Written in 2006
So there I was, punking it round Europe on the DIY scene for a few years there, crazy tours of Spain without a translator and scary jaunts to Holland staying with major speed dealers and a cast of insane friends of varying psychotic tendency; not bad for a quartet of spluttering hicks who’d not left the blanket of Bangor before. Radio sessions, self-released singles and tiny indie deals in
fun, filth, fucking about. And completely unsustainable. People have their own
locus to follow, and, as bands are generally made up of people, when it all
ended it was with a not-entirely-unpredictable fizzle. And slightly frazzled
but back on the dole – a succession of cruddy office temping jobs merely
holidays from watching Minder repeats, eating bacon butties and drinking far
too much Frosty Jack white cider – I was kicking about looking for things to
do. One of those things was very nearly settling down into soul-death, kids and
destroyed dreams.It is astonishing to me that this did not happen. But fatalism
is a disease as much as a philosophy; que sera sera, but yous has gotter make
it sera, bozo, kapeesh? Germany
A handful of good reviews for plays I’d written as a kid, an under-the-bed full of unsold 12” singles, a clutch of barely sentient local newspaper reviews I’d written for local bands: none translate into prospects, plans, melodies to sing for a tune-filled future.
. Cider. Farmfoods
for £1 packs of square sausages every other Friday. Pissed up at Bangor
games on the Saturday. Sniffing poppers on the terraces. And on, and on, a
spiraling midrange and a sprawling midriff. Bangor City
The singer started it. It’s his fault. He was even better at being on the dole than I was. About to get a gold watch for his long service, a succession of lucky escapes from work and well-planned bad job interviews, all culminating in the best blag imaginable. Toothy Tony Blair’s New Deal For Musicians. And consequently an offer of a place on a college course to learn how to not ever get a proper job. To whit: a one-year postgraduate sound engineering degree. The singer, a fine footballer boasting also much wit, charisma and willfulness, couldn’t actually be arsed to do it.
So I thought, fuck this, may as well have a pop, gotta be better than Real Work / Real World; promptly I dyed my hair an inadvisable shade of blonde and managed, through much manouevering and sheer luck, to get on the course and complete it reasonably successfully and usually monstrously hung over. I’d not gone to college after school, see: the band with whom I was playing bass, and cod-managing, were much more fun than all that shit. Indeed, one of our first – and favourite – tracks was the intense existential epic, ‘Shit Student Wankers’.
I despised the stereotypical nobbers with grants and southern accents that flowed through
like pus-filled lava. It’s a small place: 14,000 locals, but at term time, add
8,000 knowitall little cunt-kids into the equation and it ain’t pretty. Some of
the lasses were very pretty, of course, so me, the old band, various mates and
drinking cohorts, would spend hours, days, licentious lifetimes, sitting on the
bench outside Safeways in Bangor Upper Bangor
drinking cider and rating the ladies’ relative charms. (I think one of us
talked to one of them once but I can’t be sure.) Other revenges: crashing
parties and necking the ale, skinheaded, speeding and vile, three or ten
fuckbags called Rupert and Ameiliacacalia cowering in the corners whilst we
filled our pockets with packets of cheese to take home. Not pretty, not good,
not proud. But that’s how it was. How we were. Pricks, really.
Things end. The course ended. Back to doledays and takeaways and evermore bitter Bennett plays. The gang was breaking up. To corners of the
to college. Too much to deal with.
Worse off with this new pig-faced, pygmy knowledge than the days of happy
idiocy that had preceded it. Uncontrollable; pained; FUCKIN BOREEEDDDDDDD. UK
So, my mate Huw mentions this music college type place in
that sounds like a laugh. I apply, for a laugh. Me and my other mate Dave go to
the same interview in Scouseland, for a laugh. We sit in the bar afterwards
drinking brandy and I say hello to the bloke who’d interviewed me 20 minutes
before. He clocked the brandy, and he laughed. It was the best part of any
interview I’d ever done.
Cause, six weeks later, back in Bangor, I stumble downstairs in the mid-morning (2pm in those days) and open a letter that makes me laugh cause it’s an unconditional offer to do a three year Sound Technology degree in Liverpool. I laugh because I’d signed up to some cruddy Sound Tech A Level in
for a laugh, but I could never be arsed going: fuckin miles away it was. This
all meant I had approximately 9 months of bacon butties and cider ahead, and the dole could fuck off with all that
job shit they’d been hassling me with recently. Top. (Dave didn’t get in,
not at first, he came 2 years later.) Colwyn Bay
By which time I’d been alternately scared, stoned and finally solid with a city that seems tiny and huge at the same time. I hated the kebabs we’d get, not a fucking patch on Shahin’s in Bangor High Street. The curries were ok, and the course was ok, and I nearly pulled on my first day there cause I told this very tall lass I was writing a book or some such shit, and she fucking fell for it. I was sposed to meet her in the college bar but I’d accidentally necked half a bottle of Courvoisier in the afternoon and I couldn’t actually focus on walking properly. But I had a wank about her that night anyway.
So yeah anyway I’d ran out of cash by October, and the choice was clear: get a job in a pub, or try and restart the tangled mess of music reviews I’d done on and off for various papers over the last few years. And the dicks let me do it! This is and was key to
papers, Big Issue, all wanting someone on the ground to write about bands.
About gigs. About excitement and magic and electricity and when I did my first
ever review for Big Ish, it was a punk night called Inner City Sumo, and it was
all of these things, and it reawakened the senses of the dullard napping within
me. It was Flamingo 50, a genius spark of in-yer-face punk with a lead singer,
Louise, throwing herself into sparkling shapes of sheer belief – no pose in
sight – and I fell in love. With the band, yes, with the night, and with the
people: this was a local crowd, and I was the student. I threw myself into it.
Every night a new gig, a new band, new faces and new mates. Liverpool
had hundreds of gigs on:
had one a week if you were lucky (or unlucky, given I used to arrange most of
Concurrent to the ICS crew’s shenanigans, the cosmic scouse shit was going down in the
I pretty much hated it, but I went to quite a lot of the gigs anyway. I liked
the buzz. It stank of weed, as did I, and this kinda nonchalant fug of
self-belief and repressed violence always got me off in the old punk days. Zanzibar Liverpool has a punk spirit: it absorbs influences,
intelligences, talents, from all over the world and regurgitates them in an
enormously confrontational and unique way. Halls of mirrors reflecting life in
all its gory glory: musically, this is the equivalent of a bullshitter in a
plate glass shop. As soon as you think you’ve sussed it out the whole
perspective changes and you’re half a step off the pace. Like H from Steps. Or
Gary Barlow. Or the Crucial Three. I realized then that I knew nothing about
anything. And I fucking loved it. It meant the possibilities were limited only
And my imagination was running wild. I started doing PR for a local label; I joined up with the magical PMS show on Radio Merseyside, the longest-running on local radio. Music everywhere, from
from Rock Ferry, from ,
from France .
Two hours a week of absolute unthought of excellence, and me involved in
broadcasting it. Roger Hill, the presenter, and old hand of Wales Liverpool
and Eric’s and the punk spirit. Circularity. Maybe. College was much less
important than hooking up with bands for interviews, lager and watching them
shit on cars at after
gigs. Scummy, funny, in this pretty, shitty city. And now, it’s major
magazines, book deals and traveling to different countries to get quotes from a
succession of bands for me. Possibilities all over the place. Liverpool
– as much as
– has allowed me to believe in a world where a new shade of emotion is only
round the next corner. In the next gig. In the next lyric, the new riff, the
bottom of the next glass. Keep going, says Scouseland, because you’re part of
everything if you choose. It is a power and a devilry and a mélange of heady
That I landed here is – from one point of view – lucky. But luck is a concept as vague as time, happiness and the rules of rugby union anyway. Because, linearly, I can plot my trajectory backwards and see now that everything I have done, all the tearing around and the tears and the frustration, and the nearly-destroyed dreams, and the obscenities and the holey-clothed skintness and the punk scene, everything has brought me to this moment; sitting here, a pile of reviews for Record Collector, The Fly, Metal Hammer, Plan B, Mixmag, Music Mart, fucking whoever’s stupid enough to let me do them, Sepultura on full blast, a book coming out in three weeks - and a freezer full of duty free vodka. It makes sense, but only if I try not to make too much sense of it.
And one version of one truth is this:
Sometimes it whinges, and sometimes it fights, sure. But it undeniably fucking rocks. And the people who pass through tap into a wider mimetic consciousness that allows and demands a perpetual reinvention of the utterly timeless artistry and elegance and squalid roaring that makes music, and life, so piquant and wonderfully unpredictable.
It’s made me have a career. It’s made me feel like I can have a career. Unimaginable once, but I was a prick in those days. I guess I still am: the difference is, these days I know it.
And I don’t drink white cider any more.
Not as often, anyway.
Not as often, anyway.