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Blog Archive: December 2015

A Merry Christmas To All Our Readers
During the glorious 18 months or so when I was off work there was only one time when I missed having a job: CHRISTMAS. This wasn't because I particularly like slogging into an office when all is crisp and even or going to work parties, but very much because i DO like the few days around 22 December when loads of people take extra time off and EVEN MORE because I LOVE the VAST EXPANSE of time off that University workers get between Christmas and New Year. I know it's daft to miss having a week off when, for most intents and purposes, you have EVERY week off, but I did.

This also used to be the time of year when I would set aside a batch of days to do a PROJECT, like recording a TAPE or in later years going on TRIPS. We do have some trips lined up this year and I've got a few mini-projects in mind but my MAIN PLAN is to spend vast swathes of the holiday watching TELLY. In my new job I spend about two and a half hours commuting every day, which is fine for reading books but has rather cut into my TELLY time, so I have reserved the sofa for Boxing Day to watch A LOT of it. It's going to be GRATE!

After that we forge into the new year when there's some Exciting Things occurring, not least of which is the new Validators' album. We're now on the second batch of mixes for this and it's all sounding PRETTY DARN GOOD. The Validators and I have longed planned to do an album of ALL HITS and I think we might be getting close this time around, with at least FIVE songs that I already do all the time in my solo set, that number rising to SEVEN that we'll be playing with the band. Hopefully we'll have one more batch of mixes after this then some TWEAKS and, if The Gods Of ROCK smile upon us, we might even have the whole album ready for release in the summer. Don't book your holidays around it though - these things do have a tendency to get delayed - but it should almost definitely be out some time in 2016!

For now though it's time for that other festive tradition: setting the Out Of Office auto-reply. Before I do that though I'd like to say thanks very much INDEED to everyone who reads this continuing nonsense and hope you have a DELIGHTFUL Christmas ready for a GRATE New Year!

posted 23/12/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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No Spoilers
Myself and The Force In My Universe went to see STAR WARS last night, and it was GRATE. Don't worry though, there will be No Spoilers here.

For LO! I got to see the film with pretty much NO CLUE what was going to happen, and it was AMAZING. Usually when i go to the pictures I have a pretty good idea what it's all going to be about, either from reviews or synopses or trailers, but this time I really didn't, and it made watching it MUCH more exciting. I mean, it's PRETTY DARN EXCITING anyway but when you haven't got the foggiest what's coming next it's even more so.

And it's pretty flipping incredible that that WAS the case - this is probably going to be the biggest film EVER so I would have expected SOME of the plot to have leaked out. I wasn't especially avoiding the internet and I know lots of people who'd seen it before me, so it was mostly down to everyone who'd already had the experience of seeing it unspoilered wanting to save that experience for everyone ELSE too. This, I feel, is a slightly beautiful thing.

As we left the cinema - we saw it at the IMAX at the Science Museum which was a) GINORMOUS b) oddly COSY - we discussed how long this might go on for. Normally with a big film it feels OK to talk spoilers a day or two after it's out, as people who REALLY want to see it will have done so by then, but with Star Wars that's not the case as EVERYONE wants to see it, so you CAN'T necessarily get to it so quickly! I guess after New Year it'll be fine, but until then you will see no mention of the plot here.

You might, however, hear me THINKING about it. A LOT. Cor! It was GRATE!

posted 22/12/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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A Matter Of Taste
I've had quite a nice run of SUCCESS just lately with The Writing, at least as far as competitions go, with my script Six Billion To One getting into the final stages of a couple of screenwriting contests. I'm really JOLLY pleased because I've spent AGES working on it and, a little while ago, was starting to think all that time had been wasted.

When the first version (called 'Alpha Male' at that point) was finished I sent it off to all sorts of places and it got NOWHERE. I did however get some feedback, which mostly said how confusing it all was. The basic idea is that everybody in the world gets turned into an identical physical duplicate of one man - this is the HIGH CONCEPT - and the story's about the scientist who (probably) caused the disaster going off to find the last woman left on earth and then them trying to work out how to put things right, while fighting through a world of anti-individualistic cults and corporate bandits.

COR it sounds quite exciting when you put it like that doesn't it? It's also, I think, quite funny - it's like a cross between Last Of The Summer Wine and DIE HARD, kind of. Sort of. ANYWAY several of the people giving feedback said sensible things (although some said idiotic things, including a couple who said that the HIGH CONCEPT was the best thing about it and could be improved by getting rid of it completely) so I thought it mightn't hurt to read through it, do some changes, and try again.

This I duly did and ended up with a MUCH better version with a MUCH better title 'Six Billion To One' suggested by The Lines In My Script. I sent THAT off to a load more places and, again got either NIL RESPONSE or feedback saying it was all right or just sort of OK - this especially came from The Blacklist, a rating/reading site which gave me a solid 6/10 score every time I sent redrafts to them.

After a while I got the message and decided I'd spent ENOUGH time/money on this particular script so decided to FILE it. I did still have a few outstanding competitions I'd entered it for, but didn't expect anything to come of them.

And then something DID come - the ORIGINAL script, still titled 'Alpha Male' got into the quarter finals of the Science Fiction section of The Big Break Contest. I was AMAZED. As I say, this was the original version that had gone NOWHERE before and here it was getting into the first stages of a proper prestigious competition. I didn't expect it to get any further, but then it DID - into the semi finals, then the Top 10, Top 5 and now Top THREE for my category. It is frankly NUTS - I have been looking at the page approximately twice an hour all MONTH, clicking refresh fully expecting to drop out and STUNNED when I've made it to the next stage.

The next bit is the final WINNER of the category and I'm pretty sure it won't get THAT far, but you never know do you? WOOD is being touched, LADDERS are being avoided, and FATE is, as much as possible, being left untempted.

The script has also, as of today, got into the semi-finals of The Scriptwriters Network High Concept Screenplay Competition. I'm EXTREMELY chuffed about this because a) it's the most recent draft and so my favourite and also b) it's a competition for High Concepts, and I think this concept is pretty high!

Amongst all this delight and showing off, of course, there's the TONNE of other competitions I've sent it off to and got nowhere with and about thirty agents/production companies I've tried to get to read it who haven't. I guess if you enter ENOUGH of these things then someone somewhere is going to like it but CRIKEY it really does show how much this is all A Matter Of TASTE. When I was doing my course guest speakers were forever saying "Don't be put off by bad feedback, all you need is one person to like it, it's all A Matter Of Taste." Similarly I'm forever seeing the same advice on writing websites, usually quoting some book or screenplay (most often Harry Potter) which got rejected a million times by fifteen generations of publisher/agent/studio before somebody quite liked it and then every single person on earth read/watched it TWICE each.

I guess I used to think that that sort of thing was the exception and that Good Stuff would be found eventually - goodness knows WHY I thought something so daft, I've spent 20 years in BANDS seeing AMAZING groups go completely unlauded (though sometimes that was because they'd signed to a daft record label run by three drunk idiots in a pub in Derby - sorry Johnny Domino, Frightened Prisoners Of The Kraken ET AL) so I don't know why I thought it would be any different in the world of The Writing.

What I'm trying to say through all of this is, I think, THREEFOLD. Firstly, and most importantly, I'm saying "LOOK! Things what I wrote have been liked by people!" Secondly I'm reminding myself not to get too cocky about it because about twenty TIMES as many things I've written have been liked by NOBODY, and thirdly I guess I'm agreeing with all those mad-eyed loons trying to warn us off choosing their crazy career: it really is all just A Matter Of Taste.

posted 15/12/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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Roy Wood In The Blue Note
Deck the halls with boughs of holly and get the telly on, for LO! it is pretty much CHRISTMAS! "Why do you make this declaration Mark?" you may ask. The answer is simple: today is the day that we officially release this year's Christmas Song!

As mentioned many times already, our song this year is Roy Wood In The Blue Note, a festive tale of Roy Wood trying to get a late night pint in Derby while drunken idiots keep asking if he really does wish it could be Christmas every day. It also features a consideration of the realities of a daily Christmas before concluding with a sensible justification for Roy's wishes. You can listen for yourself in the video, HERE:



As usual we're adding the song to our festive bandcamp album Christmas Selection Box, which not only features all EIGHT (8) of our previous Christmas songs but a whole BUNCH of seasonal covers including, new for this year, 'Wonderful Christmastime'. Here it is in exciting embedded widget format (needs Flash):



We're all very happy about how this tune's turned out - it was a TONNE of effort to get it finished but we think it was worth it and would, as ever, be EXTREMELY grateful to anyone who can give it a PLUG for us. All the info's on the dedicated Christmas site at www.mjhibbett.co.uk/christmas/.

We hope you enjoy it, and send out a Merry Christmas from all of us to all of youse!

posted 14/12/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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Feels Like Christmas Now
There's always a bit of "phony Christmas" around this time of year, when we know it's Advent and that Christmas Is Coming but don't actually feel particularly Christmassy as yet. I am here to tell you that the Phony Christmas is now OVER.

For LO! Not only do we now have Bob Dylan's Christmas Album on CONSTANT ROTATION in our house, not only is the Christmas Tree UP, not only is the advent calendar chocolate being EATEN, but there is ALSO a super Christmassy bumper edition of the Totally Acoustic Podcast ready for you to listen to RIGHT NOW. It's got me and Mr G Osborn doing a LOT of Christmas songs, with Harry Cafe sandwiched in the middle doing... well, you've just have to have a listen to what he's doing and see if you can work it out for yourself!

There's even MORE Christmas on the way too. Mixing of our new Christmas single 'Roy Wood In The Blue Note' is nearly DONE and I'm three quarters of the way through making the VIDEO. It's SORT OF one of those Lyrics Videos that the young people like so much, although also sort of not entirely. We're all very excited about it anyway - some of The Validators have even TEXTED me to say how pleased they are with the song, that NEVER happens! If all goes to plan we'll be turning this whole site CHRISTMASSY on Sunday, ready for a launch of the new stuff on Sunday. Stay tuned for more of that as it happens!

posted 9/12/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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What Is Abax Anyway?
Sunday afternoon found me back in the land of my birth i.e. PETERBOROUGH, to go to The Football. I'd arranged to meet Mr P Myland at 1pm at "The Boat Place" aka Charters (it's a boat, you see) so when my train got in slightly late at 12:50pm I thought "Sod it, I'll get a taxi." A small part of my BRANE said "Hang on, it's a Sunday just before Christmas in a city where a) EVERYBODY goes into town shopping and b) the traffic is AWFUL at the best of times, are you sure about this?" "Shut up BRANE!" I said, and then spent twenty minutes stuck in traffic going to LONG way round due to bonus extra roadworks. Still, I did get to see some of Peterborough I hadn't seen for years. Perhaps it will be years until I'm forced to do so again!

Eventually I reached the pub and enjoyed a PINT with Mileage before strolling over London Road to The Abax Stadium (what on Earth IS Abax? Nobody seems to know) for an FA Cup tie between Posh and Luton Town. I had two reasons for being there - firstly that it's been AGES since I'd been to see them, the last time being a particularly GHASTLY game against Walsall when it was THUNDEROUSLY DULL. That was under the previous manager Mr D Robertson, but since then we have got a new manager Mr G Westley under whom all SORTS of ludicrous/exciting sound scores have come about and I was KEEN to see the FUN while it was still there to be had. The second reason, I must admit, was that Posh Legend Craig Mackail-Smith (to give him his full title) was playing for Luton and he is MY FAVOURITE. SHUT UP, it's ALLOWED!

As it happened, the game was PRETTY DARN GOOD. The final score was only two nil but, according to stats, there were THIRTY FIVE shots on goal by Posh, 15 of which were on target! There was a LOT of going "OOH!" and also "AAAH!", it was ACE.

Aside from that the main point of interest was how many MASCOTS there were. CRIKEY! When I were a lad we were happy with one (1) mascot, and that was Mr Posh i.e. a man in a SUIT and TOP HAT who would come on and wave to people. Mr Posh is still there, though now he has COMPANY. There's Miss Posh (who I reckon is his careworker, also in top hat and suit), Peter Burrow (a rabbit - i have no idea why, apart from OBVS the name), Mick George (a Bob The Builder knock-off, paid for by sponsors Mick George), PB (another Bob The Builder knock-off, another sponsor) and then Abax, a giant letter "A" because, as previously stated, nobody knows what Abax. It was a LOT of mascots.

Afterwards we returned to the pub for some analysis before it was time for me to head home again, glad that I had at least REFRESHED my attendance record and mildly excited for the draw for the next round tonight. I'm hoping we get somewhere in London, for peasiness reasons - if that means Leyton Orient then at least I know how to get there!

posted 7/12/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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Wonderful Christmas Time
I rolled up to The King & Queen last night to find it NOT full of drunk people wearing Fezes, unlike the last two times I've been there. The STRANGENESS continued when I went upstairs to discover that the room had been set out in the OPPOSITE way from how we have it i.e. with the chairs facing AWAY from the corner. To be honest it's probably a more sensible way to have it, but I am LOATH to veer away from tradition so spent a sweaty ten minutes turning everything round, during the course of which I found a bag and ukelele. "Clearly someone left this behind last night, after the reverso Totally Acoustic ended" I thought. Being a good citizen I took them downstairs to hand in as Lost Property, only to be told that it had been dropped off by "a bloke who said he was playing."

I'd noticed that the uke had TINY lyrics taped to the side. "That's like how Gav does it," I'd thought. I should have followed that thought through really shouldn't I? Anyway, I was soon joined by Mr S Hewitt, then by our acts Mr G Osborn and Mr H Carr and a whole HEAP of other people. Upstairs was soon very pleasantly full, "just the right number of people" I thought, CORRECTLY as it turned out. The Pies In My Tray had brought along MINCE PIES for everybody and, amazingly, we had EXACTLY the right number to go around for everyone who wanted done. It was a Christmas Miracle! As I handed them out several people said "My first mince pie of the season!" and, when I asked later, it turned out that it was EVERYBODY'S first for this year. It was an honour to provide them!

Once everybody had been fed it was time to get going, and I did THIS:
  • Easy Christmas
  • Roy Wood In The Blue Note
  • Wondeful Christmas Time
  • Thank Goodness For Christmas
  • Walking In A Winter Wonderland
  • We Three Kings
  • I Got You What You Want For Christmas
  • The Advent Calendar Of FACT

  • It was ALL CHRISTMAS, ALL OF THE TIME! As ever I did the "for some reason I don't do these songs very often" joke, this time using it as an excuse to have the LYRICS to hand, which nobody seemed to mind. I DEBUTED this year's Christmas song, Roy Wood In The Blue Note, which went jolly well (much to my relief) as well as doing The St Mark's Junior School Peterborough version of We Three Kings for the first time live since, well, when I was at junior school. There was also a LOT of joining in and singing along, it was dead Christmassy!

    Next up was Harry, doing his QUIZ in character as Harry Cafe. I must admit that, just before he went on, I had a sudden WORRY - would this go down all right? I've seen and enjoyed a couple of Harry's shows, but it IS character comedy and a bit WEIRD with lots of games and joining in, so I wasn't sure how well it would work in a room like this. I was, of course, a FOOL to have such fears, as it worked out BRILLIANTLY. The Totally Acoustic audience is always LOVELY and MORE than ready to join in when asked. Within moments everybody had joined Harry in the stage area to pretend to be Rhinoceroses and later gave hearty voice to various jingles. It was HILARIOUS!

    Finally we had Gav doing a set which I had booked basically as a CHRISTMAS PRESENT to MYSELF for LO! he is always ace and was very much so this time. He did a TONNE of stuff that I'd not heard him do before (and I've heard him play a LOT!) including THREE (3) marvelous Christmas songs. He also did a brilliant version of "Sweet Bedford" made even MORE emotional than usual by the fact that Stevo from the song was sitting in the room.

    It was, all told, a lovely way to kick off Christmas and also, in my case, complete the gigging year. On the way out I booked in for a SLEW of new Totally Acoustic shows next year - I've got the line-ups for the next two months on the website but I hope to get a good few more finalised soon. It's a beautiful gig to do in general, and this was a VERY beautiful one in particular!

    posted 4/12/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    Showing Off About Showing Off
    As mentioned in the latest newsletter, I have been doing some UPDATES to my writing website. I'd like to say that this was a planned upgrade based on a long term scheme for continuing professional development, but what actually happened was I saw someone ELSE's writing website which had a NEWS section on it and thought "I want one of them too!"

    THUS there's now a section on the front page which SHOWS OFF about cool things that have recently happened. I showed this to The URLS In My HREF who said "It looks like you should be able to click on the titles of the scripts and read more about them," and I thought "Yes, yes it does" and so DID that. This took a LOT of fiddling around with the underlying code, which made for a DELIGHTFUL Friday evening of PHP FUN (NB not sarcasm, it was ACE!).

    And while I was doing THAT I thought "This showing off is all well and good but it'd be even BETTER if people could actually READ the scripts themselves.' I know that it's not the done thing to leave ENTIRE SCRIPTS just lying around but I think it's probably OK to leave EXCERPTS so that is what I did, and now you can visit the scripts page to see a whole PILE of sections of scripts which you can, if you wish, download and read.

    If you haven't guessed by now, I'm rather pleased with it! It combines two of my favourite things: 1) fiddling about with EASY CODE 2) SHOWING OFF! It also reminded me that, actually, I DID get quite a lot of stuff done while I had my year off - I just hope I can continue in that vein and write some MORE!

    posted 3/12/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    10 Years, 9 Red Songs
    On Saturday night The Tracks On My Album and I ventured out to distant HIGHGATE to see Mr Chris T-T perform his album "9 Red Songs" in its entirety. He claimed that it was the tenth anniversary of its release, but surely that can't be right can it? It only came out a few months ago, I thought?

    Actually it MUST have been a while because when I did my pre-gig REVISION it felt like AGES since I'd last listened to the album and even I, who am a bit of a FAN of Mr T-T, was surprised by quite how GRATE it is. I was also surprised how PRESCIENT some of it was, not least "Uh... The Press" about how THE PRESS will bully certain people but if their CHUMS do something wrong they will completely ignore it. Astonishingly the chorus goes "Squeal squeal squeal little piggy" - did Chris KNOW all those years ago?!?

    The gig happened at The Red Hedgehog in Highgate which turned out to be JUST as I imagined it would be from its old-fashioned website i.e. also old fashioned and run like a cross between a community centre and a veggie cafe that had run out of staff. The lady behind the makeshift bar ran out of change within about half an hour, so ended up with a complex system of IOUs for change which, remarkably, all seemed to work out in the end.

    There were a TONNE of lovely people who I hadn't seen in AGES, some of whom we got to chat to including Mr M Breach. After the post-support act interval some cads nicked our seats so we ended up STANDING for Chris's set (it was FULL!) which was BRILLIANT. I thought it would be one long singalong but, actually, we were all so CAPTIVATED by the majesty of his performance that we all sat AGOG listening. We DID have a big shout along on "Huntsman" and "Preaching To The Converted" tho - how could we not?

    Once he'd done that there was an ENCORE and JOKES and it was basically BRILL. Hopefully you won't even have to take my word for it, as I recorded the whole thing on my four track - Chris is planning to release it as a download in the next couple of weeks. He kept talking about it during the gig which FRIT me up in case it didn't work, but happily when I got home and checked it all sounded lovely. PHEW!

    posted 2/12/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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    At Last, Deanshanger!
    Today is the first of December which means it's the first day of Advent which means, around here anyway, that it's the first day of The Joyzine Advent Calendar!.

    Me and/or The Validators have had a track on this nearly every year it's been going, but this is the first time we've ever been behind DOOR ONE! Our contribution is a cover version of 'Deanshanger' which is FINALLY available after approx a hundred years and a MILLION attempts to get it released!

    All right, maybe not QUITE that long/many, but it's definitely been AGES. The Validatiors originally went into the studio to record it back in 2012, along with The Flashing Santa and (unbeknownst to me) their version of The Peterborough All-Saints Wide Game Team (group B) for It Only Works Because You're Hibbett. At the time there was talk of a Prolapse Tribute Album and as we had an actual functioning MEMBER of Prolapse in the band we thought it would be rude NOT to do something. After they'd done their parts in Snug (featuring Frankie on guitar and I think EMMA on bass) I added my bits at home and MIXED it, to make sure we got it done in good time for the compilation's deadline.

    As with so VERY MANY such compilations we were amongst the first to send something and then it all went a bit quiet. Some time later i contacted the organiser who told me that they'd never got quite enough tracks in and it had pretty much died. I reckon 90% of compilations go like this. At the start everyone's EXCITED and BAGSIES a track, two or three SWOTS rush off to record their songs, but then everybody else puts it off, doesn't get around to it and forgets until all interest is lost.

    I know this process because I've been through it a LOT - In The North Stand on the new album, for instance, was originally written and recorded for an album of football songs, while SEVERAL of the tracks on Like A Braunstone Cowboy were rescued orphans from tributes that never got finished. I also know this process because it happened at least two more times with this very song, where it was offered for projects that sounded fun but never actually happened.

    We even talked about releasing it OURSELVES earlier on in the year, when Prolapse reformed and went on tour but, to be honest, that didn't seem quite right to me. I was MORE than happy to go the gigs, get drunk, leap around, say hello to people I'd not seen for decades and WAVE EXCITEDLY to Tim when he was on a big stage, but I didn't really want to try and CA$H IN. THUS the track remained upon my hard drive, unheard by most, waiting for its moment to shine.

    So, when Paul Joyzine sent his usual email round asking for contributions to their Advent Calendar I thought "Sod it, let's stop waiting and UNLEASH this ROCK BEHEMOTH on the world." I also thought "It's not very Christmassy is it?" but then realised that there would be MORE than enough Christmas to go round (including our new song "Roy Wood At The Blue Note", coming soon!) and a bit of Sonic Noise Terror could be just as festive. Probably.

    It'll be on the site for the rest of the month, I guess, but if I were you I'd pop over and download it right now just to make sure you get it. And once you've done back, pop and have a look for the rest of Advent, they always have a lot of GRATE stuff, and it's all FREE!

    posted 1/12/2015 by MJ Hibbett
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