Christmas indie super bands

It's getting rather festive round my way.

Last weekend I layed down some lush and not so lush viola parts on Viv Albertine's Christmas single 'When It Was Nice' which, despite the fact it was only recorded last weekend, has already been mixed, mastered and is currently skipping it's way around the internet and the radio. You can download it here for free!

And tonight I will be playing a couple of Darlene Love Xmas songs with Slow Club at their chrimbo party at the Union Chapel. I'll be providing the massive Phil Spector strings along with Nicole and Rhiannon from The Monroe Transfer. The awesome thing about this is that Jonny from The Wave Pictures and Jeremy Warmsley are also playing on these songs which means I'll be in an INDIE SUPER BAND! which is totally ridiculous and totally sweet in equally huge measures. 


Goodbye, Faithful Kingdom! TONIGHT!

After over a year and a half of putting on shows at the Macbeth I've decided that this one will be the last, in it's current form at least.  We've had some marvellous bands on and I'm very excited by our last line up with Viv Albertine from the Slits headlining, I think I'm going to be playing a bit of viola for her too!:

Goodbye, Faithful Kingdom! present

Viv Albertine (ex The Slits)
The Monroe Transfer
The Rayographs
Marcus Corbett
tobywoby spins records from other times & places.

Viv Albertine used to be in the seminal punk band The Slits and now she has a fab new all-girl band! She has a record out soon on Manimal Vinyl, a cool new label which has released artists such as Bat For Lashes, The Chapin Sisters and more.

London based 7 piece instrumental band have a recently finished forthcoming new album Trials which will be released on Organ Grinder records in January. It will feature typically elaborate packaging.
"At their most beautiful, The Monroe Transfer are able to lightly brush the places that so few other instrumental acts can" Drowned In Sound

The Rayographs are Astrud Steehouder on guitar and vocals, Jessamine Tierney on bass and vocals and Amy Hurst on drums and occasional vocals.  

The combination of strong songwriting, dark landscapes and free vocals has led to comparisons with Patti Smith, The Breeders, Nick Cave and Life Without Buildings. November saw the release of their debut limited-edition hand-printed 7" single that was made Single of The Week by Organ, Normans Records and Piccadilly Records, with excellent reviews from Artrocker and The Stool Pigeon who described it as "a simmering blues tattoo enunciated like a hex and sharing not a little in common with Nick Cave's 'Tupelo.'"

***Now with the addition of the mesmeric Marcus Corbett starting the proceedings at 8.15p.m


The Robots Are Taking Over

I live in the world's smallest flat but I also own thousands of CDs which is a nightmare when trying to find shelf space for anything other than CDs. I came accross these CD wallets from Maplin that hold over 300 CDs each so I thought I'd purchase a few of those to store the CDs and inlays and chuck away those horrible cases, thus saving loads of space. You may ask why I'm relaying this boring story, well, after I placed my order online I waited and waited but nothing arrived so I decided to contact Maplin and ontop of their utter uselessness I discovered something quite sinister.

I logged in to my account and realised I could get 'live assistance' from their Customer Service Helpdesk which sounded handy so I clicked on it and a pop out box appeared like in a chat room, here's how it went:  
Sara entered the room

Sara: Hi, how can I help.

you: hello
you: my order number: YD086129 has been cancelled
you: but the money has been extracted from PayPal
you: just wondering what's going on?

Sara: bear with me i will just check for you

Sara: The order has not be cancelled we have not recieved it through to us. If the payment has been taken then it will get reverted back to your account.

you: So, it's PayPal's error?

Sara: i couldn't say whos part the error was on but we did not recieve the order. You will be receiving the funds back to your account shortly.

you: just checked my PayPal account and no funds have returned to it
you: will my funds be returned to PayPal or my bank?
you: if I have an order number and money came out of my account surely the order was received by Maplin?

Sara: we did not recieve the order here. The funds get reverted back to your paypal account. If paypal put this back into your bank account i am not to know. It does take a couple of days for this to show

you: why wasn't I informed before that my order had been cancelled? I just assumed that it was taking longer to arrive due to the postal strike.
you: I still would like to purchase the product
you: Is there any guarantee this won't happen again if I reorder it?

Sara: we did not inform you becasue we did not recieve the order through to us. If you want to insure the order goes through you may place this by phone on 0844 557 6000

you: I'm a bit confused here. I placed the order online and received an order number of YD086129, money came out of my account and yet you say you didn't receive the order? how?

Sara: no we did not you did not recieve a email confirmation therefore we have not confirmed we had the order.

Through my utter frustration I began to wonder if I was actually talking to a real person so did a bit of research and low and behold, their 'Customer Service Helpdesk' is in fact a TX5 Virtual Help Desk so I hadn't been talking to a 'person' called Sara at all but a virtual person and a virtual person who makes intentional human-like spelling mistakes!  Science fiction is ALIVE! they'll be driving our busses next!

I started being a bit silly with my questioning and after a loooong gap between my next question and an answer I think a REAL person intervened:

you: are you a robot?

Sara: no

you: your replies don't sound very human to me.

Sara: well i can assure you sir that i am not a robot i am a person

you: money has come out of my account and all you can say is "we did not receive the order", an apology would be nice.

Sara: I am sorry for that sir but we have not got a order. As i stated previously you the money wil get reverted back into your account

you: what's your favourite film?

Sara: Sir it is not appropriate for me to answer personal questions about my self i am hear to help with queries you have about maplin

you: Well, seeing as I'm not getting any further with my order I thought I'd change the conversation.

Sara: Unfortunatley i cannot advise you any further sir the funds will appear in your account shortly. I cannot advsie any differently

you: have you read War of The Worlds?

Sara: Ok is there any thing else i can help you with? With reagsrd to Maplin?

you: I see you're not much of a conversationalist so I shall say goodbye.
you: Goodbye Ms Sara Robot

Sara: Bye

She IS a robot! ... and my flat is still full of jewel cases, the bastards!


Goodbye, Faithful Interview! with Animal Hospital

Kevin Micka is the one man multi-instrumental wizard Animal Hospital. The Boston based musician is currently on an extensive European tour and he played Goodbye, Faithful Kingdom! last month:

How does it differ being a solo artist rather than being part of a band? do you prefer it? ever get lonely?

I prefer it some ways in that it allows me a different type of creativity and flexibility. It all evolved out of those two things; wanting to tour more and have a different type of project that might force me to be more creative in my execution of ideas and performance. I don't really get too lonely, I see someone I know every couple of days on tour and driving doesn't bother me as it's good alone time for me sometimes. I do like the communal aspect of playing with friends and I think I prefer that in a less serious situation without the concerns of touring and organizing all the less fun aspects of playing music.

You've released two albums this year which is very prolific of you! one on Barge Records and the other on Mutable Sound, how did they come about?

Memory on Barge took about 2 or 3 years and for the most part it was a work in progress the whole time. Good or Plenty, Streets and Avenues came when there were lulls in the work I was doing on Memory, so I could take a break and make some potentially less deliberate and serious music. I hope to find some kind of middle ground in the future. It is hard to tell which process is more beneficial.

You're stuck in hospital for 6 months, it's nothing serious don't worry, what 5 albums would you take to listen to?

Hammerhead - Into the Vortex
Beach House - Devotion
Steve Reich - Music for 18 Musicians
Loscil - Plume
The Great Redneck Hope - Behold the Fuck Thunder

Rolf Harris had a TV series called Animal Hospital, if you had a TV show what would it be about?

It would be heavily influenced by James Burke. Perhaps a history, electronics repair and live music show, maybe a bit a of a Jools Holland type show with and educational aspect to it.

Apart from being a musician you're also an actor, producer and sound engineer. What's your favourite platform?

Ha ha! I 'acted' in a friend's film a few years back but that is about it on the acting front. Most of my regular platfroms in life involve music so I an pretty happy with that. Overall playing and creating music makes me the most content with life.

You've toured over many continents. Do you enjoy the immense travelling or does it ever get tiresome?

Sometimes, I would say it wears me out mostly when it takes time away from writing and recording new music. That and flying, but other than that I like it very much. I don't really know how to travel any other way.

The Jesus lizard can walk on water, do you have any unique atributes, other than playing loads of instruments at the same time on stage?

Hmmmm.... Yeah, I am still trying to decide on what to do to compete when I play with them(Jesus Lizard the band not the animal of the same name; Animal Hospital have an imminent support tour with the band). A friend suggested I take my dick out during the show.

Your stage show relies heavily on electronics and effects pedals, what do you do when the technology goes wrong?

It is so ingrained in me at this point to worry about this and I also work as a repair technician. I usually have some back up plans for when things go wrong. Doing this for 5 years has also helped me to handle and process the unexpected quick enough to work with it on stage... sometimes at least. I also try to take as good care of my stuff as i can and bring extra cables.

Are there any new bands you're fond of?

I am still living in a bubble. I need to work on that some more to get out of it. I keep looking further back than ahead at the moment in regards to what I listen to. Beach House and the Bower Birds are two of the only records I've I bought this year.

The next Goodbye, Faithful Kingdom! is on 1st December and headlining is Viv Libertine who used to be in the Slits! v. exciting!


part 13 - never say goodbye

oh dear, ending the tour diary on part 13, good job I'm not superstitious, in fact, I'm one of those idiots who intentionally walks under ladders and opens umbrellas inside just to prove a point.

Anyway, time to reflect before I forget. 

A week (and a bit) on from the tour and I find myself listening to Richard Hawley's 'True Love's Gutter' and feeling rather nostalgic, I can hear the crowd clapping and cheering after each song despite the fact I'm on my own. The album was played in it's entirety every night of the tour so it'll always hold fond memories for me. When I listen to it I can picture the band playing with the bright stage lights piercing the foggy darkness of the auditorium and I can almost smell the dry ice and whisky in my glass. It's a good job the tour wasn't a total disaster otherwise I'd feel quite the opposite, akin to Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange, instead of lovingly gazing out of the window I'd be hurling myself out the window.  

It was a truly special tour of venues I doubt I'll ever frequent again, a far cry from the usual dingy London toilets with sticky floors I've been playing for the last X number of years. 

                                                                  Sheffield Lyceum

Liverpool Philharmonic

The Sage, Gateshead

Glasgow Fruitmarket

                                                                     York Opera House

Those are just a hand full of the wonderful places we played. Good job I took those photos before the audience arrived because once the people were in the smoke machines would start up and when that happens you can barely see anything past the edge of the stage which, considering the ornate nature of these places, was a bit of a shame.

Some days we had time to do things other than driving on motorways, trying to park, lugging loads of equipment around and soundchecking.

We walked up the Malvern:


Went to the smallest theatre in the world:

We had cream teas: 

I also met a space man:

...and did quite a bit of folding: 

and consumed Woodford Reserve

 We also spent many hours at various Travelodges, all of which were exactly the same: 

I also got my tour based question answered on the Answer Me This podcast, which you can listen to here.

Our new single Sunshine is out now, you can buy that from here 


Part 12 – all good things must come to an end

And so the tour is already becoming a distant memory albeit a fond memory. Over the last two and a half weeks we covered three countries in the UK and travelled a grand total of 3026 miles. We also consumed many bottles of whisky and now I feel like I’ve been driven over by a fleet of tanks. We rounded off the tour with a headline show at The Borderline last night which was great and we overcame our tiredness with yet more whisky. It got to the point where I had to drink a few glasses of whisky to feel normal again!

It feels strange that I was in Sheffield only yesterday, the day after the final date of the tour at the Edwardian theatre that is the Sheffield Lyceum. It really is a stunning venue and provided a fitting closure to what was a rather special tour. That morning we went out in search of bacon only to discover the pubs of Sheffield heaving with people, it was like the pubs had replaced old people’s homes, might as well call it The Departure Lounge.

I’ll be doing a tour round up in the next day or so with some nice photos so keep your eyes peeled.


Part 11 - the road is long

We've been travelling for over two and a half hours now on long winding roads through the beautiful welsh countryside. We've passed many towns and villages with names that have an inordinate amount of consonants. We all have mouths like carpets and snake pit stomachs today, which is nice!


Part 10 - the hills are alive

Im sat in the dressing room in Swansea, the doors open in 10 minutes and we haven't sound checked yet, neither has Richard Hawley's band. Apparently the PA, or maybe even two PAs broke down
and everyone is frantically waiting for the replacement to arrive. Oh, the drama! We arrived pretty late cos we did a little detour to climb up the Malvern hill, which apparently is the highest point in England. Luckily, there was a car park near the top so we only had a 20 minute walk to the very top, i'm not really built for long walls. The views at the top were pretty breathtaking. Anyway, better get on with the hopefully not long wait and theres lots of booze to be consumed.


Part 9 - can the one that looks like Jesus keep away from the pumps

We set off from Gateshead to Nottingham for a live radio session only to discover the guitars are on Richard Hawley's bus in Swansea, ooops! After a bit of a panic i phone a local guitar shop and manage to convince them to loan us two guitars, phew! I think the words 'we'll give you a cheeky plug on air' helped.


Past 8 - bye bye Scotland

After our fleeting stay in Scotland we find ourselves once again searching for a nice traditional pub serving nice hearty food, this time in Northumberlandshire. We try various little villages with bizarre names like Morpeth but no cigar, maybe Greene King have bought them all and turned them into flats. We eventually find a pub using a flashy iPhone app. and despite the early promise of log fires and a saliva inducing menu it doesnt quite live up to expectation and we end up going slightly delirious and by attacking each other with numbered wooden spoons. I guess the epic travelling and crippling tiredness, had something to do with that! My bones actually feel like bricks right now. Miles travelled so far: 2103. Oh yeah, that ludicrous dry ice machine caused the fire alarm to go off at the venue in Edinburgh last night. It also prompted a man in the audience at the Glasgow show to ask if they could switch the fog machine off as it was blowing straight at me and turning me into a cloud. They didnt switch it off but well done that man for trying!


Part 7 - Glasgow, haggis, neaps and tatties

We couldn't come to Scotland without having perhaps their most famous culinary delight: haggis. After much searching down this amazing street that had a pleasingly inordinate number of musical instrument shops and charity/ vintage shops, we found a nice pub that did haggis, and it was truly delicious! The Fruitmarket in Glasgow was ace, all the old endearing features were in tact and pretty coloured lights draped round the perimeter, photos of that will come soon. About to sound check now so must dash, doors in 10 mins! Oh dear. . . .


Part 6 - Nottingham & the M6

There's a lyric in Moscow State Circus by Eugene McGuinness that goes "I can name all the service stations on the M6 off by heart" and I'm beginning to feel like that. Having said that though, we've just stopped off at a lovely farm tea room in Yorkshire en route to Glasgow. The farm had a rather uncoventional selection of animals with cows, lamas, emus and a camel all sharing the same space in a field. Jessica almost had her fingers nibbled off after petting the animals, which would have been a bit of a disaster for playing guitar tonight but luckily the animals were friendly. I couldn't help but imagine one of those pigs sizzling away in the oven, shoot me!

The Albert Hall in Nottingham was an odd venue, conference centre by day and concert hall by night, the main room was beautiful with a huge pipe organ at the front. We were on stupidly early cos it was a Sunday which apparently means everyone turns into vampires if they stay out later that 10pm, so we ended up playing to a rather sparse room, but it was a good gig all the same.

We've just passed a road sign warning us about potential crossing tanks so I'm going to keep a look out for tanks now and enjoy the wonderful scenery.

Total distance travelled so far: 1816 miles


Part 5 - Shepherds Bush Empire + Bexhill

I'm never going to call it the O2 Empire, it has too much history to be reduced to the name of a massive corporation. I've been to a lot of great gigs at The Empire and surprisingly it seems a hell of a lot bigger standing in the crowd than on stage. The reason for this might be because you can't really see anything from the stage at all due to the preposterous amount of dry ice being pumped out. Bexhill was the most ridiculous example of this, I remember looking out from the stage and I literally couldn't see anyone at all, I could have lit a cigarette and no one would have noticed. That whole day was a bit of a haze 'cos I couldn't even see the sea due to the blanket of rain and fog covering Bexhill.

Lisa Marie Presley duetted with Richard Hawley at The Empire which made the after show pretty mad 'cos of her entourage surrounding her like a moat round a castle. We decided to stay out of the way and play space invaders whilst drinking bourbon.

must dash, off to see Robin Hood now, maybe I can get a quiver off him for my viola bow.


Part 4 - Ipswich + Birmingham

The day started off well when we arrived at The Regent in Ipswich to discover the usual sights of Richard Hawley's crew setting up a legion of shiny guitars nowhere to be seen. We were at the wrong venue. After a brief panic where we thought we might not just be in the wrong venue but the wrong city all together it turned out the show had been moved to the Corn Exchange, which was just round the corner. Phew!

The Corn Exchange is a lovely hall, not that you can tell from my typically bad photo below, and the sound was marvellous; Kaf and Jessica's voices really soared in that place.

Birmingham Town Hall, below, was built in 1784 and it's a rather wonderful and imposing building, it also promped the man Hawley to say "who'd have thought Birmingham could be so beautiful"

Tonight: Shepherd's Bush Empire!


Part 3 - Holmfirth, Manchester, York, Bristol

I'm back in London, albeit very briefly, and now have access to a proper computer which means I can type lots of nonsense about the tour.

Miles travelled so far: 764.5

Four dates in and I'm thoroughly enjoying the experience, everyone on tour is really friendly and Richard Hawley in particular has been very kind to us, even letting us share their dressing room on the first night due to a dressing room shortage.

Smoke Fairies' post Holmfirth, must have been a dismal performance!

Bridgewater Hall in Manchester (pictured below) was a rather swanky establishment, cleverly built by people who clearly know their acoustics 'cos the sound in that place is astonishing. It's usually frequented by massive orchestras, which was made apparent to us when we were told we'd have to pick up all our equipment at a ludicrously early hour the following morning due to the (something) Philharmonic loading in. Following a somewhat late night I woke up fully clothed (brogues, coat, suit and tie) remembering that the entire the band were staying in a one bed Travelodge room. Cosy!

Despite being incredibly picturesque, York was a stressful place to arrive at. It's like a miniature version of London with scores of people buzzing about and no bloody parking spaces, we ended up driving round for over an hour trying to find somewhere, which eventually we did at the cost of SEVEN pounds. Next to that car park was a shop selling TVs for almost the same price! The York Opera house (which we're all standing outside below) was an amazing venue though, it's a lovely old theatre and we played our best set yet.

The Bristol Hippodrome (below) was a marvellous establishment, our set was less than spectacular. Thanks to Rowena for letting us stay at their lovely house, come studio, come farm!

The rider situation is an interesting one, we get a crate of beers between the four of us each evening and at the York Opera House they gave us a bottle of Marker's Mark too which was great! The rider situation is interesting, or dull, because if you have a look at the Government's Guidelines it says that men shouldn't drink more than 4 units a day. By my calculations, given that there are only 3 of us drinking the rider due to the fact that one of us has to drive, that means we're drinking 8 cans each every night, which comes to 17.6 units which is 4 and a half times more than the recommended amount. Considering this rider is provided by the promotions company, that means they're effectively encouraging us to break the Government's Guidelines. Now, that's my kind of business!

Right, off to Ipswich...


Part 2: We Will Rock You

I'm sitting in a dressing room at the Bristol Hippodrome, sipping Stella and wearing three ties for no apparent reason other than for my own amusement, it feels like im wearing one massive tie. This venue hosted the no doubt ridiculous We Will Rock You musical, which is pretty crazy. The posters are still up and the evidence of Rock is still evident, there's two whole dressing rooms dedicated to wigs! Despite the fact we were a little 'tired and emotional' last night at the amazing York Opera House we played our best gig yet, but more on that and other exciting and less exciting things tomorrow once i have a proper computer in front of me.


Part 1: the tour begins!

Here we are then, Smoke Fairies are on the road for the first date of the tour. I am literally sat in a car right now on the M1, being disgustingly 21st century and mobile blogging. And yes, we're in a car not plush tour van cos they're way too expensive for the likes of us. There's not much to report on the motorway; a parade of speeding tin cans, War of the Worlds style pylons and huge road signs pointing to uninviting places like Milton Keynes. I wish i'd bought some booze with me. Soon we'll be arriving in Holmfirth, the picturesque town where they filmed the award winning classic series Last of the Summer Wine! Where's my beanie hat?


Goodbye, Faithful Kingdom! present... Mephisto Grande, Years of Rice and Salt , Adam Beattie

Goodbye, Faithful Kingdom! present:

Mephisto Grande
Years of Rice and Salt
Adam Beattie

DJ Toby Woby

6th October @ The Macbeth, London.

Doors @ 8pm



Formed out of the remnants of revered Oxford band Suitable Case for Treatment, Mephisto Grande tread a dark and magnetic path that evokes the great Tom Waits.

“Blown away ... they are like nothing else around” - Tim Bearder, BBC Introducing

“Welcome to the strange and frightening world of Mephisto Grande, a band of devilish mischief who have chosen their name well” - Oxford Nightshift


Named after an alternative history novel with religious inflections, Years of Rice and Salt’s music mirror that ethereal mood. Despite only forming a year ago, this 5-piece post-rock/folk band have already been signed by American indie label Future Recording.

ADAM BEATTIE (solo set)

A deep love for the blues, in all its forms, and an affection for folk’s modern margins is all evident in Beatti’s work; his songwriting lurches happily from genre to genre as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Beattie has just released his debut album, Abu Bozy. He Recorded with Hijacked Records at 4th Street studios in Glasgow.

“distinctively rich vocals with carefully crafted lyrics and simple folk-rooted guitar melodies" - Brazen Magazine

Warren Ellis talking beards and wardrobes

"“Clothes and manners do not make the man; but, when he is made, they greatly improve his appearance.” - Henry Ward Beecher

I recently read a great interview with Warren Ellis where he predominantly talks about clothes. I think Warren Ellis is great and I have a penchant for fancy attire so this was an interview that I was more than a little excited about! It's on Line Of Best Fit.

The next interview is Josh T Pearson, of Lift To Experience and massive beard fame. They both lock beards and have a jolly good natter, as you can see here.

The Tour of Dreams

Smoke Fairies have been invited on tour with Richard Hawley. We get to play Shepherds Bush Empire and equivalent type of venues up and down the UK for two whole weeks. It is the Tour Of Dreams and I'll probably be writing a lot more mawkish gushing nonsense about it here in the near future, not to mention a no doubt massive tour blog. But for now, here's the poster:


"in 200 years no one's going to care who won"

great words of encouragement from Jools Holland moments before announcing the winner at the Mercurys.

Son: "I've just won gold at the Olympics!"

Dad: "no one will care about that in a few years son"

Congratulations to Speech



I thought I’d share my collection of funny little sound making devices. A fair number of people, let's call them 'friends', have commented on these objects saying they make the most annoying sounds known to man, right up there with finger nails down a black board.

Here's a list of the some of these incredibly useless musical instruments:

The Groan Hammer: a plastic hammer shaped object that makes a sound so ridiculous you end up laughing ‘til it hurts, then it becomes incredibly irritating. It’s like the sound you'd get if you kicked a football in the stomach of a drunk who'd just consumed 40 fags and 4 litres of White Lightning. I bought it from one of those sea side shops when I went to All Tomorrow's Parties, along with a fetching pirate disguise. This one scores 9 out of 10 on the Incredibly Useless Musical Instrument Scale.

Stylophone: you know the thing, the small electronic organ you play with a metal prodding thing. Surprisingly, I haven’t yet found the need for a metallic wasp-like sound in any of the songs I play. IUMI Scale 8/10

Wooden Rattle: one of those football type rattles that you spin around and it makes an incredibly loud KRAK-KRAK-KRAK-KRAK sound. IUMI Scale: 9/10

Thunder Tube: a long tube that's open one end and at the closed end hangs a long metal coil, again it requires a shaking motion to release the glorious sound of rolling thunder. It sounds like a drum roll using mallets on a crash cymbal and it scares the cat. IUMI Scale: 7/10

Bamboo Panpipes: when I hear the sound of pan pipes I’m immediately transported to the pharmacy in my home town where they had Pan Pipe Classics constantly on the stereo. I had lots of health problems when I was younger so had to visit the pharmacy on numerous occasions you see. It completely baffles me why anyone would feel the need to re-record songs like Hey Jude on the pan pipes. This one is way off the IUMI Scale. It was an xmas present.

I keep thinking that maybe, just maybe, we'd be sat in the studio listening to a song that doesn’t sound quite right and after I add a carefully placed Groan Hammer to the recording it transforms the song into something wonderful and unique and everyone showers me with praise, aint gonna happen... or maybe one day I’ll create an amazing piece of musique concrète with the instruments, highly unlikely.

Anyway, the main point of this stupid rambling blog post was to declare my love for the glass harmonica. It creates a similar sound to when you rub the rim of a wine glass but considering it’s a ‘harmonica’ you can create multiple notes, i.e. it’s an instrument of dreams! It was invented by American revolutionist Benjamin Franklin, popular in the 18th century and described as having the sound of angels. More recently, artists such as Bjork and Tom Waits have used the instrument and apparently it features on Richard Hawley's new album too. This highlights the fact that it’s an incredibly useful and wonderful instrument and I NEED TO GET ONE. Definitely not an IUMI.

I went to Rome recently and discovered this little museum of musical instruments and in it was a glass harmonica! Unsurprisingly, along with all the other instruments, it was secured behind a see-through plastic box so you could only imagine what the sound would be like. It was an odd experience wandering around this museum in deathly silence, so many amazing instruments yet no sound.

I've had a look online for glass harmonicas to buy and to my joy it seems they're still producing them but sadly they're cripplingly expensive. Oh well, at least it's not as unattainable as this sea organ.


Goodbye, Faithful Interview! with Das Wanderlust

Das Wanderlust recently released a great debut album full of chaotic charm and they'll be headlining Goodbye, Faithful Kingom! @ The Macbeth on 1st September. I posed a few questions to singer/keyboardist Laura and guitarist Andy and here's what popped out:

I'm enjoying your new album Horses for Courses, it was definitely worth the wait. What took you so long to release it?

Andy: Fannying around trying to get a ‘proper’ label to release it. In retrospect it was a massive waste of time that could have been better spent writing more songs. You live and learn though, eh? We’re really pleased with the way the album itself came out, though.

I was surprised not to see your 'big' hit singles The Orange Shop and Sunday School on the album but pleased to find that the album stands up without them. Why did you decide not include them on the record?

Andy: We wanted to not try and cover too much old ground with the album. We decided that we’d only include tracks on the album that we hadn’t previously released versions of that we felt did the songs justice. There are two re-recorded versions of tracks off our original demo EP from 2005 on there, …Robot and Sherlock Holmes…. The Orange Shop was on that EP too, although much slower, badly played, and called Lenor. Also, we got sick to death of playing that song live, so the last thing we wanted was to continue feeling obligated to play it. Imagine what it must be like having an actual hit!

The album track Celebrate Ourselves covers social networking sites, paranoia and jealousy. Are you opposed to sites like Facebook? Do you think these kinds of sites are turning a generation into self obsessed idiots?

Laura: I recently deleted my Facebook, because who gives a good God damn that I ‘just ate some toast’. Nobody should care, I’m not interesting, I’m totally boring and so is everyone else. MySpace and Facebook are used by loads of people to make their normal lives look totally amazing and like a film, which makes other people feel bad about themselves and sad that they don’t have a film life, and in turn makes them jealous of the film life people. So then everyone just becomes really false and they take loads of stupid posed photographs of themselves and it becomes one sick battle of who’s the coolest, ‘and I’m a photographer’, and ‘I’m in a band’, and ‘I’m a blah blah blah.’ When really nobody is anything other then just a person who does the same stupid stuff that everyone else does; going down the shops; watching telly; and reading magazines. I don’t spend any time on the internet anymore, it makes my head feel funny.

The lyrical content on the album is pretty bleak at times, like in Pyramintro, "my lucky stars, they do not exist" and We're All Doomed, "sometimes I forget that I'm doomed". Are these all personal or character based?

Laura: They are all personal. If I don’t keep myself busy I start to think a lot about things and then I get sad, which is what We’re All Doomed is about. I’m really just a depressed sixth former goth at heart.

I like the way Laura's voice morphs into a robot on the last track I Wish I Was A Robot, no question here, just sayin'

Andy: I like that way that rain makes all the snails come out.

Any current plans for a follow up to Horses... or will there be another agonising wait?

Andy: We’ve already abandoned our first attempt at recording the follow-up! The songs are all finished, we just didn’t play it as well as we could. We’re going to start again in the next few weeks, but in the meantime we’ve written a Christmas song which we need to record as there’s an obvious deadline for that. The second album’s going to be a lot more varied than the first, and with less reliance on the old slow/fast, quiet/loud business. And its going to be longer. The songwriting’s become a little more sophisticated, and we can’t really get away with playing crap any more. Being a crap lo-fi band gets pretty tired pretty quickly!

You've been through more drummers than I've had hot dinners. What's your ideal hot dinner?

Andy: Vegetable dhansak, chana massala, onion pilau, peshwari naan.

Laura: I like sausage and mash with onion gravy and peas. Yeah!

Red sauce or brown sauce?

Andy: Red sauce is good with almost everything. Brown is an acquired taste, and really for far more specific applications (such as cheese on toast). HP is the undisputed king of brown sauce, but for an interesting and exciting alternative to Heinz tomato ketchup I recommend you check out Tiptree.

Laura: I’m allergic to brown sauce, which is why I only sing ‘red sauce’ in that song. I love red sauce. Chips without red sauce are a waste of my time.

The composer Robert Schumann used a finger stretching device in a vain effort to better his wife Clara in the piano playing department. This plan failed dismally and destroyed his fingers rendering him unable to play piano at all; to add insult to injury his wife ran off with Johannes Brahms. Have you ever cheated at anything and got your comeuppance?

Andy: I went through a long phase of being really quite naughty in secondary school, and as a result letters started being sent home to my parents. I hid them all underneath the bottom drawer in my room, thinking that was a brilliant and original hiding place. The longer this went on, the more ridiculous the situation got as more and more letters got sent home, until one day my carefully constructed web of deceit came crashing down around me when my Dad phoned the school to ask why he hadn’t received any letters for such a long time. I came home from the scouts that night to find him in my room surrounded by the letters, and more angry than you’ve ever seen anyone in your life. In hindsight I should have burnt the fuckers. What an idiot.

You win the lottery and experience a strong impulse to travel, or wanderlust if you will. Where are you going?

Andy: Scandinavia, Japan and Canada are top of my list.

Which five albums are you taking on this trip?

Andy: You’d need some decent driving music, so ZZ Top, AC/DC, Thin Lizzy, Quo, and Meatloaf.

Are there any new bands that tickle your fancy?

Andy: An Austrian multi-instrumentalist called Mayr sent us her CD the other day for a pilot radio show we’re putting together – she’s very good.


Smokin' Fairies at Abbey Road

A few ventures of a musical nature have happened recently, the most notable being a recording session at Abbey Road studio with Smoke Fairies. Abbey Road is obviously best known over the world for its history with the Beatles and that famous album cover where they’re striding across that zebra crossing, which apparently is soon to be moved because according to the council its current location is causing too many accidents. Here’s a theory though: maybe there are so many accidents because it’s a big tourist spot for Beatles fans who no doubt pose for photos on the zebra crossing blissfully unaware in their Beatles-obsessed haze that it is actually a proper road in frequent use. Because it’s situated in the posh area of St Johns Wood it’s populated by people who have far too much money driving fast cars whilst wearing stupid over sized shades and bathing in the glory of their disgustingly vast wealth, blissfully unaware that as they turn the corner they’re going to plough into unsuspecting tourists who are pretty much doing what parents tell their children to do when they’re being overly annoying; playing in the road.

Anyway, I’m not really interested in famous hot spots, The Beatles achieved what they did not because of that photo but because of what’s inside the studio, and what’s inside is quite astonishing. It really is an amazing place full of staggeringly good equipment and clever, interesting people, or as I like to call them: The Orchestrators of Dreams, which actually sounds a bit Harry Potter and funnily enough, the orchestral soundtracks for the Potter films were recorded at Abbey Road in studio one, the largest studio at the complex which has a cavernous live room and that was the room we got to use! This room has the most incredible acoustics that made every note you played sound lusciously boomy. It was such a marvellous experience recording there.

We recorded two songs in the short time we had at the studio Sunshine and new one Devil In My Mind. Sunshine has already been recorded before and will be our next single out in the next month or two I believe but we decided to record a different version because we wanted it to sound like it does when we play it live as a full band. I’m not sure what we’re going to do with the recordings but I’m sure they’ll see the light of day at some point in the not too distant future.

I’ve taken some photos of the studio but considering I’m officially the worst photographer in the world they don’t really do the place justice. I’m sure you can find some better shots online.

The next Goodbye, Faithful Kingdom! is on 1st September and the wonderful Das Wanderlust are headlining. I’ll be putting up the interview with them very soon. Advance tickets are available here.


The internet free for all

I've decided to document interesting things I've read on t'internet here, mainly because I have a memory like a goldfish and this way I can archive articles and stuff I like, which is nice - who knows, it might be nice for you too.

Here is an interview with Chris Anderson who's just released a book entitled Free: The Future of a Radical Price which looks at industry within a "freeeconomy": getting stuff for free on the internet. As a musician this is a topical subject what with illegal downloading supposedly killing the music industry, which incidentally, I don't necessarily think it is. Obviously the argument being that if people are downloading music for free there's no revenue for the artist. Pre-The Internet there were still countless bands and musicians that were getting paid sod all, like The Nihilist Spasm Band, because very few people were buying their records as they didn't know about them. Bands of that level of popularity are still not getting any money but some, the good ones, are getting considerably more recognition and exposure than bands like The Nihilist Spasm Band ever did. The problem for bands and musicians who hope to make a morsel from music is how to turn that added exposure to their advantage. There's loads more stuff about that in the article and the book.

Another thing I came across was the Small Biz Podcast. I downloaded it completely by accident but found it rather interesting, especially the interview with professional 'thinker' Dr Edward De Bono who has insipred people like Brian Eno. After listening to the podcast I've now added two books to my reading list. Let's raise a glass, or two, to happy accidents!

One more thing that held my interest for FAR too long was this stupid game. Don't try it, you'll get hooked then curse yourself for wasting so much time trying to get fuzzy ball creatures in the boxes. But it was quite a fun waste of time.

Advance tickets for September's Goodbye, Faithful Kingdom! are on sale now here. Das Wanderlust are headlining and after listening to their new album I'm excited to be seeing them again. If you don't know them they sound a bit like a Deerhoof and X-Ray Spex... this is pretty bad comment but I also think the singer, Laura, sounds a bit like how I'd imagine Janet Street Porter to sound if she was in a punk band. There will no doubt be an interview of some description with them on here some time soon.


UPDATE: and now, rather ironically, you can get Chris Anderson's book about free stuff for free on iTunes as an audio book. Do a search for 'Free: The Future of a Radical Price'


Goodbye, Faithful Interview! with Codes In The Clouds

Codes In The Clouds headline Goodbye, faithful Kingdom! on August 4th, advance tickets can be found here.

I bumped into the band whilst staring at the clouds in the sky and asked them a few questions:

The beautiful music of Codes In the Clouds is entirely sans-vocals. What particularly interests you about instrumental music?

With instrumental music the listener can take what they want from it. There's no default reaction for people to have, no set paths for people's emotional response to run down. At gigs we sometimes get different people from the same crowd telling us about two completely different opinions of the songs we've played. The other thing is that we all individually listen to music where lyrics are the focal point, and we enjoy when someone can express what they have to say in a song, but it's important not to fill your material with words just for the sake of it.

You’re sent on a long mission to discover codes within the clouds. What five albums are you going to take with you?

That makes one each.
Stephen = Elliott Smith- Figure 8.
Joe = Beach Boys - Pet Sounds.
Rob = Oceansize - Music For Nurses.
Ciaran = Mogwai - Come On Die Young.
Jack = Radiohead - Kid A.

You’ve been compared to the likes of Mono & Explosions In The Sky. This inevitably leads to writers using the frankly redundant term ‘post-rock’ to describe your music. You ok with that?

We're fine with people calling it whatever they want. If people pay us the compliment of talking about our music then we're happy for them to say what they like. It's nice to even be floating around people's consciousness at all. Anyway, maybe all genre is redundant because it's so subjective. That's why you end up with so many differently tailored sub-genres and so many ineffective catch-all terms like 'indie' or 'urban' music.

You recently worked with US film-maker Mike Hedge, how did that come about?

He got in contact with Erased Tapes and said he was a fan of the label's stuff. We really liked his stuff, so it was perfect to work together. It was really fun to make the video with Mike and MacGregor, even though it involved dancing on a cold beach in December.

There’s an unsubstantiated theory that Schoenberg’s Second Viennese School was set up in order to transmit codes within their serial music to the Nazi’s during the Second World War. Are there any codes or messages hidden within your music?

If anyone can find any codes in there they're welcome to let us know. Take that as a challenge if you like.

There’s a club in existence called The Cloud Appreciation Society who express their love for those fascinating floating fluffy things in the sky. Are you members of any appreciation societies? If not, what society would you set up to celebrate your obsessions?

We're all a little obsessed with the rules and intricacies of social minutia. We like to point out the faux-pas we see around us, and criticise each other's mistakes. So maybe the 'Society for the Enforcement of Faux-Pas Law' ? The S.E.F.P.L ?

You’ve done a lot of touring; where’s the most memorable place you’ve played?

Well, Rough Trade and The Union Chapel in London were incredible. But in terms of atmosphere and energy, the 13th Note in Glasgow and Cafe Zapata in Berlin were really special.

Your ace debut album ‘Paper Crayon’ was released in May this year on the label Erased Tapes. It has gained some great reviews including an (8/10) in Clash Magazine who said “it’s a perfectly presented first statement of their intentions, sending jolts from shoulders to fingertips”. Do you have any current plans for a second ‘statement’ or are you just concentrating on touring at the moment?

We have one grand idea for the second album as a whole, and a couple of songs basically finished, but it's all in the early stages of production right now. We write in and around touring so new stuff creeps into the set when we really like it. There's one song, that will definitely be on the second album, that we play almost every show now.

Are there any new bands you’re particularly fond of?

We really like The Shortwave Set, Rival Consoles and Tubelord. Oh and we're really into Baked Clouds, his EP is awesome. We're really happy because we've managed to get a Baked Clouds Remix on Paper Canyon Recycled.


a week of gigs

Last Tuesday saw Goodbye, Faithful Kingdom! tear through ear drums in what was perhaps the loudest set of bands we've had. We're back on the 4th August at The Macbeth with the lush Codes In The Clouds headlining, advance tickets are on sale here.

Last week also provided another outing for The Monroe Transfer string section as we were asked to play at Alice Gun's single launch. We've now cunningly named ourselves The String Transfer and are now available for single launches, weddings and Bar Mitzvah's!

Fireworks Night also had a gig last week at The Windmill in support of Cymbals Eat Guitars. It was a fun gig, as pretty much all gigs are at The Windmill - that place is a beacon for all things fun. I even managed to have fun impaling myself on Nick's guitar during a particularly energetic performance of 'Sinnerman'.

I've just arrived back from Latitude where Smoke Fairies played to a surprisingly attentive crowd on Thursday night, apparently my viola was pretty damn loud during my Warren Ellis-style solo at the end of 'Sunshine' - this pleases me greatly! It's a mighty fine festival though, where else would you find a massive pot plant in the dressing room. oh yeah, the 'Frozen Heart' EP is out now, from here and no doubt other Googleable places.

Keep an eye out for forthcoming Codes In the Clouds interview.



Goodbye, Faithful Interview! with Artefacts For Space Travel

Artefacts For Space Travel headline Goodbye, Faithful Kingdom! on Tuesday 7th July @ The Macbeth, advance tickets can be picked up from here.

I caught up with Joe and posed him a few questions.

The band name comes from a William S Burroughs quote that states, "Man is an artefact designed for space travel. He is not designed to remain in his present biologic state any more than a tadpole is designed to remain a tadpole." What are your thoughts on the statement? Are you longing to become that metaphorical frog? or are you happy remaining a tadpole?

Definitely want to be the frog. I’m very impatient about progress and I have a tremendous sense of urgency about everything. I just don’t have enough scientific knowledge to provide any answers, I can bluff a good argument though. For me the name represents an endless frustration, I believe the only things worth knowing can not be understood by the human brain.
I found the quote one night when I was researching stuff, I thought it'd be a cool band name. I’m not actually a Borroughs fan and have only read a few of his books. I basically only read Philip K Dick at the moment.

You're sent into space to start a colony on Mars, what 5 albums are you going to take with you?

Well I would definitely take 5 'best ofs' because everyone knows that a 'best of' is always a band's best album because it has their best songs on it. Anyone who says otherwise is a complete liar. I would also take in to consideration: if I end up meeting an Alien race while I’m on Mars who have never heard music before, what will I play to them to help them understand human music? I guess it'd be something like this:

Best of Beethoven
Best of Michael Jackson
Best of The Kinks
Best of Bob Dylan
Best of The Beach Boys

Not really sure why I left out the Beatles and the Stones, I think Martians prefer the Kinks.

Two of your members share the same surname as me, are we related?

Yes, Sam and I (Joe) are brothers, we have another brother called Luke who plays the drums, we're going to start a family band, we'll be like an uglier version of Hanson. Oh . . . Are we related to you? I don’t know, do you have any money you can lend us? If you do then you can be in our family. But unfortunately there was only three brothers in Hanson so you’ll have to be the manager.

You site West Coast American bands like Melvins, Nirvana and Pavement as influences ... what particularly interests you about those bands?

I was raised on Guns and Roses and Nirvana. Brit pop bored the shit out of me. I liked metal in my early teens, then I started get into weird Rough Trade indie type stuff. Now I just listen to everything. We're not JUST into 90's American stuff, though Sam and I went to see Melvins and Dinosaur Jr concerts recently, I’m a massive Mark E Smith fan, and I like a lot of 60's stuff. I guess bands like Pavement have that laid back, slacker appeal which we relate too, we're really easy going people. We want to make 'stoner indie rock'.

Has anyone written anything wildly inaccurate about the band so far? how do you feel about terms like "toxic punk sludge" being used to describe your music?

It's really dumb. We find it both funny and depressing. Our favourite live review came from Manchester News and said we were 'either really good or really bad', at least make a fucking decision! Jesus. But yeah it's depressing because we want journalists to listen to us and not just say, 'oooh, loud guitars, they must be influenced by the Pixies'. We like noisy, heavy music, it's not because we're trying to bring back grunge.

If Artefacts for Space Travel ever found themselves in a tricky situation, who would have instigated it?

We've had a lot of punch ups after gigs, it's actually normally us standing up for a friend who has come to watch us and ended up getting into a fight. Some of our friends are a bit rowdy. We once had to fight our way out of Southampton University, luckily students are pussys and we beat them all up with ease. Sam also causes a lot of problems, we thought he'd been kidnapped by Mexican coke dealers in Texas, he tends to wander off and find new friends when he's wasted. Alex's car is always getting stolen too, or towed away by gangsters. Everything is always a challenge with our band. If it can go wrong it will. But it’s normally all just down to too much beer. So I guess the answer is beer would've instigated it.

Are there any new bands that you're particularly fond of?

Don’t know if they're new but I’m listening to a lot of Blank Dogs, it's right up my street. We saw lots of cool bands out in SXSW mainly at a bar called Miss Beas. I want to go see a new band called A Grave With No Name, I like the tracks on their myspace. I'm going to see Ariel Pink on Sunday which I’m looking forward to, he's a sexy fellow.

How did the EP 'Power of The Brain' come to fruition? Any reference to popular brain based game shows such as Who Wants to be a Millionaire? or Eggheads?

Power of the brain is the name of one of our songs, it's all about telepathy and transhumanism. I watch Egg heads a lot though, I get really angry at the show. I hate that old lady who knows everything, they're such smug arseholes.

Any plans for a follow up?

We're ready to release more, just waiting for the all clear, we have loads of new songs that we like playing, so ASAP for another EP on Stolen Recordings.


Smoke Fairies: The Big Gig

I received a most intriguing text on Monday asking if I was free to play a Smoke Fairies gig on Wednesday, the text read: ‘Urgento, could you play BIG gig Weds? Biggest Yet?’ to which I replied ‘yes!’ and carried on with my office job, wondering what this big gig was, assuming that it couldn’t possibly be that big, maybe a support slot for some dead end popular indie act at the Barfly or something.

The second text later that day was quite possibly the best text I’ve ever received, it read: ‘Confirmed – Wed – The Forum – Dead Weather support’. The Forum! Dead Weather! Jack White and Allison Mosshart’s new super band! Damn exciting. I then slip back into assumption mode and figure we’ll be first support, on at 7.30pm whilst most people are queuing up outside to get in the place. Even that though would have been marvellous ‘cos it’s The Forum! the cavernous venue with a capacity of over 2000! It’s also the venue I frequented for my first ever proper pop concert: Manic Street Preachers in 1996. I still remember that gig vividly, everything just seemed larger than life, the inescapable loudness, the sea of happy people that enveloped you and the feelings of intense excitement and anticipation. Now I get the chance to play there!

Once again my assumptions prove wildly inaccurate. It turns out we’re the only support band playing that evening and we’re not due to go on stage until 1 hr 45 mins after the door opening time, which is great news as it means playing to a full house and a pretty gigantic house at that.

I get to the venue to find Dead Weather in full swing performing their new single Hang You From The Heavens to an audience of camera men/women shooting footage for some kind of video. That particular song with its infectious riff has been firmly lodged in my head ever since. The band were LOUD. Jack White’s drum kit was a bit different too, he was surrounded by large flat drums, it looked like a kit The Monks would have used.

Following our sound check (which in itself would have been a the best sound check ever had it not been for techies trying to fix Dead Weather guitarists’ monstrous stack of pedals during it) a few hours of nervous anticipation ensues, which include beers and a little food in the most incompetent Italian Restaurant I have ever been to, “oh, you want drinks?” they nonchalantly ask, ten minutes after saying they’ll be straight over to take our order. Rubbish.

We’re back in the dressing room sipping Jim Beam, waiting for our call to the stage, when Jack White wanders in to wish us good luck, which was tremendously nice of him. I’m sure most other uber-famous musicians in his position wouldn’t even know who the support act were let alone make the effort to wish them luck. The most wonderfully lovely thing though was that he walked on stage with us and introduced us to the crowd! It was such an amazing feeling playing on that stage, especially after such a great introduction, looking out, seeing scores and scores of people stretching out and up into the gods of the balcony. Simply marvellous.

This being Allison Mosshart from the Kills’ gig meant the possibility of gossip magazine royalty Jamie Hince and Kate Moss being in attendance. This hadn’t really crossed my mind until I was having a post-gig cigarette out the side door and noticed a horde of sweaty hyena-like men hurtling towards the door, wielding cameras that were towering, mechanical antennae, brightly, incessantly flashing at Jamie Hince as he was walking towards the door, then Kate Moss appeared and these hyena-like men swarmed like locusts. Such a bizarre sight.

I go back in and drink far too much whiskey and some how end up back home in the small hours with a jar of cockles in my possession.

RIP Steven Wells & Sky Saxon


flyering high

One of the factors in 'making a gig more of an event' is presentation. The aim is to make an impression which means the flyer design is very important. Luckily I'm not responsible for this, if I was the flyers would probably look like wonky treasure maps drawn by toddlers with ADD. So we're very fortunate to have Consumer Revolt handling the flyer designs, they also design all the artwork for The Monroe Transfer releases, which I think you'll agree looks very special.

Anyway, the reason I'm blithering on about flyers is because I want to show them off here. They only have a short life spam in the public eye so I thought it would be nice to put them up here, in a nice handy slide show. Enjoy!


Goodbye, Faithful Kingdom!

So, this is it, I’ve entered the Blogosphere! Where’s the champagne? …juice and cigarettes it is then.

I’ll mostly be using this blog to document my monthly club night called Goodbye, Faithful Kingdom! hence the title.

The night has been going for over a year now and we’re coming up to our 17th GFK! which is on 7th July at The Macbeth and Artefacts For Space Travel, who are signed to Stolen Recordings, will be headlining. You can purchase cheap advance tickets from here if you so wish.

Goodbye, Faithful Kingdom! came into existence when The Monroe Transfer, who I play viola for, were offered a gig at the marvelous venue The Luminaire in Kilburn. The nice people at the venue used to pick bands to curate nights there and we were the last band they chose to do one, I’m not quite sure why they stopped doing it but it’s probably got something to do with money as most things do these days. The gig itself was excellent, we had Her Name Is Calla and Blanket as support acts, who were great, and people turned up and much fun was had. From there I found a suitable venue to set up a regular night (The Macbeth) and the club has flourished, need proof? Well, popular culture website Flavorpill stated that “Goodbye, Faithful Kingdom! is gaining a granite reputation for presenting meaningful and progressive underground acts”, which pretty much sums up the ethos of the club. Subba-Cultcha called the night “refreshingly different” and the blog Echo’s and Dust pointed out that “with so many little nights on all over London it’s sometimes hard to sort the wood from the tress, but in Goodbye, Faithful Kingdom! we’ve found a little gem”, which was nice of them! We recently put on a nine band summer BBQ spectacular which was ludicrously fun, the headliners Agaskodo Teliverek were simply awesome.

The plan with this club blogging thing is to try and build up a little excitement before each gig by conducting interviews with the bands on the bill, offering free MP3s, videos and other exciting things I haven’t thought of yet. The aim is to try and make each gig more of an event rather than just-another-bog-standard-gig. So yeah, keep your eyes peeled for that.