Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Retirement


Amy arrived on the stage, a vision of loveliness in the light of a sixty five candle birthday cake which had been placed on my piano. She was wheeling a pink and beige Honda C50 moped with a big pink bow tied around it. A rubberized gaberdine coat was folded across the seat with a large pair of gauntlets 

I stood there on the stage, drinking in the applause for a broken old man who once wanted to be a glam rocker, a tired old relic, struggling gamely on with scarcely the will to continue. 

Ian, my accompanist, helped Amy to fasten me into the rubberized gaberdine. They sat me on the moped and put the white, peaked helmet on my ancient and befuddled head.

‘Happy birthday Eric’ she whispered. ‘Now, don’t worry, I can finish the set for you.’

She kicked the moped into life, and gauntleted and goggled I headed off the stage down a ramp, through the crowd of well wishers all wishing me well - wishes for a long and happy retirement that I could hardly hear through cracked white leather neck guard, and above the noise of the 50cc motor. I put-putted out into the street and headed east towards the edge of town.

‘Okay Ian, do you know this one...?’

I was never seen again, and pretty soon I was entirely forgotten.


NPR just reviewed my latest album. It’s looking like I’m a long way from the retirement home which is just as well because I don’t have the luxury of any form of pension. Better get home and hit the gym - I’ve got some US shows coming up:

June
28 KINGSTON NY Rocket #9
29 NEW HAVEN CT Cafe Nine
30 BROOKLYN NY Union Pool
July
03 CATSKILL NY The HiLo

You can buy the new album here...

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Air B n B


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.
‘The trouble is’ I found myself saying, ‘that there’s never enough time.’
‘I don’t find that’ she said, ‘you see, I have all eternity.’
In the morning Amy got up early and blundered out onto a sun terrace where she found our host in full on communication with Our Heavenly Father.
I have no problem with people holding beliefs, I just don’t necessarily want to become involved in them.
My second Air B n B experience was a caravan in the grounds of a house in North Hollywood. It was cheap and it was wacky, just our sort of thing. We’d been playing in San Diego and had to be in Los Angeles early the following day, so we arrived at this place at five in the morning. Birds were trilling the dawn chorus and there was nobody around, just us and the garbage truck. It took ages to find The Gate In The Long Fence, and when we did it was almost impossible to open the lockbox and then to unlock the gate. We stumbled down some steps through a rockery with our luggage and there was the caravan - originally cream and orange, but faded and covered in an accumulation of moss and whatever debris had fallen onto it from the trees that surrounded it.
Bijou.
Inside it smelled of gas and microwaved pies. I opened a window and a dilapidated fly screen fell out. We tried to put a brave face on it - it was half past five in the morning by this time and we were exhausted. I pointed out to Amy, by way of being positive, that you could open the bathroom door and flush the toilet without leaving the bed. We were considering toughing it out for the sake of a few hours sleep but we found leeches in the sink so we booked into the downtown Best Western and stayed there for three nights. It cost a fortune but it was like paradise after the caravan.
I have had some good Air B n B experiences. Last June Amy and I stayed in a two storey shack in Mendocino. It was very small - the ground floor contained a sofa, a coffee table and a sink unit. Upstairs was a bedroom with a bed in it and not much else. The whole place wobbled as you climbed the stairs. The bathroom was in its own separate shack next door, connected by a short, secluded path illuminated by fairy lights. To get to the place you had to walk past the remains of a lot of scrapped and rusting cars and into some woodland. It should have been a disaster but it was quite wonderful.
We stayed in a converted breeze block garage in the back garden of a house in Nashville and that’s where I figured something out: in the good old days, before the Air B n B craze, short term rentals were traditionally filled with collections of mismatched furniture and knick-knacks - unwanted gifts, flower vases, decorative plates, hideous table lamps and so on. The modern way is to take all this crap and donate it to the Goodwill, get a tax receipt and spend the equivalent money furnishing the place with brand new crap from TK or TJ Maxx and Target, and that’s why the places where they’ve made A REAL EFFORT are full of overstuffed chairs that look like rotund aunties and aren’t comfortable to sit in, and oblong blocks that say COFFEE on each face. And why they invariably have a large number of decorative cushions on the bed varying in size from large to quite small, one of which will be heart-shaped. There might be a sign that says: Two Lovers Built This Nest, and in the kitchen there may well be another sign that says: Instant Human - Just  Add Coffee.
I find the concept of two lovers converting the garage into a nest by lining it with plasterboard, installing a Pergo floor and filling it with tacky crap from Target, Pier 21, Bed Bath & Beyond ridiculous, cloying and quite unbelievable.
Some Air B n B hosts get it right. We stayed in two different places on the south coast of England that were just great, and I stayed alone in another that had a wonderful sea view but was filled with furniture and had walls covered in inconsequential pictures - framed photos of not very interesting exhibitions from 1998 and 2011, that sort of thing. There were something in the region of five chests of drawers, there were window treatments, a foldaway bed, a million kitchen utensils, cabinets of trinketry, books that no one wants to read, shelves of CDs: The Best Of R.E.M., The Very Best Of Chris de Burgh, Graceland, There Goes Rhymin’ Simon... I couldn’t hear myself think for the encroachment of someone else’s life. I had to gaze out at the sea across the promenade in order to hold on to my fragile sanity.
I endured one in West Hollywood, a tiny Spanish bungalow from the 1930s, that had almost nothing in it except a bed, a chair and a large wall-mounted TV. It had a beautiful all-original kitchenette but the charm was lost to an over-large, and very loud refrigerator, a Keurig coffee maker and a bulky black microwave that filled the fold-out kitchen table so there was really nowhere for me to sit and write my novel. I spent my time in there spreadeagled across the bed trying to summon the will to get up and turn off the light.
I stayed in a charming duplex in Echo Park, Los Angeles, except that once I’d been there for a few hours I realized it wasn’t at all charming, it was indefinably grubby, with a spongy bit in the middle of the vinyl wood-finish Pergo floor where the underfloor had been joined between the floor joists and had given way.
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 worldwe’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.
The good thing about that place was that it had a piano. I worked up two songs for my new album while I was there: The Half Of It in its entirety and California/Handyman which I’d started to write by a dilapidated swimming pool at a motel near San Diego. You can pre-order the album as a download on Bandcamp and get The Half Of It and two other tracks to be going on with right now. I hope you’re going to love it.

Thursday, 4 April 2019

The Carnival Is Over, Here Comes The Carnival



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: