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Blog Archive: September 2011

The Massive Sale
As anyone who reads the newsletter will now know, we're having a MASSIVE SALE this month to try and clear out a bit of space ready for when the new album turns up.

We've got our most recent CD, Forest Moon Of Enderby (which has a whole OTHER album on the CD-ROM too!) for just THREE QUID or you can upgrade to the MEGA BUMPER PACKAGE which also includes Regardez, Ecoutez Et Repetez AND It Only Works Because You're Here for just SIX pounds!

Six quid for all that! If I saw someone selling my stuff that cheaply in a SHOP I would be HORRIFIED, but the fact is that there we are... well, somewhat OVERSTOCKED on these items and i need to get some shelves cleared for storing the new stuff. So come one come all, get yourself some MEGA CHEAP albums whilst simultaneously SUPPORTING INDEPENDENT MUSIC! Everyone's a winner!

posted 30/9/2011 by MJ Hibbett
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We're OFF!
After hours - DAYS! WEEKS! - off hard labour by Team Validator and ESPECIALLY by The Ink In My Printer, last night the final final FINAL masters were finally FINALISED (finally) for the Dinosaur Planet album. Excitement in our house was, as you can see below, HIGH:

Mr Squish prepares for FAME


This morning I made a GUIDE to make sure the pages of the booklet go in the right order (we've never made a multi-paged booklet to go with a CD before, it's EXCITING) and then I strolled off down to Leytonstone post office and sent it all on its way. All i need to do is PAY for it (which should occur later today) and then sit back and wait 12-15 days before several years of hard work pays off with ACTUAL CD ALBUMS! ZANG!

The impending arrival of HUNDREDS of CDs in my house does necessitate other actions in the meantime, which I'll be discussing shortly, but for now: HOORAH! We're OFF!

posted 30/9/2011 by MJ Hibbett
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Merchandise AHOY!
The frenetic pace of pre-album activity continues to, if anything, HASTEN, here at Castle Validator today, as we move our sights onto even greater worlds of MERCHANDISING OPPORTUNITIES, with POSTCARDS!

Anyone who's ordered something from our online shop recently will probably have received one of the postcards I bought to use with Regardez, Ecoutez, Et Repetez... or, at least, HALF of one. They're lovely postcards but when they arrived I realised I'd made the tiniest teensiest (yet also most CLASSIC ROCK) of mistakes and ordered them at A5 size... when of course postcards are very much A6 i.e. half as big. This made them Not Much Good At All for their intended purpose of slipping comfortably into jiffy bags, and so I ended up usually having to cut them in two to FIT. That gave me twice as much stationary as I THORT i was getting, but wasn't really the intention!

That experience rather put me off postcards, but the artwork of Mr John Allison is SO gorgeous that it seemed a shame not to use it as much as humanly possible, and once I rediscovered how relatively INEXPENSIVE it is to get postcards are (especially when they're the RIGHT SIZE!) I we persuaded to head off down that route again, and so have designed some rather SMASHING ones which will be included with all orders for the new album.

The process of DESIGN VETTING by Validators has already begun, so I'm hoping to get those sent off for making by the end of the week. Meanwhile the sleevenotes have pretty much FINALLY finalised, with moderate tweaks in from everybody (I've said it before and I'll say it again, but GOOD LORD what a EXPERT TEAM The Vlads make in ANY situation - if ever we decide to use our mighty powers for EVIL, that is the day that THE UNIVERSE WILL QUAKE!) so all being well the master CDs will be off to the factory by THURSDAY. T-SHIRTS will be ordered NEXT week I think, and then all I'll need to do is sit back and wait for the MERCHANDISE to arrive!

Crikey, I do hope the clearance sale goes well - I'm going to need a LOT more space for all this stuff!

posted 27/9/2011 by MJ Hibbett
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Back To Work
You find me today sat at my desk at WORK, doing some WORK and generally NOT visiting exciting European cities, NOR larking about at home, going to see films ("Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" was ACE!) or visiting my new Surprisingly Nice LOCAL with The Days Of My Annual Leave.

It's not all work work work though... well, not WORK work anyway, for LO! over the weekend MIGHTY EFFORTS were undertaken to get the Dinosaur Planet ALBUM ready for manufacturing, as myself and The Words In My Text SLAVED over several drafts of the SLEEVENOTES. Heckers neckers but there has been a lot of work gone into it - the story of Dinosaur Planet is a VERY LONG and RATHER COMPLICATED one and it took me three drafts to make sure everything was correct and in the right order, and then at least as many AGANE to make sure it made SENSE. As ever this was facilitated and overseen by the aforesaid Ink In My Red Correcting Pen, who I think now knows A LOT MORE about the 20+ year history of THE OPUS than anyone should rightly be expected to know!

Meanwhile there has been plenty of other activity, not least the agreement for a T-SHIRT design! We've had the design itself (created, like all the artwork, by Mr John Allison) for MONTHS but had never got around to sorting out the colour scheme. I sent the alternatives round and... well, everyone pretty much agreed on the same thing, which felt Oddly Disappointing, for some reason.

All CAST members are getting a t-shirt, and I thought it might be sensible to use them as a SAMPLE GROUP for sizes. I reckon if I order 2 or 3 times as many in each size as i need for the cast then that OUGHT to be ROUGHLY right, at least as a starting point for when they become available for pre-order (hopefully at the start of Novemebr). They're bloody lovely, I can't WAIT to show them off!

All this NEW PRODUCT means I'm going to need some SPACE, so after an exhaustive/exhausting STOCK TAKE I'm happy to annouce that we'll be having a MASSIVE "Here Come The Dinosaurs" SALE! Starting on Friday, when the next newsletter comes out, you'll be able to get some RIDICULOUS bargains, so stand by your inboxes at the end of the week for some SUPER THRIFT!

It's all terribly exciting - I was listening to the album on my MyPod this morning (the FINAL version which arrived last week from SNUG) and kept having to remind myself that this WAS the FINAL version, and that it's really really going to be OUT THERE very soon. Like I keep saying, i really REALLY can't wait to finally let people here it, I think it's going to be RATHER GOOD!

posted 26/9/2011 by MJ Hibbett
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Belgium is BRILL
Hello, Bonjour and Hallo, for LO! Myself and The Posh Beer In My Fancy Glass are BACK from Belgium, where we had a BRILLIANT time.

Cor! Brussels! It's ACE! Also: DISCONCERTING. It's a whole country that I didn't really know much about and, perhaps most significantly, we do not have much in the way of Stereotypes about. INDEED the only stereotype i DID know, that Belgium Is Boring, turned out to be massively and totally INCORRECT, as it was GRATE!

We kicked off by meeting some Family Friends - during and/or after World War Two (it seems unclear which) my Grandad was stationed in Belgium and became friends with a family and stayed in touch for the rest of his and my Nan's life, and since then efforts have been made to remain so, and I have to say that this is BRILLIANT as it lead to us going out for the evening with Christian and Brigitte, who were FAB. OH what a lovely evening we had, drinking the beer, putting the world to rights, and then drinking some more BEER. You know BEER? The Belgians are VERY GOOD AT IT. Over the course of four days I drank Chimay Bleu, Orval, Hopul, Duvel, Chimay Rouge, Chimay Bleu, Leffe Blond, Grimbergen Blond, Leffe Brun, Jupiler, Zot, Kwak, Delirium, XX Bitter and Rodenbach and ALL but the last two were DELICIOUS. This Strong Belgian Beer is VERY different to Strong British Beer in that it is NICE, but GOLLY, it doesn't half make you tiddly!

We went on our usual Open Top Bus Trip (which WEIRDLY occurred during Car Free Day, so all of Brussels was full of family on bicycles and skateboards), had a Coach Trip to Ghent and Bruges, and perhaps most fun of all went to Mini Europe and The Atomium. Mini Europe is LIKE a Model Village except it contains scenes from EVERY country in Europe, and also goes ON and ON and ON about how FANTASTIC Europe is. Coming from this country it was a little disconcerting to be somewhere that trumpeted The European Ideal so fulsomely. Europe, apparently, is the cure for ALL ILLS!

The Atomium was my FAVOURITE tho, i think - my Grandparents used to have a little model Atomium on their fireplace so I have been familiar with it forever, but to actually SEE it in all its massive glory was something else, and then to go INSIDE was incredible. It really is an impressive and BEAUTIFUL sight, especially when you're in one of the tubes, looking out of the windows. I would even go so far as to say it is BETTER than The Eiffel Tower. Because it IS!

In fact I think I preferred it ALL to Paris - it's strange to be somewhere I know so little about and to find it so wonderful, and as I said earlier also to be in a NATION of people where we didn't know what to expect. When you go to France you know people will generally be A Bit French, also Spain, Germany, Holland, Italy etc etc but Belgium was a funny mix of French STYLE, German BUSINESSLIKENESS, Dutch GROOVINESS and then something else, kind of a New York-y ISH aspect of being friendly ENOUGH, but not stopping to chat. It was pretty much exactly what you'd WANT from a capital city, feeling FRIENDLY without making you feel like it would be RUDE not to stop and chat with everyone.

Also: their national drink is BEER and their national foodstuff is CHIPS. What's not to like?

Also also, maybe even better than the Atomium, our hotel was BLOODY LOVELY. The Rooms In My Suite got us a DEAL with Eurostar so it was quite POSH - The Crowne Plaza PALACE, in fact - but also FRIENDLY. We went to the bar every night (hence all the beers!) and on the the last night the barman said "See you tomorrow?" It was almost HEARTBREAKING to have to say "No" to him, as we'd have really liked to be back at the bar again.

But no, next day we had a trip round the Botanique Gardens (which, like all of experience of Belgium, we knew nothing abotu, was not particularly heralded, but turned out to be GORGEOUS) and then HOPPED on the Eurostar. Getting there and back was SO peasy (it's pretty much the same time as it takes to get to LEEDS), especially going from St Pancras, that it seems NAUGHTY not to try and do it a bit more often. Hopefully we will, for LO! Belgium is BRILL!

posted 23/9/2011 by MJ Hibbett
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Playback Party
Have I mentioned that we've nearly finished the new album? At all?

If you think I have been OVER MENTIONING it here then I would refer you to OUR HOUSE where I have been going ON and ON about it NON-STOP since FOREVER. Still, however, The Landlady and The Fruit In My Fridge appear to still be able to put up with it, for LO! the other night The Landlady suggested that we have a Big Listening Session - or PLAYBACK, as they call it in the Music "Industry" - where we all sit down and listen to the whole thing in one go.

We all got a bit excited about this idea, and many preparations were made. On Wednesday afternoon I set the front room up, moving my big stereo in, using some of the (many many many) boxes of unsold copies of Forest Moon Of Enderby (which, by the way, be seeing MASSIVE PRICE REDUCTIONS in a couple of weeks when i do a SALE!) as Speaker Stands and decorating the scene with Dinosaurs, including Mr Squish sat on top of the CD player. The Crisps In My Bowl set to work on Thursday making a BUFFET too, and just after eight o'clock we all settled in with GRUB and BOOZE for a right proper listen.

COR! It was right good fun - these days I only seem to listen to music on the tube, or while doing something else, so JUST concentrating like this was AMAZING, especially with something like this where there's SO MUCH to hear. Listening to it like that made me realise just how much WORK has gone into it - like the scene where Terry goes round to Grandad's house, and you go from a car pulling up outside a house with a massive battle in the background, running down the drive, banging on the door then going inside and ... well, you'll be able to hear what I mean soon enough but GOODNESS ME there is a lot! Also remembering that, for MOST scenes, different lines of dialogue were recorded in entirely different CITIES several months apart, and yet it still pretty much working. CRIKEY!

The general idea was just to ENJOY it but at the end we agreed that there were just a COUPLE of tiny little bits we could change, and this afternoon I amalgamated these into similar lists that The Validators had emailed me, sending the LOT off to SNUG for a final final No Really I Mean It This Time FINAL copy of the Actual Album. This is just one more tiny STEP on the way to getting it all finished, but as it's one of the LAST ones it feels quite exciting!

I'm off on my HOLIDAYS tomorrow, but will be back on Thursday, when I'm going to sit myself down and work out ANOTHER bit of finality - our PR DEPARTMENT had a look at the sleevenotes yesterday too, so those need a bit of a going over, and there's a couple of small changes to the general artwork to agree, but BLIMEY! Once THOSE are done, and the final CD is recieved, I do believe that it will be time to send the whole lot to the FACTORY!

To coin a phrase, ladies and gentleman: here come the dinosaurs!

posted 16/9/2011 by MJ Hibbett
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Standard Fare At The Lexington
When you live in That London one of the BIG differences to living in the rest of the UK is the business of GOING OUT in the week. When I lived in Leicester I would go home after work, have my tea, get changed and THEN head to the pub/gig around half past eight. Nowadays, like other COMMUTING types, I usually go to the pub STRAIGHT from work, around six-ish, and so have an extra couple of hours of BEER before the fun kicks off.

Last night, however, I reverted to the OLD STYLE. I work from home on Wonderful Wednesdays, so after a hard day's GRAFT doing the above I had my tea and THEN went into town. It was BRILLIANT! When I arrived at The Lexington I had a fully lined stomach that was entirely ready to start drinking, and the entire evening passed by DELIGHTFULLY, with none of the usual ISSUES to do with having had a bit too much to drink, too early, and needing a WEE/bit of an old lie down at the EXACT point when the main band comes on. I can see why this method is so popular in Not London!

It was, in fact, a BLOODY LOVELY night all round. I'd gone to see Standard Fare play, as had a METRIC TONNE of other smashing people what I know, so there was a GRATE deal of chatting to persons various and HALLOOING. It feels like AGES since I last went to an Actual Proper Nice Gig (NB as opposed to COMEDY stuff at The Fringe and that) where I wasn't playing myself and I THOROUGHLY enjoyed myself. The first support were also good - Evans The Death, who Mr S Hewitt said looked like "that other band we saw here that time." "That's because they are that other band we saw here last time" I told the poor old dear. They sounded good - the sound IS always good at The Lexington - and, as I may have remarked last time, LOOKED like a proper band. I'm not sure what all this "singing" and "being able to play" and "THINNESS" is all about tho. That's not The Indie Way, surely?

The main event was Standard Fare themselves, who were BLOODY FANTASTIC. I know I ALWAYS says this about seeing them, but that is because it is TRUE. Man alive, there is so much about them to like, and they just keep getting better - when they rolled out the tracks from the first album it was as if they'd been around FOREVER with HIT after HIT after HIT - when they did "Philadelphia" near the end I thought "Aha! They have done ALL the BIG ONES now!"... and then they did "Dancing" and I realised that THIS is a band with LOADS of TUNES.

Excitingly tho the song I woke up with in my head this morning was "Suitcase", which isn't even ON the first album. COR! It was DEAD good, as were the other NEW ones they played, one of which made me GRIN like a twit and join in with the Undignified Jigging About which had infected a large group of the Indie Types in the crowd. Don't judge us! It was just SO ACE we couldn't help it!

I left full of SMILES and GOOD TIMES - GIGS! Wherever you go, GIGS are GRATE!

posted 15/9/2011 by MJ Hibbett
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Physical Product Approaching
I used to think it was a good idea to include EXTRAS on the CD-R part of the CD - with loads of our albums you could stick them in the computer and get all MANNER of extra bits and bobs. For instance, the Better Things To Do single had a whole MINI-ALBUM with SIX extra tracks on the multimedia section, while My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once had TWO songs on the main single but an ENTIRE ROCK OPERA on the extras.

This was all DELIGHTFUL, but I never got the impression that many people took advantage of it - INDEED i heard a lot more about the extras making the CD not WORK in some players. SO, this time around we've decided NOT to have the extras on the CD, and INSTEAD make them downloadable from the website - I've done a FULL SCRIPT and a SONG BOOK for it, and I'm hoping that this way more people will see them.

I'm still KEEN, however, to make the whole package Value For Money, and so we're having a proper Fully Illustrated BOOKLET this time around, with all the artwork by the MARVELLOUS Mr John Allison, which looks BLOODY GORGEOUS. The reason I'm thinking about all this today is that i spent large chunks of yesterday doing final (ish) revisions to it. MUCH of this involved me re-re-re-writing the sleevenotes, of which there are MANY. I tried to tell the ENTIRE story of how it all came to be, including all various stage versions and the secret story of its first beginnings, so it's involved loads of re-writes to get it down to a) a manageable length b) not be a rambling BORE, but i think I've got it there now, on the former if not the latter.

It's still got to get the go ahead from The Vlads and ESPECIALLY The Text In My Article (who steps in at this stage with MAD SKILLZ of CHECKING) but once that's done, all that remains is to get a QUOTE and a new copy of the Album Master with Adjusted Volumes and then... YIKES! Then it's off to the Factory, and we get very close to the album EXISTING! YOINKS!!

posted 14/9/2011 by MJ Hibbett
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2000AD Nan
Today's exciting news is that my song 2000AD Nan is TRACK OF THE WEEK over on the Keep Pop Loud blog. It's a BRAND NEW* song I recorded for their new compilation, based on an idea I've had swimming around in my BRANE for ages, arising when I noticed that the letters page - the NERVE CENTRE - of 2000AD was getting a lot of letters in much like the ones described in the song. It thus covers two things very dear to my heart - NANS and 2000ADs - and I am very proud of it.

* i say "BRAND NEW", I recorded it quite a while ago and the song itself has been GESTATING for AGES. The TUNE is by Mr FA Machine, who sent me it with a BATCH of others. It then changed it SEVERAL times, for some reason deciding to change the key, tempo AND time signature before eventually returning it to pretty much exactly the same as the original version, albeit with marginally less JAZZ chorage. I think it's rather nice!

posted 13/9/2011 by MJ Hibbett
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Dinosaur Planet: FINISHED
Whenever I come to the end of a job, or a big project, or know that this is The Last Time for something, I always want to get a big FEELING about it. It doesn't feel right if something finishes without a MOMENT, and the one for the completion of the Dinosaur Planet ALBUM happened to me several hours before it really was finished.

As usual I'd set off for St Pancras with plenty of time to spare before my train left, which gave me time to go and have a pot of porridge from Pret for my breakfast. I've done this LOADS of times while mixing the album, and as I sat down to eat I suddenly realised that this would be the last time I'd carry out this lovely bit of routine. I didn't feel sad, exactly, more happy that something as delightful as this could become a routine.

I ZOOMED up to Derby and arrived in the studio about NOON to find everyone hard at work. Tom and Robbie were HUNCHED over the mixing desk and they STAYED that way for the next seven hours or so, with me and Tim largely loafing on the sofa, occasionally chipping in with THORTS when needed. There was lots to do, but the longer we've gone on with these mixes (i reckon this is about the third or fourth time we've DONE a big mix/re-mix of the whole album) the smaller the jobs have become. Where previously we've had entire songs to fix, this time around it was things like changing the volume of one line of dialogue, or adjusting a seque slightly.

There was still room for some LARKS though - the choruses of For The Fate Of The Earth needed BEEFING up and, initially, Tim suggested some HORNS or WOODWIND. Tom and Robbie pointed out that MORE melodies might interfere with the violin OCTET, French Horns, keyboards, explosions, dinosaurs, guitars, bass, drums, percussion and triple tracked vocals that were ALREADY on the track so in the end we settled for ANOTHER guitar (huge fuzz chords: ACE!) and what Robbie called "Gang Vocals" but which WE termed "Miners" and "Vikings" i.e. the three of us stood round the microphone BELLOWING ALONG. We also used this to add a Crowd Cheering For Victory at the start of A Little Bit More and NEARLY ended up doing Armoured Pterodactyl impersonations that way too. Luckily we disovered there were ALREADY armoured pterodactyls on the section concerned, they were just being blotted out by screaming robots, missile launches and an orchestra.

I'm really going to miss all this when we have to go back to making normal records again.

There were a few times when Tim and I had to accept that Tom was Mr Producer - at one point we took orders and popped round to the shops, RUEFULLY reflecting that this was (EXACTLY) like if George Martin had nipped into the Get Back Sessions and been sent out on the Sandwich run. Later on in the day, realising that we were about to sit through and hour of MASTERING (i.e. 60 minutes of saying "is that louder or quieter than the last bit?") we SNUCK OUT to THE PUB, where we were surprised to be served by Dave from Plans & Apologies. Sneaking out to the pub made the whole day feel oddly more like WORK to me!

When we'd mastered Regardez, Ecoutez Et Repetez we'd TESTED the master by getting into various CARS for a listen, which turned out GRATE - you get to NOT be sat in the same room you've been in all day AND get to hear it through fresh speakers. This seemed like an ESPECIALLY good idea to me this time around, not least because it is my FONDEST DREAM that this album will become the Long Car Journey Soundtrack of CHOICE for the next generation.

Our last job before getting in the car was to do the CDText - this is the thing that, basically, tells car stereos what the tracks are called, and seems to be the thing that people are MOST impressed by when it works, so we took IMMENSE care, with poor old Robbie having THREE middle aged spelling pedants overseeing his typing.

We'd got a table booked for CURRY at nine and, foolishly tempting fate, I'd been saying all week that we'd be in the car by 3pm and thus in the PUB by about half four. It was gone seven o'clock by the time the four of us squashed in to the Tiger Mobile, and GOODNESS knows what the other car park users thought when they saw the four of us sat there with the windows steamed up. STEAMY EXCITEMENT was pretty much the OPPOSITE of what we were feeling - after more than two YEARS of effort and tinkering we REALLY REALLY REALLY wanted it to all WORK this time around, there was a PUB waiting for us!

We emerged 50 minutes later all visibly RELIEVED but still a bit NERVOUS. It all sounded GRATE - but that couldn't be right, could it? We'd been so worried that we'd not really been able to ENJOY it yet. Everything sounded pretty AMAZING (and later listens would prove that it TOTALLY IS) but the PANIC of the situation had subdued us somewhat. We agreed that the mix was RIGHT, but that maybe some of the comparative volumes of tracks might need tweaking - Robbie reassured us that if that was the case it would be a dead simple job, and so we set off for the pub with our hearts lightened but still not quite believing that we'd DONE it.

We arrived at the pub to find Emma ensconced with Mr and Mrs Machine, and the latter sadly having to leave pretty much straight away due to BABYSITTING. The rest of us settled in for an extraordinarily pleasant evening, as seen below:

Group Photo


Aah, look at us all! It was LOVELY to be all back together again, especially as it was only a MONTH or so since the last time, rather than the MASSIVE GAPS we've experienced lately. We did the traditional presentation of The Producer's Whisky, drank each other's health, and had LARFS.

DANGER!


We popped over the road for BEER - sentimentally getting LECH, the beer we'd drunk in Germany - and i ALARMED Tim by saying this might be the last album we get REPLICATED (i.e. do over 500 copies of) rather than DUPLICATED (smaller runs) due to Modern Times and Downloading. He seemed to think this meant THE END OF THE BAND but I _think_ i managed to talk him down from THE ROOF and we then spent a very happy evening eating DELICIOUS Balti Curry and discussing ALL SORTS. Visitors from the future may like to know that it was on THIS evening that we agreed our NEXT project: the MJ Hibbett & The Validators Party Album (as suggested by Mrs C Gibb and The Sauce In My Balti on twitter this week) to feature songs such as "I Can See Clearly Now", "Saturday Night" and "Zoom". Emma agreed that it's her turn to PRODUCE. Watch for it in 2015!

It was thus a happy band of Validators who wandered off into the night, with me returning to Tiger Towers to watch Doctor Who and KINDLY help him try out his new whisky - another tradition of these recording sessions which, hopefully, will return whatever we do next.

Next day I came home and listened again to the album - it definitely DOES need a couple of tiny volume tweaks, but otherwise IT IS FINISHED! I can't WAIT to let people hear it, it is going to BLOW MINDS!!

posted 12/9/2011 by MJ Hibbett
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Jersey Boys
Last night The Songs In My Show and I went UP WEST, to see a MUSICAL!

We'd booked tickets for Jersey Boys AGES ago, as a joint present to celebrate our 10th Anniversary. It's not the sort of thing we usually do AT ALL - we've only ever been to see the one musical before, The Sound Of Music a couple of years ago, and that was only because my Mum had a couple of spare tickets. We'd really REALLY enjoyed ourselves, but it was only when In Discussion with some other faaamily members that we realised that, actually, we might like to go to The Theatre AGANE.

So we did, and GOLLY it was worth it! The Theatre was LOVELY - it was like someone had taken a smelly, sticky, nasty old mid-ranking gig venue and completely DONE IT UP until it was CLEAN and sparkling and full of COMFORT and DELIGHT, so that the only reminder of its past life was the Expensive Beer. Even THAT didn't really matter as the bar staff were PLENTIFUL and the overall mood was one of REFINEMENT and LUXURY.

Also putting us in a good mood: the fact that we were the youngest adults there BY FAR, except maybe for a few people who had clearly brought their PARENTS. The couple sitting in front of us - who were ACE, and DANCED in their seats throughout - were celebrating their Golden Wedding Anniversary, and looking round I think they probably weren't the only ones.

The show itself was FAB - it's the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons and I am LEGALLY BOUND to remark, as EVERYBODY does who sees the show: COR! you never realised they had SO MANY HITS! It's a bit crazy when a song as ENORMOUS as "Sherry" gets cut down to half its (already tiny) length, and loads of other MASSIVE HITS get bunged in medleys or incidental music, but they had MILLIONS (ish) of them to get through. It was GRATE!

As for the staging of it - now, when I was a young and callow student I had VIEWS about this sort of thing. "The Theatre", i would remark "is about the ACTING, the IMAGINATION!" and i would SNEER at big West End shows with their Props and their Lighting and their SETS. Now, however, i see that THE SHOW is an integral part of ... well, THE SHOW. Part of the fun of this sort of thing is watching the sets fly around and the ILLUSION of locations appearing before your eyes. There was one particularly AMAZING bit where suddenly everything switched around so that we were BACKSTAGE at a huge concert, watching the band perform from behind - it was all done with a couple of actors, one or two little props and some HUGE LIGHTS, but BLIMEY it didn't half work! It was THEATRICAL AUDACITY!

The whole thing left us with faces full of GLEE as we left, feeling thoroughly entertained. It cost a LOT more than going to a gig, but we certainly felt that it had been WELL worth it - in discussion afterward we agreed that it wasn't something we'd like to do ALL the time, but CRUMBS! As an ANNUAL TREAT it would be hard to beat!

We skipped off for a LATE SUPPER full of the sophisticated joys of London Living. We ended up sitting in a restaurant drinking DRINKS and eating posh grub until GONE ELEVEN O'CLOCK! Imagine THAT! To our amazement, when we left, there were loads of OTHER people still up and wandering about, WAY past everyone's bed time. It was a revelatory end to a GRATE night out - HOORAH for SHOWBUSINESS!

posted 9/9/2011 by MJ Hibbett
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The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year
I love this time of year - September! When the weather becomes perfect for PUBS, when everyone is back from their holidays/festivals, and when things start to get BOOKED. I know New Year is the time when one is meant to look forward to the wide open fields of An Empty Diary, but for me it always feels like the year starts HERE.

And yes, I know this MAY have something to do with it being start of the school/academic year, but HEY! I works in a University, whattayagonnado?

In fact, I think I almost PREFER this PLANNING time of year to October/November when you actually have to DO things. When gig offers and ideas are flying around it's all EXCITING, thinking of the things you COULD do and how they might all line up in a season of DELIGHT. It's slightly LESS thrilling when you're getting up with a massive hangover the morning after a gig and have to catch the super early train back to work. And then be at work.

It's a lot like CHRISTMAS, especially if (like me) you're one of those organised/annoying people who do their shopping in NOVEMBER, so that they can concentrate on PUBS in December. You get all the work done in advance, and then the actual DAY of Christmas happens in a bit of a blur. Maybe that's why i try to have at LEAST three Christmas Days?

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that I'm having a lovely time at the moment revelling in all the possibilities ahead. We've ALMOST got Totally Acoustic sorted out, for instance - Mr Paul Morricone is doing our Christmas show, and we've pencilled in A Little Orchestra to play at the Moon Horse special in November - and this very morning I've added a BRIGHTON gig to my forthcomings. The Moon Horse tour is coming together nicely, we've booked our flights for GERMANY and this weekend we'll be PLOTTING Actual Validators Gigs.

And of course the BEST thing about all of this is that we should have the Dinosaur Planet ALBUM to sell at all of them! It's a huge SPREE of GLEE, and I can't WAIT for it to start... though maybe I SHOULD wait a bit, and enjoy THIS, the Most Wonderful Time Of The Year!

posted 7/9/2011 by MJ Hibbett
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Debriefing
I met once more with Mr S Hewitt for a DEBRIEF session - there hadn't been time to sit down and do this PROPERLY whilst we were actually performing Moon Horse, so we'd arranged one for when the dust had settled a bit.

We always do one of these and it's usually VERY good value - we talk about what went right and what went wrong, what we'd change for next time, check we DO want to do a show next year, and even start the first vague ideas of what it'll BE next time around. This time, however, much of that was null and void. We had a pretty much TOTALLY GRATE time of it, so there wasn't that many Lessons To Learn, and we'd already agreed that we'd not be going up to do a show anyway, due to OLYMPICS.

Well, we'd sort of agreed - LAST year Steve notified me that he'd be applying to be part of the Olympics closing ceremony, and if he gets in he'll be REHEARSING for it for MONTHS beforehand, so there'd be no TIME to learn a new show. From my side of things I wouldn't WANT to go up and do a big run of shows all on my own, and anyway this year was SO excellent that it feels like tempting fate to go back and try and recreate it all over again.

HOWEVER we both said that not going at ALL seemed a bit miserable - we can't NOT go to Edinburgh! Surely everyone would MISS us? And having DONE the Free Fringe it didn't feel right just to drop it next year when we were having so much FUN. There had been talk of just GOING for a long weekend (after the Olympics), but even then it seemed sad to me not to be doing SOMETHING while I was up there. Steve suggested maybe repeating Totally Acoustic but, to be honest, trying to squeeze it into an HOUR felt like a bit too much of a RUSH.

I did have ONE idea for something I could do though... a very low maintenance THEMED show using a whole batch of songs I've already GOT which I could loosely string together. I wanted to check that Steve wouldn't MIND me doing something like that, and he said he was FINE, so I'm thinking MAYBE that might be the thing to do. THUS we agreed to see how we felt in January (and see what The Olympic Committee said!) then ask Mr Buckley-Hill if we could maybe have a spot at some point for 2-3 days, any time as long as it was at Buffs, at his convenience, to do this THEMED thing, and then gently arrange the rest of our Fringe around that.

This seemed like an EXCELLENT idea - not least because it involves no work for AGES! - and we saluted it with some BEER, before moving on to discuss the two pronged TOUR and the possibility of releasing the whole thing as a PODCAST. Moon Horse is not ready to retire to the Moon Stables JUST yet!

posted 6/9/2011 by MJ Hibbett
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A Birthday In Camden
Continuing our SPREE of Doing Things Normal Couples Do, The Wine In My Bottle and I went OUT on Friday night to see some PALS. We had a meal! and BOOZE! At a TABLE!! It was like some wonderful dreamworld like off the telly, withh Discussions and EvERYTHING - and then the next day we stopped off somewhere for LUNCH!!! IMAGINE!!

Luckily, before we could get completely over-excited and buy a CARAVAN or something, things returned to ROCK-Normal with me zooming off to Camden to do a GIG. Phew! The gig in question was the birthday party of Mr M Strickson, who got me and a whole bunch of other people doing some SONGS over the course of the day. I was first, and I did THIS:
  • Mental Judo
  • The Peterborough All-Saints Wide Game Team (group B)
  • My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once
  • The Gay Train
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • Boom Shake The Room

  • I'd had a bit of an old PRACTICE in the week - as this would be the first time in AGES I'd be able to CHOOSE what songs to play I thought it best to check what songs i COULD play - and had a LIST of songs available, which was GRATE because it meant I could leap into Mental Judo first FAIRLY sure I'd be able to play it. I know from previous EVENTS that ANY birthday do is always given a slight edge by the knowledge of people who AREN'T there (especially during that bit at the beginning when ABSENCE TEXTS come in) so it seemed like the right thing to do, although the song that went BEST was My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once. Who would have GUESSED that THAT would work for a bunch of people of my generation, all of whom were still in bands, sat in a pub in Camden?

    I had a LOVELY time and then thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the afternoon - it was the whole group of people I know largely through Mr Keith TOTP, who are a bloody DELIGHTFUL bunch, so there was much beer and chat and a whole lot of ACTS. Micky did a set with his old band Ciccone, Ms R Delgado played, Keith himself was on towards the end and it was all GRATE, tho i must admit my favourite was THE ABBA STRIPES.

    Yes, your MIND is correct: that IS an act who play Abba songs in the style of The White Stripes and, actually, it is even MORE EXCELLENT than you are currently imagining. COR! Really the "White Stripes" but just mean "PLAYED LOUDLY" as it was them ABBA songs that most GLEAMED through. It was EXCELLENT!

    To cap off an already SMASHING afternoon, the whole thing finished at the extraordinarily sensible time of 9pm so I was able to easily wobble off and get the OVERGROUND all the way home from Camden Road, something which made me EXTREMELY happy. An EXCELLENT birthday all round i think!

    posted 5/9/2011 by MJ Hibbett
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    Getting Back To Normal
    Things are slowly returning to normality at Hibbett Towers - well, as normal as they can get with the KRAZY KATS involved of course: ZOINKS. Post-Edinburgh COLLAPSE was postponed by various parental visits (Peterborough BEER Festival last week, then other parents at the weekend for a BEATLES WALK and PUBS) and The Camden Fringe, but this week has been one of QUIET and NOT GOING OUT. It's been bloody lovely - it's almost as if the BBC Scheduled the current run of "New Tricks" JUST so that the likes of me would have a LOT of telly to watch this week.

    But, of course, ROCK is ever looming on the horizon, and even while I'm enjoying the fact that I'm going HOME straight after work (rather than GADDING ABOUT) I'm already in DISCUSSIONS about the Moon Horse touring opportunities, and gearing up for next weekend's FINAL Dinosaur Planet mixing session. Over the coming weeks there's going to be a LOT of effort expended finishing off the album artwork, sleevenotes, new webpage, T-SHIRTS, and all sorts. Then we've got the German Tour (!), the return of Totally Acoustic, PODCASTING Moon Horse (maybe) and who knows what else?

    For now though I'm thoroughly enjoying this little OASIS of NORMALITY. Ooh, and we've got "Location Location Location" taped on the TIVO box for tonight too - life is GRATE!

    posted 1/9/2011 by MJ Hibbett
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