Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Big Sick Jim Martin, and the £1500 Curry

Big Sick Jim Martin, and the £1500 Curry.

Faith No More's Guitarist tries to help out.

From its humble beginnings, The Real Thing album had now become a monster. 18 months ago Faith No More were still relatively unknown in Europe. Original singer, Chuck Mosley, had imploded after impact with a giant crack rock, and even the small band of diehard fans, who had chanced across the band’s debut album, (We Care A Lot) were unsure of his replacement, Mike Patton.

They need not have worried. Debut single, Out of Nowhere, had launched Patton on the world; Epic had followed it up on a global scale, and 18 months down the line, The Real Thing has sold by the truck load. A year ago Faith No More were sharing a cramped mini bus with their road crew but right now their two giant sleeper buses are pulling in to a service station en-route from London to Birmingham.

FNM’s guitarist, Big Sick Jim Martin, looks up from his copy of Massive Tits Monthly through a wall of cigar smoke, and inquires as to why they are stopping. The rest of the band shrug with disinterest and continue watching Evil Dead II, before the driver pops his head out of his cab, holding a small walkie-talkie. “Tim just radioed from the other bus and told me to park up.”

Jim Martin sighed and went back to ogling giant buns. The door on the crews bus sprang back with a pneumatic wheeze and out stepped Tim; a wiry no nonsense northerner. Tim looked like he couldn’t manage a bag of heavy shopping but his reputation for dealing with ‘the shizzle’ was legendary. Earlier on in the tour, the support band had been warned that they were not to go to catering until FNM had sound checked and gone to eat. That’s the etiquette. Tim didn’t give second warnings. When it had happened again, he had simply marched in to catering, up-turned the support bands table, and beat them all about the head with a wooden bread board. At this precise moment he was marching across the pot holed car park toward the bands bus and he looked like he meant business.

Big Sick Jim Martin glanced up from his boob fest, and slunk down low in his seat. Tim climbed aboard, scanned the bus lounge, and spotted the mass of black curls atop of a pair of big red sunglasses. He walked over to Big Sick Jim and thrust a fax in front of his big black beard. 

“What the fuck is this, Jim?” asked Tim, with more than a hint of annoyance.

Big Sick Jim glanced at it, not really needing to read it to know what it was. “Er, it’s a hotel bill, puss.”

Tim snatched it back. “Yes Jim, it’s a bill for your room, from The Columbia Hotel, for £1600. That’s exactly £1500 more than it should be.” Tim leaned in and snatched Massive Tits Monthly from the hands of its reader. “Would you care to explain?”

Big Sick Jim Martin sat back with a nonchalant sigh and took the stogie from his mouth. “I spilled my curry.”

Tim the tour manager looked at him with consternation before looking to the rest of the band to check that he hadn’t just imagined it. “You spilled your curry? How the fuck does spilling your curry cost £1500?”

Big Sick Jim Martin pondered the question and clearly decided that attack was the best form of defence. “Look, Puss, I spilled my fucking Curry, OK?” 

Tim was having none of it. “OK Jim, explain how spilling your curry has just cost us £1500?” 

Big Sick Jim blew out his cheeks and raised his arms with incredulity.

“OK OK, after the gig I went and bought a takeaway and brought it back to my room. I’m sitting on the corner of my bed pouring this cup of fuckin’ yellow shit sauce over my food and I spilled some on the fucking duvet.” 

Jim re-lit his cigar and continued his explanation.

“Now I’m looking at this stain and thinking Tim’s gonna get a cleaning bill for this, so I wanted to help ya out. I went in my case and took out a can of lighter fuel, cuz I’m thinking this shit will get the stain out, right?” 

Tim’s jaw is slowly dropping as Big Sick Jim continues to explain. “Thing is Tim, I’m fucking scrubbing so hard to save your sorry English ass, that my fuckin’ cigar fell out my mouth and set fire to the fuckin; duvet! Now I’m thinking to myself, Tim is gonna be real pissed about this so I better help him out.”

Tim raises his palms and stops Jim in his tracks. “OK Jim, you set fire to the duvet but how is that £1500?” 

Big Sick Jim Martin stared back at his tour manager; his expression that of a man who just couldn’t understand what was not being understood. “OK, so I’m looking at this fire and I’m thinkin’ I need to put this baby out and stop it spreading.”

It’s at this point that everyone thinks to themselves, what would I do? Everyone else on the bus lands on the same square at the same time. You would grab the duvet and throw it in the bath tub and turn on the shower... Wouldn’t you?

Jim continued. “So a grabbed the duvet and threw it off the balcony.” Jims face became slightly sheepish. “Anyway, I’m eating my curry and slugging a few drinks when suddenly I can see smoke rising outside. I walked out on to the balcony to take a look and the god damn bushes are on fire.” Jim Martins face is one of; can you believe it? “So I’m thinkin’ Tim’s gonna be in real doo doo here, so I figured I could smother it by dropping the mattress on it. That didn’t work so well, so I tried again with the bed.... And then the wardrobe.”

Tim’s jaw was now on the carpet. He finally composed himself enough to say something.  “So let me get this right Jim, you threw the majority of your furniture from a second story hotel room and burned it in the street?”

Big Sick Jim Martin shook his head and blew out his cheeks with frustration. He looked up at Tim one last time. “What don’t you understand here?... I JUST SPILLED MY FUCKING CURRY!

The Nobel Pissed Prize

The Nobel Pissed Prize

How Two Drunks Accidentally Interviewed Tom Cruise in Oslo.

Sometimes in life, stuff just happens. There really is no logic or method, and you just have to go with it. Such is the situation. My good mates, The Polyphonic Spree, have been asked to perform at the presentation of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. 
I am as happy as they are about it, and immediately tell them I will jump on a flight to Oslo and share their moment. However, being Nobel, the situation is not straight forward. The band informs me that due to the security situation, there is no artist guest list. The best they can do is to give me the email address for Nobel’s press office and I can apply for a press pass.

Over the next few days I pondered the best way to go about it. Some random hardly sounded like a credible request for a press pass, however, I could always make a deal with the Devil.

In this particular situation, the devil had a name. David (Dangerous Dave) Johnson; a man whose nick name does not even come close to quantifying him. However, David works for a UK national newspaper, and his email address ends in Common sense suggested that a press request from this address was much more likely to bear fruit than using my own. However, when entering into any kind of diabolic covenant, a price must be paid.

In this case it meant unleashing the powers of darkness on the great and the good of Norway’s capital city. Fuck it; what’s the worst that could happen?  Two weeks later I am forwarded an email inviting myself and David Johnson to attend the presentation of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to Dr Wangari Maathai, at The Spekrum Arena in Oslo.
It’s great we have our invites, but you need to know a little bit more about Dangerous Dave.

Dave’s mum and dad own my local pub, and over the past few years David and I have become good friends. However, going on assignment with him is never straight forward. When we went to Russia, he fell off a staircase and landed on a table that was occupied by some gangster types. They took him to the toilets, threatened to knee cap him and then flushed his head down the toilet pan. When we went to the Le Mans 24-hour race, he threw up in The Caf√© Du Opera and blew up a French campsite.
When we were in Stockholm we managed pretty well. Only the airport bus caught fire and we spent an hour sitting on the hard shoulder. And now he is coming to the Nobel Peace Prize.

We arrived in Oslo around 10pm. David doesn’t fly well and he has drunk a litre bottle of Smirnoff Blue label on the 90-minute flight. When we arrived at our hotel, we are immediately handed a message from the Nobel press office. Neither of us knew that this year’s prize was being presented by Tom Cruise, and the message is asking if David would like to interview him at 9.30am in the morning. Of course, this is because the press office have noted Dave's email address, and the parameters of disaster were getting wider by the hour.

At 8 am, the following morning,  I walked into David’s room. He was watching the Spiderman movie, still half cut, and commented ‘Which one is Tom Cruise?’
I had a quick look through his questions for the interview. They were all related to platform shoes or scientology.  At 9.25 am were found ourselves in the foyer of the Radisson hotel in down town Oslo. We were not really sure what was going on, but suddenly the TC machine unfolded from the walls like something from Alien. Guys in sharp suits and pebble black glasses just appeared, and between them walked an unshaven guy in a brown sweater. He was not as short as I expected. Suddenly a northern English voice piped up. Tom’s P.A is an English man from Derby, of all places, and runs us through the do’s and don’ts. 

David’s questions are now in the trash bin behind reception and he is going to have to wing it. Another issue also comes to light. I am somewhat hung over and ragged around the edges, but Dangerous Dave is still completely shitfaced.

The interview was scheduled for 20 minutes but we were there nearly an hour. As much as David is a bit of a handful, he is a great journo, and he and Tom Cruise immediately found some common ground and reasons to laugh and banter. At this point of my life I had never seen a Tom Cruise film, but I resolved to watch a few when I got home.  We did finally get him to talk about his wealth and his religion, and the guy was quite amazing. It isn’t fair to go into what he said, but basically ‘Whatever gets you through the day and makes you want to be a decent person. It’s not my fucking fault I am rich.”

We hugged and shook hands before walking out, somewhat dazed.  It was an incredibly surreal experience. After a snooze and a shower, we headed off to The Spektrum to see the truly wonderful Wangari Maathai being applauded by kings, presidents, and prime ministers. 

Tom appeared with Tony Bennett, now shaven and in a silver-mauve suit. “There really are no words to explain this to you, Laureate, but The Polyphonic Spree will come the closest to saying what we all feel.’ I suddenly   realized that I had not yet seen Tim De Laughter, Louis, Julie, Ryan, or any of my Texan friends. My brain  was in a vacuum cleaner bag with Tom Cruise and Dangerous David Johnson.

Post ceremony we had found the cheapest bar in Oslo. It was only £7 a pint. It was a Rasta’s pub with a mellow vibe, but Dave suddenly discovers a selection of old Brit punk rock on the antiquated Wurlitzer juke box. For reasons best know to him self, and obviously with no thought about what reaction it might provoke from our dreadlocked fellow drinkers, he decided to put a tenner in to it and put Anarchy in the UK on repeat.

Having been chased back to our hotel by knife wielding Jamaicans; (one had a chair leg) we bolted the doors and prayed to wake up. It had been a very special day. Few people ever get to attend Nobel, and even less might simply brass neck it. Even less will ever interview Tom Cruise, pissed out of their heads and trying to appear sober.

After another very boozy flight, we arrived back in Camden and headed for Dave’s parents pub; The Constitution, The regulars are puffing and supping along the bar as Dave walks in wearing a Viking helmet. A regular pulls on his roll up and casts a glance. 

‘Where you been, all weekend?’ he says. 

‘I’ve been at The Nobel Peace Prize in Norway and I interviewed Tom Cruise pissed out of my kadooba.’ replies Dangerous Dave. 

The regular rolled his eyes and went back to his Guinness. 'Yeah, fuck off Dave; and I’m the Queen mother.’

General Pinochet, the Dog Shit Incident, and Mexican Fetish Bandits.

General Pinochet, the Dog Shit Incident, and

Mexican Fetish Bandits.

The President of Chile dodges the bullets.

It was Good Friday lunchtime and I was considering the possibilities for the weekend. Where to go, what to do, and who with. So far the week has been hilarious. Having been contracted as an extra in the recent Stallone movie, Von Panzer has suddenly gone all Hollywood on me and announced his intention to become a famous screen writer.

My role in this imminent disaster was to act as creative sounding board for a myriad of stupid ideas. Not content with simply writing, Von Panzer announced that we had to enter into the spirit of the whole genre. For the last three days and nights we had been locked in my room with nothing more than Coffee, Marlboro Reds, and several bottles of bourbon. By day three we had created our first blockbuster. It's a spaghetti western set in the future, and centres on the machinations of evil genius Walt Drively.

Drively is the mastermind movie mogul behind a string of giant theme parks, and hidden within one of these is a time machine. Drively has been using it to supply his vast chain of fast food outlets across the globe, K.F.D. (Kentucky Fried Dinosaur) His time travelling butchers are a platoon of German SS Durlwanger Stormtroopers whom Drively has transported to the future from 1944.

Along the way we meet The Rubber Bandits, a gang of Mexican bank robbers with a fetish for latex, The Presleytarians, a religious sect dedicated to Elvis, and it all revolves around the hunt to find the whereabouts of something called the D.U.M.B Bomb. Dumb being an acronym for Detonator Up Margret’s Butt. (but that's not revealed until the end) Von Panzer thinks it's genius and he's going to sell the rights to it for thousands of pounds.

To be honest I'm not really feeling like a big weekend. I've been drunk for 3 days. Von Panzer had insisted that sleep was kept to a minimum and any amount of forty winks had to be taken exactly where you were sitting and fully clothed. However, as it's Easter, I kind of feel like I should make the effort. I got back to considering the options and decided to give Jeanette a ring. The insanely gorgeous, as well as quite literally insane, Jeanette, is from Berlin. She's an art house pixie with the sexual morals of a dog, and she was over in London for a year’s study as part of her degree. She sighed as she informed me that partying is off the agenda for the whole of the long Easter weekend. She's house, baby, and dog sitting, down in Surrey for her Auntie. 

I didn't really feel too much sympathy for her because her enforced incarceration was not in some crappy little council apartment in Guilford. Jeanette’s Auntie Anna was part of Madonna’s management and lived in a mansion on the very posh and gated Wentworth Park Estate in Virginia Water. The wine cellar was stocked to the gills and the fridge was the size of transit van. I could think of worse places to be marooned for the weekend. Now, there was an idea!

By four o'clock I was heading south out of Waterloo and rubbing my hands together at the thought of what delights might be waiting for me in leafy Surrey. The fridge was full if nothing else. I finally found the tiny lane that led to the house, and was buzzed through the gates by a security guard. It's like a quaint country lane flanked by groves of enormous trees that in turn provide some privacy for the even more enormous houses on each side of the road. 

I find number 19 and Jeanette seems very pleased to see me. It's a good start. She then fluttered her eyelashes and dispatched me a mile back to the fucking railway station to get her some cigarettes. On my return I was passed in the lane by a convoy of blacked out people carriers. They drove passed my destination and turned immediately in to the next door drive way. A man in a dark suit got out and spoke briefly to another man who seemed to be guarding the top of the driveway to the house, before the cars then crackled their way down the gravel towards the house. Upon returning with the smokes, I asked Jeanette who lived next door. Brucie? Tarby? Chris Evans? Cliff Richard maybe?

'General Pinochet', she says.

'Fuck off' I say.

'Nein really', she laughed.

It was indeed true. Some weeks earlier, the Butcher of Santiago, known more commonly as the President of Chile, had made a stop over in the UK en route back to South America. Upon touching down on British soil, Spain had demanded his arrest on charges of genocide and he was currently enduring a very comfy house arrest on the Wentworth Park Estate, until such time as the whole grubby mess was sorted out in the courts.

Jeanette’s job was hardly a difficult one. Her aunt and uncle were spending the Easter weekend in New York with Madge, whilst Jeanette baby sat her 2-year-old niece and walked the dogs. I woke up on Saturday morning with a champagne hangover and wandered in the basket ball court sized kitchen to find some juice. Rocco, the dog was crossing his legs and flipping summersaults by the French windows. I let him out into the garden where upon he immediately deposited an almighty dump right in the middle of the manicured lawn. 

I began the job of raping Aladdin’s fridge and concocting breakfast. Scrambled eggs, bacon and sausages, and a jug of Bucks Fizz. Jeanette appeared in a bath robe, looking equally rough, and immediately spotted the brown mound in the middle of the lawn. Her comedy German accent rang out.

“Ze dawg hess done a shiddy on zer gartan! You vill heff to clear it up”

30 minutes later we were both three parts pissed again, having demolished the jug of Bucks Fizz. I decided to get the doggy issue out of the way before the day deteriorated any further. However, the thought of placing a small black plastic bag over my hand and picking up warm dog shit was not one I was relishing. I would investigate the garage for a shovel and scoop it into the flower beds.

I rounded up Rocco from the end of the garden, and whilst I was outside, I glimpsed something through the thick Leylandi hedge that separated us from next door.
Some 80 metres away I could see an elderly man in a wheel chair. He was on a small terrace by a swimming pool, a tartan blanket over his legs, and reading a newspaper. Thin silver hair swept back over his head and wearing obligatory Bono-style shades. 
I immediately recognized who it was. General Augusto Pinochet, President of Chile since 1973 and one of the biggest mass murderers in modern history. It was at that point that I disguarded any thought of finding a shovel. A bendy bamboo was much more appropriate.

The first one was more of a range finder. It went straight over his head and plopped into the pool. However, its entry caused the General to look up from his paper and look around, wondering what had just gone plop into his pool. I needed to get the next shot a bit lower over the 15 ft. Leylandi and not fling it quite so hard.

The second shot was a peach. Rocco's freshly minted stool fairly buzzed the top of the hedge, missing Pinochet by a whisker, and splattering against the balustrade of the terrace. He sat up straight with a jolt, folded his newspaper, and began to wheel about like a demented Dalek. I definitely had him ruffled by now, but I was now down to my last piece of ammunition; at least until tomorrow. I changed position and tried to get a bit more head-on. I let fly with the last nugget but failed to connect with the evil old goat. However, this time he clearly saw it splat on the French windows and shouted for an aide to wheel him back inside. There was a lot of shouting and gesturing in Spanish.

“Un hijo de puta es tirar me dispar√≥. ahora me llevan en el interior!”

Some bastard is flinging shit at me. Get me inside now!

I ducked back towards the back of the house and continued to watch through a gap in the trees; giggling like a school boy. Some security type dudes appeared on the terrace and took a walk around. The doggy butt nugget was spotted in the pool and fished out with a net. The guy with the net had clearly put two and two together and decided to return the compliment by flinging the poop back over the hedge of trees. It flew right over our garden and splattered on the side of next door's conservatory. A house that was currently being rented by Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York.

At this point I was told, in angry Teutonic tones, that I was to come inside NOW and stop causing trouble between the neighbours. It was a small victory for democracy and the common man. Rocco had played his part well. Some years later I was working with a Chilean guy in Stockholm. He had told me some horror stories about growing up as a teenager under Pinochet's regime. I told him the doggy doo story. Some months later, having returned from a trip home, my Chilean colleague handed me a letter from they mayors office of his home town, Rancagua, in Chile. I was commended for my actions and further told that I was probably the only man alive who had ever thrown shit at Pinochet and was alive to tell the tale.

I returned to London and informed Von Panzer about the weekend’s jollity. He thumbed his chin and sparked up a Marlboro. 'There's got to be a film in that!”

In Bed with Ben E King.

In Bed with Ben E King.

How four young idiots get locked in a room all night with a soul legend.

We are stoked up and wide eyed. We have spent the last week crash rehearsing the new songs but non of us are sure we really have much idea what we are doing. What mattered was that our mad cap and fast talking manager, Tracie, has organized a showcase for us in front of David Ambrose, head of London Records, and at this precise moment we are trundling down the motorway in a battered orange transit van, full of what might be. Our destination is the pretentiously named Barrington Sound Clinic in Brixton South London.

The last year has been quite an experience. Paul and I had known each other since we were fourteen. We had grown up together from then on. We had smoked our first joints together, jammed our first songs, and popped our cherries along the way. 18 months ago we had put together our first proper band and, like something out of a film, immediately got signed up by a pretty happening independent label. We had so far released three singles and all of them had scraped into the independent music chart. God knows how?

A few months previously our status as local legends had been interrupted by the arrival of Tracie LaMorte. She was a stick thin ball of energy with a big mouth and a blue wig, and we immediately bought into her story. She had managed several acts we had heard of, and even one who were now a big noise in the States. For a bunch of wide eyed nineteen year olds, what more was there to know? We needed to think big, she told us. Do you want to be a big fish in a small pond or do you have the mettle to break out and take it further? We slavered like Pavlov’s dogs and told her we did. She then informed our record label they could go fuck themselves and that we would not release anymore material on their poxy label. This then led to two years of litigation but that's another story.

Right now we are traversing the roads of South London, drinking home brewed pear wine, and about to turn into the yard of the Barrington Sound Clinic. For the next 3 days we are to rehearse our show and then perform it like we are at Wembley stadium. The audience will consist of one person. David 'Flakey Dave' Ambrose. The man who signed the Sex Pistols and Duran Duran to EMI, Sigue Sigue Sputnik to Phonogram,(for which he was sacked) and Fine Young Cannibals to his current home of London Records. Ambrose was something of legend, not to mention an enigma. Prior to becoming the worlds greatest hit and miss A&R man, he had played bass in The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Rod Stewarts' pre-Faces band, Steampacket, and also a brief stint in Peter Greens early Fleetwood Mac. Paul and I had met him the previous week at his office. During the chat Tracie had called up.

Her foghorn gob could be heard from the handset reminding Ambrose to take us for lunch. Ambrose then bundled us into the boot of his car and took us to his house in Fulham, where upon he handed us a loaf of sliced bread, a jar of peanut butter, and a spoon. Tracie had warned us he made Syd Barrett look like a lightweight.

The Barrington Sound Clinic didn't quite live up to its swanky name. We found ourselves in a railway goods yard a few blocks from Brixton tube station. It comprised of several railways arches that had been converted into shabby rehearsal rooms and one much larger arch that housed a recording studio. Everything in it was held together with black gaffa tape.

We are greeted by Jack Barrington, the proprietor. He's mid fifties wearing a Fred Perry and the requisite 'Sarf Landan' gold chains and sovereign rings. He is pleasant enough and accompanied by two policemen. It transpires that Jack's Mrs had recently had her hand bag snatched so, as you do in Sarf Landan, Jack had borrowed a coal truck and reversed it into the front of a local cafe where the bag snatcher was known to frequent. Over the next few days we came to realize that Jack was President of the local Self Preservation Society and, as such, he was afforded this kind of naughty misdemeanor without much more than a cursory word in his 'shell like'

Jack shows us to our rehearsal arch and informs us that Tracie had asked him to book us some local accommodation. However, seeing as how we are 'Total fucking no-marks who I ain't never 'eard of, not neva,' we will have to doss down in the rehearsal room.

It is all fine. It all feels like a great adventure. Within an hour we are set up and making a noise. We decide we need some beer and I go over to the main studio arch to find Jack and get some directions to the nearest off-license. As I enter I am greeted by someone. He is a black American guy, probably in his mid fifties, and clearly a bit the worse for wear.

“Hey Bro, if you going for liquor, man, get this nigger a bottle of Tunder-blunder yeah?”

It is the first time I have ever heard a black man call himself that and I don't quite know what to say. I just nod and assume he is talking about Thunderbird wine. Twenty minutes later I am back with the goodies and hand the guy his wine. He has kind eyes and skin like creased leather. He doesn't pay me back for the wine though, and I'm not really sure if I should ask.
At 11pm Jack comes marching in to our arch and tells us how it is. He will leave the main door open so we can get some fresh air, but lock the prison style security gate at midnight. This means we can we still have access to the toilets and coffee machine situated in the corridor just outside our rehearsal space, but we can't get out of the building. He will be back each morning around 9am. I ask Jack about the black guy who was sitting in the studio foyer.

“You mean Ben?” he says.

I am none the wiser.

In the course of the next two minutes we discover that the big studio arch across the yard, is currently occupied by a South African vocal group called Ladysmith Black Mambazo. They are here to add their voices to a film sound track. The little American dude with a penchant for 'Tunder-Blunder' is none other than 24 carat soul legend Ben E King. Ben has been flown in by the record label to act as executive producer, albeit this has so far amounted to him getting pissed everyday from about lunch time onwards. However, we are impressed to be in such hallowed company.

The next day we get down to work. By 8pm we have played the songs 30 times, smoked lots of cigarettes and drunk a case of Stella. It's time to get some food and stock up on supplies before warden Jack locks us in for the evening. Around 10 o'clock we are sprawled out in the various moth eaten sofas and skinning up for the umpteenth time today, when a friendly Afro-American face appears around the door.

“You got any Tunder-blunder?

It is Ben E King. Our faces light up. He seems a very warm guy with a huge personality. It is hard not to to slip into fan mode and start questioning him about his life and music.

In no time at all Ben has drunk most of our beer. His laugh is infectious and the time just flies by. Finally he struggles to his feet, the slightly drunken mood having resulted in him offering to produce our album. Before too long Ben E King stretched tall and let forth a tired yawn 'I better make tracks' he says. We thank him for popping by and feel stunned that such a luminary of music should want to come and spend an hour with a bunch of nobodies that Jack ain't 'eard of, not neva. He gives us all an embrace, and wanders off to the door as he offers his last goodbyes. We all settle back and crack open another few cans to savour the moment, when Ben's broad Harlem tones come booming from the corridor beyond the rehearsal room.

'What the hell is this?'

We all look at each other with raised eyebrows before getting to our feet and going to look. Standing in the corridor is Ben. He has opened the large sound proofed door that leads to the yard. However, his exit is blocked by a large iron security gate straight out of Pentonville nick. Time had most definitely flown. So much so that that Jack had locked us in for the night and gone home.

Within about 30 minutes Ben E King has accepted the inevitable. He was stuck here until Jack unlocked the security gate in the morning. “You got any more Tunder-Blunder?”
In an effort to lighten the mood we decide to do what we had done the previous night; Jam lots of songs and play stupid tour games.

Ben seems happy to join in, making several humungous joints, and further in-roads into the booze stash. The first game we play is a band favourite and seldom fails to raise some hilarity. We don't know it yet but tonight is going to be a classic. Everyone is given two cigarette papers. On the first you write a style of music. Jazz, punk, soul, flamenco, whatever takes your fancy. On the second you write a subject. It can be absolutely anything at all; the more stupid, the better. The papers are then scrunched up and placed in two plastic cups. Each person takes a paper from each cup and has 15 minutes to compose a song in the style of, and on the subject, they have selected.

Ben E King, soul legend, has got 15 minutes to compose a rap tune about drain cleaning. We all don instruments, in between stoned giggles, and pick up a cod Run-DMC groove. Go Ben!

“I'm a Dynorod boy with ma steam clean jet, and I ain't found a drain that I can't clean yet, C'Mon!”

The finale to the evening is a magic moment. On the way to London we had been listening to Prince and, during the previous evening, we had just about nailed a half decent rendition of 'Never Take the Place of Your Man.' Ben knows the song and, after writing out the lyric for him, he gives it both barrels. Prince would have wept with envy. Four young nobodies are locked in a South London railway arch at 3 a.m with Ben E King, and performing a moment that was lost to the ether of history. Can't believe we didn't bother to tape it.

At about 8.45 a.m I am roused by the sound of locks clinking and our resident plastic gangster, ordering someone to shift their 'effing' car out of his parking spot before they cop for slap.
I look out across the room from the relative comfort of the moth eaten draylon sofa. Ben E King is dead to the world and snoring like a road drill, spread eagled under a blanket in the middle of the floor. All around him are empty cans...All apart from the one he is still holding.

Jack Barrington thumped open the door and strode in with a greeting of 'Slop out, B Wing!' He sees Ben E King comatose in the middle of the floor surrounded by empties. “What the bloody 'ell is he doing in here?” 

Ben E King hauled himself to the upright, took a swig on his room temperature Stella, and rubbed his chops as he looked at warden Jack. “Shiiiit, man, you locked me in here last night.”
Jack Barrington gave an exasperated shake of the head and hauled Ben E King to his feet. “C'mon soppy bollocks, fuck off out of here before you make any more mess.”

It's 6pm and Flakey Dave Ambrose has been and gone. We were none the wiser as to his opinion on the band, as he had just sat staring at the floor for the whole hour he was there, muttering the phrase 'Wizards and Queens' (?) Tracie assured us that, as long as he hadn't started howling like a dog and pulling out his hair, he probably liked us. Suddenly, there was the sound of much huffing, clanking, and swearing. A size nine booted open the door, almost flattening the blue wigged gob monster behind it. In stumbled our resident soul legend, carrying a case of beer and several bottles of wine. “OK, who's for a slug of Tunder-blunder?”

David Ambrose never did sign us and Tracie LaMorte turned out to be every bands worst nightmare. However, we didn't really care that much. They really were just the side show, when all said and done.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Drug Crazed Rockers Attack Disabled Fan. Revenge is Sweet.

Drug Crazed Rockers Attack Disabled Fan.
Comic Revenge of an Epic Scale.

Quite how the blood had become so bad, was never entirely clear, but there was no doubting that it existed by the gallon. It was said to have started the previous summer in the backstage of another festival, when a certain dinosaur UK rock band had tried to lord it over several of the younger punk acts on the bill. The dinosaurs and their crew had apparently been objectionable from the start; cordoning off and annexing various hospitality areas, demanding increased status, and generally acting like prima donnas towards several of the other bands. This had then boiled over into a music press war of sniping insults, most notably between the dinosaurs aging rock god front man, and a young punk singer called Max Splodge, from the band, Sploginessabounds.

Max Splodge’s band was destined to be a one hit wonder, but to those who frequented the London punk and new wave scene, Max Splodge also had a reputation as a monumental practical joker. These comic wheezes were not simply the kind of japes that caused all concerned to roll around with hysterical laughter at the finale, but often dangerous and vitriolic humiliations, set up over weeks, and orchestrated to cringing effect. This was obviously something that the rock dinosaurs where blissfully unaware of when they had being acting like Elizabeth Taylor and calling Splodge a talentless twat in the pages of the music papers, the previous summer.

Some months later, the dinosaur’s management received a letter from the production office of a very popular BBC TV show. The show was all about ‘fixing it’ for kids and hosted by a now disgraced paedophile. The researcher’s letter appeared to be on a the shows official letter headed paper, with phone and fax numbers, and asking the bands management to read the accompanying letter from the family of a viewer. The letter was from the brother and sister of a young man called Martin, and went on to say that Martin was the world’s greatest fan of the band. He had travelled all over the UK to see them until tragedy had destroyed his life. The letter went on to explain how the previous year, Martin and his girlfriend had been travelling to see the band on his motorbike, when they had been involved in a fatal accident. Martin’s girlfriend had been killed and he had been left brain damaged and in a wheelchair. Could the TV show ‘fix it’ for Martin to finally meet his heroes, as it might help with his recovery?

The bands management faxed back to the researcher at the BBC. Of course they would be more than happy to help, and did the show have any ideas of what they wanted to do? Max Splodge then returned a fax suggesting that maybe something could be organized for Martin to be a guest of the band at their forthcoming appearance at that year’s Reading Festival? The show would organize a film crew and bring Martin and his siblings to the festival, and all the band needed to do was make a bit of a fuss of him, maybe let him watch the gig from the side of the stage, give him a couple of t-shirts and signed albums? Of course, the bands management were quick to spot the promo value in it. A prime time Saturday evening TV slot and loads of goodwill for the band.

Having arranged with the band’s management for the requisite area passes, Max Splodge (suitabley disguised) and his cohorts arrived at the artists entrance of the Reading Festival, armed with a pair of flight-cased video cameras, all baring the TV shows logo, a boom mic’ and their director. They were ushered through to the band’s hospitality area where Martin’s brother and sister immediately laid the groundwork of what to expect. Martin is a lovely lad, but he does sometimes howl and shout out, but only because he’s happy or excited. He can walk on his crutches for short periods, and they are not to be embarrassed if they have trouble understanding his speech. Just nod and smile at everything, and it will be fine.

Max Splodge was then wheeled into the bands hospitality area, practically foaming at the mouth and screaming obscenities.  The band nervously played along, getting beards tugged and eyes gouged as they gathered around the wheel chair for a photo, in a shower of spit and screaming. As the band prepared for the late afternoon performance, Martin and his family were moved on to the side of the stage, cameras rolling. As the band came to the end of their set, the lead singer dedicated the last song to one of the bands greatest fans, Martin, who had suffered such tragedy but still made it to the show. As the band kicked off into the show closing number, Max Splodge came marching out onto the stage on his crutches, screaming and foaming, and threw himself on the singer. The bands road crew ran on to the stage to try and disengage the seemingly overwrought Martin from his hero. However, poor Martin got scared and began to lash out with his aluminium crutches, before wetting his jeans and leaving the singer to finish the song standing in a huge puddle of piss.

Of course, by this point the band was wishing they had never agreed to it, but what could they do? The poor guy couldn’t help how he was, and they just had to keep a brave face on things until he left. The TV director suggested they head back to the hospitality area and film the finale; the band presenting Martin with a framed gold disc and his ‘fix it’ badge, and then they would call it a wrap.

Through gritted teeth, covered in spit, and stinking of piss, the bands lead singer made the presentation with the rest of them gathered around the wheelchair. Max Splodge made one last gurning howl before climbing out of his wheelchair and bursting into hysterical laughter. To no surprise, the dinosaurs were not about to see the funny side of it. They had just been well and truly mugged off in front of 60’000 people, and punched, poked, and spat on, for the entire afternoon. The singer and lead guitarist waded into Max Splodge, fists flying, and proceeded to kick the living shit out of him, until they were dragged off and ejected from the tent.

The following Monday, one of the tabloids ran the front page; ‘Drug Crazed Rockers Attack Disabled Fan, accompanied by a photo of an upturned wheelchair and a guy having his head kicked in by a bunch of well known middle aged rockers.

Ruby Pulls It Off. From the forthcoming novel, Pseudonyms, by Ian Hunter.

Ruby Pulls It Off. 

From the forthcoming novel, Pseudonyms, by Ian Hunter.

Ruby Stone stepped off the steps and felt the dry heat hit her face as she walked across the concrete towards the terminal building. She hated lying to Sebastian but what he didn't know couldn't hurt him. She was beginning to feel that things were now coming to an end. She had been running the time share scam for nearly four years now, and the cardinal rule was not to be greedy, and to get out while you still could. She was getting tired of the running, the name changes, the feeling of never belonging and constantly looking over her shoulder. If all went to plan in the next few days, it was definitely time to get out.

If all deposits were paid, she would be up to the tune of a hundred and eighty thousand euros. She had about the same amount dotted around in various accounts and a third of a million was a nice chunk of change. In a few days time she would cast off Ruby Stone and consign her to Interpol's missing persons file before choosing one final identity and disappearing into the sunset.

She smiled at the border officer as he glanced at her face and looked down at her passport. It was as good a forgery as anyone was likely to see but she still felt the sweat in the nape of her back whenever she had to present it. 'Ruby Stone?' said the officer. 'Like a ruby stone, yes?' She smiled once more. 'My father was a jeweller.' The officer smiled and was seduced by her charm as he handed it back. 'It's a pretty name for a pretty lady. Enjoy your stay in Sardinia.'

Ruby Stone sat on the balcony of her rented apartment and sipped her mint julep in the warmth of the early evening sun. Tomorrow morning she was meeting the Taylor's. Some fuck-witted retirees from Derby, looking to spend their bungalow equity on three weeks of Sardinian paradise per annum. By Friday they would be looking at the photos of the white walled hacienda high in the hills above Porto Torres, whilst standing on the pot holed car park of a knackered donkey sanctuary and wondering where the fuck their house was. The following day it was a drive down the coast to Alghero to play the same scam on a couple called Doris and Albert Faulkner of Hull.

She needed to think what to do about Sebastian. In a few days time she was going to be an all points bulletin once more. After Cyprus and the Costa's she'd got a flight to Alexandria and then the ferry to Tel Aviv and spent a couple of months visiting Mauri's family and seeing her cousins. One of the plus points of being half Jewish was that nobody fucked with the yids and that included the forces of law and order. She could move about normally and get a tan without any fear of being lifted. Even if the cops had tracked her down, Israeli bureaucracy would have fucked them up for long enough for her to got the boat to Northern Cyprus and away from any kind of extradition.

She missed the old man more than she knew. She had been thirteen when he died. She'd been too young to really understand Mauri's life and what he did, and as she got older and things came out about him, she had found herself loving him even more than she had when he was around to be her daddy. She knew in her heart that he would never have left her of his own free will. The cops said he had taken his own life rather than face fifteen years inside but she had never really bought that.

Dad had been involved with some bad people. Some she could remember, some she couldn't. Some she could remember more than others. She felt a shiver down her spine and took a big slug on her cocktail as the mental lock broke and uncle Bobby's face sprang into her consciousness. His silver hair and ruddy face, sitting on his knee and giggling as he blew raspberries on her neck. He was like a big funny cuddly bear, until that night he had forced her mouth onto his cock and then raped her.

She had never told anyone and just the thought of that night was going to make her sob until she had nothing left to give. Most of the time she kept him locked in that box in the back of her mind, but now and again he managed to crawl out. His tiny semi flaccid penis below his grotesque belly, moving towards her mouth. Ruby Stone sunk the rest of her mint julep in one massive swig and went to her bed to cry.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Making Soup From a Bag of Screws. Video Production on a Budget.

Making Soup from a Bag of Screws.

Video Production on a Budget

The job involved producing a music video, commissioned by Bonnieramigo Records-Stockholm, for the band Molotov Jive.

·        Background:
In 2006, the ground was just about to fall out from under the music industry. The spectre of massive file sharing meant that revenues were about to be hit hard, and labels were already tightening their belts in regard to promotional spending. Where once, you might expect a budget of $50’000 for the video of a labels new flag ship artist; now you might be lucky with a few thousand at best. Such was the case here. My budget for this shoot was 40’000 Swedish Kronor. ($ 6071 in today’s Aussie money)

·        The Start Point.
As the producer, the first job was to assess the song and create a visual treatment for the video clip. As it was the band’s first real video, I thought it was important to do more of a performance video than some elaborate story led clip. This was the band’s ‘big hello’ so I wanted the audience to get to see who they were, rather than get too arty with the clip.

·       The Song.
The song was called ‘Made in Spain’ and it was spawned by the band’s main man, Anton Annersand. The song was basically a tale of teenage lust and guilt that came about after Anton had slept with his best friend’s girlfriend, whilst they were both on a 3 day college study trip to Barcelona. The song dealt with the lustful holiday romance, and then the awful guilt that they both felt upon returning home and trying to pretend nothing had happened.

·       The Director.
With not much money to play with, I turned to an old friend, Nick Small. Nick was currently a director on TV show, Top Gear, but prior to settling down with wife and kids, he had directed several great videos by Welsh band The Manic Street Preachers, as well as working with Madonna.

Nick decided to do it, simply as he liked the song, and he quite fancied doing a music video again. He offered to do it for $1000.

 The Treatment.
Nick Small made the comment in his usual blunt, northern English way.

 ‘Unless you want to film it in a fucking Swedish tapas bar, I suggest we go to Barcelona; being that it features so heavily in the song.’

He was right of course. The location was integral to the song and how we visually captured it, but it wasn’t reflected in the budget. However, we decided to at least try to work out a way of doing it, and that then gave rise to the key idea within the treatment. A few years earlier a movie came out called, Catch Me If You Can. In the film, Leonardo DiCaprio plays real life 1960’s con-man, Frank Abagnale, who spends a decade pretending to be an airline pilot, a lawyer, and also a surgeon, albeit never having trained to be any of them. The back drop for the film is the 1960’s playgrounds of the rich and famous. The French Riviera, Rome, Paris, and Barcelona, and Steven Spielberg’s cinematography perfectly captures the cool and vibrant spirit of the time.

At the beginning of the film, a 17 year old Abagnale watches a young airline captain walking down his street. The young mums with their children are all looking at him as he passes by in is smart uniform, peak cap on his head, and mirrored aviator shades. Every girl he passes turns and looks longingly at him; and it is the moment that Abagnale, decides that the girls obviously love airline pilots, and he subsequently breaks into Pan American Airlines warehouse and steals some uniforms for himself. What if we could get our hands on four airline captains’ uniforms, and capture the same reactions on the streets of Barcelona?

The Logistics.
So far I had spent $1000 for the director and another $400 for his return flights from Manchester to Barcelona. However, an intensive web search for accommodation had sourced a 7 birth apartment in down town Barcelona for $800 for 3 nights, arriving Sunday and leaving Wednesday. I had also managed to get budget airline flights from Stockholm to Barcelona for around $100 per person. I was now running at $2700.

The plan was to arrive on the Sunday afternoon. On the Monday we would dress the band as handsome young airline pilots and source some locations to film them, and the reactions of the people on the streets. On the Tuesday, we would find a location that screamed BARCELONA, and do a performance shoot of them miming to the song.

The big issues that still needed resolving were the following.

1.     Cameras and filming equipment.
2.     Drums.
3.     Airline Uniforms.
4.     Transport.
5.     Permits to film.

The first two were going to be the hardest to solve. Although Nick Small was able to get a good deal on a high end HD camera in the UK, the cost of the insurance to take it abroad was more per day than the cost of four days entire hire. The only option was to hire one in Barcelona. A web search of Spanish film production companies gave us a great result. Not only did Nick find one with a suitable camera, but the manager turned out to be a guy he had worked with some years earlier. To cap it off, they currently had a shoot on hold, because the lead actor had broken his leg after drunkenly throwing a TV out of a hotel window and falling out with it. The crew were currently being paid to sit around a swimming pool for a few days, and the camera truck was parked up on the director’s driveway. We could have the truck for $1000 for the 2 days, (as it was already paid for) and one of the camera crew was happy to come and help out for $400 cash in the hand. (Running Total $4100)
The next issue was a drum kit. The band were going to bring guitars and cymbals as their main pieces of luggage, but we couldn’t very well afford to ship a drum kit over from Sweden. The solution was social media. I did a social media search for bands in Barcelona and got in contact with a couple of people. Barcelona indie band, Dunno, were great guys. I explained the situation and offered them $150 to borrow their drum kit for an afternoon. Of course, they could come to the shoot and we’d take them out afterwards for dinner and beers. I just had to hope they turned up.

Despite several airlines saying that they would see what they could do; it seemed that 9/11 had put pay to anyone feeling comfortable about loaning out fly-boy uniforms. The solution was to go DIY. All the band members informed me that they had some smart black suit trousers and formal black shoes, so that was the bottom half sorted. $100 in an army surplus store bought me four peak caps, $50 in a sewing and craft store bought me some gold braid, a metre of black felt cloth, and suitable gold plastic cap badges, and another $100 in H&M got me four cheap white shirts and black ties. With the help of someone’s nice mother, the gold braid and black felt was glued around eight pieces of stiff card and made into shoulder epilates, which were fixed to the white shirts with Velcro. Hey, presto, airline pilots.
Transport was solved by the director picking up a Renault crew bus at the airport hire company, for around $400 for 3 days, and delivering it back on his return. This also saved us his taxi fares to, and from the airport.

Running Total. $4900.

We arrived to Girona airport around lunch time on the Sunday, and were at the rental apartment by around 3pm, via the airport shuttle bus. ($20 each, return) Nick, the director arrived at around 8pm, from Manchester, UK, and thankfully the Spanish band guys arrived around 9pm and had some beers and tapas.

On the Monday morning at 10, am, a Mexican guy called Juan Pablo showed up in a massive location truck full of camera gear and lamps. Nick had ear marked a few locations, and after a quick stop at the town hall to pay $50 for our public filming permit, we headed off in to Barcelona. First stop, Los Ramblas, the main tourist area. We then headed to the Sargada Familia, the amazing cathedral designed by Antonio Gaudi, and collared a load of English school girls to be in the video. We also realized that the exterior of our apartment block was designed by Gaudi and decided to try and film as much of his architecture as we could. 

Next stop, the Gaudi Gardens, on the plateau above the city. Upon arriving here, we realized we would need to adopt a guerrilla shoot tactic, as the signs said no filming, and the place was a nightmare to park. We had no option but to park illegally next to a park rangers shed and hope that any wardens assumed it was a park ranger’s vehicle. We had no such luck. Before we had taken the camera cases from the back of our little hire bus, a Guardia cop pulled up on his Harley Davidson; all leather boots, aviator shades, and big mustache. He started to tell us to move our van, but then spotted all the camera equipment.

Hey, Gringo’s... You are making movie?’

Yes,’ I replied; hoping for some empathy. 

He took off his shades and smiled. ‘You need policeman in your movie?’ he said, half joking.

Fuck it, I thought, ‘Yes! You wanna be in our movie?’

For the next hour we enjoyed a free reign of the amazing Gaudi plateau gardens, accompanied by our new friend, whom we constantly got to walk through shots we were never going to use. We decided to wrap for lunch and asked El Copper if he knew anywhere nice to have lunch?

 ‘You know La Salamanca?’ he said.

After some protracted direction that we were struggling to comprehend, he simply climbed on to his motorbike and beckoned us to follow him. We were then given a police escort through the mad Barcelona traffic to the beach at Barcelonetta, where he peeled off and gave us a blast on his siren as an Adios.

Nick, the directors, luck in procuring all the camera gear so cheaply had meant we had a little more money left than I had expected, so it was decided to treat ourselves to the greatest Paella we would ever eat in our entire lives.

After lunch we resumed our filming and encountered a very comical situation in one of the cities squares. There was another film crew, whom we discovered were from an MTV Europe music show. It wasn’t long before their producer pulled over the guys in the band and asked them to do a link for the show with the pretty Spanish girl VJ. As we walked off, laughing at their Spanish TV debut of, ‘Hey, you’re watching MTV with Maria Hernandez.’ It suddenly occurred to Nick, our director, that the MTV crew maybe hadn’t realized the guys were actually a band?  Having run back and checked it out, the pretty girl presenter ran over to us once more, telling us that they thought the guys were actually airline pilots, but even more brilliant if they were a band, and did they want to do an interview and plug their new single?

Day two was to be a performance shoot, miming to the song. The director had chosen the beach at Barcelonetta, half a kilometre down from the main tourist area to avoid too many locals coming over and trying to get into the shot. We arrived at around 10.30 am and it looked to have been a good call. The location had an amazing panorama of the city behind us, and the whole stretch of beach was practically deserted.

As we set about organizing the shots list and setting up the Spanish bands drums, Johan, the drummer looked up from his kneeling position next to the kit and found himself staring at a wizened and sun tanned set of elderly gentlemen’s vegetables. It transpired that we were on the nudist beach; which accounted for why there weren’t many people there. Some old nudists had wandered over to see what we were doing, and Johan had looked up and almost bumped some wrinkly old man’s wedding tackle with his nose.

By 2 pm it was a wrap. We had filmed the band performing the song about ten times, and then thrown in some surreal shots of them sun bathing in full pilot regalia, in between lots of mustachioed Spaniards constantly trying to get in to the shots. To cap off a fun few days, our new friends from Spanish indie rockers, Dunno, had managed to organize a very short notice gig at a local venue.

With serious hangovers, we flew back to Sweden on the Wednesday lunch time, suffering a massive and dramatic loss of altitude as we hit cold air over the Alps. This was then compounded by Stockholm being in the grip of a Baltic gale and the plane almost barrel rolling before it touched down. Within two weeks we had a finished edit of the video. The editor had graded the digital film to make it look like wide-screen soft focus 35 mm, and it totally captured the feel we had been hoping to achieve. A few days later, the head of A&R at the record label, called me up in a panic.

‘How much money have you spent on this?’ he said nervously.

‘Less than $6000’ I told him, ‘And we still had enough left over to spend $500 on lunch at La Salamanca, and then get roaring drunk on mojitos at the end of the shoot,... all on your budget.’ 
I knew he would think I was joking.

The record label’s promo people continued the trend. No one could believe that we had flown seven people to Spain, accommodated them all in a beautiful city centre apartment, fed and paid them, and rented a huge Ghostbusters truck with a million dollars worth of film equipment and crew. We had also delivered a music video that looked as if it had cost ten times what it actually did. In addition, we had all enjoyed a nice sunny working holiday in one of the world’s most beautiful cities, eaten like kings, drank like lords, and all out of a tiny budget.

If there is a lesson to be learned here, it’s that the idea and the vision are much more important than the budget. Of course, there is no point in trying to shoot a Spielberg epic on only a few thousand dollars, because you are always going to end up with a mess. However, a strong central idea and a resourceful mind set can often buy you much more.