Sunday February 28th
Not a great day. The digital 8-track on which we’re recording the album, a Roland VS840, decides to suddenly wipe a whole song completely. Everything is lost: it was a seven minute Hal Hartley-ish epic called “Storytelling Johnny” that was nearing completion. I don’t mind so much about my own vocal, guitar, bass guitar and keyboard parts, but there +
was also Laurence’s keyboard part, Cressida’s flute part, Fiona’s violins, Sheila’s cellos, Marnie’s drums, Tom’s guitar…
Suffice it to say I felt a deep, yawning pit of doom in my stomach. A familiar one.
Mark Partridge and I are frightened to do anything else with the machine in case it does the same with the other nine songs. So today I’m writing frantically to everyone I know with an 8-track, digital or otherwise, hoping they might be kind enough to lend us their machine with which to “back-up” the other songs, hoping also they might even be kind enough to lend their machines to actually finish the album on too. And angrily taking the VS840 back to the shop where I bought it. Maybe it’s faulty, maybe it’s a design fault.
I suppose in retrospect I should have investigated investing in some kind of external back-up system when I bought the wretched thing. But I never was very good with knowing which computers and recording equipment to buy. And I certainly can’t afford to buy anything extra now.
This DIY recording principle isn’t so great sometimes.
Fiona also recorded some choirboy-type vocals on a song that DIDN’T get wiped. “I had to unclasp my bra to reach the really high notes”. I think Pavarotti uses the same technique.
I can’t afford to keep a mobile phone anymore. Which isn’t such a bad thing. Mark tells me that London is the worldwide capital of mobile usage: go to New York or any other major city and the trilling epidemic of elaborate electronic yelps from record bags is noticably less abundant. People elsewhere tend to prefer to be contactable when they want to be. Answering services are more than enough.
What do I think about “Queer As Folk”, the “shocking” new gay drama on Channel Four? Well, it had the Daily Mail in fits of umbrage and censorious apoplexy, so it must be a Good Thing, by definition.
Some gay men don’t like the fact that the show portrays them in a bad light (one character is predatory, selfish and irresponsible, one is underage and lets himself be exploited by the former, and one is, well, a Doctor Who fan…). But this IS what many gay men are like in the real world, rather than the saints, martyrs and token ciphers that exist everywhere else on TV and in films. It is possible to be gay and be a less than wonderful person. I was going to put in a reference to Peter Mandelson here. Oh, I have.
And I did like the line from the mother of the selfish man’s newborn baby: “so… we both had a child tonight…”
Sunday February 21st
The Fosca album, now called “On Earth To Make The Numbers Up”, is coming together slowly and strangely in a borrowed art storage room in Hammersmith. Made entirely by people who are, how shall we say, not the world’s biggest fans of football.
The sessions drag on, and we miss all the things we were hoping to do like catch Hefner playing at Borders Bookshop, or going to see Mouthfull at Club V. But we do manage to take in “Room 2”, the dirt-cheap indie night at Heaven every Monday, and I bump into virtually every person I’d expect to be there: Howard, D, Laurence, Andy from Mouthfull. D tells me he is getting married, Green Card convenience style. I accuse him of trying to copy the plotlines of “Gimme Gimme Gimme”.
I get approached on the dancefloor. “My friend really fancies you. He’s the one at the bar. With the glasses.”
Because many of the songs go on for about 8 minutes, due to me having far too much to say, so many words and verses. I’m torn between my two Rules For Albums:
1) Albums must have Ten Songs. That’s not too many or too few. I hate records that outstay their welcome.
2) Albums must last just under 45 minutes, so you can tape them on one side of a C90 for your walkman or your friends.
But the way things are going, it’ll either have to be a ten song album that lasts too long or a 9 song album that doesn’t.
Some writers from Select Magazine have emailed me, wanting to put Fosca in their new bands section, “Ignition”. And we haven’t even put anything out yet. But if it was Mojo or Q, I would have been worried. Those are magazines for people who buy records in order to have a Good Music Collection. Pop music should be listened to, not collected.
Some of the staff from the Riverside Arts Centre and Studios pop in. “Do you like David Syvian?” one asks, referring to my bleached side-parted haircut. I get this a lot from strangers approaching me.
If they are over 40, they say I look like Andy Warhol.
If they are between the ages of 25 and 40 and know nothing about music, they say I look like Gary Numan.
If they are between the ages of 25 and 40 and know TOO MUCH about music, they say I look like David Sylvian.
If they are under 25, they laugh and shout at me “Oi, Blond Bastard”.
I also get the occasional Sick Boy off “Trainspotting” or Bob Downe comparison. Or Dracula played by Michael Crawford.
One evening I was on the Tube, caked in make up and in a suit, and a gang of big drunken boys jeered amongst themselves. After a while they started pointing to the part of me that actually inspired their mirth. To my white socks.
I wear white socks for personally dubious reasons: schoolboy fetish, roughboy fetish. “The White Sock Brigade” was what we called the equivalent of rednecks when growing up in Ipswich and Colchester: they were always the regulation issue for those ready to beat you up in the precinct of an evening. So it’s a little “reclamation of territory” on my part as well (or so I thought), like some gay men shaving their heads and looking as hard as possible. But now it’s just me being a little perverted.
When I was getting the keys for the studio yesterday, a gaggle of teenage girls saw me, pointed and laughed loudly. I had to hide in the cafe section until they had gone. I still wonder if they think I look famous or just silly. I look more famous than I really am.
Some of Fosca have terrific facial mannerisms when they record. Rachel dances and bobs about at her keyboard, mouthing the words. Marnie tilts her Canadian head and gazes at the ceiling in calculated concentration. I jump about and the click-track packs its bags.
Another visitor remarks on the work in progress, “hmm, very Belle and Sebastian.” I foresee both good and bad things from this unhelpful comparison. Belle and Sebastian are quickly becoming a lazy byword simile for anything indie-ish by anyone who doesn’t know that much about indie music. I envy such people. What am I saying, I envy most people.
Then Charley starts singing a U2 song along to “File Under Forsaken”, just to tease me. She is pale and poorly, and we have her coughs on the record for posterity. Before she went for the cropped look, her hair used to be a Pre-Raphaelite cascade of tousled curls, and references to Shelleyesque “consumption” and TB are bandied about. These pale English romantic types, they never really went away. Like lions after slumber in unvanquishable number…
We listen to Frazier Chorus’ first album, the anti-rock classic “Sue”, for distraction, inspiration and keyboard sounds. One band that should have stayed on 4AD rather than taken the major label shilling and blanded out. I note for the first time that it was recorded at the same place as the Orlando album, which I also think sounds too clean and… produced. But don’t start me on that one!
Indie bands that sign to a major don’t always lose it, mind. I think the first Polydor album (“You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever”) by Orange Juice is infinitely preferable to their earlier Postcard Records offerings, whose scratchy naive charm is, well, just that and no more.
Production-wise, I prefer to think more Joe Meek rather than “lo-fi”. I can just imagine me going the same way as him too, dying in a bizarre shooting incident involving one’s landlady.
We are later told that the paintings that are stored in our new temporary “home” are those that didn’t make the final selection for the Riverside’s current exhibition next door. I imagine what euphemisms were used in the heartbreaking dismissal: “They’re very good, but not quite what we’re looking for… and lack of wall space sadly prevents us from…” On one day, a quiet man in black with a beard (presumably an artist) comes in, collects his rejected masterpieces, perhaps his life’s work, and forlornly shuffles them out to his car.
Tuesday February 16th
Such a strange day. In the morning, Mark Partridge and I trek up to Wood Green to help take Justin Paton’s drum kit down to Hammersmith. On the Tube. All three of us are penniless, and of the two people we know in London who both own cars and would be free to help, one has no license, and the other no tax disc.
The dilemma of transporting instruments and equipment about is a recurring scenario in London bands’ lives. Or at least mine. Most people I know in London simply don’t own cars, even if they can drive. Some used to, but on moving to the big city the first thing to get sold is the vehicle. The high cost of living is bad enough without all the extra overheads a car incurs. And the fact that you can’t have a drink in town. And the fact that other people tend to treat you like a chauffeur.
This is put into stark contrast later in the day when Charley turns up at the studio, regaling us with tales of touring with Gay Dad and the attendant trappings of proper pop band life, where stage crews handle all the mucky, menial, tedious bits of being in a group, and all you have to do is wait for the taxi to take you from hotel to soundcheck to bus.
Some lucky bands in this position don’t even attend their own soundchecks. Now that’s a smooth running machine. Lo-fi, schmo-fi!
Though I’ve always had my suspicions about bigtime bands that do benefit concerts for causes of equality and The Little Man Against The System: “We’re playing this benefit for the workers, they’re just like us… Roadie! My guitar!”
Charley will, though, be bringing her stardust guitar on the Tube to the Fosca sessions tomorrow… and Jyoti Mishra (White Town)’s recruitment into the Fosca Collective makes me feel, ooh, nearly good about being alive. Nearly.
On the news, Kurdish people around Europe protest outside Greek embassies over the arrest of Abdullah Ocalan. Some (heart-wrenchingly) set themselves on fire. After the news there’s an advert for Heat magazine featuring…. people on fire. And then a report on the Brit Awards, featuring a Manics video where they appear to be… on fire. All in the same chunk of TV.