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Blog Archive: June 2017

End Of Year One
I've got the whole week off work this week, mostly for a conference in Dundee (where I am now - more about THAT another time!) but on Monday I was at RNUAL, a week of presentations by PhD students on their research so far. Originally I, and my fellow Comics Guys, were supposed to be there the whole week, but we managed to WRANGLE it so that we could do our presentations on Monday and then spend the rest of the week at the aforesaid conference.

I must admit I wasn't HUGELY looking forward to RNUAL. I've been to several of these events this year and though some of them have been Useful and Interesting the majority have been Largely Pointless and Boring, which is always RATHER annoying when you've had to take annual leave to do them. HOWEVER I must admit that this time it was DEAD INTERESTING - maybe it's because everyone has now had the best part of an Academic Year to properly get INTO their research topics, maybe it's because the high dropout rate means those who aren't interested in what they're doing have packed it in, or maybe I was just lucky, but I spent the whole day happily listening to people talk about what they're up to.

It was SO interesting, in fact, that during the first session I started to worry that mine would be a bit boring. I'm giving a presentation at the conference (later today, in fact) so had concentrated on that, so was a bit worried that the very quick talk I'd prepared would be a bit LIGHT. However, once I got started I found that I actually had QUITE A LOT extra to say and was SOMEWHAT ENTHUSIASTIC about it, so much so that my previously timed eight minute talk had to be stopped after fifteen!

Afterwards we had gentle questions from the mixed audience, but later in a tea break I received several rather more PIERCING THORTS from Knowleadgeable Comics Types, to the extent that I'm going to have to have a Proper Think about some of my ASSUMPTIONS. This is pretty much exactly what you want from these sort of events though, so I left for the day with a head full of IDEAS and INSPIRATIONS, ready to go home and start packing for SCOTLAND!

posted 29/6/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Art And Theatre
I had a RIGHT cultural weekend this weekend just gone, full of ART and also THEATRE.

The ART was on Saturday, when I went to The Estorick Collection in leafy Islington to see an exhibition about Giacoma Balla. This was the LAST day of the exhibition - The Paint On My Brush had been a few weeks ago and HIGHLY recommended it, so I wanted to get in while I still could!

I arrived to find a TOUR had just started, so wandered round behind it being WOWED by the ART. It was dead good, full of IDEAS and COLOUR and experimenting with new stuff. Just the kind of thing I like, really. The Estorick has a whole heap of other Italian art upstairs too, which was ACE - I especially liked The Hand Of The Violinist (also by Balla) and "Music" by Luigi Russolo. ART!

On Sunday I headed down to Croydon to see Jenny Lockyer's new one-woman show about Amy Johnson. I've talked to her about SHOWS and suchlike for AGES so was eager to see what she'd come up with. I thought it was going to be a series of SONGS or somesuch but it was an Actual Proper One Woman Show like what you get at the Fringe i.e. her doing a series of characters to tell the story through SORT OF monologues. The GENIUS part of it was that she did a lot of the story from the viewpoint of her plane "Jason". She'd even got in a Proper Director so it was WELL theatrical, with lights and sounds and all the sorts of things some others of us never get round to doing. There was also ACTING, which I always find a bit confusing when it's someone I know!

As I came out I was reminded of how much FUN it is going to Edinburgh and seeing shows like this, I really hope she takes it out and about for more people to see, because it was GRATE!

posted 26/6/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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The Future Is Amazing
Last night those delightful Indietracks people unleashed their traditional compilation album featuring bands playing the festival. I was VERY excited about it as, when we were putting together the tracklist for Still Valid all those many moons ago we kept the song The Future Is Amazing to one side ESPECIALLY so we could give it to the Indietracks Compilation the next time we played there. We've nearly ALWAYS done an exclusive track for the compilation when we've played, but it's been quite a while since we were there last so I was very much looking forward to people being able to HEAR this one at last.

Imagine my HORROR, then, when I looked through the list of forty four songs and found that we weren't there! I double then triple checked, but no, we were MISSING. Had they not liked the song? Was 44 tracks the MAXIMUM number they could hold? We were TOO PUNK ROCK?!?

No, in fact what had happened was that they'd just forgot to put our track on! Being SUPER KEEN I'd sent it over to them back in APRIL i.e. pretty much as soon as it was possible to send ANYTHING, so I guess maybe it had been put on a Dusty (Virtual) Shelf and then got lost when everything else came in. Nat Indietracks replied to my enquiry within SECONDS to explain that there were SO MANY songs our had got missed and said that they were rectifying the situation right there and then, so all was well and a few minutes later there was forty FIVE tracks! HOORAY!

As some people may be aware the song was originally written for the musical Hey Hey 16K and so the bits that Emma sings on the NEW version were originally sung by Steve, although neither Steve nor I managed to enact the rather MARVELOUS violin/flute* DUET what Tom does on this one (*it's not really a flute, it's STUDIO WIZARDRY!).

I'm EXTREMELY pleased to have it FINALLY available for listening, especially under the auspices of such a MIGHTY organisation and a SPLENDID collection of songs. I would HEARTILY recommend buying the whole album right away as it is GRATE - I'm just off to do that myself in a minute, it's time for the great pre-Indietracks REVISION to begin!

posted 23/6/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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A Birthday Festival
Friday and Saturday had been such a full weekend of ACTION and GADDING ABOUT that I really needed ANOTHER weekend to relax and get over it all. Handily, that is exactly what I got!

On Sunday it was the Great Get Together event in the Olympic Park (where I live, in case I haven't mentioned it), which was set to feature Hero and Whizbee, the mascots for the World Para Athletics and IAAF World Championships that are happening at the stadium this summer. The Trees In My Forest enjoys a good Mascot and/or Character, so we were VERY excited to eventually meet them and discover that they are GRATE. I am always a bit confused by Characters like this. "They look like they're really enjoying themselves!" I think, and only later remember that the BIG SMILES are part of the costume. I'm sure they WERE enjoying themselves, they were surrounded by hordes of very excited people wanting HUGS!

We also heard that Sadiq Khan would be coming, but nobody was sure what time he'd be arriving so went for a bit of a wander. Atop a small hill we saw a couple of cameras set up. "I bet he'll be coming up here," said The Lens On My Nokia. "I doubt that," I replied, "Why would he come up a hill?" It was approx 2 seconds later that we spotted Sadiq... strolling up the hill towards us.

I had the day of work on Monday as it was my BIRFDAY (after 17 years I am still enjoying being in my thirties) and we'd booked tickets to go and see The Hero Hockey World Championships Semi-Finals at the Lee Valley Hockey And Tennis Centre (just behind the Velodrome). Things started very well as, about halfway there, someone called out "Would you like a lift?" It was the driver of one of those GOLF BUGGIES that shuttle the elderly or disabled around. Clearly they had ferried everyone to the venue who actually needed it and fancied a quick drive, so we hopped in and ZOOMED along. It was BRILLO!

We arrived at the hockey centre to find an excited crowd made up mostly of SCHOOLCHILDREN enjoying the sunshine and, mostly, the fact that they weren't at school. It made for a GRATE atmosphere while we watched the final quarter of Scotland versus Pakistan, after which we went and got some FIZZY WINE and BEER, which seemed EXTREMELY appropriate for the occasion. It was very much like I imagine CRiCKET would be - we had a lovely time in the sunshine with BOOZE easily available and without really having much clue what was going on. The second game featured the Netherlands being a bit like Germany in The Football (tall, blonde, SKILLZ) and Canada like Leicester City (small, good on the break) but that is about as far as my analysis went.

We wandered home in GORGEOUS weather, stopping off at a local cafe for a bit of cake and it all felt SO MUCH like being on holiday that we went and did some SUNBATHING. It was flipping GORGEOUS, even though I did get a bit sunburnt - at my grand old age I STILL refuse to accept that you would EVER need suntan lotion in the UK!

Later on we watched "The Hunt For The Wilderpeople", which was ACE. It was, in fact, a bloody BRILLIANT birthday, at the end of which I tried to stay up as late as I possibly could. I didn't want it to end!

posted 22/6/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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G40
Saturday morning found me navigating the London transport system in order to get to Paddington, from whence I was heading to BATH to attend the super secret surprise 40th Birthday Party for Mr Gavin Osborn.

Crossing London was wonky all over the place, with me GETTING a javelin train I thought I'd missed but then having to go a super long way round from Kings Cross due to various line closures. When I got ON my train all was well, although things continued strange when I got to Bath and found an Atmosphere. Maybe it was the VERY HOT weather or maybe there was a Sporting Fixture on, but everyone seemed in a bad mood and/or DRUNK. I got a TAXI out to where the DO was happening and the driver seemed rather grumpy too. I told him where I was going and, when it turned out 20 minutes later that he didn't know where it was, he got annoyed with me. "I thought you'd know", he grumbled. However, the pair of us then went on a mini-adventure around the local area until he found it and were quite pally by the end, to the extent that I asked for and got his number to go back again.

The party had been organised by Mrs Amy Osborn and she had done an INCREDIBLE job of it. She'd hired out a field and then basically put a mini-LATITUDE inside it. There was a tent for MUSIC with a stage, lighting system and full PA. There was a CINEMA tent (or AWNING anyway), loads of kids games including an enormous Guess Who and strategic PAGODAS all around the place for when it got a bit hot. There was also full CAMPING, so it really felt like being at a festival site!

Most impressive of all she had kept Gav totally in the dark about the whole thing, so he was in a state of permanent DELIGHT and DISBELIEF as people kept turning up, it was a JOY to see!

The only thing missing was phone signal, though I suppose that is part of the festival experience too. I did find that you COULD get signal up at the top of a hill, beneath a tree which became known as The Signal Tree. I kept going up to check for news from The Leaves On My Branch, who had set out that day to get herself some Guns N' Roses tickets. They were playing in the Olympic Stadium and, after hearing how GRATE the Friday night show had been from a chum who had attended, she had resolved not only to get a seat but also to pay half the asking price for doing so. I was WORRIED about the whole enterprise - I would never have been BRAVE enough to do such a thing and thought it would end in disappoint and/or loss of CA$H but of course she managed it HANDSOMELY!

Spending time at The Signal Tree enabled me to witness Gav in his natural element i.e. surrounded by small children who appeared to FLOCK to him at any opportunity. He seemed to spend much of the afternoon pushing children on the rope swing which dangled from said tree, and when he wasn't doing that he was being PILED ON by mobs of small boys!

Before setting off I'd been a bit worried I wouldn't know anyone, but there turned out to be several chums there, including the Wainwrights and associated children and also Ms G Petrie, with whom I had a jolly discussion about Current Events. She played later on and was GRATE, and I also did a set MYSELF mid-afternoon, during which I did my usual HILARIOUS trick of NOT SWEARING in front of small children but then explaining what I would have said immediately afterwards. I always think this is HILARIOUS and I am definitely sure that all parents agree with me. Gav knows several comedians, notably the really really good ones, so it was a bit weird to be doing GAGS and then realise I was being watched by, more or less, the CREAM of a GENERATION of comedians. If you spot a trend for Award Winning Comedians not swearing and then swearing in front of children in the near future you will know where they got the idea from!

Soon 7pm came and it was time for me to say my goodbyes and head back to the Station, where I discovered that the trains to London had gone hideously wrong. It took me an extra TWO HOURS to get home, but handily this gave me PLENTY of time to worry about whether I had been All Right all afternoon - it is my CONSTANT FEAR that I have behaved like a PILLOCK whenever I am a) unaccompanied b) amongst groups of people I do not know particularly well, but I THINK I was OK. I tried to make up for any inadvertent idiocy by telling the nice lady sat next to me ALL about to claim Delay Repay for a ticket refund!

When I eventually made it back to East London I found myself surrounded by Guns N' Roses fans, who had seeped into the very fabric of Stratford and were EVERYWHERE walking in ALL directions. It was a bit weird - where had they been, and where were they going? Some were going AWAY from the stadium, others TOWARDS, and they were all round the area we live in too. I half expected to find a few lurking under the bed when I got in.

It was a long day of travel, heat, and ROCK, but a DELIGHTFUL one in which to pay tribute to a TITAN of ROCK!

posted 21/6/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Frame:Works
This weekend just gone was a LOOOONG weekend, full of incident and excitement, and it begane on Friday morning at Central Saint Martin's college, where I was co-running a COMICS SYMPOSIUM.

This is something that myself, Mr G Lawley and Mr T Yu-Kiener have been organising alongside our comics-based PhDs at UAL. It was called Frame:Works and the idea was to get a bunch of speakers from different areas of comics to come and talk about working within RESTRICTIONS. We had a GRATE list of people talking, a good batch of tickets "sold" (it was free through Eventbrite), so all we needed to do was make it happen!

It all started very well with a trip to WAITROSE to get DRINKS for the attendees. Waitrose is a 20 second walk from UAL's Granary Square building where we were holding our event, but we had a LOT of liquid so asked if we could use a trolley. A chap called Michael from the customer service desk very kindly came with us (he had a GIZMO which unlocked the wheels when you left the shop), helped us unload, and then took the trolley back for us. I do like Waitrose!

We got the room sorted out, checked our tech, and met with Professor R Sabin and Dr I Horton, our shared supervisors and all round GOOD EGGS who had suggested we DO this thing. Speakers gently arrived, and at this point the usual Conference Issues arose and, also as usual, were solved. We couldn't get some videos to play that were part of Ms Emma Hayley (of SelfMadeHero)'s presentation, so she rather brilliantly suggested putting a small speaker's microphone next to the output on her laptop. This worked PERFECTLY and I spent the rest of the morning being impressed! At around the same time noted comics writer Mr Al Ewing arrived, and told me that he had spilled hot coffee on himself on the train that morning. He was telling me this while we were GETTING some coffee, which he immediately spilled all over his hand. He dashed to put it under a cold tap and I RAN back round to Waitrose to get some Soothing Hand Cream!

Apart from all that things went very well. Of the 60 tickets we'd "sold" around 40 people actually turned up over the course of the day. I was quite surprised that so many didn't come, but apparently this is normal for such things. We had a morning session on Publishing, which was dead interesting, and then after lunch it was time for MY session. The three of us were basically running a session each, with guests we'd chosen, and I'd managed to get Al for mine, along with Ms Josie Long, to talk about moving from FANZINES to mainstream work (Marvel for Al, The Guardian for Josie). I was interviewing them both, and so was VERY nervous, even though I had written up a long list of questions, but it seemed to go OK. Al's bit was pretty easy as he was happy to talk at length and in depth about what I asked whereas Josie's section was more nerve wracking as she was so ENTHUSIASTIC that she kept on answering my planned questions before I'd even got to them! I had a GRATE idea to ask, about halfway through, whether Jeffrey Lewis had been an influence on her cartooning, for instance, but she ROMPED through all that within the first five minutes!

The best bit was at the end where we did a mini-panel with both of them answering questions from the audience, and they got to swap THORTS on each other's area of expertise. I do believe this is what your modern academics call TRANSECTIONALITY!

After that there were more discussions, including a history of QUEERZINES (which was ACE, although a bit weird to find that the Riot Grrl scene wot I remember is now An Historical Event) and some STATISTICAL ANALYSIS on whether comics really are the best way to get people to remember information. Turns out it is!

For the final session Mr John Miers did a SKETCH RECAP of everything we'd seen - it was amazing, and you can read about it on his website!

At the end Guy, Tobias and I were given PRESENTS by Ian and Roger to say "Well Done" for putting it on, which was completely unexpected, and then we got another FREE GIFT when we went to the bar for a much needed DRINK. A young woman on the door said "Are you going to the bar?" and then gave us all BEER TOKENS! I have absolutely no idea why, but wasn't complaining.

It was a FAB day and well worth all the effort and work what had gone in. As we sat around the table there was talk of doing it again next year - if we do I shall know to buy LESS orange juice beforehand, and MORE first aid!

posted 20/6/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Tour Life
Day TWO of The Validators Tour 2017 was meant to commence with the four male Validators meeting in the lobby of the Travelodge at 11am to go in search of breakfast. However, three of the four of us were greeted upon waking by an email from Tim, who had unilaterally decided to go for a walk up a HILL and have breakfast there. THUS we got into the Tigermobile and headed off to find him, thereby getting to enjoy the delights of HILLZ without having to actually WALK up one.

We found him standing outside the cafe on Teggs Nose, and duly regrouped we went inside to DINE. As part of my whole Stomach Flora Realignment Diet I am avoiding bread, so ended up having SALAD as the only vegetarian non-bread item on the menu. It was very nice! The others had MASSIVE toast, although Tom had to send his Beans On Toast back due to Lukewarm Beans. Life On The Road - it is so often fraught with PERIL!

With some time free we agreed to Tim's demands that we walk up to the TOP of the hill, and though in general I feel that hills are Silly Things (why can't people just live somewhere flat?) it was actually quite good fun, although at the very top it was quite WINDY, STEEP and MUDDY and we realised that we only had one pair of trousers each, so had to walk down very carefully. See above re PERIL!

We hopped back into the car and drove off to Congleton, where we were due to play at Going Up The Country. Here we discovered a whole HEAP of lovely people, not least amongst them Emma and the Junior Pattisons. It turned out we knew pretty much everybody there, which was GRATE for wandering around and hugging people, and nearly ALL of the acts from the weekend as a whole had played at Totally Acoustic at some point, which meant that I spent most of the day having to stop myself from getting up and introducing the acts!

I'd thought that the gig itself would be inside in the pub, but instead discovered that we were playing in the MARQUEE out front. This was all very jolly but did mean that there'd be a need for amplification, which we had not prepared for. Me, Emma and Frankie could all be plugged in, but Tom had brought his GOOD violin (which doesn't have a DI) and Tim had his Cajon, so we weren't sure what to do. Luckily for us INDIE LEGEND Mr Pete Dale was doing the sound (which was also a bit weird - it was like going to see Donavan and finding out that Bob Dylan was working the sound desk) and, after a bit of a conflab, we decided to use microphones for me and Emma, plug the BASS in to boost it a bit, and to leave the rest of us as we were. With that decided we took to the stage and did THIS:
  • Can We Be Friends?
  • My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once
  • Leave My Brother Alone
  • In The North Stand
  • (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock
  • Easily Impressed
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • We Did It Anyway

  • It was, not to put too fine a point on it, BLOODY GRATE. The sound sounded FAB (it's lovely playing in this sort of format, as we can HEAR each other) and everybody was WELL up for it. I got so excited that I ended up using many of the REMARKS that I had been preparing for Indietracks (NB it's been several years since we last played, I have been thinking about it a LOT) so will probably have to think of some NEW ones. Or just hope people will be too drunk to notice - probably that actually.

    It was a LOVELY way to spend an afternoon, and we were HONOURED to be the last band EVER to play Going Up The Country. Delightfully, most people there were of a certain age, also inclination, and so were all still feeling a bit tired from our late night on Thursday, which meant that once we were done everyone drifted away pretty quickly for TEA and possibly BED.

    We said our farewells to the Pattisons and then Frankie, Tom, me and Mr Pete Green hopped into the Tigermobile, they for Derby and me for Congleton again. Foolishly, when booking my travel arrangements, I'd not realised the gig would be finishing this early so had thought I'd have to stay in Macclesfield overnight. Frankie suggested I catch a train from Congleton, but this excellent plan had two small niggles: firstly, Congleton station is about an HOUR'S WALK from Congleton itself (or at least from the bit where I disembarked the Tigermobile) and there wasn't a train for TWO HOURS. I thus had a HIKE and then a lengthy sit in a beer garden where a very loud elderly blues band played for an extremely drunk couple who had clearly just began a sexual relationship and wished to express it in a) dance b) extremely unrhythmical clapping. It was all a bit odd.

    Still, I made it back to Macclesfield in the end, KNACKERED but very very happy. Going On Tour is EXCELLENT fun, especially when you do it with such MARVELLOUS chums, but it doesn't half wear you out!

    posted 15/6/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Back On The Road
    Saturday morning found me getting up SUPER early, still a bit tired out by the late night on Thursday, in order to meet Mr S Hewitt at Euston Station for the slow train to Birmingham, for LO! It was the weekend of HIBBETTFEST!

    After a CHARMING journey we rolled in to New Street, found Mr FA Machine, and together strolled over to Moor Street for the train to Cradley Heath. Setting something of a TONE for the whole weekend, our conversation was mostly of POLITICS, with me REVELLING in the idea that I am almost always WRONG in my predictions and that, therefore, pretty much anything could happen!

    We were collected by Ray's Mum and headed for Kingswinford and the festival site, stopping en route for BOOZE. It was here that I faced the implications of my No Real Ale rule - the others got BOOZE while I got... bottles of water. Well, all right, I DID get myself a bottle of Corona for later, but it did feel a bit odd. As it happened though I was entirely FINE with water for the rest of the afternoon, which surprised no-one more than it did ME.

    We arrived on site to discover Tim and Tom waiting for us (Emma would not be joining us until the second date of the TOUR {two dates totally counts as a tour} the following day) along with Mr R Kirkham, PROMOTER, and a whole heap of other delightful people. Apparently this was the FOURTEENTH (!) Hibbettfest, and over the years it has become a DELIGHTFUL afternoon full of fantastic food (prepared by Ray in a GINORMOUS BUFFET), nice people, dogs, children, and LARKS. This time it also feature Mr Dan Ransome as Official Support, ROCKING the Patio to no small degree while we wolfed down Vegan Jaffa Cake.

    Then it was time for The Validators to take to the stage* (*area just in front of the kitchen window) where we did THIS:
  • Billy Jones Is Dead
  • My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once
  • In The North Stand
  • (You Make Me Feel) Soft Rock
  • Leave My Brother Alone
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • Easily Impressed
  • We Did It Anyway

  • Boom Shake The Room

  • The set was not without incident, including DOGS going WILD and racing through the performance area, knocking over a recycling bin and smashing a couple of glass bottles. MAYHEM! More sedately, just before We Did It Anyway we dragged Steve on to present him with The Artists Against Success Football Trophy, which he had WON for this year, and then as he was there ANYWAY we got him to sing the song with us, which sounded GRATE.

    After THAT we had officially finished, and I was AMUSED to see that The Validators had all trooped off through the patio doors and into the living room, like it was a DRESSING ROOM or something, and thus were able to stride back out for an ENCORE. It was FAB!

    With all that done there was time for chat, yet more GRUB, and for Mr Kirkham Senior to present me with a bottle of RUM, before it was time for us to get into The Tigermobile and head for MACCLESFIELD - we were booked to play at the Going Up The Country festival next day, and this was the closest place we could find any accommodation. On the way there we listened to the last twenty minutes of England VS Scotland. As Frankie remarked, it was the first interesting England game in about 300 years and we weren't watching in!

    We arrived at Macclesfield Travelodge and checked ourselves in before heading out for the evening. We found a GRATE micro-pub called The Treacle Tap, where once again I was faced with the fact that I would be drinking LAGER. Luckily they had some REALLY nice German lager, which I enjoyed while we spent the next HOUR discussing (in turn) our various AILMENTS. I think if you put the four of us together you could probably make about THREE healthy adult males, although two of them would probably have a bit of a bad back. We then went round the corner to Balti Kitchen where we had a BLOODY GRATE curry. Ooh, it was lovely, one of the nicest I've had ON TOUR!

    At this point I really wanted to go clubbing, totally, but the others are dead square and old, yeah, and tired from staying up later on Thursday, so instead we went back to the hotel and gathered in Tim's room to a) drink RUM b) plan next year's European Tour (NB this is an Actual Thing) c) discuss future recording and performance options d) agree that we are now a FESTIVAL BAND. It was an EXCELLENT meeting and I feel that ALL future such discussions would be greatly enhanced by RUM!

    And thus the evening ended. The next day would be another day of ROCK, for LO! we were on TOUR!

    posted 14/6/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Happy To Be Wrong
    You find me bleary eyed and happy this morning, as I find myself never more DELIGHTED to have been totally wrong about something. All week I have been saying "It's going to be a big majority for the Tories, 50 or so - let's not get our hopes up." At the same time The Ballots In My Box has been saying it would at least be a hung parliament, which made me worry about how she would take the inevitable disappointment.

    Come 9:55pm I turned on the telly filled by DREAD and TREPIDATION. Was I wrong? Would it be a 100 majority after all? When the exit poll came out it took me several minutes to take it in. "What? Are they saying a hung parliament? REALLY?" I wanted to jump up and down with GLEE but then remembered BREXIT. THAT had all looked fine until the first results came in, so I resolved to attempt to stay calm.

    When the results from the North East came in I was even MORE reminded of Brexit, as the number of votes was well below what was expected. "Maybe it'll be a small majority, that'll at least be a bit better," I thought, preparing for disappointment. But then, as the night went along, it all started to look real. My plans to go to bed at 10:05pm changed to midnight, then to 1am, then 2am, then "whenever Jeremy Corbyn speaks" and finally 3:30am. I'm a bit tired today as a result, but by HECK was it worth it!

    The best thing about the evening, for me, was that I was accompanied on the sofa by The Percentage Of My Swing. Normally I sit there all on my own looking at twitter and texting various chums, but this time I had a POLITICAL EXPERT sat up with me, sharing WHISKY as HOPE started to look more and more likely. As with the results, the aforesaid Members Of My Cabinet had also been HISTORICALLY CORRECT about Jeremy Corbyn - I have been sat complaining about his performance while she has been pointing out that he is GRATE, and it is only over the course of the campaign that I have come round to her way of thinking.

    Now it seems like there will, probably briefly, be a Tory administration and then ANOTHER election. If you want me to tell you how THAT'S going to turn out, you'll have to give me time to ring home and ask!

    posted 9/6/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Exiting Amazon
    Last week I received an email from the lovely people at Proper Music Distribution, to say that they're ending the "Proper Access" scheme which we've been a part of, which means that pretty soon our CDs will be no longer be listed on Amazon.

    The idea of "Proper Access" was to allow smaller independent acts like us the chance to get our Physical Product listed and sold on Amazon (and other websites, but mostly Amazon) without having to get into big complicated deals. Proper would keep a small stock of CDs in their warehouse and sell via online stores and shops if anybody ordered them, but they wouldn't actively try to get shops to stock it. This was GRATE for us - over the years I've been involved with various distribution companies who basically did this anyway but claimed they were ringing round record shops asking them to stock us and then charging us for the privilege, even when nothing was sold, so I was VERY happy to enter an agreement that was a) HONEST about what would happed and b) MUCH cheaper. Also it meant our CDs were on Amazon, so if anybody was too SHY to buy them direct from us they always had another option!

    To start with we did quite well, but it tailed RIGHT off in later years so, at time of writing, only approx 4% of our overall sales came from that direction (for comparison 22% were from sales at gigs and a whopping 53% were direct via this very website, with the rest in various forms of online sales and, DELIGHTFULLY, a single percentage point's worth of POSTAL SALES from back in the 1800s when people used to send CHEQUES). It's amazing to see how much this sort of thing has changed since I set off on The Road Of ROCK - when I first started, shop distribution was CRUCIAL as, apart from the aforementioned postal orders (which tended to come in via fanzines or, occasionally, the very early interweb) and GIGS that was the only way to get your stuff out to people. To be honest I always disliked shop distribution, not least because we were never cool enough for lots of stores to take our records and, even when they did, it always seemed to end up costing us more to send them to the distributors and, inevitably, to get them sent back some months later, than we ever made from Actual Sales!

    It also always seemed WEIRD that it was so HAPHAZARD - a random smattering of shops around the country would each have a single copy of one of our CDs in the vague hope that somebody who wanted a copy would just so happen to wander in and manage to find it. I MUCH prefer sales online, even though selling stuff on Amazon meant I had to shell out for BARCODES for everything. It never made us much CA$H but still, it was nice to know it was available.

    Nowadays, as far as I understand it, Physical Product is on the way out and everybody is buying DOWNLOADS instead, which is fine by me as downloads are PEASY to do. For historical reasons some of our DIGITAL CONTENT is distributed through CD Baby with the newer stuff through emubands, both of whom are very simple, straightforward, and ACE. You just need to click a few buttons, pay a small fee, and within a couple of days your music is available ABSOLUTELY EVERYWHERE. It's like MAGIC!

    For all these reasons I'm not too upset about our leaving of Amazon, though I remain very GRATEFUL to Proper for having us for so long. I'm just hoping that they DUST our box of CDs before they take it off the shelf and post it back!

    posted 7/6/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Smiley At Canary Wharf
    On Sunday I got the Jubilee Line over to Canary Wharf, where I was due to meet Mr John Dredge. We'd arranged to meet outside the Jubilee Line exit and, as is OBLIGATORY when meeting people at Canary Wharf, we both went to different exits. It is THE LAW.

    Once we'd found each other we set to work on the job at hand, which was to film a video for 'The Day We Fall In Love', our track on the Listen To The Bands compilation of Monkees cover versions. John does an Alec Guiness impersonation on the track (NB it is widely held, not least by ME, to be the WORST EVER Monkees song, so our version is not entirely respectful) and so our plan was to do it SORT OF like Smiley's people. As you can see, John was costumed appropriately.



    I'd suggested filming it at Canary Wharf because I thought it would look suitably BLEAK on a Sunday, so was surprised to find quite a few people wandering around (often, RUDELY, in the distance behind us while filming - have they no respect for ART?!?), but we managed to get all our shots done pretty easily. John had LEARNED all the words, which made the first bit of lip synching dead easy, and then we wandered around looking for BLEAK spots to film him walking about in. We filmed about 30 times more than we needed, so when I later sat down to edit it I had to leave LOADS of Dramatic Walking shots on the metaphorical cutting room floor.

    The finished version looked pretty darn GRATE and, with the inherently DAFT version of the song we did, is also pretty darn FUNNY, at least according to me. All being well it will be online SOON - fear not, I shall ALERT you when it is!

    posted 6/6/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Night At The Theatre
    Saturday night found myself and The Cast Of My Play getting DOLLED UP to meet The Parents for some fine dining and a SHOW, for LO! we are well fancy.

    The show we went to see was The Play That Goes Wrong and, suffice to say, we enjoyed it A LOT more than when we went to see 'Who's Afraid Of Virgina Woolf'! It had been recommended by CHUMS and then we'd all watched 'Peter Pan Goes Wrong' on telly over Christmas, so we were GEARED UP for a fun time, and we were not disappointed. It was VERY daft and VERY funny!

    One weird thing though was that, while watching it, I kept thinking "This is quite similar to 'Poisoned Sherry'." This was a play what I wrote back when I was PRESIDENT of the Leicester Polytechnic Poor Theatre Company (yes, that's right, BE IMPRESSED) approx. a quarter of a century ago. It was about a domestic farce which goes wrong when one of the characters falls off the stage and realises he's in a play, and there's stuff like tech crew coming on stage and joining in, lines being missed, chunks of dialogue being repeated out of order and all sorts that also goes on in 'The Play That Goes Wrong.' It's even performed by a Polytechnic Drama Society and then, near the end, POISONED SHERRY is employed as a plot point!

    I was all ready to Call My Solicitor... then looked at the writers on Wikipedia and realised that they would be about THREE YEARS OLD when we performed the play, and so were unlikely to be amongst the approximately 27 people who actually saw it. Oh well!

    posted 5/6/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Back In Action
    Last night I was back in THE PUB for the first time in AGES, for LO! it was time for Totally Acoustic!

    As discussed previously I am now on a NO REAL ALE plan, so was looking for Alternative Drinks. I started off with a couple of pints of WATER with LIME in and... well, it was quite nice really! When The Ice In My Glass arrived she bought me a bottle of LAGER, which would be the first BEER I would drink in almost three weeks. Mr S Hewitt queried when was the LAST time I had gone that long without a beer. I'm not sure, but I believe Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister! Weirdly, the lager tasted MEGA FIZZY and like how I remember beer tasting when I was a teenager - I later switched to WHITE WINE (because I am FANCY) and that was very nice indeed!

    Anyway, more importantly, the gig kicked off with me doing a couple of songs before introducing The Boy In The Cupboard aka Mr B Bailey, who I have known for MANY years via The Lovely Brothers. He was meant to be playing a few months ago but was FOILED by Southern Rail so it was GRATE to finally get him on. He said that one of his songs featured a line from one of MY old songs - I didn't notice it at the time and I've listened to the recording since and haven't heard it. It is going to BUG me until I work it out!

    Next up was Mr Nathaniel Metcalfe, who was the first stand-up comedian what we have ever had. I really like Nat, he is ACE, and any worries about how stand-up might work in this format EVAPORATED within seconds. He even did a REQUEST, doing his bit about his old flatmate Tony Lee ("an unreliable witness") which made us LARF a LOT!

    Then at the end we had the glorious return of Ruth From PO, this time with her band, PO! Ooh but it was lovely, and this time there were songs I'd not heard AND new songs too! It was GRATE when Ruth played solo before but it was even MORE brilliant this time as all the arrangements of musical bits in the songs what have lodged in my brain for decades came flowing out. I liked it a LOT!

    It was, all in all, a rather marvellous night. My only worry is that this reintroduction to pubs was so DELIGHTFUL that I fear other pubs will have to up their game!

    posted 2/6/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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