Tuesday, 31 March 2009
I'm heading off to the ancient city of Carthage with Anathema in a couple of days after having spent the last two weeks at their studio-in-a-bungalow in Yorkshire, helping them to record their much anticipated new album. It's sounding pretty good so far, thanks in part to the fine engineering skills of Les Smith. The bungalow is an odd place to be - a twenty minute walk from the nearest shops or pub (note the singular), in neither town nor countryside, sat in the middle of a scratty building site next to a golf course by the M62. The sense of isolation felt by those who have spent any length of time there becomes graphically apparent when one notices how faces light up at the prospect of a drive to the nearest Asda, usually courtesy of Les and his big van. On arrival at the supermarket everyone usually heads straight for the "Whoops!" counter, unless of course they bump into, say, a member of My Dying Bride as happened just the other day. Asda appears to be the store of choice for the budget-conscious local metal musician. Some form of endorsement deal might not be a bad idea.
Anyway, the "Whoops!" counter contains all the reduced stuff that's on or near its sell by date, and they don't half knock it down you know (green beans for one pence?), unlike tight-arsed Tesco's on Stroud Green Road back home. The thing I don't get is why they put a sticker saying "Whoops!" on a reduced item as if they've somehow made a mistake in not selling it at the full price, rather than having been merely unfortunate not to do so as is more than likely the case. In reality, writing "Damn it!" or "Bollocks!" on the sticker would more accurately reflect the circumstances by which the item came to be there. "Whoops!" is what old ladies say when they spill tea. Don't beat yourselves up Asda, it's not your fault.
So, Tunisia on Thursday afternoon for a gig in a big old ancient cathedral. More information will follow.
Monday, 9 March 2009
Fittingly or ironically, the last show of this little tour with Ruby Throat is taking place in the bar of a curiously shaped arts centre in Alencon where concert promoters, venue owners and other operators within the music industry are gathered for a conference to try to figure out what the hell they're going to do now the government is withdrawing massive amounts of funding for the arts. I've really grown to like this country and its people over this past couple of weeks. We've been well looked after by friendly people who have uniformly gone out of their way to make us comfortable and welcome, cook us nice meals, ply us with drink and generally take a great deal of pride in what they do for a living, i.e running really great little concert venues and arts centres for the benefit of their communities and the country as a whole. It seems a lot of these people will find themselves unemployed or closing their doors within the next year or so which is a damn shame. They're not, as could easily be assumed, a bunch of arty layabouts taking advantage of a generous pot of cash from a well meaning government. As far as I can see they work hard to uphold the fine French tradition of treating culture as something as important as health care and good sanitation, even as the odds mount against them. Apparently we're only talking about zero-point-three per-cent of the national budget here as well. I really hope things will not be as bad as people fear - the venues we've visited are the lifeblood of a band like Ruby Throat who would struggle to make money touring in the UK. And apart from anything else I really want to come back here and do this all over again.
Having said all that, the main band this evening were a completely bizarre mixture of Boyzone, Crosby Stills and Nash and the Osmonds, and they were only about twenty years old. And on top of that there's still the worrying matter of the French jazz-funk fixation. Thinking about it, maybe they only have themselves to blame.
Next stop: Tunisia with Anathema in early April. Bye for now.
Sunday, 8 March 2009
The car seems to have fixed itself so that's good news. I still reckon I could have done it myself. We had a bit of a problem with the sat-nav as it wouldn't recognise the postcode for the next venue so we had to input the town and street name longhand, prompting it to suggest many possible Saint Nazaires. Maybe he's the patron saint of town naming.
After a good show in Rambouillet last night the venue manager proudly informed me that the building had originally been a hat factory, built sometime in the nineteenth century. I was very impressed, until we arrived in Saint Nazaire this afternoon to find we're playing inside the German navy's U-Boat base from world war two! Makes your hat factory story sound like a piece of shit now doesn't it. It's truly mind blowing to walk around the place, and apparently the reason it stands to this day is that it is uneconomical to demolish, it having being built to withstand any bomb available at the time (the roof is thirty feet thick). We have no worries as far as disturbing the neighbours is concerned.
Saturday, 7 March 2009
Sitting watching the support act - the French don't half like their smooth jazz funk. I must say the sound guy is doing an excellent job. Rambouillet is a lot more rural than anywhere else we've visited thus far and actually had us driving along some nice country roads to get there - a change from six hour slogs down the motorway. The car is still misbehaving, now belching foul black smoke as we go, further adding to the embarrassment of driving the thing even when it's running well. I'm going to have a go at fixing it tomorrow. I have no idea what I'm doing.
The car coughed and spluttered its way to Limoges, sometimes slowing us to an embarrassing thirty mph when climbing hills on the motorway, a little bit scary when you've got truckers up your back end. My theory is that the automatic choke is faulty meaning too much petrol is getting into the mixture thus partially flooding the engine; but since I know as much about car engines as I do about football I wouldn't say that out loud to another human being.
It was an odd kind of show at the Woodstock Boogie Bar in Limoges - well attended but a little rough mainly due to technical issues (one being that Chris and Katie were technically drinking more wine than they should). I ended up with the private apartment above the venue as accommodation for the night and quite nice it was too, though due to it having the previous tenant's possessions and decor it did feel a bit like sleeping in the bed of someone recently deceased.
We're eating pancakes with nutella spread for breakfast, another example of how surprisingly civilised the French can be the further you get from Paris. The tripe sausages we had at a roadside cafe on the other hand were pretty revolting.