Wednesday, 29 May 2019
Tuesday, 16 April 2019
I used to be a fan of Air B n B but I’m rapidly going off the whole idea. I wasn’t too keen to begin with - Amy got into it and my first experience was in Pasarobles, California. It was before we discovered the ‘entire place’ option so it was a room in a lady’s house. We were obliged to interact. I got into conversation with the lady about the how difficult it can be to do all the things you want to do in life, something like that.
My stay coincided with an unseasonably cold spell and the only heating came from a dusty oil-filled radiator and a ceramic wall-mounted heater with a big crack across the middle of it. This place had a separate kitchen, a ghetto beyond the bedroom with a one wall painted with blackboard paint and covered with tributes from former guests, who I can only imagine must have been drunk for the duration of their stay to have scrawled such sentimental gibberish with the chalks provided: We had an AWESOME time! …We Love You! …your place is an oasis of peacefulness and beauty in an otherwise grey world…we’ll be back for more wine and walks and good food and hugs… I even saw a tribute from someone I knew.
Everything in the kitchen was covered in a thin film of grease, embedded with dust. I didn’t want to imagine how much bacon had been fried up in that place. There was a shelf stacked up with the stuff that people had bought over the years to cook esoteric dishes and live temporary existences involving the imbibing of herbal teas. There was paprika, basmati rice, salt, pepper, curry powder, sachets of saffron, stale coffee, sweet and sour sauce, soy sauce, demerara sugar, ketchup, tabasco, plastic bear honey, organic tea bags… and everything on the shelf was stuck to it and the whole installation was greasy and very unappetising, but with a thin veneer of generosity. The stove was old and clunky, and superficially clean, and you had to keep checking that the pilot light was still lit.
Thursday, 4 April 2019
I’ve just spent a couple of weeks in England clearing out my mother’s house. A strange part of the process. I don’t want to say the grieving process because that word grieving always sounds to me as though there’s uncontrolled sobbing, and there isn’t, and there hasn’t been. And neither do I like the word loss - I suppose there is a loss - I lost my bus ticket the other day. I lost my mother seven months ago, but lost and mother make me sound like a ten year old in a shopping centre.
I feel like I’m dismantling her life, or more likely that her life was a play, and now it’s finished I’ve been charged with dismantling the scenery and putting away the props.
There’s a framed photo of two men and two women from the nineteen thirties. They’re dressed up for a wedding. Everyone who comes by the house asks if they’re family. They’ve been around in our lives for so long that they almost could be, but I remember the day she found that photo, rummaging around in a junk shop in Peacehaven sometime in the late sixties. She liked the look of the people - she made up stories about them:
‘That was George, an old family friend. He was such a brick when Mabel’s first husband died. People thought they’d marry but they never did...’
I found an unassuming blue photo album in the bottom of a cupboard. It was crammed full of photos going all the way back to the beginning of the last century - dour maiden aunts and rakish young men, one of whom was my dad, looking lean and mean back before the steroids got to him. I’d never seen most of these photos before.
There were photos of my grandparents, and me and my sister standing by a corrugated builder’s shed on a plot of land where they were about to construct the bungalow in Peacehaven where we did most of our growing up and couldn’t wait to leave. We look confused and even slightly worried, standing there hand in hand waiting for the box Brownie shutter to click. It’s as though we knew how our lives were going to go. But maybe that’s conjecture and I’m as bad as my mother with her found family photo.
Five years later there was a garden wall and a wooden gate. I used to swing on that gate in the sunlight, caressed by warm southern breezes, dreaming of being a pop star.
Been there, done that, bucket list etc... It was over in an instant and here I am all these years later, not exactly chasing a faded dream... but if I had a garden gate I’d be swinging on it and wondering how I’ve got away with this for so long.
I’ve got a new album coming out. I recorded it very quickly at the beginning of the year. People are always telling me that I should have a rest, take some time off. I think that’s fine if you have a normal job but I think being an artist is different - you are what you do. The nearest I come to having a rest is having a change - a change being as good as a rest. Creativity is great, it’s good for you.
An hour and a half on stage can be quite wonderful - it’s physically, mentally and emotionally taxing but it usually gives as much as it takes. Most of the work is in physically getting there but even that has its upside - it’s very relaxing to get up in the morning and not have to think out what needs doing. The day is pre-ordained - you just have to drive to wherever you’ve got to go and make sure you get enough to eat and drink on the way so you have a good time and don’t arrive in a bad mood.
It only gets to being a bit of a drag after a few months of constant motion.
For me recording can be the greatest thing in the world. It’s hard work, but if you know how to concentrate, how to let it consume you, it can blot out all the pain and anxiety that the rest of the world brings along with it. It’s better than any narcotic.
It’s the rest of it that’s a drag...
Trying to remember the passwords for Tunecore, Bandcamp, Promo Jukebox, Soundcloud… my Apple ID, and whether I’m checking out as a registered user or just a guest… And my subscription is up, my domain name needs re-registering, and if I pay for two years I can save thirty nine dollars… The car rental process takes three quarters of an hour of going between sites, trying to find my AARP membership number (that’s the American Association Of Retired People - all it takes is a lack of shame and being over fifty five, and the discounts are pretty good), and the agony of finding the cheapest deal and not being sure, and then I commit, type in my credit card details and the site crashes or the bank stops my card due to suspicious activity because even though I tell them in advance that I’m going to a foreign country, when I get there I go and do something weird like try to rent a vehicle so that I can leave the airport. And I really need to buy some guitar strings, and if I change the strings on my acoustic guitar every three nights then how many sets of strings is that? And who does the cheapest deal? And the inconvenience of having to buy individual wound 020 guage strings for my electric guitar because everyone else uses a plain third and I just had to be different - I’ve been using wound third strings for about fifty years now so why hasn’t it been adopted as the industry standard? And Musician’s Friend has an app that doesn’t work very well but they sell individual strings in all your favorite guages in packs of three but the only available guage is 038, and that just doesn’t happen to be my favourite guage, and the women on the phone doesn’t really know what I’m talking about and I can tell it’s nearly time for her lunch break and I don’t want to give her a hard time because this isn’t really her problem, it’s just a job, and she’s probably only making minimum wage…
‘This is Wayne calling from Sweetwater - still making a lil’ music there Eric?’
‘Listen to me Wayne - don’t ever call this number again.’
And guess what? You have a Facebook post that is forming 29% better than your 39 other Facebook posts of 2019 and a payment of $30 will ensure that up to 10,000 people get to see this post:
Hope everything’s going well out there in Columbus Ohio, I have a show in Glasgow, Scotland on May 25th, hope to see you there!!
But still I feel obliged to take action because there’s probably a hectoring email in my inbox right now from a promoter who needs me to update my website, create a Facbook event page, let all my followers know on Social Media - Instagram. Twitter, Etsy, Tumblr, Soundcloud, Songkick, Still Gigging… even My Space - Hey! I have a My Space (or a Me Spass as the French use to call it) so don’t forget to check it out!
I can create something, make records, or I can attend to all this rubbish. I’ve chosen to make a new record. It’s called Transience because I know how transitory all this other rubbish really is, and how little it really matters.
I’m on my way back to England again. I have to finish clearing my mother’s house because someone’s buying it. Then I’m going on tour. I’m a lucky man, I get to do what I like doing. If I worked for a living I’d be retiring next month. As it is I’ll be playing on my birthday - May 18th at Patterns in Brighton. I’m going to wear all my campaign medals. I hope they present me with a gold clock. My friend Ian Button is accompanying me on this tour, playing drums, guitar, bass and keyboard noise - very possibly all at once. It’s going to be cosmic and fucked-up. Of course I’m hoping people come to the shows and love it. I expect they will.....won’t they....?
Here are some tour dates:
Friday, 7 December 2018
One Suitcase, Two Guitar Cases And One Small Carry-On Item, synthesizers, luggage harvesting, the Carlton Vibe Hotel...
I had to leave for the airport at ten to seven to catch a flight to Melbourne. There’s been a lot of flying on this tour, that’s how it’s done here. The flight took two and a half hours. I was asleep before the plane took off. It’s getting to where I sleep better on airline seats than I do in hotel beds.
I met my new tour manager and sound engineer, a young man called Guy, at the baggage claim. Guy is a twenty something years old of Anglo Irish and Samoan descent, I found out these things by degrees. He speaks with an almost posh English accent. I liked him immediately. Another new friend. By the the time we left the baggage claim with my suitcase, two guitars and one small, personal carry on item, we’d invented the term Luggage Harvesting for the crime of stealing bags off the carousel. I’m surprised it doesn’t happen on a regular basis at domestic terminals all over the world - you just stroll into arrivals, go to Oversized Baggage, lift up someone’s guitar and stroll out with it. If everything goes wrong I think I might become a luggage harvester myself. A good part-time occupation for my retirement...
Guy was standing in for Bonnie, but more about Bonnie later. He’d been instructed by Bonnie to take me for a good espresso and something to eat before checking me into the Vibe Hotel and then driving us to Castlemaine for a show that night.
There’s a whole lot before and after that last part but this thing is either going to go in the direction it happens to go in, or not go at all, so to hell with the chronology....
I’m on a plane flying home from Los Angeles. I was in an Air B n B in Echo Park - I stayed there for five nights. It was downhome. It was a dump really. It had a porch with a swing chair but mostly it was too cold to sit out there so I put both switches down on the oil-filled radiator and sat at the piano instead. That was the best thing about this place I was staying in - it had a piano - a Korg digital piano with a full sized keyboard. I was able to turn it down so I wouldn’t disturb the owners who lived in the other half of the house, and who hopefully wouldn’t then be laughing at my rudimentary piano playing.
In between Ubering my way all over Los Angeles I wrote one and a half songs. It may have been one and a quarter songs or maybe one and five eighths of a song but there’s definitely one whole song in there. I recorded a lame demo on my phone and sent it to Amy and she said it was a good one and where did the piano come from?
I took an Uber to West Hollywood and strolled around. I spent a fun couple of hours in the Guitar Center trying out the synthesizers. Some of them didn’t appear to be working, either that or they were beyond my capabilities. I particularly enjoyed the Moog Sub Phatty though I wish they’d thought of a better name for it - Sub Phatty is quite unfortunate. If someone wants to donate one to me I’ll happily rename it the Moog Glorious which is what I think it should be called.
Contrary to what I imagine a lot of people might think I like synthesizers. I always have, not the hideous eighties ones like the Yamaha DX7, though I’m sure that given time I could divorce the sound of that from its hideous personal nineteen eighties associations and allow it to worm its way into my affections. The Sub Phatty / Glorious produced epic, beast like sounds. I wished I could have recorded some of the stuff I came up with on that thing.
Guy The Sound Guy and stand in for Bonnie The Tour Manager told me about a resource in Melbourne - a synthesizer library. They’ve got one of just about every synthesizer ever manufactured. You can go there and book time with a synthesizer of your choice. They’ll deliver it to your cubicle and you can work with it using your own software and laptop. It’s one more reason to love Melbourne. If it wasn’t so monumentally far away, and if I was living a somewhat different life, I’d move there in a heartbeat.
I was staying at the Carlton Vibe Hotel. There are several Vibe Hotels dotted around Melbourne. This one was modern, meaning it must have been quite up to the minute in about 1959 or 1962. I could just imagine Lady Penelope pitching up there in her pink Cadillac piloted by her loyal and trusted chauffeur, Parker. I can imagine her checking in at the reception desk over to one side of the breezy and spacious concrete and glass reception hall with its hints of orange and lime green. The swarthy yet suave receptionist and Lady P herself, their jaws moving up and down as they speak whatever words need speaking with their plastic faces.
And Parker collecting the luggage: ‘Yus m’lady!’
I could have spent whole afternoons watching guests banging their heads on the modern architectural entrance feature that swooped from dangerously low to just above average head height and spoke of...well, Vibe.
I kept coming back to the Vibe. It was my first destination in Australia when I flew in from Auckland. The tour promoter, David Laing, met me and took me straight there. It was his second time at the airport that day, earlier he’d picked up PP Arnold.
That first time I had a room overlooking the pool. It looked for all the world as if I could run from my room, dive gracefully over the railing and into the glittering blue water below. Except that I would have landed in a prickly hedge, most likely impaling myself on some railings that you couldn’t see from the floor to ceiling wall of glass separating my room from the outside walkway.
My room had a king size bed - larger than a king size - Emperor Size if that’s a thing. There was also a single bed that looked quite pathetic beside this monumental sex and sleeping dais. The Emperor turned out to be two singles zipped together on two separate bases that would probably have drifted apart had the bed seen any action, leaving the participants uncomfortably close to the floor in the ensuing bed base ravine.
I’d already decided that I was going to take the single bed because, as I’ve said somewhere before in these ramblings, there’s nothing more lonely than sleeping alone on the edge of a king size bed. You’re not going to sleep in the middle of it of course, even if it’s not two singles zippered together, because that’s where most of the action will have taken place and you really don’t want think about that. Especially when you’re facing another night alone.
The single bed was next to the floor to ceiling windows. There were nets and a big blackout curtain that shut out the impending daylight, but during the night and into the morning I could hear the occasional person next to me, a foot or two away, on the walkway the other side of the plate glass. And to other side of me that useless expanse of nocturnal playground...
I needed coffee. Carlton is very hip but the Carlton Vibe isn’t really in Carlton - it’s opposite a park somewhere between Carlton and some other bit of Melbourne. I scoped out the coffee options and found one within walking distance, a mile or so away. I decided to take a short cut across the park. It was Sunday so I weaved a jagged trajectory between games of cricket. I was very pleased with this even though it was a bit dangerous and big men kept shouting at me - I’d only been there a day and here I was having a very Australian experience.
Monday, 3 December 2018
Three Days In New Zealand, a short interlude in a brothel, complaints about airlines and passengers...
Tuesday, 20 November 2018
I was dreading the flight from Los Angeles to Auckland but in the end it wasn’t anything like as bad as I’d anticipated. I did the online check in and chose an aisle seat on the other end of a centre row of four. The other aisle seat had been taken leaving two unoccupied seats in the middle. I figured nobody was going to choose the seats seats in the middle and in the end the gamble paid off.
The person on the other end of the row was an older lady from Florida who was very nice. We had a pleasant conversation and lapsed into our own inflight reveries for the next twelve hours or so. I watched three films none of which I can recall. I listened to a Waylon Jennings compilation, Kris Kristofferson’s first album and Neil Young’s Psychedelic Pill on my IPod. and in between I wrote some lyrics which may or may not be any good. At some point I even fell asleep but I couldn’t say for how long.
New Zealand immigration was really easy. I used the automated machine and was redirected to Special Assistance where I was greeted by a lady of Maori extraction who told me I was logged into the system and everything was fine. I collected my guitars, loaded them onto a trolley with my case and sauntered though customs and into New Zealand.
Or Auckland airport. I walked to the domestic terminal in pale sunlight trying not to think about the four hour wait for the plane to Wellington. There were a lot of people, angry, anxious and pushy. They filled the terminal as they queued for security and the delayed flights that awaited them beyond. I pushed through with my luggage cart and gained the sanctuary of the Gypsy Moth Cafe. It was vaguely homely - badly run by a huge staff of ill-trained and, I imagine, under-paid young women who got in each other’s way and muddled through while the manager took up the slack by taking food orders on tours of the premises before dumping them in front of diners.
I had something very bland to eat, principally to stop the airport from undulating beneath my feet. The mid-morning rush cleared and I made my way through to look at the rest of the terminal. There was a newspaper place, a coffee place and a large area of white chairs and tables. Everything was very clean. Announcements wafted over the tannoy - they were mostly unintelligible (to me at any rate) but they all seemed to end in the phrase report to the chicken. I felt as though I was in an episode of Flight Of The Concords. But the entertainment value wore off very quickly and I thought I might die curled up on the grey airport carpet with hawk eyed New Zealanders stepping over and around me on their way to and from who knows where.
In Wellington I was met by a man with a sign who chauffeured me too the hotel in a shuttle bus that had been designated for my sole use. It’s the closest I’ve got to limo treatment in years. I got to my room and collapsed on the bed thinking I might just close my eyes for a few minutes...
The phone rang.
I didn’t know where I was or why I was where I was.
It was the tour manager, a man called John Baker who I’d been in constant email contact with for weeks in conjunction with press and radio stuff. We’d even spoken a few times on the phone. He was on his way up to my room. I realised I didn’t know what he looked like and the thought entered my jetlagged mind that he might be a midget and I didn’t know how I’d handle that - it wouldn’t be polite to mention it: I can’t help noticing that you’re only er... three feet tall... but if I didn’t say anything it might be awkward, one of those Is Anyone Going To Mention The Midget In The Room? moments.
There was a knock at the door and there he was, all six foot one of him.
‘Hello, I’m John’ he said.
‘Great to meet you John’ I replied ‘I’m so glad you’re not a midget!’
He sat on the chair, I sat on the bed, and we sized each other up. He was wearing a brown corduroy cap.
‘Look, we’re going to spend a lot of time together so I’ve got to ask - are you bald under that hat?’
He looked a little surprised but he took his hat off to show me. I’m not going to tell you the answer. I never saw him without his hat again.
I had a radio show to do - talk about why I hadn’t been to New Zealand in thirty eight years, how great it is to be the guy who wrote Whole Wide World (yes it is), and play a song. I played 40 Years from Construction Time & Demolition. They weren’t expecting that and they seemed pleasantly surprised. Before the radio we spent twenty minutes or so strolling around in search of a reasonable espresso which proved to be quite elusive. John took great delight in telling everyone we encountered how before I even said hello I told him how relieved I was that he wasn’t a midget, compounded this social faux pas by asking if he was bald under his hat, and then dragged him around Wellington for two hours criticising its slovenly coffee places.
He carried my guitars and suitcase from shuttle bus to trolley to check in, from conveyer to trolley to shuttle bus. He told me my system of folding my clothes was all wrong, I should roll them, and to prove his point he accosted random passers by in airports.
‘Excuse me, are you a folder or a roller?’
He was so disarming, so charming, that no one took offense.
‘See Eric, another roller!’
He strode across the top of the baggage carousel like some kind of colossus, retrieving and marshaling baggage. He checked us in and checked us out and did it all with no laptop, no briefcase, just a tattered sheet of paper covered in pencilled notes that he kept folded up in his top pocket.
Whenever we came to a stop he’d reprimand me for standing too close to him.
‘You’re doing it again, what’s is this? Have you no sense of personal space?’
I couldn’t help it - hardly realised l was doing it. I was as far from home as it’s possible to be and I felt safe under his care. The man is like a magnet. Planet Baker is a great place to be.
I’ll tell you more later. I’m just posting stuff as I write it - I don’t want it to slip away from because in spite of all my fears and missing Amy I’m actually having a really good time.