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Blog Archive: November 2010

Newsletter Day
As we say a fond (ish) farewell to one long-standing aspect of our INTERWEB ROCK we also say "Carry on, you're doing very well!" to ANOTHER, for LO! it is the last working day of the month and so time once more for The Last Working Day Of The Month, our ever reliable newsletter.

It's a PACKED programme of excitement this time, with gigs, Christmas news and ALL sorts. If I hadn't written it myself I would be ASTOUNDED that you could pack so much in! Actually, i still AM astounded - and this is before we even launch the CHRISTMAS ALBUM! ZOINKS!

posted 30/11/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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A Farewell To Tom
On Monday I asked on these very pages whether I should just pack in Myspace and was THRILLED to find these THORTS garnering more comments than anything I'd ever THORT before.

And ALL of them were basically saying "Yes, it's rubbish". INTERESTINGLY I learn from the comment of Mr T Eveleigh that things are even worse than I thought, in that the GIGS bit where you could list the GIGS you and/or your band would be putting on (you know, one of the main plus points OF Myspace) is now NOT THERE ANYMORE! Amazingly, in their idiotic rush to try and be a crapper version of every other social networking site, RAMMED together, they have changed one of their ONLY SELLING POINTS so that now you have to create an "event" for each gig and then invite people. WELL DONE TOM.

I DID get one comment over on the Myspace version of this blog, from Mr A Fisher, who said it took him AGES just to type in a comment saying it was crap. I only know this because I perservered for five minutes trying to GET to the comment as Myspace had logged me out, then refused to work, and then I had to navigate through a vast field of EXPANDING ADVERTS which COVERED UP WHAT I WAS TRYING TO GET TO. Honestly, sometimes trying to use Myspace is like playing OPERATION, delicately trying not to IGNITE RHIANNA or something when you're just trying to read an email.

So I think that's going to be pretty much IT for Myspace. I'm not going to delete the site or anything, but I AM going to stop updating it with these blogs and will ATTEMPT to put some kind of auto-redirect on, in the unlikely event that anyone DOES ever send me a message again that ISN'T "We are a h0t neww rapp act, chek uz out!". I think I'll keep the songs there too, so that in the distant future when the whole thing has fallen to dust Web Archeologists, fresh from the Geocities Excavations, can go back and see what the web was like in the distant days of last year.

Farewell then, Tom from Myspace - it was fun while it lasted!

posted 30/11/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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Unsuitable For Minors
When I bumped into my friend and colleague Mr S Hewitt outside The Green Dragon in Croydon at 3pm on Saturday we were feeling pretty pleased with our timekeeping. We were due to do the first of TWO shows at 4pm - a children's matinee performance of Dinosaur Planet and here we were an hour early! Well done us!

Imagine our surprised/dismay then when we got to the door and found a poster saying we were starting at TWO o'clock. URK! I'd sent the poster as a DRAFT several MONTHS ago but had since had emails saying FOUR o'clock (honest!) so we hotfooted it upstairs to find a fairly large group of parents and toddlers patiently waiting for us.

Yes - TODDLERS. Or YOUNGER. When originally spoken of we'd thought it'd be DELIGHTFUL to do the show for 8-10 year olds, as they're an age group who we'd previously found to ENJOY and UNDERSTAND the story and especially get all excited towards the end. TODDLERS, also BABYS, however - just how much interest were they going to HAVE in the importance of good academic research?

We were lucky to have Ms Jenny Lockyer in attendance, as she FLEW around setting up the stage, putting down cushions for the kids and, VITALLY, intently watching the show and APPLAUDING at appropriate times, for LO! it was not perhaps our most AUSPICIOUS performance. The parents did GAMELY laugh along for the first ten minutes or so, but I think they may have realised even before US that this CLEARLY was not going to work. The children wondered off, the parents tended to them, and so all the bits about VIOLENT MURDER and the ripping apart of bodies went THANKFULLY unheard.

We did quite enjoy ourselves in a slightly perverse "What a crazy situation!" kind of way, and I must say I was EXTREMELY proud of the way Mr Hewitt conducted himself - when he eventually leaves my tutelage he will surely be the equal to ANYONE in the Carrying On Regardless And With Good Humour STAKES. Well done sir, well done!

We DID miss out the whole explanation about Iridium bit, as I REALLY didn't think there was much point, but DID do the whole rest of the show, and went downstairs afterwards with heads held high for a WELL deserved pint, certain in the knowledge that we really are NOT Children's Entertainers.

There followed some BEER, some DISCUSSION, a farewell to Jenny (heading into town for her OWN gig) and a HELLO to Mr Tim Eveleigh, with whom we journeyed through Croydon for a CURRY. We know how to TOUR, me and Steve.

We headed back to The Green Dragon ready for our SECOND show of the day, scheduled to start at 8pm. We got upstairs on the dot of 8pm to find an audience of... NO-ONE! We decided to give it ten minutes and then, if nobody came, have another BEER and go home. It would be WRONG of me to pretend that this prospect wasn't at least SLIGHTLY attractive, but Tim went for a wander and found four people who had come to see us, so the show was ON. First of all thought there was a STAND-UP section, as me, Tim, Steve and 25% of the audience took it in turns to stand on the stage and tell a joke. This was BLOODY GRATE, and entirely set the tone for the MUCKING ABOUT that was to follow. For LO! now that we actually KNOW the show it's become rather ENJOYABLE (as opposed to SCARY previously) to do it after a few BEERS and we have space to get a bit LAIRY and a) mess around b) PLAY UP some parts and generally c) have a LOT of fun!

We certainly DID do that, and our four person audience (along with the man who watched most of the first 20 minutes, the various people who came up for small bits, and MAYBE the pair of blokes who got to the top of the stairs, saw two GIANT ROBOTS across the room, and went straight back down again) seemed to have a jolly good time too. HOORAH! Afterwards we settled down for a final pint and a chat with Tim, also Jenny who'd returned from her OWN gig at high speed, before heading off into the night and home once more.

Never let it be said that I am the kind of TRAINING PROVIDER who gives dull, same-y work to his apprentices!

posted 29/11/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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To Myspace No More?
If you're reading this over on the Myspace version of the blog you'll probably have noticed that Myspace has had yet another redesign recently, apparently in an attempt to make it even LESS helpful, user friendly and easy to update than it already was. A NOBLE GOAL and one which, amazingly, they have MORE than achieved. Well done, Tom Myspace, well done!

This isn't me having a MOAN about Things Changing - well, it is a bit, but I mean not in the way that people BLEAT about Facebook making small adjustments or Twitter changing the order of their buttons or whatever. I would have LOVED it if Myspace had ever changed for the better, but over the years it has gradually got worse and worse. The trouble was that it was SO poorly designed to begin with that people started creating HACKS to make it a bit more customisable... HACKS that gradually became part of the system, with extra added FUDGES built in, only to be all WIPED AWAY by overall updates which destroyed loads of work the users had put in. It's been pretty much an object lesson in How Not To Do A User Centre Webpage Thingy.

The fact that it TOOK OFF so MASSIVELY and for such a long while is a testament to what a GOOD IDEA it was to make webpages for bands (and people who liked them) relatively easy to get going and link up together, so good in fact that the CRAPNESS of the system didn't put people off. But these sort of things don't HAVE to STAY rubbish - I mean, look at YouTube as a GOOD example. Another BRILLIANT idea which has remained true to its basic purpose but gradually got better and better at the thing it is supposed to do. Uploading videos this week I've been AMAZED by how quick and easy it's become, by how much the quality has improved, and at the little improvements (e.g. the different privacy settings you can have) they've made. It was a good thing made gradually BETTER.

Also these days you don't really NEED myspace - there's a ton of social networks that are MUCH more easily used, and HUGELY better places for keeping your music online. I believe I may have occasionally mentioned the MAJESTY of our Bandcamp site now and again, for example.

What I'm building up to here is saying out loud something i have been MUSING upon for a while i.e. Shall I just abandon the myspace page? Does anyone actually VISIT it, apart from (it seems at the moment) people selling badges and American rappers who can't spell? I always update the BLOG but DOES anyone read it there? And would they mind awfully coming over to the main webpage version instead?

I mean, I'll keep the page open and put LARGE re-directs all over it pointing people here instead, but IS there any point in doing anything else there? I haven't updated the GIGS bit for months, for instance - does anyone actually USE that? Any comments would be very VERY welcome - stick them HERE if you have a THORT, I would be most grateful for it!

posted 26/11/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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Podcast is GO!
Yesterday I spent a load MORE time goggling at the computer screen, this time with boggly eyes AND ears as I edited together the Totally Acoustic podcast. It's a COMPLEX TASK anyway, with all the different bits of formatting and LOGGING you need to do to get it online and into iTunes, but it's always made all the more difficult when I have to decide WHICH songs to include and which to leave out. Every time I do it i think "I'll keep that other one for the SPECIALS at the end" - I'm going to do a couple of SPECIAL shows early in the new year, using the best of the tracks that didn't get into the regular podcast - but I've a feeling deciding THAT might be even more difficult!

Anyway, the result of this EFFORT is that the latest podcast is now available to download! It is, tho I say so myself, something of a CRACKER, hope you enjoy it!

posted 25/11/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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Totally Acoustic
I arrived at The Lamb last night to find there had been NO talk this time of any double bookings. PHEW! I DID notice that the bar manager now had his arm in a SLING though, so maybe there had been other, less DELIGHTFUL, altercations?

Anyway, Mr S Hewitt and I went upstairs and got the room sorted out as The Acts speedily arrived along with a whole bunch of OTHER people. I'd been worrying (as usual) beforehand that nobody'd be there, but in the end it was quite PLUMPLY STUFFED. I was still nervous when I went on to get things started - see if you can work out why from my setlist:

  • Totally Acoustic
  • Praise The Traffic Warden
  • Call The Lyric Police
  • Being Happy Doesn't Make You Stupid
  • Everybody Let's Get Together
  • We're The Mars Men Of Jupiter
  • Where Is My Torch?
  • Hey Hey 16K
  • I Can See Clearly Now The Rain Has Gone

  • Yes, it was a set containing a MASSIVE pile of songs I'd not done for YEARS or, in a couple of cases, EVER BEFORE in the live environment. I'm going to TRY and do this whole run of Totally Acoustics without repeating a song - this seemed like a COOL PLAN when i thought of it, but it does have some arguments against e.g. it's not like many people are going to COME to all of them, and for everyone on the podcast MOST of my stuff gets edited out anyway, so i COULD repeat myself and try and do some of the songs I did WRONG the first time around RIGHT.

    On the other hand, consciously having to think of different songs to do has led to a LOVELY trip through my back catalogue, bringing out LOTS of songs that, actually, it'd be nice to do a bit more often anyway. The three old songs I dragged out of retirement tonight (Praise The Traffic Warden, Where Is My Torch? and ESPECIALLY Call The Lyric Police) are ones I'd LOVE to get back into the normal set... if there ever comes a time after Dinosaur Planet, Moon Horse, etc etc when i DO normal gigs again, of course!

    It also means i'm a bit more likely to try out EXPERIMENTAL STUFF, like CROWDSOURCING a version of Everybody Let's Get Together that made up for that song's lack of verses (AT ALL) by getting everybody in the room to join in in various different ways. It was surprisingly ACE, especially the recorded version (I'm MULTITASKING by listening to the recording as i type this!)... which is perhaps more than can be said for my RASH decision to try out We're The Mars Men Of Jupiter in the LIVE ARENA. Hmm. That's a song which, i think, does not work quite as well without The Breakdancing.

    Next up were Fakebit Polytechnic, doing not only THEIR debut gig, but Totally Acoustic's debut ELECTRONIC performance. We'd had some intense NEGOTIATION about how this would work - I'd initially insisted they use BATTERIES, but was brought round to the use of adaptors for the use of THE ENVIRONMENT and eventually agreed that as they weren't plugging anything into an amplifier and singing in our normal way then it was FINE.

    Actually, it was more than just fine, it was FANTASTIC. I had no idea what'd be happening - all I knew that they had been doing quite a LOT of practicing, and that The Dave Green had been comprehensively CASING THE JOINT by coming to all the other shows this time around. Imagine my relief, then, when they started up with a brilliant set of rather HILARIOUS, generally tech-based songs mixing beats, keyboards, acoustical guitars, SINGING and general WARMTH and GOOD TIMES. Surely the most GRATE "Confrontational Electroclash Duo" that I've ever seen!

    After the usual short break (during which i got alarmingly EMOTIONAL about the prospect of the Queen dying...) Ms Jenny Lockyer took to the stage. BY HECK but she was good - listening back to her tracks I've been amazed by the guitar playing and how lovely her singing is, because you don't actually NOTICE those things when she's playing, as you get all caught up in the stories she's telling. I always ALWAYS say that there is a J Lockyer shaped GAP in our national television schedules, which should be filled by her CHARMING and entire NATION. Nobody who'd seen her getting a whole room full of Gruff London Types to BLOW like a GENTLE WIND on her direction - or, indeed, see her descend to the floor at the CLIMAX of "Chocolate Cake" - would be in any doubt of her POWER. I've rarely seen a room full of such GRINS as I did after she'd finished her set, it was LOVELY.

    With all that done proceedings proceeded as usual to a bit of an old chat. We were BLESSED to have the presence of Mr Paul Clarke aka Nice Guy Pauly aka Pauly Popex, and as we REMINISCED at some volume about The Early Days Of The Interweb we realised that, actually, much of the very earliest UK Interweb people were here in the room. Still going to pubs, still talking a load of old bollocks, still shouting about the precise moment that Belle & Sebastian stopped being brilliant, and still having a whole lot of fun. Long may it continue!

    posted 24/11/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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    Putting The Hours In
    One of the MAJOR effects of doing the podcasts for Totally Acoustic has been to make me KEENLY AWARE of the fact I need to PRACTICE if I'm going to play some DIFFERENT songs. I have a whole BATCH of the above that I'm intending to do at tonight's gig, so last night had a PROPER practice of the LOT. TWICE!

    I am nothing if not the consumate professional, and this was further demonstrated by me doing a metric TONNE of further work on the Christmas single over the course of the rest of the evening. Possibly due to the over-enthusiastic use of a MEGA WATTAGE light source there was the occasional bit of GLARE in the video, so I spent an hour or so going through it FRAME BY FRAME to remove the ones with flashes in, and stretch the ones either side slightly to cover the gap.

    It made me go a bit BOGGLY EYED, and made me realise that maybe that's why Aardman Animation characters LOOK that way. Nick Parks always seems to me to be one of those artists who look like they were DRAWN by themselves (an excellent example of this is Chris Weston of 2000AD/The Twelve, but there are many MANY others). Have you ever seen him and Wallace together? Oh, well, yes... yes, I suppose you have (A LOT) but still: whenever I see Wallace And Gromit I always think of pictures of Nick Parks looking excited and a bit boggly eyed, and now I realise that he's probably BECOME that way due to STARING at frame by frame animations for too long.

    ANYWAY, that's how I felt, but it didn't stop me carrying on with some further retouching, finishing off with an end credits sequence that filled me with DELIGHT. I wanted to base it on old BBC credits from the 1970s/80s, so had a look at a bit of "Ivor The Engine". That's guaranteed to make ANYONE well up a bit, but I was still surprised to find my little heart SWELL to BURSTING when I saw how nice it looked having "(C) MJH&V MMVIIIII" at the bottom of the screen.

    OLD PEOPLE: you know what I mean. PEDANTS: I know, but MMX looked far too diddy.

    The key point here is that i think this video is going to be LOVELY when it's finally finally finished. There's still some minor adjustments to make to the sound mix, and probably to the film itself, but we're very close. Release day will be Monday December 13th, i think, so mark it on your ADVENT CALENDARS now!!

    posted 23/11/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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    Another Action and ROCK packed weekend
    After work on Friday I headed once more to Islington, there to meet Mr J Kell for another meeting about the Dinosaur Planet screenplay what we are writing. This time it was a PLANNING EXERCISE to work out what to do now we have got a BLOODY GRATE draft worked out, and we came up with several SCHEMES to move us forward - though if anybody out there has any HOT HINTS about what we could DO with our script (NOT THAT SORT OF THING) do let me know. We thirst for knowledge!

    After brief, EXCITING, discussion of our NEXT project (It involves MOON HORSE!) we then adjourned to The Lexington - the pub we were in had obviously decided there were TOO MANY people having TOO MUCH of a nice time, so dropped down a HUGE screen and started showing rugby, causing a MASS EXODUS. Well done, The Pub!

    After further chat at said Lexington I went upstairs to see Keith Top Of The Pops And His Minor UK Indie Celebrity Allstar Backing Band. They were MAGNIFICENT - about FIFTEEN people all on stage, sounding GRATE. The sound engineer did a MARVELLOUS job, so that it sounded HUGE and EXCITING rather than A Bit Confusing (as it could EASILY have done, especially as it involved a BRASS section). I've said it before and will doubtless say it again, but the thing with Keith TOTP's stuff is that it is ALMOST hidden behind the gimmick. "A band made up of various scene types from London bands, playing songs some of them have never heard before? That sounds like THE WORST THING EVER!" you might be moved to say. You would be well within your rights to think so, but it WORKS because the SONGS he's written are so brilliant. If there WAS no gimmick this would be even clearer to see, but then again the gimmick is SO much fun it would be a shame not to. It was like watching a huge celebratory JAM at the end of a massive charity gig, except REALLY GOOD, and when they did "Two Of The Beatles Are Dead", with added "Hey Jude" over the end it would have been a COLD HEART INDEED who could have failed to GRIN like a LOON.

    Saturday found me at the MIXING DESK, working on The 29th Day Of December. The deadline for vocals had passed so I set to work mixing it all together. It was a LOT of work - i see now why CHOIRS tend to be recorded EN MASSE rather than one by one, it's HARD to get it right. ALSO hard to get right was my lead vocal, and it took a LOT of coaching by The Melody Of My Tune to get it JUST right. The mix went off to The Vlads for comments and then was duly adjusted/tidied up, and on Sunday I spent some time FINESSING the actual video. I reckon it's all pretty much DONE the difficult thing now is to hold back on SHOWING OFF about it, it's GRATE!

    Before I'd got THAT done, however, I went out YET AGAIN - yes, that's right, i went out three nights in a ROW! - to meet The Hodgkisses for a BEER and then a trip to How Does It Feel To Be Loved? I have to report that i did NOT shake my funky THANG at this point, largely because the effort of THREE nights out was all a bit much, and I needed to get HOME and to my BED, but a LOVELY night out was had. It's quite an exciting rarity for me to just GO OUT on a Saturday night, not having any business of ROCk to attend to, and it was a HECKLOAD of fun!

    And then it was back to WORK - doing the various EDITING mentioned above and ALSO having a practice for Totally Acoustic tomorrow night. Is it me, or do I seem to have a LOT of different stuff on the go at the moment?

    posted 22/11/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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    Cardiff
    I'd arranged to meet my gentleman apprentice near Paddington Bear on the station concourse yesterday, ready to head off to Cardiff, but got into a bit of a panic when I realised I couldn't find the statue. THIS was pretty much the only thing that even NEARLY went wrong (I rang him. He was just round the corner) in an EXTREMELY smooth running section of TOUR.

    Even the train journey, even on First Great Western, was FINE. We ZOOMED along in our pre-booked seats. I'd not bothered to pre-book before, as there were no cheap tickets, but as Steve pointed out doing it this way at least meant we were guaranteed to get a SEAT. "Perhaps the apprentice can teach the master something?" he said later, when i commented on how much better it was. I made him do 20 laps of the sports field for CHEEK. In my head.

    We got to Cardiff and checked into the Ibis where They Had Give Me My Usual Room. I opened the curtains thinking "I wonder how far away the venue is?" to be answered IMMEDIATELY with "It's just there, over the road." HOOPLA! We regrouped and strolled over, bumping into Mr and Mrs Hodgkiss as we did so. We dropped off our GEAR, and whilst doing so told the venue chap that THAT was our soundcheck. He thought we were joking but we disabused of this notion by UPPING STICKS and heading off to WEATHERSPOONS, saying hello to Josh The Promoter as we went. Cardiff appeared to be FULL of people we knew!

    Now, normally I would avoid Weatherspoons, as I think they create BORING pubs where all people want is CHEAP BOOZE... but it WAS curry night, and the beer WAS a) very nice b) exceedingly cheap, and there WAS four of us having a jolly old time, so this time - THIS time, Mr Weatherspoon - i made an exception. Cor though, it really WAS cheap, and the curry was Surprisingly Pleasant. Duly jollied along and fed we wandered back to Cafe Gwdihw (pronounced "goody-who" it is BRILLIANTLY Welsh for "Owl"!) where we enjoyed DEAD SOPHISTICATED White Beer with a slice of ORANGE in it! OOH!

    A couple of other acts were laid on, so we eventually started at the Unusually Late (for us) time of 10PM, and so we were Slightly More ENHANCED by sophisticated beer than we usually would be. Thankfully we have done the show ENOUGH that this didn't really (i don't think) harm the running of things, although I have to confess that my ACTING SKILLS did occasionally defeat me, as I forgot i was meant to be doing THE ACTING and instead stood there GRINNING.

    We'd intended to do the whole thing on the mini-stage, but once we'd started it felt like we were MILES away from the audience, so i took the unilateral decision to step OFF the stage and into the space at the front. Unfortunately this meant I was stood in front of the DOOR, so we did have a few unexpected interruptions as people came in or left but, actually, that was quite good fun. My FAVOURITE bit was when one of The Giant Robots CHASED someone from the building. He's building his part more and more every time we do it, is that Giant Robot.

    It was all HEAPS of fun, and everyone else seemed to enjoy it too, so that we sat back for a relaxing fancy pint afterwards with loads of smiling faces. Best of all, it was only a two minute walk back to bed when it was all over - a MASSIVE victory for all concerned on all points. Well done team!

    posted 19/11/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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    My Trumpet, Blown
    Very very occasionally - rarely much more than once or twice a day, and ONLY for Market Research purposes, of course - i have been known to GOOGLE myself. I've been doing this slightly more regularly than usual just lately to see if any reviews of Forest Moon Of Enderby have come through, and LO! one has, over on the All Music Guide, courtesy of the ever delightful Mr N Raggett.

    I was very pleased to see him highlight The Other Rush Hour, as that's MY favourite, and also to see the large number of band-related songs mentioned, as it's something i have thought about quite a bit, since putting all the tracks together. The REASON there's QUITE that many songs about Band Stuff on the album is that I've always tried to stop us from having TOO many of them on the actual albums, for fear of being compared to Half Man Half Biscuit and found WANTING. It DOES get a bit much having, at my count, five songs on the album about that sort of thing, but hopefully the huge pile of NON-Band songs on Hibbett's Superstore make up for it. Maybe,

    Also discovered during the frenzied googling is this really rather moving discussion on A Fog Of Ideas all about... well, ME. It was a lovely thing to read and there were all sorts of bits where I thought "Oh good, I'm glad that came across", and especially having Tell Me Something You Do Like being a CATALYST. MOST gratifying, perhaps, is the very idea that my involvement with Cha Cha 2000 was the thing that made someone reconsider their earlier assessment of my OUVRE - as I have doubtless told THE ENTIRE WORLD about a MILLION TIMES, that was all very exciting then disappointing, at the time, so it's lovely that DELIGHTFULNESS should come from it.

    But actually my FAVOURITE bit is the idea that someone singing openly and frankly OPTIMISTIC songs in a ROCK environment is INFINITELY more challenging than a bunch of dour sods feeding back at grumpily high volumes and claiming to be "experimental". TOO BLOODY RIGHT!

    So yes, perhaps unsurprisingly, I heartily agreed with almost all of an article saying i am DEAD GOOD. I do, however, disagree with one particular aspect - there's nothing wrong with a bit of Richard Digance now and again!

    posted 18/11/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Trip To The Royal Society
    Last night I met The Subject Of My Talk outside THE ROYAL SOCIETY, where we were intending to go to a LECTURE. She'd seen Opening the information floodgates: the technologies and challenges of a web of linked data mentioned on Twitter and thought it looked interesting, so off we went.

    I was amazed to find that ANYONE could go to the talk, and were all treated extremely well, gently shephered through the LOVELY old building down to a dead posh lecture hall. We were soon joined by my baby brother AKA The Artist Tom Smith just before Professor Nigel Shadbolt started up.

    I thought it might be quite interesting but BY GOLLY it was INCREDIBLE! All SORTS of fascinating ideas, thoughts, predictions and analysis were thrown around about the development and FUTURE of The Semantic Web - I'll not explain it HERE because, to be honest, my BRANE hasn't calmed down enough to sort it all out properly, but it was BRILLIANT. Even the questions at the end were GRATE! You know how normally after a talk people get up and ask one of EITHER ask a stupid question which was answered in the first five minutes of the talk and every ten minutes thereafter OR basically say "I am very important and wish to stand up in front of everybody, at some length"? It wasn't like that at ALL! Nearly every question led the entire audience to go "OOH, good point!" and then Prof.Shadbolt to say "Aha! Very interesting!" and BE very interesting.

    It was just brilliant, and a fantastic reminder of just HOW MANY exciting FREE things there are to do in That London. With our brains BUZZING the three of us went round the corner to a really REALLY nice pub where we found ourselves unexpectedly engaged in a LONG DISCUSSION about various highbrow topics. You know when you're a student and nearly every conversation involves SOMEONE saying "Well, of course, it was HEGEL that said it first"? It was like THAT, but with more LARFS and quite a lot of ACTUAL BEER.

    By HECK but it was a delightful evening... and if there is a little bit of muddy headiness round here today it is at least HALF caused by a huge influx of new information. I think it's going to be available to STREAM from the website soon - have a look, it was GRATE!

    posted 17/11/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Tour In A Day
    Saturday found myself and Mr Hewitt gathering together once again to embark upon a BRAVE NEW IDEA: The Tour In A Day!

    It's a highly complex, detailed idea, but the very very rough layman's version of it is this: doing a gig in the afternoon AND the evening of the same day, in different places. "But that breaks all laws of science known to man!" I hear you HOWL. That is as maybe, but we at the cutting edge of ROCK SCIENCE know no boundaries of experiment!

    The first gig of the day was at The Victoria in Birmingham, a LOVELY old fashioned multi-roomed pub the like of which I haven't seen for AGES. Having got Super Cheapo tickets on the Virgin Train (designed by a MADMAN who had never used a luggage rack, clearly) we BOUNDED down the side of the station and into the pub where we met Mr R Kirkham. Beer was enjoyed, chat was exchanged, the room was set up and FOOD was eaten. Ray had kindly brought us a JUG O'PASTA that he had made and which was PRECISELY what was required to keep us going through the rest of the day.

    Having FED I went downstairs to see if anyone had turned up, and THEY HAD! There was a whole HEAP of people who'd come especially to see us, which was EXTREMELY gratifying at such a WEIRD time for a gig, and I gently shepherded them upstairs ready for the show, full of GLEE.

    The gig itself was LOTS of fun (NB for ME, i mean, i cannot speak for anyone else but they seemed to enjoy it too!), even if SOME members of the Onstage Team forgot how to play one of the songs... it had, after all, been about a WEEK since I'd last played them, i can't be expected to remember EVERYTHING! Other than that it all went rather smoothly, and it was a happy, if sweaty, Hibbett and Hewitt who FELL upon the PINTS that Ray (special guest star AND top promoter) had nipped down to fetch us. HOORAH!

    A bit of beer and a bit of chat later we headed off to the train station again and thence to NORTHAMPTON, where we arrived to find the IBIS was only five minutes from our disembarkation point. We checked in, SETTLED, then headed out into the night for GIG TWO: The Nook Cafe, in The Fishmarket.

    As it really WAS a former fishmarket it was FREEZING, tho heaters in the Cafe bit gradually sorted us out. WHAT a nice place it was - a proper cosy "arty" cafe with board games and annuals and a range of furniture and crockery. Almost as soon as we got in I had a CUP OF TEA, and the evening followed that DELIGHTFUL trajectory throughout, as lovely people (many of whom i DIDN'T EVEN KNOW!) came strolling in. We'd decided, as earlier on, to do without PA system and our SUPPORT for the evening, Mr Winston Echo, did the same. As well as GRATE songs he this time ALSO did a READING, with some passages from Ivor Cutler's autobiography. It made the whole event feel even MORE Arty, also FAB.

    After a brief break me and Steve took to the stage once more, and had a WHALE of a time. SINGING everything earlier on made us a lot more confident about what we were doing, and also somehow made the actual SINGING feel better too. Honestly, at some points I was tempted to go MARIAH CAREY on everybody's ASS, THAT is how much i was enjoying the singing!

    Afterwards someone said "Have you ever thought about using harmonies when the two of you are singing?" and my DIVA-ESQUE dream crumbled as I had to admit that i always get too DISTRACTED when someone else does harmonies and end up following them, like an piece of tissue paper on a damp shoe.

    Apart from that all the conversation afterwards appeared to be of ENJOYMENT, as everyone seemed to have fun - although i was STUNNED to hear the "keep the conversation off galactic emigration" line FAIL to get a BIG LARF (it always has done before! i was shocked!) everything else had STOMPED along, and so we fell into a jolly round of Having Another Beer and Thinking Ourselves KINGS OF THE WORLD.

    Soon everything was packed up and we made our way across town to The Lamplighters for another beer, wherein i bumped into a couple of members of The Retro Spankees, and ended up talking about a) syncopated clapping b) how AMAAAZING it is being in a band. It was GRATE!

    Next morning, however, it was a TIRED Hibbett who woke up at the usual post-beers Ridiculous O'Clock and got the BUS to Milton Keynes (NOTE TO SELF: Never try and use trains on a Sunday if you can help it). Tired, but also VERY HAPPY. Turns out A Tour In A Day actually WORKS!

    posted 16/11/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Black Heart
    Now that I have taken on Young Steve as my assistant/apprentice/work experience lad/driver's mate (select according to taste) I feel it is important to give The Lad the full GAMUT of ROCK EXPERIENCE. It would be awful if, when I send him out into the world armed with his NVQ in GIGOLOGY to embark upon his solo career in Modern Dance, he thought "All gigs are EASY and FUN! HOORAH!" for LO! he would fall into his despair at his first rough Jam Night.

    This intention is not only WORTHY, it's also very handy for all concerned when we do A Bit Of A Tough Gig, as we did on Friday. We met at The Black Heart in Camden to play at the launch gig for the third issue of Solipsistic Pop, a rather ACE, also POSH LOOKING, comic. I was DEAD excited about it - GIGS and COMICS are two of my favourite things, and the whole organisation of it was LOVELY. I met Tom, who was organising it, who turned out to be a thoroughly delightful chap, and found to my GLEE that it was Camilla WeePop who had recommended me for it. AHA! That DID make sense!

    There were sweets, cakes, and all sorts of smashing things going on, which meant that the PA being a bit rubbish didn't really disturb us. "It'll be fine", we agreed, "We'll just do without it" and headed off for a DELICIOUS curry at the nearby Maharani. Ooh, it was lovely!

    We formulated our plan - to have Steve come on in the middle and do three Dinosaur Planet songs - and then headed back to find things just getting going. Bec Hill was the compere and she did some GRATE stuff with hand animated pictures (like those activity books where you pull tabs), which is an idea i have LOGGED for NICKING. A LOT of people had arrived by this time and were talking VERY LOUDLY INDEED. She tried to QUELL them to no avail, as did Terry Saunders, who did a MARVELLOUS set. It was GRATE, but the noise was SO VERY LOUD that we were LEANING FORWARD to try and hear from only ten feet away.

    Steve suggested just PLOWING ON when we took to the stage, but I said "No no! There are ways and means to silence an audience - quick! To the ROCK ARMORY!" for there are INDEED many ways to do this... all of which I was to try. Here's what I actually PLAYED:

  • The Peterborough All-Saints Wide Game Team (group B)
  • The Ballad Of Alan Moore
  • Being Happy Doesn't Make You Stupid
  • Hey Hey 16K
  • Theme From Dinosaur Planet
  • Please Don't Eat Us
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • Boom Shake The Room


  • A carefully tailored set of The Hits and The Ones Mentioning Comics, which I hoped would carry me through. The noise of chat was ENORMOUS, and when I took to the stage I found I couldn't even see the people who WERE listening, due to the LIGHTS - something which (oddly, now I think about it) is common in STAGE things but quite rare for Actual Gigs. I did a bit of talking, but even this was difficult to get across as the PA was distorting and just wasn't loud enough to reach the people at the back. I went to Being Happy Doesn't Make You Stupid to see if the Everybody Join In Bit would get people down the front singing, therefore BOOSTING my volume, and allowing us to go into MORE audience participation, but nobody DID join in. I then decided to BRING OUT THE BIGS GUNS and do THE HIT, and do it IN THE ROUND.

    Now, understand that I would NEVER normally do this. I've seen it a few times in similar situations and not really liked it, as it feels like the singer IMPOSING himself. After all, people have PAID to get in and are entitled to CHAT if they want to, but I really wanted to do SOMETHING to at least point out to people that i WAS there, and to try and pull SOME of them in. SO it was that I walked throught the audience, RIGHT round the room, SHOUTING Hey Hey 16K at groups of people as I went.

    This had NO EFFECT WHATSOEVER. Even when I turned up RIGHT IN FRONT of people they'd look around and then just continue talking, and I got back to the stage feeling like a BLOODY IDIOT. "No thanks", they seemed to say, "we'd rather not pay any attention to you at all, we are having a conversation that CANNOT WAIT."

    At this point STEVE bounded on to stage - i advised him not to worry about the props so we could get ON, and indeed we did with a couple of the LOUDER songs, fearing that anything below MAX VOLUME would be lost. True to his ART Steve did the whole DYING bit in Theme From Dinosaur Planet FULL ON, and I shall be giving him extra credits for this EXEMPLARY display when I complete his final assessment. It still didn't make anyone any quieter, and it was only when I finished off with "Boom Shake The Room" that I felt I was finally making some headway. The trouble with THAT is that "Boom Shake The Room" is pretty much the NUCLEAR OPTION. It did actually get people to do the "HO!" bit and there WAS joining in, but there's nowhere else to go AFTER doing it, as I have found on the few times that i HAVE tried to follow it.

    THUS I came off stage, BUZZING with Actually Quite Enjoying Myself. I've done HECKLOADS of gigs like this in the past and in a funny old way it's actually quite good fun to PIT yourself against loads of people chatting, even when you don't come out on top. Also the people who were organising the evening were REALLY nice about it, and if they HADN'T put together a lovely DO that a) people wanted to come to and b) meet their friends and have a NICE TIME at, well, then it would have been an empty room anyway.

    Obviously I'd've preferred to have played to a SILENT ROOM interspersed with GUFFAWS and OVATIONS, but HEY! if ALL Steve's gigs were like that it would spoil him!

    posted 15/11/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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    Tasks for the weekend
    There are many occurences occurring this weekend. Here is a run-down of those most closely involving ME!

    ITEM! I'm playing at the launch party for Solipistic 3 magazine tonight. It's a big comics DO and, yes, I have been practicing The Ballad Of Alan Moore!

    ITEM! If you're staying in tonight you could also listen to CRMK Radio at about 10pm, when Shane Quentin will be playing a session I recorded for his Garden Of Earthly Delights show. I did it a couple of weeks ago and seem to recall it being Quite Good!

    ITEM! Tomorrow afternoon Mr S Hewitt and I will be performing Dinosaur Planet in Birmingham at The Victoria Inn. Do pop along if you can, doors are 2.30pm and we're starting the show at 3 o'clock.

    ITEM! We're then hopping on a train for Northampton, where we're performing the very same show at The Nook Cafe. Doors for that are about 8 o'clock, I think, and I reckon we'll be on either at half eight or 9pm. Same thoughts re. popping along if poss as with above!

    ITEM! And if all THAT hasn't worn you out, why not get involved with our Christmas single? I'm mixing it NEXT weekend, so THIS weekend is you last weekend-based opportunity to record your contribution. We've had some GRATE ones in already, but there's always room for more!


    Phew! Thank goodness it's back to work on Monday, I'll need a bit of a sit down after all that!

    posted 12/11/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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    Podcast is GO!
    Last night i went to the pub with my old pal Mr C Lawson, and a large part of the evening was spent discussing how ROCK could be used as an effective model for good practice in MANAGEMENT. Being in, and running, a band is MUCH like being part of an BUSINESS - you have to work as a team, maintain proper communications across sites, manage an online presence, deal quickly with personel issues AND SO FORTH - the main difference being that usually, and especially in the kind of MILLIEU i operate in, you can't use CA$H as a reward or punishment. "I should write that as a BOOK!" I said. "It is a skillset RIPE for transferring!"

    And when I look back at my DECADES in ROCK, as I occasionally pause to do, it often strikes me how MANY transferrable skills I have gained in the process. If you want someone to set up equipment for a presentation, deal with printers, edit a film, or organise an event, for example, then i am your man, ALL learnt through doing gigs and that. This is no simple BOAST (well, it's not JUST that), as pretty much ANYONE who's done this for any length of time will have a similar list of Practical Skills that they've got by accident, when all they were trying to do was get drunk and show off.

    The LATEST of these appears to be AUDIO EDITING, for LO! I've spent a great chunk of the past couple of days putting the podcast together, selecting WHICH songs to use and then gently editing it all together, so that it APPEARS (i hope) to be three seamless performances. I'm always AMAZED when i do this by the fact that APPLAUSE blends together SO easily - you can take a bunch of clapping and pretty much fade it into ANY other clapping without anyone being able to hear the join, it's STRANGE but delightful. I tried doing the same with LARFS this time, but it didn't work so well - I wonder why that is?

    Anyway, after HOURS of gently nudging vocals and, ESPECIALLY, hacking great slabs of WAFFLE from my between song "banter" the podcast is finally ready for public consumption and, I must say, sounding rather FINE. I've made it a bit shorter than the last one, as I forced myself to CHOOSE between certain songs, reassuring myself that the GRATE stuff i DIDN'T use can come back for the end of series compilations that I'm planning, and thus it's a very brisk 40 minutes of chat and some ACE tunes. Apart from me doing ANCIENT songs there's some FANTASTIC new material from Frankie and Jimmy, which I hope MANY people will enjoy.

    It's all over on the Totally Acoustic site now for your listening pleasure, and don't forget you can also subscribe to it via iTunes. I subscribed to test it, and got TERRIBLY excited this morning when it automatically downloaded. Living in the future is GRATE!

    posted 11/11/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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    Wednesday Rewind - Soup
    <a href="http://mjhibbett.bandcamp.com/track/soup">Soup by MJ Hibbett & The Validators</a>

    A couple of years ago I answered an advert in B3ta from an advertising agency asking if anyone fancied getting involved in creating Viral Adverts. I did, and to my amazement they came back to me with a few ideas for me to get involved with.

    The first of these was an advert for a handheld device where you could "swoosh" things on and off the screen with your fingertips. They sent me a rough cut of a video, where a chap was making different pictures which ketp getting more and more complicated, until he had to "swoosh" them off and start again. They wanted something "quirky and homemade", which is handy because that's pretty much ALL that I can do!

    This was my first attempt - it would, I thought, be FAR too obvious to make it literally about dragging and dropping, so used the metaphor of putting things into a SOUP. Clever eh? I had LOADS of fun, especially doing the sound effects, and also THRILLED to the challenge of making it fit to the video (which is why the verses are different lengths). They LIKED it, but wanted me to make it... er... a bit more obviously linked to what was going on. THUS I wrote a new version, called "No Room". Here it is:



    They liked it, but now felt that it was TOO linked to what was going on, and had become offputting! I found this quite funny, and didn't really mind that they weren't using it, so instead made the video above in order to tell the story. I emailed the chap at the Advertising Company to tell him, thinking he'd enjoy it.

    HE DIDN'T ENJOY IT AT ALL. In fact he was FURIOUS - for some reason he thought the text was a HUGE PERSONAL ATTACK on him. I apologised profusely - it had been featured in the b3ta newsletter, but asked Mr Rob Manuel if he could remove the link from the web version, so as not to upset anyone, and Rob very kindly did so. It was only the following morning when I discovered what had happened - the advertising guy had thought that everything in CAPITALS was SARCASTIC. Reading the text that way certainly DOES put a different slant on it, but after reassuring him that that was very much NOT the case all was well again, and we had a go at quite a few other songs afterwards.

    The nicest thing for me is that I got this rather jolly song out of it - the fact that i kept it so LOOSELY connected to the advert means it makes sense all on its own (which you couldn't say about Data Sea Shanty, for instance) and I really like the way it ties itself up at the end. If it didn't have so many words I'd probably play it live!

    The song they DID choose for the advert, by the way, ended up being an instrumental. This has happened a LOT of times during my brief, now pretty much ended, dalliance with Songs Done To Commission, it's almost as if when people say they want "homemade and quirky" they don't want it QUITE as homemade and quirky as I deliver it! Here's the final video, which got over a MILLION hits:



    Try turning their song down and playing mine over the top - it pretty much fits!

    posted 10/11/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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    Totally Acoustic
    I keep saying that part of the idea of podcasting Totally Acoustic is to do an entire TOUR always in the same pub, and I took this one step further/too far this time around by staying in an HOTEL!

    As Mr F A Machine was down to play this time we had the slightly WHIMSICAL idea of partly recreating the DELIGHTFUL time we had nearly TEN YEARS AGO when we both came down to London for the weekend of his thirtieth birthday, and stayed in The Hotel California. Yes, it is real, and yes, it is also a lovely place. Also also it is two minutes from St Pancras and ten from The Lamb, so EXTREMELY convenient for our purposes.

    THUS I went and got us checked in, and was RELIEVED to find it was actually FINE still, before picking Frankie up from the station. He'd asked for CHIPS for his tea, so we dropped our gear off and made a slight diversion to visit one of the very very few Proper Chip Shops in central London. It's never ceased to amaze me just how few ACTUAL chip shops there are in That London - there's millions of kebab shops, cafes, fast food joints and what not, but if you want ACTUAL chips you need an EXPERT'S KNOWLEDGE. We went to North Sea Fish on Leigh Street, which turned out to be GRATE. The chips tasted like they came from at least 80 miles NORTH of where we actually were! For a brief moment we even thought there were pickled Eggs! They turned out to be onions - that would have been asking too much - but goodness me! Proper chips! IN LONDON!

    Duly filled we marched off to the pub... and ran into problems. The room was double booked. I thus entered into twenty minutes of STERNNESS - the bar manager, who was new to the pub, kept showing me the bookings book, where someone had crossed my name out and written "CANCELLED 4/11". "It says cancelled here", he said. "But I didn't cancel it" i said, "It's a mistake at your end!"

    It seemed very odd, but it took ages to get across the point that, as I hadn't cancelled it, the fact it SAID cancelled wasn't actually my fault. There was another booking due in for 20 people, and he kept saying he couldn't make a decision between the two, as it would be unfair. I offered to make the decision! I really hate getting all STERN and Middle Class in this sort of situation, but I DID, standing my ground and just about managing not to get angry. After twenty minutes the bloke who'd got the other booking came in. "Hi," he said, as Adrian The Manager and i GIRDED ourselves for a ROW. "We're all quite happy downstairs, so we won't need the room."

    PHEW! RELIEF spread around, there was much shaking of hands, and Adrian The Manager and i relaxed into a discussion of GUITARS! I've always known something like this would happen one day, and though I'd rather it HADN'T been on a night when people had travelled from Derby and Brighton to play (and, as it later turned out, from Bristol to watch!) I was relieved to have got through it OK.

    With that sorted out we were able to say proper GREETINGS to everyone, then just after half past seven i kicked off with a set that went like THIS:

  • Totally Acoustic
  • Moon Horse
  • Clubbing In The Week
  • The Ballad Of Alan Moore
  • Never Going Back To Aldi's
  • Another Man's Laundry (hanging on your line)
  • Theme From Dinosaur Planet
  • Do The Indie Kid
  • The Perfect Love Song


  • That's an ODD looking set isn't it? I'm trying very hard not to repeat myself over the course of these six gigs, so I've been DELVING back to do some VERY old songs. I started off with two NEW ones though, doing Totally Acoustic acapella to avoid guitar ISSUES (i.e. still not having worked out how to play it) and then a quick BURST of the chorus of Moon Horse, for the purposes of TANTILISATION.

    Both seemed to just about work, as did the rest of the set, but CRIKEY, listening back to it is a strange experience. When i DO gigs I always think "Ah yes, another night when I have spoken clearly, with an easygoing charm, before delivering almost perfect renditions of my songs only very occasionally interrupted for a delightful ad lub!" When i HEAR them I realise i WAFFLE ON for HOURS in a barely comprehensible SLUR, stopping every now and again to mess up a song I clearly only half recall. OH DEAR ME!

    Still, I got through to the end in one piece, though NEXT time i decide to finish with a quiet song, in order to ease a SEGUE into the next ARTISTE, it might be good to do one i've actually PLAYED in the past couple of years.

    For LO! next up was Frankie Machine! He'd been worried about going on between me and Jimmy McGee as, having seen us previously, he suspected he would seem a) quiet b) miserable in comparison. He IS quiet, but, as you'll hear on the podcast, that didn't matter at all as the whole room listened in RAPT SILENCE throughout. As for miserable - crikey, it seems that recent life events have CHEERED him RIGHT up! He did nearly all NEW stuff which, while still full of his usual WRYNESS, THORT and BEAUTIFUL tunesmithery, this time featured HUMOUR! It was FANTASTIC - my absolute favourite was "You're Great" which sat there saying "THIS IS A HIT RECORD!" and which I am ALREADY plotting to NICK, and this was followed straigh away by "The Sexy Dreams Of Frankie Machine" which was INCREDIBLE. It was a MIGHTY set!

    Having been surprised to have MANY LARFS when I'd expected TEARS, things were turned completely back to front when Jimmy did HIS set - anyone who's ever seen The Bobby McGees will know what a FANTASTIC live act they are, so I settled down to be thoroughly AMUSED. Imagine my astonishment then to find myself ACTUALLY CRYING! He was ALSO doing a big pile of new, and it TOO was all brilliant, harking back to the sort of material he used to do when we were in The Fabians. It was still FUNNY, still witty, but also TOUCHING. My word, when he did the one about seeing an old friend back home i was BLUBBING, it was like a twenty first century "Two Little Boys"!

    Luckily he finished off with some ABSOLUTE FILTH which got us back to normal, but CRUMBS! It was a night of Expectations Challenged, also of HIGH QUALITY SONGWRITING!

    After the music a small group of us gathered for DEBATE and REFLECTION, LARFS and BEER before there were hugs and Frankie and I strolled back to the hotel. A decade ago we'd crashed parties and gone clubbing, THIS time we got a can of LAGER and a sandwich each before sitting up for a while, having a bit of an old chat. It was, to be honest, even nicer!

    posted 9/11/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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    Stop. Motion. An. I. Mation.
    Crikey O'Reilly but this weekend was BUSY. On Saturday I went up to picturesque South Woodford to attempt to give a pile of STUFF to one of the charity shops. They weren't having it. "We're FULL!" they said, but luckily i had a LETTER from the LAST time we gave some stuff to them, showing i did GIFT AID. "Oh, well if you're a gift aider then... but we don't want any books!"

    I showed them though - one of the bags I have them of OTHER stuff DID have some books in. HA! Take that, Barnardo's! The books and a fine array of singles (hem hem) went up the road to Cancer Research, so if anybody in the South Woodford - or any other variety of Woodford - area hankers for some obscure indie 7 inches from about 15 years ago (never played! I don't have a record player!) then the Cancer Research Shop should be your first port of call.

    After various OTHER duties - including TESCO, some much needed computer maintenance, prop making, and FINALLY getting ALL my CDs put back onto the MyPod - SUNDAY found me up bright and early and ready to start FILMING. I've had an IDEA for a video for the new Christmas song bubbling away in my mind for the past few weeks and, after Saturday's final bout of prop making, I was ready to FILM. I wanted to get everything fully prepared because part of the NATURE of the story means that once started some things could not be re-done. I'm talking CRAFT KNIVES!

    So off i went on what turned into a seven hour ODYSSEY in STOP MOTION ANIMATION. Cor! Stop-motion animation is DEAD GOOD... to start with. The first couple of hours FLEW BY as I used my Exciting New Webcam (TAPED onto my camera tripod with BLACK INSULATION TAPE - oh! black insulation tape! how i love thee - if only you had more uses!) and VERY Exciting MASSIVE HALOGEN LAMP to film a series of cardboard fixes as they acted their way across the top of my Nan's bureau. As we went along I realised that the story I'd mapped out was a bit too long, so had to DROP a whole bit and replace it with something shorter that would wrap things up a bit more neatly - i'm being VAGUE about what the story actually IS here because I want it to be a SURPRISE!

    As I say, it started off being dead good, and whoops of GLEE could be heard around the house as I watched each chunk back on the computer. I was aiming for 12 frames per second, which made it look very much in the style of Bagpuss, Clangers etc rather than something SMOOTH, so i moved forward at fairly high speed, but by LUNCH TIME I was beginning to lose my patience. You know on EVERY DOCUMENTARY EVER about Animation where they say "Ooh, you need to be very patient"? THEY ARE NOT JOKING. "Oh good God", I thought to myself, "I need to make the reindeer go behind the fireplace" (NOT A EUPHEMISM), "that's going to take BLOODY AGES", as EVERYTHING needs doing in minute detail.

    Still, by early evening I'd FINISHED and was relieved to be able to put the various cardboard props and characters away and bring matters to a close with a little bit of LIVE ACTION. The idea is that it's going to be like a children's programme from Days Of Yore, with me the presenter at the start and end (and maybe interspersed throughout, but maybe not), so I got myself dressed up to look, as usual, DASHING and SUAVE. And definitely NOT A Bit Creepy. NO WAY.

    The task ahead now is to EDIT it - I'm hoping it'll all fall into place nice and neatly, but have a PRESENTIMENT that I'll still be at it in a fortnight, screaming abuse at cardboard figures as they REFUSE to move in time to the music. One thing I AM pretty sure of, however,is that it's going to look DEAD Christmassy and DELIGHTFUL, so if you're WAVERING about whether you're going to JOIN IN with the singalong aspect mentioned in newsletter I would advise DOING SO. It's going to be GRATE!

    posted 8/11/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Divine Comedy
    A few weeks ago I got the Word Magazine newsletter which mentioned they were planning a gig at The Lexington, featuring The Divine Comedy. The Divine Comedy are one of my FAVOURITE EVER bands - in fact they/HE is pretty much the only band whose Early Stuff i got into BEFORE he went on to get proper famous. I read a review of "Promenade" in Select (SELECT!) and thought "That sounds GRATE!" and LO! it completely was.

    It was all a bit ARTY and CLEVER, so imagine my SURPRISE when very soon after that Chris Evans started playing his new stuff, and suddenly he was in THE CHARTS! It was a LOT of surprise! It all went a bit wonky for me around the time of The Nigel Godrich Record, when, like so many other bands at that time, all the interviews were about how We Are A Proper Band Now and much of the FUN and UNIQUENESS was jettisoned in favour of SERIOUSNES and The Occasional Wibbly Noise ("Regeneration" it was, I had to look it up) but then everything picked up again and the past three albums have been FANTASTIC, with the most recent one "Bang Goes The Knighthood" pretty much his BEST YET.

    So yes, when I saw the gig advertised I thought "ZOINKS!" and LEAPT in to buy a couple of tickets. The chance to see someone SO GRATE at such a SMALL (NB comparitively - obviously when I've played there is has been BIG) was not to be missed, and I managed to get in JUST before they sold out. PHEW!

    CUT to last night, when myself and The Keys On My Piano found ourselves at Kings Cross waiting for PAL and fellow fan Mr Mark Sutton. We nipped up to The Lexington for a quick CHAT/PINT before going round the corner to INDIAN VEG, the AMAZINGLY excellent/CHEAP Indian buffet restaurant that Mr Ray Dann and Dr Neil Brown RAVED about for years before I finally went and... well, started RAVING myself. We filled ourselves RIGHT up with delicious grub - TWICE - before nipping over the road for another quick pint before dropping The Spices In My Balti off at the TOOB and then heading back for the GIG.

    We arrived just in time to see the second support act, Lulu & The Lampshades. They had LOTS of different instruments - i felt a bit sorry for the bass player, as everyone else was going "Now I shall move from Amazonian Ukelele Trumpet to Guavan Shoulder Harp!" while she just BASSED it up throughout - and a GRATE sound, but I must admit after a while I HANKERED for some SONGS. I always think bands like that should do COVER versions - they sounded brilliant but everything went on a bit without choruses for me, i could have done with something a bit more FAMILIAR to latch on to.

    This came in the shape of Mark Ellen and then Mark Radcliffe, who came on and did THE RAFFLE. "Oh yes", I said to Mr Sutton, "This happens ALL THE TIME at London gigs - celebrities!"

    The Divine Comedy are one of the few bands, alongside Belle & Sebastian really, where I actually KNOW nearly all of the songs, so we decided to be PROPER FANS about it and get right down the FRONT. This was PEASY as the entire crowd was pretty much the same age as US, or indeed slightly above. It was like a Social Experiment where someone had decided to take a Divine Comedy audience from 15 years ago and see what had happened to us all. I looked around and saw people who had clearly come straight from Proper Serious Jobs, others who had Gone Hairy, and couples who had got Dressed Up For The Occasion. Due to the strangeness of the early and Britpop years he's always attracted a slightly odd mix of bohemian and Britpop types, and now here we all were gathered together again, politely allowing each other to get to the front/the bar/the toilet as we needed to. It was lovely.

    THUS we spent the entire gig in PRIME POSITION, just a couple of feet from the front and a) Mr Neil Hannon b) a GRAND PIANO. How on EARTH did they manage to get a GRAND PIANO up the stairs and into the upstairs room of the Lexington? It defies sense! How they got Mr Hannon in, less so - COR! He is PROPER TINY! You know the Doctor Who episode where The Master shrinks him into a little old man? Like THAT, but not so old - INDEED i was quite surprised when, halfway through, someone shouted "Happy Birthday for Sunday" he said "Thanks for reminding me I'm going to be 40!" I always thought he was a bit OLDER than me! SHOCKER!

    Anyway, he came in wearing a suit and hat, carrying a briefcase (containing setlist), with a pipe and glass of wine, sat down and played for about 50 minutes. He was BLOODY BRILLIANT. There was a LOT of stuff from the new album - normally you'd feel a bit annoyed if someone of Long Standing with SO MANY SONGS did this, but the new album is FANTASTIC and everyone clearly loved it and sang along/applauded/did slightly too loud clapping along (i amazed MYSELF by being grumpy enough to think "I say, that clappings a bit loud!") to all of them. As previously stated, it's some of his best material EVER, and sounded FAB in the solo mode.

    He seemed a bit NERVOUS to be in the small room on his own, and drew attention to a couple of times when he messed up, which really made it feel all the more DELIGHTFUL. He did "National Express" and "Frog Princess" and "Sweden" and various other older songs, finishing with my ABSOLUTE FAVOURITE "Tonight We Fly". OOH BLIMEY, you know when people say "I got all tingly down the back of my neck"? That happened down my WHOLE BACK, it was AMAAAAAZING!

    The crowd politely BAYED for him to come back on and once that was achieved everyone bellowed for song titles - i was after "The Dogs And The Horses" after recent events, but there were a LOT of things shouted for. "I've got too many songs!" he said, and then did a CRACKING version of "Don't You Want Me" with full audience DOING THE SINGING.

    It was BLOODY BRILLIANT - you READ about The Big Stars doing "intimate" small gigs, but they're rarely as ACTUALLY small as this one, and I felt EXTREMELY lucky to have managed to get in and see it. It was a FANTASTIC night, and I shall be visiting Mr Amazon soon for a "I Used To Have That On Tape And Now Need It Again" SESSION!

    posted 5/11/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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    Craft Workshop
    Preparations for the VIDEO SHOOT for the new Christmas song continue APACE. Now that I've got myself a webcam, a light HOTTER THAN THE SUN, and stop motion animation software I thought it might be a good idea to see if it would ACTUALLY WORK, and so spent a merry half an hour or so yesterday making a Christmas Robin jump out of a Christmas card and then scamper across a table.

    Not LITERALLy, obviously. Animated.

    It worked really well, much to my relief, and after the aforesaid half hour i had a whole five seconds worth of FOOTAGE. Excellent! The final video's going to feature quite a bit of Actual ME doing some singing, and it isn't THAT long a song, so it'll be quite a bit of work to to it ALL but not, hopefully, too much.

    In order to make it as NOT GHASTLY as possible I then retired to the kitchen table armed with Pritt Stick, Scissors, crayons and some light card in order to get CRAFTY. Earlier I'd had a BRAINSTORM with The Frames In My Film about what the STORY of the video would be and now sat down to start making some PROPS. The first of these were little stands for the eventual characters to be stuck onto, which was surprisingly a) easy b) SATISFYING c) fun. Emboldened by the success of this I made two little PROPS - a minature telly and same scale computer desk. These look LOVELY and I must admit I have several times crept up on them to have a bit of a PLAY. They're ACE!

    Priority NOW is to properly formalise the SCRIPT. The only person ON SET when I film it (tentatively scheduled for Sunday morning) will be ME, but I know from experience that having it all worked out BEFORE I start will make it all a WHOLE lot easier. I'm rather excited about it all though, especially now that I've proven it's DO-ABLE. I'm not sure it's going to be as JOYOUS and WONDERFUL as last year's was, but I'm going to do my best to make it so!

    posted 4/11/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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    Wednesday Rewind - The Story Of My Life
    Now that almost EVERYTHING we've released (through AAS at least) is available on our bandcamp page i thought it might be nice to have a poke into some of the LESS well known songs (NB yes i realise that there is a pretty microscopic division of FAME between those and our MORE well known songs, but let's not spoil it so soon eh?) in our back catalogue. Listening back to Hibbett's Superstore lately I've been reminded of some rather ACE tracks (i am my own BEST critic) that I'd like more people to hear. THUS we begin with this one:

    The Story Of My Life
    <a href="http://mjhibbett.bandcamp.com/track/the-story-of-my-life">The Story Of My Life by MJ Hibbett & The Validators</a>

    If you're thinking "This is a bit DYLAN-ESQUE isn't it?" then you are a) POLITE b) CORRECT in your suspicions, as I wrote it just after watching "No Direction Home" and thinking "That looks easy, I'll have a go at that!" I love songs like "Bob Dylan's 115th Dream", not least because it's Bob being DAFT at a time when he was worshipped as Protest Man, Serious Statesman Of ImportantNESS. SIDEBAR: the fact that songs like this were freely available on his proper records makes me AMAZED that people were so STUNNED by his electric stuff a few years later.

    So yes, I thought I'd have a go with taking the first idea that came into my head and FOLLOWING it and, as we'd just got back from the tour to promote Regardez, Ecoutez et Repetez, the spelling of my NAME was quite near the top of my BRANE.

    All through my career in ROCK people have mispelt my name, with people often going to great lengths to do so - the story about being billed as "Simon Hibbett" is entirely true, for instance. I don't mind so much when it's on gig posters, especially in OLDEN TIMES when you used to book gigs by TELEPHONE (imagine! and a land-line too!) but I do get PEEVED when online reviews do it, ESPECIALLY when it's a cut and paste from a press release where the spelling of my name appears to be the ONLY thing changed or, as happened with that album, when the mispelt version is dwarfed by a large picture of the album cover with it CORRECT.

    And with that in mind most of the song just FLOWED out, NICKING chunks as it went from a SECRET THEME TUNE of mine. What? Doesn't everyone have a secret theme tune? I have SEVERAL - "Hibbettanian National Anthem" is a favourite, but this was a simpler ditty called "H.I.B.B.E.T.T." which was PLUNDERED WHOLESALE for the choruses.

    Following Bob I decided to let my imagination RUN FREE for the story and thought I'd finished when I got to the final chorus... until I later realised I could tie the whole thing up rather nicely with a GAG, and it's that GAG that makes it for me rather. I know it's INDELICATE to sully oneself with self-praise but I DID reward myself with a good CHORTLE and EXTRA CUPPA when I came up with that bit.

    The REASON I sat down to write it is that I'd been asked by Sorted Supremo Dave Dixey to submit a song for his latest compilation CD, which became Hollow Smoke. This was at a time when he'd got RE-ENTHUSED by The Leicester Scene at the time and , as far as i remember, wanted to do something to a) MARK this exciting time and b) LINK it to some of the other acts on the label, hoping to bring the two together and thus RE-IGNITE some interest in the back catalogue.

    I don't think it really DID, unfortunately - Leicester is, shall we say, not exactly NOTORIOUS for having great scenes where the bands really stick together (and apparently never HAS been, i wonder why? It's so much lovelier than, say, Nottingham, but never EVER seems to foster its bands properly) and the LAUNCH GIG I went and played would never have been accused of needing more SECURITY. It was a lovely night though - I've just looked it up and remembered playing with an amazingly YOUNG, ADEPT Local Band who were MASSIVELY PROG, and afterwards we went to The Orange Tree for LASTIES. Such things are what ACE gigs are made of!

    According to THE DATABASE OF ROCK that was the ONLY time I ever played this song live, not even getting played at the London Launch of the compilation! I'm trying to do as many songs from Hibbett's Superstore as possible during this run of Totally Acoustic, so maybe that'll get changed before Christmas!

    posted 3/11/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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    Lights! Camera! Action!
    As mentioned in this month's newsletter, plans are already in place for this year's Christmas Song, The 29th Day Of December. These include a SCHEME to get Newsletter Subscribers to be a CHOIR singing along, and also growing ideas for a VIDEO.

    These ideas have their original source in the INTENSE JEALOUSY i felt when we went round to visit some FAMILY and I saw that my nephew had got himself a stop motion animation program. His GLEE as he demonstrated his short film (rather brilliantly featuring lego figures BLOWING EACH OTHER UP) was matched only by my INTENTION to go out and get MYSELF some of this good stuff!

    I am thus now the proud owner of my OWN stop motion animation program and, even more excitingly, a MASSIVE LIGHT. Every time I do a video I think "How can I make this better?" Clearly the usual answer is "MORE OF ME", but there have been other TECHNICAL improvements to be made - the purchase of a TRIPOD is perhaps the biggest of these so far, but I've also often wondered about LIGHTING. Things like the RER On Bandcamp video would have been a LOT easier to do if I'd had some proper lighting, rather than relying on the 100W bulb in my office and an open window.

    With this in mind i finally done got myself a MASSIVE HALOGEN LAMP. It's 500W of LIGHT, and BRILLIANT! Sometime in the next couple of weeks I'm planning to use it to make a combined stop-motion/ HIBBETT ACTION (see point 1 of the 'better videos' PLAN) EXTRAVANZA of Christmassy JOY that'll be released in December on our bandcamp page along with all our OTHER Christmas songs and maybe one or two EXTRAS. The plan is to have an EVER EXPANDING Christmas Album that will be added to each year, yay verily, like the accumulation of weird decorations got out of tissue paper for putting on the Christmas Tree.

    That is, providing i don't BURN DOWN LEYTONSTONE with my MASSIVE LAMP. If you see smoke rising from E11, call the Fire Brigade for me, won't you?

    posted 2/11/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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    Farewell To Sonic
    We had a rather emotional time of it over the weekend, as our cat Sonic passed away on Friday morning. She was over 18 years old, which in Cat Years makes her a very distinguished old lady, and that is certainly how she behaved - we knew she wouldn't be with us for very much longer when, a few weeks ago, having been getting around the house and back garden fine for ages despite being blind and almost totally deaf, she decided it was time to move into the front room. Her ensuite was moved nearby, most meals were served there too, and though she still came out to say hello when we arrived home it was all a long long way from when I first knew her.

    When I moved into the house she refused almost all human contact, would be away for days on end and then return battle scarred and hungry, and FLEW up the sheer face of fences many times her own height. Over the weekend we've been reminiscing about her various ESCAPADES and the different phases of her life - like the ERA when she would come and fetch each of us from the end of the road and TALK at us (i know i sound like a typical CRAZY PERSON WITH A CAT but as long as you restricted your conversation to "MEP!" you could have a proper chat with her all the way to the front door) or the day she came home with one tooth suddenly OUTSIDE the rest of her face, or the time she sat on The Boughs Of My Tree's LAP one Christmas Festival or... well, you get the picture, she was a MASSIVE part of our lives and we're going to miss her IMMENSELY.

    If you're going to have to die I think the way Sonic did it is pretty much the best - suddenly keeling over in the hallway, spending a last minute with someone who loves you TELLING you so, and then nipping off. She also had impeccable timing, giving us Friday to grieve before a funeral service on Saturday morning. Myself and The Landlady dug the grave out in the back garden and GOODNESS ME but it isn't as easy as it looks in films - the previous owner of the house was apparently a NUTTER who kept digging holes and burying things, and we found several huge chunks of concrete (which i kept thinking "ARGH! It's a SKULL!") that we think was about 80% of a massive Victorian fireplace down there. It was more Time Team than Antiques Roadshow, however, and I don't think it'll be being restored.

    When that was done i built THE COFFIN - my Grandad Bertie was a carpenter who worked at an undertaker's, and I thought he might have been quite pleased with the job I did, even though this one was rather smaller and less ornate than his handiwork, also made of cardboard. We put Sonic in alongside the ashes of our other two cats (NB it wasn't an EGYPTIAN thing, they died a couple of years ago!) - not too close, as they didn't get on very well in life, but also close enough to keep each other company.

    Again, I know it all sounds a bit CAT PERSON-Y, but it was also all done with LARFS. As we giggled about dropping them all it felt very appropriate to be a bit jolly amongst the sadness, as by HECK the three of them had given us an ABUNDANCE of LARFS during their lifetimes.

    We filled in the hole and then covered it back over with grass, then spent the rest of the weekend looking out with PRIDE at the good job we'd done for them, as we continued to reminisce about their various adventures and EXPLOITS. I don't want to get in a REPLACEMENT - no kittens for Christmas thanks! - but my goodness gracious me, we're going to miss her. She was bloody GRATE

    posted 1/11/2010 by MJ Hibbett
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