Sep 17, 2006

It's the snot that makes it seem so familiar

Fluffy elephants, almost-dry glue, snot-encrusted duvets, wombs and your uncle's trousers may be some of the most comfortable things known to mankind.

However, none of them are as comforting as the de-tuned fuzziness of
Boards Of Canada. Perhaps there is something about the woozy nostalgia of their downtempo drummery that feels haunted by the ghost of 70s ambience.

>Cheese strings

Their 1998 debut Music Has The Right To Children sounded like the whole back catalogue of Ninja Tune had been fed through cheese strings and dictaphones before having its spliff diet replaced with a morphine drip. The thrill of hearing that album for the first time was like meeting a new friend you felt you had known all your life. Like when Richard met Judy. Or when Punch met Judy. The other Judy, not that one.

In the past eight years, I have grown fatter, stoopider but more optimistic. No such progression for BoC. They have a few guitars on recent album
The Campfire Headphase, but they're still living the same lolling retro-daydream.

>Kriss Kross

So respect due to a chap called Kaini who has set up a Boards Of Canada wiki site. 'Wiki' is the sound DJs make when they scratch records and is thought to originate from 'wiggida wiggida wack' from Kris Kross' 1992 hit single Jump. This is a lie.

A wiki site is a website anyone can edit (not a lie), and you should check out the BoC wiki site now. It needs content, so get writing, people. Or you could just copy stuff from their Wikipedia page. I would write stuff myself, but I have no fingers.

>David Koresh

And while I'm bigging up the Boards, What The Hell Is Up With Boards Of Canada is a wonderful summary of their Geogaddi album, including all the David Koresh references, back-masking tomfoolery and, um, Pascal's Triangle of Binomial Coefficients.

BoC are the best thing to come out of Scotland since Shooglenifty (not so much as a lie, as a post-post-modern ironic reference). Like a spent pipe-burst, I'll stop gushing now.

Sep 12, 2006

Fatbelt: notch 4

You've had notches 1, 2 and 3 of my Greenbelt Festival shennanigans. It seems appropriate to follow that with a fourth notch.

It's Saturday, our first full day of broadcast. Greenbelt FM is in full swing, with presenters, producers, editors, reporters, techies and groupies working ten to the dozen to keep the thing on the air. Lee (of Penguins' fame) has been working since 4am, when he staggered out of the organic beer tent smelling of stale beer and pie juice. That is a lie, but it's a fair assumption that he worked as hard as he drank that weekend.


I roll in at 11am, an hour before my first presenting slot, to discover that Lee is live-producing my lunchtime show. This is good because I am his radio bitch. We have good intuitive sense of how the other works, although nothing prepared us for complete flabble that lay ahead.

The two hour lunch show is designed to have a live feel, so there's a lot of spontonaeity, stacks of special guests, and only one chance for me to impress the BBC with my interviewing skills.

We glance at the running order, I get a thirty second training session on how to use the desk, and we're off. We have live links to a roaming reporter around the site, who at one point seems to be interviewing a barman from Eastenders. Guests are scratching on the door desperate for their moment on radio, and Lee is frantically organising them into orderly queues as well as writing cues and prompts for me so I don't dry up on air.


The guests take their place in the interviewee chairs, one after the other like speed-job-interviewing. A woman with fire in her eyes tells me how Israel sucks. A bunch of Daniel Bedingfield fans answer inane questions about their hero, although it amounts to me filling in airspace while they um and ah and blush. A man gets killed in Africa (not part of the show) and I speak to his widow about her quest for justice.

Bands litter the studio with flyers and CDs, gasping for fifteen minutes of non-fame. Some I interview, others are turned away. I remain calm, keeping my voice level and professional; I am the calm air hostess to co-ordinated Lee's pilot, while all around us is turbulence.

And then it gets really strange.


Who the hell are you? In the chair in front of me is a straggly man in a leather hat and beads for clothes. He is staring at me through a hairy face and we're about to go live. I didn't even see him sit down, as though he entered the room through his own special trap door. Behind him is a circle of musicians, a rag bag mixture of middle-class hobos - I can imagine them playing the Bridgewater Hall then nicking your wallet on the way out.

Lee passes me a blurb they have written about themselves. I think of questions to ask while scanning the blurb, as well as trying to maintain eye contact to keep them at ease. I learn this is a folk band comprising Greenbelt vets, but what I didn't know is they invaded the studio demanding half an hour air time. They get about two minutes, and then I feel guilty because they were very nice about it.


I felt relaxed behind the desk. Presenting is definitely for me. Greenbelt FM ask me to co-commentate on tomorrow morning's communion service. It is the prime presenting spot, like the BBC covering the Queen Mother's funeral.

I say yes and then wonder how you commentate for two whole hours on Greenbelt's biggest event of the weekend. What do I say? And why do I keep thinking back to the pub the other night when I declared: "I'm not going to that bloody communion service, this year."

I begin to stress. And this is where things start to go horribly wrong...

Sep 10, 2006

Big Dog Small Dog Fox

A metaphorical box of thank you chocolates must go to everyone who turned up to II this week.

'Tracks' was the theme of II, which is held quarterly at Manchester Bay Horse pub famed for its disturbing horse photographs and intelligent graffiti in its spectacularly collaged toilets.

So we had a Thomas the Tank Engine Big Track set - see a video of it in action
here. We had two real-life train sets in action, including my £1 set which went like a, er, train all night. It's amazing what you can get in pound shops these days.

>Picture switcher

A particular favourite of mine was a video switcher box set up by Fil, where you can select between video clips of toy motorbike races, a miserable child on a kart track, and a hugely dull man demonstrating tracks for fridge doors. Other visuals included a large rollercoaster CG vid and my own abstract train-track thingy based on the pic shown on this post.

Thanks must go to DJ Raven, Kol the train conductor, The Thin Controller who played a 'track'-themed set, and to Stephen Devine for joining us on set-up.

>Free CD!

Here's my track listing for the night. This will be available on an un-mixed compilation CD called Big Dog Small Dog Fox, strictly for home-listening purposes only, you understand. If you want a copy, ask me next time you see me. (It's not available over tinternet or post.)

1 BILL VANLOO Tunes (For Sarah)
2 FRACTION Waiting For Josh
4 APPARAT I Lost My Shit In Tel Aviv
5 WISP* Beadumaegen
7 MR 76IX* Streetbeatz
8 PROEM Long Distance Tiara
9 SQUAREPUSHER** Welcome To Europe
10 PLAID Get What You Gave
11 MU-ZIQ Brace Yourself Jason
12 LUKE ABBOTT* b,b,b,b,b,b,b,b,b,b,b,b,b,b,b,b
13 THE RUSSIAN FUTURISTS** Let’s Get Ready To Crumble
14 ORBITAL Input Out

*featured in my 'Filter / Cut-off' posts.

**featured in Top Tunes on the main Fat Roland website

Sep 5, 2006

Fatbelt: notch 3

I didn't have time to blog at Greenbelt, but I can give you a retrospective look at the weekend. This is the point where you ensure you have read notches 1 and 2 of this thrilling blog serialisation. A bleralisation, if you will.

I haven't a cat's chance in Hull of competing with Nine Tenths Full Of Penguins' comprehensive day-in-the-life, but I'll have a go anyways. All times are inaccurate and most probably wrong, as is almost everything else in this report.

>Get on with it, then

I arrive at Greenbelt on an overcast Thursday. I take six hours to put up my tent, take three minutes to have a biscuit, then go and meet the Greenbelt FM team. Someone tells me in hushed tones that working for the on-site radio station means "your time is no longer your own". My lazy bone quivers with anxiety.

I have already met the team on a training day, so there is little ice to break. It's a friendly group, although the stress could easily pile on because the BBC's regional religious team are shadowing us for the weekend.

>Standards with an S

Since this is BBC personnel I am dealing with here, I would have done well to remember they have Standards. With a capital S.

I suggest to Jackie, one of the more outspoken members of the BBC team, that we get the Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain into the studio. "Get them into the studio" isn't good enough. She throws paper clips, ring binders and mixing desks at my head and shouts: "THAT'S NOT AN IDEA, COME BACK TO ME WHEN YOU'VE GOT A BETTER IDEA, THAT ISN'T A GOOD ENOUGH IDEAAARGH!" And we're not even on air until tomorrow.

Also on Thursday, I go to a general Greenbelt organisers meeting which is meant to be motivational, although the only thing I can remember thinking is that stewards with beards deserve more respect than stewards without beards. I get in a cheeky heckle ("twenty-five!") to a rhetorical question, the specifics of which are lost in the fabric of the night.

>Grim reality

Friday waltzes in to the room like it owns the place. We have another radio meeting first thing, and this time we face the grim reality that there are just four hours to prepare the first programme of the weekend's broadcast.

This means generating content and lots of it. I run around interviewing random people about random things on a random hand-held recorder, until I am distracted by a cute baby goat eating a rake in the on-site children's farm, Miller's Ark. I consult my ABC Guide To The Food Chain and calculate, using a flow chart, that goats aren't meant to eat rakes. I tell it to stop eating the rake, and it trots over to my bit of the fence with a vague smile on its lips. I wonder if goats eat people, but it is too late as the stupid kid has wriggled under the perimeter fence - actually waggling its shoulders to give itself purchase against the bottom of the fencing - and it's ready to make a bolt for freedom. I panic. I grab the goat roughly with my left arm, while my right arm grabs the hand-held recorder from my pocket. I press record and, with casual yet goat-ish panache, to present a piece that eventally gets edited and put out on air. 'Greenbelt FM reporter catches goat.' Her name was Saffron, by the way. Hello, Saffron.

The rest of the day is frittered away pre-producing other people's shows. This is laborious because it's like office work.

>Vocal / loop heaven

Unlike Gloopy Music, which was a welcome distraction at the end of the day. Stephen Devine took to the stage to lull an audience into vocal / loop heaven, in a kind of midnight mantra. It was my job to be a roadie and tech geek. It went well, although the audio on a Jim Morrison documentary clip didn't work. I was on stage when I realised the error, so I stood stock still and glared meaningfully at the mute black and white footage as though It Was Meant To Be That Way.

Also on Friday, I discover the Barn Bacon Company's bacon and apple marmalade sandwiches. God is in my mouth. On the next notch of this serioblog, I will tell you how my first show gets invaded by hippies, so please have your Eric Cartman impression at the ready.

Sep 2, 2006

Fatbelt: notch 2

Working on Greenbelt FM was like being hit by a freight train carrying a hundred hippopotomi who each had swallowed a tonne of feathers which in turn had fallen off an angry hoard of overweight ducks whose sole diet for six years had been anvils, chainmail and dark matter.

Only, a lot more enjoyable.


I came back from the Greenbelt Festival on Tuesday. I never did succeed with my on-site blog, as promised on my previous post here; I didn't have time. I've worked at Greenbelt before, as a journalist in the 90s, but nothing quite compares to what I achieved at the weekend.

It was an equally heavy and enjoyable experience. Heavy because of the workload and the ridiculous hours - 13 hours on the first day with two 15 minute breaks really is like being hit by a train. Heavy in the sixties sense because it was one of the strangest things I have done - £1,000 of free BBC training while esconced on a sodden racecourse.


But enjoyable because in effect I got to present programmes for Auntie Beeb. Enjoyable because of the really nice team, because of the sheer intensity of it all, and because of all the thumbs-up I kept seeing when I looked up from the desk during a show.

I missed Bill Drummond's The 17. I missed Sir Lord Bedingfield. I missed everything I wanted to see, and perhaps I'm most gutted about The Seven Basic Plots Of Storytelling and The Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain.

But I did get to produce and present programmes, interview an escaped goat and Norman Kember (not together), live-commentate on a two hour event, and help run a brace late-night shindigs in the process. I also discovered a remarkable one-night cure for the common cold.


I could keep waffling, and often do, but I'm going to pretend to be the Daily Mail and serialise my Greenbelt experience.

So then, coming up next on 'notch 3' of my Fatbelt blogs will be me being shouted at by the BBC, me catching an escaped goat, and me standing on a stage wondering why Jim Morrison has lost his voice. But before that, here's Dexy's Midnight Runners-- oops, hard habit to break.