Total Pageviews

Monday 26 December 2016

Listen To LASTWIND LIVE supporting Hawkwind in Derby

In my last post I finished the story of my band LASTWIND on tour supporting HAWKWIND in 2006. I mentioned that we were recorded at that gig and that LASTWIND LIVE is available as a download for a small price (five pounds or equivalent).
Quite a few of my readers showed interest so I have chosen three ways in which the album can be downloaded. It contains 6 tracks, Strung Out, Yahtze, Autoroute, Paris-Marseille, Slots and Monster Truck and is about 35 minutes of good rock music with spacey, psychedelic undertones.

1) You can follow the link below - Lastwind Live and download the album for the sum of five pounds.

2). I can send you the album via email and on reception you can either pay me via paypal (my address is
3). If you don't have a PayPal account you can send a cheque for five pound to Sam Hayles (I'll email you the details) if you live in the UK.

So, give yourself (or someone else) a late Xmas present. I guarantee its good music for body and soul!!

Wednesday 21 December 2016

Supporting Hawkwind on Tour 2006, Final Part....It All Ends in Derby.

Then, there we were, beatling up the M5 for the last time, heading for Derby Assembly Rooms and with an extra body on board. Rick was the owner of Feel The Quality Records, a small Bristol label that had put out two recordings of mine: the Lastwind Demo and This, That, The Other, 3 songs of mine with two versions of each, my mix and his. The original recording of Paris-Marseille was on this EP, sung by Laurence de Loes, Belgian father and mother from the Cote d'Ivoire, a lovely young lady with a smooth voice who played in a future version of Lastwind, providing backing vocals and percussion. Anyhow, Rick really wanted to come, to be part of the crack, to help sell some CDs and to try and get a decent live recording of our set. He's quite a quiet guy who lives on the ninth floor of a mainly Somali inhabited tower block between Stokes Croft and the Royal Bristol Infirmary, a fairly wild neighbourhood.
The drive passed without incident and we headed first for the hotel we had booked for the night: I had to drop Olivier off at Luton Airport the next day on the way back to Bristol. It was a fairly typical 2 star place with Rick's room a long way from ours but we were pleased to find out it had a bar which stayed open quite late. Then we had the usual problem of trying to find a way round the one-way system to the theatre and then a way from there round the back to the stage door. We got our gear in back stage and then moved into a dressing room with our name on the door only to be moved out by Chris who had discovered that Dave and her's room was smaller than ours. We called in at the rest of Hawkwind's dressing room and were wished good luck by Jason and Alan and got a smile from Richard.
Rick did a good job of getting to know the sound engineer and had arranged to get his recorder wired up to the desk so we should get a good recording of the live sound and the engineer promised to give us a good sound. And our sound check sounded the best yet!! Rick also got a table stand set up in the entrance hall to sell our slightly poor range of merchandise. We dashed out for some food round the square where the theatre was placed; the name was crap but the place was actually rather smart inside. There was a Nando's just along the square and we went in there but it was rammed and we were obviously going to have to wait some time so we moved on to a pub which was pretty empty and had fish and chips and mushy peas which was all rather copious and good. We got in our regulation GnT and had time for a quick spliff out the back before being called by the road crew to get on stage.
There was a big crowd waiting for us and we went down well right from the first number. I was well on top of my vocals by now and was lose enough to improvise some of the lyrics and Olivier was on top form, driving out some powerful solos. In fact, at the end of Paris-Marseille, a big rocker stood up precariously on his chair in the front row of the balcony and shouted out that the crowd ought to give more noise for the extraordinary guitarist, the best they were likely to see that year. That got a loud response of cheers and then another voice from the back of the hall shouted out that the keyboard player deserved a big cheer too. We looked at each other with big beaming smiles and really gave everything to the last two numbers, Slots and Monster Trucks which both got tremendous cheers and applause. There were some big biker girls down the front who were giving me the eye which led to me improvising the lyrics, "Don't look at me like that, You're scaring me to death," with a smile and a wink. We had done slightly longer versions of those two numbers and had therefore over-run our time or I am sure we could have done an encore, the crowd were definitely up for it and it was good to see Hawkwind and the crew joining in the applause.
But that was that. We grabbed our gear off the stage and headed out back for another smoke and then made our way out front to watch Hawkwind but were assailed by lots of people congratulating us, wanting to know where we were playing next, where they could buy our album and so on. Rick did manage to sell quite a few CDs and I was just fed up they weren't more representative of what we could do. But we had to be happy with what we had done; for a band that didn't even exist a few weeks beforehand, we had certainly pulled it off. After the gig, we went round to the Hawkwind dressing room and were treated to a glass of champagne, Dave said it was a shame we couldn't do the other gigs and even Chris congratulated us. I always got the feeling she was a bit wary of me knowing I had been friendly with Dave's first wife, Sylvie, but I might be mistaken. One thing was sure: of everyone around, I was the one who had known Dave the longest.
Jason was the person I had got on with the best and, despite having arranged to stop by his place in Honiton when I was next in the area, he died before I ever saw him again, a very sad event. Alan Davey was also very friendly and I saw him next when he had joined Hawklords. Richard, who is a very quiet and reserved person I next saw at a Hawklords gig in Frome, his neck of the woods. And Dave and Chris I saw backstage at their gig in Bristol in 2008 when Dave looked knackered and confided that he didn't think he could go on like this much longer. I lived just up the road from where the gig was and they were going to come round after the show but he was so tired they jumped in their VW camper and shot off back down to Devon.
Add caption
We went back to our hotel and ended up getting drunk with some Welsh rugby fans although what they were doing in Derby remained a mystery. We got up in time for a late breakfast and headed down to Luton to put Olivier on his plane with a fairly emotional farewell. Rick slept most of the way back, I dropped him off and got home, had a quick bite to eat and crashed for 12 hours solid.
There was an interesting end to this whole story. I was over in France for Xmas at my son's Sam's at the end of that year and went down to Avignon to record some extra vocals for the live tape of the Derby gig at Olivier's home studio. When we had finished, his wife drove us all up to Sam's for a pre-Xmas was the 22nd of December. Sam's wife, Murielle was heavily pregnant with their second child. Us lads got well drunk and stoned and continued partying after the ladies went to bed until Murielle appeared at the top of the stairs saying her waters had broken. While Olivier's wife phoned the hospital to say they'd be arriving, I made some strong coffee and Olivier walked Sam round and round the garden. Then they set off to drive over an icy col to Valreas Hospital, a good 25 kms away. Little Elijah was born in the back of their Renault Kangoo half way to the hospital. Well done Murielle who managed that all by herself!! And it's Elijah's 10th birthday this coming Friday!!!

So that's the end of that tale. The recording we made at Derby is available for a small charge. Email me at if you would like to own a copy.

Happy Christmas all and let's hope 2017 is full of more hope than 2016.
Elijah this year, 10 years old on Friday.

Saturday 17 December 2016

5 Years Ago - My First Group Trip, Around Morocco. Part One.

It was somebody else's photo on FB that reminded me that it was 5 years ago that I went on my first group trip to Morocco. It was not my first trip, I had first been there in 1973 when most the tourists were like us, hippies. That was with my first wife and I had been back again with my second partner and here children. But this was going to be different because it was with a group and also because it was going to lots of places I hadn't visited before.
Now I had already given up work and moved to Seaton to keep an eye on my dear old mum: in fact I was living across the road from the hall that is now named after Dave Brock, leader of Hawkwind. And I had paid for the holiday by giving up cigarette smoking in May and thus saving the thousand pounds I needed for this two week trip. Unfortunately, in Morocco cigarettes were dirt cheap so I was back on them immediately. The group were guided by two jovial Berber guides who really enhanced the whole expedition and the group was dominated by people from the Southern Hemisphere, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. I had thought I might be the oldest but there was a lady of my age and a Canadian couple who were much older. But, a bit to my surprise, I was probably the hippest of the group.
Anyhow, I haven't the time to go into a lot of detail but I thought it would be worth sharing some of my photos with you. So, I hope you like them and the comments I will make about them.
I landed in Marrakech and met up with our group in a Riad Hotel. I was attached to the two other single men in our group, Patrick, a big South African about to go work in the mines in NW Australia, and Shane, a fairly young Aussie who was interested in the alternative music scene and smoked. We drove to Casablanca and waited around by the Grand Mosque for our bus to go to the airport and pick up the Canadian couple who had landed there. It was wet and quite cold but the mosque was impressive for its size (huge) and design. It could hold as many people as a stadium!!
Back in the day, I had problems walking, particularly uphill. So when any such walking was involved, I'd find myself a spot to sit, often being joined by passing people or, in this case, a rather large black cat.

Our next stop was Rabat, the political capital, so of course, we had to visit the royal palace. I must admit, I don't like big cities and I was waiting for the trek over the mountains to the south where there were no big places. But still, there were some interesting things, like these two guards at the palace who looked as interested in us as we were of them.

The group getting stuck into a meal with the younger ones plus me down this end.
Here we have our two guides, Ibrahim and Salah, with Natalie, an English tour guide but on holiday with her beau, Dean; more of them later.
View of the old city.

Can't remember what this was, but another really beautiful building.

I was just freaked to see oranges still on the trees in December, but after Sevilla last year, I know it's normal.

The old city walls close up.

A view of the port: Rabat is on the Atlantic coast.

The bar in our hotel had a small band playing a sort of Arabian House music and had hookahs for rent, so some of us got stuck in.

 All the above were in an old royal palace. I just love the way they decorate their walls with geometric patterns.

In the next post, we will move on to the Lower Atlas, the home of Kif!!

And also in the coming days, the final part of Lastwind's tour of England with Hawkwind.

Wednesday 14 December 2016

Supporting Hawkwind on tour, 2006. Part Five. Up to the Black Country.

So, on the 29th October 2006, there we were again, rolling up the M5 towards the Midlands. We turned off towards Wolverhampton, a town I had never visited before and, with some difficulty due to pedestrian areas and the one way system, eventually found our way to the stage doors for loading into the Wulfrum Hall. Having offloaded our gear and parked up, we had the usual wait for our sound check and then got that done quite quickly. Again, our sound was great and the road crew were very helpful and chatty. Having gone through a few things during our couple of days off, we were very positive about doing our set and keen to get started. But, of course, there was an hour or more to wait so we went off to walk round the pedestrian area and found our way into a heaving pub for a couple of beers. What was strange was that there seemed to be two clienteles in the bar: the typical Hawkwind followers which could be spotted because they were older, had Hawkwind t-shirts on and looked primarily like ageing rockers. Then, there was a slightly larger (in numbers not individual size) crowd, slightly younger and quite Goth-looking with a few New Romantics and then some Madchester-looking types, all flares and loose shirts. This gave us the impression that perhaps Wolverhampton was in some sort of time-warp, back to the eighties and nineties.
New Order.
But we found out the reason when we returned to the stage door and a window-darkened Range Rover turned up and out jumped New Order. Apparently, there were 2 halls side by side here and New Order were headlining the other one. Now I had been a fan of Joy Division back in the day and followed the progress of New Order over the years. The diminutive Bernard Sumner was accompanied by bodyguards and whisked into the building but the larger than life Peter Hook, who was still with the band in 2006, hung around outside smoking and I managed a quick word with him. He gave the impression that he would rather watch Hawkwind play than play with New Order hence I was not surprised when he left the band the following year.
I also got collared by an old boy, a true OAP, complete with long waterproof coat, creased trousers and sensible shoes. He had spotted me and wanted to chat about Sonic Assassins and why the group hadn't continued. It turned out he came from Bristol too and wanted to know if there was any chance of a lift to the Derby gig. I had to say no because we already had a full car for that one but I did sign the Sonic Assassins album he had with him, the last member to sign.
Captain Dave Brock
When we went on stage for our set, the hall was only half full although we could see that the bar, off to one side in another room but visible in part, was quite rammed. But more and more people came through to the hall as our set progressed and by the time we got to our last number, pretty much everyone was in the audience. We played a good set and got a splendid reception which was very encouraging and some of the road crew made very positive comments as we gathered up our gear and left the stage. We went out the back for a smoke and visited the bar to get drinks on our way into the hall to watch Hawkwind. We were accosted by a couple of fans who complimented us on our set and asked where we were from cos they had never heard of us.
Hawkwind were on good form and went down as well as usual with huge cheers for the most famous old songs. It was interesting seeing quite a few youngsters who where there with their parents (or perhaps grandparents) and seemed rather bemused, particularly by the dancers, obviously not something they were used to seeing. Backstage we got into banter with Jason and Alan, the friendliest of the band and Chris even gave us a compliment when she gave us our hundred pound fee in cash.
It was quite late when we set off for home and we decided to stop on the motorway for some food in a large upstairs restaurant which we had to ourselves until a large group of rather drunk lads appeared. They were getting a bit leary so we finished off our all-day breakfasts and got back to our car.
Obny and me strutting our stuff.
We had another day of rest before our last gig and did very little except go for drinks in the evening with Hugh, our Chinese guest, who was really good company. I was almost regretting turning down the chance to play two extra gigs and had to remind myself that I didn't have the money to cover the costs particularly as we would have had to spend a couple of nights in hotels. But, we had had quite a lot of requests for a CD and we had quickly had one produced out of demos I had and a friend, Rick, of Feel The Quality Records, who had put out a couple of my recordings, said he would like to come with us to get a recording of our live set and would also man a stall selling our merchandise. And act like we had a 'crew'. So Derby was looking like it could be a great laugh.

Friday 2 December 2016

Supporting Hawkwind on tour, 2006. Part Four; Cambridge, A good gig plus a good night out.

We didn't see much of the others after the gig except Chris, the tour manager who told us in passing that she was still looking for the promoter and so would have to pay us the next day. Northampton looked dead so we went back to our bedsit, chatted a bit and then had a fairly early night. We already knew we weren't going to be playing the Norwich gig because a local band had already been put in the support slot so we would be driving to Cambridge, doing the gig and then spending the next day driving back to Bristol.
Me in front of the venue in Cambridge.
The drive to Cambridge wasn't too far and the most remarkable feature was driving past the large Weetabix factory out in the middle of this cereal growing region. We wanted to get to the venue quite early so I could re-programme my Fantom for one of the numbers and we could check that Olivier had some ideas about the new number we were going to use as our intro number, an instrumental as yet nameless, to replace the number that really hadn't worked on night one. We passed through the old university district and following our map, found our bed and breakfast in a neighbourhood of terraced Victorian houses with a very pleasant Asian landlady.
It took us a while to find the load in entrance to the venue which was part of a complex just outside the old city, a very modern looking place. We found our small dressing room, took all our gear up there and I settled down to programming while Olivier listened to the CD version I had of the new introductory track which was a piece of psychedelic techno really over which he could play some soaring notes. We then went out for a smoke and then wandered inside to watch Hawkwind doing their sound-check. There were already some fans in the hall, all of them from Europe and I got talking to some Germans who knew me by sight and knew of my earlier connections with the band, Sonic Assassins being the by-word. I even got asked to sign some things by way of my autograph, particularly flyers about the gig.
When it was our turn to sound check, the road crew were noticeably friendlier than the first night, being much more helpful, particularly one guy whose name I couldn't remember but who seemed to know me from back in the day. And the sound engineer also gave us more time and the sound we were hearing was a lot better which obviously helped our confidence. The doors seemed to open quite early so we hung around out front having a couple of drinks and chatting with various people and getting invites to an after-gig party that was to happen in a pub not far from our BnB we were told by a young couple who had chatted to us as we were parked outside it.
The sound desk.
Getting onstage we could see that the hall was pretty packed and our new opening number went down well and, in fact, each number we did got a good deal of applause building up to our final number, Monster Trucks, which again was very well received and again we noticed most of Hawkwind watching us play it. In fact, after the gig, Alan Davy was particularly praising of it saying we should put it out as a single, it would be a monster hit. Also Richard, the drummer asked me if I had programmed the drum track myself, which I had.
We were quite ecstatic at how well the set had gone down and knew we would stay with that set list, which was as follows ; Strung Out, the new instrumental number, called thus because of the string sounds in it, about 3mins long ; Yahtzee, an old song of mine, reworked to give prevalence to the guitar and with lyrics about my time with Hawkwind in the USA, just over 5 mins ; Autoroute, an out and out rocker about getting caught speeding on the motorway in France, around 4mins 30 ; Paris-Marseille, a more psychedelic rocker, also about during in France which I sang in French, also around 4 min 30 ; Slots, a slower song but quite heavy, about gambling and other hedonistic activities and the importance people place on money, 5 and a half mins ; and, finally, Monster Trucks, a real crowd pleaser, again, just over 5 mins. So we were coming in at just over 30 minutes, our revised official time.
Quite happy with our performance, we had a smoke and then went out front to the bar and to watch the main act perform and again I noticed a few people pointing us out; we were getting recognised. Hawkwind played well and I was impressed by their dancers and lights as much as the music although I did enjoy some of the old favourites they played. When the lights came on at the end of the show we got chatting with a group of younger fans, particularly a fine looking Asian lass who seemed in charge of her group and who insisted we follow them to this pub for an after party. Luckily it wasn't far from our BnB so we parked up in this alley behind its back garden and walked round the corner to the pub, being waylaid by some other people who tried to tempt us back to their flat for drinks and smokes.
Once in the pub, we found that Jason, the Hawkwind keyboard player was already there and we soon found ourselves as part of a large and noisy group and began a couple of hours of drinking, surreptitious coke snorting and a lot of flirting which all led to nothing but a very late night. In our rush to get to this party, we had only seen Dave and Chris quickly. Dave moaned that it was the last night he was going to sleep on the bus as he wasn't in fact sleeping hardly at all and never could in a bus these days. Chris paid us for the two nights, told us what time to be in Wolverhampton and asked us if we could play an extra two dates up north after the Derby gig. Unfortunately Olivier already had his flight back to France booked and I quickly worked out that I couldn't afford to lose any more money: I was already going to be down quite a lot after 4 was a good thing I had recently sold our house!!
We got up quite late, enjoyed a full English breakfast and set off for the long drive back down to Bristol. It was a nice autumn day and we enjoyed the slow drive, Olivier nodding off just as we hit the M4. Liz had prepared a chicken wings, rice and peas dinner which we washed down with a couple of bottles of red before retiring, looking forward to a couple of days off.

To be continued > part 5: Up to the Black Country where we meet a favourite band.

Saturday 26 November 2016

Supporting HAWKWIND on tour, 2006. Part 3, Under-rehearsed Debutants.

Up none to early, we loaded up my Citroen Picasso and set off to our rehearsal room on the Gloucester Road which was rather damp and dingy but fine for our purposes. We set up, plugged in and started into Autoroute, a fairly easy song about a time when I had been stopped on the motorway in France by a gendarme on a motorbike and escorted off to an ATM to pay a speeding fine of 90 euros for doing 100 mph when there was a 80 mph limit. I found my voice quite quickly and Olivier's guitar was sounding great, when bang, one loud noise from his ampli and then nothing. We tried everything we knew, which was not a lot, but it had given up the ghost. So, we loaded it back in our vehicle and set off to Old Market to take it back and get something that worked. Of course, when we got there it was lunchtime and the secondhand equipment store was shut and all we could do was go and eat some fish and chips while we waited, a treat for Oliver on his first time in the UK.
At 2:30 we finally got a reply and were told to come round the back to get in. We explained what had happened and the guy just said to dump it there and come and look at some alternatives: there were several and Olivier wanted to try them before making a decision. Eventually he found something he was happy with, we did the paperwork and set off back to our rehearsal place, getting there at gone 4 in the afternoon. We had to be out of there by 6 so we spent the rest of the afternoon playing around with the riffs of Monster Truck, an old instrumental I had written for a friend who was DJ/MC at Monster Truck events, trying to turn it into a song with the few lyrics I had for it.
We went home, ate, and while Olivier practised his guitar on headphones, I wrote the remaining lyrics for the songs we had chosen.
The next two days' rehearsals went well, we got the balance between the programmed Fantom, my synth playing and the guitar fairly well sorted and I was managing to fit the vocals to the music a lot better even though my memory was proving to be ageing trying to remember all the lyrics I had written. And, as we packed up our gear, we felt fairly confident we could get through the set without any big hiccups.
Now the first gig was in Northampton at The Deco, a hip-sounding name for what was in fact an old theatre which had had a modernisation of sorts, mainly aimed at making it multi-functional and I think it held about 900 max. We found it quite quickly, right in the centre of town and after much asking, found the way to the back of it and the backstage entrance. The Hawkwind bus was already parked there and sounds of warm-up cum soundcheck could he heard from inside. We wandered in and were confronted by Chris, Dave Brock's good lady and the band's manager. She congratulated us on finding the place, I did the introductions to Olivier and she looked around for the other band members and I had to say that we were it. She seemed very surprised and said so but I told her not to worry....we could make an awful lot of noise.
We were told to wait out the back until the stage crew told us it was time to soundcheck and that at least it would be easy us only being two. We were joined by Jason, the Hawkwind keyboard player who I didn't know. He said they were still on the drums so he had time for a ciggie and we got chatting and hit it off straightaway, him being from Honiton so just up the road from where I lived as a teenager and more recently. When he was called up he suggested we got ready to go as he was the last. And soon after, a large roadie, Mr Dibs I think, called for us to come on stage and setup quick. This was done and we were plugged in to the PA system and told to play. I explained how the bass and drums were all coming out of my Roland Fantom, along with some other odds and ends and that, as all that was already balanced, the sound on that channel was to be constant all variations coming from my live synth playing on the XP80, the guitar and my vocals. I also tried to get across how I wanted a certain amount of reverb on my voice with some echo at the end of certain phrases which would be self-evident I felt.
We both felt that the whole crew just wanted the job done so they could have a break before the gig and that nobody was really interested in what we were saying, we were just the support band. I still hadn't seen anyone I knew, particularly Dave himself. Anyhow, when we were told that was it and that we were to be on stage at 7:45, we rushed off back to the car to drive off to our pre-booked BnB to check in. We found it quite easily and it was opposite a large park that looked better than being in the streets of this quite sad-looking town which was long past its glory days as an important shoe-making centre. The landlady seemed nice, gave us our keys, explained how to get in quietly if we were late and off we went with not much time left till we would be on stage.
When we got back to the Deco, we went in the front entrance and I chatted with the Hawkwind merchandising guy who agreed to put our two items on the end of his stall, our album hastily put together and consisting of instrumental versions of some of the numbers we would be playing and a couple of other random items, one being an Obny remix of an early version of Monster Trucks and the best track, and our tour poster done, like the CD cover, by my son Sam under his business name of DoseProd - check him out: his work is really good and he's, among other things, designed many, many album covers.
Having sorted that, we asked where the band was and were directed to a very large room. Around a large table were sprawled the band tucking into various vegetarian delicacies and drinking plastic cups of wine or beer (I presumed). Dave gave me a nod and a smile as if we hadn't seen each other for a couple of fact we hadn't been face to face for over thirty years. I pointed to the food and we were told to tuck in, it was fine today cos there was plenty of food. And then Dave did the introductions to Richard, the drummer, Alan, the bass player and Jason, the keyboard player we had already met. Then, they went back to their conversation and we sat there eating quiche and bean salad (very good actually) until a crew member suggest we get back stage ready to go on.
As we passed in front of the bar, I grabbed a couple of GnTs, to help the nerves and glanced at the people waiting behind a cord to be let in. Backstage it seemed there was still 15 minutes to go as the doors had only just opened so we went out the back and shared a smoke I had rolled earlier. A mistake because just as the GnT (a double of course) had started to settle my nerves, they came back tenfold with the smoke. Then we were pushed on and we were into the first song.
The Hawkwind public have acquired a reputation for actually listening to the support bands, knowing they are chosen for their connections with Hawkwind, and their applause and a few shouted cheers really calmed me down. But it was someone shouting out Sonic Assassin that gave me back the on-stage confidence I knew I had acquired over the years. The fold back was working perfectly and I could hear every note and grew to love hearing my voice so loud, with great echo during Paris-Marseille, our fourth number. But it wasn't all good: there was one song that really didn't work (and that we dropped from future gigs) and we cocked up the beginning of second song Yahtzee quite badly.
However, we finished really well with Monster Trucks, even though I forgot most the words. Olivier's guitar playing was superb and ensured the song really rocked. As the song came to an end and I finally spoke to the audience, I noticed that most of Hawkwind were watching us and we got a fair amount of applause from the public for a debutant band.
And debutants we were in many senses. The last time I had played live in a band was with the Crop-dusters, Hampshires answer in Sussex's Levellers, and I had played quite a few gigs with them in good venues like the Bournemouth Academy (the night after Hawkwind), the London Venue, The Camden Underground and finishing on New Year's at the Mean Fiddler, a fantastic gig. But that was very different: I was the keyboard player and only required on half their songs and I didn't have to sing. And that was 1992-4. The last time I had played and sung and been the front man was with a group called Twice As Nice in the late eighties and to a quite small audience in a French Village Hall! And as for Olivier, although he had played a lot live, it was mainly in very small venues in France.
In fact, I spent most the rest of the evening out in the front lobby near the merchandising stand so I could see if there was any interest in our small offerings and also to see if anyone seemed to recognise me as being part of the support band. I had a couple of beers too and slipped out for a smoke. Olivier had stayed backstage to watch Hawkwind's show and, having noticed a complete indifference to our merchandise I went in and caught the last fifteen minutes of their very professional show. When the cheering stopped after the last number and the lights came on, a bloke standing next to me, turned and looked at me and said," Well, for a support act, you weren't bad."

Friday 25 November 2016

Supporting HAWKWIND on tour, 2006: Part Two, How To Put A Band Together Really Quickly.

So, I got the tour dates from Dave Brock and they weren't far away, and I had started rehearsing with Rob and Latch, drummer and bassist whilst at the same time, writing lyrics for the songs I had in the pipeline. Then, down The Bell, a local pub near the rehearsal place, a hangout for quite a few musicians, including members of Massive Attack, I was faced by a big problem. Rob announced that they both wanted 50 pounds per rehearsal and 100 pounds per gig. Now Dave Brock had already told me that we would only be getting 100 pounds per gig plus food (perhaps). And we would need to pay for hotels most nights plus fuel for my people carrier. There was no way I could afford that and I told them so,,,,100 pounds per gig: I thought it unlikely that even the members of Hawkwind were paid that much. How could I sort out a way to do this tour?
I knew I could programme the songs on my Mac using Garageband and the sequencer in my new Roland Fantom keyboard and in fact I had already done so for most of the songs but I couldn't go on stage alone, I needed at least one other person and preferably a guitarist, and a very good one. I spoke about the problem to my son Sam and he suggested an old French friend of his, Olivier Bony, or Obny as was his 'stage' name. I knew he was an excellent guitarist having seen him play a few times and Sam reckons he'd jump at the chance of touring in the UK and he was right. I phoned up Olivier and told him the score and proposed that I would pay all his expenses if he would come and play with me but there would be no actual pay beyond that: he'd have to do it for the crack, for the experience. I emailed him MP3s of the songs we were to do, instrumental versions and we planned for him to fly up for a week of rehearsals and then the tour, staying at my place till we went on the road.
Kitchen leading to balcony of how house in Montpelier, Bristol
Now in September 2006, we had sold our large Grade 2 listed Georgian town house in Montpelier, Bristol for 600 thousand pounds because we had gotten so far behind with the mortgage and had no regular income high enough to pay it (2000 pounds per month). After paying off all the interest on more than a year's arrears, we got back around 35 grand which we shared in half after using some as the deposit and first month's rent on a 4 bed-roomed house in Clifton, just off Whiteladies Road. We needed it what with Liz's three children, 2 of whom were adults and came and went, all of our furniture, some of which we had to put into storage anyway, and a money-making idea I had come up with: live with your teacher programmes for foreign business people for which I had a few necessary clients in fact I still had a Chinese client called Hugh living with us until the end of October. He worked for CCTV5, the Chinese national television Sports channel and was with us for 3 months to improve his English ready for the Beijing Olympics. He arrived at our front door on the first of August and presented himself by saying he was called Hugh and he was gay. And he certainly was and a lovely person and a good cook of spicy Sezhuan dishes.
Anyhow, I had used most of my share of the money to buy a Citroen people carrier, the Roland Fantom and a good stereo speaker combination. So I was well-equipped on top of my existing Roland XP8. I worked on getting all the songs programmed in the new Roland, everything we needed except the lead guitar parts but, in particular the drum and bass. And I had completed most of the lyrics too. So I thought we were doing well. But then Olivier phoned me with the news he couldn't find his passport or his French ID card, a disaster he thought as he had asked and found out that getting a fresh copy of either would take at least a month which we didn't have. But my character means I don't just give up in such situations and so I wrote to the Mayor of Avignon, special delivery, explaining the situation and he, bless the man, got Olivier a copy of his French ID (sufficient for flying into the UK from France) within less than a week.
Lastwind on stage.
By this time, all the cheap flights to Bristol were full but I managed to get a good cheap EasyJet flight from Marseille to Luton, a fairly long drive from Bristol but a good place to drop him off after our last concert in Derby. We still had 3 days rehearsal time when he arrived so I booked a room on the Gloucester Road and now there was just one remaining problem; he would need an amplifier combo and he told me the specs of a couple he thought suitable so I just had to find somewhere which could rent us such an item.
Back to the Bell Inn to try and get hold of another guy I knew, Bob. who dealt in good quality secondhand gear when he wasn't incapable whilst recovering from yet another drug-fuelled, multi-day binge. He had had a long and checkered career in the music biz, including being Depeche Mode's sound engineer until one of his binges led to an inconveniently-timed spell in a Caribbean prison. I've spent some very agreeable and funny evenings with him over the years but also was very aware that he was a must to avoid when on a binge: he is a huge bear of a man with whiteman dreadlocks who doesn't flinch when things get heavy. Anyhow, I found him in the Bell and he told me he had sold all his stock to a guy who had taken over his shop near Trinity Road Police Station, a fortress in a very bad part of town, where the infamous Old Market met the equally dodgy Stapleton Road. Bob gave me the phone number and a personalised introduction to the strange guy who ran this store whilst looking like a retired Motorhead roadie. He quickly disappeared up some narrow steps when I told him what I was after and passed me down the amp Olivier most prized. It looked good, all painted white, we agreed on one hundred pound for the hire and I came away very satisfied.
Olivier arrived, looking good and very motivated. And after the drive home, we spent the evening catching up, including going for a beer with Hugh and eating a lovely meal with the whole family. We were ready to start rehearsing the 7 songs that were to make up our 40 minute set. And the first gig was in 4 days time in Northampton.
Our tour poster designed by my son Sam. DoseProd

TO BE CONTINUED. Next post.....Under-rehearsed Beginners.

Friday 4 November 2016

Top Reggae in Deep France.

Sauveterre de Rouergue is a historic village situated 25 miles from Rodez in the Aveyron department, in the Midi-Pyrennees region of France. Founded in the 13th Century, it was a 'Bastide', a town created by the powers that were to offer security and good economic conditions to artisans and other commerces, fortified and built around a central square. (The English captured and held it for a dozen years during the Hundred years War.) It is situated on the Segala plateau which is dissected by many deep river valleys. The land of volcanic rocks were not good for agriculture, rye being the main crop and bread was often made of chestnuts. But it was a successful town on the whole with a population of nearly 2000 in the mid nineteenth century which, with the advent of the railways, saw improvement of agricultural land by the use of imported fertilisers. And the area is now reputed for its production of beef and particularly veal. However, the population has slowly fallen and is now below 800.

So, how come it is home to two annual music festivals (three this year to celebrate an anniversary)? This is entirely down to the AJAL, an association of young people wanting to help to keep their town/village on the map. And, by attracting lots of volunteers, 110 this festival including me, have been able to keep costs down, ticket prices competitive and build up the sort of reputation you need in order to attract good artists. This year was the 13th consecutive Roots'Ergue festival, mainly consisting of artists from the reggae and sound system scene. And this year there were 2400 festival attendees, many of them bused in from Rodez and Albi, the two nearest decent-sized towns.
The age range of these festival-goers is from adolescents to pensioners with people in their 20's and 30's being the majority. And this charming and historical village becomes like one big squat, every available bit of space, outside of the central old town, covered with parked vans, tents and cars with the fairly middle class population outnumbered by dread-locked groups of young people. The security is three people at the gate to the actual site which is the modern village hall and the land outside it. And the police have the good sense to stay away except for setting up a couple of stopping points on the roads outside the town where they give alcohol and drug tests to people leaving after the first night in particular.

The main stage is in the hall with state-of-the-art PA, fold-back and lighting desks. Outside is set up the sound system. There are bars inside and outside and cold and hot food. Now, of course, normally smoking is forbidden indoors and there are plenty of signs. However, reggae music is based on the Jamaican culture where the smoking of cannabis is totally normal. And the smell of grass, with its pungent odour, is everywhere. On the other hand, there is absolutely no crowd trouble. Everyone is in happy mode, just there to totally enjoy the music, and there was a lot to enjoy!!
What interested me the most this year was that there were to be two backing bands, each backing two top singers. On Friday it was a group of mainly older men who had played on the reggae scene for many years, having played with artists such as U Roy, The Skatalites, Bunny Wailer and many more.
After an opening set by local duo, Satya, this star band played with first Takana Zion and then Harrison Stafford of Groundation fame. Both of these were wonderful sets which got the crowd going, wholehearted reggae!!

But then the audience seemed to grow with a lot more younger people pushing to the front in order to watch Babylon Circus, a tight and ultra professional outfit that were more latin than reggae. And the crowd went wild and danced and clapped with enthusiasm. For me, they were a bit contrived and a bit too poppy but I had to admit they did their thing very well.
On Saturday, having driven down to Toulouse Airport to pick up Omar Perry, and then meet friends for a few drinks and food, I missed the opening act. Now, I must say that I have picked up quite a few artists from Toulouse Airport and several of them have remarked on the distance to Sauveterre. It is a good hour and a half drive, nearly one hundred miles, nearly all motorway. But it is the nearest airport with flights coming in from all over.
The first act I got to see was the guy from Massilla Sound System, Papet J. He had his own excellent band and performed like the experienced artist he is. They really came to prominence in the 90's and, as he said, some of his material was 30 years old. But his anti-racist lyrics were popular and well-received.

Then on stage came Horace Andy's new band, young and mainly American and really tight. And Horace wowed the crowd with his songs, his famous tremolo voice and his energy. He's no longer a young man but he bopped around the stage and even over-ran his stage time. For me, the best set of the night.
The band remained on stage and were joined by Omar Perry, son of the famous Lee 'Scratch' Perry who played at the festival a couple of years ago. Following Horace Andy was not going to be easy but, in spite of a few false starts, Omar worked hard to get the crowd behind him, and succeeded with his more bouncy songs and call and response with the slightly smaller crowd (due to buses leaving for Rodez and Albi just after his set commenced).
I returned to the chalet we had rented for the weekend at 3 am and drunk a nightcap from the bottle of good Martinique rum, a present from the Blackboard Jungle DJ and MC who I had picked up and returned to the airport. A good end to a magnificent weekend!!

Thursday 27 October 2016

A New Home in an Old Village

Najac is a very old village with loads of history attached to it. Situated in the Aveyron department of France, in the Midi-Pyrennees region, it's roughly 95 miles north west of Toulouse the regional capital. I've been coming here for the last 20 years, since my youngest son, Nat, settled here by accident. He's very happily installed right in the centre of the village with his wife Magali and their 5 children ranging in age from 18 to 3.
I have fancied for a long time I would end up here and, finally, having found the right house at the right price, here I am.
We are situated just below the west end of the church, the quiet end of the village (our house is not in this photo). The Duke of Anjou forced the villagers of the 13th Century to build the church either to prove they were not Cathar heretics or because they were. The war against the Cathars had laid waste to a large part of what is now south west France.
Higher up the hill a castle was built, more work for the villagers, this time commanded to do it by the English whose land in south west France reached to here in the period of the Hundred Years War. The villagers later captured the castle only for the English to recapture it and then be turfed out finally a few years later.
Now this is the entrance to our house which is narrow but consists of 4 storeys and is quite deep. This is our garage and wood store. We got a delivery of logs just as we were moving in and have moved a lot of them to be stacked neatly along the wall, a job we still have to finish. You can also see a washing machine and a dish washer we still need to move indoors along with some other items. Above the garage is a balcony which is accessed from our living room.
 We live in the Rue de la Pause, probably a much needed pause climbing up the hill from the river and the railway. It goes all round the bottom of the church and here on the left we see the multi-storied building for the priests and their guests, now turned into flats.
 If we turn right and go up back on ourselves we walk between that building and the side of the actual church. If we had gone straight on we would have ended up joining the rue de la gare which goes from the main village down to the river and the station where there are half a dozen trains daily south to Toulouse and north to Figeac and Brive.
 These are the steps going up to the main door of the church.
 And here we see the whole of the west facade of the church.
 Looking down through the public garden in front of the church we can see the roof of of house and a window of the top floor bedroom with its ensuite bathroom......this is for AirBnB guests mainly.
 Looking out across the Aveyron Valley we can see the hillsides opposite still hidden by the morning mist which is a local feature particularly in autumn.
 Here is the view of the church from the small public square opposite our house.
 And here is a view of the north side of the church with its not very tall tower and houses creeping up the hillside going round the castle.
 Here is a sign for the many tourists that visit Najac, letting them know to go back the way they have come to find the castle and the village.
 Here is another view of the church tower.
 And a cross set in the garden in front of the church.
 Here is our road nameplate in French and in Occitan which was the language here until the mid 19th century and is still spoken out in the country and is seeing a resurgence.
 Taken from the sloping public square we can see our house, narrow but deep. The three windows in the middle are in my room and the bottom one is over the balcony.
 This is the view directly across to the hill behind our house.
 And this is the view downwards where we can see the river and the few buildings next to it.
 This is a picture of the small public square. There are more cars than normal as it it school holidays and most of the houses in our street are holiday homes, only occupied during some of the holidays. The ones further down the street are mainly owned by Brits but also by one Belgian family.
 This is a shot of our living room and kitchen. It's not finished yet and the other rooms we won't be showing you yet as they are still filled with boxes and bin bags of our possessions. One thing we have found out is that the fireplace is really efficient providing heat round the whole house.
My lovely, fairly new German Shepherd, Leo.

 Then of course, I had to show you the castle. This shot is from the centre of the village, in front of my son's house.
And then, just so you have the whole picture, this is a shot taken from the top of the hill opposite which shows the main village, then the castle, then the church and our little neighbourhood. All this is on a ridge round which on three sides flows the Aveyron river deep down in its gorge.
The chateau you can see by itself in the woods upper left was built in the late 18th century and is now owned by a British company which lets it out as a gite to people who have loads of money. My daughter-in-law oversees changeovers between guests.
So in a way it's no surprise that there are an awful lot of Brits with homes here, keeping up the tradition started in the 12th century.