Two wheels good, music good too

Happy New Year!!!

It didn’t rain today. In fact the sun shone. So I got the Bandit out, gave it a little polish, checked the levels (ordered a refill for the chain oiler), checked the tyre pressures and had a little two-wheeled ‘just for fun’ run, around the immediate area.

There is still a lot of surface water out in the sticks, after the horrendous flooding we’ve had lately, so I kept to the vicinity of Witney, made a few stops (Costa, etc), but just enjoyed being on two wheels in bright sunshine, and also enjoyed riding at the speed limit, but not being in much of a hurry to be anywhere.

It was lovely.

It’s now 9pm so I’m about to head off upstairs to bed with a hot chocolate, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and a couple of Jaffa Cakes.

4.45am alarm tomorrow.

So that was my New Year’s Day. How was yours?

Oh yes, and the first show of 2013 for the music podcast This Reality Podcast ‘hit the air’ today.

Nice to know I can still remember how to operate the sliders and faders. Mind you, I’m not saying anything about the quality of the show. Just that it’s out there.

Texas-bound

which actually sounds, when I read that title back, just a little – you know – BDSM-ish…

So I am en-route to Texas.

This means I’m sitting at Heathrow waiting for my United flight to be called. Or it means I’m actually sitting in an aluminium tube at 33,000ft. Or it means I’m desperately trying to kill the horribly-long layover at Houston. Or it means I’m actually in Austin, but haven’t got around to updating this blog yet.

I’ve thought long and hard about how I’m going to play the social media thing while I’m at South by South West (or #sxsw if you prefer the Twitter tag for it).

Muso-related output will, I have decided, go straight on to the This Reality Podcast website. This output may be text, video, audio or a combination of all of these things. There will also be muso- and SXSW-related tweetage on the podcast Twitter account.

This blog will carry random Texas-related text, video, audio or a combination of all of these things. And possibly non-Texas-related thoughts too. There will also be random tweetage on my personal Twitter account.

And that’s it.

The bad news is that I may have to cut short the visit, as I have been offered a contract, but it is a contract term that I start work on Monday 19th March.

This means that I’m probably not going to be able to make the Softball game that I was going to get slaughtered play in.

Oh well.

 

So…

I think that’s probably enough lists, for now.

While all the lists were written some time ago, and published on a ‘scheduled update’, things – in other areas of my life – have been, as you might imagine, happening.

I have been to so many gigs in the last two months that, frankly, I can’t remember them all. I need to find a quiet half-hour (or hour!) to sit down and go through my notes.

And, erm.

I’ve started writing for a media offshoot of The Guardian.

Yes, that Guardian.

And, in another area of my life, as the personnel have, obviously, changed, I’ve put some serious thought (and effort) in to remodelling the show – This Reality Podcast.

The changes that I’ve come up with; updating the format, increasing the musical content to six tracks, and tightening the duration downwards to around 30 minutes per show, all seem to have been well-received in the greater world. The listener figures have seen some significant uplifts, now that the show is more focussed.

It was helpful, obviously, that I was able to do some significant networking at the Media Centre in Manchester.

And also down at NME.

And, most beneficially of all, I’ve slutted and whored the show all over the Guardian (who have been wonderful about allowing me to trawl the show’s name and website details through their print and online properties).

I’ve also made a couple of minor updates to the show’s website. The most significant change is that the the revolving header photograph now updates, whenever a new show is released.

It always seemed odd, to me, that I’d put out a new show each week, but the main eye-grabbing feature of the website didn’t reflect this.

But not odd enough to do anything about it.

Until now, obv.

In other news, we had the yard Christmas ‘do’, the week before last. And that’s all I’m giving away.

I’ve sold my beautiful horsebox.

Even though Vin is on the point of being passed as ‘fully fit’, I’ve decided that my seriously competitive days are over.

If I need to take a horse somewhere, I’ll borrow a lorry.

Vin is due to see the chiro in the next week.

If he gets a double thumbs-up, we should be able to start bringing him in to work just after Christmas.

And, erm, speaking of Christmas.

I am off to Morocco in a week’s time.

And going to the Event Riders Association ball in January.

Umm…

My phone is due for an upgrade this week.

I want the new Nexus, obv.

But I’m also thinking of dumping Vodafone.

This is radical, I’ve been with Vodafone for about eight years. But, you know, one always wonders if the grass could be greener on the other side of the telecoms fence.

And there have been lots of other things going on.

Yes, lots.

*nods*

Something old, something new, something stolen

You might think that it’s the work of less than 30-seconds to throw together one of the weekly new-music shows, that is ‘This Reality Podcast‘.

Well let me tell you that it isn’t that simple at all.

Real thinking and a massive amount of mental effort goes in to the pre-production and production of every single one of those shows.

Sometimes as much time as five whole days hours minutes.

But this week’s show was different. We had a challenge to feature some ‘older’ (i.e. ‘more well-known’) material from Andy.

Six ‘well-known’ songs, on a show dedicated to showcasing new-music and emerging talent?

How did we do it?

We cheated.

Listen here: This Reality Podcast, show #188

Not much mentile here!

It is perfectly acceptable to be vacuuming the upstairs of the house at 1am, isn’t it?

And equally normal that, once the vacuuming has been finished, the layout of the studio should be modified? And then recable it, too?

Yes, I thought so too. Thanks for that.

I plan on hitting the nice, new, shiny (and very clean) studio with a vengeance today.

This weekend’s show has to be recorded and produced, as a matter of urgency.

As well as making the physical alterations and improvements to the studio, I have made a config change to the audio software. It will be interesting (for geeky little me, at least) to check for differences. There shouldn’t actually be any audio difference, but the config change will enable me to monitor elapsed time much more accurately.

After the show has been produced, I’m going to crack on with guitar practice in there. I’ve been a bit lax, in recent weeks, at keeping up with this and although I am improving at a moderate pace, I need to get much better, much quicker.

I am also going to use the newly-shifted-about studio as a place to write. This change has been in my head for *ages*, but I couldn’t figure out how to come up with a layout, in what is quite a small space, that would suit show production, rehearsal room and writing place, all in one package.

I  think I’ve finally come up with the right layout; I’m keen to put that to the test today.

Outside of the studio, I need to buy an ironing board and crack on with some ironing.

Maybe I’ll save that for 1am tomorrow morning?

Clearing up the left-overs

We’ve been busy, the last couple of days, cleaning up the debris from Friday night’s inaugural ‘Witney Music Festival’.

WitFest, for short.

It was a cracking night.

Four brilliant sets from live bands – one of whom had travelled from the USA just to be with us.

And, of course, a live interview with our very special guest…

Bill Nighy

It wasn’t easy, putting together an illicit music festival.

We didn’t have planning permission.

Or security.

Or a fee.

The whole evening was free of charge.

Just for the music.

We’ve cleared up the left-overs and tidied the field.

But you can still experience the evening of live music, by downloading our special, 40-minute podcast.

There are a range of options, if you’d like to listen to the show:

  1. Listen at our website: just click here! Or,
  2. Right click here and use the ‘save’ or ‘save as’ option in your browser to save it to your computer. Or,
  3. If you’ve got iTunes, just click here to listen to it on your iPod, iPhone, iPad, or other iTunes-compatible music player. Better than radio! Or,
  4. You can now get the show on your mobile phone via Stitcher.com!

Just like this young lady did.

One of our cutting-edge listeners

(part or all of this article may be contaminated with traces of lie. Except for the quality of the music, obv. But you wouldn’t really know it from listening to the show. Except maybe for the Bill Nighy interview, obv)

Malibu, Barbie?

Yesterday morning we temporarily escaped the clutches of LA and drove to the pier at Santa Monica.

It was hot.

We ambled up and down the pier, recording audio, taking photos and video and we also chatted to a singer/songwriter who was performing right at the pier-head.

He described the awesome view as ‘my office’.

Then Soph made me walk from Santa Monica all the way past the original Muscle Beach to the ‘new’ Muscle Beach, just so she could tick a box in her Jim Morrison obsession book.

That’s 18.5 miles (this statement may contain traces of lie).

In the heat.

I got fried.

We watched various street entertainers including one guy who jumped all over shards of glass.

We’ll edit, put backing on and publish that video in due course.

Then we drove up the coast to Malibu where we found the most expensive hotel in the world.

Well, not quite. But it’s a close second.

Unfortunately, because I misheard the quoted price I said ‘OK’ and we moved in to the room while my credit card took a big hit.

Here’s the view, it’s unedited and hasn’t got audio, I’ll deal with those things when we get back:

The girls in the room next door are very vocal. They’re doing something horribly painful every few hours.

I’m concerned for their welfare and am very tempted to knock on the door to see if I could help out.

Today we head further up the Pacific Coast Highway and hit Ventura and Santa Barbara, before nesting in Pismo Beach for the night.

I booked the next hotel online just so there will be no misunderstanding about decimal points.

In other news, this weekend’s podcast is out. It’s a very different show, comprising of segments of audio recorded over 5,500 miles and at various altitudes.

And four top tunes, obv.

Click on one of these and let us know what you think:

iTunes website

Show website

Battered but not unbowed

It’s 08.15 local, or 15.15 BST.

I’ve just crawled out of bed after 10 hours sleep; my body aches with with the kind of pain that only comes from being unconscious for a long period of time.

Or maybe a cryogenically-induced state of suspended animation.

The flight over was excellent; the United Airlines cabin-crew were brilliant, the 777-200 did what it was supposed to do and the inflight entertainment was a bizarre, but erm entertaining mix.

We started to record this week’s show in the departure lounge at LHR, we added a little more from 30,000′ and +500 miles an hour. We’ll finish it off today and publish it later.

There will be, obv, very little chat, but we will still carry four tracks.

En-route I watched ‘Sleeper’ which, despite it’s age, still made me laugh out loud several times.

‘Monsters Inc’ got itself watched again.

Also seen was the woefully pedestrian ‘The Tourist’, in which Depp and Jolie did nothing much whilst a pastiche of brilliantly scored orchestral music set the scene for the next turgid piece of dialogue, delivered against yet another internationally renown backdrop, for no really good reason.

However that pile of garbage was the perfect set up for the brilliant ‘Wild Target’, a funny, sharp action/comedy pic that cost less than 8% of ‘The Tourist’ and yet ‘Wild Target’ is a better film by slightly more than 150%. Bill Nighy delivers a perfect foil to the kooky character played by Emily Blunt.

Arrival at LAX produced no surprises and reinforced the bond between the UK and the US even further.

If you think that only the British customs and border patrol would have just three officers on duty to deal with a 777 full of sleepy, bewildered passengers, I need to tell you that’s how they swing in LAX too.

We picked up the car and got sold an upgrade, but we did talk the guy out of giving us an SUV.

Driving from LAX to E 7th Street was made difficult due to a couple of closed roads. We understand this was entirely due to Obama being in town. We’re seeing him for dinner tomorrow.

Soph had one brain explosion, three full-on heart attacks and two minor myocardial infarctions en route. I failed to hit anything even though a lot of other traffic was on the wrong side of the road. Cyclists and pedestrians don’t count, right?

On the way to the hotel we drove past Nakatomi Plaza/Century City. I was very disappointed that Alan Rickman wasn’t in residence; the police were most insistent that we leave as we were on private property.

The room is brilliant, as is the rest of the club. We’re on our own when we leave LA; picking up overnight accommodation as we go, but I wanted us to start off from a solid base. This place is it.

We ate in last night, the restaurant is pleasant and the kitchen gave me the perfect pasta-based dish; the cellar offered me some nice Rioja to accompany it.

And Soph got told ‘Gee, I love your accent’, but the chatting-up waiter dude.

Today, breakfast will be followed by us being camera-toting, microphone-wielding tourists, as we hit Hollywood.

And that’s it, really.

I hear that, back in the UK, there are still people who ‘don’t get’ the need to switch the voting system from First Past The Post to AV.

Presumably these are the same people who vote on X-Factor, Big Brother and Britain’s Got Talent – which are all, obv, AV methods of selecting the best candidate.

Because if Britain’s Got Talent used First Past The Post we would have elected a tap-dancing dog. And if that’s not a metaphor for ‘Vote Cameron’, I don’t know what is.

It feels like teen spirit

That ‘end of weekend’ feeling sits heavily on my shoulders. Do you remember it? The ‘back to school’ thing that used to happen early Sunday evening?

Not, if I’m honest, a dark feeling of dread. More of a sense of impending doom.

It’s been a fantastic weekend; the weather has been outstanding, but I’m not sure where the last two days have gone.

We don’t seem to have got done half of the things we had on our list of things to do. And when I say ‘we’ and ‘our’ I mean ‘I’ and ‘my’, obv.

We ‘interviewed’ a gardener this morning. I think that, you know, taking all things in to consideration.

I’m out.

The search continues, sadly.

I say ‘sadly’ because having this morning’s guy around didn’t only underline how he wasn’t up to the job, his visit also reinforced the scale of what we want done.

Arse.

I went up to see lovely Vin this morning. Poor Vinnie has a sore foot, but other than that he’s looking very happy.

you can just see the bandaged off-fore hoof if you click - twice - through to the big picture

He seems to be much more supple in his hind quarters.

I think, another couple of months rest, and it might be worth seeing whether this 18 months off has had the desired effect.

I’m under no illusions about this; even if his health has improved to the point where he might be able to be brought back in to ridden work, Vin will never be more than a light hack.

His head-shaking means that he’s now coming in during the day, but he’s spending the night out, which he enjoys.

Anyway, wait and see. Wait and see.

H was working at the stables today; she took the piss out of me muchly, in the way that she does.

She needs a man.

Letching over eventers and jockeys who she’s never going to get in to bed? That’s not what she should be doing. She should be out there getting laid often, like all other grooms.

*cough*

Allegedly.

In other news.

I don’t know what’s going on, maybe it’s something to do with my age or time of life, but I’m turning in to an emotional wreck.

My feelings are just out of control, I find myself crying at the most stupid, idiotic, mundane things.

Just this morning, for example, I cried at the yard.

It really bloody hurts when you shut your hand in the stable door.

Doesn’t it?*

Before I go to bed tonight I really should have a good stab at finishing the edit to the audio interview with The Empty Vessels.

Hmm…

In other news, I revealed to Soph the idea behind the cross-media website I’ve been planning for the last couple of months.

The problem with talking about a pre-production concept, is that you have to give the backstory.

I don’t like doing that. I pefer people to look at something and play with it, even if it is only a prototype; I like people to build their own opinions, form their own views without being led by the backstory.

Soph could see the gap in the market that the idea is aiming to fill.

And I have a design template planned.

Turning the concept in to a living, breathing website would be straightforward; probably take three days to turn the plans in to reality.

The problem, though, is the one of regularly producing content.

I can’t do it all.

Writing a sufficient number of articles to keep a website turning over is not the job for one person.

So if you know anyone who might be interested in contributing to a cross-media website, could you let me know?

Thanks.

*Hope you liked that joke. I wrote it just for you.

Steve Miller had it right

Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future‘. From the song ‘Fly Like An Eagle’, by the Steve Miller Band.

We’re going out tonight. In a minute, in fact.

We went out for dinner last night.

The night before last, we went to an acoustic night at Oxford’s internationally renown Catweazle Club.

Tonight, in a minute really, we’re going to another gig. This time in Oxford’s Wheatsheaf.

These days we really seem to be spending lots of time…

Sadly all this socialising means other things aren’t getting done.

I have started but not yet finished editing the Empty Vessels interview.

I have started but not yet finished putting together the three podcasts that will ‘air’ while we are in the states.

Somewhere along the line in the next two days I need to find the time to get all the prep done for the US trip.

And I have about 35 hours’ of work to fit in to the next three days.

I’m not complaining though.

I’m just, in my own way, apologising for my lack of appearance in these parts lately.

Soz.

Normal service, even if that means posts originating from the USA, will be resumed as soon as possible.

Srsly.

I love you, man.