Rockstar Status +1

Okay this post isn’t going to be about anything interesting or intelligent or even popular but I feel like swinging my phallus around for once and having a boast.

So basically at the beginning of last week I was told (at about the same time) that A). My work was moving to somewhere quite a way away and B). My contract on my flat had expired at the end of last month. So I was in something of a pickle. I had the option of staying at work and it costing me a lot of money and time to get there and back for a job… well, y’know… and re-signing on the flat for another six months costing me another extortionate resign fee OR moving out and quitting in six days. To say I was STRESSED would be an understatement. Anyway after going into work everyday and staying late everyday I had little option but to re-sign or be homeless and stay at work or be homeless. So I worked Sunday, re-signed Sunday and was resigned Sunday to living life still on the wearying  treadmill I’ve been on for the last two years (despite my best efforts).

AND THEN

Tuesday came along.

A little background:

I write poetry (I have talked about this several times on here) and have printed two pamphlets. The reception of these has been disinterested to say the least but that is largely due to my total lack of self promotion. My friends know about it but that’s about it. I like poetry and I like writing it but announcing this apparently makes you a pretentious dick so I keep it to myself by and large.

I used to be in a band. NO REALLY! Several actually but one in particular. The Psychotic Reaction were a great band I played drums for before I moved to Manchester (I have also written on here about them and the last album) I haven’t played a gig with them since last August and that was un-rehearsed and slapdash to say the least. I also haven’t played drums properly in quite some time either.

So last week, my friend James, tells me about this event his friend/colleague Allison Robb was organising in this trendy cafe in the Northern Quarter where she was asking for writers to give readings of their stuff. James put my name forward as a Poet and was asked to come along to give a reading of some of my poems. I’ve never read my poetry aloud so this was daunting to say the least. Other than the lovely Luke Kennard saying he liked my pamphlets I have had no independent confirmation or affirmation of quality with regards to my poems so they could be utter tripe for all I know. Anyway, I agreed in an effort to try to widen my non-existent circle of writing pals and because I’m a shameless show-off.

My buddy Alex Williams then announces his taking a trip up North to see us and was intending to do a gig. He asked if I would be up for playing? Of course I would. I added the addendum I would have no time to rehearse so we’d just have to wing it (as usual) but other than that: count me in.

It was only later that week I realised they were both on the same night. So in full on Sit-Com farce mode I formulated the plan that if the reading was at 6pm I would have just enough time to finish work, jump on the bus, make it to Fyg in the Northern Quarter for the reading, read some poems, say thanks, run across town to the Tiger Lounge, grab a drink, play the gig and be home before midnight. Piece of cake, right? What could go wrong?

People who know me would now be reading on eagerly expecting my usual bile-spitting tirade against whatever Gods were at work to make this all become a Basil-Fawlty-style, pigs-arse-car-crash of a day. Well you’re shit out of luck sunshine because that schedule is exactly what happened! What I didn’t expect was the reaction…

9 days into a 13 day stretch at work I left the shop at 5.30 on the dot. I dashed home and hastily stuffed some drumsticks and poetry pamphlets (too few it turned out) into my rucksack and put on a clean t-shirt. Jumped on a bus that didn’t stop for half an hour at each stop (a rarity) and made reasonable time getting to Fyg. I was greeted but quite a few friendly faces I wasn’t expecting which worried me. The friendly faces of whom I speak are PhD students studying literature. I may have pointed out I am an uneducated prole on here before, I failed every exam I’ve ever taken and never did any higher education, therefore as far as ‘Leagues’ go I am very much 3rd division on the border of relegation. So I greeted them all as friendly as possible, ate some of the DELICIOUS food, admired the beautiful waitresses, and enjoyed the brilliant readings from the other writers. Lorraine, Lorrie and Tom were all great readers who didn’t try to oversell anything and gave really honest readings of their stuff. It was all wildly different too. Flash fiction, short stories, poetry, good fodder for this sort of thing in that you didn’t get bored with hearing the same style or genre every time. Fyg was the perfect place too, it felt like some sort of Parisian or Spanish hideaway where they have readings all the time and famous writers all come to hang out while Chopin or someone plays piano in the corner. Or maybe that’s just me… The audience was small but responsive and very, very friendly which, seeing as I was left till last, actually made me feel more comfortable as I was less worried by the “judgement” of the crowd by then. My turn rolled around and I decided to put my best foot forward and read from the last Pamphlet/Chapbook I printed. I explained the reasons behind it and began to read…

You could have heard a pin drop. It was one of the strangest experiences of my life. Maybe 30 people or so staring at me wordlessly while I read stuff that was incredibly personal and trying not to make myself sound like a pretentious dick. The other readers had received nice, encouraging applause after each part of their reading, each of my poems was met by an achingly painful silence. I became horribly paranoid these were going down very badly. I got the odd laugh but I am familiar with nervous laughter so merely tried to plough through as quickly as possible and get off. And then I got to the poem about my Dad. Now, I’m pretty good with dissociation. My emotions are my own and I can keep them to my own time (apart from my grumps and my temper but that’s just my resting state) normally but I got to this one and I’m suddenly getting very husky and bright-eyed. I think I got away with it though and tumbled to the last poem pretty much throwing the pamphlet down when I finished to get off when I was met with something just shy of a standing ovation. We took a short break and everyone wanted a copy of the pamphlet and I was asked by most people there about the structure, the meanings and forms of each poem. I felt like a celebrity. A poet admittedly but still…

So we had some readings and then I was asked back up to read from my other pamphlet which got a similar stirring response and again had people shoving their chairs over to chat and generally be very, very, overwhelmingly complimentary about my poems. And the majority were women! Attractive and intelligent women! I was agog. I’ve been gigging for fifteen years and never received this kind of response/interest. Certainly not from the opposite sex. I spent a little while chatting to the other writers and the staff and my pals and generally basking in the very warm glow of searingly honest praise, attempting to direct the fair share to my fellow readers when I suddenly glanced at my watch.

Mildly panicked, I informed my friends and organisers I had a gig to get to, whereupon a few of them said they’d follow me there (a sure sign you’ve won over a crowd). I made my excuses and dashed out into the rain of Manchester and hot footed it to the Tiger Lounge. I stepped through the door to find my buddy and band mate James greeting me with “Hey dude! D’you wanna set up? We’re on.” I didn’t even have time to get a drink. I don’t know how much you know about drumming but it is physical. And tiring. And we were in a very warm basement. Either way, I turned the kit around in about a minute flat (I’m a lefty), didn’t even have time to warm up and launched into a high energy, bombastic, 25 minute set.

We got everyone stood at the front to watch somehow, got people dancing and got an encore. I can count on one hand how many times that happens to me at non-function gigs. I did nearly die of heat exhaustion though. Sure enough some of the mob from Fyg appeared in the middle of the second song and I was greeted on leaving the stage to cheers and hugs from well-known and completely unknown parties. I chatted with lots of people, shared jokes, received some more compliments, then had to grab my bag and made tracks. I got outside to find it was raining so treated myself to a taxi home whereupon I dumped my bag, left last night’s takeaway uncleared away in the kitchen and collapsed into bed. It was 11.45pm.

I allow myself very, very, very, very few quiet, smug grins of satisfaction but I indulged in one on the cab ride home that night and Dreamed Blissfully of a time where I could do any of that for a living.

Then I was up at 8 for work when I stubbed my toe on the shower. Rough with the smooth…

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Bright Lights, Big CD

So finally, after a looooong wait, the moment you have all been waiting for… Yes, its the release of the 3rd official Psychotic Reaction LP!: I See Lights When I Close My Eyes

Williams and I went into BigSqueak in March 2008 for a long weekend and nearly four years later the fruits of our labours are finally released into the wild. I played drums on all the tracks and a bit of piano and keyboards here and there but mainly was sounding board/wrist-slapper during development. I am really proud of the album and honestly think it is great, I joined the band because I felt the same way about the second album (I still think of Rumble as the first real album though) and this one is even better. Ordinarily with albums I like/love I’d give them a review but obviously that is out of the question as I am in the band and would therefore be biased…

HOWEVER

I was this evening emailed an astonishing review of ISLWICME set to appear in the next issue of Rolling Stone. I thought you might like to read it:

“The Psychotic Reaction have been through several line up changes in the last ten or so years but their powers remain undiminshed. This is proved by their latest album:  I See Lights When I Close My Eyes and it is this generations Sergeant Pepper. This comparison is particularly pertinent as the album’s production is so evocative of 60s Psychadelia as to create waves of synthesia without the aid psychotropic drugs. Swirling guitars open the album and a late sixties style ‘jam’ ends it but it covers all points in between. Despite describing it by an era I cannot possibly describe it by genre as it defies genre. Some part punk, others balladry, some part avant-garde free jazz, some parts metal, others Pop-tastic yet it never feels schizophrenic or uneven.

This is largely down to the mysterious Alex Williams (who it is said once had an affair with Raquel Welch before he was born) at the helm. The albums’ producer, songwriter, guitarist, racket maker and Tea enthusiast, anchors the whirlwind of creativity with preternatural skill. Guitar sounds range from familiar note perfect emulations of Clapton and Hendrix-esque crunch and Fuzz, to Branca/Moore noise via sounds and audioscapes until now never committed to record. What he lacks in vocal dexterity he makes up for in verve and lyrical ability. Songs range from seizing the day and sex to mental illness and modern music culture but what else would you expect from the man who co-founded British Leyland in 1968 and helped Jim Marshall develop his amplifier under the pseudonym Dudley Craven?

The counterpart to the capricious and tempestuous creative core of The Psychotic Reaction during the album’s protracted development was Leo Cookman (who’s army of Owls regularly patrol the night sky in search chocolate buttons). Cookman mainly plays drums and as you will no doubt have guessed what with John Bonham and Joe Morello lauding him until their untimely deaths where upon they reputedly “passed the baton” to him. We will say nothing more of the almost metronomic skill yet loose “groove” of this generations’ Buddy Rich but instead focus on Cookman’s as yet unheard of piano and keyboard playing. Adding textures sympathetic yet driving the collaboration can only be described as like that of Keith Jarrett and Miles Davies circa ’71. Cookman was also instrumental in the albums development, working with Williams on song selection, production analysis and helped design the sleeve.

In addition to the two mainstays the addition of the then regular Bassist and modern Jaco Pastorius, Alex Powley (who it is said can digest an entire ungulate without chewing) on several tracks completed the triumverate and brought new definition to the word power trio.

The material had been well gigged at the now legendary performances in and around Canterbury (think the Manchester Free Trade Hall but BETTER. And LOUDER) so they were a tightly knit unit able to improvise without fear and develop, examine, reinvent and undermine contemporary music in the most enjoyable yet catchy way. Admittedly the time in recording was long and some fools leapt to the assumption that money ran out or the drummer moved to Manchester or Williams’ artistic temperament caused several revisits but whatever the rumours the development time was worth the wait. We finally have the game-changer. The bench mark by which all future music must be judged. In the same way the Beatles hoovered up the surrounding societal shifts The Reaction have created an album almost quixotic in its design but somehow prescient in its audiences attitude to their own music and therefore nothing less than a masterpiece.

It is, at the moment, available as Download only but I would expect nothing less from a band this forward thinking yet practical. In the same way Radiohead changed the way music was bought and paid for the Reaction have taken it a step further by realising the market is driven in this way (that is not to say there won’t be a CD and 12″ release soon). In short this is the album we have all been waiting for since the birth of the album as a concept in the sixties to which this album so ably doffs its cap. These three Gentlemen from the south should be congratulated on creating music for another time and a stone cold classic of now.

Now if you’ll excuse me I’ve got to finish this review of this really good and in no way dull, boring and insipid Coldplay album before my meeting with Steve Jobs.

Five Stars

Pull Quote: “If Hendrix had made another album, it wouldn’t be as good as this. Thank God for The Psychotic Reaction and buy this album”

Blimey! Well I can’t say more than that can I? Except that it is available at CD Baby now to download and will shortly be available on iTunes and Spotify as well as on CD in the near future. Please check it out it would make having sold my old drum kit feel worth something… *sniff*