WTF014 - Le Mons.
Present day –ish.
This is the day the old ‘Salt Flats' rant goes up, except it isn't because I'm typing this in the past. I'm typing this two days after The French and I did some personal promotional appearances in Cardiff. Not everyone wanted a poster.
It's been exactly eight years today since I moved to the Arctic Circle.
01 - Eating people is wrong.
Nine days ago, Adam Walton played us on Radio Wales. Eleven years ago Adam Walton played us on Radio Wales. Time's become elastic recently.
02 - Reward.
Originally by famous goths The Teardrop Explodes .
Talking of elastic time, yesterday (when this'll first go live) we rehearsed for the final time. At the time of typing that rehearsal is still five days away. And I have no idea how I'm going to hop countries yet because yesterday (as I'm typing this) I came back to where my bills live.
03 - Think!
Bogiez moves around Cardiff like a fucking triffid. Currently it's gripping tenaciously to a spot that's long been linked to entertainment in Cardiff's rich history.
Eight years ago the building was still a Barfly. We'd been the thirteenth band to play there after it opened. Had the launch party on WTF010 bootlegged and saw queenadreena there. In the olden days, bear baiting took place around that general area. It was right next to a city gate so getting away would seem easy.
In really olden times there was a flood-prone dungheap on the site.
The French and I dropped in for a pint. It's like someone's turned the inside of Rated's head into an interactive experience.
04 - Utilising blasphemy as a seduction technique.
I'm saying nothing.
05 - Mamihlapinatapai.
The last rehearsal, exactly a week ago from the pint in Rated's head and nine days from typing, sounded great. I'm trying to leak the recording of ‘I (who have nothing)' from it. If you've heard it, I did. If you haven't, it's on WTF018 .
06 - The Salt Flats.
After saying goodbye to The French et al, I wandered through the relentless sunshine and up towards Roath. I headed via Salisbury Road – the market and the book/record shop that I bought a Phil Lynott biography from are gone. So's the shop on the corner facing Gassy Jacks and the junction, but that's not a huge surprise as it was always shuttered and only seemed to have a single copy of Christopher Hamilton Bidmead 's Logopolis for sale. It was so sun-faded that Anthony Ainley looked lost in a sepia desert with a thunderstorm approaching.
The air felt thundery as well. ‘Close', my Dad would've called it.
I ducked under the bridge and turned left. Heading up toward Death Junction now.
07 - Needleteeth.
Once you've navigated the Varsity of Welsh Shirts and hacked your way through the Miasma of Death, D'vinyl appears like a welcoming, snug sanctuary.
I remember buying a brand-new, which is to say ‘secondhand', record player from a shop located on one of Death Junction's clutching arms and lugging it, in a bin-bag, along a fairly similar route. This was on another summer's day back when I had fewer titles.
At that point D'Vinyl was, and this is based purely on my less than reliable memory, Steve and a trestle table. There were two boxes of CDs on top of the table with two boxes of assorted vinyl on the floor. I bought both CDS versions of ‘Religion' by Front 242 and ‘Live and Dangerous' (gatefold) by Thin Lizzy .
Naturally it's no surprise to hear ‘Suicide' playing when I walk in. Steve's nearly hidden behind a fortification of plastic, music, vinyl, movies, cardboard and hope (see first track on WTF004 for further details).
That reminds me. There's a version of ‘Hope' known as the ‘D'Vinyl Intervention'. I wonder what happened to it?
08 - Kings of the Wild Frontier.
Originally by famous goths Adam and the Ants .
For ages this section was going to be about what happened when our version of ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier' was noticed by a proper Ant Person , but sadly, that tale's just going to be hinted at and then lost forever. I'm sure people don't believe it's really going to end.
Walked up the octopus-arm of Mackintosh Place, squinting through the sun. At the topless church I looped left and headed up through the lanes, over the road and into Cathays Cemetry. No death-faking detectives or impossible girls today, and the place looks tidier than it did.
It doesn't take long to find Louisa Maud Evans . She's still in the clear. The slow fade into the undergowth hasn't started yet. The inexorable drift backwards into the reclaiming vegetation is in direct contrast to the (perceived) forward motion of time that relentlessly drags her cautionary tale into the trees. There, she'll turn first into legend and then eventually into a darkening haze of myth that no amount of third-eye squinting will help with.
Out through the gates and over the road into the labyrinth of lanes. At one point I'm stepping round the bones of a recording studio. The brick passage-lattice thins out and a distant rumble punctuated with whooshes begins. The noise of the river of cars increases with each step. Out of the labyrinth and back into the screaming sun.
That's Gabalfa then.
09 – Jingle.
The Underpass'll keep you safe as you pass through vehicular space. The angles are wrong – sheer edged concrete everywhere – barely softened by green bursts of foliage and primary coloured art-slashes. The cars flash beneath, to the side and overhead. It's immersive and caked in potential.
Through and left into the Philog and up through Whitchurch. No sign of pufferfish-headed twoccers. Further forward still and it's Rhiwbina. The name still tastes of blackcurrant and confusion. On a turning point next to a wet entrance to the underworld now – this is where the roles that I play began. In another life and a different century.
And then I walked up Caerphilly Mountain and turned to stone.
Now, my brother on the other hand…
PET002CD – The Salt Flats
01 – The Salt Flats.
The very first time we met Glyn Mills he gave me a book. In many ways that says it all.
02 – Sosa.
The only time I ever saw Dems nearly struggle with anything drummy was when he was trying to start ‘Sosa'. The song begins by collapsing and continues doing so in waves. We always aimed to get it in under a minute.
03 – Reward.
Originally by famous goths The Teardrop Explodes .
Original 2002 Rant:
This was the biggest gig we've played yet. With laminates and everything.
In fact this was an evening of firsts for us in a lot of different ways, which I'll sort of stagger through bit by bit. I did have this whole thing written out in a note form already (and I bet you thought I just made all this bollocks up on the spot), but a fab evening at the Welsh Club was spoiled by my bag with my notebook in it getting lifted. Okay, so I was horrendously over refreshed and “dancing like a monkey” and didn't notice it was missing until some time later.
We arrived in a baby convoy, with Rated, James, Emma and myself stopping off at Hand Of Glory first and everyone else heading there separately. We'd been told that it was a big venue, but I was really surprised when we got there. Bridgend Recreation Centre is tucked away in the middle of a faceless industrial park just outside Bridgend that can only be reached, for some strange reason, by a carriage-pitted dirt track. It was dark, so we missed the turning a few times. Of course, my opinion of the Bridgend road system is outlined in more anal depth elsewhere, but it does seem to stretch like a reality warping bubble around the whole town.
The Rec itself looks like a cross between a Leisure Centre and a modern architect's dampest dream. Concrete, plastic, glass, stairs, sodium (well it was night), and lots of shifty looking dark shapes hiding under stairs that don't go anywhere, swigging from glinting plastic bottles.
We wandered in past the security without having our bags checked for some reason. Weird, because bouncers of any breed normally take a thorough dislike to me straight off. It's part of my mutant ability, although that seems to have worn off a little now, that causes complete strangers to be so fucking disgusted that I even dare to be alive near them they have to vent their contempt straight at me. And people wonder where I get it from.
The rest of the boys were already ensconced in the bar, swapping dirty limericks, when we wandered our way through the many corridors filled with very drunk (and hoody wearing) young folk. First things first, I go to get a pint.
I'd stopped drinking for a long time, mostly because it made me act like a fool, but for some reason I've started again. Not to the extent of Shane Macgowan , more on a social level. I think it's got more to do with the fact that I seem to be going to more places that sell it than I have been, so maybe I never really did give up at all. I was just resting.
“Pint of Grolsch please.” I asked the young lady behind the bar.
“Got any ID?” she replied, which came as a bit of a shock.
After a bit of mad bluffing, and in the end producing my birth certificate, she decided that I must be too stupid to be any threat and served me.
“That's a hell of a compliment, y'know.”
“Yeah. I suppose it is. Cheers.”
Everyone else of course, thought this was hysterical.
As I'd not arrived til later I'd not actually seen the stage by this point. The idea was that Jeff Killed John and Valentine (who came up from London ) would have a full soundcheck, and that the rest of us would do a quick line-check prior to going on. Because of this I'd missed the actual loading-in of equipment, and had no need at the moment to go in and have a look.
The entrance was flanked with burly fellows checking the seemingly endless line of urchins queuing, and I didn't fancy my chances without everyone else, so I stayed in the bar and drank. Eventually this course of action took its toll and I had to find the toilets. As long-time readers will know this is of course where I always feel at my most comfortable. Oh ho, not tonight.
After getting lost twice, which was hard as it was basically a straight line, I got inside. There was already one guy standing at the bank of urinals. Following the unspoken rule of lavatorial engagements (depending which type of toilet you're in and why you're there) I keep as many piss troughs as possible between me and him. I know this is getting a bit personal here, but it's worth the itching and scratching and general discomfort. Another guy came in, wobbled a bit and stumbled up to the urinal next to the first occupant. There was an uncomfortable silence. Well, isn't there always?
“Stop looking at my cock.” This said by the first occupant. Valleys accent. You'll have to imagine.
“What?” That's the second.
“You some fucking queer? Stop looking at my cock.”
I was getting nervous by this time and decided to leave, unrelieved, but not before I caught the next exchange:
“You down from the Valleys then? You come on a coach?”
“It doesn't matter where I'm from, stop looking at my fucking cock. I don't even fucking know you.”
“I'm not a fucking queer and I'll look at your cock if I want to. Bit fucking small though.”
I didn't hear any more because I decided I could wait. Later on however, probably about five minutes because I get a bladder like a grape on Grolsch, I went back in and found one sink full of blood, a broken mirror and bits of grue on the walls.
Shortly after this disturbing incident we heard the sounds of Mombomb banging through the walls. James, Emma and I decided to go and watch and check out the backstage area. We walked confidently past the bouncers and the still queuing kids, said hello to Glyn again, were told that Skeks had just left, and wandered into the main room.
“Fuck me.” Was about the limit of my comment. It was massive. A great big cavern of a room, stretching right back a good number of metres, topped off with a very large and wide stage flanked with very large speakers and hanging curtains. Well, it's a leisure centre, so I don't know what I was expecting really. The only thing I could think of in comparison was the Newport Centre or the big room at JB's in Dudley.* All around the room were kids standing in clusters, smoking, drinking, dancing and everything. Mombomb looked incredible.
I recognised Rhys standing with a security guard next to the giant speaker stack to the left of the stage and wandered over to talk to him. We'd only been given enough laminates for the band so James and Emma technically weren't going to be allowed backstage. We decided they could stick with me and we'd blag our way through somehow. We chatted to Rhys and the security fellow for a while, waved at Mombomb from the side of the stage and got a grin in return. He's still got ferocious hair you'll be pleased to hear. Then we tried to get to the dressing room but found that there was nothing there but a big wall with a newsagent-type-anti-crash-and-smash metal shutter imbedded in it. We weren't “lost” backstage, but that did feel very Spinal Tap .
The actual dressing room was like a school changing room replete with showers, so we sat in there and got changed. For some reason Noquenda couldn't play so we were bumped up the bill. We did talk to their drummer for a while though, and marveled at the giant remote control he uses to control the kits light displays. Lovely lad.
Glyn very kindly introduced us and on we ran, feeling, as you would, like we'd somehow won some kind of rock star competition. We decided to open with ‘Eating people is wrong' to see if that would piss anyone off.
The weird thing was with that much noise, stage and kids I got a huge adrenaline rush as I went on that stuck with me the whole gig. I ended up doing things I wouldn't normally attempt these days, what with my gammy leg and gout, and it felt like a return to the first few days of Nameless gigs when The French and I would try and fill a stage with the two of us. It's a lot of work doing it like that, but when you feel like you're flying at a new altitude and pain's for jessies it doesn't matter.
I misjudged the size of the stage and bashed into The French quite early on, so he gave me a hefty kick that knocked me into a crouched roll. During this I managed to take Rated's legs out from under him and he fell over me onto his back, but the smooth bastard didn't miss a note.
Things went well, the songs spat and jumped, a cluster of delightful young ladies at the front kept asking for my underwear and tried to look up my kilt to see if I had any and then we played ‘The Salt Flats'.
People started dancing, jumping, shouting. I could feel blood running down my leg from my knees and collecting in my boots and for some reason I decided to jump off the stage. It was a tall stage, it was a long way down, and I landed on my front I think. All well and good, but for the fact I pulled the only non-battered monitor down over with me. I must have caught it with the mike lead (well I was still singing) and it landed just next to my head, showering sparks everywhere. Then all the power in the place cut off.
And then a massive roar of primal approval. This is why I'm in a band.
The French used the ensuing confusion to call Glyn on stage and get the crowd to sing ‘Happy Birthday' to him, during which the sound gradually came back on so the whole place filled with feedback and about 400 people singing.
The rest of the set passed almost without incident for me, apart from falling off the stage and landing on my arse-bone. Teflon started a fight with The French by kicking him into such a rage that he slapped the poor boy and sent his glasses flying into Dems. The Reverend discretely took himself into the wings so no-one could see him going into an apoplexy of hysterics.
The dressing room was full of people I'd never met, and a few people I had. Jay from the Football Club was there in a corner, hunched over in a pool of vomit and the whole thing was really weird. A passing girl lifted up my kilt. Valentine passed James on their way on muttering something about “not looking forward to following that”, and Jeff Killed John were brilliant.
What a weird night.
*And although Nameless have played on that one it was as a three-piece and we might as well have died right there, so I'm not telling you one fucking thing about that nightmare of a night.
WORDS OF ADVICE FROM THE REVEREND
Never, ever agree to play scissors, paper, stone with The French. He will win. This means you have to drive his drunken, scrawny ass home. Bastard.
04 - Magick Lantern Show.
Original 2002 rant:
We couldn't get started.
Something wasn't going right this time either. We'd had problems with the session and we had problems this time around. A few of us, myself included, had big blocks when it came to recording our parts and this time they took a lot longer to get right.
Chris was lovely as ever. “Patient” doesn't do him justice, but as there's already some guy called St Christopher it'll have to do.
Here's a dissection of what I reckon some of our problems are, you can skip this if you like, and head to the next bit not in italics.
Live we've pretty much nailed it. We can do it if there's no one there, and we can do it if the crowd's falling out of the venue's windows. We do the same performance either way. But then, as I keep saying we've been doing this for a long time. To paraphrase, and surreptitiously name-drop Adam Walton , we started when we were six and we've done the playing live in toilets for fifteen years. The venues have improved and so have we. If we could give up we would have. Like I said, the book'll be great.
But the studio is a different beast. You can get away with a lot live; it's difficult to notice a bum note when there's a half-naked lunatic covered in blood and glitter screaming into your face. One of our earliest criticisms was that the performance over-rode the playing. And that was very true, especially of me. Alcohol enhanced a good deal of the show, but also took some of the musicality out of it. I've got a very different opinion of what we are live to other people though, but that's just me so we won't go into that. We're still learning how to use the studio, how to get the energy and the performance within sensible parameters. We sound really good, but we aren't great. Yet.
Having said that I think what we've got for the next single is amazing. We've got a rule of thumb that people can work out in the future, it'll become apparent in a while, that means that the studio versions have to be definitive. We've got a big old masterplan as well. The Manics used to send theirs to the press, we live ours. And you can think that sound pretentious; I'm not bothered. It does. It looks a lot different from in here though. I've been umming over putting up a list that details what we've lost on the journey somewhere, but I can't think of anywhere it could go without coming across as self-indulgent: strings broken, pints consumed, lost members (sic), dead friends, relationships destroyed, number of breakdowns, jobs lost, miles traveled, scars accrued, unlikely coincidences, injuries and so on. It seems a bit anal though, and I don't know where it would go.
I'm wondering about whether or not I've been a little too obvious with some things as well. Every song we do is about something. It might not sound like it, but they are. There are a lot of little in-jokes, but nothing that probably couldn't be worked out by almost anyone with a little time.
And I think that might have been a mistake.
I realised the other day that my whole life is on display for anyone to read, and that freaked me out. It seemed clever and funny at some points, but now people are actually getting to hear them. This is very simplified, but what can I say? I write the lyrics and I yell them. It's my job in the band. Maybe Rated's riffs are based on his nights out, I don't know. I can't tell you why everyone else does what they do, it's not my place.
I don't want this to get self-indulgent, but I write everything up so how can it not be? I don't have a choice either. I don't know how many people read this, why would anyone want to? As a band I think we're stuck with the fact that we couldn't give up if we wanted to. Fuck knows we've been given enough opportunities to get out in the past. “No-one will think any less of you.” “Why don't you grow up and get a real job?” Well, we've done that. And we're still doing that. But this has become our lives now, we're trapped in it.
This probably doesn't make any sense, and I keep saying too much, so let me give you an example: I played ‘Blasphemy' to someone who hadn't heard it properly before, not that long ago. She looked a bit shaken by it. There are certain points of the song that she understood straight off, and other bits that didn't make sense. The connections are mine though, it's where I'm at when I write them. Sometimes I have to go over the lyrics myself to work out exactly what I meant. When the lyrics come they always come in one session, from first draft to finished lyric in about an hour. And as I write about what I know, it's what's happening in my life at that time. And whoever's involved is involved.
Is that fair? Do I have to right to do that to other people? I don't know.
Can I stop? I don't think so. I think we're stuck on the path now, and if we weren't ready for the journey we shouldn't have begun it.
And for those of you who've noticed the ridiculous number of Joy Division coincidences, don't worry, we're not heading for a sudden sordid good night. We aren't big enough yet anyway.
The songs are written in isolation and then dragged out into public. I feel sometimes that we're a bit of a freakshow, largely because we exhibit what we are for other people's amusement. You go home, but we live with it.
‘The Salt Flats' sounds amazing. We got it.
‘Sosa' has the bile and hatred. So we got that one as well.
And you can judge for yourselves soon enough.