Jul 17, 2015

Fringe planning update plus a picture of an elephant


Today, my Manchester preview of Kraftwerk Badger Spaceship was a top five pick on Creative Tourist by my utterly unbiased Bad Language colleague Joe Daly. The article's quote "you may struggle to know what you've seen" is better than any blurb I've come up with: it feels like a performance challenge as much as a description.

Here's where I'm up to with the show:

NOT GOING OUT.

I've cleared my diary so I can continue working on the show. I don't want to miss a good idea. More importantly, I need to allow head-space for that internal critic...

OKAY FLYERS.

I've just approved proofs for flyer artwork. I'm not quite sure the flyers are good enough. But I haven't got the creative energy to do better: it's all going on the darn show.

BEING REALISTIC.

I'm aware my publicity has had very little traction overall, but I'm also aware that I just want to survive the 14 day run without everything going on fire or being attacked by buffalo. If I get a single review or column inch, it's a bonus. Consider that expectation parked.

HAVING A BREAKTHROUGH.

I had a mini breakthrough last night when I ditched a bit of material I thought I *should* do - but actually, the show's stronger without it. It's probably the riskiest thing I've done in my planning: I hope it holds together. Already, I feel more certain about my show than I did in this blog post.

GETTING JIGGY.

I've some writing left to do, mainly little visual stings that will drop in every ten minutes, and a whole bunch of marker pen madness to do. So if I don't go to your event / drinks, it's because I'm getting jiggy with a sharpie (see above).

Actually, I don't use sharpies. I tend to need better art pens for the kind of shizzle I do. Y'know. Just saying. Jeez, shut up about the sharpies already.

Want to see me in Edinburgh? Here's some Free Festival information.

Jul 10, 2015

An update on writing Kraftwerk Badger Spaceship (Edinburgh Fringe 2015)


As you may well know, or not, I'm presenting my first ever show at the Edinburgh Fringe this year. Kraftwerk Badger Spaceship runs from August 6th to 19th at the Cellar Monkey, and there's a Manchester preview on July 26th. All free as part of Laughing Horse's brilliant free fringe.

Writing an Edinburgh show is different if you're under the category of "spoken word". It's not as if I'm a gigging comedian polishing the same 20 minutes week in, week out. In fact, us spoken word acts have it easy.

At least, I thought it would be easy. As it happens it's kind of hard. This is how the show looks so far. I've kept it vague so there are no spoilers.

> Me doing an introduction to tell you everything that's going to happen over the next hour;

> Me imparting some of my amazing wisdom about electronic music. I expect lots of "aahs" and "oohs" at this point;

> Me attempting something approaching poetry although I've looked it up in a dictionary and I thought a "poetry" was a kind of fancy spoon;

> A few things that have gone down well recently because the audience laughed and didn't throw tomatoes or rocks or saucepans;

> A bit where it all gets a bit down. I call this the "dip". Feel free to scroll your phone at this point.

> A chunk of audience interaction, assuming I have an audience by this point and the room is just me and some chairs and a startled mouse transporting a piece of cheese from one side of the room to the other.

And I have little linky bits that should glue the whole lot together, done in the same style as the introduction. What I'm missing at the moment is an end. And I'm missing a specific element of uncertainty (other than the audience interaction or response) that will keep all 14 shows fresh for me, and add a bit of an extra challenge for my performance. Fear not. I have ideas.

This whole experience of piecing together a show has had some serious ebbs and flows. I think I have something, then it drifts away. Ideas wash into my head like the tide, tickling my brain with their bubbles, then all I have left is seaweed. One day I can look at my show and see 50 minutes of brilliant material: the next day, I think I have 10.

One thing I do have is confidence that the show will be entirely Me, capital M. What state Kraftwerk Badger Spaceship will be in after 14 dates in Edinburgh, I have no idea. Will I lose myself? Will all of my audience just be mice? How on earth do gigging comedians cope?

Click here for details of my Manchester preview.

Jul 9, 2015

An unedited rant about beer prices in a theatre

I'm in the tickly clutches of Manchester International Festival. On Sunday, I saw Bjork play the Castlefield Arena, and she was her usual uncompromising mesmerising self. And tonight, I get to see Maxine Peake in Skriker.

I won't bore you with my reviews of MIF events. There are plenty of people doing a better job than l'il ole Fats. And indeed, the slight disappointment of Damon Albarn's Wonder.land musical, which I saw a couple of days ago, is well documented on social media.

What I do want to bore you with, however, is something that left me speechless, that made me never want to set foot in a traditional theatre again.

I got to the Palace Theatre having paid £30 for my Wonder.land ticket. I decided to do what other theatre-goers do: buy a drink when I arrived, then order one for the interval. The bar was bereft of pumps, so I scanned their fridge for bottles. The best drink they has was Carling. Yeesh. That's okay. I was out of my comfort zone already: let's live a little and drink Carling.

"Can I have a Carling please? And one for the interval?"

"No problem, hot blogger guy. Lemme just sort that for you now."

This is how the conversation went, honest. The bar person waved a plastic pint glass at me, and I nodded and smiled. No problem. I understood the need for an audience not to have a load of glass projectiles to hand. So far, so good.

She poured the Carling into the pint glass expertly and without over-foaming. It barely reached the half-pint mark. I balked a little. Must do small bottles in theatres, I thought.

"Is that alright, hot blogger guy?"

"Yeah. Yeah, that's... fine." One half-pint of Carling now and one half-pint of Carling at the interval would have to be fine.

"That'll be £8.80 please."

Wut?! Half a pint of Carling at Manchester's Palace Theatre will set you back £4.40. Of Carling. Half. A. Pint. Of. Carling.

I should be raging about the overhang in the circle seats blocking off half of Wonder.land's visuals, about how the tickets were never listed as "restricted view" by Manchester International Festival, about the fact that at least seven people near me walked out of the performance because they couldn't see the fracking thing properly.

I should be raging about that. But no, it's the beer.

And they wonder why theatre is inaccessible for 'normals' like me. A theatre should be attracting audiences, poor and old alike, theatre-savvy or stage-noobs alike. Yet the Palace has the audacity to charge a fortune for a thimble of spittle.

No doubt, you can get a similarly expensive drink at Port Street Beer House, but at least they'll serve you a half-pint that will marry your tastebuds and do disgusting things to your brain at the same time.

"Crumbs. I'd like to cancel my Carling order."

"No problem. Hey, you're really hot, blogger guy."

"If anyone asks, THIS IS EXACTLY HOW THE CONVERSATION WENT."

Jul 2, 2015

Short Shrift: come and see our short story showcase in Lancaster


This year, I went back to school. I was selected to attend the Short Shrift short story writing course curated by Jenn Ashworth and Litfest. On occasional Saturdays in 2015, I took my words up to Lancashire to have them prodded and poked by fellow writers.

This course has been a ray of light these past few months. There are five others on the course and they are, without exception, lovely people. We submitted and critiqued work and we absorbed buckets of inspiration from our tutor Jenn Ashworth, a creative writing lecturer and author of The Friday Gospels, and also from a brilliant Q&A with the ridiculously talented Kirsty Logan.

I take away from the course a renewed respect for the writing process. I can see the mechanics of a short story much more clearly now, and yet that hasn’t dulled my enthusiasm for the works we’ve revelled in since January: John McGregor, Leonora Carrington, Raymond Chandler, Ali Smith and of course Flannery O’Connor. In fact, considering I’m so busy with Bad Language and the Edinburgh Fringe, I’m amazed I got as much as I did from the course.

Tomorrow, on Friday July 3rd, us course pupils will present our work to the public in Lancaster (click here for tickets). It’ll be a small crowd but it’ll be fun to hear our work over a microphone, and to chat about writing and process and whether Bics are the bestest pens ever (they are).

Jul 1, 2015

How to keep cool in a heatwave if you like dance music

One! Listen to loads of cool Icelandic bands. The stuff music journos call "crepuscular". This will turn your brain cogs to ice cubes.

Two! Neck a load of illegal pills. Y'know, the kind that have Shaun Ryder's head imprinted on them. Take off your shirt. Pretend it's 4am in a club and start a fight with a bouncer / any fat guy you see.

Three! Learn alchemy. Change bass vibrations into cool air. Turn snare sounds into diamonds. Magic a turnip into a buffalo. Jeez, enough of the alchemy already.

Four! Embrace the Ibiza weather and produce a novelty chart hit. You will need a bouncy beat, sheep for the video, a traffic warden saying "techno" over and over to a camera, loads of pilfered samples and, of course, comedy shades.

Five! Attend any stadium techno gig. Secreted on stage they'll have a couple of fans, to keep them and their equipment cool. Nick the fans mid-set. Knock over their laptop. Nudge the mains switch. And run like heckers because the Chemical Brothers *will* kick your face off.

Twelve! It is only scorching because your love of techno is bringing hell on earth. Placate God's judgement by listening to more holy music genres, such as hymns, country and western, prog rock and trap.

Seventy! Become the Vengaboys (pictured) because when the sun finally explodes and life on earth withers into the great beyond, their faces are the last thing any of us will see. That and they're always dressed for the summer.

Jun 30, 2015

Fat Roland's Audio Spaceship episode 1: the time of my life


In preparation for my Edinburgh Fringe show Kraftwerk Badger Spaceship, I've done a thing. It's called Fat Roland's Audio Spaceship. I wrote and recorded it in one day on my phone, all first-drafty and clunky sound. You'll enjoy it.

In Fat Roland's Audio Spaceship, I waffle on about 1987, badgers, not-Kraftwerk, poo on a road, a vending machine scandal, Twitter and, to a lesser extent, funnels.

If you have any ideas about episode two of this, er, thing, let me know in the comments.

Jun 14, 2015

Kraftwerk Badger Spaceship: an Edinburgh free fringe show


Kraftwerk Badger Spaceship is the name of my debut show at the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe. There will be a special Manchester preview on July 26th and you are invited.

My one-hour solo appearance in Edinburgh as part of Laughing Horse's free festival is "a spoken-word comedy about one idiot’s battle with electronic music... is it poetry or prop comedy or just a fat man with too many marker pens?"

Here are some dates for your diary...

Kraftwerk Badger Spaceship: Manchester preview
Gullivers, Oldham Street, Manchester
Sunday 26 July 2015 8pm

Kraftwerk Badger Spaceship
Cellar Monkey, Argyle Place, Edinburgh
Thurs 6 to Wed 19 August 2015 5pm

When blog success propelled me into the sweltering heart of Manchester's performance scene, I never really thought it would come to this. I've just taken a week of work to knock the show into better shape - and I've been live-tweeting that process on the curation Twitter account We Are Manc. To be honest, having that accountability has kept me sane. Almost.

See you in Manchester / Edinburgh / Edinmanchesterburgh.





Jun 7, 2015

Fat Roland: spring playlist 2015


I've made a SoundCloud playlist for you to jam into your ears.

We start with the beautiful Throwing Snow, before Megatronic brings us into something a little less ethereal. There's some popular bass-shredders in the middle, and then Lukid starts off a really dour section that should separate the techno-heads from the, er, techno-headlesses. And yes, there's a track in here that sounds well Orbital.

This is all recent or only slightly dusty. Happy listening.

Jun 3, 2015

The Saboteur Awards: doing quite well at spoken word and that


I’ve done it again. I’ve won an award. It’s been five years since the last one. This was, though, much more of a collaborative effort: Bad Language won ‘best spoken word night’ at the 2015 Saboteur Awards, which means it’s the best spoken word night the UK. Or at least, in the geographical area that covers Saboteur funding. There may be other spoken word award ceremonies, I don’t know. There are probably thousands of them. Millions. Anyhoo, it’s good, whatever it means.

I decided in 2013 that I wanted to run Bad Language. I went to B&Q, bought some pitchforks, and scared two thirds of the organising team off to London. Third organiser Joe Daly proved a much stronger foe: he insisted on running it with me. Our organising meetings consist of us throwing rocks at each other while shouting really long names from the Bible. Somehow, we manage to put on well-attended nights without everyone being fried by killer robots, and the Sab Award has made all the hard work worthwhile. Thanks to the hundreds who voted for us. This is a testament to the dedication of our audience, the commitment of our performers, and Joe’s immense drive for new and interesting events.

I couldn’t make the ceremony itself. I had to be in work to throw some numbers at spreadsheets. Joe went to the Sabs with Bad Language co-founder Dan Carpenter. It sounds like they had a great time. They hooked up with all sorts of people from the UK literature scene: I’ve seen the photos on Facebook of them all bleary-eyed and wine-stained. I’m not bitter. E17, by the way. That’s my favourite spreadsheet cell. That and U96. I sometimes sing Stay Another Day and Das Boot as I sit there in front of the spreadsheet. On my own. No, I’m not bitter at all.

It’s been an honour to co-host Bad Language for the past 14 months. I don’t know where we go from here: our only aim is to put on great live literature in Manchester. So we’ll do some more of that.

May 10, 2015

Fractions 12: Clouds


Every now and then, I make little videos for a series of fictional fragments called Fractions. Here's the latest one. This edition is 'Clouds' and it's about clouds.

The text is taken from the Jusbin Bebber Twitter account (something I also write as a kind of sandbox for stupid ideas). See those tweets below the video.

 


May 9, 2015

Five ways to survive the next five years of Tory government


The Tories won the election and this can only be bad news for the vulnerable and the poor. Many people won't know what living under a Tory majority is like: the last time they won an election, Right Said Fred and Altern-8 were in the top ten.

It's okay though because I have sure-fire methods so we all survive the next five years.

1. Dig a hole

It doesn't matter where you are - in your garden, in front of the toaster, in the shower - start digging. Make it a good and deep hole. Climb into the hole on regular occasions.

Make friends with the worms. The hole is your home.

2. Make a Baked Alaska

Is it hot? Is it cold? It's both, but how can that be? Baked Alaska is the most demonic of all the desserts and its contradictions can never be understood. Make a Baked Alaska.

Then bury it in the hole for it must never be mentioned ever again.

3. Rant on social media

Rant on social media about how awful the government is. Your followers in your part of the echo chamber will love you for this, because they agree with you and deserve to be castigated for that. Whatever you do, don't write letters or contact those in power.

Install broadband in your hole.

4. Arm yourself

When the hospitals get sold off to casinos and every third child is converted into Tesco shares, you'll need a high profile and shocking strategy. Have several dozen extra arms grafted onto your body. Run down the street flapping your new limbs like an octopus on Free Scallop Tuesday.

Be careful not to fall down a hole. There will be a lot of holes by now.

5. Rent out your chin

Rent your chin to campers and caravanners. Offer cheap toilets and good drainage. Show them the view from your forehead. Tell them this is as good as anywhere on Anglesey, although the crazy golf is shut for the summer. When they ask you about your ill-advised goatee, change the subject. Perhaps suggest they move their tent into the hole. It has Baked Alaska in.

Mmm, Baked Alaska, they'll say as they lick their CamperGaz stove with longing in their eyes.

In summary...

Many will suffer under this government. Ranting on social media will not be enough. Choose your campaigns, whether it's 38 Degrees or Liberty or Quaker Social Action. Whatever. But choose something and start small, for you will need your energy.

Be active, be kind, be focussed.

You didn't expect this to suddenly get serious, did you? I'm thinking through how I can become more socially active over the next five years: when I do this, my imagination throws out a load of junk. Hence the arm/chin nonsense above.

Sorry about that. There is no such thing as an octopus-human. And Baked Alaska is kind of disgusting.

We need to protest as much as we did back in the 1990s. You are not in a hole. You can stand tall, and you can speak to power. In the words of Right Said Fred, it's time to Activ-8.

Wait.

Wrong band, dammit.

May 4, 2015

Letting music decide the 2015 UK general election, obviously


This year's UK general election has left me wavering like never before. I don't have television, so the leaders' debates were lost on me. We have a couple of days before the polls open, and I am truly undecided.

So I decided to ask music. If I was to judge the party leaders, it would be through the filter of a gramophone, my head jammed into its horn while they dribbled on about immigrants and deficits and tax credits.

In reality, it's down to the red and the green. But let's take all five main parties into account...

Tory

David Cameron is firm and unwavering. A bit plain, as if he's just come out of the packaging. He is minimal techno. He is Robert Hood. If you like Robert Hood, vote Conservative.



Labour

Ed Miliband is inaccessible and awkward. Spend enough time with him and you may begin to understand him.  He is Autechre. If you like Autechre, vote Labour.



Liberal Democrat

Nick Clegg is someone you drifted from a long time ago. You wonder how you were ever into him because he seems so, meh. He is Zero 7. If you like Zero 7, vote Liberal Democrat.



Green

Natalie Bennett is different from the others. In some way this is good. In some ways this is bad. Listening to her is not always the most pleasant experience. She is the hardcore gabba band Neophyte. If you like Neophyte, vote Green.



The other one

Nigel Farage is awful, like something on the bottom of your shoe that could be a slug or someone's excrement, you're not sure. And yet, he's so listenable. Catchy, even. He is LMFAO (pictured). If you like LMFAO and think women should "shut the f*** up" (Redfoo, 2014), vote Ukip.



I don't have a Plaid Cymru or an SNP near me, but obviously they'd be Boards of Canada and Scooter respectively.

That's decided it then. I think.

Did Emily Davison throw herself under those hooves just so I could ooze this kind of nonsense all over my blog? Has Simon Cowell bought the copyright on the X we have to place in the box on Thursday? Am I going to have that LMFAO track in my head for much longer?

All will be decided in the 2015 UK general election. Whoever wins, we're going to have to listen to them for five years.

The Chemical Brothers - Sometimes I Feel So Deserted


This track (see below) feels like all build-up, but that's no bad thing considering it's the opener to the Chemical Brothers' new album. Sometimes I Feel So Deserted could have done with a pneumatic drop at that three-minute mark. Still, it's acidy and deep and bodes well for their first studio album for five years.

I recently wrote up a review of Leftfield's first album in 16 years. You'll have to wait for the next Electronic Sound for thoughts on that one.

May 3, 2015

Curating your life with Toast


I did a ten minute performance on the theme of 'curating your life' at the closure of the Toast art space in central Manchester. At least, I think that's what was happening. I went into the gig knowing pretty much nothing.

Sometimes, going into a gig blind isn't a good idea. What I found was a makeshift, friendly, scrappy, laughy affair in a place that was clearly in the advance stages of being junked.


My fellow performers included Tales Of Whatever's Mark Powell and my longtime pretend twin brother Lee Moore. The set-up was a bit, um, minimal, so we put a load of chairs out and nipped to the Co-op to buy beers for everyone. We took donations, and there is a special place in hell for the people who dumped foreign coins on us.

I read an updated version of my tweets from David Cameron, a couple of short stories and, in what has turned out to be a live favourite, an untitled piece about an attractive stranger told through web searches.

We left when people started wrecking stuff. Went to a bar. High-fived a DJ. Sorted.


Apr 28, 2015

From a poke to a shove: Facebook has chucked me off their site


Facebook has deleted me. They've picked my up by the scruff of my (rubber)neck and thrown me out of the number one social media party. You'll find me in the alleyway at the back door, sprawled among the bins.

The site's insistence on real name usage is a matter of public record, and it left a lot of internet noses out of joint. That policy has now locked me out of my own account.

My name is "not approved". I need to "try again".


Try again at what? I've been Fat Roland online since the 1990s, before Facebook was invented.

I'm not one for skeletons and closets, so I'm not hiding anything. Indeed, my real identity is on numerous websites. You can see my name here and here and here and here and here and here and here

But making my pseudonym my primary web identity allows a healthy distance between me and the web. It is a choice; a carefully selected choice.

It's good for my creativity and headspace. Also, I don't want to be tracked down by the bullies from my primary and secondary school days. That said, I'm not going to be a victim about this. There are transgender people, for example, who have much more legitimate beef with the 'book than I do.

Mention Facebook to many people, and they sneer like it's a piddle-stained relative they haven't quite got shot of. Part of me is glad it has gone. However, I will lose touch with people I love. And it will affect my ability to promote events for Bad Language and Blackwell's.

I don't think there will be a fast fix. In the meantime, this is what my profile looks like.


If you need me, I'll be on Twitter and maybe even Ello (!).

And if you fancy joining me in living a Facebook-less life, delete your account and we'll have un-status un-updated adventures together.