05 Mar 2013
Glen and Dom bought a Tascam 4-track when they moved into
Brecknock road, Kentish Town. Their first floor flat was strewn
with weird musical instruments, clothes, tapes and more tapes and
I wasn't a regular visitor, I'd got a job working in the comedy
industry, and it was great, but taking up all my time, working long
office hours and then going out to see stand up in the
They recorded hours and hours of material, and experimented with
sounds. This was the beginnings of the project that would become Piano Magic, Glen had
always liked the idea of a revolving-door setup (like This Mortal
Coil) where people would come round, bring biscuits, contribute to
a track, then disappear, there was no pressure of 'being in a band'
all the focus was on the creativity.
I was invited around to contribute (bourbon biscuits if I
remember correctly) and listened to stuff and then copied seven or
eight tracks they had worked out onto a cassette tape and was sent
off to pick two or three and write some lyrics.
The above track is the one of the ones I chose, I didn't do a
great job with the lyrics, but it was the one out of the three that
Glen let me have a go at recording. The music is great, reminds me
a lot of early Piano Magic, with the ticking and the bleeps. I
remember thinking I shouldn't be singing over this at all.
I'm not sure what Glen felt about the recording, but he asked me
to go away and write something new, lyrics and music, and then he
would work with that, or maybe he wanted more bourbons.
A few weeks later I came back I'd written a song loosely based
on 'Butterflies' the Ian Mcewan short story from First Love, Last
Rites, and Glen liked the chords, and the chorus particulary, but
it had the line 'on the Promise of Butterflies' and I couldn't turn
my head to the side at the right moment to stop the P sound of
promise pharting into the Microphone, so in the end Glen said it
was fine, and although I'd bought around a double packet of custard
creams, I wasn't invited back to record at Brecknock road
01 Feb 2013
I eventually ended up in Greenwich, (via Eltham, losing a Panda in the aftermath), and
through loot, a flat, that was both above and below an antique
shop, although this later became a flower shop, then a
hairdressers, sharing with two scientist guys called Keith and
I was still on the dole, and managed to get myself on a touch
typing course in Greenwich, I figured a proper job would require
typing and this is probably the single most best skill I have ever
learnt, I urge anyone to learn to touch type.
I was covering the rent with savings and 'matrix' housing
benefit payments, and had just got a 'placement' through the course
to work in telesales at an accounting staff recruitment
consultancy, I sort of led my newly acquired flatmates to believe I
had a proper job in the city.
I was the wrong side of the Thames from all my Nottingham
friends that had already moved down, and consequently spent a lot
of time in my room, being lonely and wondering whether this whole
move to London thing was such a good idea afterall.
This state of affairs led me to writing poetry again, even
though I had kind of given up, and also playing guitar, and writing
songs. The telesales job gave me access to a photocopier!! - and
out of the ashes of these circumstances I put together the pamphlet
'Grey Flowers'. This song 'Fruitless' is one of the poems that
appeared in it, it isn't as good as my earlier work (always the way
with your favourite artists) but it is infused with being in London
for the first time, and commuting and working in an office, and so
I quite like it because it reminds me how I felt at the time.
The placement led to a job in the accounting staff agency and
had another creative outcome, because it meant that I could lie and
act as a referee for Glen and Dom so they too could move down to
London, assuring their prospective landlord that they 'worked
through the agency', as 'data entry clerks' and would definitely be
able to afford and pay the rent, (although of course they couldn't
and would be on the dole and drawing housing benefit!) Now I'm not
claming credit for all their subsequent creative output, but it's
clear that some is obviously attributable to me and this small lie
on their behalf, if they hadn't moved to London together at that
time, armed with my pseudo-data entry jobs, then would there have
even been a Piano Magic ?
06 Jan 2013
I think this is my favourite song from all of those I've played on in these recordings, Glen wrote it, and Caroline provided the line 'Her brow is ploughed' and I improvised the bass line. It's really just right, quirky, and to my ears at the time certainly of record quality, well at least flexi-disc.
The girl from Northern Exposure being 'Maggie O'Connell' of course, and this was another of our 'unlikely American heroines' tribute songs. I was really convinced if we could just find a drummer and do some gigs, Manchester / Nottingham or wherever this could perhaps lead on to something else.
The only trouble was it also made me realise my shortfalls, I could never write anything as natural and simple as this that would sound great, all my ability was mathematical, I could learn chords and sequences and write poems and lyrics but there was always something missing, something fake, missing that je ne sais quoi, (I don't mean I should have been writing things in French), whereas Glen's guitar chords on this are not even 'proper chords' and seem largely selected for their nearness to each other on two strings, but sound magical and so does the solo at the end that ebbs, fades and comes back.
Glen did write to say he had a gig in Nottingham, but that he was going to do it with another band he was playing with at the time called 'Mitten' (that all made a bit more sense then)
So I sort of gave up a bit on writing songs and being creative and moved to London to try and get a proper job.
12 Dec 2012
We needed a drummer then.
'Octoberine Will' had now moved down to London along with
'illinois John', and were taking photographs of/and interviewing
indie pop stars for fanzines and later the NME.
So this is when things got a bit weird as Glen said he was fed
up with being in a Nottingham band, and he wanted us to be mainly
based in Manchester. He thought of Clarkesville Park as being kind
of 'my band' that he just played guitar in. This wasn't great for
me because I was on the verge of moving to Nottingham but anyway I
put up lots of those wanted posters, with the tear off strips of
phone numbers all over the usual spots in Manchester, and it was
the basement of Powercuts Records that hooked us a potential
Before rehearsing with us he wanted to meet us, so I met him one
night; does it give too much away at this stage about how well this
turns out if I say I can't remember his name ?; anyway I met him at
Subway bar near Manchester Oxford Road, and he seemed a bit full of
himself, but as my only criteria, was would he turn up or not, this
meeting was followed up with a rehearsal at Red House rehearsal
rooms, on the Rochdale Road. (New Fads also rehearsed there)
Glen came up on the train, but only for the day; we met outside
Red House, but couldn't get in because it had been broken into the
night before; we had to wait inside until the police came and much
to their dismay I'd picked up a fire extinguisher that was wedged
in the door that was used as part of the break in, thus destroying
any finger print evidence.
The drummer had a Peperami and offered a bite to Glen, a strict
vegetarian, which led to Glen whispering 'no this isn't the guy, he
can't be in the band' but we rehearsed anyway because we were
The rehearsal didn't go well, the amp I had stored at Red House
had been blown up by someone who'd borrowed it (I'm not suggesting
it was the New Fads). The drummer hadn't heard of any of the bands
on the list on the poster, which I suppose I could have perhaps
discovered at the Subway bar. Glen didn't want to play any of the
songs he sang on so we just ended up playing this track over and
over until the drummer boy said the bass and guitar parts were too
similar but he could see potential in us, at which point I think we
both told him to fuck off (in our heads that is, we of course
parted amicably and then never phoned him again)
12 Nov 2012
So we needed to write some songs, and this kind of happened
disparately via the postal service, and when I'd visit Nottingham
we'd put them together; and often there was a bit which that was
obviously mine and a bit that was obviously Glen and I'm not sure
that always worked. It would have been better if it was all
We liked the slow - fast - slow - fast of Sonic Youth indebted
indie tunes and we also developed this theme of writing songs about
unlikely American heroines.
This one is about Winnie Cooper from off of The Wonder Years
which felt like it was the only programme on Channel 4 on Sundays
when we were growing up; and seemed to capture those awkward first
crush feelings in agonising detail.
I think Glen wanted me to sing this, but I thought it was a bit
creepy; I may have relented in the end, but this recording anyway
features Glen's voice. Also if you google for images of Winnie
Cooper, as I've just done, you can see ermm, that she is now all