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