Tuesday, 22 July 2008

A Doer and A Dreamer

, originally uploaded by SBishop.

Beside the Citadel, Budapest, Hungary.
Title suggestions are welcome.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Tropical Paradise, just minutes from Tottenham

EVERY day a bus passes me with "Enfield Island Village" stated as its destination. Every day this excites me. Although I live on the fringes of London, a 15 minute walk from the greenbelt with country parks and tree-shrouded mansions all around me, one finds it difficult to imagine Daniel Defoe coming up with the idea of Robinson Crusoe in the urban borough of Enfield. But could it be? Could there be an island, just minutes from Tottenham, where the people live in tree houses, swing from tree to tree and trade in coconuts?

Rachel and I went this weekend to investigate.

We drove on, past Oakwood tube station, through Enfield town centre, the evening sun bathing the town green and market in glorious light. Further we went into unchartered territory, treading where many have probably gone before. Past Cineworld. Past Pizza Hut.

Then suddenly there was a sign. Not a light from the heavens or a symbolic gesture, just the words: two miles to the island village. The village of dreams, of hula and happiness. We were ready to ditch the car on the ocean shore, hop in a boat and row.

Now, as you well know, I've been to the islands of the south pacific. I remember sun, reefs, thatched bure huts and an easy way of life. I don't, as far as I recall, remember seeing a Matalan. But this is what we passed just before the bridge onto the island, which turned out to be a flagship housing development between the River Lee Navigation Channel and the Cattlegate Flood Relief Channel. The site used to house a government-owned musket and sword factory, which was built too late for the Napoleonic War but was more than handy in the Crimean War of 1854/5, the Boer War and the two World Wars. The factories closed in 1987.

Nowadays, it is full of modern flats. There are canals and canal boats, but fishing is prohibited. There are no palm trees, but there are lots of speed bumps.

Needless to say, we were a little bit disappointed. So we got back in the car, found a lovely Italian restaurant in Palmers Green and then bought pudding in a local patisserie. This was far more entertaining than the Island Village because, by complete coincidence, both puddings had rude names. Oh how we giggled like school children.

Friday, 4 July 2008

The Definite Article

UNIVERSITY: a time for freedom, learning and social bonding. In the case of two people from the University of Birmingham, however, it was also a time to rock out.

Just over one year on, here's the [unedited] band biography, as written by Baz, copied from the MySpace. Further band-related news is to follow!


So, how do you combine the sounds of U2 and Guns N’ Roses? Well, apparently by accident…

In an unassuming wing of the University of Birmingham’s then spanking-brand-new Shackleton Hall, regularly seeking refuge from a menacing bass line from a downstairs flat, two unassuming chaps with a shared penchant for ‘rock’ in the 1980s sense of the word were flung together by the hand of fate (or more precisely, a shared sensible desire for a quiet, smoke-free environment where they might be able to get some work done). It was here, over copious quantities of tea and overpriced Ginster’s sandwiches, that the foundations of a new breed of rock were laid … sort of…

Spurred on by fantasies of rock superstardom, Baz and Simon set out on the path to rock glory, swapping CD’s and writing songs. Many late night jams (yep, well after 8 o’clock) in their living room were to follow, searching for the middle ground between the dichotomy of their musical ideals. Baz was planning costumes, spandex and face melting solos; Simon was planning light shows and awe-inspiring visuals. True to Bonn Scott’s prophecy, it would prove an awfully long way to the top for these rock ‘n’ rollers, indeed, it was a good 9 months before they got round to advertising for a band and finding a rehearsal space…

It would take a further 18 months, 3 singers, 2 drummers and 2 bass players until the final, classic line-up of the as-yet unnamed group took shape. Yet these formative months, characterised by a flurry of rehearsals, resignations, tantrums, side-projects and increasingly amusingly worded ‘band wanted’ adverts, would herald the material, and more crucially the camaraderie, that would produce the Selly Oak Sessions EP.

Driven-forward by the percussive stylings of the refreshingly attractive Meg Griffiths (a rare breed of drummer with all limbs in correct proportion and devoid of the bodily odours that heralded man’s invention of the drum riser), recruited via an imaginatively worded Baz-penned poster beseeching the reader ‘PLAY DRUMS?!’, the 4-piece took shape upon a solid foundation. Meg’s metronomic rhythms and Animal-from-the- Muppets-esque fills came to be complemented by the rather more laid back, even slick, bass-lines of the altogether rather too-talented-for-his-own-good guitarist/bassist/backing vocalist and belatedly apprentice drummer Chris ‘Take it Easy Dude’ Johnston, who joined the band in late 2006 after his girlfriend fortuitously spotted a 12 month old poster seeking a bass player, vocalist and drummer for Baz and Simon’s fledgling project. His talents were snapped-up following a neighbour-baiting mid-week jam session at Baz and Simon’s new Selly Oak residence which featured a 20 minute jam on the Rolling Stone’s classic ‘Gimme Shelter’; at once glorious in its grandeur and belying of Baz’s perpetual inclination – ‘just one more guitar solo… please?’.

Rehearsing at Rich Bitch Recording and Rehearsal Studios in Selly Oak Birmingham, having jettisoned the hope of ever finding a suitable singer or of Axl Rose returning Baz’s calls, Simon added lead vocals to his ever expanding list of duties (others being rhythm guitar, IT technician, director of taste and counter-point to Baz’s assertion ‘nothing good has been recorded since 1993’) and a plot was hatched to record an EP of original and covered material. The premise was simple – combine the raucous (tasteless?) lead guitar of Guns N’ Roses as aped by Baz, with the introversion and lyrical sensibilities of the Manic Street Preachers, throw-in a dash of tasteful acoustic strumming, allow Simon to exorcise his Edge complex via his trusty multi-effects pedal on at least one track and hope Meg and Chris could hold things together. The result? – The Selly Oak Sessions EP.

Recorded following a debut live performance on the hallowed rock ‘n’ roll ground of Baz’s girlfriend’s garage in June 2007, the ’Sessions EP saw the band lay down 5 tracks – 3 original, 2 covers in 12 hours in Studio 1 at Rich Bitch. Presented here for your listening pleasure, The Selly Oak Sessions is testament to the achievements to date of the band now known as The Definite Article.