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Blog Archive: January 2010

Newsletter: SENT
I've just sent out the first NEWSLETTER of the year - of the DECADE, in fact. It's always a bit odd sending the January newsletter, as it's always nearly six WEEKS since I sent the December one, so it feels like the final BOOST to the post-Christmas Back To Work Schedule.

Yes, it does take me this long to get back in the swing of things... but it feels a bit different this year, as things seem to be a bit quieter than normal. Every year for the past three or four years I've said "THIS year I'm not going to do as much!" and gone spectacularly AWRY early on, but this time around I seem to be actually STICKING to the plan. This is of course very much helped by the fact that 50% of The Validators are in a different HEMISPHERE for most of the year, but I've also stuck to my guns for SOLO stuff and NOT gone out asking for any gigs... just yet.

I've also been saying "NO" to gigs! I HATE doing this, it REALLY upsets me, but I've so far said no to FOUR (4) gigs this year! FOUR! That's more than I've said no to in the whole of the past DECADE!! These were all due to lack of Validators OR other commitments (we now have a LENGTHY list of Dinosaur Planet practices and warm-ups which'll take us well into the summer) so it wasn't like i was exercising a STEELY WILL, but still. Four!

I do worry that if I keep doing this NOBODY will EVER ask me to do a gig again - I'm sure some people would increase their ALLURE by a layer of mystery, but I doubt that I'm one of them - but I'm keeping reminding myself that, come the summer, there will be a WHOLE LOT of gigs, both for Dinosaur Planet AND a couple of things which I Cannot Speak Of As Yet. It seems a long way away at the moment tho!

posted 29/1/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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Half a year DIARISED
Our preperations are HOTTING UP for this year's Edinburgh Festival... which is a bit mad really, as it's still over SEVEN MONTHS away, but when you've got two busy men about town like myself and Mr S Hewitt involved, you need to BOOK AHEAD.

We've just finished filling in our Venue Application Form which I'm going to try and hand in at lunchtime (their London offices are within The Walking Circle!) and the script for the Concept Album is JUST ABOUT at the stage where I can start ADAPTING it for performance by the two of us... and THAT is where most of the preparation is taking place.

For LO! Once that's done we're going to have to LEARN it! And work out how to DO it! And make PROPS! And do DRESS REHEARSALS! And WARM-UP SHOWS!! YIKES! I've been worrying about all this for ages, and last night sat down to try and work it out. I sent Steve a list of EVERY DAY from here until the end of July, indicating the days I'd be free for practices and gigs, and he sent it back with HIS days on it. Using that I scheduled in SEVEN practices (a number which suddenly seems like HARDLY ANYTHING - PANIC!) and SIX gigs (four of which haven't been booked yet) before we got to Edinburgh.

I am now OSCILLATING WILDLY between two different states of PANIC. Is it a) FAR TOO MANY or b) NOWHERE NEAR ENOUGH?!? I have no idea - I keep trying to PLACATE myself, thinking "Come on, it's all spread out over six months so a) it won't seem like that many and b) there's loads of time to learn the lines sin between" but still the FEAR remains. And also, it must be said, EXCITEMENT. Reading through the current script I think it might actually WORK, and possibly even be quite good FUN.

And, if nothing else, I'll get to eat a LOT of curries and have my own GIANT ROBOT HEAD to show for it when it's all over. WIN!

posted 28/1/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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Arbeit
Sometime between us coming back from The German Tour and Christmas I got an email from Mr Martin Petersdorf, asking if I'd like to contribute a track to a tribute album for Manfred Maurenbrecher. I hadn't heard of him so Martin sent me a couple of tracks, which I liked, and thought I'd have a go. The song we decided I should do was called "Arbeit".

Martin sent me the lyrics which, Mr Maurenbrecher being German, were in German. I didn't really feel confident about singing German (not without HUGELY OFFENDING the entire nation with my Comedy Accent) so I decided to do it in ENGLISH. The results I got through Google Translate weren't exactly great so I asked if someone could do a Human Translation for me, just so I knew what it MEANT. A friend of Martin's very kindly did this, but I soon realised it wasn't really enough - it made more sense, but due to the language differences it no longer scanned and didn't RHYME either.

THUS I began my TITANIC TASK: a full on Proper Re-Write, trying to keep the meaning and tone of the song while making it make sense AS a song in English. I felt like Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge (legendary translators of ASTERIX) but without the huge pile of EXTRA GAGS, and set to it - and it took AGES. I thought the difficult bit was going to be working out the chords (something which I always find incredibly difficult) but in comparison that was PEASY. It took me WEEKS of thinking about it and trying out different things but finally, FINALLY, I got it done.

I'm rather pleased with the outcome, I must say, so here for your DELECTATION is a comparison between the textual translation (in italics on the left) and my eventual version.

Maybe today's the dayPerhaps today's the day
When I'm telling myself:When to myself I'll say
Come to work.Come to work
I've considered everything carefully.After due consideration
I could call it my project,Of it's proper designation
(but) I call it work.I call it work
I'm my own boss with thatI'm entirely self-employed
and I won't be phased and And I will not to be annoyed
when I'm off to the park in a secIn a minute in the park
with all the hustle and bustle out there and I'm standing there amidst the passers-byBy all the people and the noise
I won't let get all the stuff that's going onI won't let anything in the world
Get on my nerves, by nothing - Get on my mind or on my nerves
and that is work.And that's work
I hold my nose into the airI hold my nose up in the air
And sense the sweet scent of barbequesSmell the sweet barbecues out there
And that already is workAnd that's work
Lay myself (down) on a bench backwardsBackwards on a bench I'll lie
And watch along the blue skyAnd watch the big blue sky go by
And this (too) is work.And that's work
I want to see the dogs who are pulling the peopleThe dogs are walking people
bark silently (voicelessly) Bark their orders voicelessly
but I look away and don't listen aBut I don't look or listen even though
lthough they're sniffing up to me. They're here sniffing at me
here in the womb of warmness and lightHere in the womb of warmth and light
I'm trying to think of nothing -I'm trying to keep my mind quiet
and that is work!And that's work
I felt a little itchWell I feel a little itch
In my neck but I didn't moveIn my neck, but I don't twitch
And that is work.And that's work
A bird crapped down from a treeA bird is dropping me a gift
I pressed my lips, I didn't twitchAnd all I do is purse my lips
And that is work.And that's work
The good friend that just wanted to A good friend who's out for a walk
have a quick chat at my bench in the parkSee's me and comes by for a talk
with somebody (whom) she just recognizedAll she wants is a quick chat
and called by my name - So she sits down where I am sat
I pretend she'd not exist (she wasn't there)But I pretend she don't exist
And her friendliness fulminates (evaporates)And soon nor does her friendship
And that's work.And that's work
I'm a boat of peace in the Arctic Sea of warsIn a sea of war I'm a boat of peace
The positive pole in the magnetic field.The positive pole in a magnetic field
Laying here, I'm a monument - well, actually I'm a (fire) signalI'm a monument, no I'm a signal fire
I send silence out over the worldAnd the message I'm sending is silence
Keeping silent and enwrapKeeping silent, wrapped up, and maybe
That's, maybe, what's missing the most...Maybe what we're all missing the most is...
Hey, you stupid brats, watch out with your ice creamOi! Bloody kids, mind your icecream
It's dropping on me.You've dropped it all over me
Don't you see what I'm doing here?I'm trying to work here!
In the waves of warmth and lightIn the waves of warmth and light
I am trying to think of nothing I'm trying to keep my mind quiet
And that is work.And that's work
I had drifted of a little (in my dreams)In my dreams I'd drifted off
And thus missed the arrival And I'd missed the arrival of
of the gentlemen from T.V..The television
Now they're standing around me hectically.They cluster round me in a crowd
Am man with a mic, (who's) never silentThey're frantic, flustered and too loud
Is shouting: "We'll seeThey're on a mission
How this dosser on the bench (here)The presenter says "We'll see
Bulky on the outside, blank on the insideIf this dosser holds the key
Will, together with me,Though his appearance is absurd
Hold the mirror up to the world with his silence"His silence might speak to the world
And with that he hands me a glassThe point the camera in my face
I say: Mr. Schlingensief - So that they can hear me say
I'd love you to be silent.""Can't you be quiet?"
I keep my nose (up) in the airI keep my nose held in the air
The ear will forget what is shoutedAnd I'll forget the words they swear
And that is work.And that's work
The sun is dancing yellow dotsThe dots of sunshine dance around
Until you can't count them anymore - Until there's too many to count
The (just) reward for work.My reward for work
Arms and legs are (feeling) lightArms and legs are feeling light
Maybe one (more) thing reaches youOne more sound comes from outside
On that beautiful spring day:On this beautiful spring day
Someone saying: "Move a little" -"Udge up a bit", someone says
And later, on the lane of the light (prob. meaning the route the sun is taking)And later as the sun moves on
Something like: "Just keep on (dozing), I doesn't matter.They say "It doesn't matter, carry on"
Keep at (your) work"Keep at your work"
Sweet work.Sweet work.
Sweet nothing.Sweet nothing.
All original lyrics and song by M. Maurenbrecher

Phew! That was a whole lot of - for want of a better word - WORK! Suddenly that bench in the park seems like a LOVELY idea!

posted 27/1/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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The Walking Circle
I'm not sure if I mentioned it or not, but I was POORLY last week - I know, I know, I am ENORMOUSLY BRAVE and usually hate to mention such things AT ALL, but I bring it up because this time around it's given me PAUSE FOR THOUGHT re: EXERCISE.

This is because EXERCISE seems to be part of the Background Details which brings on my recurring - but, as I say, LITTLE REPORTED - bouts of poorliness. It almost always happens when I am KNACKERED/lacking KIP and then go to the gym. Sometimes it happens without GYM, but that's rare and it led my household to wonder whether there's an Actual Link.

At this point people usually look astonished and say "YOU go to a GYM?!?" I can only assume they thought my sylph like ADONIS-esque PHYSIQUE was the result of me running secret marathons or something.

Anyway, I've decided to try NOT going to the gym for a bit, but doing ALTERNATE EXERCISE. The THEORY here is that it's GERMS in the gym from other people's sweaty body getting into MY sweaty body via cuts and/or dry skin that cause the cellulitis to come on (MEDICAL DETAIL). And the exercise I have chosen is my FAVOURITE type: URBAN EXPLORATION!

I was doing a bit more of this just before Christmas - I worked out a walking route from my work in Central London to Liverpool Street Station, which takes about 50 minutes. I've wanted to do this for YEARS, just in case the tube EXPLODES or something and I have to get a TRANE in, and have since STOMPED this route on several occasions. It's a GRATE walk as it wanders through inns of court, squares, alleyways, markets and all sorts of interesting places and it's EXCITING to see all these BRILLIANT bits of That London and work out how they fit together.

THUS I thought I'd have a go at doing something similar in my lunch hour, and so have devised The London Walking Circle. I've printed out a MAP and drawn a CIRCLE on it, centered on my work, showing everywhere within roughly 20 minutes walking distance. It's RAMMED with cool places, and the plan is to each day wander off and have a LOOK at bits of London - yesterday I went to Trafalgar Square (which always makes me think "COR! I live in THAT LONDON!") and on the way back nipped down some side streets off Charring Cross to see some amazing Second Hand Book Shops and a whole ROW of galleries each staffed by a single very bored individual reading a book.

Today I headed for the Telecom Tower, and every time I saw a MEWS i went down it for a NOSEY. I do love a good MEWS - I felt a bit GUILTY going down ones that were cul-de-sacs and effected the air of a Lost Millionaire, Trying To Find The Bijou Pad Of A Pal, but eventually realised that nobody was looking at me so had a good PEER into some windows. It was GRATE! The ones that WEREN'T cul-de-sacs appeared to be meeting places for Pairs Of Van Drivers, Smoking. They were EVERYWHERE.

I'm also COLOURING IN my map so I can see which streets I've looked at, and I'm hoping to have seen EVERY street within the 20 minutes by the time I've finished, like a pedestrian version of The Knowledge. There's a LOT of streets to look down so I reckon it'll take me ages, but so far I'm enjoying it IMMENSELY and I would HEARTILY recommend it to anyone else. The Walking Circle, for ALL your Foot-Based Fitness Needs!

posted 26/1/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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A SOIREE
We had some people round our house on Friday night - I think it's fair to say it was a SOIREE.

I got loads of WHISKY for Christmas, which was ACE, but as I sat and sipped a single malt the other night I thought "Actually, part of the fun of Whisky is trying lots of different types with a variety of COVES, saying 'yes yes, peaty, with a hint of petrol' - how can i ENGINEER such a situation?" Shortly after THAT i went to the Writers' Group and thought how HANDY it would be to have a readthrough of the album script for Dinosaur Planet and INSPIRATION struck: I could feed two birds with one CRUDITE!

Thus we got in a batch of NIBBLES and BOOZE and invited round the various Department Heads of the Dinosaur Planet Multi-Media Conglomerate - Mr T "The Tiger" McClure (album production), Mr J Kell (Animation) and Mr S Hewitt (stage). Along with Mrs M Hewitt, The Landlady, and The Guests On My Guestlist we had a DELIGHTFUL DINNER PARTY in the offing!

The only GLITCH was that I got POORLY. My GP put me on antibiotics so I STEELED myself for Not Drinking At My Own DO. People on twitter told me that, actually, that was an urban myth and that you could quite happily DRINK in combination with most antibiotics (and mine, Flucloxacillin, is one that apparently it's OK with) but I thought I'd try and NOT booze it up anyway. I Know What I Am Like: one SNIFTER very easily becomes A Tour Of All The Distilleries, and anyway being STONE COLD SOBER meant I didn't drop ANY trays of Individual Fruit Pies, which is the KEY to Party Success.

So we gently gathered, had some chat, some drink, some grub, and then did The Readthrough. I'd allocated PARTS to everybody and we did it in two halfs (with The Arrival Of The Giant Robots marking the split) with a break in the middle, then at the end had a Discussion. I thought it might throw up some IDEAS and GOOD GOLLY it did - just HEARING it all spoken out loud made me realise which lines worked and which didn't, and having six other BRANES listening to it showed up all sorts of bits that needed trimming, or adding, or changing altogether. John especially got STUCK IN, but everybody pitched in with THORTS, which led to a very productive Sunday afternoon doing RE-WRITES. I think my favourite bit is getting the DIMETRODON (not technically a dinosaur, but COOL) into For The Fate Of The Earth but there were several other little touches that, I think, tie it all together a lot more tightly.

But that was in the future, as on Friday night we still had some JOLLITY to do before most of our guests retired to catch their train. In HORROR I realised, just before they got their coats on, that I hadn't got the whisky out yet, so forced a couple of GLUGS into The Tiger, as he was staying over. That was half the point of the evening!

posted 25/1/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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Back In The Office
You find me Back At Work today, up to my... well, lower thighs, I guess, in Catching Up. It turns out that the world COULD carry on without me, but it would need a bit of tidying up.

It's nice to be back in the world of ACTION and DOING stuff - at lunchtime I went to the print shop and got some POSTERS done for Dinosaur Planet in Leicester, and it was VERY exciting. I've not done proper gig posters for AGES and these look ACE! Tom's taking some to The Criterion for me, and like last year there's some DMU students who are going to put others around town. I must say I'm really looking forward to doing this again (tickets HERE if you'd like to join in the THRILLS), tho a bit WORRIED about remembering how it goes. Everything's been about the NEW version, with Multiple Characters, so that the more stand-up-ish version has slipped my mind a bit. This weekend: PRACTICING.

Part of the MIND SLIPPAGE has been because we're getting closer and closer to making THIS year's show a reality. This morning I had an email from Mr S Hewitt about potential VENUES, timings and dates - it all suddenly looked VERY real and also EXCITING. Contrary to statements last time around I think we're probably NOT going to do the extra length run we decided upon and just do a week again, and that all looks quite do-able now. All we need to do is book the venue, find somewhere to stay, finish writing the show, learn it, practice it, and then get on the train to Edinburgh. What could be simpler eh?

posted 21/1/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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True Stories Told Live
I was full of THE FEAR last Wednesday night - as i turned out, this was a symptom of The Coming Illness (a week later I'm STILL off work from an VIRAL INFECTION that I'm prone to, which usually announces itself with ANXIETY, As The Silver Surfer Doth Announce Galactus) but I thought it was just because of the gig itself.

For LO! this was my re-jigged performance at True Stories Told Live, a rather lovely night that myself and The Words In My Story went to last year. The idea is that they get five people to stand up in a room above a room and tell some stories, the only rule being that the story is TRUE. Well, actually, since the last time we went they've initiated a NEW rule which says "and cannot be longer than 12 minutes long." WISDOM.

I'd actually been meant to be playing at the first one - they always have a MUSICIAN (hem hem) doing a story and SONG in the middle - but i got BUMPED for Chris Difford From Squeeze. Which, you know, fair enough - if he wanted to play Totally Acoustic I'd probably bump ME too! Since then they've had Thomas Walsh (from Pugwash and the GRATE Duckworth Lewis Method) and Luke Haines, so I was a little bit worried that after that parade of People That You've Probably Heard Of they would be a little disappointed to see ME lumbering in front of them. Also it's organised by, amongst others, Mr D Hepworth From The Word AND there's a fair smattering of Media Types, so that I felt a bit like a Conscientious Teenager who's been allowed downstairs to have a glass of wine with The Grown-Ups. i.e. SCARED!

My fear was slightly abated when I saw that afternoon on Twitter that Ms J Rogers was ALSO going to be telling a story and that Mr S Evers was going to come along - I was going to tell the FIRST story from My Exciting Life In Rock, which starts at a gig in Stoke Newington that was organised by Jude, and the Editor who features so heavily in THAT story was actually Stuart, so I felt a bit better knowing there'd be some people there who could VERIFY the story's VERACITY.

Just before setting off I was listening to 6Music, where Rhodri Marsden was on the Lauren Laverne show talking about Time Wasting Games. "Ooh, like Tower Defense!" I thought... and ended up making myself LATE by playing that. I HATE being late so was a bit FLUSTERED, and MORE nervous, when i RAN in but everyone was very nice, so I popped downstairs for a Calming Pint... as Rhodri Marsden walked into the bar! I THINK I've met him once before, and was about to go over and say "HA! You made me LATE!" but realised in time that this MIGHT make me sound like a LOOONIE. So didn't.

Soon it was SHOWTIME and the first act on was Lance Gerrard-Wright a.k.a. "Mr Right" a.k.a. "Blimey Didn't He Used To Be Married To Ulrika Jonsson?" I felt a bit BAD for thinking that, as I guess did pretty much everybody in the room, as he told a long (12 minutes was widely ignored!) and suddenly SCARY story about being NEARLY KILLED IN BOSNIA! Then a young woman called Delia told a story about becoming, very briefly, a member of Flight Staff at Virgin Airways - I didn't realise they have to do so much training, including HOW TO COMB YOUR HAIR!

And then it was ME... and PHEW, it all seemed to go OK. I told that first story in FULL, even with a couple of extra bits along the way. I'd been a bit worried about the ending, because it just sort of STOPPED on a DOWN NOTE before, in the show, I'd do the proper introduction to the HIGH CONCEPT, so this time said about turning it all into a show, having so much fun that we went on to do Dinosaur Planet, and then THE BIG REVEAL of dedicating the song to Stuart, as he was "The Editor". Then I did I Did A Gig In New York and that was THAT.

I really REALLY enjoyed it - it's ages since I've done the storytelling BIT like that and, with a lovely, sitting down and listening, audience it was a JOY to do. I have to admit I even allowed myself the slightly big headed thought "I'm quite good at this" at the end - i know, it'll be dressing rooms full of puppies and M&Ms next - and went downstairs for a Pint Of The Well-Earned. I couldn't help but notice that I was CLEARLY the only person there actually in a band, as I got downstairs WAY before anybody else. In fact I ended up stood at the bottom of the stairs, like a Vicar after a service, saying "Oh, thanks very much!" as people came down and said nice things. I didn't mean to, honest!

Things got MOVING in a MOVING sense in the second half, as Jude told a story about her brother, Welsh Male Voice Choirs, and Robert Plant, which was ACE. Afterwards she said she never realised that, from the stage, you can't actually see people's faces - this was surprising to me, and made me think, once again, that people who write about music should be sent on a Being In A Band Boot Camp to get exactly that sort of insight. I am volunteering to LECTURE!

Finally Danny Brainin told a long, involving, beautiful story about holidays in Austria in a place tainted by Nazism and different reactions of members of his family to it - I don't really want to summarise that one as a) i don't think I could and b) if i did it would be GLIB, which the story wasn't. It wasn't DOUR either, it was v.funny too, but suddenly at the end everyone had TEARS in their eyes. It was LOVELY.

And that was that - all done, MUCH to my relief. All that was left to do was sit around and have a bit of a CHAT, which featured me saying "NO! You must go to INDIETRACKS!" quite a lot until Mr J Walsh LOOMED into view (as detailed by himself) and got HUGGED, before we headed off home into the night.

It was a BRILLIANT evening - little did I know it was going to be my last night of HEALTH for the next WEEK!

posted 20/1/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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Sick Note
Sorry for the lack of updates lately, I have been POORLY. Every so often I get a bout of Cellulitis as a result of having mild Psoriasis - usually when I'm KNACKERED. That's what happened on Thursday, so I followed the usualy Medical Advice and retired to my BED to watch DVDs (NB that last bit isn't actually part of the prescription, but still). This usually sorts it out within 24 hours but today, four days later, I'm STILL poorly! I AM on the mend at last tho, so things out to be back to normal soon, but it's been a bit virulent this time around.

It HAS meant that I've had a lot of time to lie around IN FEVER thinking up IDEAS tho, and my new Ideas Book is filling up at SPEED, so watch out - they'll be heading your way as soon as I'm BACK!

posted 18/1/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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Slowly And Surely Drawing Our Plans
Last night myself and Mr S Hewitt had our first OFFICIAL MEETING for this year's Edinburgh Fringe (And Other Festivals) CAMPAIGN. We are old hands at this by now but even so there was EXCITEMENT in the air because this year is going to be slightly different. Both My Exciting Life In ROCK and the first version of Dinosaur Planet have been one man shows. As anybody will tell you, attempting to do a fully scripted show about humans fighting Space Dinosaurs AND Giant Robots as a ONE MAN ROCK OPERA would be ridiculous. So we're doing it as a TWO MAN ROCK OPERA.

That's right, ladies of the nation rejoice, for the first time in about ten years Steve is going to be taking to the stage, and also SINGING. The plan is to recreate the text of the CONCEPT ALBUM on stage, acting out the whole thing using little but our TALENT... and a range of hats and WIGS. It will be GRATE!

The plan is to have a readthrough of the script, with Mr T "The Tiger" McClure and Mr J Kell in attendance - representing the other proposed VERSIONS of the show. It was SO interesting going to that writers' group with John the other week that I thought it might be useful to do it again with my version(s) of the show - if nothing else it should point out any GLARING ERRORS before I get people to actually record it.

It should also mean we can HONE it a bit before me and Steve have to sit down and a) divvy up the lines between us b) LEARN it. I'm still going to be doing the sort of STAND-UP version of the show when we're in Leicester (tickets available here, by the way) but after that we'll be moving into it being more of a SHOW.

Obviously we'll need to try it out a bit before we go, so we're going to attempt to do a MINI-TOUR of it in the summer. If anyone would like to book us do please let me know!

We discussed MANY ideas of how and where to do this, as well as agreeing WHERE we'd like to do it, how long for,and many many other Technical Neccesities, as well as a BIG IDEA that I've been discussing with some OTHER people which I shouldn't really discuss as yet. But if it works out, it will be GRATE!

High on the GIDDY THRILL of THEATRICAL HISTORY in the making we finished our beers and headed out EAST to go and see a Comedy Show near Old Street... only to find that the whole thing had been called off, because the audience comprised entirely of me and Steve. I made the point that comedians are thus BLOODY LIGHTWEIGHTS and that I personally have played to FAR less people than that, but it was pointed out, rather more politely than it might have been, actually, that stand-up comedy is meant to be a DIALOGUE, and that you can't do that very easily if there's nobody there.

Once again the difference between ROCK and Comedy were demonstrated and, as I walked home, I was glad to be staying over here on the ROCK side of the divide. It's nice to pop over to comedy and THE THEATRE every now and again, but it's oh so much nicer to come home!

posted 12/1/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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First Gig Of The Year
On Friday night The Bands On My Bill and I set out for our first gig of the year, at The Buffalo Bar.

The evening began DELIGHTFULLY as we had our TEA at Hummus Brothers. This is a really nice place, tho I wouldn't recommend it if you don't like Hummus as you get a LOT of Hummus. If you DO like Hummus tho, this is the place for you.

And people make a big fuss about reviewing restaurants! It's PEASY! Anyway, suitably full of the aforementioned HUMMUS we headed off to the afore-aforementioned Buffalo Bar to see The Bobby McGees. I think if you asked the pair of us to come up with a mutually agreed FAVOURITE BAND then The Bobby McGees would be IT, as they are SO VERY GRATE. They didn't let us down on Friday either, they were FAB.

It was the full line-up, which is something I've not seen very often, featuring additional bass, percussion, flute-type things and SAXOPHONE! SAXOPHONE! Just SEEING such a thing onstage makes me excitable, and hearing it PLAYED makes EVERYTHING seem sophisticated - except maybe Jimmy's singing, but still.

Blimey tho, they WORKED the gig HARD. The Buffalo Bar's a funny old place - it's probably the NOISIEST venue I've ever been in, to see bands or to place myself. Pretty much every time I've been there there's been a RIGHT old racket going on. I think it's something to do with the shape and low ceiling of the room, because even if someone's whispering very very quietly in the far corner it gets HUGELY AMPLIFIED so that, by the time it reaches the stage, it sounds like a CROWD. This of course forces/encourages other people to talk and so nearly always there LOTS of people around the edges talking and it sounds like EVERYBODY is.

I played SEVERAL times there before I learned not to take it personally, but this time there seemed to be a small added layer of Those People Who Go To Gigs To Talk Loudly. You know the sort of people I mean - they haven't come to see a band that they like or meet some pals, they've come out to Be At A Gig. "Wankers", to give them their correct name. There weren't MANY of them at all - INDEED, the room was soon full of LOADS of lovely people (SPOOKY THING: every time I mentioned someone in conversation they APPEARED five minutes later. I tried saying "McCartney McCartney McCartney" but this didn't work) - but the few who WERE there were making up for it. I guess it was because the gig had been Guardian Gig Of The Week that encouraged them to come, but I wish they hadn't. Especially the Posh Dickhead In A Cravat who stood behind me, BELLOWING WITLESSLY. I ended up having to give him HARD STARE.

Afterwards I congratulated Jimmy on his HARD ROCKING and he said that he'd FELT the noise - "I came as close as I ever have to asking people to be quiet" he said. I was SHOCKED. "You must never do that!" i exclaimed. "I know!" he said, "But I came close!"

Me and Jimmy are currently in Early Discussions about writing a BOOK together, about HOW TO BE IN A BAND. IMMENSE WISDOM such as "If you're on stage you must NEVER tell people the audience to be quiet" and the REASONS behind such PEARLS will be a KEY part of its appeal.

After them were The Tender Trap. I really like The Tender Trap now - I've never DISLIKED them particularly but, because they were around about 12 years ago when I was first gigging in That London i'd lumped them in with all the other bands I saw/didn't really like around then, without ever really seeing them. It was only when we supported them at JAMM last year that I realised they are actually DEAD GOOD. It was a shame we couldn't stay long enough to see much of their set, but now i know i LIKE them I will have PLENTY of further opportunities, I'm sure!

We couldn't stay because we had a DATE WITH TRAIN DESTINY. One of the JOYS but also the AGONIES of living in That London is the train network - when it works it is a DELIGHT but often it is also a NIGHTMARE. This time, however, was a WONDER as we timed it JUST right to get the tube from Highbury & Islington and get home, via The Overground, just 25 minutes later. That's about HALF the time it would usually take, and we rewarded ourselves with WHISKY to celebrate.

Hummus, gigs, beer, effective travel and WHISKY - a pretty good way to start the ROCKING YEAR, I think!

posted 11/1/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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CHEERIER ADDENDUM
Having just read back the previous blog entry, I should say that the only reason the two big lessons were a bit NEGATIVE is because all the FANTASIC and POSITIVE stuff that happened this year was all due to things I'm already hugely thankful for. I only got to have SO much fun because of the huge amount of lovely people that I know and hang around with, whether it's The Validators or the TONS of friends who come to gigs or the brilliant indie-types on THE BLOGOSPHERE or the GRATE promoters who gave us gigs or people like John The Publisher, Mr S Hewitt and The Totally Acoustic Regulars who made all SORTS of crazy SCHEMES happen, and ESPECIALLY because of The Rock Of My ROCK who not only LISTENED to all my GRATE IDEAS but also SUGGESTED a lot of them.

Being grateful for being surrounded by BRILLIANT people is a lesson I learned a long time ago, I hope I never forget it!

posted 7/1/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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What have we LEARNED?
For the past week or so I've been trying to get round to doing a REVIEW OF THE YEAR. I'm going to start doing the usual STAT ATAK in the next few days (people have ASKED about it! EXCITEMENT!) but I thought I might kick off this time with a bit of Qualitative Analysis first, to give A Broader Picture.

This plan, however, ran into a major stumbling block: I Really Can't Be Bothered. I did TRY, spending AGES going through January looking for TRENDS, and then yesterday just trying to summarise February and March, but BLIMEY: a LOT of things happened last year and just READING them was wearing me out.

So instead of that, here is, i think, the TWO major things I have LURNED this year. WISDOM AHOY!

1. DON'T DO SO MUCH ALL AT ONCE

This is pretty straightforward really - last year I did 69 gigs, including a couple of tours, gigs abroad, and several festivals. I did My Exciting Life In ROCK all over the place and then wrote Dinosaur Planet and did THAT in Edinburgh for a week. We finished recording the MERCURY PRIZE SHORTLISTED (hem hem) Regardez, Ecoutez Et Repetez then released it and publicised it ourselves (NB see point 2 for more details). I made THREE song videos and TWO trailers. I also wrote a whole OTHER album (DOUBLE album!) of songs as part of the continuing goodtimes of Trying To Write Songs For Albums!

I've probably missed something out in all of that - and that's all alongside maintaining a HOME LIFE and also a full-time JOB! It was all too much really, especially when being FAR TOO BUSY prevented me from enjoying chunks of it, and especially especially when I was spending week after week hardly ever being at home. THUS the lesson (hopefully) learned here is: DON'T DO SO MUCH ALL AT ONCE. The planet will not forget that MJ Hibbett & The Validators EXIST if we don't do any gigs for six month... i hope.

2. DON'T PAY PEOPLE WHO DON'T CARE TO DO THINGS YOU CARE ABOUT

Ooh, COUNTER-INTUITIVE ALERT! But stay with me, this'll make sense by the end. One of the big things I decided to do with Regardez, Ecoutez Et Repetez was to try and PUBLICISE it more. We've always done quite well off our own back, but I'd never managed to get much coverage in the mainstream print media, so decided to take on a PR Agency to help us out. Several people in The Know advised me AGAINST this, but I wanted to have a go, so spent a good while trying to find someone who'd do it for us and, when I'd chosen them, spent a LARGE sum of money paying for it.

I really REALLY should have listened to the people who told me not to. I basically paid two and a half grand for somebody to massively piss me off by completely cocking up the whole thing! The Words In My Press Release said to me, before I hired them, "Watch out, they'll often do the meetings beforehand with one of their best people and then fob you off with the office junior" and this seems to be exactly what happened. Here's a list of INIQUITY:
  • We were promised a couple of Lifestyle Features in proper newspapers and loads of reviews in the mainstream press. We GOT a cheesy article in The Weekly News and ONE review in the mainstream press. Amazingly, I'd arranged for this review MYSELF, only to have the PR agency almost BLOW IT, until I stepped in!

  • We were promised support for our album tour, including local newspaper reviews, interviews, and articles leading up to gigs. We got ONE feature in a Sheffield paper, on the day of the actual gig.

  • We were promised thinking "outside the box" to develop "innovative strategies". We GOT one suggestion, the day before we set off on tour: that I stand in the centre of the cities concerned and tell people jokes for an hour, to make them "be happy". When this was suggested it me I came as close as I ever have to throwing a telephone at a wall!!

  • We were promised regular contact and reaction to all events. We'd often go a fortnight without hearing anything and, when we got the 6Music Album Of The Day (due to my mailouts to radio...) they did nothing about it until about a week afterwards, when they sent out a spam mail.
  • And so it went on and on and on... the album got sent out to various Heavy Metal and Corporate Indie blogs and websites, so what few reviews they DID get for us were slagging it off. The reports they sent looked good - until i asked them NOT to include the stuff that I'D done, after which they became appalling. When I complained I got no response... until I spoke to the Director, after which they bought in A Top PR Guy and did a month's extra work. This achieved precisely NOTHING.

    It really was BLOODY AWFUL and, as you can probably tell, still makes me angry several months later. I'm probably extra annoyed because last week, SIX MONTHS after it all ended, I FINALLY got the press cuttings pack from them (after five emails!) which reminded me just how shit it'd been.

    And the thing is - it's not like it was a particularly difficult album to publicise. When I did my side of things it seemed to go OK - we got plenty or radio play, and the places that _I_ sent it to (you know - websites that review INDIE STUFF) all seemed to like it, and we DID get that Album Of The Day thing. The worst of it, for me, is knowing that when I've done all the press for PREVIOUS albums I've actually got a lot MORE from it!

    So there you go - that's the very VERY expensive lesson I learned, DON'T PAY PEOPLE WHO DON'T CARE TO DO THINGS YOU CARE ABOUT. Either do it yourself or, if you can find lovely people who are ON YOUR SIDE (like Proper, who do our distribution, or especially WipeOut, our publishers) go with them!

    posted 7/1/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Doctor No More
    This morning over breakfast (and then for ages afterwards) I sat down and watched THE END OF TIME (part two). My Dad taped it for me so I could watch it while I was down in Cornwall and I'd thought it'd been a) exciting b) a bit confusing and generally c) all right, but i KNEW that EVERY Dr Who Special has been a bit like that the first time round and (with the exception of The Next Doctor, which was a bit dull) is ALWAYS much better when watched SOBER and SOLO.

    Crikey tho, i didn't expect it to be THAT much better, it was AMAZING! I was TERRIFIED watching it, EXCITED, and then BLUBBING for the last 15 minutes, it was BLOODY GRATE. I've spoken to many people about it since it was on, many of whom have complained that it was SAGGY with loads of needless bits in it, which I initially agreed with, but now I see that that's what made it so AMAZING. It WASN'T a Single Drama that needed to have a beginning, middle, and end - ESPECIALLY this episode where part of the point of it was that it was AN end but not THE end. It's a continuing series of adventures - anything not explained this time is GOLD DUST for the future when it can be picked up and USED and makes you want to know more. And the fact that it IS like that means that they can also quite happily have BITS in it, like the whole Donna sub-plot, that are just there for the fun of seeing the characters again (ALTHO if The Mysterious Woman IS Donna then maybe there was more to it than that).

    I was sitting at the table BLOWING MY NOSE and WIPING A TEAR (NB not simultaneously) when i realised that, actually, Doctor Who is the nearest telly gets to COMICS, and specifically MARVEL COMICS. It's funny! It's sentimental! It features heroes who are HUMAN (whether they're ACTUALLY human or not) who DON'T boldly stride uncomplainingly to their doom but say "IT's NOT FAIR"... but then do it anyway. When Mr D Tennant said "I don't want to go" he was, basically, SPIDER-MAN - a proper real life hero who ISN'T PERFECT but does the right thing anyway.

    And, like Spider-Man (or spider-man done RIGHT anyway) the story will carry on, and be exciting, and funny, and lots of it will contradict other things, and it won't actually MATTER because there'll be something else along straight afterwards that will explain it, or remove it, or ignore it and do something else BRILLIANT instead.

    There's loads of rumours on-line that Mr S Moffat is trying to get Mr N Gaiman to write an episode - sod that, get STAN LEE in instead!

    posted 6/1/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Good Start
    Happy New Year everybody! Hope you've had a DELIGHTFUL Festive Break. Myself and The Dates In My Diary had a lovely start to the New Year, heading down to Cornwall to see my parents where we did some walking, some chatting, some drinking, and a LOT of eating. It was GRATE!

    Whilst down there, as is my WONT, I quickly checked my emails on my phone, and realised that on my first day back at work I was due to head out to ACTON to attend a Writers' Group with Mr J Kell. I'd completely forgotten about it, and so was SURPRISED to realise that this was going to be my very first gig of the decade! John's writing SCREENPLAYS and is doing a version of Dinosaur Planet to propose as an ANIMATION, so he'd invited me along to one of his regular meetings to SING the songs during a readthrough of an exerpt.

    HOWEVER, there'd been a slight change of plan - usually they have five or six readthroughs, but this time there might not be any as they were having a Guest Speaker in, the producer/director/author Chris Jones. To be entirely honest I felt a bit grumpy about it at first - here I was, on my first day back at work, TRAMPING for MILES across London in the COLD to go and sit in a ROOM where I might end up NOT even playing! BAH! But then I thought "Hang on, you're going to get a free seminar about scriptwriting from someone who's DONE it and continues to do so. This will be at LEAST interesting and maybe ADVANTAGEOUS. Come on Hibbett, let's GO!"

    After quite a lot of travel and COLDNESS I rolled up (a bit later) to the West London Trades Union Club, where I found about 25 people gathered in a COLD upstairs room, listening to the talk. It was VERY INTERESTING INDEED. It was basically about making a success of being a screenwriter but it was fascinating how much of it applied to The Crazy World Of ROCK too. It was a bit like a Motivational Speech really - there wasn't much about it where I thought "WOW! THAT'S a new idea!" but lots where I nodded HEARTILY along and thought "Yes! Yes, that is what i think too!"

    There was a really good bit where he recommended a NEW way of doing films - rather than struggling and trying to get into big corporate movie making, you could actually make films YOU wanted to make, distribute them yourself to a few hundred people, and be HAPPY doing that. You create the ART you want to and interact directly with people who LOVE it, rather than making probable crap for people who are unlikely to be particularly bothered. "THAT SOUNDS FAMILIAR", i thought, and it was GRATE to hear him speaking about it with Proper Respect, not seeing it as a cop-out or easy option, but as a valid way of doing things. "This is the way things are moving" he said, and he's not wrong.

    The Motivational Aspect was basically him saying you've just got to DO it - and KEEP doing it, and then "luck" and ability will eventually flow from that which, again, EXPERIENCE has shown me to be correct. While he was saying all this I started to think "Hang on! Perhaps THIS is the 'lucky chance' of which he speaks! Maybe if i offer CHEEKILY to buy him a PINT he will feel indebted enough to listen to our READTHROUGH - then he'll LOVE it and make the film!"

    I was a bit alarmed when, almost directly after this, he said "The way to get people to read your stuff is BUY THEM PRESENTS, then they'll feel the owe you something!" GOOD ADVICE, but a bit spooky - i got a bit nervous, SHOULD i really do this? "You've GOT to get over feeling scared about talking to people, and just DO it!" he said. SO, when he finished and said "Any Questions?" the second - and LAST - of the questions asked was "Would you like a drink?" asked by ME.

    He LARFED but then i got him a cup of TEA - MOVIE FORTUNE AWAITED! I was now DETERMINED that John and I would get our readthrough - i used to get a bit like this in Olden Times at ROCK events, where Famous People would appear and my MIND would DISSOLVE into PANIC about whether or not I should say hello or not, in case they thought i was the kind of git who JUST says hello to people in order to try and get something out of them. I'm generally a LITTLE bit better about that now, and hopefully don't act like SUCH a wazzock, but this time he'd explicitly SAID you had to try and interact with people to GET stuff.

    THUS I got John to come and stand near the organiser so I could listen out for any mention of the second half, and when it came up made myself visible and a bit STARY to try and REINFORCE the idea that i'd come MANY MILES to do this and that we should therefore get to do our BIT. As I say, I felt a bit of a TIT doing this, but it WORKED! There WOULD be time for ONE readthrough, and it would be US!

    Actually it worked a bit too well, as Mr Jones did a big BIT comparing John to the traditional hero of HERO'S JOURNEY, ricking his script being rubbish but DETERMINED to make it. I didn't mean to LAND John in it QUITE so much, but was pleased we were getting the chance to DO this.

    Once the second half of the seminar was over John LEAPT up to distribute scripts, I tuned up, and John introduced us. Various people from the group were reading parts and I was singing the relevant songs, and we WHISKED through a chunk featuring My Theory Of A Dinosaur Planet, We Are The Giant Robots, Dinosaurs Talk Like Pirates and We Are The Dinosaurs. I REALLY enjoyed it - it was EXTREMELY interesting hearing the words - some of mine, some of John's, and some a mix - being said out loud and realising what worked and what didn't, and also in hearing the different readers' different interpretations of it. Some were brilliant - some less so!! And obviously I ESPECIALLY enjoyed the songs, NOTHING will ever replace SHOWING OFF as my Favourite Thing To Do!

    Afterwards we had some discussion and feedback, the BIG point being that, if this was going to be an animation, it needed more action and less standing around talking. I'd never even considered this before, but it made a lot of sense - the one man show version and the radio/concept album version currently being recorded both have LOTS of talking and Explaining What Is Happening because it has to, as there's no pictures, but this'll have to go in PRECISELY the opposite direction. AHA!

    The Chairman then asked Mr Jones for his thoughts - be he said he hadn't really listened, as he'd had to answer an email. GAH! Bang goes THAT daydream of BEST MOVIE SOUNDTRACK OSCAR! Still, we did hang around for a bit afterwards and i DID do that thing of Lurking Nearby Someone Until You Can Force A CD On Them - well, he DID say you had to have Business Cards always to hand to give people, and it DOES have my email address on it!

    The NICEST thing tho was a chap who came over and said that him and his old flatmate had used to listen to my records when they were getting DRUNK, as said flatmate was a fan. AAAH! That was LOVELY - it really made my night that, suddenly bumping into someone who a) KNEW b) LIKED my stuff. I was all pleased!

    Less pleasing was the COLD outside, but we soon hopped onto a bus and then i FLEW home from Shepherds Bush station. I got home FLUSHED with pleasure, it had been an unexpectedly FASCINATING evening and a GRATE start to a - hopefully - DECADE of ROCK!

    posted 5/1/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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