Monday, August 6, 2012


So it’s Monday night. Strange one isn’t it, always feels like a bit of a none-entity to me. Right now I’m just at my folks’ flat, listening to some tunes. Before I get in to reviewing some new tracks from underground artists I’d like just to consider where contemporary music and musicians are in this changing technological and economic environment.

Today I took a long walk around North West London and strolled by a world-renowned music landmark. Skipping past the strange conglomeration of posh flats, estate agents and fancy bistros alongside council estates as you go from West Hampstead towards Marylebone, I walked down Abbey Rd. Along the way I was thinking amongst other things about how on earth musicians are supposed to make a living (yes, that means earning money I’m afraid) from their craft these days. Just last night I played at a Stroke Your Beard night in Kilburn that showcased an interesting array of artists and was an all-round good time. However, I couldn’t help thinking that AT BEST the costs of the night had been covered, and there certainly wasn’t enough to pay the thirteen or so musicians that took part.

I wasn’t feeling down or sorry for myself about this fact, but I couldn’t help but ruminate upon it. As I strolled passed the ultra-famous zebra crossing opposite Abbey Rd studios however, I felt a strange feeling in my stomach. Sure, The Beatles were a great and innovative band, but think about how much money they have made over the years from their previous shows and recordings. Millions upon millions. Now, the capitalist theorist would say that that is simply because the market has shown that they were the best and have been rewarded accordingly. Here I beg to differ. You can’t make money without a product, in this case a physical record, which no longer really exists. We all know now how the record industry is effectively redundant, and in particular how new bands are simply not going to make a mint from c.d. sales. Times have definitely changed.

Ok, so you can’t earn money from records. Fine. And live performances in London? Extremely difficult. You’ll be lucky, and I mean lucky, if the bar will have the decency to treat you to a slightly flat lager for fucks sake! Anyway, before I rant any longer, I would like to end the intro on a key point, which is that I personally believe that underground artists’ only real chance of earning a living from making music is through mutual support. And herein lies the paradigm shift…now check out some of the great music below!!!


Dirty Donno (Guy Donovan) is a solo grime artist from Essex, based in Brighton. Donno is a dedicated wordsmith who packs in heavy content into quick rhymes that flow emphatically through his recordings. What most appeals to me about Donno’s music is the crisp rhythm and honesty of his delivery and his approach to two key themes: family and addiction. I’m sure a lot of people can empathise with his lyrics that are positive although resolutely unafraid of the darkness in life. There’s no bullshit either, spelled out clearly with simple but direct lyrics, ‘I’m a driving force, can’t hide the thoughts…not here to chat about the gun talk’. Forthcoming album ‘Face for Radio’ will be available from his website soon, but in the meantime check out his soundcloud page for numerous collabs and big tunes.


Unlike the rest of the artists in this review Blue Rose Code are actually signed to indie label Ho-Hum Records, but I remember seeing them back in 2005 when they were playing at the very unglamorous ‘Bow Bells’ pub on Mile End Rd. Much has happened for BRC since then, but I still want people who haven’t heard them yet to check ‘em out. BRC are a contemporary folk act from Edinburgh now based in London and seem to be well on their way to breaking up from under. What’s distinctive about BRC’s sound for me is the sheer quality of the vocals, both from lead singer and songwriter Ross Wilson and backing singers Samantha Whates and Lizzie Ogle, effortlessly delivered with interesting harmonies. They have a strong online presence and plenty of gigs in the pipeline so open up your ears and chill the fuck out to some sweet Caledonian Soul.


Rosie May is a singer-songwriter from Taunton, Somerset and has just released her E.P. ‘Too far to Swim’. With a title like that it is probably little surprise that the sea is the predominant lyrical source of inspiration on this cool little four-track. First song ‘This Shell of Mine’ is a rip-roaring tune bursting with energy with tight production that maintains the honesty of an independently released, lo-fi record. Rosie’s voice is clear and strong and really excels in the up-lifting chorus of third track ‘Lost at Sea’. Listening to these recordings makes you think you could definitely imagine hearing Rosie May and her band at any U.K. festival and have the punters in the palm of her hand.


I don’t personally know U.K. hip-hop artist Conflict but his music and the ethos that comes through it has already struck a chord. If you take the time to check out his links you’ll see that independent philosophy runs through every track. Conflict has a very chilled delivery which can lull the unsuspecting listener into a false sense of security; the content of his lyrics goes straight to some of the blatant social issues at the heart of our society. He also very consciously highlights how the music industry has changed and is himself absolutely about supporting the underground. You can download his E.P. Resolutions for free via Bandcamp; I recommend tracks ‘Rhyme and Reason’ and ‘Dear Hip-Hop’ for their production quality and lyrics.


Ali Warren is another singer-songwriter from Taunton, Somerset and has recently recorded and performed live in the U.K. and further afield with his fantastic backing band. I had the pleasure of seeing the full band for the first time on Sunday and was thoroughly impressed with the musicality and tightness of their sound. As a solo artist Ali already knows how to captivate an audience, but with the full backing his tunes really sprang out of their guitar strings and smacked the crowd gleefully round the chops. The band have a new two-track single featuring the mesmerising 5/4 tune ‘What We Say’ which you can purchase at their live shows or hear via soundcloud. If you like your music played with passion and skill, definitely definitely check it out.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this post and please take the time to check out all the artists. The one thing that did console me as I walked past Abbey Road studios was someone singing ‘Come together, right now’ as they almost got run over by a Land Rover. And no I didn’t wanna see him get flattenned on a zebra crossing! For all their fame and money, that one Beatles’ lyric says much for the times and musical world we’re now living in.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


Maybe it’s the fact that I’m pretty much on holiday now or maybe it’s just that I like my own voice too much to be content with a few lines on facefuck. Either way, I woke up today in unusually bright spirits but with a handful of solid reasons. No, I’m not elated and brimming with pride as a result of an old lady enjoying 60 years of totally unearned privilege, or championing the exploits of 11 men on a pitch who are good at kicking a piece of plastic around (although props to Spain, they were good innit!?!). Life, occasionally, can and should brim with optimism and positive thinking. If you wanna stay down in the dumps, stop reading. If you need a lift, spare a minute more…

Why be positive? Surely that’s not the done thing these days? Well, the first thing I wanna rant and rave about is the resounding victory of the British public in staving off the privatisation of public woodland. Reading up on this difficult campaign has reignited my faith in people. We’re meant to believe (if you follow the headlines of impending environmental disaster and financial melt-down) that we are a bunch of greedy cunts who want nothing more than to line our pockets and spend our pennies in hell. Well, fortunately not. Anyone who was involved in this campaign should give themselves and their colleagues a massive pat on the back, go for a long walk in the woods with a bottle of fermented grape juice, a mat and and snuggle up in the shade.

Another small but sufficient reason to be positive is to look at changing attitudes to plastic bag use. People are right to recognise that this issue is almost irrelevant in the larger climate change context; we’re not gonna save the world by transporting our booze in re-useable bags whilst industries pump their crap into the air uncontrolled. True say, but it must be seen as a symbolic step in the right direction. Big up all the Welsh and Irish who by law now have to pay 5p per bag, cutting down on plastic use whilst raising cash for environmental projects. Apparently Scotland is next, with England perhaps unsurprisingly coming in last.

Speaking about the environment, I for one am inspired by the recent protests in Peru opposing an contaminous open-cast gold mine which have put the authorities in a state of emergency. Unfortunately three people have died, but once again the South Americans are showing us what it really means to stand up to big businesses in defence of an unpoluted water supply. People everywhere are brave and have noble ideals, and continually disprove Adam Smith’s (the Godfather of neo-liberalism) claim that everyone is simply out for their own benefit at all times.

Taken in the grand scheme and history of humanity on the planet, these issues may seem isolated and insignificant, but I am inclined to see them as part of a much larger web. Life, as the first teaching of Buddhism goes, is hard. I agree, but let that not blind us to the goodness and virtue that exists in the world.

Stay positive! One love!!!

Monday, July 2, 2012


Opposite the flat where I live there is a large empty room, whose windows are protected by an iron grate. It is a clean room with a tiled floor; I peer through the grate to double-check that there is no furniture to disturb the calm, no sign of human habitation.

Beneath my feet there is another empty room; no neighbour below to be disturbed by late-night jams, temper tantrums or sexual encounters. Maybe I should be glad. The neighbours on the right hand side are less than pleasant. As Sartre states ‘Hell is other people,’ or as a less well known philosopher (my Grandad, a retired electrician) also remarked,

‘What’s the hardest commandment to keep? ‘Love thy neighbour.’’

In spite of all this, something is nagging at my brain and finger-tips: people need houses. The recent proposal by British P.M. David Cameron to abolish housing benefits for the under 25s has stirred quite a reaction. I am writing from several thousand miles of physical distance, but his words still echo in my ears. I have lapped up indignant comments on The Guardian, lamenting the plight of the ‘feckless poor’ and read my friends’ thoughts on Fakebook. Cameron’s statements are shocking, and whilst I share the condemnation of the left-leaning press, I feel they are not looking at the bigger, more taboo issue at the centre of the debate; the existence of private property.

Wooooh! Steady on old boy! Before I get thrown onto the pile of looney-leftist cranks, allow a moment’s thought. One of my friends said that, in the light of the economic crisis, cutting benefits to the youth is ‘a good place to start’. Hmmmm. Let’s reflect on this idea of where something starts…

Animals need shelter. We, as I have to keep reminding myself and other people, are animals. Before losing ourselves in yields, bonds, bail-outs and crises, let’s not forget this simple truth. As animals we need somewhere to sleep, shit, make-love, make music, make a racket and make food. At least that’s what I’m mostly interested in doing in my house. Great, so as I found out after leaving uni and no-longer having the privilege of my folks paying my rent whilst I studied, I quickly realised that accommodation is both very expensive and necessary. Yikes!!! How did this become the case? Where did this begin?

If you ask Rousseau, he’d explain to you in his Discourse on the Origins of Inequality, that this is the result of a very stupid moment in human history. He states the most stupid man ever wasn’t the fella who moved into a cave, cut down some trees and put a fence around the scrub of land that surrounded it and said ‘This is mine!’. No, it wasn’t him, but it was the other fella, maybe a slightly hung-over caveman who’d been making-love, making music and making a racket the night before who believed him.

Now then, this is where I have to bring this all up to date. People who need houses the most are young people, those taking their first step to leave the nest. The importance of this metaphor shouldn’t be underestimated, because in age-to-life-expectancy terms, humans ‘leave the nest’ at a relatively advanced age compared to most other animals. The idea then that people aged 16-25 are somehow indulging themselves by (how dare they) wanting to move out in this ‘culture of entitlement’, is a crock of shit. This is the first battle that needs to be won; young people are not spoilt, they simply want their material needs to be met, as all young members of a species do.

So the state is not going to help people leave the nest. Why? There are ample empty houses in the UK – 930,000 according to the charity Empty Homes, who base their statistics on council tax databases. Now I’m not one for statistics, but check out this little beauty from the government’s own website, ‘In the period February-April 2012, 1.01 million young people aged 16-24 were unemployed.’ Right, so we could almost provide not just a single room but an entire house to each young person who is unemployed. I’m sure that a few of them wouldn’t mind sharing as well; let’s be honest, whilst you might like having a house to yourself so you can avoid that awkward moment of opening the unlocked bathroom door to find your new flat-mate taking a juicy number two, most of us enjoy the company of our peers.

So, why isn’t there the political will to find inhabitants for all these empty homes? The answer is that at the heart of this entire system lies the concept of private property. Unlike the Native American saying ‘The only piece of land you own is the land under your mat when you go to sleep at night’, some people in the West think that they have some God-given right to own vast areas of land and property. Notice that I haven’t once mentioned the word money. This argument is simply not about how much or how little money we have; it’s about the natural resources available to us and our ability to control them – agency. Now, agency is in the hands of private individuals and corporations, backed to the hilt by the public relations department of big business (the government) and their henchmen (the police and armed forces). So, unfortunately for the likes of you and me who despite all this madness still need a place to shit, sing and shower, we have little choice but to comply.

Or do we? We don’t own the houses, and the people who are supposed to represent us don’t want us to live in the empty ones unless someone else makes a profit. Tricky situation. One of the answers, to go back to ‘the start’ of the problem, would be to make that radical, historically unprecedented decision to no longer believe that these things are owned by others in the first place. As the poem/prayer Desiderata states, ‘You are a child of the universe; no less then the trees and the stars you have a right to be here.’ Continuing with our scatological imagery, we could just as well say ‘you have a right to poo here.’

And you do! We do! If private rents are too high and the state isn’t going to provide for our basic needs, then we as citizens, as ‘children of the universe’, have a RIGHT to make our own homes or use the empty ones literally lying around us. That’s why I give my full support to the squatting movement that exists at the periphery of our society. Hats off to the people who occupied a totally empty block of flats in a suburb of Seville after being kicked out of their homes because they didn’t keep up on mortgage payments. ‘Outrageous and unfair’ some may say, but they have done more than just provide for their material needs: they have brought into question the whole idea of private property, which even the liberal press is unwilling to contemplate, and started to readdress the most stupid moment of human history.

Friday, December 23, 2011



This gig started whilst I was buttering a piece of toast. Well, at least the anticipation and the thoughts behind it. I was back at my Mum’s middle-class flat in London, eagerly waiting to step out into another cold night in search of the live music buzz.

Before stepping out into the brisk North European (yes, we are actually in Europe you fuckwits) winter air, I was thinking about the title of the gig: Folk Modern 9. Kind of strange, but enticing. I am neither a so called folk ‘purist’ or a nu-folk lover; I was brought up on acoustic, singer-songwriter music and I love playing it and watching others do the same. So, a little about the venue, the vibe and the artists…

As usual, I couldn’t find the venue The Servant Jazz Quarters for beans. Even with the help of my good friend Magic John McGinley’s smart phone, we were wandering around a small patch of Dalston for several minutes before I resorted to the age old tradition of ASKING FOR DIRECTIONS. Funny isn’t it, how all of a sudden that feels like a weird thing to do? Anyways, the venue was ‘left then left round the corner next to Costcutters.’ Marvellous. We headed in, ordered a couple of locally brewed ales that tasted like Tottenham itself - sharp and tangy, with a mostly bitter taste. They got me pretty pissed plus the tins of Carlsberg I sneaked in and poured into my empty pint glass in the toilets. Pikey, moi? Super duper smashed already, the music began, so in no particular order…

First up for was Paul Cook. Good solid performer, simple tunes with a good clear voice. I felt that Paul’s songs would’ve sounded great with a rock band line up behind him, and hope he pursues that direction. The songs had a slight pop edge to them which I liked, so I reckon they’d sound just that little bit better with kit and bass behind them.

Another performer (there were many!) that stood out for me was Genevieve K, an American performance poet from New Jersey. What I liked about her performance was the straight forward love and passion that she clearly has for London, which came through in abundance in her poems about travelling around the UK. I thought she had a lot of energy and a great afro which always ads to the experience! I have a real soft spot for American English poetry, because it has that simultaneous sensation of being semantically familiar but phonologically different (same words, sounds different).

The other artist who surprised me with genuine lyrical dexterity was Paul Goodwin. Again, I thought he’s tunes would’ve sounded that bit better had he been backed up by a band, and the fact that he played with his guitar around his ankles (slight exaggeration) certainly adhered to the rock aesthetic. One lyric about ‘artlessness’ in particular stood in my mind…just really like the word I guess, effortlessly woven into the song.

There were other good performances but I’m gonna finish off with Black Jack Davy and Ali Warren. BJD has one of the strangest voices I’ve ever heard, live or recorded, with an eccentricity reminiscent of Devendra Banhart, delivered with a quiet self confidence I wasn’t expecting from the man. The highlight of the evening for me was watching Ali Warren who I’ve seen play several times and seems to be going from strength to strength. There was less of the showman in this performance and more focus on the songs which was just to my taste. Ali’s new songs are musically diverse (great new song call ‘What We Say’ in 5/4 where he manages to make that disjointed time signature sit easy on the ear with a super duper catchy chorus ‘No matter what we say/matter what we say/matter what we say’) and have a strong narrative element. I listened to some new recordings the other week and recommend everyone to keep an ear out for them.

All in all a good night’s entertainment for free (whoop!) and great to see all the performers just getting out there and doing it. Hats off also to Steven Thompson for putting on the night, and my apologies if I embarrassed my brothers for shouting out ever so slightly unsuitable comments. I just love getting into it!!!

p.s. The person who nicked the sign in the men’s toilets saying drug users will be prosecuted was me. It is now in my bro’s house, where drugs are thankfully not forbidden.

p.p.s. What words can you make out of the bar’s initials SJQ? Can you beat ‘Sexy Jizz Quiz?’ Mery Xmas, love from Jamothy xxx

Monday, December 12, 2011

In the Cat's Alley

Where and when does a gig begin? This one began in the rain. We zipped up our coats and headed out into the cold December night in search of live music and rock and roll. We’d intended to buy tickets in advance but didn’t get round to it. As I walked over the wet cobbled stones of Seville, I felt the same anticipation I get before going to watch a live football match. I’d been looking forward to it all day, and could feel my heart tick just that little bit harder as we twisted and turned corners, heading for the Sala Malandar next to the River Guadalquivir.

It was shut. No music. No sign on the door with any info. No hot dog man outside, preparing to serve mashed up pig’s bollocks for drunken punters at 4 a.m. ‘Shit!’ we thought. Fortunately enough, I had Dani’s number in my phone book and my Dad had credit; we made a quick phone call to find out the new venue, somewhere in the ‘Fifth Cunt’ of Seville. That means a long way away. Our coats zipped up that little bit tighter, we turned round and facing the rain marched towards El PolĂ­gono Calonge, an industrial estate on the outskirts of north Seville.

We got about half way and counted out our money between us; we calculated we could afford at least one taxi ride. We were soon huddled in the warm vehicle, and chatted with the driver who was as intrigued as we were to find this unusual venue. After peering out into the dark rainy night for several minutes, we found the right street. Nothing there. A hotel chain lay behind us, a tyre repair warehouse and a few strip clubs but no music bar. We turned the corner again which led down a narrow street flanked by large garages; at the end we could see a tall bloke who seemed to be hanging around. We’d found it.

You could smell the spit, salt and beer well before we entered the garage door. Fucking fantastic. A large beaten up caravan was parked outside, presumably belonging to the band or a friend of theirs which had been used to transport the gear. Small groups of people were huddling around, smoking cigarettes and talking privately. We smoked a pre-rolled joint and headed in.

Five Euros later and we were inside a large converted warehouse or garage, equipped with a little bar and a small but well organised stage. The amps and instruments lay in waiting, their red ‘on’ lights burnt clearly through the dark, guitars and violin placed carefully on their stands. We got a drink and waited. A couple of people we knew passed by, said ‘Hello,’ everyone just glad to get out of the rain and finally make it to the gig. We were standing towards the back of the room, meandering through the sounds of the PA and the gathering throng of people.

Crack. HMMMM. Yes! The band were on stage, first chords, first cymbals, first keys, first strings struck with human flesh. The huddled crowd grew in anticipation, and gave out a loud loud cheer when Dani Mata came up onto the stage. Ever so slightly out of the spotlight, he took to the microphone and began to sing. The band, who were as tight as a nun’s arsehole, responded in magnificent fashion, and the stage was set for a brilliant night of music.

I won’t tell you everything about what I heard and saw that night. All I can tell you is that the gig was unforgettable, every note a soulful scream, a cry and shout to the gods of rock and roll to say that, ‘Yes!!!! We are here!!!! And we are alive!!!!!!!!’ Even now I can feel my arms tingle with the memory, that electricity of the band, the front man, the spit, the sweat, the songs, the joy, the pain turned into creativity and let free to run and cry as it pleases. I shall never ever forget dancing to one song, my feet lost in the rhythm, utterly unconscious of anything in the world, the universe, nothing but the rhythm and the guitar and the voices calling ‘Don’t cry BAH BAH BAH!!!’, and I remember turning and spinning and laughing and crying and moving through space with and within everything.

That moment, and that moment only, is all you need to know about to love music.

We walked home in the rain.