Monday, 30 March 2009

"DANCE colin DANCE!"

Have spent any half hour I can muster this past week preparing the ground for veggies. It's hellish work (we suffer from the blight of brambles) but is incredibly satisfying. The earth at the bottom of our garden is fantastic - heavy & rich & almost black in colour, with good drainage and plenty of sunshine now we've cut the neighbours' enormous trees back a bit. Last year, it yielded bumper crops of potatoes, giant leeks, hundreds of thousands of supersweet peas, french beans, endless salads of every possible variety - even sweetcorn - and only now am i coming to the end of the cabbage and purple sprouting broccoli, all of which is still growing well in the patch beyond the giant yew tree.

At the risk of going all Monty on your asses, there's just something about it - the picking of your own homegrown food, knowing it's absolutely 100% pure and fresh and chemical free, and that the hard toil from the previous spring was so worth it. This year, I'm putting in spuds (Maris Piper this time, along with some chitted leftovers from last year's crop), carrots, parsnips, more peas - they're like candy! - garlic, red onions and I may give the butternut squash another go (sadly last year's crop was flooded out). So, a bit more digging and composting and sewing and planting to go, then it's the watering-wait til shoots appear...(green)fingers crossed!

The weekend was an amusing one; my first real attempt at DJing - y'know, of the 'Getting P*ssed People to Dance at Parties' variety? The friend who's birthday it was, and who asked me, said she used to listen to the Back Room* and loved the music, so I figured I'd play a load of 90s indie (with her being 30something), throw in the odd rave reference, and then mix the rest up with a selection of hip hop, current indie/rock/pop and the occasional grunge number. Think along the Stone Roses/Prodigy/Dizzee/Beck/Smiths/Stevie Wonder etc etc lines. (Aside: HA! I sound like i'm trying to sound like I knew what I was doing - double HA!!)

As the birthday girl had also been a fan of local nightclub 'The Academy' in the late 90s, I asked the lovely Nicola J - fellow former EnergyFM DJ - to join me, as she's a whiz on the ole dance tracks and used to DJ regularly at a nightclub, so had a better idea of this malarky than your ginger protagonist.

So, spent an hour or so raiding the shelves & shelves & shelves of CDs and put together two or three small boxes of 'favourites' for the night, which was like a trip down MusicMemoryLane in itself, and I was quite confident that one - or maybe even two! - tracks might be well received. How wrong I was...!

COULD WE GET THE FECKERS TO DANCE?? Could we feck! we tried everything... from Pulp to Primal Scream, Jackson Five to Justin Timberlake, Madonna to Britney, Gorillaz to Gomez - even threw on the Soul Wax mix of Dolly Parton's 9 to 5 and Destiny's Child - genius! but no. they stood, and they drank, and they talked. The only songs they shifted their feet to were Groove Is In The Heart, Thriller and Prodigy's Breathe...and even then, their hearts clearly weren't in it. Pah!

Still, if you do need a pair of lady DJs to, er, stand in a corner and play music you may or may not enjoy, do feel free to drop me a note...we're enthusiastic if nothing else!

I may just go back to my veggie patch ;)

In the meantime though, I'll leave you with the latest video from the superb Richard Swift:

Richard Swift - Lady Luck

*The Back Room was the lidl indie radio show i used to present..thems were the times *sigh*!

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Ulcerated airways, LA seiges and the Frampton story (no, really this time!)

Whew! These blogs are getting longer and longer. *note to self to learn to edit properly* Best warn you, dear Follower, this ain't no soundbite either...but there's lots of juicy stuff to get in!

Despite the intended motivation of 'Corn Salt', I can't really tell you much about food right now, as I haven't eaten a great deal more than plain jacket spuds (done properly mind, with the skin so cracklycrisp that it's separated from the meat of the tater and is marked with dark spots much like the skin of a 90 yr old - yum ;), and straight-from-the-tub, unadulterated, Leyland Farm cottage cheese. This week has been a real lesson in how much I love food, how much I miss food when I can't have it, but also how damn lucky I am to be able to open a cupboard and have a million and one different foodstuffs available to me at any time (plus an enormous fine foods warehouse next door, for when we run short of anchovies or rolled oats).

The reason for this food revelation? Well, in my last blog, I mentioned that I had 'a bit of a sore throat'... not meaning to deter you at the off, it quickly transpired that I was in fact being extremely British about the whole affair; I actually had something more unsightly and considerably more crippling than just your average painful pipes. It led to a trip up to the Emergency Doc at the hospital on Monday night - where I was informed I had an "infected uvula" (tasty!), given drugs the size of kinder eggs to try and swallow & told to 'get some sleep'. Following a night of absolutely no sleep at all and half hourly episodes of being sick as a dog (MAN that gagging hurts when you have an infected throat!) a trip to the regular doc the next morning saw him take one look down ma pipes and come out with the exact phrase "well, that's pretty disgusting isn't it?!". 24 hrs, not much more sleep and several bizarre leg rashes later, i was summoned back into the doctor rather urgently as he thought I might have scarlet fever (I don't, obviously - it was a reaction to the new drugs he'd put me on, but it was all very dramatic for a brief moment)

Still, am mostly healed and eating almost normally, even tho I seem to have the permanently nauseating taste of what i can only describe as household waste lingering at the back of my mouth which does kinda taint the palate. But this blog isn't dedicated to my ailments, in fact the intended thread of this was to regail you with tales of sun, sand and singing (with rock stars!!) in the crazy wonderful world of Los Angeles CA - all before my throat erupted of course...

About 3 weeks ago, my colleague Bob Miller and his gorgeous goif Christine Collister had returned to stay with us following their latest six months spent travelling the world - such is the wont of a superstar manager! *sigh*

One evening, they suggested it might be a good idea if Dave and I return to LA with them, to check up on our good friend and Running Media artist Davy Knowles. Davy (from America-trouncing blues rock band Back Door Slam) was due to be finishing off his time in the studio, working on his forthcoming album with producer Peter Frampton (yes! he of big hair, talking guitars and Simpsons fame!); this final week of recording would be great to catch on camera.

So, less than a week later and we were en route to LA LA land, packing several cameras and a bikini (just in case). Ooo aren't we just the last minute jetsetters!

The trip started out eventfully enough, as we'd headed to the UK on the same weekend as Roy's wedding and The Hilarious Philip Selway Encounter mentioned in the previous blog. Just 24hrs after that debacle, we were sat in the early evening sunshine in a little Italian Cafe on Sunset Blvd, savouring a superb blue crab ravioli and freshly baked focaccia, dreamily aware that somewhere down the road, the Oscars were kicking off...

To add to the surrealness of this picture, while we drank our last mouthfuls of heavy red wine that first night, we became aware of a 'skerfuffle' over the road; minutes later, sirens were bearing down on us from every possible direction and we watched as, just feet from our table, half a dozen state troopers & an LAPD 4x4 blocked the area, while a police helicopter swooped in and circled the skies above - unnervingly shining it's searchlight on the area immediately surrounding us. Of course, none of the other diners seemed concerned by this and in my jetlag my brain assumed that I'd stumbled onto a film set so was equally unperturbed; maybe I'd have felt a bit more wary of the town if I'd been 100% with it?! I have to admit, the following morning, i was scanning the 12 million TV channels and 36 versions of 'COPS!!' for news of Our Incident (none found).

Our plan was to spend a portion of our time working - filming interviews and promo vids with Davy K and the aforementioned songstress Christine Collister - and the rest of it enjoying the sights, sounds and sunshine of the city, maybe doing Disney or Universal and taking a drive up the coast midweek? I have to admit I'd been buoyed on by Stephen Fry's most recent twitter dialogue, which was based around his time spent in the same city working on an episode of 'Bones' ; he talked about balmy days, lazy lunches, beautiful views and - the thing I was most excited about - whalewatching. It just so happened to be the season for this, off the California coastline, and tho I was privileged enough to kayak with several giant basking sharks last year (that's a whole other story!) I've never done the whale watching thang and was desperate to.

Of course, none of this happened. Our initial plans to kick back and enjoy/ explore/ envelop ourselves in LA culture were quickly thwarted by the need to shove a camera in either Davy or Christine's face at regular intervals, poor sods, or to have important meetings with important people, or to catch up on work on the laptops. But despite this, it quickly became apparent that LA makes 'working' so much more bearable!

The apartment we were staying in had it's own private tennis court, swimming pool and small gymnasium, so we would start every day with one or all of these activities. The fact it was almost permanently sunny, and rarely below 70degs, gave everything a much rosier glow too: for instance, getting an interview with Davy at the Griffith Observatory also gave us the chance to witness the stunning LA landscape at sunset, and we took a fair few minutes out to explore the exhibits too. We were also pretty pleased with Davy's choice of Paradise Cove at Malibu Beach as another location for a second interview - again, we were working, but in an area like that it certainly didn't feel like a chore!And the people we had our various important meetings with were all fantastic - creative, inspiring, Happy people.

Then there's the star spotting, which you might have noticed I'm a sucker for! On several occasions we spotted celebs, such as David Spade who trundled past us - on his blackberry of all things (a reference you'll get if you've seen his hilarious blackberry self help video). There were plenty of other famous folk wandering about too, but as my memory is particularly lacking in it's ability to recall, something a memory should really be able to get a handle on, I couldn't tell you who any of them were...but it certainly made everything that little bit more exciting.

But our main brush with celebrity came in the studio. As previously mentioned, Davy was working with Peter Frampton on his album so, obviously, we had the chance to meet this rock legend when we went down to film the boy Knowles in his element. Peter was absolutely brilliant - funny, charming, warm and incredibly down to earth for someone who can boast the biggest selling live album of all time.

He allowed us to film anything and everything, and on more than one occasion he played up to the camera brilliantly. On the second day in the studio, Davy asked Christine and myself if we'd sing some backing vocals for him on one of his tracks.
Then, Peter suggested he join us...and so, a few minutes later, there CC and I were, humming away around a microphone with THE Peter Frampton harmonising with us... now that was surreal even for the standards of the previous ten days! It was a superb experience, with us 'Framptonettes' sitting in the studio working out our parts together, having a whole lot of fun and also getting to contribute to what is one of the stand out tracks on the album (not that we're biased ;-)

Christine, having been a huge fan of Peter's in her teenage years and admitting to him being her 'poster boy', was the most ecstatic of all of us - be sure to keep an eye on her website for her own excitable diary in the weeks to come!

After that quite frankly ridiculous experience, we visited the studio a couple more times to catch the flavour of the final days of recording. Davy was on great form, really excited about the record and rightly so. We also had great fun filming some John Mayer-style comedy sketches with the boy Knowles and some of his 'staff' - the most amusing one had to be an interview conducted with Jon Pleeter at the mighty CAA offices... watch this space for links!

So, no Mickey Mouse, and no Jaws, but plenty of good times had by all. Those ten days in LA really enlightened me as to why it's such a great place to be for creative people. I really surprised myself by admitting that I could easily move out there - and actually, because of the quirk of family fate that leads me to have an American passport, I actually could....hmmm..... see y'all!!

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Dining with Radiohead and singing with Peter Frampton.

After a night of bellowed conversations with longtimenotseen friends last night, with us all screaming at each other over the superb heavy rock of live band Brazen, my poor throat has been stripped of several layers of skin and hurts like hell. Eating my Sunday bowl of properly-made porridge this morning was like swallowing shards of crushed glass - not good!

So a quick trip to town and a bottle of foul tasting Chloraseptic later, and here I am, sat at the macbook, sucking on Cadbury's Buttons (to disguise the hideous taste of the spray, you understand.)

It's been an interesting few weeks to say the least, involving a chicken dinner in a school hall with a member of Radiohead & his family, ten days of LA sunshine & countless meetings with fascinating industry types, not to mention unexpected BV sessions sharing a mic with bonafide rock legends...

I'll start with the chicken dinner. It was our good friend Roy's wedding, a small affair at a beautiful registry office in Leatherhead, Surrey, followed by an afternoon reception at his former primary school near Oxshot. The wedding itself was very special indeed; Roy and Rachel found each other only a year ago, with one marriage already behind them. Roy is a producer of plays and audio books and met Rachel, an actor, when they worked on an adapation of 'The Woman In White' together for BBC Radio 3. Their love is one of those truly beautiful things - they positively glow in each other's presence. They already have one gorgeous child together, Jamie, and a brand new bairn is bubbling up in Rachel as I type.

When Rachel walked through the doors of the registry, to the sounds of Lakme's Flower Duet, dressed in an absolutely stunning deep red dress with white fur trim and long white silk gloves, Roy's face exploded with adoration and there was barely a dry eye in the room (and I'm referring to the men here, too!) The ceremony was brief, but perfect, and the glorious sunshine in the adjacent gardens of the building made for a great location for sipping champagne and mingling with the party. We felt priveleged to have been a part of it all.

Dave and I knew maybe a dozen of the 30 or so guests, some of whom we rarely get to see, so it was great fun being able to catch up with everyone. When we moved on to the reception, we were a little disappointed to see we were the only couple of our group of friends who were sat away from everyone else, with people we didn't know - but still, we were on Table 2, immediately beside the main table, so we were honoured by the positioning.

I was sat beside a tall, well dressed man in a striped suit, his two young boys to the left of him and his gorgeous wife on the other side of the boys. The kids had strawberry blonde hair, so we immediately had plenty to talk about! 'Philip', it turned out, was a really lovely bloke - his family equally lovely (and the kids brilliantly mischievous, as 7/9 yr old boys should be). We chatted about banal stuff through the main course, which was a gorgeous chicken chasseur served out of the school's usual heated metal vats - great fun and very tasty. Then he mentioned that he was glad to be able to attend the wedding as he's usually away from home a lot.

'What do you do?' I asked.
'Oh, I'm a musician' he said.
Me - 'Ahh that would explain why we're sat together!'
Philip - 'Really? Why, do you play something too?'
Me - 'Oh I'm sorry, you go ahead & finish saying what you were saying, then I'll tell you what we do'
P - 'Right... well, I play drums'
M - 'Oh great! And you get to play all over the world? So, is that with a band then, or are you a session player?'
P - "Erm, well, yes, with a band actually'
M - 'Really? Would I know them?'
P - "Well, it's Radiohead...."

(insert very awkward pause and a stifled cough from me as I very nearly choked on a shallot)

Yes dear readers, there I was, sitting beside the unmistakable, baldheaded, striking figure of the legendary drummer Phil Selway**, and I didn't even notice. To my defense, I was NOT expecting to spend Roy's wedding reception sitting beside a member of one of my favourite bands, but still! HOW could I not recognise him?! Of course, as soon as he said it, I immediately realised my ignorance and it was as if his head morphed instantly into that of the one and only Phil From the 'Head, a likeness I was absolutely blind to before that point.

I then had to admit that I worked for Running Media, managing Corinne Bailey Rae who he's met before and who is a known, avid fan of the band. In other words, I really should have known better. I did, however, keep to myself the fact that I'm also an occasional indie DJ, who should be able to distinguish her Legendary Indie Rock Drummers from her EveryDay Wedding Guests...

I could have killed Roy for not warning me in advance but, as he said himself, if he HAD told me, I probably would have had palpitations and anxiety attacks from the second I entered the school and would have refused to sit down for fear of making a complete t*t of myself. I managed that rather well tho regardless, eh?! And anyway, killing Roy would have made for a very sad end to what had been a very beautiful day.

By the way, my eventual response to his announcement was something horrendously embarrassing like 'Oh right, of course, I thought you looked familiar!' ouch....

We did manage to continue having a fairly normal conversation throughout the pud (a splendid apple crumble drenched with lashings of thick, skin-ny custard), and I managed to refrain from becoming the jibbering wreck that I so desperately wanted to slip into. I think I was, in part, saved by the fact that everything I've ever known about Radiohead immediately vanished from the reachable parts of my memory as soon as he revealed his true identity - the facts and figures of a former DJ suddenly burying themselves in the darkest recesses of my shamed brain, not to be drawn out of hiding again until I'd stopped embarrassing myself and I could make correct use of them.

And sure enough, when one of these hovering Journo-Prompts DID rise to the surface and spit itself out before I could stop it (a dreadfully pre-fabricated line about the pressures of the band to always do something new and inventive and blah blah blah blah) he immediately shrank into himself, spooned a last dollop of custard into his gob and murmured that he really had to see to the kids (who were, at that point, being swung around by their ankles in the hallway by a slightly taller yoof.)

And as if by magic, there comes Radiohead now on the iTunes playlist!! Ahhh Bullet Proof. Such a great song - and yet, I cant quite bring myself to listen to it... so I'll log off for now, readjust the iTunes and tell you the tale of the LA studio session in my next blog. Enough excitement for today methinks!

My final words, though, have to be 'I'm so sorry BtB...!' You know who you are :)

CDH signing out, and reaching for more medication.

** I linked to that particular pic of Philip (who hates being called Phil, btw), because I think it's the exact same suit he wore at the wedding...HOW did I not recognise him?!

Haven't really bigged up any music in this blog, so I'll just copy the playlist that was on while typing this out - clearly I had my iTunes set to alphabetical!

Bleeder - Emiliana Torrini
Blind Love - Tom Waits
Blindsided - Bon Iver
Blondie's Call Me - Franz Ferdinand (from War Child 09)
Blood Upon Copper - Seth Lakeman
Blue Light, Red Light - Harry Connick Jnr
Blue Motel Room - Joni Mitchell
Blue Ridge Mountains - Fleet Foxes
Bob Dylan's Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat - Beck
Bodysnatchers - Radiohead

Boom Boom - John Lee Hooker
Born Under A Bad Sign - Richard Hawley
The Box - Johnny Flynn
Branches - Midlake
Breathe Me - Sia
Bride of Rain Dog - Tom Waits
Broken Down Cowboy - John Fogerty
and then (part of) Bullet Proof..I Wish I Was - Radiohead