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Blog Archive: October 2012

Newsletter Day
It's the last working day of the month, which means it must be time for the latest edition of The Last Working Day Of The Month. INCREDIBLY this is the 92nd issue of our newsletter - 92nd! I guess I'd better get PLANNING something for the 100th really hadn't I?

It's been lovely doing the newsletter every month, and it hasn't really changed much from the early issues. I've tidied it up a bit and become a bit more RELAXED about having the same categories each time, but otherwise it's the same thing. Occasionally I've thought of making it FLASHIER or indeed AUTOMATING it, but I rather like the fact that it's a bit old fashioned (emails are old-fashioned, it MUST be The Future!) and actually quite enjoy emailing them out in batches of 50 by "hand". I'm not so keen on UNSUBSCRIBING by hand, which I also have to do, but HEY! that's what you get for being RETRO.

I'm relieved this month to have a GIG to put in, as for a while I thought November would be gig-FREE - the PLAN to do less gigs is actually WORKING at the moment, which is GOOD, but I don't want to go COLD TURKEY so I was MOST excited when Mr B Bailey of The Lovely Brothers invited me to come and support them in Brighton on the 18th. After that it's just BERLIN for this year (so far), but FEAR NOT! Come 2013 me and Steve will be hitting the road with Total Hero Team!

Which reminds me - I really ought to get on with learning it!

posted 31/10/2012 by MJ Hibbett
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I, Malvolio
I had the afternoon off on Friday so I could go and see "I, Malvolio" at the Unicorn Theatre. We'd been firmly INSTRUCTED by the course that we HAD to go, as the writer/performer Tim Crouch is coming to talk to us soon, and rather than spend EVERY EVENING of MY LIFE out and about I thought I'd go an see an afternoon show. So I did.

I went with a bit of trepidation - last week I read his play "The Author" and though I liked some of it (it's done with TWO ranks of audience seating facing each other, with no stage in the middle, so the whole thing's in the audience, and seemed to be quite good fun) some of it (the "Shocking" parts and the whole It's A Play About Plays bit) I liked a bit less. I also went with some DIFFICULTY, as the theatre had used a "simplified" map to show you how to get to it.

VENUES! A "simplified" map of the area IS NO USE AT ALL when the actual AREA is not "simplified"

Anyway, I eventually found the theatre, had a bit of CAKE and then went into the SPACE to find Mr Crouch already in costume in character, watching us come in. I thought "Hmm, this may be a bit rum" but then BLOW ME but it started and went right ahead and was TOTALLY BRILLIANT! The Idea was that he was Malvolio from Twelfth Night, telling his side of the story, but as if he knew of life outside the play too. THUS he addressed the audience directly throughout, telling us off, taking the piss out of us, and getting Righteously Angry about his treatment. Which is fair enough really - they're HORRIBLE to Malvolio in that play and when we did it DECADES ago at Poly I do remember thinking it was all a bit nasty.

It was also very FUNNY - tho I think if the audience had been full of SCHOOLKIDS not being Theatre Respectful (as I think it more usually would be) then the LARFS would have been even MORE forthcoming. My FAVOURITE bits included him getting a small boy out of the audience to kick him (IE Malvolio) up the arse, or when he got a school girl to help him HANG himself. It was really really funny.

ALSO best bit was the ending, where he "revenged" himself on the audience by making us all sit there while he went off... and never came back. It was GRATE - everyone sat a little unsure, then tittering, then vaguely applauding and, eventually, wandered out.

Even typing this i am AWARE it made sound a bit annoying and THEATRE DARLING, but honest, it was FAB. This was also a SIGNED showing (i.e. for deaf people), so there was much HILARITY as he interacted with the signer, nearly bumping into her and instructing her to make sure we knew that his insults were directed at all of us. She was very GAME too, it was, as i say GRATE!

I emerged full of the joys of THEATRE, but feeling I really ought to go and get a dose of PROPER GIG before I went over to the other side completely. Luckily that was all booked for Saturday!

posted 30/10/2012 by MJ Hibbett
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Looper
The other night The Reels In My Motion Picture and I went to see the film "LOOPER". We'd both read AMAZING reviews of it, saying it was The Great Science Fiction Movie That Comes Round Once A Generation (e.g. like Blade Runner or something) and Other Grand Remarks, so thought we'd give it a go.

It was Quite Good. I mean, it WAS a pretty original story, and it DID do the whole future thing very convincingly, and DID have some good bits. I especially liked the bloke from even FURTHER in the future complaining about how everything looked really 20th Century, and that people could at least TRY wearing silver or flashing lights, and when (NOT REALLY SPOILERS) Bruce Willis complains about trying to explain time travel ("we'll be here for hours making diagrams out of straws") i did LARF, but I could really have done with a LOT more of that sort of thing. Everything was so STERN and taking itself SO seriously that, to be honest, we both found ourselves not caring that much about any of the characters, so the ending wasn't THAT affecting.

Also the ending DIDN'T ACTUALLY MAKE SENSE! SPOILER ALERT! All through the film they go to ENORMOUS lengths to establish PRECISELY The Rules Of Time Travelling i.e. if you go back in time and something happens to the younger version of yourself THEN, your timeline ONLY gets changed as far as it's changed in the present e.g. if somebody scratches one letter into their arm you see it AT THAT MOMENT as one letter. If they scratch another letter a minute later, it appears on YOUR arm a minute later. You don't get the whole word "before" they've written it.

This is reinforced several times, and has some BRILLIANT, also SUPER GORY results. It's a very good way of doing it, and totally works... except at the end where they go "EXCEPT if you're the love interest, then it all works retrospectively as well" which is MEGA ANNOYING! Come on, Film Makers, if you're going to go to ALL that effort, at least carry it through to the end!

So yes, it was Quite Good and did loads of things really well, but was mostly let down by being A Bit Ponderous - if there'd been LAUGHS and TEARS etc etc I wouldn't have minded the ending AT ALL (c.f. the fact I usually enjoy Dr Who every week!).

Having said that, it did lead to much THORT and DISCUSSION when The Arc Of My Character and I popped to Tap East for our traditional Quick Pint Oh Go On Let's Have Another afterwards re: time travel, TROPES, and Alternate Realities. By the end of it all my head was SWIMMiNG, and not just because of the American Pale Ale!

posted 29/10/2012 by MJ Hibbett
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Into The Historical Record
I was very disappointed to lose out on the QUEST to be the hold music for At-Bristol Science Centre, but news has arrived which goes somewhere to SOOTHING the WOUND. For LO! Apparently the BRITISH LIBRARY have got in touch with those lovely people at Geek Pop and asked for a copy of the Geek Like Me compilation that I was part of next year!

This means that it will be stored FOREVER (or until the disintegration of society at least) in their ANNALS, and thus future generations will be able to hear my collaboration with Mr Vom Vorton, Brokeback Workbench.

It feels slightly ODD to think that in 200 years time the only Official Record of my illustrious career could be an Homosexual Duet performed with A Bearded Gentleman, as it's not a 100% accurate representation of my OUVRE, but still: it is a HIGH HONOUR to be included, and yet ANOTHER marvellous event to have come about through the Geek Pop lot, along with the trip to Green Man festival and the aforementioned Hold Music Quest. As ever in The Crazy World Of ROCK, you never know WHAT is going to ENSUE from ANY activity you get involved with, but recording songs for these lot has accrued a LOT! Thanks chaps!

posted 26/10/2012 by MJ Hibbett
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Croxjam
On Saturday it seemed like everyone I knew was going to the big TUC March - I had no idea it was happening until the day before, when I kept getting messages asking if I was going, but couldn't anyway as I was booked to head to distant CROYDON to play at "CROXJAM", their all-day multi-venue GIG for Oxfam.

In all honesty I'd originally thought "I'll just pop over, do my gig and come home, and not much will happen", but this thought was ERRONEOUS. As soon as the timetable came out I knew I'd need to be there a while, as my venue was hosting Superman Revenge Squad, Tim Eveleigh AND Jenny Lockyer all in a row not long before MY bit - three Totally Acoustic acts in one go, I couldn't really miss THAT could I?

ALSO it ended up being full of people - including the ever marvellous Mr Dave Green, JD & The Longfellows (who I couldn't stay to see, unfortunately) and Mr Spoons, who'd brought some pals down. Over the course of day i had a LOT of chats, and filled up my Notebook with a whole PAGES of Further Actions and Outcomes. Croydon is the place to BE - I ended up getting some AMAZING ideas about Dinosaur Planet from Jenny, another possible date for Total Hero Team warm-ups AND another Green Dragon gig from Tim, a possible OUTING from Dave, ANOTHER gig possibility via Mr Spoons, and a possible Amateur Dramatic Society production of Dinosaur Planet! It was all a BIT MUCH really, and after all that i THEN had to get up and do a GIG, as follow:
  • The Peterborough All-Saints Wide Game Team (group B)
  • My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once
  • Theme From Dinosaur Planet
  • Being Happy Doesn't Make You Stupid
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • Boom Shake The Room

  • It was HARD WORK. I was on about 7.20pm, by which time the large room had filled up with quite a lot of people... who were quite happily CHATTING to their friends. This had started with the chap on two acts ago, who'd done INSTRUMENTAL songs - they were very nice, but did invite CHATTING, which continued over the next act and carried on for me. I asked the soundboys to make me "incredibly loud", but they could only do so much, so I was repeatedly tempted to turn the microphone stand heavily to my left and do the whole show to the half of the room a) featuring pals b) listening, but this had to be RESISTED. "Come on Hibbett", I thought, "there's a room full of people to CONVERT here, don't just take the easy route out!"

    THUS i tried FIXING people with LOOKS and doing audience participation, and NO QUIET ONES. This worked all right - some people drifted away, but I got at LEAST the half of the chatting room nearest to me to turn and look and listen. It was feeling GOOD - Being Happy Doesn't Make You Stupid got people singing along, I felt like I was starting to WIN... and then my pick-up conked out!

    LUCKILY i was near the end of the song, so managed to pretend it's MEANT to finish acapella, but then had to VERY QUICKLY get the young soundboys to rig me up a microphone for the guitar, whilst attempting to carry on talking and MAINTAIN CONTROL of the room. I don't think I quite managed it, which was a shame, but my traditional last two songs went some way towards WRESTING control back, and we did have a bit of a "Boom Shake The Room" singalong.

    It was EXHAUSTING though, and I did feel I'd put the effort in - I always say that EVERYONE should do these sort of gigs JUST as much as they do the nice easy ones where people come pre-prepared to listen, but GOODNESS ME it's a lot HARDER this way!

    Still, all seemed to be well so I finished off my BOOZE, did SEVERAL hugs and thank yous and headed off back into the night, my aforementioned notebook LADEN DOWN with things to do and exciting new ideas. Every time I tell people I'm off to do a gig in Croydon it always sounds like a Joke Gig or something - "Croydon" is one of those place names that people who've not BEEN there will use as shorthand for a dump or boring place, but GOODNESS ME it is one HECK of a HUB of activity, creativity and ACTION. I'm still knackered even now, I'll need a few weeks to get my energy back before attempting another visit!

    posted 24/10/2012 by MJ Hibbett
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    I Heart Peterborough
    Friday was another big day of CULTURE, starting in the afternoon when myself and my tiny little baby brother (hem hem) took some visiting relatives to the John Soames Museum - ALWAYS a good bet as nobody's ever heard of it and invariably emerge GIBBERING with how overwhelmingly BONKERS it is - and then The Science Museum. As usual in the latter I got a bit overexcited about the FACT of the Actual Existence of Stephenson's Rocket, the Babbage Machine and Apollo 10 ACTUALLY THERE, but this time we also got a talk by our Uncle Mike about the Model T-Ford. He has FOUR of them, and pronounced the ONE in the Science Museum to be workable. "I could drive it right oughta here" he said. He didn't though.

    After safely packing them off to John Lewis for SCONES I headed down the road to the Soho Theatre to see "I Heart Peterborough". My course leader on the MA had told us to go and see NEW STUFF there and I could hardly resist something with a title like THAT could I? The evening didn't start well, as I foolishly tried to find a quiet pub for a pint beforehand - in Soho, at 6.30pm, on a Friday: NOT POSSIBLE - but then went up to the show itself and immediately felt at home, for LO! it was a 100 capacity black room with very little air conditioning. Give me a curry just beforehand and I'd've been convinced we were in Edinburgh!

    The show itself was BLOODY GRATE. It was Sort Of like two monologues intertwining, but also sometimes becoming a normal play with the two interacting, hopping about to different times. I'd read some reviews saying this was confusing, but it all seemed perfectly reasonable to me. It was also really MOVING, telling the story about a gay bloke from Peterborough and the 15 year old son he has to take in after the son's mother dies, and then the relationship they form. It was surprising and funny and all round ACE - i must admit that a large part of my enjoyment came from the simple fact that they kept mentioning parts of Peterborough and getting it RIGHT (a joke about EYE got a BIG laugh for heaven's sake - who'd've ever thought THAT would happen in a London Theatre?), but I would have loved it anyway. The story was totally original, and the way they did it was ENTHRALLING - even when people came in late making a bit of a racket, and one of the characters spoke to them, it was all so well done it felt even MORE real.

    So yes, REVIEW: It was totally BRILL and I'd say "Go and see it" except it's finished now! It was so good, in fact, that instead of getting on the tube at Tottenham Court Road I carried on walking down to Holborn so I could think about it and SMILE for a bit longer. Best thing I've seen in AGES!

    posted 22/10/2012 by MJ Hibbett
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    Loserville
    I was off to London's Glittering West End last night... to meet Mr S Hewitt in a PUB. GLAMOUR!

    All right, there was more to it than that, as the meeting was a pre-cursor to meeting a whole BUNCH of people and then going to the THEATRE. For LO! we were off to see Loserville - it is (I found out via wikipedia, just before heading off) written by A Bloke From Busted, and INDEED I had seen him on the way to the pub, LOITERING outside the theatre, looking very happy, talking to fans. And happy he should look - this is the first ORIGINAL (i.e. not an adaptation of something else or a revival) BRITISH musical to appear on the West End for... well, for AGES.

    So it must totally count as homework for my course, right?

    We'd got cheapo tickets WAY up high in the sky, and when I got to mine I found I could only really see half of the stage - luckily though no-one turned up for the seat below me on the front row, so I was able to sneak down and LEAN on the rails, having a pretty much perfect view of everything.

    And the view was GOOD - all right, the story was pretty nondescript (and had several bits that didn't really make sense) and the whole thing had a bit of an air of "Oh right, these are the things you HAVE to have in a musical" (including American Accents) but STILL: it was GRATE to see a musical where you didn't already know ALL of the songs, and it was a HECKLOAD of fun. Some of the tunes got a bit samey (which is probably due to the Musical Direction, i guess) but there were some BIG TUNES, especially the theme song which was ACE. The supposed geekiness of it all was a bit Mainstream Geek Archetype i.e. Star Trek, Lord Of The Rings and Star Wars and NOTHING MORE, but the whole running GAG about one of the characters getting ideas to WRITE Star Wars in the future was pretty good.

    Best of all though, was The Staging. It was AMAZING - INDEED my limited experience of West End Shows tells me that that's usually ALWAYS the best thing. It had a very limited set that FLEW around on WHEELS, with BITS reconfiguring to make different spaces at high speed. There was a MOTIF throughout that all the scenery and all the props were DRAWINGS on pieces of notepaper. It worked really really well, especially when a scene would be made by the chorus holding up large pieces of paper, then instantly FLIPPING them as characters moved somewhere else. It was really good.

    So yeah - odd that the SHOW clung so closely to What A Musical Should Be (thought doing it very well), while the DESIGN was all up for new ideas, but it all worked. I hope it CONTINUES to do well - it would be awfully nice if The West End got the idea that original British musicals could be a SUCCESS!

    posted 17/10/2012 by MJ Hibbett
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    Dinosaur Planet for Schools
    After months of thought and preparation I'm very VERY excited to announce the launch of Dinosaur Planet for Schools!

    I've created a new script (based on a mixture of the album and the final live version me and Steve did at Green Man) which is designed to be performed LIVE by a FULL-CAST, and I'm offering it to amateur groups (so not JUST schools) to perform in 2013 for FREE!

    "For FREE?!?" you may exclaim, "What MADNESS is this?" The thinking is threefold: firstly, and mostly, I'd just like to see it DONE, secondly I'd like to get some feedback on whether it WORKS, and finally I've got an idea to HAWK it round theatrical publishers next year, and some Actual Performances would really help.

    SO, if you're interested, do please have a look at the new website and then get in touch via info@dinosaurplanet.co.uk and we'll get sorted out. I'd REALLY like this to happen - so if you know anybody ELSE who might be interested in staging the show, do let me know!

    Right then, enjoy the website, and here's the press release:


    Band Target Children With Free Space Dinosaurs


    Indie legends MJ Hibbett & The Validators have turned their science fiction rock opera 'Dinosaur Planet' into a stage musical and are offering free performance rights to schools, youth groups and amateur dramatic societies.

    'Dinosaur Planet' was released as a full-cast special effectsladen concept album earlier this year to great acclaim from the science fiction community. SFX Magazine called it "Jeff Wayne's new competition", io9.com said it was "the space dinosaurs vs. giant robots rock opera you've been waiting for", and Den Of Geek called it "a ridiculous, charming, delightful oddity".

    Now the band would like to see it performed by amateur groups. "I've always thought it would make a brilliant school play, " says MJ Hibbett. "The songs are very easy to play and sing along to, and making the giant robots and space dinosaurs would be a lot of fun! It also contains a lot of educational information, such as the need for good academic research methods, and ways not to get eaten by space dinosaurs."

    This new adaptation of the story is based on the two-man musical which MJ and his friend Steve Hewitt have been touring around the country for the past two years. The pair performed this version at the Edinburgh Fringe, Camden Fringe, Green Man and Leicester Comedy Festivals.

    The show is available for amateur groups to perform throughout 2013. Anyone who applies will also receive a songbook, videos, artwork, free downloads and even a visit by MJ Hibbett himself. Those interested can find out more at the show's website and can email info@dinosaurplanet.co.uk for a copy of the script.

    For more information contact MJ Hibbett at info@dinosaurplanet.co.uk
    http://www.dinosaurplanet.co.uk/schools


    posted 16/10/2012 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Whole Lot Of Culture
    I've had a VERY cultured few days of it this weekend. It started on Friday with a trip to the THEATRE - a couple of weeks ago when I was PANICKING about the fact that I was starting a course in Playwriting and hadn't actually SEEN a play for decades, my delightful sister-in-law invited me along to see a play at the Royal Court Theatre. "It's twenty minutes long" she said. SOLD!

    Imagine then my DELIGHT when, last week at SCHOOL, our tutor said "What has anyone seen this week?" (SILENCE) "I'm going to see Ding Dong at the Royal Court." ME: (inwardly) "BINGO!" (outwardly) "Oh yes yes, I'm going to see that too." HA!

    The play itself was ALL RIGHT - the first half was a family group who had a son going to war, then they swapped the furniture around, changed the flag on the wall for one very similar, then had another family group with a son also going to war for, we assume, the other side. BUT! the big thing was that they re-used exactly the same dialogue as in the first half, but in a different order. It was Quite Clever, but I couldn't help feeling that we were being told that - HEY! - people on both sides of a conflict are fundamentally the same.

    Next day I was off to POSH Blackheath - it's like Lewisham, but POSH - to play an Oxjam gig at the local Oxfam shop. It too was SUPER POSH (some of the SHOES cost SIXTY QUID!!) but also similar to how i remember going to charity shops when I was a student i.e. it had stuff in it you might actually WANT. Someone appeared to have been in and DUMPED a GRATE comics collection, so i bought some of them, and also a Ronald Searle book. I had plenty of browsing time, as we waited for people to roll in, but after a while I was introduced by compere Mr Phil Knoxville, who is a MAGICIAN. He did MAGIC - i was just stood next to him and he produced a REAL ACTUAL WINE BOTTLE from NOWHERE! He just DID it and I had NO idea how - i have never seen the like!

    Anyway, then it was me and I did THIS:
  • The Peterborough All-Saints Wide Game Team (group B)
  • My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once
  • Theme From Dinosaur Planet
  • Strangely Attractive
  • Being Happy Doesn't Make You Stupid
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • Boom Shake The Room

  • It all seemed to go pretty darn well - I was in a small room with about twenty people, which is pretty much PERFECT for me, and though there wasn't much Singing Along (it WAS about 3pm in a venue with NO BOOZE tho!) but otherwise it was THOROUGHLY lovely. It felt like AGES since I last did an actual gig, and i really really enjoyed it. There was a LOT of CHAT!

    Soon it was time for me to fly off again, heading to The BBC where I met The People In My Audience for a final slice of CULTURE, as we had tickets to see The Best Of The Fringe, a compilation of new acts from this year's Edinburgh. We had a FAB time - most of the acts were pretty good (the two musical ones being the least so, but even they were OK) and i LARFED a GRATE deal. Best of all it was LIKE stomping around Edinburgh seeing people you'd never heard of but a) FREE b) without the RAIN. MUCH easier this way!

    The only major DOWN side of this method of doing Edinburgh is that we didn't get to have CHIPS or a CURRY between the acts... or so we thought, until we got home to find that The Landlady had left us tea platters of CHIPS and CURRY sauce for tea! HOORAH! The perfect way to end a day or so of EXTREME CULTURE!

    posted 15/10/2012 by MJ Hibbett
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    It's Beginning To Feel A Lot Like Christmas
    For ages now we've been committed to providing a song for a Prolapse covers albums - AGES and ages in fact, and after some discussion we recently BOOKED a session to go and record it. The Validators were going in on their own to do it, and as it was being planned Tim suggested that we could use the session to ALSO record a Christmas song.

    This filled my heart with JOY - i love the fact that adding to the Christmas Selection Box every year has become part of Validators LORE - so I readily agreed, and so last week The Vlads went back to Snug to MAKE IT UP!

    The files were duly sent to me, and yesterday I sat down to piece it all together (Mr R Newman sent me ALL the tracks seperately, so I had the unbeatable DELIGHT of trying to mix a full drum kit). It sounds AMAZING! Our version of (SPOILERS) "Deanshanger" is CRACKING - really quite EXCITING, with violin BAGPIPES and all sorts, and the Christmas song is LOVELY. However, I'd been having a bit of a problem with this latter item - Tom had sent me a rough demo recording of it last month, and I'd got pretty much NOWHERE with thinking up any actual WORDS. I'd gone through all sorts of vague ideas, and had a discussion with The Branches On My Christmas Tree about it where I'd thought i MIGHT do it about Christmas Card lists, but I'd only got as far as a first verse about standing in Paperchase looking at all the different types of cards.

    I mean, standing in Paperchase? How am I going to make a video out of THAT? I haven't made a video for ages and would rather like to for this year's song - maybe that was what was stopping me coming up with something good?

    Then this morning: INSPIRATION! Sat at home getting ready to go to work I remembered going to my Dad's at Christmas several years ago, and going for a wander round his village looking at all the Christmas lights. I googled pictures of Christmas lights and then - HELLO IDEAS! Suddenly lines, choruses, whole verses and a STORY starting FLOODING into the BRANE BATH, filling it so quickly that I had to scrabble for notebook and, when that was TOO SLOW, my PHONE to record it on. All the way down Leytonstone High Road THORTS occurred and there were more on the TUBE. HOORAH!

    When I got to work I found I had the office to myself, so put my MyPod on and LISTENED to the recording. Over the next hour (while simultaneously Working Jolly Hard, of course) I wrote it all out - I knew how the story would go, it was just a question of making it RHYME really! Ever since I first heard the tune I'd been DETERMINED not to make it a Spoken Word Piece but... well, that's pretty much what it is, really, though with a LOT of rhymes in it, and there is at least a little bit of Actual Singing in the chorus. I'll probably need to get Emma to do that bit tho, it's a bit high!

    So there we go - DONE! Hopefully I'll be able to get it recorded in the next week or so, ready for the addition of backing vocals, violins, SLEIGHBELLS and wotnot, and it'll be with you some time over Advent. All I have to do now is make that video!

    posted 12/10/2012 by MJ Hibbett
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    Defeat!
    Well, it looks like we haven't won the Geekpop Poll for the Hold Music at the At-Bristol centre. We tried - and many MANY lovely people pitched in and ALSO tried really hard, but in the end it looks like Mr Monty Harper properly beat us.

    Thanks VERY much to everyone who joined in, it was DEAD exciting being part of something like that again, and somewhat wonderful to see PALS leaping in to help. I really rather enjoyed it I must say and so, here to play us out is the song that came in the very worthy SILVER MEDAL position:



    posted 10/10/2012 by MJ Hibbett
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    Party Like It's 2004
    Things are HOTTING UP like nobody's business in the poll to choose the hold music for At-Bristol Science Centre with our song A Little Bit very much NECK AND NECK with one by Monty Harper. As I write we are ONE VOTE ahead!

    It's all quite exciting, with lots of PALS very helpfully WEIGHING IN to encourage others to vote - it's such a long time since I've been involved in anything like this, in fact, that I'd forgotten how much FUN it can be. There was a time, LONG AGO, when online polls were all the rage (having, I think, only just been automated properly) and people were FOREVER imploring you to vote for them. We had our own THRILL RACE back in 2004 when we were up against "The Badger Song" by Mr J Veitch in the Yahoo Office Attachments Awards. Everyone got VERY excited about it and HUGE numbers of votes were cast until, just before voting closed, the whole thing was REMOVED, without a WORD of reason why, and completely IGNORED forevermore by the organisers. Almost as if they had detected... CHEATING?!?

    I felt ROBBED then, and would DEARLY love it if we could set history right and win THIS one - so please, if you've not done so yet, do pop on over an give us a vote. The poll closes tomorrow (Wednesday) at lunchtime, so get in quick!

    This must be what it's like to be in the final of X-Factor. Do you think it'll help if i CRY?

    posted 9/10/2012 by MJ Hibbett
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    Otway Weekend
    We had a whole lot of OTWAY this weekend, starting with a trip for myself, My Flowers To Be Wary Of, and The Landlady to Leicester Square Theatre, where Mr J Otway and his Big Band were doing a big gig to celebrate the imminent premiere of Otway The Movie. Before arriving I was a bit unsure about watching a gig in a seated auditorium, but it was LOVELY - so comfortable! and you could SEE everything and HEAR everything properly too!

    Of course, That Guy didn't like it - you know That Guy, most bands have people like him, the one who thinks he's part of the band and IN CHARGE of the audience. All through the interval (aaah! a gig with an extended beer/toilet break, lovely!) he was going round saying "We can't sit down at an Otway gig! When I give the signal, everyone stand up." I was OUTRAGED (quietly)! "I've spent TWENTY THREE YEARS standing up at Otway gig" i said to our party, "I'm going to enjoy sitting down for once." DELIGHTFULLY it turned out that everyone else thought so too, so when That Guy leapt up and signalled, hardly anybody joined in, and when he KEPT turning round and waving we politely ignored him, and RELAXED with the show.

    And WHAT a show it was - as I say, I've been going to Otway gigs for 23 years and they haven't exactly CHANGED (e.g. the joke about the b-side to "Really Free" selling "just as many copies as the A-side" has NEVER, i think, been omitted in all that time) but have very much MATURED. I remember when his version of "The House Of The Rising Sun" would OCCASIONALLY feature someone shouting "Where?" after the first line, and ORGANICALLY getting more involved over time, and there were many many similar developments. He's still clambering up step ladders, for instance, but THANKFULLY these days he's at least jumping down and THEN doing a forward roll, rather than doing it all in one go, and there's EXTRA gags about having TWO hits which always get a cheer.

    The BIG maturation tho, i reckon, is when he does "Geneve". This used to be one of the Token Nice Songs, but these days it's become incredibly moving - when he talks about how he "sings the same songs" there's a cheer of recognition and LOVE, and you can feel the whole room about to burst into tears when he says "For I am still young, and it's true that I don't forget her, and I don't regret and I'm not going to" (which is basically the HEART of Otway) which leads into HUGE APPLAUSE when he gets to "it is my shoes, that walk across the stage for the applause". Finally it actually IS his shoes, and he bloody deserves it.

    It was a beautiful evening of LOVE - there was a lovely moment when we saw Otway, Richard and Murray just LOOK at each other and appreciate how ridiculous,also ACE it all was - but also quite a LATE one, not least because we had to get up on Sunday morning at Normal Weekday Going To Work Time, ready to head BACK in to Leicester Square in time for the PREMIERE itself.

    We arrived at the Odeon Leicester Square (the UK's biggest cinema and, of course, booked LONG before the film itself was started) to see a huge crowd waiting outside. Brilliantly, a large part of the crowd were tourists, trying to work out which BIG STAR we were all waiting for. Best of all was a GIGANTIC "Otway The Movie" poster plastered over the front of the building. Otway came out onto the balcony to wave and alter the "ODEON" sign to say "OTWAY" - this was all filmed and ended up being on the Channel 4 News, as well as forming the very last few minutes of the film itself.

    We bumped into Ms H Arney (who turned out to have been part of the Aylesbury Youth Orchestra, who played with him at the Albert Hall gig) and Mr P Buckley-Hill, then went in to watch the film. It was GRATE - we knew a lot of the story already, but it was HILARIOUS to see the clips of heroic failure and indeed Ridiculous Success. All the way through I had to keep reminding myself it was REAL - he really WAS on Top Of The Pops, he DID buy a Bentley when he couldn't drive, get a Top 10 hit for his 50th birthday, and so on and on and on. It wasn't quite as "warts and all" as advertised, though maybe that's because the bits that most Rock Stars try to HIDE are the bits that Otway REVELS in, and some of it did feel like Telling The Stories Again. HOWEVER there were two bits of Profound Emotion that really stood out: the first was when Otway talked about Woolworths FIXING the charts by not stocking his single. There was still ANGER (RIGHTEOUS anger!) in his voice, which was echoed shortly after with CHEERS when Rich Cotton pointed out that Woolworths went BUST soon after. The other was when Otway - for the first time in the movie - was shown somewhat lost for words when talking about the failure of Ot-Air, the plan to take his audience on a world tour with him.

    A couple of years ago i'd seen him do a LIVE version of the story (bits of which appeared in the film as he delivered a RATHER AMUSING lecture to sixth-formers) which ended there, with disapointment and disaster, so it was a FANTASTIC climax for the movie to end with ... the movie itself! As mentioned earlier, scenes had been filmed outside the cinema which came in as the GRAND FINALE, making a fitting end to the story (so far) with a TRIUMPH. HILARIOUSLY it showed Otway doing his trademark forward roll into the cinema... which made all his pens fall out of his pocket which he stopped, picked up, and carried on. It was Very Otway!

    As the film ended the credits rolled with the names of the HUNDREDS of fans who'd helped produce the film - as this was basically THE ENTIRE AUDIENCE we all sat and watched, with CHEERS and FLASHBULBS going off around the auditorium as people spotted themselves. The Names On My Credit Roll and I didn't SHOUT when we saw ourselves... although it WAS very very exciting! Our names on the big screen!

    It was a brilliant end to a beautiful weekend celebrating Otway's 60th Birthday. I wonder what he'll do for his 70th?

    posted 8/10/2012 by MJ Hibbett
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    Billy Bragg Mastertapes
    I met Mr S Hewitt last night in leafy Maida Vale (actually nearer to Warwick Avenue station, and thus I STILL have the song "Warwick Avenue" in my BRANE this morning) for a swift pint before heading up to Maida Vale Studio to see the recording of a new Radio 4 series called "Mastertapes", where they talk to musicians about the making of one of their albums. This was the first one, and would feature Billy Bragg discussing "Talking To The Taxman About Poetry".

    We arrived at the studio to find a queue - we didn't really need to ask whether it was OUR queue, one GLANCE told you this was a Billy Bragg audience. After the traditional Slightly Too Long A Wait we shuffled in, and everyone took it in turns to dash to the LOO - being the aforesaid Billy Bragg audience AGE GROUP we'd all got a bit anxious in the queue!

    The show was due to start at 7.30pm, and the tickets said it would be over by 10.30pm, which seemed a LONG time. The main "Mastertapes" show is half an hour long, and would feature the main interview (with some songs performed), but there'd be ANOTHER show, also half an hour long, broadcast featuring audience questions. I know they record more than they USE for this sort of show, but surely we'd be done by 9pm at the latest?

    Of course, what I hadn't factored into my calculations was the fact that this was BILLY BRAGG, who is not exactly TACITURN. He had a LOT to say - every question got not only a full answer BUT also a couple of other full answers to questions that ought to come next. Just like at gigs he was THORT provoking, and also funny - there were loads of GAGS and a couple of really interesting NEW IDEAS. When someone asked him about the apparent lack of young political popstars he said that part of the reason was that there are so many MORE outlets for political activism these days. When he started out your only option was to write a song and go and do gigs, but now it's much easier to go on Facebook, or twitter, or make a YouTube video or ANYTHING. I hadn't thought of that!

    What was especially lovely was how NERVOUS he clearly was without his usual prop of a SONG to go to after every remark. He did perform a couple of songs during the interview, and on nearly every occasion forgot the words and had to start again. It's nice to see a Proper Musician getting THE FEAR like this, also ENDEARING!

    The second half of the show featured audience questions - we'd been asked to send in questions before we went, and I hadn't been able to think of anything... until the interview got going and I thought "I wonder how he works out his tracklist orders?" LUCKILY this very question was asked by Mr Phil Jupitus, who got a bit excited and KEPT asking questions!

    At the end Billy was asked to do an extra song... and did FOUR! He was clearly RELIEVED to be able to return to What He Does (even saying so at the end) and at one point it seemed like he was NEVER GOING TO LEAVE. He did a whole batch of songs from the album, ending with "Greetings To The New Brunette" and it was BRILLIANT. It's a really good idea for a show, though goodness knows how they're going to edit it down to two half hours, there was a TONNE of stuff!

    Afterwards we nipped to The Warrington for a cheeky pint before last orders. This was my brother's local when he lived in Maida Vale, and the last time I'd been there had been just after OUR Maida Vale session - something which, with ENORMOUS self-control, I had only mentioned ONCE the whole time we'd been there!

    The programme is on at the end of October, I think - i wonder who they're getting on for the rest of the series?

    posted 5/10/2012 by MJ Hibbett
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    Science Hold Music
    Never mind The Rebel Playlist, and KNICKERS to The Mercury Music Prize - there is a MUCH more important musical decision to be made, and you, dear reader, can help ensure it is the CORRECT decision!

    The At-Bristol Science Centre have asked those delightful folks at Geek Pop to find them some new hold music for their phone line. They asked for "a cute quirky song about science that is pretty accessible to non-scientists" and Geek Pop came up with FIVE possible candidates... one of which is our song, A Little Bit.

    I am VERY PROUD to have this song included - all through the writing of Dinosaur Planet I was determined to have the Earth saved not by a Lone Maverick or EXPLOSIONS, but by good quality academic research undertaken by a TEAM of researchers - just as it usually is in real-life - so the chance to have the song used by Actual Scientists would be a rather wonderful dream come true.

    You can hear clips of all five songs over on the Geek Pop webpage and VOTE for the one you think best meets the BRIEF. Voting is open until noon next Wednesday (October 10th), and I would VERY much appreciate it if you would take the time to go and have a listen and then, if possible, vote for US!

    Go on - think of the Science Folk of Bristol, do it for THEM!

    posted 3/10/2012 by MJ Hibbett
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    First Day At Big School
    Having been well and truly INDUCTED last week, I set off last night for my first Actual Class on the MA. I left myself loads of time to walk from my work, and so arrived at City with PLENTY of time to go and put a clean t-shirt on (I didn't want to start off as Sweaty Guy) before going off to find my classmates.

    As before, I'd wondered whether the three hours of the session would drag, but it FLEW by. Thinking about it later I realised that, although I've spent the past 20 years going to Workshops, Lectures, and General Academic Things, this was the first time that I was doing it about something i was actually ACTIVELY interested in. This must be how people who LOVE their job feel when they go to conferences, it was FASCINATING!

    We'd been given homework last week, to write a MONOLOGUE, and we spent the first half of the evening going through these, reading 4 or 5 of them (not mine, which was a) disappointing b) a RELIEF, both at the same time) and then discussing them in A Structure Way. It was AMAAAZING - criticising positively is HARD, but every now and then a NUGGET OF INSIGHT would appear, and everyone would go "Aaah!" and write it down - a different way to do things, an idea of how to EXPAND what you're writing etc etc. It may say a bit Not Much, but it was INVIGORATING!

    In the second half we split into pairs and told each other a Memorably Moment in our lives, and then then the other person had to mentally re-write it as if it had happened to them, then tell it to the group. As we went round comments were offered on how to restructure it into more of a story, looking at what sort of things worked, endings, character and so on, so as it moved around those of us who hadn't had a go yet could be seen CLEARLY thinking "Hmm... i'll change this bit, make this more like that..." until those of us at the end were delivering BLOCKBUSTERS.

    It was all terribly terribly exciting, and we got sent off with NEXT week's assignment, to use the character from the monologue in another part of the story, writing a DIALOGUE. Last week I did Wenlock and Mandeville, so I guess this week I need to write about Pride The Lion. That isn't QUITE what I was expecting to be doing, but by HECK it's a lot of fun!

    posted 2/10/2012 by MJ Hibbett
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    Mudlarks in Shepherds Bush
    On Saturday lunchtime I set off to an Actual Theatre to see an Actual Play for the first time in YEARS - I've seen bucketloads of plays in various Edinburgh pubs, and gone to a few West End Shows, but (apart from a visit to see Woody From Cheers in a [not very good version of a] Tennessee Williams play when my American Cousin came to visit) I've not been to THEATRE to see a play on purpose since the early 1990s.

    Last week our course leader had told everyone on my MA course to go and see "Mudlarks" by Vickie Donoghue at The Bush Theatre, so we could talk about it in class this week. I dutifully got booked up for the MATINEE, and so TREKKED across town to Shepherds Bush for 2.30pm. Inside the theatre it was like a proper old fashioned STUDIO theatre, just as I remember at the old Leicester Haymarket, with even the SAME lightly padded BENCHES rather than seats.

    The play was AMAAAZING - it blew my tiny mind, in fact! I've come to this course with SEVERAL TONNES of Mental Baggage, and so was expecting the play to be BORING, STAGEY, and Just Worthy. I'd got it into my head that there's no point at ALL in doing Naturalistic Theatre, as you can get that on telly... but this was fantastic! It was EXCITING, also TENSE and MOVING and FUNNY and dead dead good. It's all about three Essex teenagers who've Done Something and come to hide out on a mud beach where, as you'd hope, All Manner Of Issues Are Raised.

    It was fantastic - I couldn't believe quite HOW much I enjoyed the whole experience, having been DREADING this part of the course for ages. Maybe... maybe now that I'm TWICE as old as I was when I last went to the theatre regularly, maybe that means I have more patience to sit and pay attention? Also: more life experience and sympathy for more characters on stage? In a funny kind of way it was like going to The Football - when I was younger it felt like FOREVER, now 90 minutes just flies by!

    I got a copy of the TEXT (apparently you can USUALLY get a copy of the full script of a play when you go to see it - i never knew that!) and started reading it immediately on the way home. The most exciting thing of ALL, though, is that Vickie Donoghue is a graduate of MY COURSE, and my BRANE started to think "Hey! Maybe this is a VIABLE course of action after all! Maybe this really COULD lead to something!"

    Who knows? Whatever happens it was an ACE afternoon out - i would HIGHLY recommend!

    posted 1/10/2012 by MJ Hibbett
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