Saturday May 29th 1999

I float on an unforeseen gust of tourists into Tower Records, Piccadilly Circus, and flick through Simon Price’s new Manics book. Annoyingly, I only get a tiny quote rather than the seventeen chapters I’d previously envisaged. And the new Catherine Cookson doesn’t mention me at all. A stiff letter to the editors of Women’s Weekly is in order.

How can Nicky Wire reconcile his love of existential literature with his current predilection for domesticity and Dyson hoovers?

Doesn’t he know that Nietzsche abhors a vacuum?

Last Wednesday, and Fosca record the song “On Earth To Make The Numbers Up” at Tommy Barton’s place in Archway. He calls his Joe Meek kitchen set-up The White Ark, as a jokey take on Lee Perry’s Black Ark Studios. Awfully, this now sounds like one of those London right-wing groups you read about in the news, and I’ll have to change the sleeve credit or risk people Getting The Wrong Idea I Shouldn’t Wonder.

We swathe the song in Abba-esque synths and it sounds strange, but new. And definitely Pop Music. Albeit another seven minute epic. Blame my current love of those narrative-poem-like Leonard Cohen songs with 800 verses (from “Death of A Ladies’ Man” onwards, not the earlier stuff). Work has to stop at 7pm because everyone files out to the pub to watch some football match or other. I try following the Cricket World Cup, but the only aspect that appeals to me is the fact that the teams get to wear what looks like garishly-coloured pyjamas.

I mourn the passing of another Fosca icon I’m annoyed to have never met, Dirk Bogarde. The BBC puts on a few of his old films, Death In Venice predictably, and Doctor In Distress somewhat less predictably. No sign of The Blue Lamp, The Night Porter, Victim or The Servant. Doctor In Distress is downright weird. Bogarde made it in 1963, after the arty, black and white, ground-breaking likes of The Servant and Victim had saved him from the charming-if-lightweight early-Carry On-ish kitsch comedy hell of the “Doctor…” series. Bogarde had the career Kenneth Williams really wanted but never got, moving from cheap popular colour comedies to serious dramatic celluloid milestones, but still went back to do one more Doctor film. Perhaps he just did Doctor In Distress for the money, as he seems to be acting on auto-pilot. The whole point of the Simon Sparrow character in the first film, 1954’s “Doctor In The House”, was his young medical student naivety. By “… In Distress”, Simon Sparrow is tired, greying, past 40, and is merely a friend and colleague to the Falstaff-like surgeon Sir Lancelot, rather than an upstart foil. The film is an intriguing curio, but for all the wrong reasons.

Farzana says Charley might be up for playing guitar at the next Fosca gig, the tireless thing. She and Gay Dad are all over the media at the moment. In NME, editor Steve Sutherland rants viciously against their hype, while putting the band on the front cover. Cliff Jones comes in for abuse for liking the Britney Spears single. Games are being played. I don’t understand any of it. Does any of it matter? And to whom?

I’m getting very good at replying to e-mails at the moment. There was a time when I never got around to answering any at all. Now every electronic missive I receive personally, and that seems to want a reply, is replied to within a week or so. Junk mail and unsolicited mail which is sent to me in a list of other recipients, seemingly just as an address that someone knows, is rapidly deleted. Top of my bugbear list are those so-called “virus alert” mails. You know the sort of thing. “Fwd: Do not open any mails with the subject line “Badgers Know No Fear”. Please copy and forward this mail to everyone you don’t like very much”.

Next on the hatelist is the likes of “Fwd: Come to my gig/website/bar mitzvah.” The answer being, no, I probably won’t, if the only time you write to me is as one of many people, you impersonal thing, you.

Some people try to send me unsolicited attachments (photos, sound files etc) and emails written in coloured typefaces via HTML. I wish they wouldn’t. Because my steam-powered e-mail program simply can’t open them.

The actor playing William Hague in the new Eurosceptic branch of the Conservative Party’s Political Broadcast is, amusingly, called Tim Chipping. There’s also an actor doing the rounds in Cambridge University indie films called Dickon Edwards. I get the occasional e-mail confusing me with him, “Didn’t you play a policeman in a play I saw recently? I know your sister’s dog’s vet’s osteopath.” I start to wonder what are the chances of there being someone else out there with the same obscure name AND age as me who also works in the Great British Arts. But then, once the probability of a child being named Dickon is spoken for, the chances of him working in the Arts isn’t that unlikely. And “Edwards” isn’t exactly uncommon at all. An obscure first name compensated for by a dirt-cheap surname.

As I constantly bore anyone who listens, I’m not even the first Dickon to be in a signed British indie band… there’s the violin player in the Tindersticks. As everyone knows. But I still get the “uh?” and “pfft!” comments and misspellings when presenting my name to strangers. However, this is all fair and proper, as I have an “uh?” and “pfft!” and misspelt face.


Saturday May 22nd 1999

Morrissey’s 40th birthday today… so I send him a card of me on the Wilde memorial. On the Jo Whiley TV show, a programme that always has me shouting things at the televison (I’m a frustrated chat show guest), one topic of discussion is the Smiths. Billy Bragg bemoans the fact that no one writes lyrics like that anymore, citing the new Suede single as an example of present-day dumbing down in the so-say alternative/indie music world.

I make a note to send him a copy of the debut Fosca EP, “Nervous, London”, on its release. “Nervous, London” because I was thinking of those people who write to Agony Aunts, signing themselves, “Worried, Tunbridge Wells”. It was going to be “Nervous Of London”, but I like the comma too much. Punctuation is the new rock ‘n’ roll. The lead song “as opposed to “A-side”, for this is a CD), is nine and a half minutes long. Extended Players don’t come much more extended. But it’s still a pop song. “File Under Forsaken”. Three verses, chorus, middle eight, intro, outro. Like any other pop song. I am NOT going to turn into Pink Floyd, promise. Although the site of a giant inflatable Dickon floating above Battersea Power Station isn’t entirely a bad idea.

It’s going to be released on Something Velvet Records, Nic Goodchild’s new label. We master it on Tuesday. I never went to any of the mastering sessions for Orlando, so this will be an exciting new experience for me. I will basically ask for it to sound less “lo-fi”, something that has only happened by accident. The accident being me thinking I could engineer. The sleeve will have the lyrics, pictures of me in a nice suit (it did not take long to decide that), and a nice life-affirming quote from Radclyffe Hall. I hope she won’t mind. Her tomb is in Highgate Cemetery, so if she does, she hasn’t far to go to haunt me.

Meantime, one of the songs on the EP, “He’s No Help” will be included on the nearly-released Club V CD compilation, and Fosca play the album’s launch night at the club on Saturday June 12th. The venue is Upstairs At The Garage, opposite Highbury & Islington tube, Highbury Corner, London N5. Further details on how to get hold of the CD, and Club V in general can be found here.

As for the album, well, I ran out of money while recording it myself, and was becoming increasingly frustrated at the limitations of three different digital recording machines I used. All three proved to be faulty and troublesome, and I resolve to record in future with an engineer/co-producer that has done it before. But it’s hard: I have very specific ideas, and they’re not always the obvious, easy ones. On Wednesday we try recording the title track of the album at Tommy Barton’s Joe Meek-style set up at his flat in Archway. Fingers crossed. What I really need is to be signed. Perhaps having a CD EP out will be more impressive than badly-duplicated tapes. What keeps me going is the unassailable fact that I have more talent in my little finger than, say, the Stereophonics (to unfairly pick a name from the dartboard) have in their entire, dreary, formulaic rock, non-specific, nothing-to-say bodies. The joke’s on me, though, as I never use my little finger for anything.