Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Side Projects

'What are you up to tonight?' it was the piano player, his voice fizzed down the phone waking me from my daydream.
"Nothing. Why?"
"Well I'm playing a gig at this African event, you should come!"
"Huh? with who?"
"My new band!"
"What new band!?" I sat up intrigued.
"I've joined a reggae band!"
"I've joined a reggae band!" he said again. 
"Yes, I heard you!" I snapped. After being in Bristol for all of 3 weeks the piano player had certainly wasted no time, by day he had been selling paintballs on the streets and by all accounts making a decent wage for himself and now he'd joined another band!?
"It's a side project." he said proudly.
"A side project!?" the word seemed alien; for years he'd struggled with any kind of project let alone having projects on the side. 
"Where are you playing then?"
"In the Umb centre in St. Pauls" he answered.
"The what?"
"The Umb centre. I dunno, it's like this African place, I'll text you later."

A side project! After years spent idling away in a sub-tropical wilderness, deep in the valleys of west cornwall, in a state of premature retirement, cocooned in a valley, relying on lifts to and from town, living in a lackadaisical lull; he'd exhausted his friends and family and relied solely on the band for any outbound excursions! Sure he'd talked of Bristol ever since the band had relocated. But years had gone by; years spent on trains and mega buses and us driving down to a gig in north Devon via south Cornwall just to pick him up! The logistics didn't bear thinking about. But now, suddenly, he was here, and not only that, but he had a job, and a job that paid more in one day than I earned in a week! and not only that, but he had a side project! A new band! They'd been together for all of one day and already had a gig! I suddenly felt a fierce twang of jealously and wondered momentarily if he was already overtaking me; I didn't have a steady job or a side project! 

As the day progressed I gathered a few friends and tentatively awaited a text from the piano player. It came in a blaze of enthusiasm; 'I think you guys should definitely come, it's WOMAD standard, this band's incredible, there's food and alcohol and it goes on till 2am!'. We stepped out into the rain, bundled into a cab and in minutes were standing outside The Umb Centre and i was nervous. What if this side project became his main project? What if The Odd Folk became only a side project? We entered the slightly rundown community centre and met with a wiry Rasta at the reception who told us it was £15 a ticket! We backed away and called the piano player who I could see through the small glass window was in the midst of a soundcheck, he stood out like a sore thumb, clad in a shiny white suit surrounded by black people in black suits! He answered his phone mid-song. Evidently multitasking was part of his new skill set! We explained the problem and he jumped down from the stage and exited the auditorium, his band seemingly unaware of his departure. After a lengthy negotiation with the wiry Rasta we were ushered into the near empty hall and confronted by rows and rows of chairs with purple ribbons tied to them. Was this a wedding? Where was the bar? And the food? And the people?

Back on stage and his piano had stopped working and he was starting to get flustered! We searched around for a bar, realised that the warm cans of Red Stripe at reception were the limit and decided to return in an hour when things may have picked up a little.

An hour later and the hall was marginally busier, the band had stopped sound checking at least. I noticed the same eight cans of Red Stripe sat at the reception. The piano player was nowhere to be seen. "The music starts in an hour!" lilted the wiry Rasta at the door. We slipped back out into the rain and returned to the same cider bar we'd gone to the first time around!

An hour later and the hall was scarcely any busier but at least there was a queue of people. We waited only to find we weren't allowed in any longer as we hadn't got stamps and the Hall was very busy. "It doesn't look it!" I said.
"I'll speak to Profit, he's the boss!" said the wiry Rasta and disappeared through the door. I peered in through the small glass window, there didn't appear to be any band, and the piano player's phone rang through. I slipped outdoors and walked round to a large window on the side of the building and peered in; and there on a purple-ribboned-chair sat the piano player, sleeping soundly. The Hall was maybe quarter-full, the warm Red Stripe had failed to seduce anyone as they still sat untouched at the bar. This 'Profit' chap didn't look like living up to his name on this event. The stage was empty; the reggae band nowhere to be seen. This little side project didn't seem to have got off to a flying start. I smiled to myself, reassured, then gathered my friends and returned to the same cider bar for the third time that night.


"Sorry about last night!" said the piano player.
"That's OK, shame to have missed you play." I lied.
"Yeah, it was a bit of a weird event."
"Anyhow, what you up to tomorrow, fancy a jam?" I asked.
"Can't, I'm selling paintballs." he answered proudly.

"Ah, of course! Well what about tomorrow night then?"
"I'm rehearsing." he answered.
"With who!? For what!?"
"With my reggae band, we've got another gig at the weekend!"

It seemed this little side project was set to continue. All hopes I had of him being disgruntled by the non-event at The Umb Centre and ditching his new band had vanished. He'd added resolve to his skill set now! The piano player, in one month, had morphed from a sloth-like gutterpup living in a state of wooded oblivion to a highly motivated, multi-tasking salesman with two bands! 

I walked aimlessly around the house searching for some kind of side project of my own, and finding none, made a crumpet and sat back down on the sofa.


Monday, 4 November 2013

Richard Milligan

A friend of ours suggested that the gap between blogs was too wide, so i wrestled some time and here lies a 2nd blog within a fortnight. This one's for you, Richard Milligan - photo, title and all! Richard Milligan is the name of our artist. Now you're probably thinking, 'wow, you guys are really odd, your artist is a panda!' Sadly, no, this is the sole photo I have of Richimaru Millizaki, or Tricky Animator as he's also known. 
And he's not just our artist either, a more fitting title would be... 'art.manager/web.help/general.help/quick.help.we.need.this.bloody.wire.asap!'
He does so much more than artwork; he uploads and downloads, rushes about at our beck and call, lends us drums, pedals, wires, cameras, gins, tonics, he films us, he edits us, he offers enormous support for very little in return and for a while was our most constant fan! Sadly, as we've been lucky enough to explore the UK a little more, his presence has depleted, understandably. He only comes to the cornish giggles. Actually sometimes he even misses them! He strolled up to me outside The Acorn at the Steve Tilston gig and asked me what time we started. We had just finished! So perhaps he's not our most constant fan after all. Perhaps he's actually sick of us? or perhaps he's actually a panda!?

Since the last blog; the end of the tour; we pulled ourselves together and managed to organise a rehearsal, and upon completion deemed ourselves ready to showcase our talents to a manager in London. We drove into the capital mere hours before Hurricane Jude was due to hit the west of England, failing to think about the consequences of driving back headlong into the storm! The gig was a disaster; the booker had changed our time so often that nobody knew what was going on. We'd planned around the info in the last email, with a start time of 8pm but at 7.30 we were bundled on stage despite our best efforts, minus our bass player and with the manager not due to arrive for half an hour! We partook in some fantastical procrastinations (try saying that really fast!); we dilly'd and we dally'd, the bass player turned up as did the manager and we began. But after only three songs we were told 'one more!' much to our disbelief; indeed it tipped us over the edge and we let our frustrations bubble out of the microphones. We'd driven all the way from Bristol to play 4 songs for no money! We finished up, apologised to our baffled fans but the manager was nowhere to be seen, he'd slipped out into the rain. We made it home, the drummer drove us in his smart black car, though inside we were crammed tight like sardines; myself and the piano player literally in each others arms in a single seat! The storm raged and the rain lashed down, drops the size of golf balls, drumming on the windscreen. The drummer stared staunchly ahead, the guitar player in the passenger seat keeping up the small talk while the piano player and I cuddled in the back.

Fearing we'd missed the boat with the manager and preparing to offer Richard Milligan yet another role in the above position, we were surprised to receive an email which stated that although the event was a disaster, the management were still keen to see us live in the capital. Another showcase was to be arranged with haste!

The following weekend we departed further west to the land of our birth to support folk legend Steve Tilston at an event that my uncle had organised, which, with 30 years experience would run as smooth as butter; no chance of changing timeslots on this one.
The gig was beautiful; a sit down event that gave us a chance to play many of the old songs that had been left behind as we've increasingly upped our tempo. It allowed us to concentrate more on the FOLK than the ODD! After the gig we were inundated with middle-aged ladies wanting album's signed, this was both fulfilling and frustrating, as the obvious ideal is young girls circling you as you step off stage! But it was very touching and any fans are welcome.

Outside on the steps our most constant fan approached me all smiles dressed as a panda with a stick of bamboo. And this blog's for him! Richimaru.