I had something else planned for tonight, but A) it isn’t quite ready yet and B) I’ll have to be in the right mood to make sure it works. For now, how about a lovely bit of nostalgia?
I mentioned Mr. Charming, my old late-teens band, in the post about The Libertines. Did I link to us? I think I did. But here we are, playing two absolutely ridiculous songs, recorded at what actually ended up being an astonishingly decent studio after it moved out of the engineer’s damp cellar and into proper premises. As you might be able to tell from listening, these were recorded pre-move.
The first song, Skipping Stones, is about killing an enormous monster by a careful employment of funk music (and a magical goat). I tend to think every white-boy musician goes through a teenage funk-stage. It’s the first time you realise you can kinda show off with your music. Not that either of these tunes show off my bass playing, really. The second one, Buddha Fantastic, features a vocal bit from me sounding about seventeen because I was about seventeen, and is about being a hippy, and was written by our guitarist, who was (and still is) a bit of a hippy.
He does give good hugs, though.
After Mr. Charming split, when our guitarist went off to record more interesting music than we were making, I found myself bandless at a Leeds Festival for the first time since I started attending, which was an odd feeling. By this point we were at the age where we could move around on the local scene and go to all the gigs without fear of being ID’d, so we also kinda knew a couple of the bands that were playing on the unsigned stage. Which was awesome, but also really depressing, because post-Mr. C I was a bit musically lost. Done a bit of acoustic solo stuff, but there’s no fucking way in hell I’m linking you to that – I’m far too self-conscious these days. I’d rather hide behind a band, thanks. So anyway, watching a couple of local bands own the small stage at Leeds Fest led to me writing a few alt-weird-prog-punk-pop-emo songs and then piecing together some sort of ultraband to play them.
Now here’s a thing: at one point, it looked very possible that the resulting act, awfully named Blue Sky Project, might “make it”. I mean, fuck me, look at some of the quotes on that page. Our demos were horrible, home-recorded nonsense, but we packaged them well and called them “EPs”, and people seemed to quite like them. We started getting booked to do some bigger gigs – the all-time classic was a terrifying support set in the main room of The Cockpit, in front of 650 people who totally weren’t there to see us but, brilliantly, whom we managed to somehow win over and end up with a load of new fans as a result. We also, incredibly, got asked to play main support to Jubilee at Josephs Well, who some may know as “that guy from Queens of the Stone Age and that guy from Nine Inch Nails’ other band”. Although that was a bit of a flop, as much to the promoter’s annoyance the gig didn’t feature on any of their tour posters or on their website, and less than a hundred people turned up.
Listening to the stuff on the Myspace player there (horrible recordings. Horrible. Serves us right for trying to cut costs), I feel a vague pang of dissatisfaction that we didn’t stick with our guns from our earlier stuff. I suspect if you go to Last FM, you can hear traces of that output on stuf like Snailshell, but our first record – Fenestrae, of which there seems to be bugger all around, and of which I don’t actually own a copy – was hella ambitious and the one that really stands out now as having been what we were all about. And it’s a shame, because before we split (our guitarist moved away, and our bassist’s other (much better) band got a record deal) we’d started to do some interesting stuff. And look! I found some of it! From a rehearsal session! And, er, yeah.
I don’t think we’d slept much the night before. We had to learn a new song, which we’d just written. I’d forgotten to do any lyrics for it, and it was our last rehearsal before what turned out to be our last gig. So here, you get to hear me and Tim shouting in the chorus “WELL I DON’T HAVE ANY LYRICS YE-EEEET! I REALLY SHOULD WRITE SOME SOON!” and me just mumbling-the-fuck through the verses.
But hey: that intro was quite neat, no?
Oh, hey, I found some live stuff! Yeah, apparently we weren’t that great live. And the sound quality’s abysmal. And apparently The Cockpit’s sound tech didn’t like my voice, since you can’t hear it in the mix at all, but look! Look at the front row! Look at the children dance!
Hey! Here’s us sounding more than slightly better at The Brudenell Social Club, which remains a shit-hot and totally underused venue in Leeds. Check ma tight shirt! And my horrible vocal tuning difficulties. But mainly the awesome ending. I’d forgotten how big that ending was live.
Unfortunately, none of this shows us at our best. Some of our finest moments, and most memorable gigs, were the ones where we showed a complete lack of respect for health and safety protocol in the smallest venues. The sort where a hundred people pack in shoulder-to-shoulder, and then you end up charging into them all with instruments held aloft, and everyone goes mad and starts headbutting each other, and you kinda fear for their (and your) safety but you go with it because it’s rock and fucking roll.
The kind where Ant does this in a small, very trendy bar:
(Which inevitably results in this:)
But hey, all those cuts and bruises are worth it. And, y’know, even at the other end of the scale, there were some spectacular times. Those tiny, sweaty, boxy gigs were astonishingly good fun, but you’d have to be a crazy fool to think that walking out in front of a packed-out Cockpit, nervous as shit, and seeing this isn’t one of the biggest adrenaline rushes imaginable:
(Yeah, we had a young fanbase. An odd one that. Never did see us as being that commercial.)