Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Exit music (for a ben)

Season's greetings, fellows!

First up, thanks to all of you who've been checking in with me over the past few months to see how I'm doing and keeping my spirits up. There've been a bunch of you checking in weekly, even daily, and putting up with me in all moods which is a quite remarkable feat of human perseverance. Thank you one and all, even whoever anonymously tried to post on this blog "please don't get your hopes up about being well again", which as far as get well messages go is impressively obscure.

And indeed, in a move which has alarmed the world of Homeopathic Medicine, all these positive vibes haven't actually made me any better, and as a few people have begun to ask what my plans for 2015 are with that unspoken air of expectation, I figured I can no longer postpone the following announcement:

I am hanging up my musical boots for the forseeable future.

I'm not sure what it is I dislike about the expression 'indefinite hiatus'. Maybe it's because normally when you hear it, it's out of the mouths of big touring acts who mean "we are bored, but we'll be back when we want some more of your money". That is not why this is happening. I don't even have musical boots to hang up, come to think of it, and this place is rented so I'm pretty sure I'm not allowed to hang stuff up anyway.

Since the last update (whenever that was), I've been prodded by a number of specialists and treated to a variety of consultations and tests which ranged from pleasant conversations to some kind of heavy petting. Result: this - whatever this is - doesn't seem to be ear-related after all, if it ever was, and I'm being tested for everything from the trivial to the terminal. As the year approaches its close, with my general outlook getting more depressing and the tests getting a bit more invasive, my inability to stand up, play guitar and sing (or indeed, do any of those three individually for any extended period of time) has proven to be the final frustrating nail in the coffin that I sometimes feel I'm headed for, hammered in with all the commitment of a recent graduate on a zero hours contract.

So, there you go. There's a huge part of me that can't quite believe this is happening, even though I've known for quite a while that a proper, long term break is my only real option. In much the same way that it is the fear of many humans that they'll be forgotten after they're dead, it's the egotistical fear of many artists that they'll be forgotten whilst they're still alive, and I'll happily claim to be no different. I have poured countless hours into this for many years, and to see it end even temporarily on anything other than my terms is pretty heartbreaking.

Still, I leave you in the capable hands of my friends and peers. Oxygen Thief recently converted his one man solo show into a much heavier trio, Frank and the Sleeping Souls are somewhere in the stratosphere and Beans On Toast is enjoying incredible success, Retrospective Soundtrack Players reached new heights with their latest album, Jim Lockey is reinvented (again) and holy moses, have you seen how hard Billy The Kid works? If I can't give 100% to this musical adventure, keeping up is going to be near impossible.

But this isn't the last you'll hear of me. I won't be far away, hanging around on social media, filling up your timelines with Mountain Goats songs and other such nonsense and hey, it's not all bad, at least since I've been unable to make it to my own shows no-one's asked me to play Party In The USA. Plus - important news - I have all the songs written for a third album, and even if the bastardly stars align and I can never bring myself to go near a recording studio ever again or I choose tomorrow to fall under a bus, I do at least have a handful of demos that will make their way out into the open someday and they're ones I'm particularly proud of to boot.

For my part, I'll keep you updated on the news whether it's good or bad, and in the meantime I keep with me a lot of excellent memories, from hundreds of shows with friends and clubnight afterparties in York, to those unforgettable 2000Trees sets and standing on that hill at the Olympics, all of which I can barely believe I deserved, especially that last one because it wasn't really anything to do with me.

Stay well, stay safe, and stay great. I'll do my best to be back.

And if not? Well, it's like the old artistic adage: always leave them wanti

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

No man is poor who has friends

(Prologue: I've been meaning to update my blog for ages with regards to my health and The Future, but this post is not that update. I've been waiting on some news before I post anything, and it doesn't look like that news is coming anytime soon. I will have an update before Christmas though, guaranteed.)

For now, I'm here to tell you about the new album from Retrospective Soundtrack Players, seasonally titled It's A Wonderful Christmas Carol. Are you looking for a present for the music lover in your life, but they already own Lorde's Pure Heroine? Well then, it sounds like you definitely need this excellent third album from The RSP, everyone's favourite Rock Band Who Record Concept Albums Based On Films And Books that I know of.

Why not take a listen on Spotify?

If you need any convincing or you just don't want to take my personal word for it - and, why would you, I haven't been to work properly for nearly six months at this point and nine of my last ten shows were cancelled - consider that this is the only album ever recorded that features the legendary trio of Chris T-T, Frank Turner and I as the ghosts of Christmases past, present and future in no particular order. If there's anything to be said for the three of us together it's that we have, at one point or another, all lived in Hampshire.