Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Go Team "Stalkers" (the full story!)

The past few months of my life, I have been working towards the mini-tour that Brooklyn "Gutter Rockers" (As "Time Out" described them) made of The UK, the first time they visited Fair Albion this April.

It has been an extremely interesting period of my life, and has been oddly emotional at times. This is largely to do with the fact that I am a total pessimist and have managed to cry
"Oh fuck, this thing is about to go tits up at any minute" at least once a week about the project, but also owing to the more enjoyable aspects of this, some of which fulfilling a number of adolescent Rock & Roll fantasies, I have harboured, like going into NME Head Offices for the first time to talk about "Stalkers" or just the sheer kick of hanging out with a rock band from New York whilst wearing Converse All Stars.
You see, I grew up in Southport in Merseyside, which isn't exactly the hippest of towns, (See the Morrissey Video for "Every Day Is Like Sunday" for a reasonably accurate representation of my formative years) so you can imagine how all this might have been quite awe inspiring for a Woolyback like me.

Anyways. the whole "Stalkers" Project started when their manager Dave Allen, (a rather interesting chap, who I had been conversing with over Myspace , for quite a while about his theories about Art and Music) was in London for a visit last November, so I offered to give him a tour of the recently re-launched Tate Modern where I work. Characteristically, (and excessive whisky consumption will prove to be a bit of a theme during this story), he and myself wound up drinking several glasses of Jack Daniels and Coke in the Tate Members Room whilst I drunkenly confessed to a slightly embarrassing fondness for his fellow New Yorkers "The Strokes" (I have a crush on Albert Hammond Jr, this is rather sad, but at least its not Brad Pitt or someone! ) and he replied (or something to this effect) "Well I know of a New York Indie Band that you might like then, called "Stalkers"" at this point, I believe I started giggling uncontrollably about the bands name (clever/tasteless band names do make me laugh, I am also friends with a band called "The $hit", this name never tires me!) I then exclaimed "They SO need to come to London! I'll get 'em gigs!"

You see, at the time, I had just enjoyed a brief stint as the manager of a Psychedelic Band called "They Came From the Stars, I Saw Them" and I had also recently dated a couple of guys in two London Indie bands (not at the same time, and I feel I must state here, that for the record, I am NOT A GROUPIE, I just happened to go out with a couple of musicians, I mean I am by trade and qualification, A Conceptual Video Artist,so who do you expect me to date, an investment banker???) and I had quite a vast knowledge of the London Toilet Circuit, so this wasn't just the drink talking, my offer was genuine, and I was already making mental notes about what venues I would approach over this.

However, from this point, strange machinations seem to occur. Over in New York, Dave met Pat Long, the sub editor of NME, they got on, and he urged me to go into the NME Offices with some "Stalkers" press pre-release EPs.

This was now January, and I had yet to properly listen to "Stalkers" (I am Electro Girl, after all) but I spent a day or so, listening to one of these EPs, in order to familiarise myself with it, then the next day, what do you know? but I found myself humming "Lets Get It Together" on the bus! This filled me with hope, because it brought to mind some advice given to me, by my mum's friend about music; this was

"If people can whistle it, you have got yourself a hit!" So into NME I went, feeling confident about the band I was plugging and believed myself, when I told Pat Long, (rather succinctly)"Yes, "Stalkers" are very very good indeed".

Anyways, from this point "Project Stalkers" entered the public domain, they got a fair bit of mainstream press coverage, they started being heard on the radio, and if you, dear reader, wish to check any of this, it can be Googled very easily, so I don't need to bore you with all of this on here, but I will carry on with my personal reflections on the "Stalkers" Tour itself.

If we fast-forward to April 10th 2007 (the day "Stalkers" arrive in the UK AND MY 27th BIRTHDAY!) Myself and Adam BRUT (my friend, and the chap who helped organise, along with his colleagues; Warren and Kim BRUT, the last gig of the "Stalkers" Tour, "TURBOFEST") went to collect a very tired but nontheless, highly strung band and their manager from Heathrow Airport.
However I don't remember too much about this day, as I was presented with a bottle of Jack Daniels by Adam (it being my birthday and all) which we all (The band, Dave Allen and Adam) proceeded to drink at 10am on the tube back to London, and after we had settled all the band in round at Adam's house, him and myself (having got the taste for it) continued drinking, well into the afternoon, and what with me being a size 8, and not having eaten anything all day, this probably wasn't my best move! My last coherent memory of that day, was of my ordering an Aftershock at some bar in Hackney, then after that, nothing, it's just a vaguelly recalled black hole, until the next morning.

Mind you, I don't beat myself up too much about this, I mean it was my 27th Birthday! This being the ROCK STAR YEAR OF DEATH, it was bound to take me in a rather odd way!

Memories of Alcoholic Blackouts aside; The next day, "Stalkers" played their debut UK Gig at "The Buffalo Bar" Islington. I was there in attendance, though feeling rather worse for wear. I recall giving "evils" to the guy from "Towers Of London" who was also there and I dislike (I didn't "get" "The Darkness and I don't "get" them!) other than that, it wasn't massively eventful. The place was full of industry types, so I had to behave, and it wasn't much fun, although I did take this rather fetching photo.

April 12th was The "Stalkers" support slot with "The Horrors" in Southend, which I decided not to attend. I felt really drained by the whole experience that day, plus I had recently learned that "The Horrors" themselves had been students at Rugby Public School, so every left wing fibre in my body, couldn't let me go there and be nice to "The Horrors" despite their amazing haircuts. I am notorious for being shallowly obsessed with people's hair, so I found it reassuring to realise I had some standards that can over-ride this!

April (Friday!) 13th was "Stalkers" Gig at KOKO at Club NME in Camden. This was a very strange one, indeed. I decided that I didn't want to go backstage at all, I wanted to watch the band in the company of the crowd, them being the potential audience of "Stalkers" after all. I felt weird, though. All those kids reminded me of teenage versions of myself, it made me feel old, but in a good way, like I was relieved that my past life as an Indie Kid was behind me. Plus, it was fun seeing "Stalkers" play on such a big stage. I had watched MCR play a gig at KOKO on TV the night before (When I should have been at "The Horrors" show) so i felt a strange rush of almost maternal pride to see "my boys" (how I have affectionately come to think of them) playing there too. I also took some good photos, one of which you can see here. The "Stalkers" are (from left to right) Ryan, Andy, Danny, Josh (the drummer) and Tristan. At some point, Danny waved at me, I gave a peace sign in return, it felt nice.

Here, we move onto April 14th, which was the "Stalkers" final gig and the one I was mainly looking forward to. You see, it was organised with my friend Adam Smith/BRUT and his Art Project/Entertainments Company "TURBOBRUT", plus it was in Shoreditch, my preferred stomping ground (yes, I am Nathan Barley!) and there was a photo of me and Adam on the flyer, the concept of which, (devised by Adam) is a "lady being stalked" yeah I know its a crappy pun, but we thought it was funny, so here it is.
The whole thing panned out like some sort of unofficial Tate Employees Party; so many of my friends were there (which is quite an unusual occurrence in London, where there seems to be so many things to do, that you never find yourself in the same place as loads of people you know) A strange combination of my old supervisor from Tate Britain and my housemates were managing the door, it was like a fun "Stalkers" based cottage industry!
I didn't get any photos of the last "Stalkers" Gig, with good reason (which I will go into later). Although my friend Stephen Hoffman, did manage to take a bunch of photos of me with each of the members of "Stalkers" my favourite being this one of myself and Tristan Stalker as we are both actually SMILING on it! At the "Stalkers" Gig, we all ended up (amongst other similarly Grungy things) moshing. pogoing (I was wearing heels! I am Courtney Love!) and throwing/spitting (!) the free beer that TURBOBRUT kindly provided for the event over each other! Adam was even STAGE DIVING! This was the first mosh pit I have been involved in, for at least 10 years, and after the fierce bruises I found on myself, the next day, i daresay it will be the last, but it was loads of fun, nonetheless (interestingly enough, the most violent members of this mosh pit, were myself and my fellow Gallery Assistants! We are normally such a sedate bunch, next time you are in an art gallery check out the idiot in uniform sleeping in the corner, s/he may look comatose, but you don't know what they have been up to the night before!)

Anyways, after this, in dribs and drabs "Stalkers" and their manager gradually went home to Brooklyn, it was a funny old time alright, and I have mixed feelings about it being over, (part sadness and part relief, that it didnt, in fact "all go tits up") However they are all coming back to The UK in August, so who knows what strange events we have ahead of us!

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Friday, 13 April 2007

Thursday, 12 April 2007

Stalkers UK Debut Gig

At the moment, my life is quite interesting because I am involved in the centre of a media circus that is revolving around the New York Rock Band "Stalkers". Last night, they played their first ever gig in the UK at The Buffalo Bar in Islington, London. It was one of the strangest gigs I have ever attended, as there was more A&R types there than actual "real" people, all of whom were either sucking up to one and other or eyeing each other up nervously. I was happy to see NME sub editor, Pat Long there, who i now know pretty well and appears to be one of the good blokes, but other than this, myself and all the Stalkers boys seemed rather bemused by the whole thing. One of the strangest events of the night, was some photographer chap, who has worked for Italian Vogue and has photographed supermodel Lilly Cole, really sucking up to me, in the hope of doing a shoot with me. For fucks sake, I am not a proper model, I haven't even been made a Suicide Girl officially yet, this was really weird! Anyways Stalkers are playing a few more gigs this week, and I am mainly looking forward to TURBOFEST as it is being organised by some close friends of mine, so it should be keeping it real, a bit more than the shenanigans of last night, that said it is in Shoreditch and is being organised by a tribe of conceptual artist, so I wonder just how disassociated with the "real" world I have become of late!

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Book Review - 'Life and How To Live it' by Daniel Mayhew

Writing successful novels about music or bands is a notoriously difficult thing to do, and something that rarely succeeds. Step forward Daniel Mayhew to prove the exception to the rule with his debut, which tells the tale of Serpico, the band formed by flatmates, Reilly and Jacob, and the adventure that ensues when Reilly takes a week off work sick, and binging on cheap alcohol, writes what could just turn out to be the best album of all time.

Giving the demo cassette of recordings to Jacob, the scene is set for a wild ride. Reilly is an often angry, often hilarious, musical snob who wants no part in the music industry. Modestly, Reilly wants to do nothing more than write the perfect record. Jacob is more pragmatic and the flip side to Reilly, offering organisation and leadership to the pervading madness, not least when trying to keep the increasingly erratic Reilly in line. At its heart, this is book is a black comedy and a worthy examination of male friendship. Mayhew certainly knows how to mix humour and angst as the band embark on their mission to raise enough money to record the album properly and daydream about escaping the day to day drudgery of their regular jobs. Throw in Jacob’s ex-girlfriend and a Liam Gallagher wannabe capable of pressing both Reilly and Jacob’s buttons, and you’ve got all the ingredients for a fast-paced read that has you rooting for the good guys as their hour of reckoning approaches.

The highest praise that can be paid to Mayhew is that it would have been easy to simply write a book that would only satisfy music fans with its myriad of cool references, and while it will certainly resonate with anybody who’s been in or close to a band, the humour and the well drawn characters neatly help to side step any suggestion of musical snobbery. White Horse Publications is a new York-based enterprise and if this, their second release, is anything to go by, we’ll be hearing a lot more from both them and Daniel Mayhew in the future. A triumphant start.

Friday, 6 April 2007

Perfection Is The Helium

Fiction - 'Punishment'

We pull up outside of his shop. I look around. We’re sat in the bowels of Hull; a run-down area, full of cheap clear-out stores. I’m told that this used to be a bustling street; the heart of the city’s fishing industry. I say, who cares? That was a long time ago. We’re here to collect Wayne Glenton. We’ve been instructed to take him for a long drive. The two lads with me, John and Dobba, go into the shop to collect the unfortunate Wayne. They’re a bit of pair. Dobba’s a bodybuilder and looks pretty much like your identikit rent-a-thug. John, on the other hand, is a little more unusual. It took me a while to figure him out, but he just doesn’t enjoy inflicting violence, which is strange for someone in this line of business. John is more of a family man and sees the job as just that, a job. Even if you have qualifications in this city, opportunities are close to nothing. He’s just doing what he has to do to pay the bills.

I’m staring out of the window at a gang of surly teenagers. Dobba bundles Glenton into the back of the car.
‘Now then, Wayne’ I say. There’s no need for me to be rude.
‘I’m not interested’ he says flatly.
I slap him playfully on the cheek.
‘No need to be like that, is there mate?’ I reply, laughing.
The car doors slam shut as the boys get back in. I wink at Dobba. John looks over his shoulder, signals and pulls back out into the traffic.

We start to move out of the city, I turn towards to Glenton. ‘So, what have you done then?’
He ignores me and continues to stare out of the window.
‘Go on, you can tell me’ I prompt.
I don’t get a reply, but we’re not asked to do a job like this for no reason.
The car goes quiet as we cross Myton Bridge. We can’t help ourselves. We all turn to admire the city’s major tourist attraction, The Deep.
‘I took my youngest there once’ says John. Nobody comments on this, nobody cares.

We begin to pick up speed once we’re onto the new bypass, heading towards the coast to the pre-arranged spot. Dobba turns his heaving bulk towards me.
‘I heard you got into a spot of bother with the police recently?’
I play it dumb. Not that you have to play it too dumb with Dobba.
‘No more hassle than usual, mate.’
‘That’s not what I’ve been told’ says John. ‘We heard that you killed the girl that was in all the newspapers.’
Word gets around fast, I thought. I was a little surprised by this. I sold her the ecstasy tablet, but so what? That hardly made it my fault, did it? I’m not responsible for her death.
I consider my reply. ‘I wouldn’t say that was true, John. I might have dealt to her occasionally, but nobody was forcing her to buy anything, were they? It was her choice. If she can’t take it, that’s not my problem’
‘I’ve got kids. The eldest has just started going out at night into town. I wouldn’t want to be in that family’s position.’
Unbelievable. John, a bleeding heart liberal. Next thing, he’ll be telling me he’s into flower arranging and collects on Whitefriargate for the Socialist Worker.
‘Come on, John’ I say, leaning forward. ‘You play the game, you take your chances. You know what I mean?’
‘Watch your mouth’ says Dobba, pointing at me. ‘John’s got a point. What you did was out of order. You’re lucky that the police can’t prove a link between you and the boss…’
‘That’s because they can’t. I’m clever, me. I don’t get caught.’ I didn’t like the look on Dobba’s face, so I thought that I had best change the subject. We weren’t far from our destination now. Once you’re outside of the city it becomes much quieter. The buildings become more isolated. It’s desolate.

The place stinks, absolutely reeks. I look around. The barn was how we had set it up earlier. We’d placed the table in the middle of the room, leaving a couple of nasty looking saws on its edge; just to build up a bit of atmosphere. It was freezing, we might well need the petrol that we’d thoughtfully placed at the foot of the table. Jesus…I wouldn’t want to be Glenton at this moment in time. Me and John moved to where Dobba was holding Glenton. John had produced a cosh. I swallowed. I closed my eyes. The quicker this was started, the quicker it would be over with. For all my bravado, I wasn’t going to enjoy this. We closed in.
I smiled at Glenton. ‘It has to be done.’
He stares back at me. ‘I suppose it has.’

I’m sent flying forwards into the arms of Dobba and Glenton. John had brought the cosh up and hit me on the back of the head. It wasn’t enough to knock me out, but it caught me off-guard. It was enough to send me to the floor.
Glenton pulls me roughly up as Dobba hits me, square on the jaw. My body goes limp as I’m picked up and thrown onto the table. Before I have chance to react, Glenton has a knife at my throat and my arms and legs are being tied to the table. I could see the saw and the petrol as a rag is forced into my mouth…I can taste my own blood...I can taste my own fear.’
‘You didn’t think that you would be allowed to walk away from killing that girl did you?’ asks John.
‘You’ve become a liability’ says Dobba gleefully, as he picks up a saw and a hammer.
‘It wasn’t my fault’ I try to scream through the rag. My eyes bulge as they close in on me.Now I understood…they’d lured me here…I’d fallen for it…nobody would me hear me scream…punishment.

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Rush hour on Bodmin Moor 28/2/2007

A busy morning on Bodmin Moor. Music, Klaxons - Atlantis to Interzone