Friday, November 29, 2013

It all started when I heard 'Then' by The Charlatans.

This is a column originally published by Lights Go Out zine.

When I was a teenager I was all about the fey breathy vocals, silly wide trousers and jangly indistinct guitars of what was then know as 'indie' (but has long since become 'mainy').  Oh how I mocked the dumb thunky musical nothingness of Heavy Metal.  All that hair?  No thanks, I wanted, well, 'all that hair' of Madchester bands.

Being into indie music in the nineties was like being a part of a mass many-headed dictatorship, a collective fascism where you weren't allowed to like any band unless a set number of your mates had already agreed that the hair was big enough, the beats were dancy enough and most importantly that the group in question hadn't enjoyed any significant commercial success.

We were happy enough.  We knew where we were, which is more than most teens can say about anything. We were yet to experience the touch of a loving woman, but we felt sure that playing in bands that mimicked our baggy heroes would solve that issue. Actually my first proper snog came from a groupie - the only time in history a lass has chosen the bassist of a band as the object of her affections, despite the singer and guitarist both clearly being very available indeed.  But that's a story for another time, possibly a time in the past.  I'm quite repetitive in my ramblings.

A few things happened that shook my belief in slouchy backbeats and riffs clearly nicked from 60s psychedelic bands. The first event was the other three members of my band being bright and intelligent enough to go to university. I lumbered into a pre-nursing course at the local college, and more importantly accidentally fell into a punk rock band.  This is significant because if at the time I thought metal was dumb I thought punk was amoebic.  Then a very nice (and often very drunk) lad called Jonny on the college bus gave me a mix tape that opened with 'Suspect Device' by Stiff Little Fingers.  My world changed that very second.    "I want to be in a band that makes music like that" slurred Jonny. " So do I," I replied, while trying to discourage Jonny's friend Barry from setting fire to my trousers. If 'Then' made me want to play music 'Suspect Device' made me want to be a part of music.

Taking a zine moment
while setting up my old shop.
A few years later I discovered that punk was not what I thought it was at all, this happened when a mate in a fellow band called 'Wolfe Retard' (possibly not the name on his birth certificate) told me some overweight bloke called Mike had given him a few boxes of unsold compilation CDs from his DIY record label.  'Cute' thought I (in an uncharacteristically patronising moment) and politely accepted copies of Fat Wreck volumes 3 to 7. My world changed again.

Punk wasn't leather jackets and gobbing; it was dudes like me singing about things that really mattered. Playing the songs with punch, passion and zero pretension.

Years of playing in crap venues to confused regulars passed. I slept in vans, on cigarette pocked carpets and I made some of the best friends I've ever had. I opened a record shop with one of these friends and I was exposed to many divergent types of music that I had never previously heard and I learned a ton of good music that I had never even considered listening to.  And that's when the heavy metal happened.

I heard the epic sweeping majesty of Red Sparrowes and Isis, the cascading sonic waterfall of tracks like 'March into the sea' by P E L I C A N and the tight canter of The Sword. Heavy Metal wasn't all leather jackets and bad body odour; it was brilliantly intelligent arrangement and the sometimes glacial grinding power of bands like Sunn O))).

There's a wealth of astonishing heavy metal in this world, if you just clear your mind of preconceptions you might find you really love it

I still love 'Then'.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Very simple ginger beer recipe

If your bottle swells like this then release the
gas by unscrewing the cap very very slowly!
I've been making ginger beer to this recipe very regularly indeed since it was passed to me by Roki from These Are End Times.  There are plenty of complicated ways to make ginger beer but this method is so simple you might find yourself making it as often as I do.  This is the perfect method for anyone who is new to homebrew and fancies trying their hand at homemade beer without investing in any equipment.

Ginger beer ingredients

  • 1.5 tablespoons(ish) of grated root ginger
  • 1 lemon(ish)
  • 1 tablespoon(ish) honey
  • 250g(ish) of sugar
  • Pinch of yeast
  • Tap water
  • 1 empty two litre pop bottle

Any old brewing yeast will do, but I quite like the champagne yeast that Brewer's Barn in Ipswich sells.  They also sell a brilliant all-round good yeast, lookie...  One of those standard yeast pots will contain enough yeast for about 200 brews!

How to make simple ginger beer

  1. Get all the ingredients and shove them in a bottle, top up using tap water and leave about 5cm at the top of the bottle. 
  2. Put the bottle somewhere reasonably warm (not your airing cupboard)
  3. Seven to ten days later drink the ginger beer.

Okay that might be a little simplistic, but it's quite close to the truth.  I've tried making ginger beer to this recipe by just guessing at the measurements for the ingredients and it has still turned out just fine!  You'll need to make this beer in a gas-capable bottle, but that just means a pop bottle.  If you don't want to bother buying any homebrew steriliser buy a bottle of supermarket economy range sparkling water, empty it down the sink and use the bottle, as long as your house is reasonably clean you can be fairly sure no nasty bacteria will get in to make your ginger beer taste horrible.

It's not a bad idea to transfer the ginger beer into a new bottle once it has stopped fermenting (when it stops letting off tons of gas).  But that's only if you plan to store it, I wouldn't bother personally.  My belly is custom made for storing ginger beer.

You MUST either poke a tiny vent hole in the lid of your bottle or carefully unscrew the cap to release the gas at least a couple of times a day otherwise your bottle might explode.  I tend to poke a hole in the bottle lid with a skewer then stretch a balloon over the cap.  This lets the gas out and looks funny.

The longer you leave this ginger beer before drinking it the stronger it seems to get, so don't down a pint before heading out for a drive.  This ginger beer is quite boozy!

Any questions?  Use the comments boxes below and I'll try and answer them.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

GETTING IT - out now on Amazon!

My first full-length novel is now available in the Amazon Kindle store.  'Getting it' was written a couple of years ago but as I own the rights I decided to get it re-published in order to give myself and my writing a good kick up the bum.  I'm 90% through the first draft of a new novel that I hope to complete early next year.  If you've read my short stories or any of the columns I've written for various zines over the years then hopefully you'll get a chuckle out of 'Getting it'.

The story's central character is someone who has bought into the ideas of enlightened modern living little too enthusiastically and has dedicated his life to bettering the lives of his friends.  His friends aren't feeling the benefit.  Even although the main female lead is a lass who grew up on in the Australian outback I've had to convince several friends that they don't star in this story.  This novel is a romance at heart, but the sort of slightly mussed up romance that Nick Hornby, Mike Gayle or Matt Dunn might write.

You can buy the book for searching for it on your Kindle, or by visiting your 'local' Amazon store using the appropriate link below.  Getting reviews on Amazon is crucial to authors, so once you have read the book (or if you have read in the past) before I'd REALLY appreciate a review, especially on

Ta stars!

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Now you can 'like' me on Facebook. What an age we live in.

I now have an author page on Facebook and Good Reads.  I've also made a bit of an effort with my author page on Amazon.

Go nuts with the clicks people.  If you want to I guess.  This might not be the most peppy blog post you read today, but in my defence I do have a lurgy-enabled ball of snot the size of a puppy's head lodged in my chest.

Author pages: