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Blog Archive: January 2013

Total Hero Team In Croydon
I headed out through wind and rain to distant CROYDON after work last night, to kick off an evening of ACTION by appearing on Mr Tim Eveleigh's show on Croydon Radio. We had an hour of YAKKING and also some songs, it was all rather DELIGHTFUL.

We popped round the corner to The Green Dragon to find Mr S Hewitt waiting for us, for LO! We were due to perform Total Hero Team that very evening - we ALWAYS do a preview at The Green Dragon, it is a lovely place to go to and the beer is ACE!

We were all sat about with many OF the delightful people of that pub having our tea, when Young Sam, Son Of Esther The Landlady, suddenly got all excited, pointing, saying, "Look at all those people!" I pretended to be DEAD COOL, not looking round for ages, but when I DID look round I saw... a huge party of about 40 Chinese Tourists filling up half the upstairs room of the pub. Nobody seemed entirely sure WHAT was going on - it was like a WEIRD ECHO of the end of the show. Was it going to turn out that (SPOILERS) I too had been found by a Travel Agent, with hundreds of fans also wanting to sample fine local ales? Only time would tell!

We were preceded by RuM, who'd played with us LAST time we did a preview. They were GRATE, like proper FREE JAZZ but with POEMS. Now, I know that sounds like it would be AWFUL, but it was actually exciting, FUNNY, and just dead good. There was a small group of the Chinese Tourists who came and sat near the stage, taking photographs. I do hope that when they get home they tell people that this was an ENTIRELY TYPICAL British Pub Performance!

And then we went on, and we did it PRETTY WELL I think. There were still lots of NERVES, ERRORS, and lengthy costume changes, but being in front of an audience (even one where about 70% of the room is busy toasting and taking photographs of each other) is EMPOWERING and we... er... POWERED through. It's STILL too long and, though I'm sure it'll get quicker when we feel a bit more confident, there do still need to be some CUTS. I have my eye on I Dream Of Superheroes at the moment, though A Little Bit Excited shouldn't get too comfortable.

The HUGE CROWD left JUST before the bit about huge crowds ARRIVING, which was slightly odd, and somehow seemed to take a little bit of the ENERGY of the show... although that may also be because we're not yet quite MATCH FIT, and an HOUR of leaping about can take it out of one!

All in all though it seemed to work OK. One more practice to go and then we head to LEICESTER, and thence to THE ROAD!

posted 30/1/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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The PBH Free Fringe Programme Album
Last time we went to Edinburgh, with Moon Horse VS The Mars Men Of Jupiter, we did it as part of PBH's Free Fringe. This is a WONDERFUL organisation which books loads and loads of venues and GIVES spaces to people who apply to them. The venues don't charge for people to use the rooms, performers don't pay the organisation for sorting it out, and punters don't pay to get it in. It's a BEAUTIFUL thing which makes sure you don't have to pay TWELVE POUNDS to see some comedy, and makes sure the Fringe is still open to ODD and AMAZING stuff that otherwise couldn't afford to do it.

We had a WHALE of a time and are VERY happy to be back with them again this year. The only difficulty they have is that there are some things that DO need to be paid for, one of them being the PROGRAMME that lists all the shows. The organisation refuses to take money from the ACTS to advertise in it as that would involve a) PAYING b) some shows getting more coverage in the programme than others, when it's meant to be EQUAL. This means that they have to get the ACTS to get involved by either selling advertising to BUSINESSES or putting on benefit shows.

I haven't the first CLUE about how to sell advertising space, and if I put on a benefit show it would a) be a HUGE FAFF and b) probably raise about 20p, so I had ANOTHER idea: An Online Compilation Album! If I could round up a batch of PALS to donate tracks, we could all publicise it a LOT, flog a PILE of them at a FIVER each (or more if people wanted) via Bandcamp, and hand the CA$H over to PBH and co. Peasy, right?

Funnily enough, it turned out to be so! I asked Mr Buckley-Hill himself and he was fully supportive. I'd hoped to link the CA$H bit directly to THEM, but they've had some problems with their PayPal account so it's going to have to come through ME. I'd rather we didn't have to do it that way - I have VISIONS of Father Ted protesting that the money's "resting" - but I guess things would operate in a similar way in the real world with the CA$H from ticket sales at a GIG.

It did lead me to think about TIMESCALE, and I decided that I'd put the album on release for six weeks ONLY - that gives enough time for the word to get out, but adds some URGENCY and means we can get everything SORTED, on the admin side, in good time. It also means that people can donate tracks that they might want to USE later on, as the whole thing will be taken down at the end.

With this in mind, yesterday I emailed pretty much EVERYONE (that I have an email address for) who's ever done Totally Acoustic, along with a few other people, and got a GRATE response. Less than 24 hours later I've got nearly half an album's worth of tracks ALREADY, with promises of MORE to come. I'd like to make it a DOUBLE album, mind you, so there's still a lot of nagging to do, but it was HUGELY encouraging.

It reminded me how much EASIER things are with the Modern Internet - you used to have to BEG and RING people for stuff, which they would POST on CDs, but now they can ZAP you a track via Dropbox or similar. It's AMAZING! It was also a delightful reminder of how NICE my Pals In ROCK are. In DARK MOMENTS I have sometimes thought "You have spent nearly 20 years in ROCK, Hibbett, and for what eh? Where is that Swimming Pool and MANSION you were promised?" but at times like this, where LOVELY people LEAP into action, I am reminded of how much I have GAINED through the aforesaid KRAZY WORLD OF ROCK.

Anyway, the PLAN is to have it all sorted and released on bandcamp at the end of next month - there's some ACE stuff on it already and hopefully more to come. Stand by for EXCITING NEWS, as it happens!

posted 29/1/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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Writing To Brief
I spent a lot of this weekend just gone doing HOMEWORK. It was ARDUOUS - I had to watch a couple of FILMS!

In between all of this I sat down and wrote a song for A Brief History Of Time Travel. The BRIEF was to write something in the same sort of vein as Dinosaur Planet, RELATING to the idea of time travel but not telling the story of the show and certainly not having the same title - sort of like the title songs for "Big Bang Theory" and "Red Dwarf". We also wanted a tune that we could take apart, with a chunk useable for the main theme, some bits for STINGS etc etc and the whole thing to work AS a song which we could release.

My first attempts earlier in the week had involved quite a lot of STARING BLANKLY and STRUMMING, so on Friday I decided to have a Bit Of An Old Think about it, and after a while realised that THE thing you would SURELY do if you had a time machine would be to go forward and check on YOURSELF, and see how things work out for YOU. That's what everyone REALLY wants to know, isn't it? The more I thought about it the more I realised that you'd zip about through your own timeline, enjoying your VICTORIES, skipping all the crappy days, and generally viewing a Greatest Hits of your own life.

So that's what I wrote! It came out pretty well, I think - it's got a RIFF at the start of verses, a CATCHY chorus, Proper Verses and... er... well that's it really, what more does one need? I did a MEGA ROUGH demo which The Vlads liked and, VITALLY, THE CLIENTS like it so far too.

So far, being a SOUNDTRACK COMPOSER is PEASY! Obviously we need to actually RECORD it at some point, but so far so good - I just wish that the aforesaid CATCHY chorus would get out of my head,it is VERY catchy INDEED!

posted 28/1/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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Lessons Of 2012: Follow The Dream, Man
These "Lessons Of 2012" blogs seem to have all been me going "Something annoying happened and we had to FIX it!" so I thought I'd finish with something really ACE that happened and is ONGOING.

In January I was out for a WALK with The Feet In My Shoes and I told the story (AGANE) of how, when I was 21, I was offered a place on an MA in Playwriting at Birmingham University but, through a combination of miscommunication, financial problems and (mostly) my own daftness, I couldn't take it. It's something that's BUGGED me occasionally ever since, and so she suggested that, as there was a chance my job would be finishing at the end of March, I SET THIS RIGHT.

So that's what I did - I went to open days, made applications, and got accepted onto the part-time MA in Playwriting And Screenwriting at City University. It looked like the BEST course out of all the ones I'd looked at, and when my job was confirmed for at least another year the part-time-NESS of it made it the PERFECT choice.

And guess what? It totally was! In the weeks leading up to the start of term I was in a RIGHT old state of SHEER PANIC, but once it going it was, and still is ACE. Every week I feel my MIGHTY BRANE as it SWELLS with more information, and it's been a JOY being forced to sit down and WRITE stuff all the time too. INDEED that fed directly into Total Hero Team, as I thought things like "What are the STAKES? Is the PROTAGONIST moving things forward?" to the extent that I think, at last, it sort of makes sense.

As yet there's been NOTHING about it I haven't liked... well, apart from a few of the LECTURES, where i have expanded my DOODLING SKILL BASE, but otherwise it's been incredible, like the way I'd've HOPED it would be but never DARED TO DREAM that it actually WOULD. It's dead exciting when we hear about what ALUMNI have been up to - it feels like this is a world we could actually get INTO. I mean, I'm very grateful that my job IS continuing, but the idea that i COULD earn my living by sitting around WRITING stuff is just plain old THRILLING.

And the thing is, doing this wasn't actually all that difficult. It was a pain going to the badly organised/annoying open days at OTHER Universities, the STRESS of worrying about it beforehand wasn't much fun, and it does cost MONEY, but otherwise it was just a case of DOING it. And now I AM doing it it seems WEIRD I didn't do it earlier. It's brilliant!

So that's the final lesson of 2012: follow the dream, man, sometimes ACE things do happen!

posted 25/1/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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Total Hero Team - The ART
One of the most FUN aspects of doing shows like what we do is doing the POSTER - I enjoy nothing more than messing around with font sizes and rotating images for hours on end, it is exceedingly therapeutic. Previously we've had pictures of me and Steve (or just me for the earlier shows), but as Total Hero Team is about SUPERHEROES and is structured around COMICS I thought it would be good to have some Proper Comics ART for the poster.

My thoughts turned first of all to the ever marvellous Mr John Allison, who did so much wonderful work on Dinosaur Planet. Steve agreed and, to our GRATE joy, so did Mr Allison, and I'm very VERY pleased to be able to present the fruits of his labours, THUS:

click for MUCH bigger version


GORGEOUS, isn't it? If you want it bigger (MUCH bigger), give it a click! As you can probably tell, the idea is that we fill the spaces round the edges with FACT for posters, and the general design and look also informs the brand new Total Hero Team WEBSITE which is LIVE as of RIGHT NOW. I say "brand new" but it's clearly based on the websites of the other shows, and doesn't have an awful lot of stuff on it just yet, but rest assured it certainly WILL as time goes by.

What's even more astounding about the ART is the way it was done - me and Steve took pictures of ourselves wearing the HATS from the show, and sent it to John (along with very brief character sketches) asking him to imagine that these were pictures of very low quality COSPLAY (i.e. people trying to dress up LIKE the superheroes), so that he could then REVERSE ENGINEER what these characters REALLY looked like. As you can see, he did this AMAZINGLY, and managed to capture the whole HEART of the show without ever seeing it or knowing what the story was.

Actually, those pictures and the character sketches might be a good thing to put on the webpage at some point, wouldn't they? I shall SCHEDULE that!

We'll be using the poster and the logo on pretty much EVERYTHING over the course of the next year, and I especially look forward to handing the FLYERS of it out to awestruck PUNTERS - or, to be honest, watching Steve do this while I sit in a nearby pub. The only worry, really, is that the SHOW now has a heck of a lot of work to do to live up to the posters!

posted 24/1/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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A Brief History of Time Travel
After work yesterday I strolled into nearby Fitzrovia for a MEETING with Mr S Patrick and Mr J Hunt to discuss doing the THEME TUNE to their forthcoming podcast sitcom A Brief History Of Time Travel.

The whole project is RATHER impressive - they did a Kickstarter Campaign to raise money to have proper recordings, packaging, ACTORS even, and they've OVER ACHIEVED with 155 people backing them up. One GOAL was to get someone to write them a theme tune and, EXCITINGLY, the person they asked was ME!

We met up to discuss what form this would take, and to sort out various Grown-Up Issues, which we did WITH EASE. The plan is for me to write them a SONG which is just ABOUT Time Travel, and then to ADJUST it to meet their requirements (or indeed re-write it altogether if they don't like it). Once that's done me and The Validators will go into the studio and record several versions of it (a full version, a shorter one for the titles, instrumental for the end etc etc) along with some Various Incidental Music. I've got a list of the settings for the episodes, and they're going to send me SCRIPTS before we go in so we can see what sort of stuff might be needed. The MAIN thing is to do the theme tune, but we all thought - Seb, James AND The Validators - that once we've got everything set up in the studio we might as well go on and see if we can do OTHER stuff for them to use.

It all sounds like a LOT of fun, and TERRIBLY exciting - it might be a huge success and in ten years time we'll be doing the theme song at the OSCARS, or it could just end up being a DELIGHTFUL thing that those 155 enjoy, but either way we should start to find out around August, when it's due to start being released.

I think this could work out rather GRATE. I mean, it's not going to be as good as "Theme From Neighbours" or WINGS' version of The Crossroads Theme Tune (NOTHING COULD), but I reckon we're going to get something pretty GROOVY out of all this. All I need to do now is write the song!

posted 23/1/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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Writing Is Re-Writing
On of the BIG things they have been teaching us at RITING SKOOL is the following "Writing Is Re-Writing" i.e. it's all well and good sitting down and writing a THING but then you have to go back and re-do it and re-do it and re-do it and then, just when you think it's PERFECT, re-do it AGANE. And then about A HUNDRED OTHER TIMES.

It seems totally obvious, and it's something I'm doing a LOT with the current show, but blimey I wish I'd thought more about this with the OTHERS, especially Dinosaur Planet. When we did it at Green Man last year I was amazed by how many LONGEURS there were, huge chunks without SONGS or LARFS where I'd think "just a couple of minutes, then it gets good again." When I sat down to work up Moon Horse my PRIME DIRECTIVE was to ERADICATE those, but then THAT show all got a bit COMPLICATED, with the dashing backwards and forwards in time/space. I think part of the FUN of that show WAS how complicated it was, but I've been trying very hard this time to make sure Total Hero Team is BOTH fast-paced AND comprehensible.

I thought we'd pretty much SORTED it with the TENTH draft, which is the version we've done at the two shows so far, but some audience feedback from Sunday (most notably from the estimable Mr Dave Green) showed that the start STILL isn't quite right. I think me and Steve were both aware of this anyway - once we got through the first ten pages we suddenly got a LOT more confident, and everything RATTLED along - but the fact that someone else SAID it forced me to consider it more seriously, and so today I have done ANOTHER re-write, moving us onto version ELEVEN!

I haven't heard back from Steve yet, but I'm sure he'll be DELIGHTED! I know I am - the thing about re-writing is that it turns out to be EXCELLENT fun! Trying to work this show out took me AGES, and it changed direction 100,000,000,000 times so that pretty much the ONLY things that stayed from the first version were Fufu The Future Kitten and the CAMEO by A Noted Politician. There's a whole PILE of characters and songs that got dropped and... well, not that many, but SOME jokes too. But it's been LOVELY - once the thing is DONE you can say "ooh, what if I move THIS bit over there?" or get all excited about CHOPPING bits that are BORING, thus making it all MORE EXCITING.

I'm also starting to see that maybe when Steve says "I don't like this bit" I should take more heed, for LO! a lot of today's re-write has involved going through and taking those bits OUT. Removing (MOST OF) the lines he's been complaining about has, over time, done NO END of improvement!

The only downside of all this FUN is that we have to flipping LEARN it! Still, we've got a practice this week before we hit Croydon on the 29th, and then ANOTHER before the first BIG shows at the Leicester Comedy Festival (8th and 9th February at The Criterion - tickets still VERY available!), so we should be fine.

And then I can re-write it all AGANE!

posted 22/1/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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Snow Show
Mr S Hewitt and I, along with various other HARDY individuals, BATTLED through heavy snow on Sunday afternoon to get to distant ANGEL, where we were booked to do the second ever Proper Production of Total Hero Team at The Lexington.

This was our TRADITIONAL warm-up show at The Hangover Lounge - this USUALLY happens in early summer, but as we're starting sooner in the year this time around it was a LOT colder, with CARDIES on show instead of t-shirts. We greeted the proprietors, Messrs Jervis and Clancy, had a bit of a chat with the brave souls who had soldiered in, and then went upstairs to get set up. It was CHILLY!

It warmed up a BIT when people came in - because there were a LOT of people! I was MOST surprised, it turned out that pretty much ALL of the bar downstairs had turned up on purpose to see us, including a few people who I Didn't Know Who They Were. Exciting times!

The show got off to a RICKETY start, as we BOTH got a bit afeared/confused/excited, although this did make "The Zumba Joke" work better than before. We calmed down after about 10 minutes, and then got right into the swing of it. Again, there were a LOT of mistakes but we DID get through to the end without looking at SCRIPTS, and got into CO-OPERATIVE mode. CO-OPERATIVE mode is when, if one of us forgets their lines, the other COVERS and HELPS - it generally takes a couple of goes to GET into this mode with a new show, as in practice there's STOPPING and general COMPETITION for Who Knows Most Lines. It felt GOOD - we still need to tighten it up - A LOT - and gain confidence in what we're doing, but it's starting to feel more and more comfortable, and I can feel the SHAPE of it now. VITALLY, we've identified the half-way point, always an important thing to locate!

People seemed to like it - there were definite LARFS, quite a few Emotional Moments and, as far as I could detect, no LONGEURS like in previous shows. Also the people who'd seen the readthrough seemed PLEASED with how we'd IMPROVED it. The only strange thing was that various people seemed to think Smart Alex was BASED on someone - different people suggested different candidates. It was odd - he is, of course, just called that as a pun on Smart Alec - I wonder if this will continue?

I lurked around for further CHAT after, during which Jerv asked if we were up for doing the QUIZ at Popfest this year. I was a little dubious as a) I'm never sure if people WANT us to be bothering them on a Sunday afternoon and b) both Steve and I are going to the Saturday this year, so may be a little "unwell", but Jerv looked SHOCKED at this. "It's for the KIDS!" he said. Who could refuse such a call to arms?

And so the time came for me to leave, into the COLD, but WARMED inwardly (POETRY) with the knowledge that the show PROGRESSES. Next show is in Croydon on the 29th, and then it will be HO! for LEICESTER!!

posted 21/1/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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Logo Ahoy!
I've been talking about the PAST a lot this week, but behind the scenes there has been work on THE FUTURE!

As briefly mentioned the other day, the ever marvellous Mr John Allison is doing the poster artwork for our new show, Total Hero Team, and this week he's been BEAVERING AWAY at it. He sent a GORGEOUS black and white version and since then has worked that up to a BEAUTIFUL full-colour version which, frankly, makes me worry about the show itself living up to its MAGNIFICENCE. I'm going to formally UNVEIL it next week when we launch the proper version of the webpage, but for now here's the LOGO:



ACE, isn't it? I am honour bound at this point to ALERT you to the fact that the lower two stars on the left have EXTRUSION LINES emerging from their tops, which they didn't on the first draft. This was one of several changes (this one in fact suggested by The Powers Of My Superhero) which we asked Mr Allison to add, and which he GLEEFULLY did. The biggest thing we asked him was to change the expression of one of the characters to "more of a cheeky chappy" and, rather than saying "EH? WOT? WHAT YOU ON ABOUT?" he came back about 45 minutes later with EXACTLY that.

To be perfectly honest I wish we had the a) reason b) resources to do WHOLE COMICS of this stuff, but for now the cover itself is MORE than enough. As stated, I'm hoping to LAUNCH it next week with the website, so stand by for THRILLZ!

posted 16/1/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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Lessons Of 2012: Release Dates Don't Matter (much)
As mentioned previously, Dinosaur Planet, bizarrely, DID NOT dominate the End Of Year Lists for 2012, which I put down to one thing only: the release date got CONFUSED and people thought it came out in 2011. It's the ONLY explanation.

Like an idiot I'd agreed the release date of the album BEFORE I'd got the actual CDs made - I thought this would be FINE but it ended up being a RUDDY NIGHTMARE, as we had to have THREE attempts to get it made. I had to postpone the release TWICE, and the carefully orchestrated PRE-RELEASE CAMPAIGN just looked DAFT as things failed to materialise when promised. We did GET the CDs in 2011, and so I put them on sale via the website, but did't OFFICIALLY release it until 2012.

The whole thing was a right old mess, so the LESSON today could easily be "Don't schedule the release of an album until you actually HAVE all the copies in your HOUSE"! However, thinking about it, that was the ONLY time the release date mattered at ALL, and it's another example of what I was saying yesterday: you don't have to APE the conventional music industry anymore.

Because THAT'S where the perceived importance of Release Dates come from - traditionally you'd send out Review Copies to MAGAZINES two months ahead of release date, and to RADIO a month before, then do a SINGLE or something and go on tour in the week of release. Nowadays - as Mr D Bowie has recently demonstrated - this is a NONSENSE. You can put something online whenever you like and THEN tell people about it,so that as soon as someone reads about it or HEARS it they can BUY it. Most music writing is ONLINE now, and radio stations can happily play and MP3 5 minutes after you've emailed it to them.

Even more significantly, it looks like PHYSICAL MEDIA is on the way out too. Now, I know at this point someone will go "OOOOH VINYL! VINYL SALES! VINYL!" but aside from the thousand LOONIES who INSIST on it, pretty much everyone else is getting used to the idea of downloads. I mean, I like getting CDs as I don't TRUST downloads not to get lost, but I also realise that this is Crusty Old-Fashioned Thinking, and that the point of music is THE MUSIC, not the fetish objects you used to have to buy to get AT it.

It's all a bit scary, but also wonderfully FREEING - in future (and, if you're BRAVE enough, NOW) you'll be able to release a song, a selection of songs, a video or whatever the heck you LIKE just as soon as you're ready, without having to giving HUGE piles of CA$H to a manufacturer, ask permission of a distributor or sending begging letters to journalists in the hope they'll cover you. You won't have BOXES and BOXES and BOXES of unsold CDs anymore (hem hem) but CAN still do smaller runs of Beautiful Objects for people who really want them, which is probably the way we'll be going in the future.

The main thing I'll miss, I think, will be the regular trip to The BBC Secret Window to drop off THEIR review copies - doing that has always felt like THE moment when Promotional Campaigns REALLY got going. Pressing "send" on an email never feels quite so special!

posted 15/1/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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Lessons of 2012: Press Releases
When we released Regardez, Ecoutez et Repetez back in 2009 I basically spent two and a half GRAND to get ONE piece of good advice: don't just send press releases to music magazines.

That came from the PR company we hired to promote the album for us - everything they actually DID was insultingly woeful and cack-handed, but the ADVICE stuck in my head, so that when I came to plan the Massive Promotional Campaign I decided to have a go at it myself.

As you can see from the Dinosaur Planet Press Releases Archive, I wrote a LOT or press releases. Some of them were pretty normal - announcing the album itself and various videos - but MOST of them were at least TRYING to reach different audiences. I worked out (CORRECTLY) that the Normal Music Media weren't going to be interested in us as we were NEITHER silly trousered young haircuts with voluminous BEARDS, NOR an act that had had huge hits several decades ago, gone through THE DRUGS and were now making The Best Music Of Our Later Career. ALSO we don't actually know any STAFF at these organisations, nor was I going to cough up more CA$H for someone who MIGHT.

THUS I looked to other avenues which you wouldn't usually associate with ROCK AND ROLL. I did a press release focusing on the fact that it was all about Peterborough for PETERBOROUGH -based outlets. I did one about small children liking the album, using an ACE photograph, and sent it to family supplements and magazines. We LEAPT on stuff like a recently published Theory Of A Dinosaur Planet or similarities with Doctor Who.

I sent out THOUSANDS of press releases and almost NONE of them got used ANYWHERE. The important thing to note here is the word "ALMOST" - because SOME of them DID. I wrote one about how Don't, Darren, Don't related to "Red Shirts" in Star Trek and sent it to sci-fi websites, and it got features in io9 and got us our most hits for YEARS. I sent the story about the SCHOOL PLAY version to various teachers' magazines, and this week it appeared in the NUT ACTUAL Teacher Magazine. We've already had a BATCH of schools get in touch as a direct result!

We had a really good response from comics sites too, almost as if People Who Like AWESOME ACTION are GOING to like a rock opera about Space Dinosaurs, as well as Science Types and General Geeks. It's made for a rather ODD list of recommendations for future press releases, but one I'm rather proud of. Other bands may be able to put quotes from Q and NME on their posters, WE can have ones from The Smithsonian, The Chartered Institute of Librarians and The Peterborough Evening Telegraph!

SO the lesson learned HERE is pretty much the same as all the others - you CAN do it yourself, and you SHOULD do it yourself, but don't feel you have to APE Traditional Music Industry Professionals, try DIFFERENT things. And, even more importantly, don't be upset if you send out HUNDREDS of press releases and only ONE person shows any interest - that one person's interest could turn into something AMAZING!

posted 14/1/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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Lessons of 2012 - What To Spend Money On
Continuing the series of Lessons Of 2012, this year's shown me that some things are WORTH spending CA$H on, and some things very much are NOT.

The prime contender for NOT spending CA$H on this year, I regret to say, was The Mercury Prize. I'd entered Regardez, Ecoutez et Repetez a few years ago and had a RUBBISH experience then, but for some reason thought things might be different this time for Dinosaur Planet. We DID,. this time, get an acknowledgement that they'd received our CA$H this time, but that was pretty much the only difference. I've absolutely no idea if anyone even LISTENED to it - you pay just over two hundred QUID to enter and you don't even get an acknowledgement of listening, let alone any feedback. People always seem surprised by this, but like anything in the Krazy World Of CORPORATE ROCK, it's all about the MONEY!

And yet I STILL got my hopes up for it, my childhood faith in ROCK refusing to die! I should have known better from the PACKAGE I had to put together, which featured PRESS CUTTINGS. It's almost as if they couldn't be bothered to listen to the CDs, so instead looked at the REVIEWS to WINNOW out the small fry... reviews, which, of course, have to be PAID for via a PR company. We'll come on to the PR side of things in another of these lessons - which will basically be "Don't pay for one, do it yourself"!

While I've found that there's not much point spending huge wads of CA$H trying to compete with Corporate Rock Bands on the PUBLICITY side of things, you certainly CAN compete with them on The Product Itself, and this is WELL worth it. In 2011 we spent a LONG time recording Dinosaur Planet with our pals at The Snug, and we spent quite a bit on studio time(even with the HUGE swathes of EXTRA HOMEWORK they did for us for free) it was worth EVERY RED CENT of it to make sure we made that record as PERFECT as we could.

We also spent CA$H getting the package itself perfect. We'd commissioned the amazing Mr John Allison of Scarygoround to DESIGN the cover and insides, which he did a) beautifully b) inexpensively c) with effortless joy in communication - as he would go on to do with the Don't, Darren, Don't video, Christmas Cards and INDEED the forthcoming artwork for the new show. THAT bit was easy, but the first two attempts to actually MAKE it went horribly wrong. I tried to use a CHEAPO company to create the CDs, who COCKED it UP, clearly using a MEGA CHEAPO printing firm somewhere to make CRAPPY cases and leaflets that looked RUBBISH. I ended up having to pay a bit more to get it done PROPER by those nice people at Key Production, who were HELPFUL at every stage of the process.

During the whole GHASTLY business of trying to get the CDs sorted out with the first company I did think "Oh sod it, why don't I just TAKE the crappy ones? What does it matter?" but I'm IMMENSELY glad now, a year later, that I stuck with it. The CDs we EvENTUALLY got are GORGEOUS, in design and manufacture, and will REMAIN so forever, while the memories of the GRIND of getting them done will gradually fade.

So the lesson here, I guess, is that you should spend your CA$H (and indeed TIME) on the things that matter most, and IMPORTANTLY that you have some CONTROL over. I can't do anything much about the opinions and processes of Major Record Companies and their LACKEYS, but I can certainly make sure that the things WE produce are bloody gorgeous, and that'll mean a lot more in a lifetime than any number of non-existent rejection letters.

Somebody remind me I said that NEXT time we release an album!

posted 11/1/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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Free Fringe Benefit
This week of GIDDY ACTION continued last night as myself, The Gags In My Routine, and The Hewitts went to the Bloomsbury Theatre for the PBH Free Fringe Benefit.

We had fun SPOTTING people, chatting to Ms B Luff, Ms N Guest and Mr D Pickering, as well as SPOTTING people - The Seats In My Theatre had a chat to OTWAY, and I got very excited at seeing Dan from Dan & Dan (although, to be fair, it might have been Dan) who I always have to remind myself I don't actually know AT ALL. Steve reckoned that most of the audience were Free Fringe performers who felt GUILTY about not being able to find advertisers for the brochure (which we're all meant to try and do, and which we pretty much all fail at) so were buying TICKETS to make up for it. I think he may well have been right, and this was a GOOD thing as it meant everyone was KEEN for it to be go well.

And indeed it DID - my favourite acts, I think, were Sara Pascoe (who I've seen do BITS before but never an Actual Proper Stand-Up Set, which was ACE), and Howard Reade (who did some VERY CLEVER THINGS INDEED!), but there was a whole CROWD of Comedy Legends on stage, including Simon Munnery, Kevin Eldon, Mark Thomas, Robin Ince and - LEGEND AMONG LEGENDS - the aforementioned Otway. It was WEIRD seeing him do a gig to people who HADN'T been watching him for 20 years, and deeply STRANGE to hear people GASP with UNEXPECTED DELIGHT during the heckling sections of "The House Of The Rising Sun". Surely they can never have been to ANY GIGS AT ALL EVER, if they've never seen Otway?!?

I was VERY impressed also that it ended pretty much on time! I'd expected everything to be a bit chaotic, but no, each half had four acts and a compere and took just over an hour, and we left at a VERY reasonable hour. I guess the DISCIPLINE of getting a show on, done, and out within yr SLOT during the Fringe had carried over!

It was a GRATE evening, although all the Edinburgh-NESS of it meant I did feel a bit cheated out of a POSH WHISKY and CHIPS on the way home, although quite happy NOT to have to clamber up any hills!

posted 10/1/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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KRAZY Day
The second week of January is, counter-intuitively, often quite good FUN for ROCK stuff. You'd think it'd be DULL because everyone has the Back To Work GLUMS, but what tends to happen is that everyone in ROCK thinks "Sod this, I am going to cheer myself up by BOOKING stuff and DOING things."

HOWEVER, I was not quite prepared for the ONSLAUGHT of Stuff Happening that came my way yesterday, it was KRAZY! Some of this was Internally Generated - following our Band Discussion in Berlin last year Tim has SWUNG into action doing GIG BOOKINGS - he's on the ATAK for a Prestigious Support Slot at the moment, and has a BIG LIST of Festivals to whom he is about to make APPLICATION. As per, the sight of this is making everyone PANIC with the thought that we might end up doing ALL of them, knacker ourselves, use up all our holiday etc etc etc when OBVIOUSLY we will most likely end up doing NONE of them, but still, it is all part of the FUN.

Also on a Validators TIP, I had an email from the people behind the SECRET PROJECT we're going to be involved with soon - the plan is to do this THING (I know it is annoying to be VAGUE about stuff like this, but I don't want to JINX it) along with some new recordings, and PRACTICES for those (sans ME) are also being arranged.

I also had an email from The Teacher magazine, who give the Dinosaur Planet for Schools idea a PLUG, offering me a copy of the magazine - we've already had TWO schools expressing an interest in putting the play on, so I'm hopeful that somehow, somewhere, this'll HAPPEN. As I've said before, do get in touch if anyone out there is interested in SHAPING A GENERATION by putting it on as their school play!

I mentioned this on TWITTER and someone else pointed out that we're also mentioned in Retro Gamer magazine. This lunchtime I am off to WH Smiths!

Mr John Allison, who of course did all the artwork for Dinosaur Planet. He's going to be doing the POSTER for Total Hero Team, and sent me roughs of the layout, logo and CHARACTER DESIGNS. It all looks MAGIC - I cannot WAIT to get these a) online b) MADE c) onto BADGES, it's going to be GORGEOUS!

Talking of Edinburgh, as we sort of were, I had another email from a ROCK PAL who is planning to do a PACKAGE of various ROCK STUFF at The Fringe. We're hoping to do Total Hero Team with PBH's Free Fringe again, but there's a chance we might be able to do some OTHER stuff this way, maybe Totally Acoustic, maybe something ELSE. The most exciting thing is that there's going to be a batch of PALS up there with us again - HOORAH!

And finally, just as I was doing my daily Self-Google (STOP IT, self-googling is a VITAL PART of the Modern Media, and in NO WAY amusing or smutty. BEHAVE) at the end of the day (it relaxes me - WHAT?!?) I discovered something AMAZING! Over the Christmas period Tim had reported, using Heavy Irony, that we MUST be at number 26 or something in the Dandelion Radio Festive 50 (i.e. the Official Continuation of the John Peel Festive 50) as he'd listened to the top 25 and hadn't heard us. We all REMARKED HUMOROUSLY between ourselves that this must be true, as we were sure there was no way we'd be in it at all.

But guess what? We were totally WRONG! We ARE in it - all right, not at number 26, but not too far off and, I think, it's our highest ever placing TO BOOT! You'll need to have a listen to see where we are, and what song, but CRIKEY, thanks LOADS everyone who voted for us, it is AMAZING!!

Oh, and then, just before I left, I found out that I'm NOT going to be finishing my job at the end of this financial year, and will be around and getting paid for at LEAST another 12 months. All in all, a pretty good day!
Festive 50
posted 9/1/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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THT World Premiere
It was the first preview of Total Hero Team last night, and things got off to a slightly wobbly start when there was a slight mix-up with the time for our Tech Run, which meant that Steve and I got to the Etcetera just before 6pm, when we were really meant to be there at 5pm. Handily our tech run involved us saying "Can we have the lights on before we start please?" so all was WELL - it turned out that Theatre Types, much like ROCK Types, are always very happy when your soundcheck takes less than 60 seconds!

Everybody there was very nice, and the venue itself was lovely - they'd come in that morning to find the place FLOODED,but had cleared it all up completely. It felt very SWANKY in fact - we even had COAT HANGERS to hang our COATS on!! POSH!

Steve and I thus had time to pop to The Black Heart to a) immediately destroy my resolution NOT to have a drink before the gig and b) have a quick MEETING to discuss various Matters, not least the ARTWORK we're going to have for the poster. I received a ROUGH version of this yesterday afternoon: it is going to be GRATE!

We then met up with The SPices In My Dish to start the TOUR off as we hope to continue it: with CURRY! One of the best things about doing gigs in Camden IS the fact that you can go to The Maharani, it is DELICIOUS.

A MEAL, some BEER, and some In-Depth Political Discussion later we headed back to the pub... sorry, I mean THEATRE, bumping into Mr T Eveleigh on the way. Over the next hour a select band of people arrived (I say "select" - we were WELL into double figures, it was an EXCELLENT turn out!) and NERVES rose amongst the CAST. And then it was SHOW TIME!

It all went pretty well, I think. We had the SCRIPT very much to hand, and there were a LOT of stumbles, but for the most part we got through ABLY - the main exception being me being COMPLETELY unable to do Buttering No Parsnips after Steve's TRIUMPHANT version of I'm So Much Cleverer Than You. Need to do something about that!

Otherwise it all appeared to work - it was ODD doing it in an Actual Theatre, where you can't see the audience, as I had LITTLE IDEA if it was going all right, but there were LARFS and APPLAUSE and - BEST OF ALL - a spontaneous sing and SWAY along with It Only Works Because You're Here. We both FLAGGED towards the end, as we are CLEARLY not Match Fit, and also because maybe it's a few minutes TOO long still. I'm not sure whether that'll get sorted out when we've got it learnt properly, or whether we'll need to CHOP something, but I was happy. That was the first show DONE!

We packed up and headed downstairs for a celebratory DRINK and CHAT. It felt odd, and still feels odd now, to be at this point again. It's been SO LONG since we last began a new show that I'd forgotten what it feels like - it's hard to see what it'll be LIKE at this stage, when it's all unsure and wobbly. It's tempting to PANIC, as it's not as good as the other shows where, but I also know that's because I remember the other shows at their PEAK (hem hem). It certainly seems to make more SENSE than the others, and there's definitely SCOPE for lots of LARKING ABOUT, and hopefully it'll all be coming together ready for Leicester.

So yes, for a first show it was pretty darn good, and I'm actually LOOKING FORWARD to spending the rest of the year doing it. That's a GOOD SIGN!!

posted 8/1/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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Back On The Road Again
This morning I packed up my guitar, ukelele, some CDs and the Prop Bag (aka The Dressing Up Box) and STRUGGLED out of the door, heading first to work and then, tonight, to the Etcetera Theatre to do the first Total Hero Team preview.

I've been so busy over the last week learning lines, making props, PRACTICING and worrying about people coming, that it had pretty much slipped my mind that we are actually DOING A SHOW tonight! It was only as I stepped out the door, thinking "I haven't done this for a while" that it HIT me. We are BACK ON THE ROAD! Back to lugging props around, back to SHOWS, back to pre-gig curries and post-gig ANALYSIS. Back to people SEEING it!!

We DID have a readthrough at the end of last year, but the show has changed a LOT since then (as a RESULT of said readthrough) with whole new SONGS and a very different structure, and it's been entirely confined to Rehearsal Room 3 at the lovely Bally Studios. We were in there again yesterday afternoon - we've got into the habit of rehearsing on Sunday afternoons, which feels PROPER, also EASY. Bally is in Tottenham, which is easy to get to from our HOUSES, and there ISN'T a pub nearby, which means we go, practice, then go home again, without BOOZE. For some reason this makes it all feel a bit more SERIOUS and DEDICATED - though goodness knows now we're Back On The Road there'll be BEERS AHOY!

I'm feeling pretty good about it, I must say. Now we SORT OF know it (mostly) the SHAPE of the show is beginning to show itself, and GOOD BITS are appearing. My favourite bit, at the moment, is when Steve sings "Cleverer Than You", but there's some DEAD THEATRICAL parts in it this time, and it seems to make more SENSE than any of the previous shows. And it's got It Only Works Because You're Here in it, which is my FAVOURITE.

But tonight we must SHOW it to people, and people who have PAID to get in too! [NB tho we will be giving out free copies of Dinosaur Planet to say THANK YOU] I'm sure that, once we've got an audience, whole OTHER things will suddenly materialise, things I think are HILARIOUS will turn out not to be, and entirely unexpected LARFS will, hopefully, arise. It all starts tonight - I can't wait!

posted 7/1/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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Lessons of 2012 - Trademark Law (part two)
PREVIOUSLY ON LESSONS OF 2012: Another band had started calling themselves the Validators and refused to stop, despite it causing all sorts of problems, so I had to apply (and GET) the trademark. Now READ ON!

While waiting for my trademark application to come through I'd done a bit of research on what to do next. All the advice sites said the best way to start was to write to the other party advising them that you had the trademark, tell them they were committing a criminal offence, and give them 28 days to stop doing it.

So when my Trademark was granted I did exactly that, sending an email outlining what I wanted them to do - stop using our name on their social media sites, not book more gigs using it, and not produce and sell any more merchandise i.e. exactly what they'd promised to do on the telephone MONTHS ago when I just had copyright and a fifteen year history on my side. I clearly stated that they were breaking the law and that if they did not respond within 28 days I would take any and all further action necessary.

I pressed send, and waited 28 days for a reply which never came. I was astonished - surely any reasonable person receiving such an email would at LEAST go and find out if there's anything behind it? I ought to make it clear at this point that this wasn't just a bunch of KIDS who didn't know any better. This was a group of ten GROWN MEN, all at least in their mid-forties, many of them with Proper Responsible Jobs which would have been put at risk if they got a criminal record. I even sent them a photograph of the Trademark Certificate and links to the registration online and the advice pages I'd used to create the letter, so that they KNEW it was for real. Surely now they would do SOMETHING?

They did - 21 days after receiving my letter telling them it was an ACTUAL CRIME to continue using our name, book more gigs, produce more merchandise, and sell it at concerts they took a photograph of themselves doing ALL of these things at a gig and posted it on FACEBOOK!

I did a lot of screen grabbing that day.

After the deadline had passed I emailed Trading Standards, telling them that I DID NOT want to bring Criminal Proceedings but wondered if they could give the band a WARNING of some kind, to try and persuade them that this was real. The VERY nice man at Trading Standards RANG me (again, Trademark Law seems to attract very helpful public officials) and said he couldn't do that, but WAS very interested in pursuing a criminal prosecution - the Facebook picture was CLEAR EVIDENCE that they were deliberately infringing trademark, and if I would PROMISE to be a witness in court they'd get right onto it.

Suddenly everything felt a LOT more serious - I absolutely did NOT want to give anyone a criminal record if I could help it, so told him I'd think about it and wrote to the other band YET AGAIN to tell them what had happened, being sure to copy it to as many of them as I could find on Facebook. I was still clinging to the hope that it was just their manager who was refusing to respond, but I was wrong. Nobody replied.

So, five weeks after telling them I'd do so, I went for the social media sites. I filled in loads of forms and, within a week, nearly all of them were down. They take this sort of thing VERY seriously! I did a couple every day, saving Facebook for last - it was their biggest presence, and I hoped they'd get the message before I had to take it down. They didn't, of course, so I submitted the form and, an hour later, their Facebook page was deleted.

This, finally, got a response - the next day they sent me a message on Twitter, saying " we have been trying to contact you Mark, a reasonable discussion is called for".

I wasn't sure what they meant by "trying" - they could always have replied to one of the many emails I'd sent - but I was keen to talk so ended up exchanging some texts, and then emails, with one of the band members. To start with this was a great relief - at last someone was communicating - but once I'd sent him all the previous emails (as he'd requested) things quickly deteriorated. He told me we would have to reach a compromise (he was a teacher, so went on to explain what "compromise" meant), expressed their total shock at the removal of their Facebook page without warning (even though I had given them ample warning), and said that they would lose a lot of money if forced to destroy their merchandise so might, regrettably, have to pursue me for compensation through the small claims court.

I thanked him for replying, pointing out that I was already compromising by not fully reporting them to Trading Standards, had given them 28 days notice of action against their websites, and was now giving them MORE time to stop using our name. I also expressed doubt that they would be able to sue me for loss of earnings from illegal goods.

Their next email looked as if it had been composed during a heated band meeting. Here's a couple of extracts:

"We are very disappointed that you have chosen to seek to pressure public officials to start criminal proceedings... when they could be better spending their resources in relation to businesses who cheat and defraud ordinary working people."

"We do find it sad that some bands are more interested in protecting their ‘commercial rights’ than using their music to promote progressive politics."
(haven't they listened to my ouvre? It's ALL political!)

"However, given that you have chosen to go so far as trade marking the identity of your ‘backing band’ and also have taken heavy-handed steps to significantly disrupt our social media presence, we have decided to take legal advice..."

The whole email was in much the same vein but I decided that the best thing to do would be NOT to reply in the hope that, this time, they really WOULD get some proper legal advice.

They did!

The next week an email arrived with a rather different tone. They had, after all, decided to change their name and would remove "The Validators" from all social media. They wouldn't book gigs under the name, or sell merchandise, and would create a disambiguation page on their website directing people to their NEW page and also to OUR Validators site.

FINALLY, after spending all year trying to get them to see sense, they had agreed to stop NICKING OUR NAME! Of course, if they'd have had the common decency to pack it in when I asked them (or indeed hadn't thought it'd be FINE to do so in the first place) it would have saved us ALL a lot of pain, inconvenience, and actual CA$H, but still: it was done at LAST!

It didn't go QUITE as smoothly as planned - they DID do a couple more gigs using our name, never put the disambiguation page up, and even briefly set up a webpage calling themselves "The REAL Validators" - but I realised that the main work was DONE and so I LEFT it. WISE! They're now doing gigs with a new name (which they share with a UK band from the 60s, and some current US bands, but still) have new sites set up and, though they continue to try and have a DIG every now again (including some TROLLING of the comments section yesterday) it looks like we are FINALLY CLEAR of the whole affair and I feel able to talk about it here at LAST.

Which brings me to the POINT of these blogs: what LESSONS have I LEARNT? The first is that, these days, there's NO excuse for picking a band name that somebody else is using, ESPECIALLY when that someone is in the same country, playing the same sort of venues, and has had the name for fifteen years. It's just rude! Secondly, if you're on the other end of it, there is TOTALLY something you can do about it. Registering your trademark is SURPRISINGLY easy and is taken very seriously by social media sites - whatever people say, you CAN do something about it.

And finally, if you've put your heart and soul into something for a huge chunk of your life, DON'T just lie down and let someone nick it, no matter how teeth-grindingly annoying it gets. If it's worth protecting, PROTECT it and, eventually, you'll not only get to KEEP the thing you love, but you'll get a whole bunch of transferable skills!

posted 4/1/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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Lessons of 2012 - Trademark Law (part one)
When i started out on the road of ROCK I hoped it would mostly involve showing off, talking to girls, and BEER. To be fair, there HAS been a bit of that, but mostly it seems to have been a long training session in TRANSFERABLE SKILLS. Setting up PA systems, writing press releases, HTML programming, dealing with printers, manufacturing merchandise, The British Postal System, these and MANY MANY MANY MANY other SKILLZ have entered my SKILLSET over the years, and in 2012, much to my surprise, we had another new entry: TRADEMARK LAW.

It may surprise you to know that I spend a lot of my time SELF-GOOGLING. Yes yes, it is a shock I know, to disover that one so INHERENTLY MODEST as I would do such a thing, but it is all part of Maintaining The Online Brand and Cross-Platform Promotion i.e. if a song pops up on a webpage somewhere it's generally a good idea to mention it on twitter, or sometimes we'll get featured somewhere ODD (as happened a LOT last year) and I'll need to DO something about. Social Media ACTION!

It was while doing this self-googling, just over a year ago, that I discovered there was another band calling themselves The Validators. Now, this was a bit annoying (surely EVERYBODY checks online before choosing a band name these days?) but I thought to myself "Oh well, they'll probably split up soon anyway, as most bands do, and they're only playing gigs in their hometown."

A month or so later I got a flurry of texts from people asking about NEW T-SHIRTS and a gig in Camden - it turns out this lot had booked a GIG in London, and had made merchandise. This was VERY annoying - in these days of Search Results and Online Shopping the world is RIPE for mistakes if this sort of thing carries on. I sent them a couple of emails to point this out to them, politely saying that we'd been using the name for 15 years, that it could easily cause confusion, and to ask them please to change their name before things went too far.

I received no response, so a few weeks later John The Publisher consulted with his LAWYER and we wrote a slightly stronger worded letter, which I emailed to them. This time I got a reply from their manager, who asked me to ring him to sort it all out. I did this and we had a very pleasant chat - he clearly wasn't up to SPEED with Modern Stuff, and told me that they HAD googled the name "The Validators", knew that we existed, but decided "it'd be OK". I politely told him it probably wouldn't, and pointed out the very very many ways things could get confusing, with gig listings, online shops, gig bookings etc etc etc. "Oh yes," he said, "We did have a thing when you played a gig at The Wilmington" [in January last year] "and they linked to our site instead. I had to ring up to see what was happening."

We had a very pleasant discussion, which was a HUGE relief to me, at the end of which he agreed to talk to the band at their next gig (in Camden - he invited me along but I couldn't go). He said they'd sort out a new name and get back to me shortly afterwards. PHEW!

The gig came and went and I heard nothing. After a month I emailed to ask how they were getting on. I heard nothing, so asked again. They didn't reply, so I looked on their facebook page and saw that they were booking MORE gigs, STILL using our name, DESPITE promising to change. After another couple of weeks I emailed yet again to ask what on earth was going on.

This time I DID get a reply, and a spectacularly ARSEY one at that. He told me to "get off my high horse" and "concentrate on the music." They had their "own identity" he said and would not be changing their name. This, he said, was his final word on the matter. I was, as you can probably understand, FLIPPING LIVID. We'd clearly had the name for MUCH longer, I'd explained to him the reason they couldn't have the same name, and he'd completely agreed, and now THIS. I sent one more reply VERY POLITELY saying how sorry I was to hear that, asking him to reconsider, and saying I'd be pursuing the matter further. I got, of course, no reply.

But what could I do about it? I looked at MUSIC LAWYER stuff and it was all INCREDIBLY expensive. I asked on twitter and everybody said "You can't do anything - forget it" or "Why are you so bothered about it? It's just a name." This latter was VERY upsetting - we've spent the past 15 years as The Validators, put in HUGE amounts of time, effort and indeed LOVE. It's been one of the biggest things in my LIFE, and suddenly I was being told that it didn't matter, and that I should just lie down and let some bunch of rude twits STEAL it.

And then I read up on Trademark Law.

It turns out that Trademark Law is pretty easy - as long as nobody else has done it you can trademark a brand name in the UK for about three hundred quid with a PEASY form. It also turns out that the Intellectual Property Office is INCREDIBLY nice and helpful - a lady from their offices even RANG ME UP to talk me through the process, as I'd mentioned in an email (they REPLY to emails!) that I was off on holiday soon, and she didn't want me to miss the deadline! I tell you what, I would apply AGAIN in an INSTANT if only I had something to trademark!

THUS my claim was filed and I spent the next six months or so waiting, watching the other lot book more and more gigs and getting the occasional email from people saying "Why didn't you tell me you were playing this festival?" that THEY had booked on to. I also noted they were talking on Facebook (and twitter - though I had LEAPT in and got @thevalidators as soon as the whole business started) about RECORDING songs, which made it all even more worrying - part of the reason for getting in touch with them EARLY was so they DIDN'T invest time and money recording anything under our name, so that they DIDN'T end up with a load of STOCK they couldn't sell.

I ALSO spent a lot of time fending off emails and ACTUAL LETTERS from INTERNATIONAL CRIMINALS!! When you apply for a trademark your name and address gets printed in their magazine, and apparently INTERNATIONAL CRIMINALS subscribe to it, nick the details, and WRITE to you saying "Oh yes, you have to pay another fee of X AMOUNT OF CA$H directly to US now, it is all part of the trademark thing, send us CA$H". I'd been forewarned about this by the IPO but still, it was a bit of a shock to get so much of it.

Anyway, six months later I got a CERTIFICATE through the post, which looked like this:



It was VERY exciting - here I was, a bona fide TRADEMARK HOLDER! In the excitement I added a (TM) symbol to our usual logo, then discovered that ACTUALLY I wanted the (R) symbol, for LO! (TM) is just for people saying "This belongs to me!", like the copyright symbol, but (R) is ONLY for people who have REGISTERED it - for LO! AGAIN! I was getting myself READ UP on the whole thing, ready to take it to the NEXT LEVEL.

And that's exactly what i did... as we'll discover TOMORROW!

posted 3/1/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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New Year's Day Parade
Tempted as I am to leave my blog with the final entry from last year, to make it look like i DID take the second spaceship, there's a LOT to talk about this year - I'm planning to bring back the STATS, look back at some LESSONS LEARNED, and there'll also, of course, be a whole lot of Total Hero Team to talk about!

Before all that though, my 2012 ended with a WILD PARTY, sat in our front room with The Dates On My Calendar, watching the fireworks on telly and drinking POSH WHISKY. It was ACE!

Slightly less ACE was getting up at the CRACK OF MORNING to head to TESCO - it was my turn to do the shopping and I wanted to get it DONE, but I ended up having a MAGICAL time. It turns out that pretty much NOBODY goes shopping at 9.30am on New Year's Day, so I GLIDED round the shop, leaving my trolley where'ere I wished, untroubled by traffic. It was delightful!

The reason I wanted it DONE was because we were heading into town for London's New Year's Day Parade. This consisted of FLOATS by various London Boroughs (some fab, some CLEARLY cobbled together at the last minute), some MAYORS (I think it should be compulsory for ALL the Mayors to PARADE like this - imagine if you saw 80 mayors all striding down the Mall together!), loads of Cheerleaders, and MILLIONS* (*not millions, but LOTS) of Marching Bands. These last two were incredibly impressive, especially since most of them seemed to have come from AMERICA - all over America too, from single schools in places I'd never heard of. It was incredible thinking of KIDS from little towns all over the States getting on the plane just after Christmas and heading to London.

My favourite bit of the parade, however, was when THE GAMES MAKERS strode past. The Games Makers! Everyone CHEERED! Watching all the summaries of 2012 it's become pretty clear that most people DO NOT want to let the Olympics go just yet, possibly EVER. I think at last we have found something to GO ON ABOUT for the next 50 years to replace a) 1966 b) The War, and it's WONDERFUL to think that it's something so beautiful, also something which happened just down the end from my house!

All this THORT and LOVELINESS led to some LUNCH and then a PINT back in Tap East, before we settled down to do some HOMEWORK for my course: watching Ratatouille. WHAT a brilliant film - i think this term is going to be GRATE!

posted 2/1/2013 by MJ Hibbett
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