Friday, May 09, 2008

Qwerty Weekend

There are times when I wonder if, by the time I became a musician, the rock and roll dream about which I had read so much had long been buried under an unmarked stone in a hitherto unmapped stretch of desert. On the bookshelf behind me sit countless biographies detailing the mythic feats of musical heroes and villains. Handbags are defiled by mischievous imps, cars driven into swimming pools, Marshall stacks used for far more primal acts than the simple amplification of guitars.

There are other times when I wonder if it has always been thus. We're just coming to the end of the long recording process for ist's new album and while it has been an incredible journey creatively, I feel as though - in rock and roll terms - I might as well have spent the last year locked in a crate with only my own increasingly unruly hair for company.

Half my time in a band is spent writing emails, which concerns me no end. The other half, showing up to fulfill the responsibilities planned IN those emails.

This weekend has been a prime example. Freed from any other responsibilities to family or friends, I spent the entire three days working on the music. O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

However, not one iota of this time was spent frolicking with dancing girls, injecting vodka into my perineum, or shoving a tire iron into the mixing console just to see what might happen.

Two days were spent locked in a room, mixing - a procedure which, especially initially, consists of listening to 30 seconds of our drummer's snare work repeated ad infinitum until I want to either leap out of a window screaming, or take up the zither and move to the Swiss Alps. In between, I mostly sit nervously on the couch as our producer, Jay Burnett ably assisted by Marco Perry, twiddles at dials and knobs in a purposeful manner.

Somewhere in the middle of each day, you are presented with a finished song, all its component pieces in place and I will admit to a swell of parental pride as our compositions pop newly born from the bakelite loins of the mixing desk. And yes, it is at that moment that I would glad leap on to a passing groupie, grubby syringe and Rolls Royce keys clutched in either hand. But I don't. I look at the clock and shout "NEXT!"

We did have a short break on Sunday to attend a charity event, put on by Chris Difford at The Albany in Deptford, raising money for the Magdi Yacoub Institute, in memory of his brother who sadly passed away last year. Boo Hewerdine, Chris (from whom we have been slyly borrowing guest musicians over the last few months, shout out to Dorie Jackson and Melvin Duffy), The Overtures, and, in a beautiful surprise appearance, the reformed Squeeze all made for a very moving evening, which made up, at least a little, for my two day confinement.

But again, there were no backstage shenanigans to speak of. I had a can of Red Stripe at the aftershow, I hugged the two members of Squeeze I know well enough not to be maced by, and I kissed a female friend on the cheek. This is life in rock and roll? I'm growing concerned.

Still, on Monday, I had a reunion with my bandmates to look forward to, for a brief television appearance in the wilds of the digital universe. Surely, the four of us, this rock and roll force would be able to do some damage?

We mostly drank beer, tuned guitars, discussed the album progress and tried to determine if smoking was still allowed OUTSIDE, or whether that too had been taken away from us. (I used to use a trick I picked up from reading about Noel Coward - who wrote cigarettes into his characters' hands when performing in a play, so that he could nicotine up at the necessary moment, and always put a song on which I didn't need to play the guitar in the middle of the set so that I could smoke and sing at the same time. But no more.)

Yes, those are the filthy habits we have left to us: cans of Stella, B&H gold and the occasional filth-ridden discussion designed to alarm passing members of other groups.

I don't feel, particularly, grown-up. I have two kids - both 6 - and we're pretty much on a par emotionally speaking, so much so that when their mother arrives in a room, we all three look up with a guilty start, no matter what we've been doing. Nonetheless, sometimes I feel that being at the front of a band has matured me, and I'm sure that can't be right.

Maybe it's just the overwhelming desire to get this album that's doing it. Perhaps when it's all over and we return to the road, you will find me one morning running naked down the motorway screaming about invisible bees, an accordion strapped to either leg.

God knows, I need to screw my life up in some new way. The swines will be wanting a new set of songs out of me soon.


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