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.


Friday, 29 August 2014

a health lottery

So, here we are. Those of you who have tried to see a show of mine recently will probably have noticed they have one defining characteristic: I rarely actually make it. As much as I can write endless jolly blog posts about my health and cancellations and how sorry I am - I've recently had to say it so often that it's begun to sound disingenuous - it's about time we actually had a proper chat about it.

I am Not Very Well.

The long and short of it is I have a problem with my inner ear on one side or the other, leading to balance problems (I get to feel quite drunk, without spending any money on alcohol), nausea that not even ginger can shake and often hot flushes for that added menopausal feel. My hearing on one side can sometimes cut out, feel clogged, or generally be replaced by tinnitus. Add to this I can't walk for any great distance, be on my feet for longer than twenty-five minutes at any one time or be in a noisy environment for longer than a few minutes and the picture is more or less complete. Ben Marwood is a broken human being.

The interesting thing about the inner ear, and by interesting I do mean ridiculous, is that unlike when you hurt your arm it generally heals itself once you re-set it, once you damage your inner ear it'll never get better. Neat, eh? Instead, to recover, your brain has to re-learn how to read the brand new signals from your inner ear, restructured like the house on a home improvement show, only one where the Before was fine and the After is ruined.

How did this happen? What has attacked my beloved lughole? I don't really know. I was similarly ill in February, but I first knowingly went down with this at the end of May and start of June (Cardiff, Derby and Durham fell victim to my cancellation spree), but bounced back fairly quickly. It struck again in the first or second week of July, meaning I spent the day before and after my 2000Trees show curled tightly in a ball wondering what was happening to my body, and it's been downhill since then. I got signed off work, stayed with my parents for a while, and cancelled a fundraiser show in Reading whilst feeling like a dick.

I'm on some pretty neat medication which essentially dulls the signals from ear to brain and takes care of the nausea so as long as I don't stand up or do much in the way of activity I make a passable attempt at normal life, albeit the life of someone who has to work from home, is a bit lop-sided and has to avoid loud noises. For this reason I thought I might take a stab at doing the Cardiff show sitting down, with my monitors turned off and some earplugs in (no, no laughing, I'm being serious), but a meeting with the specialist this week finally put paid to my masterplan - in order to get better I need to restore the signals from ear to brain, and this involves coming off my great medication.

As someone who doesn't even like taking paracetamol, that's fine by me, but the last time I tried coming off this stuff and restore my natural state, it was particularly messy in a 'lie on the bed and cling on for dear life' kinda way. So, doing a show is out of the question as for the next few weeks I'll be staring into the mouth of the beast and, as with most rehab, forcing my body to do stupid things it desperately wants to not do. It's not all bad news though - I'm told that once I kick my habit (two to three weeks) and start my rehabilitation, I might see some improvement from two weeks onwards, which puts us right on the doorstep of my London and Birmingham shows four weeks from now. The chances of a recovery by then, although slim, are not none. I'll keep everyone posted where I can.

In the meantime I'm also being rewarded with an MRI. I'm hoping I get a sticker if I'm a really good boy in the machine and do everything the experts tell me to.

This has been a horrendous six or seven weeks which has affected a lot of people in my life, from the gigs and gig-goers to the people I work with in my day job who suddenly have had more work to deal with, and have done so without being anything other than supportive. It's affected me most, obviously. I was due to go into the studio at the start of October to work on new material which now won't be happening quite yet, I also got brave and booked myself a holiday to New York which is now up in the air (which just goes to show, time off just doesn't suit me), I've had to close the webshop until this is over and I feel like an idiot a lot of the time, not least when the specialist asked me to march on the spot with my eyes closed, and my ears rotated me to face a different direction entirely. The medical professionals tell you this signifies there is an imbalance in the inner ear. I will tell you I am just no good at marching.

But, rest easy. I assume this can't last forever and I'll be back one day. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the network of family and friends who check in with me regularly, some of them every day. I'm in the best possible hands, and it's worth mentioning that this healthcare is largely paid for by the day job that people are always telling me I shouldn't need.

So that's it for now. Thanks for the cards and the well-wishes, and I'll keep you updated on my next two shows when I can.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Cardiff is cancelled.. again

Due to continued poor health, I'm unable to play the show in Cardiff next Saturday, 6th of September.

I'll have more information for you on refunds when I know more myself, as well as a proper update on my health.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Here is the horizontal news

Hello blog!

This blog post is brought to you by the angle 90 degrees, because that is my general resting position at the minute. Eight weeks in and my labyrinthitis didn't have the courtesy to bugger off, plus I've been signed off work for the past week with one more week to go and all this together is making me slightly nervous that I've chosen to promote my rescheduled shows in the following manner:

But enough about me and the adventures of my inner ear, I'm here to tell you about two particular things that are either out now or about to be out soon.

Relive the Marwood/RSP tour in style with the RSP live EP!
This past February, my good buddies the Retrospective Soundtrack Players and I joined forces for a brief tour of the UK. One of the nights in question, at the fabulous Joiners Arms in Southampton, was committed to tape - or whatever you call it when the thing you're recording to is digital - including 'Singalong' performed full band in all its glory.

Full tracklisting is:

Send Me The Hell Back Home (live)
Real Cool Hand (live)
Smart Girls for Talking, Morons for Dancing (live)
Don't Let Me Disappear (live)
Singalong feat. Ben Marwood (live)

You can get the live EP from RSP's Bandcamp here

Also, Xtra Mile have a new compilation out on August 11th!
The fifth mile high compilation, Smokin', is due out on August 11th on all digital formats and features too many brilliant acts to list them here, but includes the likes of Jamie Lenman, Oxygen Thief, Franz Nicolay, Chris T-T, Mongol Horde and more. The theme is signed vs. unsigned, though I don't think anyone's actually going to fight. Instead, those on the active XMR roster were invited to bring an unsigned buddy along for the ride, and my choice is Quiet Quiet Band. Their debut album is done and out later in the year, but for now I invite you to pick up the compilation and check out their song 'Hunter's Moon'.

Here's what I said about them when they had a gun to my head:

"If I had to describe Quiet Quiet Band in one word, that word would probably be 'run'. Six people comprising one living, breathing beast, their claws twisted tightly around various murder ballads, Quiet Quiet Band's name is about as misleading as their intentions for your heart. Hunter's Moon is a stand-out example of what they can do – a tale of violence cutting from a driven, lyrically-defiant folk rock assault to twinkling percussion, handclaps and viola – the pretty conclusion to a dark opening typical of a band who, lyrically at least, can often be rewarding you with one hand whilst making a stabby-stabby motion with the other. These are some of my best friends. I have no idea how things turned out this way. Send help."

To find out all you need to know about the Xtra Mile compilation, there is a wealth of explanation right over here. Enjoy!

That's it for me, for now. I'm off to perfect my balance in the face of silly male despair.

Friday, 27 June 2014

aaaand we're back! rescheduled shows aplenty.

It's time!

After being laid up through illness and having to cancel Cardiff, Derby and Durham shows a few weeks ago (sorry again, etc), we've been hard at work rescheduling them for the autumn, with a couple of added extras. Here's the full and final list of upcoming shows for 2014.

10.07.14 2000Trees Festival nr Cheltenham
09.08.14 Reading Here Comes The Sun @ Rising Sun Arts Centre
06.09.14 Cardiff Moon Club
26.09.14 London The Monarch, Camden
27.09.14 Birmingham The Flapper
06.11.14 Derby Ryans Bar
07.11.14 Durham Old Cinema Launderette

For details on supports and ticket links, I'll be keeping the gigs page updated..


Saturday, 31 May 2014

Cardiff is cancelled (update: so are Derby and Durham)

A wise man once said, if Ben Marwood makes three blog posts within a week then life is either going very well or very badly.

Sadly, it's the latter. After fighting something off for three weeks, yesterday (Friday) I was finally put in my place by my stupid human body. With reduced voice, hearing, balance and dignity, it's physically impossible for me to do the show in Cardiff tonight.

I try not to use the word hate that often but I hate cancelling a show, and this is the first time I've had to do it since Cheltenham in 2009. The plan is to reschedule this show for a date later in the year, but in the meantime if you're heading down to Cardiff anyway, I recommend going to the Full Moon (downstairs at the Moon Club) where they will have an excellent gig, and after that, The Moon Club will be open late in the evening for Ultimate Power, the UK's best power ballads night. I'm not just saying that because that's what they'd have you believe, I'm saying it because I went to Ultimate Power after my show in Bristol three weeks ago and it. was. amazing.

I'll keep you posted. Apologies again. Now, a race against the calendar to be fit in time for Derby on Thursday.

So, the being fit for Derby and Durham thing didn't quite work out. After a few days of recovery, I finally succumbed to Labyrinthitis late on Wednesday, leaving me literally unable to carry my guitar to the train station. I'll reschedule the Cardiff, Derby and Durham shows as soon as I can, hopefully for the autumn.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Ctrl + Alt + Reading

An addendum to yesterday's post (as in, I'd have included it yesterday, but got excited and clicked Publish too early):

I recently had the chance to sit down have an email chat with Niall of Alt Reading which you can read here.

Topics covered include how I managed to escape the local pond, how a collection of excellent people prevented me from sobbing into glasses of lemonade at open mic nights forevermore and why the US and the UK are not the same place.

I encourage you to read it, at your leisure.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

The unfinal countdown


There you are. Where have you been hiding? I'm sat on my bed with a king-size cold, the second half of one which I caught on my birthday (yay, thanks!) which lasted for a week and then disappeared. Clearly it only comes out when I have to play a gig, since I had Bristol and Reading last time, and we're fast approaching shows in Cardiff, Derby and Durham this time.

As sure as eggs are eggs, I have just five shows to go before I shall depart to do something else for a while. When people ask me about it, I would like to say Ben Marwood Is Taking Time Off To Pursue Other Interests, but that sort of sounds like a code for Ben Marwood Has Been Fired From His Own Solo Project. Instead I'll probably introduce them to the 2014 Wish List.

Before the end of 2014, I, Ben Marwood, wish to:

1. watch every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation
2. expand my collection of really sharp rocks
3. test my new ground-to-air missile defence system
4. work on my biceps, triceps and pieceps

In reality, really, it's much more like:

5. the second album's been out for over a year now, and i have new songs i'd like to record, but i can't do that whilst i'm working and spending the weekends doing gigs, so we have to stop the gigs for a while.

Which isn't as exciting as saying stupid stuff like:

6. i'm taking a leave of absence to star in Game of Thrones as an invisible king that none of the cast ever interactive with.

Come and see my final three headline shows of 2014, if you dare:

Saturday 31st May - CARDIFF Moon Club
Thursday 5th June - DERBY Ryan's Bar
Friday 6th June - DURHAM Old Cinema Launderette


Thursday, 20 March 2014

Best in shows

March! Spring has sprung! We all clubbed together to get on Facebook to cure cancer by wearing no make-up (because of some logic) and in 2017 there's going to be a new £1 coin that doubles as a ninja star. Rejoice! March! Spring!

I'm sat on a gig island, stranded between shows whilst the sharks of normal, everyday life circle - mostly housework and the impending end of the tax year, although those are just pet names. To try and make it look like I'm doing something arty and worthwhile, here's an update on things to come, things that have been and whatever else is left over.

Haven't won the lottery yet.

February shows with Retrospective Soundtrack Players
Ah yes! A giant-sized THANK YOU to everyone who came out to the shows with the RSP and I in February. After all these years doing this, they were the first shows for which I've ever (headline) toured with a band and I'm not sure I could have asked for a more enthusiastic and almost-puzzlingly-keen group of people. Cheltenham, Leeds, Southampton and London all nearly hit capacity, and Swindon also happened. Me and the guys did some band numbers and there were a couple of new songs on offer. All told: good work. Maybe we'll do it again sometime.

I also had the pleasure of playing a sit-down show in Colchester - note: I was standing up, everyone else was sat down - and my first headline show in Kingston ever ended up being all sold out and I got heckled by a man who sounded just like Andy Parsons but wasn't. The fun we have on the road.

The RSP and I spoke to a dude about going on tour together, finally..
.. the dude in question being my good buddy Rob Escott. It's all about why it's taken us so long to get our shit together, the Xtra Mile family, influences and other stuff like that. Concise! It's a good read and it can be read right here.

Hey, look, I still have shows in April, May and June!
Get your tickets so I don't worry about whether anyone will turn up, and come and see me at the following halls of sound:

13.04.14 NOTTINGHAM JT Soars // Bring Your Own Beer!!
14.04.14 MANCHESTER Star & Garter
17.04.14 GLASGOW Glad Cafe
19.04.14 YORK Black Swan
09.05.14 BRISTOL The Louisiana
13.05.14 READING South Street Arts Centre
31.05.14 CARDIFF Moon Club
05.06.14 DERBY Ryans Bar
06.06.14 DURHAM Old Cinema Launderette

For updates on support and ticket info, head on over to the gigs page.


Thursday, 6 February 2014

Back Down CD part of Amazon UK's 2 for £15 offer this month


Are you Amazon-inclined and into owning physical copies of stuff?

Did you ever long deeply for a copy of my second album, Back Down, on CD but were prevented from buying it by a hefty £10 price tag? 

Well, February is YOUR month, because you can now get Back Down plus some other CD (or, two Back Downs?) for £15. Amongst others I could recommend are:

Mogwai - Les Revenants OST
Eels - Wondeful, Glorious
Laura Veirs - Warp & Weft
Larry and his Flask - By The Lamplight
Chris T-T and the Hoodrats - The Bear

Oh there's loads, why not take a look?

>>Go to Amazon UK 2 for £15
>>Go and specifically stare at the Back Down page

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

the cat leaps free from the bag: confirmed for 2000Trees 2014

Hi everyone,

Short and sweet (this, not you).

It gives me great pleasure to announce I'll be part of this year's 2000Trees festival in Cheltenham, playing the a set on the Thursday night for anyone with early bird entry. I'll be joined by good friends Oxygen Thief (selling out the solo artist world by bringing his band), Retrospective Soundtrack Players and also heavy hitters Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip, Gnarwolves and Johnny Foreigner.

You can get tickets and info right here.

I would describe this news as pretty damn great.


Monday, 3 February 2014

putting Back Down to bed: UK tour dates through to the summer

Hi everyone!

It gives me great pleasure to announce the UK shows through to June for this year. There's a possibility of more to be added, but here's what we have. Due to the onset of some weirdly specific seasonal depression (apparently normal for January) I couldn't secure shows in Sheffield and the South West, instead choosing to eat a lot of chocolate I had left over from Christmas. I think it was an okay trade-off.

So, pending further news, these will be the final run of shows dedicated to second album Back Down. The shows will also subject you to me road-testing the occasional new song, causing people to shuffle uncomfortably at the prospect of things they don't know the tune to. I'm pleased to say that, having gigged it for a while now, I'm much more in love with the songs from Back Down than I have been at any other point in the album cycle, now I've finally learned how to play them by myself. This can only be a good sign of things ahead.

Come along and sing the words in the following locations:

14.02.14 CHELTENHAM Frog and Fiddle* // tickets
15.02.14 LEEDS Fox and Newt* // tickets
16.02.14 SOUTHAMPTON Joiners Arms* // tickets
17.02.14 SWINDON The Vic* // tickets
18.02.14 LONDON Camden Monarch* // tickets
07.03.14 COLCHESTER Lakeside Theatre @ Essex Uni // tickets
08.03.14 KINGSTON The Cricketers // tickets
13.04.14 NOTTINGHAM JT Soars // ticket info to follow
14.04.14 MANCHESTER Star & Garter // ticket info to follow
17.04.14 GLASGOW Glad Cafe // ticket info to follow
19.04.14 YORK Black Swan // ticket info to follow
09.05.14 BRISTOL The Louisiana // ticket info to follow
13.05.14 READING South Street Arts Centre // ticket info to follow
31.05.14 CARDIFF Moon Club // ticket info to follow
05.06.14 DERBY Ryans Bar // ticket info to follow
06.06.14 DURHAM Old Cinema Launderette // ticket info to follow

*with Retrospective Soundtrack Players

See you there!