Day Four Extra

Something different this time: one tiny embarrassing incident in comic strip form.

 

While I’ve made this an extra for Day 4 (that’s Newcastle in case you were wondering), this happened more times than I care to think about right now. How to go from God of Rock to complete humilation in one easy step.

 

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Release The Bats

28th October 2006
Pins & Needles Hallowe’en Party at Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes

I am on stage dressed as a nun. What this actually means is that I am
wearing tights and one of Deborah’s dresses, and she has made me a
nun’s habit-style headpiece and a wooden crucifix to wear around my
neck. It’s a fancy dress Hallowe’en party and we are all dressed as
nuns apart from Grant. Grant is dressed as a vicar. For some reason he
was feeling a bit grumpy about dragging up. It being Hallowe’en we

thought rather than dressing up as monsters we’d dress up in the other
team’s uniform. Some of us are drunk. I am not. I am pissed, but
pissed meaning ‘off’. We were late onstage due to Grant and Simon
getting stuck in a bar queue so enormous that I gave up on ever
getting served and stropped to the stage instead. Woe is me; I didn’t
even have a glass of water!

I don’t think the gig is going particularly well. Half the crowd is in
the bar queue, and there are people bowling. Why are they not paying
us any attention? Damn them. Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes – the venue we
are playing at – has had numerous articles written about it recently.
Apparently this sort of thing is cool nowadays. It’s not just about
going to see a gig anymore, it’s about the whole circus. See some
bands! Have some drinks! Bowl! Do karaoke! From onstage it feels a bit
PUPPET SHOW! (and Spinal Tap). My ego is not happy.

We play a couple of songs. They seem to go down OK with the brave
souls paying attention. As one song draws to a close, I look down at
my guitar to get my bearings before we crash into the next song when I
notice a stain on my dress.

A white stain.

An encrusted white stain.

It can’t be? Can it?

Oh God. It is.

I am onstage in front of a huge, Saturday night crowd, dressed as a
nun in a cum-stained dress.

I explode. In my head. I keep it all in onstage, but I am fucking
furious. Deborah can tell something is up but I am not going to let
on. I am a professional. Honest. The show goes on. We bash through the
rest of the set and I strop my arse off, taking my aggression out on
my guitar. Our penultimate song, The House That Guilt Built, is always
pretty dramatic, but this time round there is FIRE as I kick seven
shades of the brown stuff out of my guitar. We close with I Am Not A
Monkey and I chuck my guitar to the floor and storm off the stage and
to the gents.

Deborah can tell something is up. I tear the dress off and throw it at
her in horror.

“THERE IS A FUCKING CUM STAIN ON THIS DRESS!” I scream at her.

When I get back, Deborah repeatedly assures me that it’s candle wax.
She even invites me to sniff it to check. I decline and maturely
refuse to back down. Someone gets me a drink and eventually calm is
restored, a karaoke booth procured and we’re all friends again.

To this day, I am unsure as to whether it genuinely was candle wax or not…

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Day Twenty Nine

23rd October 2007 – London 93 Feet East

Or “The End”

 

We had talked up the last show of the tour for the last couple of dates. One particular night, SohoDolls guitarist Toni had drunkenly plotted a massive end-of-tour blow-out. We would join them onstage for an extra-special extended version of their set-closer, their recent single Stripper. 586 would play percussion and together we would perform a massive extended intro, building on the song’s glam stomp with tribal rhythms bashed out on congas and tom-toms. He and I would play duelling guitar solos. Encouraged by Deborah and Simon, Toni’s ideas for the last show became increasingly extravagant, building into a crescendo where he triumphantly decreed we would get some ‘Zulu dancers’. It would be a massive party, the celebration to end all celebrations.

 

We spent the following days mocking this, repeatedly saying “We’ll get some Zulu dancers” in approximations of a thick Yorkshire accent. Toni wasn’t from Yorkshire. He was Finnish. It was hilarious. Honest. No? Hmm. You probably had to be there.

 

On the actual day itself, I rocked up for soundcheck late. We had been touring with SohoDolls for six weeks. I had no interest in getting there early and spending time bored out of my skull in Brick Lane waiting for them to finish. I’d probably end up drinking, and I didn’t want to drink. Not tonight. I didn’t really feel like I needed to drink before going onstage any more. At the beginning of the tour, I absolutely had to have a drink before going onstage, but I would play this show totally sober. Still, this was the last date of the tour. It felt like it should be a massive Event. It felt like there should be emotional goodbyes, an exchanging of records perhaps, promises to keep in touch and maybe some form of party, either backstage or in a nearby pub. Maybe someone should cry. In reality? SohoDolls soundchecked. Then 586 soundchecked. Around 9pm-ish 586 played a 25 minute set. At 10pm SohoDolls played a slightly longer set. We didn’t join them for Stripper. There were no Zulu dancers, no duelling guitar solos, no end of tour back slap. Once it was all over, the venue lights came on and Sam went back to her flat, Deb, Simon and Grant went back to The George and I went home and to bed, probably checking our MySpace account before I went to sleep. On Wednesday 24th October 2007, I went back to work.

 

I am still there.

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Day Twenty Eight

22nd October 2007 – Manchester Saki
Or “In the shitty.”

Simon and I were in a trance. As the van thundered through the Pennines, we were utterly oblivious to everything expect The Beat. To an outsider it was just a standard four-to-the-floor kick drum pattern, but to us it was an anchor, holding us psychologically and spiritually in place while all around was colour, a wash of sound evolving and moulding around the soft but relentless thumping of the 808 kick drum. As the rain poured from the sky, it felt for a short while like technology and nature were both in time with the music, the windscreen wipers snapping to attention in time with the snare, the percussion of the rain tapping patterns and filling in the space between beats. We were dragged further and further into a forest of sound, sinking into our surroundings as a patchwork quilt of sonic psychedelia was woven around us. Through us. Neither he nor I had spoken for what seemed an age, but we were oblivious to all but The Beat. We only noticed how long we had been silent when finally, over a familiar, jet engine style sound rising to a crescendo amongst the synths my throat cracked as I turned to Simon.

“Nice use of flange, that.” I said.

**********

I had spent Sunday recovering from the trauma of the journey home from Wolverhampton. I had made a point not to speak to any members of 586. We needed the break. The last couple of days had exacted their toll. I spent the day catching up with email and thawing out, knowing that, sadly, I was off to Manchester again tomorrow. Manchester! Again! So soon? I was so not up for this.

We were separated from SohoDolls one final time before the upcoming last date of the tour to play an all-day “fringe” event at In The City. In The City is an annual musical convention, combining – in the words of their website – “a daytime hub of industry debate with a city-wide live festival, gathering the music industry in Manchester and providing a forum for the hottest discussion topics, while showing the public and cheque-waving A&Rs some of the best emerging musical talent in the world.” To me, reading about it in the NME as I grew up, it sounded like Mecca. The palace at the end of the musical yellow brick road where reputations were forged and multi-album deals signed, a place where 586 could go, conquer all before them, sign some paper and head off into the future to become the next Madness. Sadly, we were turned down by the event proper. Some numpty with nothing to do with the festival itself decided to put on a “fringe” event, so we were suckered into playing that instead.

I have no idea why we agreed to do this. We had failed to secure a place amongst the hundreds of bands playing across the city as part of the event proper. Surely that was a big enough hint? And what with our track record in Manchester…why we thought at any point that playing an unofficial fringe event would be an amazing showcase that might – just might – get us signed for the elusive album deal is beyond me. With all those excitable music industry types failing to see so many of the hip ‘n’ hot bands playing the actual event, they were hardly going to leave the city centre to pay an additional fee to see the bands that weren’t good enough for the main event, were they? But still we signed up enthusiastically.

Deborah had a shift at The George and Sam and Grant were back at their day jobs for today, so they planned to travel up by train in the evening while Simon and I took the van. The weather was glorious – until we hit Yorkshire – and the journey was surprisingly enjoyable. We listened excitedly and obsessively to Hot Chip’s recently leaked Shake A Fist, playing it over and over until we eventually swapped it for a couple of late 80s early 90s Kiss FM mixes I had downloaded over the weekend. They were a bit special, all hypnotic beats and psychedelic synths. As the van travelled down county lanes outside Manchester, we were sucked into the layers of sound wafting around the constant, thumping four-to-the-floor kick drum beat, travelling miles in complete silence until, excited by one synth sound in particular, I leant over to Simon and said: “Cracking use of flange, that.” And then we were silent again.

We arrived at the venue around five. The first band had been due to start playing at four. The room was full of confused looking band members, half a PA system and Fall front man Mark E Smith. What the fuck? There has been some sort of confusion over the PA, but it was OK, we were told. The promoter was on it. Simon and I hit the bar and wondered if we should work up the courage to go talk to Mark E Smith. I wasn’t/am not a big fan of The Fall, but Simon was. In the end, we decided not to. Well, not yet. Let’s get some drinks down us first and then go and talk to him. ‘Cos that won’t end in disaster.

One by one, Deborah, Sam and Grant arrived. The evening wore on and still nothing happened. Nothing at all. There was still no PA. The promoter would occasionally nip through the venue trying not to talk to anyone. At some point a band played half a set. Then stopped. No-one knew what was going on. We couldn’t work out if the venue was full of ticket holders or just the sheer volume of other bands that were due to be playing. On the wall was a poster featuring the line-up. There were so many bands…one of them had played half a set, and there was something silly like seven more bands to go before us. Considering everything was due to start at four o’clock, by 7.30 we were starting to get angsty. Really angsty. Sam was supposed to be going to work tomorrow, and she was driving us home. We had planned to leave straight after our scheduled performance at 10.30. With seven bands expecting to play a half hour set each, plus changeover times, there was no way we would be leaving this side of midnight. Not ideal. Deborah went to find the promoter to see what was going on and whether we could go on at our agreed time.

We bumped into the boys from Bolt Action Five, milling around and looking irritated. Bolt Action Five were another London-based band that we had shared a bill with many times before. They were great, slightly nu-rave and full of energy and wit. They were fucked off with all the waiting and nonsense though, so had decided to go home. They could see this was getting nowhere. Deborah returned. Apparently we would be on “soon.”

Hours passed with nothing happening. A band played at some point. Then another. They were called Bono Must Die. Brilliant name, terrible band. The sound mix wasn’t good. All the while the promoter would be reassuring Deborah that we would be on shortly, then disappearing. The bands were all talking, however, and a mutiny was building. Everywhere the guy would go, he would be harassed by exasperated band members.

We were sticking around because we had a bit of a “show must go on” attitude. We had been advised over the phone by management to wait it out, ‘cos when we played it would be worth it. There would be press, there would be A&R, etcetera.

10.30 came and went with no sign of us going onstage. The atmosphere in the room was turning nasty, with many bands going home. The promoter walked past me, so I used the opportunity to accost him. Deborah had already tried reasoning with the guy a couple of times, and he had been increasingly rude to her. He tried to fob me off, so I used my leg to block his way first, then grabbed him by the lapels and pushed him up against a nearby doorframe.

“What. Fucking. Time. Are. We. Going. On?” I demanded. He stammered and spluttered ineffectually, wriggled free and dashed off to the bar.

As the night wore on, more and more bands went home in frustration. We were going to do the same, but then a little after midnight, Deborah managed to take control and we took to the stage area and kicked off with Money Is The Drug. The onstage sound was appalling. Our performance was fucking appalling. We seemed to be going down really well with the punters that were still here, but I had worked myself up into a rage and the terrible, barely-musical mess that we were making onstage was not helping matters. I stropped my way through the performance, almost storming offstage at one point before giving in to the constant fucking feedback during The House That Guilt Built and I Am Not A Monkey and thrashing wildly at my guitar. As the last song came to its close, I put my guitar down in front of my amp, cranked the volume up to full and put all my effects pedals on with their settings at their most extreme, saluted the audience and fucked off away from the stage quick sharp. I was furious with frustration.

I scurried back two minutes later with my tail between my legs to pack up my equipment. Note to self: a dramatic flounce offstage only works if you have roadies to clean up after you. We immediately loaded our equipment into the van and got the Hell out of there as quick at possible. No-one was happy. We didn’t bother collecting our fee from the promoter. Malcolm could sort that out later. We just wanted to go home. The journey was made to a soundtrack of complaining, snapping and whining – and that was just me – peppered with the occasional snores and snoozes from the rest of the band while I stayed awake to keep Sam company, powered by really strong coffee. We realised that the show had been a complete waste of time and we felt really, really stupid. Neither booking agent or anyone from our management or PR people had made it to the show, let alone any stray A&R. We didn’t even appear in any of the reviews. We should have left when Bolt Action Five left. As the van hit the Yorkshire border, it started to rain. Hard.

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I Got Bored Of Rock In 1988 (Part Four)

Spring 2004

“Or I Got Bored Of Rock In 1988”

Part four: In which 586 recruit a drummer, rehearse for the first time, play their first gig and make friends with another band, the quite frankly amazing Happycasio. ‘Twas a good couple of months. It’s worth noting that Johnny Borrell out of Razorlight was in the audience for that historic first show, but I couldn’t find anywhere to put that in the main text and I’m not entirely convinced anyone reading this would be that impressed. I wouldn’t be. But still, he was there. Apparently.

June 2000. Helen and I have not been going out for long, but we have decided to head to Somerset for the Glastonbury Festival. 2000 was the last year before the giant impenetrable fence was built, so Helen and I are the only two of our friend group to have actually paid for a ticket. Everyone else we speak to – literally everyone else – has jumped the fence. This couldn’t last, sadly, and in the year off that followed, festival site owner Michael Eavis unveiled the unscalable superfence. It would secure the festival borders and – most importantly – its future, but a little something of the atmosphere died off and we have since found ourselves in the peculiar situation where it is now impossible for someone to, as I did, decide to attend the week before the event on a whim.

This is my first festival, and it is a life changing experience. So many bands, so little time. As we arrive on the campsite the air is thick with possibility and the stink of cow shit. It’s a Thursday. The sun is setting as we come up to the Pyramid Stage and it looks wonderful. Call me a fucking hippy, but as we wander round the festival site taking it all in everything feels a bit magical. There really is nothing like it. We pitch our tent at the top of the hill in front of the Pyramid Stage and crack open the first bottle of the Asda Smart Price vodka we have snuck in. Life is sweet. Also camped nearby are Helen’s loud, obnoxious friend from the Camden Palace – that Deborah girl – and Helen’s ex-boyfriend, Russell. Russell is not happy that Helen has moved on. I later learn that at one point, with a friend for back-up, he had come looking for me, intending to kick my head in.

The friend was some guy named Grant Purser.

************

March 2004

 

We are mere weeks away from – potentially – our first gig, but we still don’t have a drummer. We’ve told the promoter we’re definitely going to play, but the clock is tick-tock-ticking away. Deborah has mentioned a chap she knows from Worthing, but I’m sceptical. Worthing is the seaside town she and Helen had come from. It is lovely and all that, but it’s bloody miles away from us in London. How the Hell are we supposed to rehearse? Deborah is convinced he is the perfect candidate, but my doubts are fuelled by the fact he is in another band already. Alarm bells ring. I do NOT want to share MY drummer with some other fuckers. I want his or her full attention. That seemed to be the thing with drummers back then. They were all, without fail, in another band already. The drummer was some guy named Grant Purser.

Grant Purser:

I met Deborah towards the end of 1996 in a club in Worthing called The Factory. A sweaty (literally, condensation would drip down the concrete walls) indie/alternative club that had (sweaty) walls decorated by Worthing comic artist Jamie Hewlett (then famous for his comic Tank Girl). I fancied Deborah’s friend, so obviously found it easier to speak to Deborah. A small gang of bright young things including Deborah and myself began to hang out in Worthing cafes reading Melody Maker and NME and even formed our first band, Catharsis, although I don’t recall any music being written. Deborah had lyrics for songs such as It’s Hard To Be A Potato and What If Mr Benn Was A Size 16? that she would sing loudly to anybody that would listen.

 

Steven Horry:

Deborah was still singing “It’s Hard To Be A Potato” when I first met her, and she would continue to do so throughout the 586 days. I did contact her to find out how the lyrics went, but sadly she’s ignoring that particular request.

Grant was up in London for some reason or another and they hung out for a bit. She played him the 5 track demo we were hawking around. He didn’t think it was too bad.

Grant:

I remember liking I’m Terribly Sorry and being impressed with Deborah’s vocals on it. I also thought there is no way I will be good enough to drum for this band and you may be too ‘electronic’ for me.

Steve:

Deborah wasn’t getting anywhere on the organisational front, so she gave me Grant’s number in order for rehearsal to be arranged. A text was dispatched. He replied quickly. This was a good start. Drummers are notoriously flaky. It turned out that his father Malcolm is also a musician and had converted the Purser family garage into a rehearsal studio, so Grant suggested we come down to Worthing and use that for a couple of all-day intensive rehearsals before the gig. I was up for that and so were Deborah, Simon and Sam, so we put some dates in the diary. I spent a couple of evenings at Sam’s flat in Victoria Park teaching her the songs and then we were off. After our introduction at the Vibe Bar I had given her a copy of the demo. She also seemed to like the demos, but whilst she owned two bass guitars, she didn’t know how to play either of them. She had two or three weeks to learn…

Sam Christie:

I remember thinking that you’d looked to me like an indie kid, and we’d talked about bands like you were an indie kid and that your demo did not sound like an indie kid’s band. Wasn’t sure if that was good for me or not. I really liked Oh Suzie – that was the song that made me think you/we could sound like a ‘real’ band rather than a ‘my mate’s in a band’ band. And I remember playing along in my bedroom and practising my rock poses, obviously. Mark (Heffernan) still swears I had a bass stance. I swear I didn’t. Though, I barely moved, in fairness, so maybe he mistook shyness for standing still and posing! And I remember thinking back to Year 10 P.E. and pretending I was Nicky Wire with my tennis racket and laughing at how things turn out. I thought I’m Terribly Sorry was hilarious and why hadn’t anyone thought of that before?

Steve:

Any train journey to the seaside is exciting, but one to rehearse, finally, with the band you’ve been planning obsessively in your head for years is even more so. Even if some of your new bandmates (Deborah) are late so you miss the train you were planning to get and end up having to wait ages for the next one. And the journey to Worthing is especially awesome if you, like me, are obsessed with the band Suede. Not only is Worthing mentioned in first album closer The Next Life, but the train goes though Haywards Heath, the (oh yes) satellite town where Brett Anderson and Mat Osman grew up. Then on the right, as you head from Hove to Worthing, looms a giant building that is either a school or a church that basically looks like Hogwarts. On the left is the constant threat of a glimpse of sea. I was buzzing.

We met Grant at the station and followed him to his parents’ house. I wasn’t sure what to make of him. He seemed a bit stand-offish, a bit cool. I didn’t think he liked me, but we needed a drummer and we only had a couple of weeks to go so I went with it, made all friendly and let him lead the way. When we arrived at the house, he took us to the back garden and the studio. I fell in love with it instantly. Situated at the bottom of the Purser family garden, the studio was a big converted garage with a control room on the side, containing a big old vintage mixing desk under a window looking in on the live room. The live room was long and rectangular, with a drum riser at the far end, two Marshall stack guitar amps, a Trace Elliott bass amp, a PA and various mic stands. If it was at the bottom of my garden, I’d never spend any time in the house. I was seriously impressed. Next to the PA mixer in the live room was a digital 8 track recording unit. Ooh. If things went well, maybe we could even record it…

We picked our floor space and started setting up our instruments. I tuned my guitar up and, while checking my sounds, cranked out the riff to Blur’s She’s So High. Grant took the cue and started drumming along, perfectly recreating Dave Rowntree’s drums. Here was a man with potential.

Once we started on our songs, things were much more tentative. We tried I’m Terribly Sorry first, utilising a backing track with a click track to keep Grant in time. He wasn’t happy about playing to a click, but said he’d give it a go. The backing track kicked in…

…and we were well ropey. Hmm. We tried again. Still ropey. Two weeks didn’t seem like a lot of time all of a sudden. Fuck. We tried once more. It was awful. We kept going out of time with the backing, and once Simon and I kicked in with the guitars it sounded inaudible anyway, so we couldn’t tell until the quiet bits. My vision of a My Bloody Valentine-gone-hip-hop beast was disappearing down the pan. Fuck fuck fuck. We took a break, stepping outside into the summer sun. After some panicked discussion, it was decided to try a different song, but to ditch out the backing tracks. Grant looked visibly relieved.

We moved on to Eloping With The Devil. Without all the samples and loops it sounded different, but I liked it. It was still kind of loping hip-hop, just a bit more lo-fi. A bit more Blur. I could live with that. Reasonably pleased with how it was sounding, we moved on to Oh Suzie. It sounded great, in a tentative kind of way. We bashed through the pair of them a couple of times and before we knew it hometime beckoned. Grant set up the 8 track to record the two songs and I took a copy on minidisc with me. I listened to nothing else for the next week. I was in love with my new band. We were going to be AMAZING!

Grant:

I remember thinking I was shit and you guys wouldn’t be rushing to ask me to join…. I sort of remember either overhearing or being told that you and Sam had snuck a peek at my CDs and seen a couple of Bis singles and this was a good thing for you.

Steve:

We travelled down again the following week, set up and got ready to do it all over again. Grant and I played She’s So High again, but got to work as soon as everyone else was set up. The second rehearsal was STRESSFUL. We got our heads down, kept faffing to a minimum and by the end of the day we had a five song setlist featuring Eloping With The Devil, Like Good Liars, ….wires, Oh Suzie and I Am Not A Monkey. Neither my ego nor I was overly happy about opening with a song Deborah sang solo, but I figured I was singing harmonies and it would take some pressure off, so I could live with it. I guessed.

When the fateful day arrived, I was nervous. Really nervous. I obsessed about everything, especially what to wear. In the end, my Duran Duran obsession won and I went with a white blazer with the sleeves rolled up over worn-denim flares, brown shoes and a Belle & Sebastian t-shirt. We were due on around 9ish, with Remodel on after and Yeti headlining. When the venue opened, Mark and Leigh were wandering around working the room and looking sharp in matching Merc suits, all relaxed smiles and friendly welcomes. I was a ball of nervous energy, completely incapable of holding a conversation longer than two minutes long and heading to the bar and back with alarming frequency. Things only got worse the closer we got to 9pm. When stage time finally came, we were all shitting it.

Sam Christie:

I was terrified. I know I’d be fine for gigs afterwards, but I was very nervous about the first one. Not about standing up in front of people or anything (I was teaching English and did that sort of thing all day) but actually playing an instrument in public that wasn’t the flute was scary. I think we played about 5 songs and we were probably ropey at best, but I think we were quite pleased with ourselves anyway!

Steve:

In the end, opening with Eloping turned out to be a good thing: it calmed my nerves slightly and I was able to expend some energy jumping about while playing. And when we kicked into Like Good Liars and I finally did start singing…it was ok! Not exactly Scott Walker, barely Damon Albarn yawning, but not awful either. By the time I realised I was enjoying myself hugely it was all over.

Bugger.

We unplugged our instruments and got off the stage. Our friends were encouraging, which was great, but – and this was even better – complete strangers came to us with compliments. I wasn’t expecting that. In previous bands I would come offstage and we would be lucky if anyone, even our friends, acknowledged we had played. From the very beginning, 586 was different. It wasn’t a hassle to get friends to come support us and every gig would end with us making new friends who would also come see us again. It was a genuinely exciting time. From this gig onwards, life began to accelerate. Every gig would be better than the last, building and building until it all went tits-up. But more of that later.

Remodel took to the stage quickly and I was jealous. They looked like a band. Well, Leigh and Mark did. Their matching suits looked great, but the bassist looked like he had just fallen out of bed, with his shirt hanging out and his trousers loose and saggy. Their set was good though. Really good. Certainly better than Yeti, who were every inch the boring bassist’s side project one expected.

We were trolleyed come the end of the night and were delighted to be asked back to play at The Pleasure Unit again. We were very much up for that. From this point on we settled very quickly into a routine. We would rehearse once or twice a week in London or sometimes Worthing, with Deborah and I having a Lambrini-fuelled writing session once a week at either her flat in Whitechapel or my parents’ house in Erith. She and I would then travel to Simon’s for a recording session to properly demo the songs, which would be sent to the others to learn. This was useful for Sam, as she was still new to her instrument, but Grant very quickly started ignoring our demos and doing what he liked on the drums. I didn’t mind though. What he did was normally better anyway. He drummed like Dave Rowntree. That worked for me. The electronics were gently consigned to the past and we started to relax into a beaten-up kind of wonky pop sound.

The second Pleasure Unit show was much, much better than the first. It was our turn to work the room with relaxed smiles this time. Leigh, Mark, Dave White and I DJed and we even befriended another band. They were called Happycasio! and were amazing. Absolutely amazing. A six-piece band of friends whom I initially dismissed as being another bunch of Joy Division wannabes, as their set progressed I found myself warming to them more and more. The singer looked like a bruiser and sounded a bit like Ian Curtis. There were two guitarists, a tall, blonde, floppy fringed fella and a slightly shorter guy with a mop of curly hair and an English Civil War-era moustache. While he played in a choppy, physical way, the blonde chap was a bit funkier, but in a white boy indie way. The two opposing styles complimented each other really well. We all fancied the bass player, a brunette named Cat who we found out was going out with the blonde guy.

Sam Christie:

I thought they sounded like Joy Division, but I don’t like Joy Division and I DID like them. And I didn’t fancy Cat, I fancied the guitarist who looked like a cavalier. I remember they had a theremin, which made me think they were ace – and good songs that speeded up at the chorus so we could sway along. It was only really Mark’s voice (so many Marks!) that sounded like Ian Curtis, not really the band.

Steve:

After their set, we bounded over to tell them how good they were. And we meant it! They were brilliant. They had electronics and post-punk doom bass and interesting guitars and I loved them. They did the same after our set and we had a big old inter-band love-in. They were not only fantastic, but really nice people too.

At the end of the night, we discovered that they appeared to have stolen our bass guitar. They couldn’t have…?

It’s OK! They hadn’t. They had taken it by accident though. I had a really friendly telephone conversation with the singer, whose name turned out to be Mark, while I was on my lunch break at work. He was super nice. We sorted out an instrument swap and he told me he had bootlegged our gig. Amazing!

Things were going swimmingly. We had played two well-received shows, we were friends with two also-brilliant bands and we were looking forward to our first show at a venue that wasn’t the Pleasure Unit, though they had also asked us back AGAIN as well. Through We Got Bored Of Rock In 1988 we had wangled a gig at The Vibe Bar. As we were there every week and knew all the bar staff by now, we decided to rehearse extra hard so as not to look silly. A last rehearsal was booked for a Saturday morning as we couldn’t get a later slot in any of our usual studios. Simon hadn’t been keen, but he had acquiesced eventually.

Grant, Sam, Deborah and I were all on time, but an hour and a half into the rehearsal it became apparent Simon wasn’t going to be joining us. We were pissed off. Although we ranted for a little while, by the time the session came to a close, we had come round to the idea that it was funny and that getting wound up about it was silly. Though we did have an idea. We would all text him at the same time with the same word. Just the one word, one very simple word to give him some abuse for not turning up. We laughed to ourselves as we all typed the word ‘cunt’ into a new SMS and hit the ‘send’ button simultaneously, giggling like schoolgirls.

We would not hear back from Simon for a very long time. A mere handful of gigs in, and Simon Dempsey had left 586.

*********************

Although I’m sure it was Grant who told me once that both he and Russell were going to beat me senseless at Glastonbury 2000, when I asked him about it for this he remembered events slightly differently. So, for completeness…

 

Steve: So, Glastonbury 2000. You wanted to give me a kicking, eh? Tell me about that.

 

Grant: One of those bright young things was a guy called Russell who had recently split up with a girl called Helen. You were at Glastonbury with Helen and Russell wanted to kick your head in. I believe I talked him out of it. 

So there you go.

BONUS!

OMG it’s a recording of the first 586 rehearsal! Live from the Purser family studio on Saturday 10th April 2004. Look out for the bum note on the guitar towards the beginning of Eloping With The Devil.

Oh Suzie

Eloping With The Devil

BONUS! 2

Well, not bonus content, but a link: Happycasio!’s MySpace. I’d recommend going straight to Other Side Of Town. It’s epic, and one of the best things they ever recorded. My favourite of their recordings could be found on the Big Shaped & Square Sized EP, but sadly that isn’t online. In the unlikely event that any of Happycasio! are reading this, GUYS. GET IT ONLINE. IT’S STILL BRILLIANT.

Oh, and PS: it still bums me off that you never recorded Unlikely Sources.

Happycasio!

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Day Twenty Seven

20th October 2007 Wolverhampton Little Civic

Or “The morning after.”

 

I woke up with a thumping hangover. Actually, no. Not just a thumping hangover, but THE single worst hangover I have ever suffered in my life. Ever. I wasn’t used to this. I had been lucky. Despite my best efforts, at the grand old age of 27 – knocking on 28 – I was fortunate enough to be able to count the number of hangovers I had endured on the fingers of one hand. I would have had to use all four fingers, but – crucially – I wouldn’t have needed to use my thumb. From the morning of the 20th October 2007, nothing would ever be the same again. On the 20th October 2007, everything changed.

I was still in the position I had collapsed into last night. Not that I remembered collapsing. I couldn’t remember a thing. I slowly became aware of some form of movement around me. Obviously my bandmates were getting ready for the next leg of the journey. I wasn’t ready for that yet. I felt rotten. As I hazily started to get my act together, I became vaguely aware of a ‘vibe’ in the hotel room. None of the band appeared to be talking to me. This was confusing. I didn’t remember much of the previous night, but I thought I’d been on quite good form. But Sam wouldn’t even look me in the eye.

While I showered and did my hair, everyone else left the room to take their stuff to the van. The weird mood was still present when I finally joined everyone downstairs. I didn’t have a clue what was going on, so just assumed everyone else was being weird. Maybe they were hungover too. Miserable fuckers. It was Deborah who finally told me I had shouted and screamed at Sam last night.

Oh.

I felt mildly guilty, but still a little voice told me she was probably over-reacting. I was merrily oblivious to her angst at being back in Doncaster at this point. I got into the back of the van feeling pretty ropey and we made our way back to the venue to pick up our equipment. By the time we arrived at the Priory, I thought I was going to die. I felt absolutely fucking appalling. Is this what hangovers were like all the time? Was this normal? This? And people still do this to themselves? What the fuck? The others started loading the equipment into the van, but I was curled in the foetal position in semi-drunk agony. It soon became apparent that I couldn’t have helped even if I’d wanted to. I wasn’t allowed in the venue.

Um, what?

The security guard responsible for chucking me out at 5am was talking to my bandmates. He appeared to take great pleasure in telling them what had happened last night. As he spoke, disconnected memories starting seeping painfully back into my skull. I was desperate for him to fucking shut the fuck up as my cheeks reddened with shame. I lay there in the back of the van on the stinking mattress feeling utterly hateful. The trickle became a flood and more of the previous night returned and The Fear kicked in, joined by a wave of nausea and their good friend The Guilt. The security guard finished his tales with a chuckle and the rest of the band finished packing the instruments, giggling. We drove off in search of food. I couldn’t quite make out what anyone was saying up front, but I was convinced – no, I absolutely knew – that they were laughing at me.

The van pulled into a car park outside a local KFC. Everyone else got out, but I stayed in the van, motionless, six feet and three inches of dead weight, self-loathing and dizziness. I was mildly hammered and drifted in and out of sleep. I just wanted it all to stop. I was not in the happy place. After an eternity my bandmates returned, took the piss out of me a bit and we hit the road to Wolverhampton. I wasn’t forgiven as such yet, but I wasn’t excluded any more.

I was still subdued when we arrived at the Little Civic. I had decided not to drink. While SohoDolls soundchecked, I taught Sam the bassline for the Jackson 5’s I Want You Back and we considered covering it that night. We had a go as a band during our soundcheck, but we didn’t know the structure or all the words and, y’know, Michael Jackson wasn’t a bad singer and all, so after a couple of goes we abandoned the idea. Weston was convinced we should do it, but we weren’t having any of it. Mark Heff, his dad and his brother were coming. We didn’t want to be shit in front of people we knew. We hung around the venue, waiting for showtime. I kept to my vow and didn’t touch any of the rider. Drinking really was the last thing I wanted to do. I started to consider going teetotal. Perhaps a major life change was around the corner.

Stage time came and the venue was deserted. There was talk of going on later, but fuck that. I just wanted to get it all over with, go back to the van and go to sleep, so a borderline empty room in Wolverhampton received a slightly subdued show compared to the recent joyfests. We were efficient but perfunctory. I had seriously debated singing from a stool beforehand, which would have broken one of my Important Onstage Rules but I had drunkenly injured my ankle somehow last night. I decided against it on the basis that, should anyone actually turn up during our set, I was not going to look like as much of a numpty as I felt.

The room was busier by the time SohoDolls came on. I watched on bitterly. I was fed up. I still felt ill and just wanted to get the night over with. It was the last night of the weeks touring: we were going home tomorrow. Everything would be ok when we got home. While SohoDolls played their set, Sam Christie said her goodbyes and left with the Heffernans, making her way to Shropshire for a weekend with her in-laws and a peaceful night’s sleep in a proper bed. We were jealous. The rest of us had nowhere to stay, so were preparing for a night in the back of the van. The van wouldn’t be so bad if the venue staff would let us leave our gear in the dressing room overnight, and all Deborah had to do was flirt with Matt a bit and she’d get his hotel room for the night, so that was her sorted. The remaining three of us in the van? That might not be comfortable, but it was as bearable as things were going to get. We thought we might as well get sorted, so enquired after leaving our instruments in the venue.

The venue staff said no. Now there was a slap in the face. Deborah came back from talking to Matt. She wasn’t happy. He wanted his bed to himself.

Ah.

We were confronted with the reality of four of us sleeping in the van with all our instruments, amplification and percussion. There was no way there would be enough room. Deborah HAD to stay with Matt. Not staying with Matt was not an option. She was up for persisting, but the more she pushed it the less keen Matt was. He was totally not having any of it. Oh come on, man.

I reached a point of irritation so took the van key and went to get comfortable, leaving the others to the rest of their night. After 10 minutes, Grant and Simon joined me and we sat in the back of the van drinking from a bottle of whiskey. Deborah had chosen to stay in the venue to make one last attempt to convince Matt that he should let her stay with him. We knew she would get her way so our moods perked up. We played cards and told dirty jokes. We might actually get some sleep.

A familiar silhouette appeared at the end of the street. Deborah had failed and was on her way back to the van.

Fuck.

We flicked the light off quickly, ducked out of view and pretended to be asleep. If we put her in a position where she thinks she can’t get in the van, then Matt would have to take her back with him, right?

Deborah banged heavily on the door of the van. We lie still, eyes shut, desperately trying to look like we were asleep. “Let me in!” she shouted, banging the door and rocking the van. This carried on for a couple of minutes before Simon cracked:

“SHUT THE FUCK UP!” he bellowed.

He offered her a deal: if she slept in the front of the van, on the seats, she could come in. That way we would all have room. Deborah agreed. Simon unlocked the door, Deborah climbed in, shut the door and climbed over the seat into the back of the van, forcibly squeezing us all aside to make room. I ended up being semi-spooned by her, with my front rammed right up against the back of the seats. I swore at her. We all swore at her. We swore at each other. Not one of us slept well that night.

Night turned to day and tired, ratty and argumentative, we stretched into consciousness. Everyone wanted to be home as soon as possible. Simon and Deborah started arguing over who would drive. Eventually they agreed a shift system and we hit the road. The journey home was a long, painful drone of bickering, shouting, Johnny Cash tapes and the constant threat of panic attacks from all corners. At one point we ended up stuck at a motorway service station for an hour and a half with both drivers either unwilling or unable to take control for the rest of the adventure. When we finally got moving again, the bickering continued. All the way down to London, all the way through London and all the way to the doors of The George Tavern, where we were parking the van. I helped unload our stuff to our storage space in the pub and ordered a cab back to Greenwich. I couldn’t be doing with the DLR. I just wanted to get home the quickest way possible and I wanted to go to sleep. I needed a break from these people and this fucking situation. All of this – and I meant all of this – could go fuck itself

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Day Twenty Six

19th October 2007 Doncaster Priory

Or “the man is an idiot.”

 

“hi becky,

although i no its not your fault and i like some of the bands on your roster i would not book 586 again, simply because of the behaviour of the lead singer of the band. other members of the band apologised for him along side the soho dolls themselves.  my manager paid the guy, which we didnt have to do and was a gesture on our part as we were told the support band was free. only for the guy to say he hadnt been paid at the end of the night 3.30am. anyway my manager then pointed out to which pocket and a phone number what was with the money,only for the guy to refuse to look in the said pocket.anyway the arguments went on and on. the man is an idiot ! and a very bad drunk.my manager was still there at nearly six in the morning with the guy and had to call back one of our doormen to the club.

our feelings were forwarded on the band to helter skelter.

cheers gary”

The “lead singer” is me, by the way.

 

*************

The day started off sensibly enough, but as we arrived in Doncaster storm clouds gathered. SohoDolls tour manager Mikko was taking a day out from the tour to work elsewhere, and without his organisational presence it became clear very quickly that at least half of SohoDolls were off the leash. They were not alone.

Sam Christie:

I REALLY wanted to get shitfaced that night. I was having horrendous memories of living there/(her parents) divorce/evil family members/etc and was scared I was going to see people I didn’t want to, etc. So it was all going on in my head…ick.

 

We had booked a hotel. Despite the parking ticket fuck-up in Manchester, we were coming to the end of the tour and felt a splurge was in order. We deserved it, damn it. Doncaster was cold and wet and miserable, so the idea of sleeping in the van tonight could quite frankly go fuck itself. The Travelodge was just by the motorway, so we checked in, dumped our clothes and made our way to the venue. For the second night on the trot we actually got a soundcheck, so blasted through a couple of songs before making way for the local support act – tonight’s opening band – to do their thing. The promoter showed us to the dressing room, which was one of the best so far. It was clean, large, had a couple of sofas and a fridge full of bottled beer. He cheerfully told us to let him or any of the venue staff know if we wanted anything else, be it more beer, cider, spirits, whatever: they would be more than happy to sort us out. Hurrah.

Deborah. Grant, Simon, Sam and I went off to get some food accompanied by most of SohoDolls. We ate pizza and drank a couple of bottles of wine, timing our arrival back at the venue to miss as much of the opening band’s set as possible. We caught the last couple of songs though and then, when they came off, we showered them with platitudes about how good they were and apologised for missing their set, lying through our teeth and telling them that we thought they were on later, but what we saw was really good.

We set our equipment up quickly and played a red-wine-fuelled blur of a set that sped by in an over-excited fuzz. Various members of the two bands had also started doing shots beforehand, so things very quickly started to degenerate into a mist of alcohol and falling over and dancing and more alcohol and totally shambolic playing from both bands. During SohoDolls’ set, Maya fell over a monitor and Matt faked a technical problem to cover up for the fact he was far, far too drunk to play the double bass tonight. He played their entire set on electric bass instead.

After SohoDolls’ set, the local support mobbed me. They really loved our stuff and had decided to make friends. I was already well on my way to feeling smashed and my drink-fuelled ego was happy to be fanned by a couple of lowly support artistes, so I accepted their offers of celebratory booze and friendship and retired to the bar to down Sambuccas and bash through a series of whiskey and cokes. A DJ started playing, so we took to the dancefloor. From here on in, all I remember is fragments that seem to fade surreally into each other. I am dancing with a ginger girl to Ocean fucking Colour Scene, I am dancing with the local support band to Blur and Oasis. I am running up some stairs, I am falling down some stairs. I am backstage, I am drinking, drinking, always drinking. Shots, mixers, alcopop, lagers, ciders. Whatever is put in front of me, I am drinking. And I feel good. I am making friends. It feels like everyone loved our band and they are all so nice and so friendly and everyone is buying me a drink. Then I am on the dancefloor again and I own it. I am at the bar telling strangers stories and they are all laughing and then I am back on the dancefloor, spinning and staggering and dancing, and then suddenly the night is over and all my new friends are gone. I am on my own. Even my bandmates have left.

Sam Christie

So yeah, I ended up leaving you there with Paul, and Deb with Matt, I think, and driving back to the Travelodge with **SOME OF THE TOURING PARTY** and **SOMEONE** ate some of the mushrooms (unwashed) and there I was, 70 mph down a dual carriageway when I suddenly realised Grant’s hanging out of the window throwing up down the side of the van (and himself)!!!!!! Hilarious. Then when we got back to the room, I wanted to sleep so Si and Grant took up residency in the bathroom, boiled the kettle and huddled round Si’s phone listening to music and smoking. Quite a shock when I got up for the loo!

 

 

Back on the dancefloor, the venue is empty, bar the cleaners. Suddenly from nowhere comes Paul from SohoDolls. I stagger over to him. He mutters something about wanting to find some slags. I howl with laughter. “I need to get fuggin’ paid first. Come with me, ‘cos these cunts’er always fuggin’ trying to knock us for our fuggin’ fee.” I slur. “I need some fuggin’ back-up.” We stumble up the stairs to the promoter’s office. I crash through the door, slump into the seat in front of his desk and try and act sober.

“I am here to get paid.” I declare. The guy behind the desk looks at me strangely.

“We’ve already paid you.” He says.

Before I can even think about restraining myself, I launch into a drunken tirade about how I am sick of people trying to knock us for our fee (it has only happened twice on is tour, but still), that it’s only fifty fucking quid and we’re worth more than that (cringe). I go on and on, the guy behind the desk fighting to interject and trying to argue that he has already paid us. I am just swearing back at him, denying everything. “Check your pocket!” he says. “You put the money in your right jacket pocket!” I tell him to fuck off. I genuinely have no recollection of being paid, even to this day, but we argue and argue until I eventually I check my right-hand jacket pocket and…

…there is £50 in there.  I look at the crumpled notes, clinging onto them with clumsy, intoxicated fingers. The paper squeezes through my fingers and I consider this new evidence for what feels like an age. Finally, I speak.

“This isn’t our fuggin’ fee,” I announce, furiously. “This is somethin’ fuggin’ else.” The guy looks at me, exasperated. I look back, indignant. We are at an impasse. He reaches for the phone. I decide to act. The venue staff had agreed that we could leave our equipment in the venue overnight so we didn’t have to drive it back to the hotel tonight and everyone could drink. Someone did stay sober enough to drive it, but I can’t even remember what I did, let alone anyone else. I am NOT leaving our equipment in the venue with these thieving, payment-dodging bastards, so I smash open a venue door and drag all our equipment into the alley beside the venue. I am going to hail a black cab – from a side alley in Doncaster at 5am in the morning – and take the equipment back to the hotel.

The security guard turns up. I have no idea what he said to me that morning, but the next thing I remember I am dragging all the instruments and amplifiers back into the venue and then staggering off to get a cab with Paul. Paul still wants to find some slags. It is 5.30am. Or thereabouts.

We go back to the hotel and I stagger into the room that Sam, Grant, Simon and I are sharing, bullish and snarling. They are still awake! Hurrah! Let’s party! Sam Christie says something to me. I have no idea what, but suddenly I am screaming at her, my second Great Tirade of the night. It ends with me calling her a fucking hypocrite for something or the other, at which point I strip to my pants, collapse into my bed and pass out, completely oblivious to Sam’s tears.

 

 

******************

 

 

I could argue with the email above, and point out that we never agreed to play free-of-charge. I could mock the punctuation – or lack thereof – and missing capital letters. I could mock the spelling, or take issue with the fact that the email seems to imply that paying a band is a charitable gesture, but the fact is, as I would discover in more detail the following day, I behaved like an absolute arsehole. So, five years too late: um, sorry Gazza. I did send an email apology a month or so after via our booking agent, but I’m not sure whether it ever got sent on.

 

 

********************

 

 

I was not the first member of 586 to get us banned from a venue. Back in 2006, we had played a gig at the Dirty South in Lewisham. I liked the Dirty South. It was near where I lived in Greenwich, and had been the location of a brush with Britpop royalty: specifically, Rick Witter, singer of Shed Seven. He was DJing. I called up David White, who was living in Blackheath. We HAD to go. When we arrived, the venue was mostly empty, so when Rick Witter rocked up there was no escaping us. Thankfully, Rick – can I call him Rick? – was an absolute legend. He hung out with our little crowd while waiting to DJ and even got involved in the round system, buying us all pints. We asked him to play some Shed. He wasn’t sure, what with being the singer and playing your own record when DJing being a bit weird and all that. When he finally started DJing, he played pretty much what you would expect of the singer from Shed Seven: The Smiths, The Stone Roses, The Seahorses, Primal Scream. It was indie club classic heaven. Eventually, he beckoned Dave and me frantically over to the DJ booth. “What’s up?” we asked. He held up a CD: Going For Gold, The Best of Shed Seven. “I dunno what to play from it,” he explained.

 

David and I looked at each other.

 

“Rick,” I said. Could I call him Rick? “It’s your greatest hits. Surely if there is one CD you can play any track from, it’s that one?” He played Going For Gold and we all bellowed along with Rick Witter. It was a bloody great night.

 

When 586 finally got to play The Dirty South, it was for a pair of promoters who went under the name This Is Modern Love. I was keen to play for them as they put on a lot of gigs around Greenwich, New Cross and Lewisham and – with me living in Greenwich – I was quite up for something happening near me for once rather than endless Fashionable East London shitholes. The Modern Love guys were good chaps. They paid well and they gave us loads of free booze, as did the Dirty South’s very friendly owner. He and Deborah got on incredibly well, and when closing time arrived, Deborah and I, the promoters, the owner and a bunch of hangers-on all took a trip round the corner to one of the promoters’ house for an after party. It was great. Lots of “you’re amazing, I’m amazing, he’s amazing, she’s amazing, we’re all fucking amazing!” self-congratulatory bullshit, and that was before half the party hit the disco sherbet. When it was all over, the Dirty South’s owner took Deborah and me back to the venue so Deborah and I could pick up our instruments and call a cab. Deborah wanted more wine. She was very drunk. So Deborah kind of snuck a bottle of wine into her bag. As we walked toward the venue exit, the bottle slipped out of her bag and landed on the floor with a thunk. Deborah and I looked at each other, embarrassed.

 

Um, whoops?

 

 

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