Andi Ware On: Why I won’t be wearing a Poppy this November

Once again we have reached that time of year where we are asked to remember our fallen service men and women, when the sepia tone of November is contrasted with the blood red of paper poppies. In the coming weeks we will see countless poppies fastened to the lapels of our politicians, newsreaders and business leaders, but not mine. Once again I will neglect to wear a poppy this year and as always my reasons for doing so will be largely misunderstood. I have in the past been accused by friends and colleagues as lacking respect or possessing a degree of impertinence. That truth is that neither is true. There are a number of reasons why I refuse to pin a small paper flower to my lapel each year but a lack of respect of acknowledgement of the sacrifice of others are not one of those.

This year marked the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of WW1, a fact that will no doubt make this year’s remembrance that little more emotionally charged. In acknowledgment of this the Government pledged to spend around £50 million marking the occasion. The sentiment of all ceremonies and monuments are to remind us that the 1914-1918 conflict was a fight for freedom and democracy. I find this hard to swallow. Many of those that died in that horrendous war did not know real freedom because they lived in abject poverty and were never truly represented by members of parliament. The working classes (who made up 80% of Britain’s population in 1913) were all too often forced into enlisting by propaganda or were press-ganged by employers. For those young men the notion of freedom and democracy was an incomprehensible concept.

Some years ago when I first read Robert Tressell’s The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists I was struck by an acute sense of sadness. Not only was it the desperation of the protagonists in Tressell’s turn of the century tale of the woes of working men in England, but it was also the understanding that many of these characters (the novel is based on Robert Noonan’s real life experience as a painter and decorator in Hastings) would face the horrific great war just a couple of years after the book’s conclusion. For me the poppy is a reminder of the misinterpretation of WW1, that it was somehow a noble war in the name of freedom and democracy. For those young men the notion of freedom and democracy was an incomprehensible concept.

It is a curious symbol, the poppy. In the last decade or so it appears to have been elevated into something transcendental. The phenomena of poppy burning which has led to arrests under the Malicious Communications Act seem to have elevated the simple poppy, sold by children and war veterans, to a higher status. The image of the burning poppy seems to be an insult on our very being. It is my argument that we have become so obsessed by the protection of this sacred symbol that we have neglected to recognise its true meaning. Could it be that our protestation over the burning or defacing of poppies is actually a manifestation of guilt? It is my argument that as a society we have become so removed from the real sacrifice made by those that have died in past conflicts that the poppy is worn with pride but worn in lieu of any empathy. The wearing of the poppy for many is the equivalent of hitting the Like icon on social networking sites. By Liking something we feel that we are displaying a certain kinship. Be it with a sentiment, emotion, cause or charity this simple act of tapping a keyboard has replaced solidarity in the internet age.

For some time my wife has been bothered, or rather incensed by the fact that in England young women are not offered a screening for Ovarian Cancer (a procedure that should take place for young women under the age of 21 or when they become sexually active) whereas screenings are offered in Scotland. Like many she has subscribed to pages on social media showing support for women who have died at a tragically young age due to the illness. Recently I suggested that she inquire on a social media site whether those who had Liked a page dedicated to raising awareness of cervical cancer would be willing to go on a march. She did not receive one response. It appears that political activism in our society has been reduced to Liking a page on a social media site or posting a one line comment. For me the wearing of the poppy occupies the same space. It is worn in lieu of something real such as genuine emotion.

So this year rather than wearing a poppy I shall take some time out to imagine what life in a trench might have been like, or what seeing off a relative (I have two brothers both of similar age to many service men and women) who would never return. I shall do this because this is a time for remembrance and not symbolism.

Xavier DwyerAndi Ware is 33 years-old, married and has a small dog called Oliver. He is a paid-up member of the Labour Party and used to play bass in semi-legendary Hull band Sal Paradise. In his spare time he makes his own wine and watches rugby league. He once claimed his favourite album was Electric Warrior by T.Rex, which was a complete lie. He holds a degree in Philosophy, but you’d already guessed that.

Miles Vs Waudby

mike 2014
About seven years ago, I dropped round a mate’s house to drop off a birthday card. I hadn’t seen him in a long while and on the last occasion I had spent time with him he was a good few stone overweight, rather introverted and he’d confessed to me that he’d been struggling with the drink. His mam shouted up the stairs that I was waiting for him and when he walked through the living room door I actually skipped a heartbeat upon taking stock of his appearance. The man that I once knew as an athletic, handsome twenty-one year-old had descended further down the road to obesity and alcohol dependence and stood before me deathly pale, wearing a faded t-shirt and jogging bottoms, and, by his own admission, well in excess of thirty stone. I left that his house day stunned and upset that my friend had succumbed to such terrible problems. A couple of vague text messages were sent with the intention of meeting sometime soon, even though I knew it probably wouldn’t happen, and with the event of my grandfather passing on a short while later, I’m ashamed to admit that I kind of forgot about Mike Waudby over the next few weeks. It came to pass that I wouldn’t see him for another three years, and one night in 2010 when I wandered onto the streets of HU5 having just done the soundcheck for one of my band’s many “last ever gigs”, I received a text from my good friend Danny West, something along the lines of “I’m in (name of bar), swing by if you can, I’ve got a bit of a surprise for you.”

That surprise was the once-again lithe and muscular Mike Waudby, with his chiselled jawline and smiling face that I remembered from when he was twenty-one. During that three year absence, Mike had undergone the most astonishing and inspiring transformation, both physically and mentally. Through sheer hard work and phenomenal discipline, he had shed eighteen stone of his body weight. When I started this website, it had always been an idea of mine to get Mike to write his story, and although it took much persuading, he eventually did. If you’re one of the twenty people on Earth who hasn’t read it, it can be found here. https://sittingontheswings.com/2013/10/07/18-stone-weightloss-by-mike-waudby/
His story has captured the hearts and minds of many thousands of people all around the world, and I’ve had the opportunity to talk to him about the changes that his article brought to his life. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

So Mike, it’s almost exactly one year on. Your extraordinary article about your weight loss is the most viewed piece on this site by a mile. Where you slightly overwhelmed by the response?
Allen, I was in complete shock. To be honest I was bricking it when you posted my article, terrified people would ridicule me. If you hadn’t sent that text saying it was the best piece of writing you had ever read I probably wouldn’t have let you post it (by the way, I thought you was being sarcastic at first!) The second you posted it I actually had to leave the computer and go downstairs thinking “What the hell have I just done?” I was trembling to be honest and anxious to see the replies. When I saw them it was a relief, in fact it meant so much, more then I can express.

It was an unbelievably honest piece of writing. Did you sit down and think about it for ages before you did it or did you just think “Fuck it, I’m just gonna let it all out”?
I wasn’t seeing my girlfriend that evening and was just sat in my room reading discussion boards on training so I thought I’ll open Word and just give it a go. Then it just came out, I didn’t go over it a few times or change anything, just wrote from my heart and tried to be totally honest. I’m no writer; I got an E in English at school. It was in fact the first piece of writing I had ever written and I didn’t even plan on writing it as my weight was like my dirty secret, something I was greatly ashamed of. I only told people I trusted and would understand like the guys/girls at the gym and the odd person in the pub. Felt good to get it out there, like a massive weight off my chest (no pun intended).

Despite the fact that the vast majority of the comments and replies were hugely positive, you sadly had to deal with a few people who for some reason felt the need to have a dig at you. Can you tell us about that and how you dealt with it?
You mean those sad losers on the newspaper websites? Firstly, I won’t pretend to be Mr tough guy, it pretty much destroyed me. I’m not wanting to sound like a fanny but the main one was “I bet he looks disgusting under his clothes with loose skin, better off being fat or dead”

Since losing my weight, loose skin was my biggest fear. I tried to top myself again because of it so for some prick to say that just hit me hard, my biggest fear was if people notice it and go ewww so yeah, I had a little a cry, not going to lie, but about 90 mins later I thought don’t be a wimp, I could probably shoulder press this twat above my head, I’m twice the man he is (my character, not size).
In the end I stopped looking, I didn’t even buy the national papers I was in the next day, or any of the online stuff which I deeply regret now as 90% was actually positive comments like you said.

One thing I can do now is use this sort of thing to push me harder. The day after I completed a 13k assault course, now bearing in mind on that day I was weighing 16 and a half stone; I train for explosive power, not long distance, so every time I thought about giving in I thought of what that prick said and then I thought of all the positives too and those kept me going. I finally made it in a respectable time. I got weighed a few days later, I had lost 7 pounds. Probably muscle. Bugger.

You wrote about your dad’s part in turning your life around. How has he felt about your recent notoriety?
He’s proud. Though he always had been. His biggest worry was people taking advantage of me. An agent wanted me to do this and do that, he was just concerned about it all. He knows more than anyone how much hard work I put in, especially mentally.
I declined going on Daybreak, for which he said I was a fool. He was right, I should have gone on it but this was happening way too fast, I would’ve just been a mumbling wreck at the time. Today though I would be on there in a flash!

When we were in the pub a few weeks back you were keen to stress that the key to this sort of achievement is not the physical effort, but the mental strength. Is this something that you believe in strongly?
You need the mental strength to make the physical effort. I mentioned in my article that people may be over weight for many reasons, not just greed. You need to change your mind set, you have to fight the demons in your head that are preventing you from making the effort. Depression as many know can knock the shit out of you; you have no energy or enthusiasm. This was just one battle in my mind I had to tackle. There was many more. Physical effort is important but without the correct mindset, it’s hard to make that impact on the training side.

Having been in that position and pulled it round yourself, how would you convince someone who’d completely given up on themselves to start on the road back?
Buy my book and join our forum!
I could write pages on this Allen but the best way I can sum it up is make a start now.
Doesn’t matter if it’s right or wrong or it’s only for a bit at a time. Just do what you think is right. Make the effort just like I had to.
If you try, you see results. Then you try a little harder. You see more results. Then you’re a fucking machine, seeking more knowledge to improve what you are doing and how to better yourself and make what you’re doing even more progressive.

Tell us about the work you’ve been doing and what projects you’ve got in the pipeline.

I mentioned I have never written before, well now I can’t stop! I have my book which is receiving amazing reviews; I have The Weight Loss Warriors along with Mike Pratt which is an amazing community people can go and seek help for all aspects of life as well as weight loss. I’m also writing articles for other sites and even working on the next book which will be a complete weight loss package as well as our own supplement range and clothing line.

Are you happy Mike?
Good final question. Ask me this a year ago I’d have said no. Today I feel fucking amazing! Inspiring people from all over the world is an overwhelming feeling you just cannot put into words that do it justice. I’ve made it my ambition to help others fight obesity and trust me, you know I’ll never stop until I have made the biggest impact on not only people’s lives but the weight loss market too.

All of Mike’s current work along with his EBook is available here

http://www.theweightlosswarriors.co.uk

Mr Miles’s new book is available here: http://www.tinyurl.com/disappear2014

Ten Songs by Darren Sant

If you asked me to name my top ten songs again in twelve months I’d probably picked a totally different ten, such is the nature of my ever shifting love of music. It would have been easier to name a hundred tracks. Here goes, in no particular order:

Superstition by Stevie Wonder
Quite simply, this song exudes funk. So much so that it makes a bald, fat old git like me want to dance. It makes me feel alive – that is why it has made my top ten.

Across 110th Street by Bobby Womack
I first heard this track on the soundtrack to the Tarantino film Jackie Brown. I like songs that talk to me about reality and there’s a very hefty dose of that in this track. Funky as hell too.

Sometimes by James
You can hear the rain. You can feel the desperation. A track that is exceptionally well produced and album that would make my top ten every time.

The Needle and the Damage Done by Neil Young
A song that oozes melancholy by a master song writer. Young’s plaintive vocal is a warning so heartfelt it’s impossible not to take notice.

Waterfall by The Stone Roses
With my friend, Shaun Kelly, I saw the band at the height of their powers at a small venue in Paris. Full of cheap red wine we felt like kings of the world and as this track washed over me I felt that anything was possible.

Kelly’s Blues by The Triffids
In the early days of CDs I happened upon their album Calenture. Every track is a gem and the concept of Calenture stays strong with several of the tracks. The album was so different to anything I’d heard at the time. I still play it, often.

Brain Damage by Pink Floyd
Stoned off my gourd having ingested a large chunk of cannabis I lay in bed and although it may be a cliché I played Dark Side of the Moon. As I grew increasingly light headed this album took on a life of its own. Classic album and I’m not ashamed to be clichéd now and again! A good friend of mine lost his Father to a brain tumour and it was his Dad’s wish to play the track at the funeral. The dark humour (and bravery) wasn’t lost on anyone.

Northern Sky by Nick Drake
Because no top ten of mine would be complete without a Drake track. Rest in peace you melancholic genius. You left us too young.

Karma Police by Radiohead
An influence from my late brother. With the release of OK Computer I finally “got” Radiohead. Check out the video to this track and if you’re feeling flush splash out their DVD 7 Television Commercials. You won’t regret it

Just Dropped In (To See What Condition my Condition was In) by Kenny Rogers
Another track I love because of a film. This song could have been written for the dude. Treat yourself and watch the Big Lebowski

daz

Darren Sant is originally from Stoke but now lives in Hull, he is the editor of hard-hitting fiction site http://www.close2thebone.co.uk/, and he is the author of several books and collections, most notably Tales From The Longcroft Estate. You can check him out at his website http://darrensant-writer.yolasite.com/, and follow his tweets @groovydaz39 & @longcroft_tales

Self-Disgust Is Self-Obsession Honey by Allen Miles

disappear I was never cut out for a career. I’m too socially awkward and I never found anything that stirred my passions enough to attempt to forge a livelihood from it. I have a job, but I refuse to be one of the arse-kissing yes-spitters in my workplace so I’ll never get on the ladder. I have found people who I get on with at work and they have similar principals/flaws (same thing, these days), which is why they’ve become my friends. If I enjoy any success in my lifetime it will be through something out of the ordinary, and I’ve known that since I was about twelve years old. It was obvious by the age of about eight that I was never going to be a professional footballer, due to my lack of a left foot and inability to, as my Dad said, “Get my head up”. By the age of fourteen I wanted to be a musician. I learned, very slowly, to play the guitar, and wrote lyrics. By the age of seventeen I had met someone who thought similarly, and we put our plans in progress to conquer the world with our punk band. And we told exactly no-one. This is the problem I have with my writing career. It was exactly the same as when I was in my band. Back then when someone would ask me if I was in a band, I’d raise a hand to my face, shuffle my feet, look at the floor and mumble “Well, yeah, sort of…” when I should have been drawing myself up to my full height, drilling my eyes into the questioner’s face in the manner of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and saying with all the arrogance in the world, “Damn right I’m in a band, we’re brilliant, and pretty soon you’re gonna be hearing all about us.” Even when we were in a position of promise, my inner-Costanza would race to the surface, making me spout forth a woefully misjudged joke or attempt to be ironic. I remember once we played a venue that was absolutely rammed with young emo kids who had come to see the band we were supporting, not exactly our market but one we certainly could have worked on. Rather than seeing the potential, I took the mic and sighed “Good evening, we’re Sal Paradise, you won’t like us.” The reasons I don’t brag about my literary endeavours are three-fold: The first is, I think, pretty acceptable. I hate it when people who have no interest in literature ask me questions about my book. The question is always “What’s it about?” and the answer I want to give is thus: “It’s a collection of short stories and prose, based mainly on themes of isolation and escapism, it’s pretty dark but has a fair bit of black humour in there. . In many ways it’s a reaction to the way our society has become so fleeting and impersonal in recent times. I nicked the title from a Scott Walker song, and I drew lots of influence from the work of Albert Camus, Charles Bukowski and John Fante, as well as the lyrics of Elvis Costello and the life and times of Howard Hughes.” But I don’t say that. I say: “I dunno really, I just wrote a few stories about things that I’ve seen…” Secondly, I worry that I’m no good. Well, not exactly that, but I’ve always been wary of becoming an Adrian Mole or Brian Griffin-type figure, someone who constantly tells everyone loudly that they’re a writer, and when they eventually produce a piece of work it is absolutely abysmal. These characters, along with hundreds of others that I’ve seen Facebook posts by or met on various writers forums, have absolutely zero talent but astonishing faith in their own ability. I’ve never been able to develop that level of confidence, precisely for the reason that if I did march about telling everyone I’m great, and they all buy my book, they might think it’s terrible, and despite me having 100% certainty that my work is brilliant, the consensus is, it’s shite. It’s not shite, obviously. My book is very good, but delusion is so common in the literary industry, and I’m terrified that I’ve succumbed to this disease. Last week I took morning refreshments with one of my best friends, she asked how my writing career is going, and I mentioned that there had been various developments, including interest from local bookshops and the possibility of a signing at Waterstones. “Wow, that’s great,” she said, “When is it?” I shrugged my shoulders and told her that I probably wasn’t going to do it as I was worried that no-one would turn up. Her facial expression hit some sort of mid-point between frenzied aggression and exasperation. This stylish, sexy and not-at-all-kindly woman then charged up to me and pretended to wring my neck. “What is wrong with you? Why are you constantly trying to sabotage your own success?” I couldn’t answer. The third reason is, I don’t like referring to myself as a writer. I have made very little money from my published work so far, and until I earn a living wage from it, I will describe myself in employment terms as an underpaid and undervalued healthcare assistant who works for the NHS, as I have no right to do anything other than that. The writing industry is a very cynical one, as are all what might be termed “creative” industries. You have to know the right people, and you are expected to pay homage to people whom you have no respect for. I don’t review other people’s work, mainly because I don’t feel I have any business judging them, and also because if I don’t like their work I would feel like a charlatan if I gave them a good review. The fact that I adopt this stance has hamstrung me in many ways, as I have very few friends in the business and I’m quite happy to keep it that way, which means I’ll get very few plugs, and very few breaks. My single proudest moment since I first wrote a story came not from reading a good review, not from signing a publishing deal and not from receiving praise from some big-wig in the industry. It came from a brief text message sent by my mate Wes, a builder by trade and a good man whom I don’t see as often as I’d like. It read: JUST SEEN YOU IN HULL DAILY MAIL. HONOURED AND PROUD TO CALL YOU MY FRIEND. A simple message of encouragement from a person that I like. Sometimes that’s enough. I mentioned the very few friends I have made in the business, but those few have shown massive faith in me, and for this I am grateful. Mrs Hoffs, Mrs Johnson and Messrs Bracha and Quantrill have given me huge encouragement, and Darren Sant has shown an almost biblical belief in me from the day we met, blind-pissed at a all-night party. I’ve also had ego-boosting support from many of my work colleagues. To continue to sub-consciously sabotage my career would be to let them all down, so it ends here. I am immensely proud of This Is How You Disappear, it is the best work I have ever produced, and it’s better than ninety percent of the shite that sells millions every year. It is not always pleasant, it is not a “light holiday read”, it will upset you in places, but it will also make you laugh. It will put images and thoughts in your head that you are not necessarily comfortable with and it will challenge your morale values, but it will also introduce you to characters who you may feel sympathy and affection for. If whoring myself at public signings and readings is what I have to do to sell this book, then so be it, I’ll do it, and if I make a living wage out of it, then, and only then, will I call myself a writer. It’s out NOW on Amazon, the link is below. Buy the paperback and I’ll sign it for you. “I’m looking to open people’s eyes. I’ll fail, but in the process, I’ll get self-satisfaction. And I know that a minority, a strong minority, will listen, and that will be enough for me.” Scott Walker Allen Miles, authorAllen Miles is 33 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 3 year-old daughter who is into Queens Of The Stone Age. He is a staunch supporter of Sheffield Wednesday FC and drinks far too much wine. He spends most of his spare time watching old football videos on youtube and watching 1940s film noir. He’s got a new book out. It’s really good. Get it here: http://www.tinyurl.com/disappear2014

Interview with author Allen Miles on ‘This is how you disappear’ and the Cheshire Cat

gillhoffs

Allen Miles has a new collection of short stories out soon (available as a print edition or ebook), so instead of asking him about that I thought I’d quiz him on the title.  Somehow this led to discussion of Paul Daniels and the Cheshire Cat.  Do feel free to ask him your own questions in the comments.

Allen Miles, author Allen Miles, authorly bloke

Q: The title “This is how you disappear” suggests you’ve either given some thought to disappearing yourself or to how you would advise someone else to disappear, so prepare to be grilled on that.  How and under what circumstances would you ever disappear, or wouldn’t that appeal as an option to you?

It is an option that appeals to me at roughly 6:58 each morning, which is the time I arrive at work. (Mr Miles’ colleagues wish to point out that the above is a blatant lie, as he is late pretty…

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Putting The “Fun” In Funeral by Gill Hoffs

As a depressed teenager, I spent a considerable amount of time scrawling my funeral set-list in the back of my school folders (along with biro drawings of gravestones and dangling bodies, but I digress) instead of learning about tenses in Latin and French and how to do something hideously complicated with sin, tan, and log (still no idea). Cheery choons such as the Manics’ “From Despair to Where” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFewXLjXTSU and their version of “Suicide is Painless” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y11f8Oc25AI were on there along with Radiohead’s “Creep” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyRh1EOyKOM . I’m now happy and healthy – phew! – but along with setting out actual practical preferences for disposing of my meatsack when I do finally pop my clogs (sky burial or body farm just FYI as I’m a bit worried I’ll be buried/burnt alive and this is safest in case I wake up) I figured it might be fun to get some possibilities on the internet where everything is forever, unlike me.

So in no particular order:

The Final Taxi – Wreckless Eric (thanks to The Workshy Fop for this recommendation!) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHBwBfqYhIM

Who Wants To Live Forever? – Queen http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Jtpf8N5IDE

Born To Die – Lana Del Rey http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bag1gUxuU0g

Lump – Presidents of the United States of America http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-aPyvRL9n4

Live Forever – Oasis http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_2mWhfOhGU

I Know You’re Out There Somewhere – Moody Blues http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjImFYf2Vzc

Don’t Fear The Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ClQcUyhoxTg

Do You Realize? – The Flaming Lips http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPXWt2ESxVY

Waltz #2 (XO) – Elliott Smith http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2sfwky4RqQ

Street Spirit (Fade Out) – Radiohead http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrTB-iiecqk it’s also one of the coolest videos ever.

Goodbye Stranger – Supertramp http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ld6ombnGnA

Play Dead – Bjork http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CHiHZ35TPfM

If I die of the plague or something similarly foul and catching and thus require cremation, the Bangles’ classic “Eternal Flame” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSoOFn3wQV4 is also a must, and if it’s windy then of course “Smoke gets in your eyes” by The Platters http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u3l001-zSA4 . But if I’m not left out on a mountain for carrion crows or fenced off somewhere for experiments with maggots (my body’s so full of chocolate and Nutella they’ll likely look like fat wriggly vermicelli), or burnt into a dusty grey sneeze-hazard, then clearly Faith No More’s “Digging the Grave” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Grx08ehxXMM should be blasting out followed by The Cranberries’ “Zombie” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Ejga4kJUts .

If my fleshbag is disposed of on a Sunday (I’m atheist so maybe this would be a good day since most people I know are free) then clearly The Associates’ version of “Gloomy Sunday” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBmjfFlq0cA would be fun, especially since it includes the cop-out but beautiful verse about it all being just a dream.

If I started to believe in reincarnation, I’d hope to be present at the big send-off somehow (preferably not as the oft imagined fly-on-the-wall) while Grizzly Bear’s “Yet Again” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AuG9i5cwGW0 was playing. And while I’m wishing for specifics, let nobody who comes bring cut flowers or snottery tears but petfood for shelters and Nutella for foodbanks instead. And let them recollect the most cringe-making things I’ve ever done loud and proud (but only once I’m dead).

The Telegraph published a list last year which had Sinatra’s “My Way” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePs6bHsQx6A as the top funeral tune, followed by Brightman and Bocelli’s “Time to say goodbye” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWQbuJ24Wzg . It’s probably fair to
say that if anything in good taste or that might be accused of being spiritually uplifting is played I’ll be rolling like the cartoon cherries in a fruit machine, and the only reason I’d want something like “Jar of hearts” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVFgfuiyBHw (the Glee version, naturally) played is if my body’s healthy enough to be used for organ donation. Fingers crossed it will.

I should probably note at this point that when my husband read this through his exact words were, “Hen, if you go first, I’m playing “Tramp The Dirt Down” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9t4-zDem1Sk . That’s an appalling list of songs. I hope I die first.” Any more of that and he won’t need a magic lamp and a genie to grant his wish. Anyway…

While “She’s Not Dead” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6s9rbLeBlE is a very tempting final choice (ahem), I think really the closing number should be “The Next Life” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ur5qz2X1vAE by the utterly shaggable Suede, though it might be more fun to opt for “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIgZ7gMze7A by Wham!. My list seems awfully short compared to the dozens of indie tracks I used to detail behind my schoolwork, so do feel free to add suggestions below.

 

hoffsGill Hoffs lives with her family and Coraline Cat in a horribly messy house in Warrington. Find her on facebook or as @gillhoffs on twitter, email her a dirty joke at gillhoffs@hotmail.co.uk, or leave a clean comment at http://gillhoffs.wordpress.com/ ‘Wild: a collection’, her word-mixture of sea creatures, regret, and murder, is out now from Pure Slush. Get it here.
Gill’s often-sad sometimes-grisly nonfiction book ‘The Sinking of RMS Tayleur: The Lost Story of the ‘Victorian Titanic” is out now from Pen & Sword. Get it in bookshops or http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/The-Sinking-of-RMS-Tayleur-Hardback/p/6053. Feel free to send her chocolate.

Al’s Top 30 Albums Of All Time: Number 3

No 3. My Bloody Valentine – Loveless

MyBloodyValentineLoveless
Let’s start with a sweeping statement, yet one that I genuinely believe.

There is no other album like this in the vast catalogue of rock music. It is the most innovative album since the sixties, and one that, if you’ve never heard it before, will truly break down your ideas of how guitar music can be created.

1991 was a freak of a year for classic albums. For the rock fan there was Nevermind or Achtung Baby, for the dance enthusiast there was Screamadelica or The White Room, for the beard-stroker there was Blue Lines, and for the weirdo there was Spiderland. If you fancied some jangly g chords there were superb albums from REM, Teenage Fanclub and Crowded House and the deeply unfashionable but actually great Stars by Simply Red would sell 4 million copies.

Then came the one that was conceived by a musical genius who’s like hadn’t been known since the days of pantaloons and powdered wigs, a ground-breaking kaleidoscope of noise with smeared edges, distorted melodies and sleep-talked vocals.

Loveless was the album that famously, or infamously, took Creation records to the brink of bankruptcy, it was alleged to have cost a quarter of a million pounds to record, which for a scottish indie label in the late-eighties/early-nineties was absolutely absurd and would necessitate the signing of some bolshie rock ‘n’ rollers from Burnage two years later to save the label. Kevin Shields, the maestro, conductor and virtuoso of all the madness, told Creation boss Alan McGee that he could record the album in five days. In actuality he spent two years holed up in the studio getting stoned and playing pool, and it wasn’t until goggle-eyed waif rhythm guitarist Belinda Butcher joined the recording process that things got done.

It was worth it. This is some of the greatest music ever made. I first received this record as a Christmas present from my step-sister, and played it not knowing what the hell to expect. The opener, Only Shallow, is one of the most shocking opening tracks in all of rock. It starts with four sharp snare hits, the only distinctive sound on the entire record, then a noise that I would describe as… let me think… imagine being stood about fifteen foot from a Boeing 747’s engine as it took off, whilst two blue whales whistled at each other a few hundred yards away, and every half second a nearby tower block is detonated. This attempt to describe a track on an album shows me up for the hack that I am, but I defy anyone to describe it themselves. This unholy yet sickly sweet cacophony is then pulled round into a blissful post-coital, or post-narcotic haze-like verse, with murmured, barely comprehensible vocals about druggy sex or sexy drugs, before the row kicks in again. If My Bloody Valentine had only ever released this one song, their place in history would have been assured.

The fact that they went on to craft another ten tracks in a similar vein is nothing short of a miracle. For those of you who understand how the sound of a guitar can be distorted, it is astonishing to think that this music was made without the use of a single effects pedal, rather Shields swears it was all done with tone shifters and graphic equalisers, and repeated, ground-breaking use of the tremolo arm. Not since the early work of Lou Reed had a musician utterly corrupted his instrument to achieve the sound he was looking for. To Here Knows When, which was staggeringly the lead single, is a piece of music that defies any sort of convention. It consists of looping feedback, and, at least from what I can pick out, seven droning guitar tracks, a flute, a shuffly drumbeat and a vocal on which it is impossible to distinguish a single word. It is allegedly the track on which Shields, proving himself to be the musical equivalent of Stanley Kubrick, spent three weeks recording a tambourine part. It sounds like having your ear nailed to the wall while your neighbour is hoovering while singing along to the radio.

The fact that it is followed by When You Sleep, arguably the most conventional track here, is typical of this album’s contrasts. A great, needling, gliding riff compliments a lovely choppy chord sequence and a vocal of which you can actually recognize words, even though they don’t actually mean much: “When I look at you… oh…. (incoherent mumuring)”

It is not really necessary to remember song titles on this album, as all the tracks flow together into one neon-lit, belly-warming suite, and it is individual moments of the swirling symphony that stand out rather than whole songs. Where once, on the previous album, Isn’t Anything, the songs were aggressive, and in the case of No More Sorry, downright disturbing, here they are utterly blissful; the colossal swinging to-and-fro of the lead riff of I Only Said, the vocal refrain on Blown A Wish, where you have absolutely no idea what she is singing, but for some reason you just feel like hugging the nearest object to you; the sheer sonic pleasure of Come In Alone and What You Want, and the mind-boggling innovation of Soon, during which you realise that New Order had spent ten years looking for a sound that someone else achieved at a stroke.

And then, track eight, Sometimes. If my mother, wife, daughter or Martyn reads this article, please bear in mind that I want this song played at my funeral. Never has a human being extracted such emotion out of his chosen medium as Shields did in the latter half of this song. Just listen to it. Alone.

Best Tracks: Only Shallow, Come In Alone, Sometimes

Best Moment: 3:21-onwards in Sometimes: The most beautiful passage of guitar music ever committed to tape.

Like this? Try: There isn’t one.

profile b and wAllen Miles is 32 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 3 year-old daughter who is into Queens Of The Stone Age. He is a staunch supporter of Sheffield Wednesday FC and drinks far too much wine. He spends most of his spare time watching old football videos on youtube and watching 1940s film noir. He’s got a new book out. It’s really good. http://www.tinyurl.com/disappear2014

Al’s Top 30 Albums – No. 4

Number 4 – Van Morrison – Astral Weeks

astral

Music journalists love categorizing things. It makes things so much easier for them. Over the years a critical cannon of the best albums of any particular genre has emerged, and is genreally accepted without recourse. If you’re talking Pop, it’s Thriller, Pet Sounds or Like A Prayer. If it’s Rock, it’s Sgt Pepper’s, Led Zeppelin 4 or Rumours. Soul’s undisputed number one is Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On and Kind Of Blue has the jazz market cornered, just as Never Mind The Bollocks is the greatest punk album ever and It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Name The Greatest Rap Disc Of All Time. These are accepted facts, just like your best centre-half ever is Franco Baresi, if you’re talking out and out centre-forwards it’s Gerd Muller or Van Basten, and between the sticks Lev Yashin or Gordon Banks is your man.

Albums like these have become part of a pantheon, a cemented twenty or so records that always end up at the top of muso’s GOAT lists and have been since the mid-eighties, usurped oh-so-rarely, only in the event of a Radiohead, Oasis or Nirvana. But this one record is always there, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Ziggy Stardust and Dark Side Of The Moon. The least talked-about work in these infernal lists defies any genre, which is why it’s so difficult to evaluate, certainly it is the album on my own list here that I’ve least looked forward to writing about. I do not claim to be a music journalist, or a musician, I am merely a fan, and therefore rather than picking this album apart as a true critic would, maybe I should write about this miraculous set of songs from a personal stand point. For this is a record that connects on a personal level in a way that even the very best music rarely does.

I bought Astral Weeks from Sydney Scarborough Records down King Edward Street in Hull when I was eighteen years old, in March or April 2000. It was part of one of my pay-day splurges on CDs that I did until the revolting compulsion of illegal downloading infected me about eight years later. In the plastic bag that swang from my arm that sunny spring morning were four albums: Imperial Bedroom by Elvis Costello (superb), Murder Ballads by Nick Cave (silly, but brilliant), and The Man Machine by Kraftwerk (slightly intimidating at the time), and this one. Aware of its towering reputation, it was the first of the four that I played upon my return home, and as I laid back on my single bed with the Sheffield Wednesday duvet cover and loaded it into my shitty Alba Hi-fi, I had no idea that this record would become an absolute staple of my life. The first few chords seemed like an old friend ruffling your hair, and the opening couplet, “If I ventured in the slipstream, between the viaducts of your dreams” was easily the most poetic thing I’d ever heard in a song. I let the whole album play through, as it is one of those albums, like Dark Side Of The Moon and Endtroducing, that you absolutely must listen to as a whole to truly appreciate it. The themes and images kept circling through the songs, “gardens wet with rain”, the dogs barking, the “scrapbooks stuck with glue”, I thought it was, and I still do, the most beautiful melding of words and music ever recorded.

As i spoke of in my review of Television’s Marquee Moon, certain music plays to the head rather than the heart. Astral Weeks is the exact opposite. It is music featuring an attribute so rare in a white singer: soul. Van Morrison is the greatest white male singer that has ever lived. It is important that you understand that I have used the word singer here, rather than vocalist. There is a difference between being born gifted and merely learning the craft, which is why Robert De Niro will always be a greater screen presence than say, Keanu Reeves. A vocalist is someone who learns how to sing, Morrison is someone who just pours his heart out through his larynx, often seemingly unaware that he is actually singing, chewing on words until he’s spitting the juices out. And he is accompanied by a magnificent ensemble of musicians; listen to the way that Richard Davis’ supple, almost elastic bass lines propel Cyprus Avenue, unheard in rock before or since. The astonishing jazz arrangements on The Way Young Lovers Do, a song in the same vein as Fight Song by The Flaming Lips or The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite by REM, one of such intense momentum that it is impossible to listen to without your body responding in some way; and the centrepiece, Madame George, a glorious three-chord story of a Belfast transvestite, which, even at nigh-on ten minutes, you never want to end.

I am a deeply cynical individual, and I loathe words such as transcendental, passionate, spiritual. And yet this album seems to evoke such adjectives when I listen to it. I have listened to this album at least once a month for fourteen years, and it seems to take on the role of medicine, a blanket for the soul. I would be happy to start a campaign for primary school teachers to issue it to their pupils in their final year, just so they could learn how music, above anything they will learn in high school, can strike directly into the heart.

Van Morrison was twenty three years old when he recorded this. When I was twenty three I was vomiting into a gutter down Newland Ave.

Best Tracks: Beside You, The Way That Young Lovers Do, Madame George


Best Moment:
The vocal to Sweet Thing. Like having molten happiness poured into your ears.
Like this? Try: Sea Change by Beck, 2002

profile b and wAllen Miles is 33 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 3 year-old daughter who thinks she’s Elsa from Disney’s Frozen. He is a staunch supporter of Sheffield Wednesday FC and drinks far too much wine. He spends most of his spare time watching old football videos on youtube and watching 1940s film noir. He is the author of This Is How You Disappear, which is widely recognized to be the best book ever written. It is available here. http://tinyurl.com/disappear2014

Miles vs Chatterton

gabrael

Some of you may remember a bit back that I did a couple of articles about my time in the semi-legendary Hull punk band Sal Paradise. If you read the second one, you’ll remember that I spoke very highly of a chap called Mark Chatterton, who to this day I rate as the nicest man I met in my brief sojourn in the music industry. Mark is the singer in a Peter Gabriel tribute act called Gabrael and, being somewhat of a fan of the former Genesis man myself, I was keen to shoot Mark a few questions.

How’s it going Mark?

Hello Allen, I am very well thank you. It’s very nice that you think of me so nicely.

Tell us about GABRAEL.

GABRAEL is something I have been wanting to do since my earliest days being in bands. More years than i care to remember. The problem was, up until now finding the musicians that were interested in doing Peter’s music, as well as capable and confident enough to perform it. He isn’t the easiest of artists to tribute, as we are finding out all the time.

I have borne witness to your musical taste and it’s very varied. Why Peter Gabriel?

Its true, my musical tastes are very varied. i have my parents to thank for that. when i was growing up, we always had music playing in the house. As a result, i love listening to big band jazz, as well as motown thanks to my sister Lynn, reggae, rock, (as long as i can understand the vocalsI). Most important for me is the voice. I’m a big fan of a unique voice. Singers like Thom Yorke, Xavier Rudd, Paul Simon, Ben Okafor, Stevie Nicks, Marvin Gaye, Billy Holliday really evoke a reaction in me, just through the way they deliver a line, even just a phrase. The masters of vocal delivery for me though are Frank Sinatra and Peter Gabriel. Two totally different styles, but both can move me to tears, or make me dance, which is no mean feat.

I first heard Peter’s voice on a Genesis concept album called The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway when I was eleven years old. Thirty seven years ago. A family member at the time recorded me onto tape the first half of a double concept album, telling me that the last half was “heavy going”, and I probably wouldn’t like it. Instantly, Peter’s voice struck a chord with me, and although the concept was supposed to be confusing, I instantly put images to his words to the point where i had the story of the album as a film playing in my head.
Also, the sound of the album was unlike anything i had heard before. its that album in particular that sparked my interest in sound,. I was captivated by the way the sound filled the left, right, downside, upside, front and rear and how sound, when cleverly manipulated, can play tricks on you. I actually heard sounds as colours and shades for the first tim. That’s what took me down my path to becoming a sound engineer.

I had other bands that I listened to at the time that I first heard this album, but Genesis, in particular the Gabriel era Genesis has always been with me. The rest, over the years have gone from my record collection, never to be replaced.


Gabriel is a phenomenal singer. From a personal stand point I rate the vocal to Biko as one of the top 5 performances in all of rock. Were you at all intimidated trying to re-create the work of such a gifted vocalist?

Maybe not intimidated by the task. but because i was sure that at some point in my life, i was going to get this together. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, not just for me, but also for whoever was going to make up he band. Because I have had decades of listening to his body of work, and digesting it subliminally, i was confident i could do my part. We, as a band would never be able to recreate 100% what he puts onto his studio albums. That would be impossible, but hearing the live albums has given us an insight as to how he performs the songs. Almost all of the tracks as we perform them, we have been referencing his live versions.

Regarding the track Biko, it is such a powerful song, very poignant, and although of a specific era, relating to a specific point in time, it’s a song that still resonates today.

You rehearsed for what seemed like an ice age before your first show. Was this a deliberate thing?

Absolutely a conscious decision. This is music that has to be right. Fans of Peter’s music i am assuming are very protective over his work. If we had rushed the songs just to perform them, they would not have been right, and that was not what any of us in the band wanted to do. It wouldn’t have been a good start. Every member of GABRAEL has been in bands for decades, and without using cliches, we have all really been there, done that and worn the t shirt out. So, although there was an eagerness in us to get out there, we knew we had to wait till we had things right.
Our first ever show was virtually unannounced, as a guest of Shine Over Babylon at a venue in our hometown. It was kind of a “lets see how NOT ready we are. Lets do a show, see where we are polished, and see what needs polishing”. As it turned out, although we made a few slight mistakes, on the whole it was better than any of us were expecting. And although it was an unannounced show, many people heard that we were performing, found out where and when, and turned up. We got a really good response to the show, which really did us all a power of good. It sort of confirmed that we were onto something here.

Signal To Noise is my favourite Peter Gabriel song. Will you be doing the weird shit like that or are you doing the crowd pleasers such as Solsbury Hill and Sledgehammer?

Were gonna go right across the board with the set list for our first few shows, which is still being arranged at the moment. When approaching the set list, it’s fair to say that the rest of the band have followed my lead to some extent, with me knowing more of his stuff than the rest of the band for the first few rehearsals. Obviously, we have to play the “hits” such as Sledgehammer, Biko, Solisbury Hill, Games Without Frontiers and Don’t Give Up to mention a few. After that, we have all had a say in the remainder of the set. We did actually ask our Facebook followers to name songs which they wold like to see us perform, which has been interesting. A lot of obscure album tracks have popped up a few times. It’s been nice to gauge opinions of fellow fans.

We are picking the songs which are interesting, challenging, and fun to perform. I don’t want to give away too much about our set, but hopefully there will be something for everyone.


His music is often very complex, usually using a huge amount of studio wizardry. Did you find that your background as a sound engineer gave you a few ideas of how to recreate it in a live setting?

Listening to his studio albums with my live and recording engineers hat on, I do understand a lot about how he has put the songs together, or at least I think I do. We are currently working on the various sound loops Peter uses, creating our own versions. To recreate his studio sounds live would take an army of musicians.

GABRAEL would be something that, as a sound engineer I wold love to be controlling from a mixing desk in a live setting. I had the opportunity of working with Genes-ish a few years ago, and because I knew every part of every song they performed, I like to think I was able to give them the sound that they would have wanted the audience to hear.

Luckily, we have a wonderful sound guy called David Elf, who asides from being a really nice guy to work with, is a good sound engineer who cares about the sound he gives us. He is just as eager to get it right as we are. It will be down to him to add the trickery.

What are you hoping to achieve with this act Mark?

Not actually sure what we are hoping to achieve from this. It’s just something we are all very passionate about doing, and doing well. It would be nice to, at some point in the future, get onto some of the bigger stages and festivals. That’s something for further down the line though, but definitely our aim. We just want to put on spectacular shows that people come away from singing the songs.


Rattle us off a few dates, venues and stuff like that.

We have a couple more unannounced “dipping toes in the water” shows during August and September, just to get used to playing together as a band out of the comfort zone of our rehearsal rooms.
The next few main shows are at Hornsea Floral Hall on November 1st, Hennigans in Bolton at the end of November.
Our first full length Hull show is at Fruit on January 29th through our friends at GJM Music promotions. We have a few tricks up our sleeve for that one, but I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag about what they are. Hopefully, it will be unlike any other show.

And do you have a website?

We have, yes. gabrael.co.uk. There isn’t a great deal on it yet. Until we have some music or video, it’s just a site. We are planning to go into the studio and do a live recording session with no overdubs. We just have to draft in the female vocalist, the final piece of the jigsaw that makes up GABRAEL, and then we will book a date with Dave and record maybe half a dozen tracks. Once we have them, we will probably launch the site with those songs, as well as some really cool photographs from our own photographer Ian.

Our motto with the website, as well as our approach to the shows is “build it, and they will come”.


There you go folks. These boys are worth checking out. Cheers for talking to us Mark. And… just out of interest, what is your favourite Peter Gabriel song?

I don’t have a particular favourite. I absolutely adore Father Son. I defy anyone to not like it. Lyrically, it says just enough, without saying too much. A very emotional song. You mentioned Signal To Noise, another favourite of mine. I love singing Family Snapshot, with its imagery that seems obvious but has a wonderful twist to the story at the end. There really are too many to mention. I really could be hear till the end of the year telling you what I like about any of his songs. Oh, Washing Of The Water, I absolutely adore his voice on that. See what I meet, I could be here for ages.

Thanks for the questions Allen, it’s been a pleasure answering them for you.