim ones are usually faded blue or white (bleached) thick denim – the thick denim is integral because the battle vest will need to withstand wind, rain, spillages, moshing, the occasional vomit, and all the steps taken to purge the remains of the aforementioned.  A deep blue cottony shirt that’s been done to look like denim (or girlyfied, as I call it, because you rarely see this crap being foisted on men) is not going to cut it.  I bought my base jacket from ASOS.com and have added the patches as I’ve seen the bands on my bands bucket list.

On the leather ones, more and more people sew patches these days.  It used to be the case that people would paint an album cover and band logos on their leather jackets, but for some reason (probably skill shortages) that’s gone out of favour in exchange for sewing patches.  Or perhaps gluing them.

The glue-on patches are a bit annoying, to me – I try and press them on my jacket but they invariably go brittle and start coming away, so I end up sewing them down anyway.  What’s the point of the glue, apart from to stain my jacket with the residue??

I have also seen people add badges and rhinestones, and this can work really well, but it can also look dreadful.  If you want to look like a school kid from the ’80s, then go ahead and make a badge-only battle vest.  But please don’t make a scene when the old-skool cause-ists (you know, activists, feminists, environmentalists, etc) in their woolen attire and sandals turn up and absorb you as one of their own and carry you away leaving the vague scent of cabbage in their wake.

I like sandals.  But not at a concert or metal fest.  I’d hate to lose a toe.  I also know quite a few environmentalists – although, as with anyone who has a “cause” they tend to over-exaggerate their spiel to a point where no normal person can take it as seriously as the environmentalists would like, because otherwise we’d have to drink our own urine and only eat from dumpsters.  It’s a shame.  I’d like the environment to still be here in 100 years, and I separate my recycling like a compliant citizen, but you’d never find me handing out leaflets (the irony) or harassing people about it.  I also like animals.

One of the big problems with putting a battlevest together has been that some of the bands I’ve been to see didn’t actually have patches.  In some cases (Alice Cooper, below slash in the second picture), I got around it such as buying a fabric “wristband” for Alice Cooper and sewing it on.  It won’t last as long but ain’t nothing ever permanent.  In other cases, such as Billy Idol and Steeleye Span, there’s just no patch available, so they are notably absent from the thing.  In the case of Steeleye Span, I bought a t-shirt.  In the case of Billy Idol, I did not.  I think some bands think they will make more money off you if they don’t sell a patch in their official merch, but the amount of bands I’ve seen this year, I’d need a whole new cupboard to put t-shirts in if I’d bought one for each of them.  It would have added £15 to £25 to the cost of every concert, and that would have severely reduced the number of bands I could have seen overall.

Given the nature of my quest, to see as many of the bands on my Bands Bucket List before they kick the bucket, for me the battle vest was the only solution.  I guess that’s one of the things about it; the battle vest is called a kutte in German because it’s a word play – a kutte is the name for the vestment a monk would have worn, when they had such things as mainstream religion in Germany.  In a way, committing to seeing through my Bands Bucket List seems like a calling – a purely self-indulgent one, but still something that seems to at times touch upon the transcendent and help me make sense of the world around me and my place in it.  It might not be a religious calling, but there’s certainly a spiritual aspect about it.  I can’t explain it, except that I get into a trancelike state when the universe just becomes clear… or irrelevant.  Either way, this whole task has given my life meaning again which I was distinctly lacking before I made a more-than-half-assed commitment to do this.

So what makes a really great looking battle vest?  Well, one thing to bear in mind is (if you’re doing it right) it’s a work in progress, not a destination to race to, and it’s going to be “in progress” for quite a while before it’s completed.  That usually means wearing it while it’s unfinished.  Like how you have to be on the train before you arrive at your destination.  Enjoy the process; if you never see yourself getting tired of bands of the sort who release patches, if you really love metal, I suggest you make your train seat cosy, because your jacket vest may never reach completion – and that’s a good thing!  I’m looking forward (if money permits) to going to Bloodstock in 2016 and seeing some awesome thrash/death metal bands.

The rear of my battlevest.
The rear of my battlevest.
The front of my battle vest.   As you can see from the pictures, I currently only have 14 patches.
The front of my battle vest. As you can see from the pictures, I currently only have 14 patches.

Also I’m adding Children Of Bodom and Asphyx and Murderdolls to my bands bucket list and will update it accordingly.  Children of Bodom are supporting Lamb of God who are supporting Megadeth on Thursday (and it’s going to be awesome).  Listen to them here:

Asphyx just sound excellent on Youtube (I saw their patch on someone else’s battle vest… see how this works now Billy Idol???), give them a listen, I really want to see them live now:

And this is the reason Murderdolls have made it onto the list.  It’s probably old but I only got round to listening to them for the first time today and this was the first thing I picked, it’s the best. Cover. Ever (miles better than Tainted Love):

The Bands Bucket List

So I’ve alluded to my “Bands Bucket List” many times, but I’ve never really gone into the full details.
Let me explain.
I have a list of bands and musical artists that I would like to see before they kick the bucket. Being on the list doesn’t imply that they are elderly, or that they are more likely to die than some other band who isn’t on the list. It’s simply a list of all the bands, who, if they died unexpectedly in a plane crash tomorrow, I would feel like I had missed a chance to see something truly special.  Sometimes I add things as I decide they’re worth adding.
So here is the list as it stands today, the ones in bold are the ones I’ve seen so far, the ones with a line through them (crossing them out) are the ones that are no chance in hell severely unlikely (or dead).  Ones with a W next to them are on my “wish list” – the Creme De La Creme:

Band Name:
AC/DC
Alice Cooper -W-
Anthrax
Asphyx
Apocalyptica

Beyonce
Black Sabbath -W-
Blink 182
Billy Idol -W-
Black Eyed Peas
Bob Dylan -W-
Boomtown Rats
Britney Spears
Buzzcocks
Children of Bodom
Clannad
Dave Gilmour/Pink Floyd -W-
David Bowie -W-
Death DTA
Deep Purple
Dire Straits
Dolly Parton
Donovan
Eagles -W-
Eminem
Fleetwood Mac
Green Day
Gwen Stefani
Iron Maiden -W-
Jethro Tull/Ian Anderson -W-
Jimmy Page/Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin) -W-
Judas Priest
Kate Rusby
Kiss
Kitaro
Lamb of God (booked 12th November 2015)
Led Zeppelin/Jimmy Page -W-
Lynyrd Skynyrd -W-
Marilyn Manson
Megadeth (booked for 12th November 2015) -W-
Meatloaf -W-
Motley Crue (twice) -W-
Motorhead
Murderdolls
Muse -W-
Nightwish
Nine Inch Nails
NOFX -W-
Paul Mccartney/Beatles
Queen
Radiohead
Rammstein
Ringo Starr/All Starr Band/Beatles
Roger Waters/Pink Floyd
Rolling Stones
Slash (Guns n Roses) -W-
Slayer -W-
Slipknot -W-
Steeleye Span -W-
Steppenwolfe
System Of A Down -W-
Tenacious D
Therapy? (Booked for 3rd March 2016)
The Damned
The Jam
The Trashmen
The Turtles -W-
The Who -W-
They Might Be Giants
Tool
Within Temptation

Steeleye Span Immortalize Terry Pratchett

You have to leave your house, and you can only take three items with you. What are they? This was a thought exercise my friend had put to me in April 2002. My reply? My dog Dillon, my computer, and my skateboard (because my computer was heavy; all computers were heavy in 2002, and you can transport things on a skateboard).

Terry Pratchett was like a second father to me. Or a first father, actually. I come from a long line of incompetent parents. When my mum and step-dad divorced, when I was 15, I could only take three things with me from the house. Contrary to what I’d wanted to take (for which, I was told by my mother, there was no room in the car – I guess it was too busy being full of hers and my sister’s belongings), I took my Lord of the Rings soundtrack (there was only one at the time) and a couple of Terry Pratchett books, picked at random. Specifically? We ended up with Hogfather and Jingo. Hogfather was a book I’d never glanced twice at before (I’d read them all by this point but Hogfather was my least favourite, because I don’t like Christmas). I had re-read most of the others, so now, with no school to go to, no friends to talk to, and stuck in a room with my mum and my sister 24/7, I re-read Hogfather. And re-read it. And then? I re-read it. By the time I was done, I was sure that these characters were real, and that Discworld existed somewhere1.  This theory was later expanded on when, under extreme duress, I left home.  In the year prior to leaving home, I re-read Soul Music more than thirty times.  I was so stressed I was unable to take in new information, and I was trying to make sense of the story but it kept changing shape.  It would be 10 years before I finally understood it.

Years and years later, after the fanged basilisk of tragedy had struck at the people around me over and over again and again throughout 2002, after I had left home in 2005, after I had pieced my life back together again and started at university, I discovered Steeleye Span, in 2007.

It started when I was a regular on a New Age forum, where, due to my unique sleeping patterns, I’d DJ “late night radio” on a writing-only-forum by which I’d post a humorous intro with a song suggestion and people could either go and listen to it on their own computer or remember it or something, and we’d all talk about the songs that got thrown up. Someone requested “All Around My Hat” and I didn’t know it at the time, so I Googled it, found out the name of the band (who sounded fairly obscure) and downloaded some of their other stuff. Soon, “Blackjack Davy” “Seven Hundred Elves (Now We Are Only Three)” and “The Hard Times of Old England” were staples on my MP3 (other people had Ipods in 2007; I had a phone that could store a whopping 10 songs on it and had a headphone jack, which I upgraded in mid-2007 to a 2gb Goodmans MP3 player which blew me away). I put them in the same playlist as Jethro Tull, Kate Rusby, and Clannad, all of whom I’d been quite a fan for about a year. Those of you who appreciate that I saw Motley Crue on Tuesday are possibly a bit confused by all these folk legends. I like good music. Genre is irrelevant to me. Storytelling and a damn good tune are what I look out for. Steeleye Span have both in boatloads.

At this point, the link between Steeleye Span and Terry Pratchett only existed in my imagination. They were both well known for fantastic storytelling, for getting to the meat and bones of a tale; they didn’t shy away from the baser aspects of humanity, and most importantly, I rather liked them.  I could feel them dancing around the periphery of something but I wasn’t sure what was in the middle.

On the night of the concert, the ticket said Steeleye Span started at 7:30. Luckily I wasn’t so “experienced” with concerts when I went to see them, because usually the time on the ticket is about 1.5 to 2 hours earlier than the actual start.  Usually.

At 7:26pm, having driven to Nottingham, I abandoned my vehicle in an NCP car park because it was close to the venue, then I walked very quickly to the venue, wishing I had rocket boots.

I showed my ticket, then hurried to get to my seat. The first thing that struck me was how upper-middle class all the attendees were. Everyone I had to squish past to reach my seat – they were all dressed in matched suits and tweed, wearing pearls and diamonds. I suppose this was like a night at the opera for them (which I’ve attended twice, I should write about that at some point).

No sooner had I taken my place, removed my coat and blown my nose, than the applause started, and the band walked on stage, far below me. I guess supporting bands are for bands who need some sort of support? I’m not a big fan of supporting bands, I don’t see the point. They don’t really warm up the crowd because the roadies need another half hour to an hour to set up for the actual band after the supporting act have been and gone.

At the Nottingham Playhouse, I had a cheap ticket that I thought would be miles away from the stage, but I actually had a pretty good view, compared to some of the concerts I’ve been to; I could recognize everyone clearly when they came on-stage and the two photos I took turned out ok too (I was mindful of photo etiquette here – nobody else was taking photos so I didn’t want to be a nuisance but I did want something to accompany this article).

This concert was on the 15th March: It was only three days since the tragic news that Terry Pratchett had died on March 12th, and I was still in shock. This was just over a month after I’d gone to clear my recently-deceased mother’s house, and found three separate and completely poignant sets of the Discworld novels. It would be another month before they’d find my father dead, and two weeks earlier one of my rabbits had died. Death, it seemed, was taking everyone I had known2 and I didn’t know if or when Death (and that damned basilisk) was going to stop following me.

They began to play.

There is something transcendent about hearing traditional folk songs being revitalized, kept alive, and perpetuated through the astonishing medium of electric folk, and the band treat their delicate charges with sensitivity and care. Like any good nurses and doctors in intensive care, Steeleye Span know that their work is to keep these tender worlds alive.

In February 2015, two months after my mum had died (and a month before this concert), I watched Terry Pratchett’s Soul Music (the cartoon series he despised), and I finally understood what the underlying theme was:  Two people (Susan’s parents) had died, and the two people left behind (Susan and Death) were trying to make sense of the tragedy.  The seemingly unrelated plot of the Band With Rocks In was an expression of the profound emotions that play out when dealing with the death of a child or parent.  Imp’s defiance of his parents contrasts with Susan’s compliance.  The music is the harsh, jangling culture of the outside world, moving on, unaware of the loss, living without you.  At the end, when the plot resolves itself, the grieving child and grandfather are able to move on with their lives but they aren’t the same as they were before this all happened.  I felt that seeing Steeleye Span so soon after hearing of the loss of Terry Pratchett was cathartic, soothing.  I wasn’t the only one who felt his loss.  He was always on my “most like to meet” list, but I never wrote to him or went out of my way to see him – I really didn’t know what I would say.  How, in a brief sentence, do you convey to a total stranger the profound and formative effect they have had on your entire existence?

steeleye span 2015

The band said a few words about Terry Pratchett, and I got a little bit teary. It was well-known that Terry had recently collaborated with Steeleye Span for their most recent album, Wintersmith (named, of course, after the Discworld Novel); perhaps the connection between them was lesser known before this collab, but it was certainly there. Pratchett had been a Spanner in his youth, since his friend introduced him to their music, and they even played his sixtieth birthday. I guess you can get a band that big to play your birthday if you’re Terry Pratchett. I’m putting words into the mouth of a dead man, but I would imagine it was particularly awesome for him to find out that Maddy Prior enjoyed his work, as he enjoyed theirs.  Between them they came up with the concept album Wintersmith – I’m saying it’s a concept album because it all centres around the concept of the plot of Wintersmith. Perhaps it’s more of a concepts album, or a plot album, but it’s certainly not a mere soundtrack.

For me, it was like they had immortalized Terry Pratchett through his works. Often, particularly with traditional music, it is the unfortunate fate of the originator’s name or identity to become lost in the mists of time. In the modern age, where you can tell the importance of the author by how large their name is on the front cover, compared to the size of the title, it’s unusual for us to be unable to attribute a work to an author. Like Shakespeare, it is highly unlikely, given the scope of his impact on the world, that Terry Pratchett’s name would ever be lost to history. I know his iambic pentameter wasn’t amazing and his spelling in the earlier works was still improving4, but his stories, his characters and their relationship with other characters and the events that transpire as a direct result of that, are what make his work so memorable.

The band went with quite a few old ones (and what a choice of back catalogue they have – all the songs ever credited to “traditional”) then did a couple of songs from their Wintersmith album, followed by All Around My Hat then, after a standing ovation, a 20 minute interval. It was (and is) the most civilized concert I’d attended – no fisticuffs over who gets to the bar fastest, which is more than I can say for the opera. It was like how sensible and mature adults might behave, should such a breed of people exist3.  I went for the merchandise table and bought a T-shirt – I didn’t see any patches, sadly, so my jacket didn’t get one.  Which is good because it didn’t bring any money.  After the interval, there was more from Wintersmith and I don’t remember what else.  By that point I was even more lost in the stories and soundscape, and not really trying to catalogue everything.

Steeleye Span’s significance is in their storytelling, both verbal and musical.  As long as Steeleye Span continue to tell the stories, the people, places, events and tragedies will perpetuate through living memory. This is how the Aboriginals and other tribes around the world ensure that their past is preserved the way it was interpreted at the time, that no “Chinese whispers” effect takes place. At their heart, Steeleye Span embody what it really means to make music.

When the concert ended I wasn’t sad, because I knew that the confluence of our paths was such that they were moving on in one direction, and I was moving in another. I felt very privileged to have had the pleasure of being able to experience the live performance of Steeleye Span, and, along with most of the other bands from the past 15 months since I started my Bands Bucket List5, it’s a memory I will treasure. If you’d told me a year before, in March 2014, that I would one day get to see them play, I wouldn’t have believed you. Here’s what I was watching one evening in March 2014, while I was making alterations to my wedding dress for the nuptials we held on 21st June6:

One of the best things about seeing them this year rather than 10 years ago was the addition of accomplished violinist Jessie May Smart, whose style and panache lent an excellent breath of fresh air to the music. I’ve commented before about how replacement band members often have to be better than the originals, because otherwise fans won’t accept them, and Jessie May Smart is no exception; she really knows her stuff. I’m not entirely sure who she replaced because Steeleye Span have had a lot of people tasked with playing ‘the strings,’ and she’s the first credited violinist, so perhaps it’s a bit glib to suppose that she replaced anyone specific; rather, perhaps she just joined as a well-received and accomplished additional member.

Sadly, most people my age haven’t actually heard of Steeleye Span, and those who have heard the name are generally hard-pressed to name a song of theirs.  I just don’t get why more people around my age don’t know about Steeleye Span. They are, for me, a significant part of the story of how music got to where it is today – you can draw an interconnected spider’s web between Steeleye Span, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, Queen, and everything Queen spawned. There are, of course, a million other bands you could add to that music web, but Steeleye Span would still remain at the core of music, it’s heart, essential, like the egg7 in the centre of a Shamble (see Wintersmith for details); the thing that makes the rest of it work at all and which gives British culture its meaning.  When my children are born (and we may have one in the works as I type, although the “6 days early detection” pregnancy tester appears to be an unreliable witness), I will make sure they know where modern music came from, so that they don’t get left thinking that ABBA were the last word in music in the ’70s.  After all, who’s still producing top notch music today?  Steeleye Span, not ABBA!

steeleye span 2015

One day, we will all die. Perhaps Death will take us to some interesting and enlightened plane full of nectar and other stuff. Maybe we just cease to exist. It’s a question I’ve wrestled with for nearly eleven months now, and while I don’t have any answers, the question no longer bothers me. When it comes time for the remaining members of Steeleye Span to kick the (stick and) bucket, I know they’ll qualify for direct entry to the Choir Immortal; no need for an audition. In the meantime, I urge you to go and see them live.

See what’s on the rest of my Bands Bucket list
Other concerts I’ve reviewed.

1 Because of quantum physics.

2 Death has since apologized but would like me to point out that he doesn’t control who lives or dies, he just moves them along to their final resting place.

3 According to a renowned anthropologist, this breed of human has been only been spotted on the coast of the Sargasso Sea.

4 Such as referring to The Librarian as an Orang Outan in Sourcery. This was before Spellchecker existed, after all.

5 The list of bands I need to see before *they* kick the bucket.

6 Nanny Ogg was right: It *was* the shortest night of the year.  We made up for it later.

7 Or other living thing.

Playlist: What I’m Listening To Today

Here y’all go.  Hope these videos embed properly, this is the first time I’ve shared what I’m listening to.  They have a habit of only showing the first one.  Am not in an amazing place today and so I have been trying not to wallow (but I can’t seem to get any writing done). I’ve predominantly been listening to Billy Idol’s Eyes Without A Face and early Pink Floyd (before Syd Barrett left/was forced out halfway through Saucerful of Secrets). If you’ve never heard Shine On You Crazy Diamond (about, not by, Syd) in its glorious uninterrupted entirety, the last video will be a half-hour musical treat.