Nov 30, 2014

Blogging highlights 2004-2014


I've been blogging for ten years.

You remember ten years ago, right? Faded celebrities sat around in jungles, UKIP made significant electoral gains and some loons re-released the Band Aid song. Seems so alien now.

This blog reached its zenith in 2009 and 2010. Before and since, it has just been a fat man shouting down an internet tube at his own knees.

Here are my eight blogging highlights since the first post dripped out onto the web on 13th November 2004.


1. Getting the word electrostepgrungebass accepted into Blogger's spelling dictionary. Turns out if you post them enough nail clippings, they relent.

2. Actually moving into a grandma's basement so I felt included in all the tabloid comment pieces about blogging. She never found out.

3. The time when I was outed as Burial. Or that graffiti guy. I forget which.

4. Changing the name of my blog to (a) Fat Roland's Internet Sickhole, (b) Fat Roland's Cranial Discharge, (c) Vice Magazine. All at once.

5. Seeing my blog open on a laptop screen in the background of the Queen's official portrait. Still, it put paid to my theory that I can't be seen in paintings, like vampires.

6. Being the millionth visitor to the world wide web. I won a timeshare. Or a large bank deposit. Or willy pills. I don't know: I didn't click.

7. Inventing the "minternet". This is like the internet, only mintier. See also: cheesels (edible easels), hot dogdogs (actual dogs made from sausages), beef (this is just beef that I pretended to invent).

8. Accidentally downloading all the music. Well, almost all. Strangely, it left off all the U2 albums.

9. There isn't a 9. I said "eight blogging highlights". Scroll up. It's right there.

10. Seriously now.

11. OH COME ON.

Thanks for reading. I've had a decade offloading my mind-crap into your face. I think I will carry on because, why not. Blogging is dead and this is not Buzzclick-Viralworthy, but if you stick around, I'll keep tapping away. Here's to Band Aid 2024. *weeps*

Nov 23, 2014

Live latest: Royal Exchange, Mother's Ruin, the Spoken Word Showcase

Fat Roland performs. Photo: Pam Van-Damned Visuals.

Here is an update on my performance shenanigans.

On Hallowe’en night, I co-compered fiction readings at the Royal Exchange with my Bad Language hat on. It's not a real hat. Let's not get hung up on the hat. All the readers were great, but it was extra brills to have a Booker shortlistee read for Bad Language for the first time.

The place was drizzled in orange and green lighting, giving a suitably pumpkinesque sheen for the 160 or so that attended. It felt quite austere, as though we were inside an old novel or something.

I compered again at the King’s Arms in Salford for a Mother’s Ruin cabaret night. This was a chance to stretch my stand-up muscles, throwing in short routines, one-liners and, as usual, a truck-load of props. The night is described with aplomb here.

Incidentally, my previous appearance for Mother's Ruin got a lovely review on Manchester's Finest:
"It was then time for Fat Roland, a comedian who again reduced the audience to hysteria from the start and all done without uttering a single word. Silently he took the audience on a tour about Manchester from doodles he’d drawn himself."
Some of those drawings got a second outing at the Spoken Word Showcase in Salford. In some ways, this was the most interesting experience. I teased the audience with an idiot persona, with readings and doodles that were deliberately childlike. Once the audience was hooked – and who doesn’t love a low-status idiot – I allowed what I presented to become more skilful, ending on a dark and distinctly adult note that was entirely without punchline. Proper enjoyable.

I have three events this week, so you should choose one at which you can show off your best hat. On Tuesday, I will read a fiction piece at a Bad Language / Blackwell’s collaboration with Tony O'Neill and Bluemoose Books. On Wednesday, it’s Bad Language at the Castle with Ralph Dartford from A Firm Of Poets. And on Thursday, it’s back to Blackwell’s where I will compere an evening of intelligent talks based around the Very Short Introductions books, run in conjunction with Oxford University Press.

Photo: Pam Van-Damned

Nov 18, 2014

See this? This is you, this is


YouGov have this brilliant profiler in which you can enter a brand or an activity and it trawls their database to tell you who would be interested in that - on "average".

I entered 'electronic music'. It found 98 people into electronic music, which if you think about it is a lot of people. It constructed that data into one composite person.

In other words, this is you. This is what you look like.


I added the colouring because, y'know, you look a bit dull.

What else do the stats say about average-you?

You're a geeky boxing fan who owns fish.


You're a bloke (and you are a he) who shops at Dorothy Perkins, likes Tulisa from N-Dubz and when not shopping at Superdrug, reads Glamour magazine.


Creative writing is your fifth favourite hobby, but you prefer hillclimbing.

Your top ten programmes include Escape To The Country and Operation Hospital Food With James Martin.

WHO ARE YOU?!

TULISA FROM N-DUBZ?!


Nov 16, 2014

Attaching a camera to a cat: in pictures



I attached a camera to a cat. Here are the pictures it took.

This is the return of Fractions, the video series that had its first run last winter. CatCam is an edit of a piece I did at Mother's Bloomers last week. Sorry for the popping: I probably need to get a decent recording device.

Click here for the rest of my video vomit. Meanwhile, happy viewing...

Nov 15, 2014

The Aphex Twins have released 30 new tracks


The Aphex Twins* have released 30 new tracks. Because there are so many people in the Aphex Twins, they are able to do this.

The Twins unleashed their new material during a lengthy two-part interview with Dave Noyze. I've not had chance to hear it yet - I'm still enjoying Syro - but I'm expecting electronic patches wigging out then tumbling over rough edges into half-formed gutters. Or something.

These are the numerous members of the Aphex Twins:

- Romeo Twin
- Asher D James
- Selected Lisa Maffia Works
- OxSyro and Digeri-Neutrino
- Kim KarDrukqsian
- Insert more puns here
- Fill this bit in later

In unrelated news, this blogger is sad to hear that So Solid Crew was just one person all along.

Sole member Paul Daniels revealed the news in an emotional interview with himself. He said he only ever intended Every 21 Seconds Counts, a surprise number one in 3,000 countries, to be the theme tune of his next game show.

* with apologies to Stewart Lee for stealing his 'the UKIPs' joke.

Nov 12, 2014

Fat Roland goes to Crosby beach


I got stuck in the sand at Crosby beach and nearly ruined my trainers. I swear the Gormley statues were laughing.

Before I sank beneath the fish-pissed sand, I took these photographs.

You can see all 33 meaningful picture captions on a special Crosby beach tumblr I made with my internet machine.

Ah, that Orbital one seems so dated now...




Click for loads more.

Nov 10, 2014

Christmas chart battles and the chamber of echoes


We all remember where we were when a Facebook campaign shot Killing In The Name to the festive top spot. It was Britain's JFK moment.

A whole nation gasped as Joe McElderry was denied chart's biggest accolade. Ticker-tape news channels covered it for weeks. The single was named The Climb. The irony of that title failing to reach the summit led to hundreds of floral tributes to be elastic-banded onto Simon Cowell's legs.

McElderry went the way of Steve Brookstein. He was last seen doing panto. His career became as successful as JFK's is now.

Enter this year's most interesting seasonal Facebook campaign:  LFO for Christmas Number One. 

LFO are sadly no more, after the death of sole musician and long-time Bjork collaborator Mark Bell (pictured above). He'll be sorely missed. LFO's Northern bleeps gave a voice to dour techno-heads and their eponymous debut on Warp Records should be regarded as one of the most influential electronic tracks of all time.

A similar campaign for Altern-8's Activ 8 (Come With Me) faltered in 2013, charting the single 30 places lower than its original peak in 1991. The LFO campaign has a memorial element, and despite the Facebook page yet reaching the tens of thousands of followers it needs, there are plenty of shares and likes.

Ah yes, the Facebook page. The other day, it posted a photo of Countdown lettersmith Rachel Riley displaying the letters L, F and O. All very amusing, Photoshop or no Photoshop.

Among the quips about consonants and vowels, there were comments about Rachel, both in the group comments and in the shares of the original post by ex-LFO member Gez Varley. About her. About her appearance. Boobs and oscillations and the like. You've seen the internet. You know what comments are like.

It made me feel sad. It reminded me that techno is male-dominated. It reminded me of the way debates are controlled and manipulated by men. It reminded me of pay gaps, of glass ceilings, of willies ruling all.

That's a lot to read into a small selection of comments that were nothing to do with the campaign.
But I like techno being a community. I liked going to a listening party for the new Aphex Twin album, or raving about favourite Orbital gigs, or gently prodding Venetian Snares fans about Westlife.

But when technoheads are being misogynist, where are their friends? Why aren't they being challenged? Are we as blind to our willy-powered echo chamber as the blunt-fingered keyboard warriors of #GamerGate?

I hope Mark Bell makes it to number one this Chrimbo. Meanwhile, I suspect McElderry's been more successful than this blog post has given him credit for. It doesn't matter. I'm still gaffer taping daffodils to Simon Cowell's hairy man tubes.

Oct 26, 2014

Fnarp blang-grabble toop: what I learnt from drawing


Some time ago I went to a life drawing class. We sat in rows with our chosen tools, in my case an A3 sketchpad I had bought that day and the pencil I used to illustrate a 2012 short story collection. A succession of models in fancy dress glared at us: we drew Storm from X-Men, an evil-looking Darth Maul and someone from Blade Runner.

I didn't like it. It left me frustrated. I wanted to snap my pencil. I didn't snap my pencil. If you snap pencils, it releases lead into the atmosphere and a dolphin dies. I read that somewhere.

The models were great, the night was friendly and fun, the costumes and make-up were brilliant, and the company I kept was great. I drew lots and, for a while, I enjoyed the challenge of squinting at the shapes before me and trying to spew that onto paper.

Yet I learnt a few things:

I DON'T DO REAL THINGS.

I'd rather live inside my head. Things outside my eyes are boring. I need to mix things up into a beautiful field of horses or an elephant hick or a cheese goat Neil Buchanan mash-up or something so disgusting and weird it's probably NSFW.

I DON'T DO SCHOOL.

I won't sit still. I won't draw in a structured environment. I won't follow your recommendations to the letter. Don't give me an exam: I'd break it. I don't only think outside the box: I've opened a dictionary, crossed out "box" and written "fnarp" instead.

I DON'T DO CLOTHES.

Well. I wear clothes: I'm not a naturist. But I wanted actual life drawing not fancy dress. Models with skin and that. Nuddies. The sags and contours of skin are more interesting than leather jackets and capes. If you're not reading this naked right now, I'll be furious. Actually, I can see your reflection from my computer screen. My eyes. MY EYES.

I DON'T DO CONVENTIONS.

Despite this blog post using conventions of grammar on a template of a major blog publishing platform using equipment owned by multi-national corporations, I, like, totes don't do boundaries yeah?! Smash the system, yeah?! Fnarp blang-grabble toop p'dinb-dinb wam. That's not even a sentence. I'm out of control.

MAYBE THIS IS WHY I LIKE BASS MUSIC.

My dislike of following a crowd. My disrespect of popular conventions. My urge to always find the new. I feel restless.

Maybe this is why I got into electronic music. I'll spend the afternoon trawling Bleep, loafing around Resident Advisor or spinning through Soundcloud for something new: Objekt or The Bug or Butch.

Meanwhile everyone else is into fancy dress and normcore and real things and Ed Sheeran and Sunday lunch and saying how-do-you-do and wearing ties and television and breathing and jeezeverythingissoBORING.

Anyway. I kept my drawings. They were okay.

Oct 19, 2014

Sometimes people get lost

Sometimes people get lost. Christopher Columbus set off to find India and ended up playing for the West Indies cricket team or something. Sometimes I load up kitten fights on YouTube and end up watching body building videos. Like I say, sometimes people get lost.

Therefore, I produced these graphics for anyone who feels lost. You kind of have to be on Twitter to make them true because they say things like "you are on Twitter".

I hope someone will find them useful.




Oct 16, 2014

The Black Dog / Balil's 3/4 Heart


"If you remember the 60s, you weren't there."
"Music was just better in the 80s."
"I so got bogus on alcopops at the Britpop disco last night."

Yeah, I hear your conversations, you wrinkled dinosaurs living in the past. It's pathetic. I listen to new music all the time, while you close your ears off because your ear wax is made of nostalgia and one day you will drown in it.

Haaaaving said that...

I love this old track from The Black Dog, performing here as Balil (below).

Their Bytes album expanded my world. In this one track, you can hear trip hop, Orbital's Snivilisation and LTJ Bukem's atmospherics. Except this was some time before any of that came out, assuming we're dating trip hop to a couple of years later in the 90s.

This is truly forward thinking futuristic futurism right here, and definitely not me wallowing in techno nostalgia.



(Incidentally, The Black Dog's Sound of Sheffield volume 3 is out this week, including the bass-heavy Fraction Slide.)

Oct 15, 2014

Stephen Fry's moustache

Stephen Fry's moustache. That's it, really. Just those three words.

It was probably an episode of QI in which someone joked about an internet site dedicated to Fry's facial hair. Maybe. Anyhoo, the idea stuck in my head. 


Because the internet needs this kind of thing.

Oct 14, 2014

Anxious Fats and the castle of happiness


Five billion years ago, I went on a school trip to France. I was very interested in going on a school trip to France. I'd learnt the word boulangerie and everything.

The trip was a nightmare. Some of my school "mates" were nobbists of the highest degree, and I spent the whole vacation feeling confused and overwhelmed. I still remember a supermarket cashier barking shapes at me while I nodded in a way I thought looked intelligent.

I still do the same nodding now.

Ever since, I've had an anxiety about not enjoying the moment. Such as dancing my mullet off in a club yet worrying about how many shirt buttons I should have unfastened, opting between one and two and three back to one like some kind of crap fabric traffic light.

It's happened again recently, only in a more general sense. I've been caught in a cycle of logistics and planning and stress. Even when chillaxing with my bluds (I think these are French words), my mind has been a dripping pipe of mental notes and worries.

Last weekend, that changed.

I attended a writing workshop run by Prole Books at the turret-tastic Bodelwydden Castle. I only went because I followed Prole on Twitter and, hey, it was in a castle.

I’m not really a workshop kind of guy, but the process loosened some pretty rusty bolts. I realise that clashes with my pipe metaphor, but shut up. Writer Sue Pace led the workshop without dictating, and allowed freedom to simply enjoy the process of writing.

The weekend forced me to stop, to take a step back. I threw some priorities up in the air and let them land in a different order. I've written a lot. I’ve even been facing some tiny demons this week that I have been avoiding for a long time.

I feel pretty.... boulangerie.

---

Also this week, I performed with Flashtag at Manchester Literature Festival in a kind of literary human centipede which was, according to reviews, comedic and hilarious. And as Bad Language I co-hosted a bunch of rising stars along with development agency The Writing Squad and author chappie Matt Haig. I had an immense time at the Festival and thanks to everyone for making it feel prop spesh and well good.

Sep 22, 2014

The Aphex Twins: a classic comeback album?

The Aphex Twins will release a new album today for the first time in 13 years.

Gone are the dance moves of the past. This is a more introspective, mature sound, designed to reflect the Aphex Twins' recent 65th birthday.

Last week, I went to a listening party where I hung around Piccadilly Records looking shifty while loudly declaring that the album "had a good beat".

Here are ten comeback albums that are significant. Of course, it includes The Aphex Twin's new album.

1. Guns 'n' Iron: Chinese Illusion II / Use Your Democracy
2. My Bloody Valentine: Gangnam Stylin'
3. Stone Roses: The Third Coming
4. Westlife: Sexploitation Soundtrack Classics
5. Bob Dylan: One Man And His Casio Pre-Sets
6. U2 - Never Mind The 90s, Here's Something To Use In Your Advert
7. Peter Andre: Music For Airheads
8. Guru Josh: 2010s, Time For My Pills
9. David Bowie: Songs For Ricky Gervais
10. The Aphex Twins: I'm Banging My Computer Keyboard Against This Granny Does It Look Like A Track Title Yet

Sep 4, 2014

Stream an actual new Aphex Twin track now



It's a jolly little ditty, and not entirely unlike my favouritest band Plaid. Add a few Totems Flare-style synth and vocal bits. It may underwhelm some looking for a Windowlicker, but I'm a happy sausage right now. And it beats the grainy live clips already on YouTube.

The new album can be pre-ordered from Bleep here.

Further Fats: The Gospel According To Aphex Twin (2010)

Aug 19, 2014

Aphex Twin's new album: the truth

Aphex Twin's new album will be a collection of ballads with Irish boyband megastars Westlife.

Mr Aphex announced his first studio album for 13 years by threatening London with a zeppelin and then a small ad in the back pages of Loot, otherwise known as the "dark web".

There was also a posting on his official Twitter account, which read: "nuAlbum with WstLfe, theyre the 1s with Ronan in, rite?!".

The reaction from the music industry to Aphex Twin's comeback was swift and overwhelming. [Note: insert a bunch of tweets here and pass them off as journalistic quote sourcing.] Also, Phats & Small were unavailable for comment. Skrillex did hold a press conference at which the only attendees were Chase & Status, Nile Rogers, a bloke from Disclosure and whoever's left out of Milli Vanilli.

The album will be available in gatefold vinyl which plays, greetings card style, Avril 14th when you open it up. The first 500 copies will come with a free "Squarepusher sucks" sticker.

Alongside a live tour with Kid 606 and Austin Mahone supporting, the album will be promoted with residency on The One Show.

A statement from Ronan Keating reads: "Seriously, it's because we're Irish, isn't it? They just dressed in black and sat on stools. We had dance routines and stuff. Westlife didn't even do curtains properly."

What will the new album be like? Will his window be caustic, lickable or polygon? Further thoughts will be in the next edition of Electronic Sound.

Bonus: a possible album preview has appeared on YouTube: