August 30, 2006

TomBlog - how I write a song?

some more:

“How I Write A Song”

Writing a song is not something I truly understand. I get out of bed, walk about the house and, if I happen to pass one of the many guitars I've non-strategically placed abouts, I start to play and hum in an absent-minded sort of way. Sometimes I'm reminded of something I did a day or two ago and I build that in to what I'm doing. The paths start to meet somewhere, the synapses flutter and the hodge-podge of ideas, that go into every song, start to focus and organise themselves. A song begins.

I relish those moments. They are, without doubt, the reason I keep making music.

Sometimes a song is years in gestation. On our new album, 'How We Operate', there's a song called, 'See the World', that started on a summer's morning in 2000. I found a guitar line and that was it for about 2 years. A melody started to breeze in after that. One of my favourite songs is Ooh la la by The Faces and I knew my song had some of it's DNA. I threw some sha-la-la's in my nascent noodlings as a reference for how I wanted things to end up.

I wrote that song for Ben to sing, so I took it to him before all the words were written: it can be much easier to sing your own words. I had a loose jumble of lyrical ideas, but Ben told me what he thought it was about, filled in some blanks, and a song got finished.

TomBlog - rules

Going through stuff I've written recently for magazines etc. Here's my rules for life article:

I'm not much of a preacher. I wouldn't make a benevolent dictator. Do me and my modus operandi really deserve respect or even attention? People and rules rarely do. However, you've got to do what you've got to do. Put the lid back on the toothpaste, write this article, etc. Try to forgive me if this comes across as patronising. 'Nobody likes to be patronised' would make a good rule.

A rule, it seems, is not that good if you stick to it too religiously. So I suppose rule number one is, change is good.

Don't get stuck in a rut, don't get into patterns of behaviour that hurt you. Don't become some conservative fuckhead who thinks the world owes them something. Change your mind on a daily basis. Also, if you keep changing, those same fuckheads won't be able to see you coming. You have to keep changing to avoid becoming predictable, getting blindsided and generally getting fucked over. I suppose, 'don't try to live up to other people's expectations', falls in here somewhere too. Although 'always get a receipt' is a goodun.

Do not, under any circumstances, waste any more than a few seconds worrying what somebody else thinks of you. It will kill you. You can't create, you can't be yourself. Are you the cliché in need of somebody else's approval? If you are, then essentially, you're fucked. That's not to say you shouldn't do stuff for other people. If you're worrying, if you're paranoid, you're not doing anything at all. Smoke less of whatever you've got.

In the same respect, do not fucking martyr your pathetic arse on the altar of rock and roll. If you're fucked up, you're fucked up, but please let's not pretend. Get attention by being brilliant, not by manufacturing a rumpus. In fact, don't be a martyr of any kind. We shouldn't need them.

Follow the green cross code.

See it coming. Know as much as you can, I'm not saying be a know it all, although that may be a necessary symptom. In the music business its incredibly easy to get fucked because you don't know what to expect or what other people's interests are. Do not be that person. Know as much about every aspect as you can. Even the people who are your friends, have their own interests at heart, so don't be the sap who gets fucked because they didn't see it coming. I've been in this business nearly all my adult life so my experience isn't great, but I imagine this applies to everything else.

Always wear a clean pair of pants....if you can.

Always come clean. They'll find you out soon enough. Don't be defensive. Even if you're right it only makes you look guilty. You can't win so don't give someone the satisfaction of watching you squirm. If you have sincerely fucked up, there'll be plenty of time for soul-searching when you're on your tod. Honesty is the best policy and other assorted old bollocks.

Don't be an utter twat.

'Nobody likes a whinger'. If you think that anyone really wants to hear you whinge then you're wrong. Simple as that. You may desperately want to vent spleen about something or what-not in a high-pitch shrill voice. People may nod, they may even nod emphatically. Awful, cruel, be what it may, stop fucking harping on about your problems. I'm not saying don't fight your corner. The worst whingers are the ones who whinge about stuff you're involved in. When shit's inevitable and everyone's just trying to keep their heads down, never fucking complain. It just makes it harder for everyone else. Also, please no more singer-songwriters hell-bent on tear-jerking.

First rule of touring: don't shit on the bus. Never under any circumstances shit on the bus.

Be patient. I know you've heard it a thousand times, but you feel that way because you've lost your patience. When I recognise it in someone else my heart leaps.... genuinely. Giving someone else time - not taking it for yourself is hard, but fucking ace. However, this rule has a condition: don't be patient with arseholes.

Finally, be lucky, try to be your own judge, try not to use the word 'actually', don't try to be cool – trying is not cool, put the tea in before the milk, learn a foreign language, develop your empathy, don't get fanatical, don't go up at the end of your sentences, ignorance is no defence, eat whatever the locals eat, always vote, keep it simple, only be critical when necessary and take care of yourself.

TomBlog - mercury deriding

Here summit I wrote for music week last week....thought you might be interested.

As the last festival closes the last of its heavily secured and poorly signposted entrances. As autumn leaves begin to be trod underfoot, the anticipation of another Mercury Prize drifts in, and does a pretty good job of joining the leaves, under our feet. It's not that I'm bored of talking about the Mercury Prize, well perhaps a little, there's just a touch of mettle fatigue.

Winning the Mercury Prize was truly the most astonishing event in my life. I was 21 years old, had joined some friends in making some music for pleasure, had suddenly and quite unexpectedly got a record deal, made one, and within six months won the biggest single award for music in the land. It was a freak occurrence. I doubt very much that a story such as ours could happen again. Untouched by a marketing man, unfettered by stylists, without any of the nauseating fake mythology that the press loves to devour. How ever you perceive us, we were just trying to be unlike everything else.

It changed our worlds. We went from being a few lads who wanted to put out a gate-fold album simply to see what it would look like to skin up on, to selling over a million. 10 thousand was our highest hope. To this day I travel the world playing music. I think it's clear that wouldn't be the case if we hadn't won the prize. I am indebted to it, its media whirlwind and its support of originality.

Though not abroad, the prize has considerable negative ramifications at home. With an establishment/critical stamp of approval we were bound to be re-assessed almost immediately. In fact, its inevitable you'll be called crap and told to leave the dancefloor within seconds of winning. Unlike other industries where people might just put this down to envy, an ugly desire to see others fail or the vanity of critics, the British music world is too fickle to be true. If the prize duth make you, the prize duth break you. We were a sacrificial lamb. Within months of winning, music people seemed to just ignore our music and then our growing sense of indignation. It's possible that part of the problem with the prize is it dispossesses the media of its king-making role and a sort of bitterness pervades.

The Mercury Prize is, theoretically, a prize for British innovation. Its 'curse' is not in its delightfully naïve hope for innovation, but in its being British. The scope and range of music with any visibility (or is that audibility?) to British people is so frightfully narrow, commercial or conservative that an award for originality is really quite a nonsense. Does anyone in this industry really support music that genuinely doesn't fit in? It's like winning a prize for most likely to succeed at a suicide training camp.

Nevertheless, there is hope elsewhere. I'm now 29 years of age, we're appearing on Jay Leno's Tonight show for the first time in our ten year career this month, we have just embarked on a sold-out tour of Australia. Our present release is out-selling all our previous ones in the US. Whatever was initially so attractive about our music doesn't seem to have been such a glamour to others. Our music is now heard on radio, tv and film more frequently around the globe than ever before. Three cheers for the Mercury! Yet in the UK, and forgive the hack irony from my jet-lag decamp Adelaide hotel suite, we can't get ourselves arrested.

August 29, 2006

TomBlog - where else?

Alright...swallow the painkillers, the echinacea my wife insists I imbibe, the glass of fizzing Berocca. Hope the large and delicious Adelaide breakfast stays put inside. Let the waves of nausea pass. Good morning Australia. Cough, cough, cough etc, etc. Why did I smoke last night? Did I imagine that adding that to the libation and jetlag would leave my voice sounding like a skylark? Good god I feel like a sack of rubble. It took 27 hours to get here and just 4 to get completely shit-faced.

We play the Governor Hindmarsh in Adelaide tonight. Over the past week we've played festivals in Portugal, Belgium and three in the UK. Ian has gone viral and his belly with it. Spent the morning, afternoon and evening on the throne phone. The rest of us are just lagging behind. We take to the stage in a near euphoric state of disorientation and manage to wade through our set. Ben is convinced after the gig that everything sounded slow. He's right, but everything seemed to be moving slowly with it. I pop out of the smokey ( to the point of suffocation) dressing room and run into legions of lovely kids waiting for a squiggle. Our fans are as sweet and patient as ever. Except for one inebriated customer who wants to comiserate about the lack of We Haven't Turned Around in the setlist. I watch his moustache bounce up and down as he waffles on at me. Sorry, sorry, next time etc.

We dive into a van out back and skid off toward our hotel. I sit up with Ben and Dajon having a beer, talking about nothing much until about 2.45 am, then stagger back to bed. Alarm rings at 6am. I've dreamt, rather unsurprisingly, about needing to get to the airport to meet my missus. A fitful 3 hours sleep. I begin another hotel breakfast in earnest. The crew and band appear in dribs and drabs while I sink vegemite on toast with four cups of english breakfast tea. It seems everyone has been stung by extremely expensive phone and internet charges so there's quite a to-do at the hotel reception. I quietly munch to the sounds of Stevie Wonder – excellent morning music. Blackie has a phone bill for $140. Ouch.

We jump in a strangely decorated coach and get underway to the sounds of Brass in Pocket, also excellent morning music. It finishes and paltry talk-radio kicks in. Dreary nonsense seems to be the main discussion point and callers are opinionated about the many ways in which dreary nonsense affects them. Bring back Chrissie Hynde.

Now I'm in Adelaide airport and the whole place looks like its made out of expensive chopping boards. The middle classes of Australia must have nowhere to slice their celery. A pale Hotel-chic airport, although I like the Lloyd-wright gently sloping ceiling. Families and business men swarm about me. One fella has the most extraordinary rat's tail mullet I've ever seen. He must use it to talk to the cosmos or something. What he chooses to discuss with said cosmos I can only imagine. I imagine engine size and speed is a hot topic. He's stood up to accept his medication from his wife. Maybe that controls the growth of his hair humunculous.

We have to get to Darwin to do promo. Promotion: that nebulous, dark matter that makes up 30% of making music for a living. Today its radio. Everyone assures me that most Australians have never been to Darwin. I don't know whether to take this as a good or bad sign. Let's hope its a jewel. It turns out that today is not even as bad as its gonna get in terms of sleepless nights. Apparently we finish our festival appearance in Darwin at 1.30 am and have a 5.30 am lobby call to fly to Perth, to do a show that night. I can hardly control my anticipation.

And so, sitting on a Boeing 737, watching Dajon struggle to open his complementary box of cornflakes, hemmed in the middle seat between him and Dave, our tour manager: the filling in the manwich, I will leave you. A month of shows ahead of me and very little chance of a good kip.

August 25, 2006

Blackie Blogg-G'day!G'Day!

G'day to yus all.
I've been reading some of your replies & indeed it will be good to be back in Freeo, you might be going broke though mate I'm afraid, sorry about that but hey, if you want get all feisty everytime you here we're coming to town, that's your business mate!
So anyway, we had a goot time last night in AdelO, the crowd were somethin, saw many people dancing away, some with smiles on their faces all the way through. We'd been having a few problems, Ian had come down with hell bug that day, so he'd been sick all day long & had to go to Doc's, but armed & loaded with drugs played his way through it all. The only other problem was that some guy kept shining a torch in my eyes everytime I turned around, he claims he's something to do with the tour, think his names John Smith or John stone or something like that.
Up early this morning anyway to head over to darwin where we're now residing. There was a smell of alcohol consumption at the airport, I've been hearing stories of Casino dwelling and all. Seems strange, we never usually get drunk every night when we're in Australia, oh no wait?

August 23, 2006

Blackie Blogg-G'day!

Hello everyone! Sorry it's been such a long time since getting in touch, hope you're all still doing well out there.
The activity has been a bit here & there as we've been playing festivals of late. We were over in Portugal as you've seen, then we were off to Belgium for the Pukkelpop (check spelling) Festival, back to UK for Beautiful Days & the V festivals. We had a great time at all of the above & your support, drunken dancing/staggering & singing was greatly appreciated by us all. It was great to see so many enjoying the festival spirit & turning up to share it with us, as I hope we did with you.
So back to touring we are and I'm blogging at you all from Adelaide, Australia. We arrived maybe a couple of hours ago after a flight from London via Singapore with a healthy lay over of seven hours in Singapore. Drinking & being massaged were the only things to do really, so I guess we'd be pretty valuable at the butchers right now given the price of Kobe Beef.
We'll be starting our tour in Adelaide then heading upto Darwin for the Groovin' The Moo Festival, I'm not quite sure what we'll be expected to do to groove the said "moo", hope it's nothing too untoward but a first visit to Darwin all the same & looking forward to it.
See you Aussies along the way,

August 15, 2006

Shots from Paredes de Coura, Portugal

August 10, 2006

August 03, 2006

Blackie Blogg-Hey up Y'all!

Hello out there. Hope you're all doing well. Not much going on at this end at the moment as you can probably gather. There's been a little time off before we go back into the festival scene & then over to Australia, but all's quiet at the moment, which is good for Ol as it gives him time to send some of his monkey collection in for repairs & any polishing that may be required.
Cheers all,
Stay tuned, turn in & drop off?