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Blog Archive: January 2016

The Arbitration Service Validators
I've not been blogging an awful lot this month that's because not an awful lot has been happening, not on the surface at least. UNDERNEATH the surface however... well, not an AWFUL awful lot has been going on there either, but we have at least been PREPARING for things to happen.

For example, we've all been listening to the tracks recorded for the next Validators album and now Mr T "The Tiger" McClure is booked to head into the studio next week to undertake some of the TWEAKS resulting from these discussions. It's all sounding pretty much nearly THERE now, also GRATE, which means that I have to set my BRANE to consider what happens NEXT.

This means thinking of stuff like how many CDs to make, what format they should be in, where to get them DONE, whether to bother with distribution (shop and Amazon) and so whether we need barcodes, who to send copies to and so on and so forth, but before THAT can be begun we need to think about what the album will BE. THUS we have this week once again been discussing the album artwork and, vitally, the TRACKLISTING.

As mentioned a while ago, NINE of the tracks recorded have been approved pretty much unanimously and now TWO of the remainder have been dropped, one has been added and there's just ONE song left to ARGUE about. Progress! In the meantime we've pretty much worked out the ORDER they'll be in - I've been listening to the album in an order Mr T Pattison suggested a couple of weeks ago and it sounds ACE - and even VOTED for what songs we'll be playing in Glasgow in a couple of weeks (it's good to get this sorted well in advance so we can practice). Only the issue of this particular song remains!

It seemed like we were in DEADLOCK. Offers were made. Positions were taken. ARGUMENTS were put forward - this is meant to be an album of HITS, was THIS song a HIT or not? I feared I might have to take a FIRM HAND and impose my IRON WILL upon the group, but then LO! Mr F A Machine (leader of the PRO-this-song faction) flew in with a thought - why not put this contentious song on at the END of the album as a "secret" track? That way it's not officially listed, it's clearly separated BUT is on there for people to enjoy if they wish. I waited a few minutes and then an email came back from the leader of the ANTIs (i.e. Tim) saying simply "I can live with that."

Amazing scenes! Tension! DRAMA! And RESOLUTIONS! We have often said that if The Validators ever turn our mighty powers to POLITICS we would take over the WORLD (or at least an ill-attended Parish Council), but maybe we should try ARBITRATION instead. The Middle East - if you ever need us, you know where we are, and we'll probably sort you out for a few pints!

posted 29/1/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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The Exeter Cut
On Friday last week I went down to EXETER to go on a pub crawl with my DAD. We did a similar thing last year in Bristol which worked out rather marvellously (including having a curry at 6:30pm and both being asleep by 9pm) so we thought we'd have another go. We chose Exeter because it is halfway between Cornwall and London, although it ended up taking me nearly twice as long as it took Dad because I'd booked myself on a CHUGGER train that stopped EVERYWHERE. I did think it was cheap when I booked it, now I knOw why!

Once we'd arrived we got a taxi to our hotel and then attempted to get one back but the lady on reception was quite insistent that we get a BUS instead, almost as if she didn't want to ring the taxi company. We took her advice and got on a bus but, at the next stop, the driver stopped and suggested we get on the one behind him. Everyone in Exeter was VERY ready to offer help and advice, even the driver on the next bus who told me at some length that he wasn't supposed to let me onto HIS bus with a ticket I'd bought on another, but he would "let it go this time." There went my plans for a day of bus hopping on one ticket!

Soon we were in our first pub, The Hourglass, which was LOVELY - cosy, nice beer, and very helpful bar staff who informed us that there weren't really any particularly good pubs in Exeter. This would turn into a bit of a theme - we visited SEVERAL good pubs over the course of the day and pretty much ALL the barstaff we spoke to told us there weren't any!

Next we strolled down to the quayside and popped into The Prospect Inn before heading into town to try and find The Well House Tavern, which had been reluctantly recommended a couple of times. We got to the Cathedral but couldn't see the pub so asked a young hippy who was bouncing along with his dreads and his comfy clothing. "He'll know" we thought but when we asked he looked MIGHTILY CONFUSED and had NO CLUE. It was only when he bounced off again that we spotted The Well House about 8 feet away. He's just walked past it! Kids today! Where are their pub spotting priorities?

After being told again in The Well House (another good pub) that there were no good pubs in Exeter we went down the road to The Beer Cellar which was a right proper Craft Beer Bar i.e. it looked like it had been a SHOP until very recently and the barman had a HUGE MOUSTACHE! Over a pint of STOUT (I was sleeping alone that evening so I thought I'd take the opportunity) we decided to go and see STAR WARS!

This turned out to MOSTLY be a GRATE idea. We were at that stage of the pub crawl where FLAGGING occurs and you need to do something non-beery for a couple of hours. Also we'd both seen the film but wanted to again, and the cinema was only 10 minutes away, so it seemed daft not to. ALSO also I'd been to see the FIRST Star Wars film with Dad, so it seemed like a nice thing to revisit.

The only problem was that we had rather been in the pub all afternoon, so it was a MUCH shorter version of the film for me this time. It was all a bit confusing - one minute Rey and Fin were just meeting up in the market, the next everyone was flying off on the final mission to blow up the space station. Surely there was more to it than that? And why did I feel so REFRESHED?

Actually this was also quite FITTING, as when we saw Star Wars the first time we missed the first ten minutes, and every time I've seen it since I've been surprised that there's stuff BEFORE Luke finds R2 D2!

We staggered off to the taxi rank and ended the evening with PUB GRUB and RED WINE. It was DEAD sophisticated and a very nice way to end a LOVELY day out. The next morning wasn't QUITE so delightful, and I could have done with cutting an hour out of the journey home in the same way I had with the film, but otherwise it was ACE - very much like going off to do a GIG, just without the half hour of showing off in the middle!

posted 26/1/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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More Beatles
For Christmas I got a copy of The Beatles' 1+ DVD which has ALL the tracks from their "1" album plus a whole other DVD of extra stuff. For some reason I didn't sit down and watch it IMMEDIATELY, but when I eventually did this last weekend I was GOBSMACKED. I've read and watched a LOT about The Beatles but usually you only ever see their "videos" in tiny sections. Here was all of them, not only in FULL but sometimes in different versions. It was AMAZING!

The best thing about these videos (or short films really) is that it pretty much always looks like The Beatles themselves are having a BRILLIANT time. "Hello Goodbye", for instance, appears to be a FESTIVAL of TITTING ABOUT with them all dancing around and making each other LARF - it's lovely! The video for "Hey Bulldog" is also INCREDIBLE - when they wanted a video for "Lady Madonna" they filmed the band at work in the studio. I think the idea was they'd pretend to be doing "Lady Madonna" but, being The Beatles, they had a whole other song (i.e. "Hey Bulldog") to record and got on and did THAT instead. Here in The Distant Future the DVD people re-cut this footage to make a whole OTHER video for "Hey Bulldog"and it's sort of MIND BLOWING. It's actually footage of them recording the song, and as well as sounding AMAZING it looks like a RIGHT LARF. HOORAH!

Inspired by all this a couple of days later I thought I'd treat myself to "Sergeant Pepper" on the commute to work. I've recently got the MONO versions of their albums and have been ASTONISHED by how different they sound. I know for decades people have been going on about it, but I thought it was the equivalent of vinyl bores droning on about how much better actual LPs are, but NO! They genuinely definitely sound SO much better, especially "Sergeant Pepper" which is suddenly A LOT more PSYCHEDELIC than I ever knew. The stereo versions have been the STANDARD ever since CDs came in, even tho THOSE mixes were knocked up after the Mono ones, often on a different day, usually without The Beatles themselves present, which means that we've been given an INFERIOR version - a much LESS Far Out and AMAZING version - for the past twenty years!

This made me WONDER about my own opinion of the album. I've always liked it but never thought it was REALLY the best one like so many LISTS claim, but now I'm starting to reconsider!

Also, hearing it like this, I suddenly found myself listening to the words to "She's Leaving Home" and having a small CRY! On the tube train! That's never happened to me before - it must be THE MONO!

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that The Beatles are ACE and I like them. REVELATIONS!

posted 21/1/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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The Lights Of Lumiere
On Sunday night The Items In My Exhibition and I headed into London Actual to see Lumiere, a weekend-long festival featuring sculptures of light being set up around town. I was only aware of it because the aforesaid Posters In My Promotion had mentioned it so expected us to be the only people there, but HOW WRONG I WAS. As we walked out of St Pancras Station we instantly saw a MASSIVE crowd hanging around the Light Cage Thing that's always stood there. There were loads of sculptures along the walk from Kings Cross to Central St Martins and there were THOUSANDS of people out to see them. It was incredible! It felt like being at a FESTIVAL except a) in central London b) without pumping music and c) without any food or merchandising stalls. It was WEIRD in that respect - I'm so used to being inundated with LOUD MUSIC and FOOD STALLS at big events, there to TELL me what fun I'm having, that their ABSENCE feels even louder. I'm also used to being BOSSED AROUND by "security" but, for the most part, the Information People were cheery, helpful and nice (they were volunteers, we discovered) and, as a result, the huge crowds tended to sort ourselves out.

We stomped up to Granary Square and then inside the Central St Martins building, which is LOVELY. There was one exhibit in there - Litre Of Light - and it had a MASSIVE queue as you had to walk through it. Everybody was DELIGHTFULLY Modern British about it as we a) queued b) MOANED about queuing and c) took photographs of it. MAN there will be a lot of crappy photographs on Instagram - almost EVERYONE was taking pictures. As The Film In My Nikon remarked, everyone was concerned with the EVIDENCE, not the EXPERIENCE. All the picture taking meant it took FOREVER to get into the actual exhibit but, when we did, there was LOADS of room as everyone stood still taking their carefully framed Crappy Pictures, holding everyone else back, and then moved straight on as soon as they'd done!

Outside we saw a GRATE thing called Spectra 3 which was SPOOKY like a weird alien FLOWER moving round and/or a radar dish. We wandered further round, enjoying the general air of JOLLITY but also getting COLD. It was COLD!

A stroll and a tube rider later we emerged at Oxford Circus for the NEXT bit. Here the atmosphere was slightly different, as huge chunks of ROADS had been closed off, so you got to wander down the middle of Regents Street without fear of DOOM. There were some AMAZING things here - a huge floating jellyfish/comet thing called London 1.8 and some flying fish. It was slightly UNREAL being there, with these AMAZING THINGS happening above us, surrounded by happy people, all just off Oxford Street!

We went for some tea at Tibits and took the chance to look at the mini shrine to David Bowie just below the "Ziggy Stardust" plaque on Heddon Street. "I think he did the cover of one of his albums here", said a Young Person. "Yes", I thought. "Ziggy Stardust maybe?" It was TOUCHING to see the care that had gone into it all, and The Spiders From My Mars commented on the fact that people always seem to need a PLACE to GO to to express grief at times like this. Maybe it's because that's where they know they'll find other people who feel the same?

Anyway, we soon set off again and saw loads more AMAZING stuff. We went to look at an ELEPHANT being projected onto an archway (Elephantastique) which was, you know, ALL RIGHT, until you walked under the arch, turned round, and saw that the elephant's ARSE was being projected on the other side! This wasn't mentioned in any of the publicity and there was no HINT that it would be the case, so we found ourselves GRINNING in the company of a small crowd of DELIGHTED people, as ever taking photographs.

I know I MOANED about people taking photographs earlier, but it came in REALLY handy for this bit. As we walked down slightly less crowded side streets round Piccadilly we found that the easiest way to spot more sculptures was to look for the little groups of people with their cameras out. When we got to St James Square we were able to use this technique to spot the FLYING PEOPLE in The Travellers, which was GRATE.

The nicest thing about it all though was the experience of wandering round the streets, free of traffic, with loads of other people out having a happy, unsoundtracked, non-merchandised, lovely time. It was SORT OF like the Edinburgh Festival and SORT OF like New Year's Eve in a small town, a communal experience of PLEASANTRY at night time. It was so nice that, here and there, strangers were talking to each other. In LONDON!!!

We finished up by walking through and incredible scene of GIANT FAIRY LIGHT PLANTS in Leicester Square and then touching the actual Centre Point Lights which had been moved to Trafalgar Square. When we saw them I thought "I really want to touch them, so I can say i DID when they're put back on top of Centre Point" and, looking round, I noticed I was not alone in this thought.

We hopped back on the tube home COLD but full of DELIGHT. What I thought was going to be a brief look at some public art turned into a HUGE communal experience, totally different from Normal London and UNFORGETTABLE. Can we have it back again next year please?

posted 20/1/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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A Life In Panto
We went to the PANTO on Saturday night, and it was ACE. OH YES IT WAS (etc etc).

The Answers In My Quiz had won the tickets in a competition so we thought "HEY! Let's DO it!" Beforehand we discussed whether either of us had actually BEEN to a Panto before - I have a very vague memory of going to see one in a Village Hall somewhere near Deeping St James when I was TINY, but that's about it. I guess it doesn't really matter though, as Panto is SO ingrained in the British PSYCHE that we all know how it goes whether we've ever been or not. As we would discover, it is PARTICULARLY burned into MY psyche!

Once we were in our seats we found the Theatrical Experience to be VERY different from the norm. Usually when ONE is in The Theatre one gets right fed up with other people making NOISE or moving about, but this time there was no choice but to go with it. It was like a big wedding, with hundreds of excitable kids SHOUTING and moving around and calling to each other and joining in and generally causing a RACKET. It was friendly and actually lovely - especially when you spotted the Nearly Teenagers trying to be ABOVE it all!

The show itself, being a panto, was very much DESIGNED for this sort of audience, with all the joining in and LOUD talking and BIG gags and SPEED. In fact, as it went along, I realised that every show Steve and I have ever done has been a PANTO, especially in the need to NEVER have a LULL where attention could drift. Also all the SONGS. Also the DAD JOKES. Also the DANCE ROUTINES. Also the... well, you get the idea. The weird effect of this realisation was that I found myself RE-WRITING the show as it went along, as if it was one of ours. "That joke is too quiet", I thought. "The melody of that song needs to be easier to sing along with." GUYS! Next year, CALL ME, I am ready to make panto!

Despite my EDITS it was all a LOT of fun, and I bet it was even LOVELIER before Christmas, when it would have been SUPER FESTIVE. I liked the fact that it had a TONNE of the Traditional Aspects Of Panto (a GRATE Dame, loads of silliness, some rude jokes for the parents ) but lots of EXTRA MODERN stuff (mega diverse cast, message of INDEPENDENCE at the end rather than marriage) without getting preachy. It was FUN!

Afterwards we strolled into The Village (I live in the former Olympic Athletes' Village - sorry if this is a surprise, I'm not sure I've mentioned it before?) and went to a NEW BAR what has just opened. They've been promising bars and the like ever since we moved in, so it's quite exciting to pop in now that they've finally opened, and it was ESPECIALLY thrilling to a) be the last people in there at closing time and b) to be able to walk home in 5 minutes. As we left we had a chat to the Landlord and told him we'd been to the Panto. "Is it behind you?" he asked. "It is now!" I said.

SERIOUSLY! Theatre Companies! I have SPACE in my diary for you!

posted 19/1/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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The Trials Of Film Making
On Saturday I was back in London's Farringdon district of London to meet Mr John Dredge for a bit more FILMING. We've recently been working on an idea for a webseries about two blokes sharing an office, tentatively titled "Monday To Friday". John had suggested that we film a PILOT for it, just to see if it worked. SPOILERS: it DID work, but crikey it was NOT easy.

The first issue we faced was the LOCATION. The idea of the series is that they're in a really tiny room, but when we arrived at Theatre Delicatessen it turned out that we had booked the BIGGEST room available! It's very busy there on a Saturday lunchtime so we'd not had much choice and, after a bit of thinking, we came up with a solution. We shoved two desks up against one of the doors and then LUGGED some handy items (a huge mirror and, I think, a table top) over to create a WALL, propped up with chairs. Here's what it looked like from the outside:



And here's what it looked like when we actually FILMED it:



CLEVER huh? We were RATHER pleased with ourselves about how CONVINCING it looked! Thus chuffed we sat down to start rehearsing/filming only to come up against our next problem: the NEIGHBOURS. Theatre Delicatessen was, as previously stated, BUSY, mostly with ACTORS in large groups SHOUTING. They bloody LOVE shouting, do actors - I remember approx 1 MILLION years ago when I was a student at Leicester Poly's Scraptoft Campus (now, as with all things Leicester, Not There Anymore) being surrounded by acting students who loved nothing more than SHOUTING all the time. Later when I WORKED there we had to keep going out to acting lecturers and ask them if they could keep their SHOUTING Classes (it had to be taught too) inside the lecture theatres, rather than taking them outside to the corridors or indeed RIGHT OUTSIDE the rooms where other people were having exams.

ANYWAY, there was a lot of shouting going on which came RIGHT through the very thin walls, which made it a bit tricky to get decent SOUND. We had a couple of goes, almost having to shout ourselves to be heard over the DIN, but realised that most of what we'd done wouldn't be usable. At this point we found another problem - my digital four-track, which we use to record the AUDIO, had run out of batteries! We agreed that I might as well pop out and get some more, hoping that by the time I got back the actors might have quietened down a bit.

Fifteen minutes later i was back to some GRATE news - the actors had gone off to do the only thing they like MORE than shouting i.e. EATING SANDWICHES! With new batteries and a bit of quiet we had the perfect opportunity to film as much as we liked, and it was at THAT point that the camera ran out of energy!

Luckily I'd brought the charger with me but there were no plug sockets ANYWHERE in the room! We ended up standing in the corridor for ten minutes, nervously waiting for the camera to get charged up enough for another couple of takes while watching out (or rather, listening out) for the return of the SHOUTING ACTORS. We waited as long as we dared before DASHING back, where we got to do approx 1.7 takes of the scene again before the camera battery ran out again.

It was all a bit of a TRIAL, but turned out to be worth it when I got home and found that the last thing we'd shot was actually PRETTY GOOD. I'm not sure whether we'll actually USE the stuff we shot for public consumption, partly because some of the sound's a bit quiet and partly because Theatre Delicatessen is closing soon so we'd have to shoot other scenes somewhere else anyway, but we do have a PLAN. We're going to use it as an ACTUAL Pilot, and send it to some people who might be able to make it INSTEAD of us. Production companies LOVE the idea of Web Series, as far as I can see - they always seem to be on about it being The Future - and we have THREE whole scripts finished with a ton of ideas for more. As John and I discussed this plan I was filled with joy at the idea of us just being able to turn up and BE in the films, rather than worry about locations, sound and vision. As we'd discovered that day, all three are DIFFICULT!

posted 18/1/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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Album Completion Curry Ahoy
This week preparations for our new album have entered a glorious new phase: THE ARGUING!

Up until now we have all been pretty much in CONCORD. We all agreed on the basic plan to do a short album of HITS without huge amounts of extra production. We all agreed on the title, pretty much, and the cover concept. We even tended to agree on the finer points of the MIXES that Snug have been doing for us. It's all been very COLLEGIATE... until now.

For LO! we've just got to the stage where we need to talk about what songs will be ON it. There's 13 to choose from for a 10 or 11 track album and NINE of those are SHOE-INS, being obvious HITS to anyone with ears to hear. The other four, however, are a bit more difficult.

TWO of the contentious songs are "talky ones" i.e. tunes that have me basically SPEAKING the words, adapted in both cases from POEMS what I wrote. POEMS! Some of us think we should have one of these tracks on the album (and we all concur as to which one), while other voices have said we should have NEITHER. WOT to do?

The other two songs are from SHOWS, one from Hey Hey 16K and one from Total Hero Team (NB these are not the only SHOWTUNES in the mix, just the ones we're arguing about). ONE of these is pretty definitely not going on the record, whereas the other one is causing MUCH disagreement. Some of us like it, some of us... don't.

We will, of course, get it all sorted out with our usual method of A MILLION EMAILS, but in the meantime it's having the effect of GEEING US UP, as the fact that we're HAVING these heated discussions is a sure sign that we're nearly at the end of the process. The vague plan is to get in for a "final" mix session at some point soon THEN listen to the songs, prepare any POST-FINAL tweaks, then get it MASTERED and go for a BAND CURRY! Obviously we'll also need to do the cover, press some CDs, do publicity and then, you know, RELEASE it, but at the moment the BAND CURRY is very much our finishing line.

It's all RATHER exciting - we're still planning to have the album out by summer, and who knows (touches wood, crosses fingers), we MIGHT actually manage to do it!

posted 15/1/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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Semi-Retirement
This week I've been doing various bits of ROCK ADMIN which have involved checking my gig listings a few times and, while doing so, I noticed something odd: although it's quite a FULL schedule stretching into the summer, once you take out Totally Acoustic and Hey Hey 16K I really haven't got much on AT ALL. There's a Validators gig in Glasgow and then Surrey in April, but that's IT!

I checked last year and found pretty much the same story - I did 55 gigs in 2015 but only EIGHT of them were unrelated to the show or Totally Acoustic. There was a time not so long ago when I'd do 50 gigs a year PLUS other stuff, so how has it come to this point?

I guess part of the reason is that I AM doing other things - concentrating on the shows means I've just not had TIME to do other stuff, and so have not only not DONE the "normal" gigs but have fallen out of the habit of asking for them. Also there's the cyclical nature of gig-getting - most people who promote gigs tend to only do so for a few years because it is an almost entirely thankless task which, as far as I can see, involves all the DOWNSIDES of doing gigs (organising them,paying for them, doing promotion) with none of the UPSIDES (i.e. getting on stage and showing off!). Most of the people I started off doing gigs for have long since packed it in, as have most of the second and THIRD wave of same, and as time has gone by I've been SLACK in finding new places to play.

Another reason is that I haven't been drawing much attention to myself or The Validators in the field of ROCK. Our last album came out nearly FOUR (!) years ago and the last Proper Normal Indie album was nearly SEVEN years ago and in that time the world of ROCK has changed considerably. I can't really expect The Kids Of Today to fall over themselves to try and book someone who was around before even the FIRST time they tried to close down 6Music!

The thing is though, I find I don't really MIND so much. If this had happened a few years ago I would have a) been SAD about it and b) tried to CHANGE it, but these days I'm quite happy to sit in semi-retirement. I mean, OBVIOUSLY there'll be a career reappraisal in 15 years or so when the children who are currently listening to Dinosaur Planet on long car journeys grow up and take over the media, INEVITABLY, but for now I'm very happy to trot out and do lovely Totally Acoustic gigs and then spend the rest of the time at home doing The Writing. It's much easier!

Having said all that, we DO have a new album out this year which is VERY nearly finished and sounding AMAZING. Who knows, we may even TOUR*!

(*Terms and conditions apply: please note that any 2 gigs within the space of a fortnight may constitute a "tour". Fast songs may be played slower)

posted 14/1/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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The David Bowie Impersonation
I wasn't going to say anything on here about David Bowie dying because GOODNESS KNOWS enough has been said by people much more qualified to do so than me. However, last night I was listening to the new Totally Acousic Podcast (featuring Jenny Lockyer, Matt Tiller and The Indelicates) and realised that the audience participation David Bowie impersonation that Jenny leads in one of her songs was probably the last David Bowie impersonation any of us did while he was alive. That "The David Bowie Impersonation" is SUCH a recognised thing that everybody will quite happily join in with at any time, day or night, is perhaps not THE greatest tribute to his life and art, but it is at least A tribute to it.

On Monday morning when I told The Starman Waiting In My Sky what had happened I'd just thought "Oh dear, how sad" but as the day progressed it hit me what a MAJOR death this was. In terms of MY life his music was right at the start of me knowing there was more to life than Paul McCartney, as Dr N Brown played me his records and Mr C Lawson made me learn the basslines to his songs. I distinctly remember playing "Boys Keep Swinging" with the latter for HOURS in our shared house in Leicester, with me MARVELLING at the fact that I'd never heard this AMAZING music, and wondering what ELSE there might be out there.

More importantly for EVERYONE though was the fact that, in terms of Pioneering British Music That Changed Everything And Was Also Pop Music AND Remained Fun, he was second only to The Beatles, and there was only ONE of him, not four! This THORT was reinforced for me throughout Monday as everything KEPT being about him - almost every post on Twitter and Facebook was people talking about the effect he'd had on them, for hour after hour, and it wasn't until teatime that the naysayers finally got going (usually they start right away). It was an honest response to the removal of somebody who, we suddenly realised, had become a MASSIVE part of what it meant to be alive and British.

With that in mind, maybe doing a David Bowie impersonation isn't such a bad tribute after all? He spent all those years showing us a different, more exciting, funny and WEIRD version of ourseves, surely the least we can do is keep on doing the same?

posted 13/1/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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A Lovely Evening
In the lead up to last night's Totally Acoustic I'd been a bit worried about whether anybody would come. The first week of the year is traditionally QUIET as everyone recovers from the EXPENSE and EXCESS of Christmas, so I thought it might be difficult to get people to come. As it turned out this was one of the busiest shows we've EVER had, largely due to the ACTS but also, I think, because people had already had enough of Social Austerity and wanted to come out to have some FUN!

Fun was VERY much in evidence during what turned out to be a BRILLIANT evening, with Ms Jenny Lockyer, Mr Matt Tiller and The Indelicates all turning in fantastic sets. As I always say, when you stick acts who know what they're doing in a room full of friendly people you really really don't NEED anything else apart from instruments, some songs and some CHAT to have a great time. It was ACE!

It was also very SOCIAL as all SORTS of people I'd not seen for ages turned up, including Mr D Perkins of the official Best Band I've Ever Seen Live, The Frightened Prisoners Of The Kraken, and Mr Alex Lawson who I know from his fanzine and GOOD TIMES in Sheffield but who is now an Actual Proper Journalist. I know a few people who have escalated their situation from writing fanzines to actually getting PAID to write things, including Actual Proper Journalist Mr James Walsh who was also in attendance, and it always makes me PROUD. Maybe I should ask them for some TIPS on this whole MONEY thing though?

Meanwhile I got to continue my SCHEME of recent Totally Acoustic seasons by gigging with Bands I've Known At One Remove For YEARS But Have Rarely Played with. This time it was The Indelicates, who once again proved my theory that it's always the NICE people who form bands for the RIGHT reasons that STAY in bands. You get an awful lot of dickheads in bands right at the start, but TIME turns out to be an excellent PILLOCK SIEVE!

So yes, it was a MARVELLOUS evening, although this morning has been quite a lot LESS pleasant. This always seems to happen after Totally Acoustic shows, perhaps I am ALLERGIC to something in the pub? It's the only possible explanation!

posted 8/1/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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Visions Of Bill Nighy
Like MOST of the UK I've been in a bit of a GRUMP this week, due to the whole It Not Being Christmas Anymore thing and also Now We Have To Be At Work All The Time. I have probably not helped myself by a) listening to Bob Dylan all the time (i got The Best Of The Cutting Edge 1965-1966: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 12 for Christmas and it's really good but not VASTLY jolly) and b) reading This Is The Way The World Ends by James Morrow, which is BONKERS and also BLEAK.

Thus I was trudging along through Green Park underground station this morning trying to cheer myself up with thoughts of FUN ahead and things to be thankful for, and not doing very well at it, when suddenly a VISION appeared before me. Coming towards me, on the other side of the LONG tunnel between the Jubilee Line and the Piccadilly, was a tall figure who looked oddly familiar. I squinted and realised - could it be? Yes it was - it was your actual BILL NIGHY, stomping in the opposite direction!

Bill Nighy! On the tube! At 9:30am on a Wednesday morning!! I decided to take it as a SIGN. If even THERE, deep underground in the not-quite-middle of a working week, one could see HOLLYWOOD STARS then surely there's a possibility of GLAMOUR and DELIGHT everywhere? And if even Bill Nighy has to go on the tube first thing in the morning, then surely it can also be a transport system to HOLLYWOOD (or equivalent) for the rest of us?

I tell you what, it cheered me right up. Next week I hope to see Beyonce on a Boris Bike!

posted 6/1/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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Booking The Turns
As part of my project to make the first week back to work slightly less GHASTLY than it otherwise might be I've embarked upon the next wave of bookings for Totally Acoustic. This is always a LENGTHY process, but one which I have honed during the (amazingly) EIGHT years that it has been going.

The first and LONGEST part is, every so often over the course of about six months, to think "OOH! Them!" and write a NAME down on a special page in my notebook headed "Ask For Totally Acoustic". This page gets particularly busy during the Edinburgh Fringe or at Indietracks, when I see someone i like who is a) NEW or b) not so new but who I have never got around to asking before.

The next job is to have a look at the list of all the past gigs and work out who's played before but I haven't asked in a while. This invariably leads to me gazing wistfully into the middle distance thinking about how much fun it was the last time they came because, also invariably, it WAS.

Once THAT'S all completed i get down to ASKING, and this is ALSO done in stages. From prior experience I know that some people have DATE RESTRICTIONS i.e. jobs or CHILDREN that mean they can only do gigs at certain times. I ask this lot FIRST (especially if they've never played before), before going through my wishlist of new people a few at a time. The NIGHTMARE SCENARIO is that more people say "YES" to a date than I have space for, which HAS happened in the past although is less likely now as my NOT doing a full set myself every time allows room for THREE guests. It does still FRIT ME UP tho, so I try my best to wait until most people in a WAVE have answered either way before moving on to the next.

And that's where I'm AT at the moment, about halfway through asking NEW types if they fancy doing it. I'm hoping to get that all done in the next week or so before working out how many previous TURNS I can ask to come back and then we'll all be set for approx seven months of ROCK. As you can see from the recently updated list of line-ups we've got some CRACKING people coming already. I'm MOST excited about the fact that Ruth from Po! is going to be coming down, as I've not seen her do a gig in DECADES, but they all look like being GRATE and there's LOADS more still to ask!

By heck, it's making back to work week feel hardly ghastly at ALL!

posted 5/1/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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Once More Into The Office
Happy new year, one and all - I hope 2016 has been as delightful as possible for you so far!

For me it has been MOSTLY ace i.e. the bits of it that were spent lolling around at home, before veering towards NOT AS ACE i.e. having to come to work today. This time last year I was halfway through my "year" off and I must say I LONG for those days today even more than usual, especially when I trudged onto the TUBE this morning with the hordes of other gloomily faced reluctants.

Still, a new year is a time for exciting PLANS and PROSPECTS and there's certainly a good few of those for me to look forward to in 2016. First and foremost we have the new Validators' album "Still Valid" which is edging ever closer towards completion. I'm hoping that it'll be available to buy by the summer and that we'll be doing a few GIGS around then to promote it, but previous experience tells me that it's best not to pile TOO much hope on that sort of thing. Mind you, we're not recording an hour long rock opera about Dinosaurs this time, so surely there can't be THAT much to delay it?

There's also the live recording of Hey Hey 16K to look forward to, maybe even as an Actual DVD. Steve and I are doing a couple more live shows in February (in Cambridge on the 7th and Leicester on the 10th) but then of course we'll probably be doing an ARENA TOUR once we get in the DVD charts. Almost definitely.

Meanwhile I've just started booking acts for the spring and summer dates of Totally Acoustic. There's enough new people that I'd like to get on to last me until 2017 at the moment, so I'm planning to keep it running pretty much every month this year. The next one's this Thursday, with Jenny Lockyer, Matt Tiller and The Indelicates - it'll be GRATE, come along if you're about!

And then there's the MISC and OTHER stuff that I don't necessarily know what it is yet - there's lots of The Writing out there that's RIPE with possibilities, various GIGS and of course a PhD in October! Whatever happens, I hope it's going to be an interesting year and, who knows, I might even get to write the NEXT First Blog Of The Year NOT from an office again!

posted 4/1/2016 by MJ Hibbett
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