Tag Archives: Howard Monk

HTC – Hate the XXXX

In one of those typical ad campaigns that make more friends for you if you have the product, HTC shouts about it’s capabilities of doing all kinds of stuff.

When I got my free upgrade from Orange a while back I opted for, (see – was sold) an HTC Hero. I asked for their best Blackberry as that’s what I was used to. An Android was what I was assured was the new thing. And at first I was very happy.I was happy that I wasn’t one of the tossers flocking to get an iPhone. I was kinda still into google as a company. (google seems to be going a bit crazy now though).

I need to get to the point. Later today I am gong to throw the little annoying piece of shit very hard at the floor, and hope that it smashes into smithereens. The keyboard stopped working long ago so now it takes an age to write the simplest of messages/emails. The reception can be infuriatingly poor. Orange aren’t going to help as it’s a while before my next free upgrade. “do you have insurance?”. No – just give me a fucking phone that will last the 18 months of the contract you insist I get. If the contract were 12 months, the fucking thing would probably just have made it for the duration.

HTC are saying they’ll come and collect it. But it’ll be in bits. I am going to happily use an old Nokia phone only for a while and go back to the source… hmmm

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Oya – Oslo, Norway

Yes I did TWO amazing festivals a couple of weeks ago. Both excellent for different reasons. One firmly established in a capital city with a great history of live music, and the other emerging in a town which has suffered through a lack of attention to an identifiable live music scene, or of and definable arts policy to speak of.

Oya festival is one very large event in Oslo Norway, which sees all manner of indies rock royalty mixing with exciting new acts both from Norway and all over the world. Add to this a special and diverse night time schedule in various bars and clubs across the city and an invited international delegation with a full programme of networking opps and showcases for new bands, and you’ve got the lot. So in the space of three days I got to spend some quality time with a whole raft of new faces in Norway who’ll no doubt become firm friends and work colleagues, but also it was cool to catch up with the UK bods and also the US/Belgian/Dutch/German etc etc folks who were there.

Business aside – I got to see Pavement, Yeasayer, LCD Soundsystem and loads more besides. For Norway bands: The Goo Boys and Simon Says No, as well as Erlend Ropstad – three different styles and yet very good all.

Early in Friday 13 I flew back to my home town of Rochdale where I had programmed a free festival with the council there, and this too had its moments of excellence. The Lightning Seeds, The Herbaliser, Kirsty Almeida, The Travelling Band, Ellend and The Escapades, Dead Kestrels, Oh Ruin, Karima Francis, Plank, Beat The Radar, Katherine Tyldesley, Red or Black, The Mysterons, Coupe De Ville, Dirty North and the students at Falinge Park high school all played their part in making the event an memorable one for a town which rarely sees an event on this scale. Having said that, you would be forgiven for thinking, if you read any of the messageboards and listen to what people say in the town, that nothing EVER happens. I have found there to be a good number of people making music, putting nights on, and going to them. More of this please.


Right behind the eyes

Alela Diane at South Bank 2007

Alela Diane at South Bank 2007

My friend Alex Highton has a song which starts “You’ve got the trees, right behind your eyes”. (it’s called You’ve got the trees) I like this line very much, it has immediate visual elements working on more than one level, so it opens up a whole host of possibilities. In some ways it reminded me of  a poster Luke Insect did for a show we did with Alela Diane a while back (it’s there on the left). He hid the trees in her hair. It looked great. There are trees everywhere it seems but it’s more the eyes I wanted to write about today.

If you can get behind the eyes of people you’re supposed to be able to see all kinds of worlds (do they really mean it when they say they love me etc etc… and honest guvnor, I never done nothing…)

I’ve noticed this just the last couple of days in the way my mum looks when she isn’t aware that I am watching her/taking a photo. Her eyes look into the distance and she’s apparently deep in thought. She certainly looks wise in the way that older people do. Alex Ferguson looks wise when he dramatically interviews looking away from the camera. Ferguson has got a kind of gravitas (sorry if you’re not bothered about the footy – I’m sure it would feel the same if Scorcese, or Martina Navratilova, looked away from camera during an interview), and you know that he has a depth of knowledge about his subject that is up there with the very best.

My mum is about 7 months older than Ferguson, and has been suffering and deteriorating with Alzheimer’s Diseasefor that last maybe 9, definitely 6 or 7 years. We went for a coffee Saturday morning and I sneaked these pictures of her looking away and contemplating I don’t know what.

She looks very proud and dignified and I wonder what it is she is actually thinking. Whether they are lucid thoughts which she just struggles to communicate, or perhaps the thoughts themselves come in the hotch-potch way she tells them. Either way, I do like to think there’s a bunch of wisdom still going on behind those eyes. Trees, Grandchildren, Nature, Holidays, Sons, Nephews, Sisters, Parents, Friends… A whole life in fact.


Blackburn Festival – The Local stage…

On Friday just gone (23 July) we did a small night as part of a new festival in Blackburn, Lancashire. It was a great pleasure. I drove up with Alex Highton and Oh Ruin, and we met Dark Sky Singers up there. More on the bands in a bit.

I have been in touch with James at Playhappy Promotions for some time now, having had She Keeps Bees up there with him before. This here is a man of great taste (naturally) and also the balls to set up a few decent shows in a town which doesn’t see much to shout about. He’s put on shows with Blitzen Trapper, the Fence Collective (King Creosote, Pictish) and many other crackers besides.

The thing with this event is that it’s similar to what we’ve been doing in Rochdale with the Feelgood Festival. It’s an attempt to get some stuff moving which is good and relevant and decent and current and I hope to get up there more. The venue was called Jazzy Keks. Honest.

Alex Highton is my friend who’s been making music for yonks and yet now as a solo dude it all seems to come together. He was excellent and the folks dug it too. Nice. Songs written about his move from the city to the country and about his kids and family. Very Ray Davies/Paul McCartney/Graham Nash.

Oh Ruin is now officially just as excellent on his own as he is with a band (he played at Barbican with band Thursday night last and that ruled). I’d never really seen him do all the bluesy stuff he can do but he did and it was great and again the kids of Blackburn dug it.

Dark Sky Singers is a band you’ll be all clamouring to see in next little while. From Newcastle, and with a bunch of excellent songs and NINE actual people on stage, they’ve a release coming out on Static Caravan soon. Pretty dark and pretty pretty too. Not your usual, and it goes all repetetive and nice. I love it.


Francofolies au revoir

MAN what a decent festival this one is. Right in town, on the port. They say it sold over 80,000 tickets over the week, and adds a whole extra month to the economy of La Rochelle. This is a good model. Loads of sponsorship though, and 26 years in, it’s pretty well established. Bands I have seen since last post are Phoenix, Carmen Marie Vega, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Dominique A, Arnaud Fleurent Didier.

All the above were pretty excellent in their ways but I am an absolute sucker for Dominique A. Brilliant Brilliant Brilliant.

Meeting up with the Phoenix guys and reminiscing about our tour in US when I was with Joy Zipper, was nice.

OK, so this one was a quick post. I ought to get better at this the more I do it. Let’s hope so.


All this fun makes me tired

I’m shagged out after loads of traveling, and about to take some time off before I actually die of overwork. I’m in a bit of a daze as have seen Holland, South of France, Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt, Syndey Nova Scotia, New York City and Austin Texas in the last three months. Fucking Carbon Footprint.

I made some comments about Groningen already but saw a couple of great bands, and caught up with some important folks (that’s what these things are about right?). Monolithic and Beth Jeans Houghton hit the right notes for me in Holland. I’m wondering whether Eurosonic is better for UK folks to hit than SXSW. WONDERING!

Exactly one week later and I was in Cannes in the South of France for Midem. I’m privileged to have got the gig to MC the British Music stage here (did it last year too) and it’s a lot of fun. This year I got to introduce some fine folks in the shapes of Chipmunk, Newton Faulkner, and Davey Knowles and Back Door Slam. They were sound people all, and it was a pleasure to meet them. I then spent a few days just being in Cannes. Which was of course very nice. And snobby. And expensive. And isn’t it funny how the high end fashion world makes as many ugly folks as beauties. Fuck. There are some ugly people in Cannes.

A trip to Berlin and Munich next, for She Keeps Bees, David Thomas Broughton and Shearwater. We managed to hook up SKB and DTB on a bill on a day off from the Shearwater tour on which David was support. The Berlin Shearwater show was amazing, with both DTB and SW on great form. Here’s a clip someone made of SW singing on DTB’s you’re a joke. Then SKB and DTB played a cracker at the venue called West Germany (In BERLIN – GEDDIT!?) and went ahead in spite of Andy from SKB having an ACTUAL HOLE in his back. Hospital trips and all that… if SKB ever did a blog, it’d be a good place for them to tell all THAT story.

An attempt to hang out a bit in Munich after SW/DTB was banjaxed by my need to head off to Canada for the ECMA‘s. I did at least get to see my old friends Ivy and Tobias of Club 2 fame, who put on a couple of excellent Billy Mahonie shows at Club 2, back in the day. Glad to see their still putting on great shows in Munich, and hope to see them again soon!

So the next day, and a MARATHON journey to Sydney Nova Scotia. A whole 36 hours. Munich>Gatwick>Heathow>Toronto>Halifax>Sydney… Man o Man.

The ECMA‘s were worth the trip though. A real pleasure to be in that part of the world and what a lucky bastard I get to be to be brought there to watch and listen to some great music. All of it really high quality but to my taste the best stuff was The Tom Fun Orchestra, Carmen Townsend, Joel Plaskett, Ruth Minnikin, Mercy the Sexton (?). All the folks there were superb, and in spite of the weather on the first day the trip was an absolute blast. Again, I met a whole bunch of really smart folks who I hope to see again, and perhaps work with. This is the reason we do this right? Right.

I flew back to London for a week for a couple of cracking gigs – Looking for a New England (launch of the event you can read about in the next paragraph), and She Keeps Bees, Oh Ruin, Musee Mechanique. Both sold Out, and both excellent.

Then flying out to NYC and SXSW for the Local’s event at SXSW and also working on the splendid event put together by The British UndergroundLooking For a New England. Featuring The Unthanks, Trembling Bells, Jim Moray, Olivia Chaney, Jackie Oates and Gadarene. Hosted by Will Hodgkinson (a man sharing my mum’s maiden name) and Sam Lee of the Magpie’s Nest. In between these we still had time to put on the Bootleg BBQ for Mojo, and that was again a blast. This featured The Unthanks, She Keeps Bees, Olof Arnalds, Caitlin Rose, Dengue Fever, Villagers, Gemma Ray, and Zun Zun Egui. It was at The Mean Eyed Cat which is THE BEST BAR ON EARTH. (that I’ve been to).

The Local‘s event that same evening at The Driskill saw Miss Li, Wave Machines, Electric Electric, She Keeps Bees, Zun Zun. A fracas between Zun Zun and a photographer almost saw us shut down and I remember being super excited that they might, and thus end up with The Local on the front of the Austin Chronicle. But alas it wasn’t to be. The night was memorable however more for the high quality of the acts that played, and I salute them! It was fucking expensive tho. Not a single band travelling with backline. What’s that all about?

Doing this kind of stuff can be pretty tiring (and lonely too weirdly) – we went straight from the gig to the airport for our 6.15 flight home. Also, meeting people (isn’t that what these things are about?) and going to see bands didn’t really happen as I did too many events. No time. So this week, with jet lag and a huge backlog of work, and weirdly skint, it’s all a bit deflating. I feel like I’ve been fucked and not kissed. Someone once said.

Still, managed to get home to Rochdale yesterday and see mother for a short time, and to pop in and watch Oh Ruin‘s BBC 6 Music sesh, which was ace.  (you’ll need to be sharp to listen to this as it runs out in a week). But again, travelling around, knackered. Some time off next week. At last. It was good to see Scanny tho, who kindly donated his Oh Ruin CD to the cause as we’d run out and wanted to give Radcliffe and Maconie a copy.

Despite this rather miserable ending to the post, and in no particular order, the following artists soundtracked the first three months to my year. I’m tired, and a bit overwhelmed but the music made by the below is of SUCH a high quality that I would URGE you to go and check them out if you haven’t already.

Zun Zun Egui (I have been crazy about this band since Green Man last year), Olof Arnalds, Oh Ruin, The Very Best, The Jim Jones Review, Dengue Fever, David Thomas Broughton, Shearwater, She Keeps Bees, Caitlin Rose, Olivia Chaney, Justin Rutledge (my god he’s made my favourite record!), Tom Fun, Villagers, Monolithic, and Trembling Bells.

I’ve probably missed some. But then hey I don’t exactly do this for a LIVING do I?

Also a really lovely backdrop to these last 3 months has been the fact that Rochdale remain at the top of League Two. (that’s the fourth division). You might think whatever. You probably do you prick. But this has NEVER happened. This guy, who gets paid to write about this kind of thing, puts it FAR BETTER THAN ME!!! (he also shares my mums maiden name (almost)).

Till soon. I hope.


New blog

Here’s a new attempt for me to communicate something of worth to the world. I hope to be able to do this more regularly than I have previously.

Today was a very good day. In London it was very hot. I met with David Broughton and we walked around the East End. Stopping at Rough Trade East I bought three albums. All of which are proving very good indeed.

Cluster – Grosses Wasser

Eskimo Recordings present – Cosmic Disco?! – Cosmic ROCK!!

Padded Cell – Night Must Fall

The last one there – Padded Cell – looked awesome and sounds the same. I have to DJ at Green Man next week so I might use this. I was only aware of DC a little bit, through Demian (The Oscillation) having done stuff with them (I played with Dem in an old project Mesma) and need to check out more on this label.

Anyhow, for now, not wishing to be too ambitious. I might blog next week about Green Man, and how I managed to clear the area with my DJ no skills.