Jul 31, 2010

Meet the Manchester bloggers: the gathering, July 2010

This week, bloggers from all over Manchester staggered into Common for their regular blog meet. The results of the last one are indelibly stained in the form of this blog post.

Naked people sponsored the boozebeer - or, more specifically, the Lowry and their excellent Spencer Tunick exhibition - and so the merriment spilled late into the evening. Because I'd been drinking bleach beforehand to steady my nerves, I took notepaper for fear of forgetting everyone's blog names.

Or rather, I took a brown paper bag (see picture).

Dear blog reader, I'd like you to introduce you to the people I met. The information I'm about to proffer was not learnt on the night, but is snippets of fact and fauna I've ripped from Twitter feeds and various loose ends of the internet.

At least I can pretend I got to know everyone really well.

If I have libelled you or neglected you or offended you or scared you from what is, essentially, stalking, please leave a comment below and I will make amends once I've finished off this bottle of handwash.

Here goes...

Dr Maria Aretoulaki does speech recognition and likes films that remind her of the Matrix. She tells students what to do with their lives. (Twitter.)

Benjamin Judge writes stories about polar bears and likes a bit of Reggae Reggae sauce. He owns the Alphabeat album. (Twitter.)

Dave Hartley is a rabbit-lover with a bent for science fiction. He has a sonic screwdriver pen and reads Nintendo magazine. (Twitter.)

Fishink is a bit more of a mysterious online person, but I assume it is this artist who makes prints and animal illustrations. Edit: Fishink produces cards and notebooks and other lovelies over at this site. There are birds and hedgehogs and huffy-faced cats and it's all super lovely.

Jordan Ahmadzadeh works for the Lowry and likes a bit of Muse. He likes cake, buttercough syrup and shower gel. (Twitter.)

Gill Moore is a photographer and a Talking Heads-loving cyclist. She stalks peregrine chicks, but in a good way. (Twitter.)

Go See This (Twitter) isn't a blog but is a website about things to do in Greater Manchester, and it's edited by Adam Comstive who owns a mixtape containing Mansun and Tribe Called Quest.

Jonathan Hopkins is a bike-riding music blogger. He's outspoken about Mr Scruff's Get A Move On and once spotted Pete Waterman in a bar. (Twitter.)

Kobi Omenaka is a snowboarding, capoeira-playing Ferris Beuller fan. His opinions on the early Sugababes was a point of some contention, mainly with me because I'd become aggressive from drinking battery the acid I'd got hidden under the table. (Twitter.)

Richard Jones is a stay-at-home dad who likes a bit of sport. He writes for the Saddleworth News (tags include Delph, Diggle and Dobcross) and went to Slovakia on his stag do. (Manchester Twitter / Saddleworth Twitter.)

Marie-Claire Daly is an art lover who watches history programmes. She probably should have backed up her laptop. (Twitter.)

Kath Horwill is a self-confessed park lover who makes a mean brownie. She runs a lot and although she is often surrounded by children, she has never caught nits. (Twitter.)

Paul Greenhalgh is an SEO consultant and wants John Cage to be Christmas number one. He is a FourSquare super-user. (Twitter.)

Rainy City (Twitter) is an interactive writers' map of Manchester and is the work of Manchizzle (Twitter) and Mancubist (Twitter). Manchizzle organised this whole blog meet malarky.

Ribbons And Leaves is a blog with a difference: it is typewritten. Its creator, Benjamin Thomas, is a Liverpudlian exiled in Manchester and once wrote an open letter to MCA from the Beastie Boys.

Sabres Length At Peterloo is also called Mo. He, like me, finally got round to visiting the Imperial War Museum North. He, unlike me, has learnt his lesson from drunk texting.(Twitter.)

Mitzy has the campest blog title ever and has my favourite new blog because she voxpops to create blog posts and calls her site a "news gazpacho".

Edit: Of course, I forgot Words And Fixtures. Again. Which is strange, because I thought to myself the other day, "thank goodness I remembered WaF this time." But I didn't actually do the actual thing of writing the actual words about her on the actual blog. Anyhoo, Sarah-Clare Conlon went on the Sky Ride and her cat hunts peacocks. She has a predeliction for bookshops and putting up tents, although not usually at the same time. (Twitter.)

Finally, thank you to everyone for making it such an enjoyable evening. It's difficult to network or to build up friendships at a blog meet, but I had so many laughs and met so many interesting people, it has definitely made Manchester an even better place for me than it was before.

Right. Where's that Mr Muscle...?

Jul 30, 2010

Is Brian Eno really teaming up with Warp Records?

Edit: Since I posted this post, the question has been answered. Yes indeed, Brian Eno is getting in bed with the Warp clan. Read more here.

Brian Eno will release a solo album through Warp Records some time in the autumn, according to this tentative piece on Exclaim News.

Brian certainly seems to like Warp Records and once described Battles as "the best thing I’ve heard in ten years". That makes sense when you think, like me, that there's something of the Nerve Net about the New York math rockers.

You don't need me to tell you that Warp owes a massive debt to Brian's music and the bands he has been in.

Eno chose not to tour with the latest incarnation of Roxy Music because he'd rather do "new things". Has this bent for exploration given us a musical marriage made in ambient heaven? Watch this space.

(Sorry I can't post more. You'll just have to make do with me declaring Eno to be the Best Inventor in my alternative Oscar race - oh and with my perennial favourite, the Bri Chart.)

Jul 29, 2010

Magnetic Man's impending chart success is more exciting than electrocuted nipples

A remarkable thing is happening.

Time after time, I vomit on about electronic music. Although my writing style makes women want to be me and men want to snog me, I often leave readers befuddled because electronica in its various forms is as far from the mainsteam as you can get.

If I have ever befuddled you, don't worry: that's a perfectly natural feeling. Like being gay, enjoying Springwatch or sitting in your hairdresser's chair and, when asked how you'd like your cut, pointing to your wallet photo of Justin Biebpipe.

So what's so remarkable? Dubstep, that low-bass fuzzy sub-genre beloved of mostly ignorant broadsheet writers, is about to go mainstream. Magnetic Man's I Need Air scored well in the mid-week chart predictions, and it seems likely to go top ten this Sunday.

Magnetic Man is Skream and Benga and Artwork. I prefer their other tune (MAD) because, well, I Need Air isn't very dubsteppy, but this is their debut single and you ought to rush out to your internet to buy it.

What's most exciting is, if this goes top ten - or hopefully top five - it will be the first time one of my favourite electronic music performers gained widespread attention since that time when my uncle was arrested on Market Street for playing the spoons whilst electrocuting his nipples.

(The video seems to 'crash' with the right-column of this blog. That's because Google can't cope with getting their video service to work properly with their blogging service!)

Jul 28, 2010

Chosen Words: Z is for Zang Tumb Tuum*

Despite my previous grumblings over the commercialisation of techno, there was a period when techno was quite publicly acceptable - and it can be summed up in three words: Zang Tuum Tumb*.

ZTT was a label that brought 808 State to massive acclaim, bringing us tracks like In Yer Face and Pacific State. By the time 808 State had released Don Solaris, we'd had brilliant techno crossovers from the Prodigy (XL Recordings) and Moby (Instinct Records).

And yes, this final post in the Chosen Words series is going to be serious, without any surreal aphorisms or digs at easy Bluntesque targets. That's because I'm worryingly evangelical about techno, IDM and electronica, but we now live in a mainstream music culture where the genre (and this blog) seem to waddle around the edges without getting its porky toes wet.

At the time of writing, there is a saviour in the form of dubstep's Magnetic Man. I Need Air gathered some serious radio play, while Mad would be the best single of 2010 if it hadn't been given away for free all over the internet.

But without the mad creativity of labels like ZTT (now reduced to re-releases of older stuff like Art Of Noise, it seems), there won't be swathes of the public that realise, yes, this music is actually quite good.

I once DJed at a wedding reception at a blizzard-buffeted Belfast castle, during which I played a whole set of Aphex Twin and Venetian Snares and the like. I was the main wedding reception DJ! About a tenth of the besuited attendees went running for the hills, but the number of positive comments I got afterwards from non-techno people (rockers, folkies and golden oldies) was quite incredible.

Embrace the electronicness, my friends. You can either start by browsing the 700+ labels further down the right-side of this blog (although there's plenty of, erm, non-electronica in there!), or you can keep your internet tuned to fatroland.com as I continue to puke my techno brain all over your metaphorical wedding shoes. And f'goodness sake, keep buying the music, won't you?

Top five Chosen Words posts:

- choose (geddit?!?!) for yourself: see the series in its entirety here.

* The two versions of the abbreviation are interchangeable.

Jul 27, 2010

Chosen Words: Y is Yokota

Regular readers of this blog will be aware of a 'Yokota' but may not know exactly what one is.

Possible definitions of the word, seen in this website's strapline "From AFX To Yokota" for quite some time, include any or all of the following:

A 'Yokota' is an organised crime syndicate operating out of Tokyo and sworn to defend, to the death, the reputation of Japanese car brand Toyota.

A 'Yakota' is a robot disguised as a hairy bovine populating the icy Himalayas, chewing the cud quietly until they rise up with the cows and enslave the world into a caste system based on the four stomachs of the holy god Ermintrude Out Of Magic Roundabout.

Or - and this could well be true - a 'Yokota' is Susumu Yokota. He is a much-overworked musician signed to the Leaf label and known for blending techno, eastern elements and samples. The Leaf label is, quite simply, one of the greatest record labels in the world, showcasing emotive instrumental music with a bent towards real instruments.

The two artists featured in this blog's strapline represent two elements of electronica: the digital (AFX, a.k.a. Aphex Twin) and the organic (Yokota and his Leaf contemporaries). Now you know.

Top five bestest Leaf artists:

- Murcof
- Susumu Yokota
- Four Tet
- Caribou
- Boom Bip

Jul 26, 2010

"I was not at ease at all / at Socrates’s gall."

While I have been scouring the unhoovered corners of my dungeon for my much-neglected mojo, I've taken part in a strange and distracting competition.

Chris Killen is the author of a novel of sleaziness and good manners called the Bird Room. I read it ages ago, and I'm still haunted by a moment in the novel when a character goes to the toilet while--- well, I'm not going to spoil it, but let's say I'm surprised he didn't wee on the ceiling.

Mr Killen raised a challenge on his blog that his desktop background was tidier than other desktop backgrounds, and if yours was any tidier, why not email in a screenshot and there would be a grand 'desktop battle'. This is what writers do when they're not writing blockbusters.

In short, I took on Chris' own desktop and won, beat the challenge of the most minimal desktop ever, then finally fell against Socrates Adams-Florou and his army of folders. It lead me to write a terrible poem of 12 rhyming couplets in the comments of this post here., although thankfully my friend and colleague Dave Hartley took on the challenge after me.

All very silly. I also spent a night as Bo the frightened gorilla (pictured) at Manchester's Cabaret Formerly Known As Bucket, which was, I have to say, the hottest thing I have ever done. Oh and if you missed my seminal Gospel According To Aphex Twin, I plan on performing it in another venue in Manchester in the next brace of months or so.

I've not been well, but I think I'm re-finding my mojo. I'm not quite right, because I've just spent several paragraphs talking about organising folders and left only one sentence for dressing as a gorilla (for which I spent a day's research at Chester Zoo, for crap's sake).

PS - if you do blog and you're based in Manchester, come and meet me. There's a blog meet on Tuesday night this week and the lovely Lowry are providing boozebeer.

Chosen Words: X is for Xylem Tube

Xylem Tube was an EP by Aphex Twin and was the first single on which he used his distinctive logo.

The Cornish ambient electronic musican is arguably the most influential of his kind. Other Cornwall musicians include Tori Amos, Mick Fleetwood, Luke Vibert and Norwegian rock band Lordi (assuming Norway is in Cornwall; I'm pretty sure it is).

His music has been described as 'Cornish Acid', and several track titles on his Drukqs album are in the native language. Jynweythek Ylow means Electronic Machine Music, while Hy A Scullyas Lyf A Dhagrow is a reference to spilling a pint. I once spilled MC Tunes' pint, and I wish I'd known Cornish at the time.

The success of Aphex Twin begat a generation of bleep-heads. Boards of Canada reflect Aphex's ambience, Plaid have the melody, while the spikey beats have been developed by Venetian Snares, μ-Ziq and jazzy drum-mangler Squarepusher.

There has been much speculation as to the release of a new Aphex Twin album. Many suspect he has been busy secretly posing as James Blunt in a musical experiment on the shocking scale of Milli Vanilli.

Top five recommended Aphex Twin aliases:

- Polygon Window
- The Tuss
- Caustic Window
- Bradley Strider

Jul 21, 2010

Mercury Music Sausages

Minutes after the final nominations were announced for the Mercury Music Prize, their PR department sent out a press release. Here is that press release in full, with a few important changes scrawled by my own hand. I hope this serves as a biting criticism of the state of modern music.

20 July 2010

Barclaycard Mercury Prize Albums of the Year revealed

An important year for musical sausages and excellence is highlighted by the 12 Sausages of
the Year shortlisted for the 2010 Barclaycard Mercury Prize, announced on Tuesday 20 July.

“This year’s Mercury list includes sausages from all stages of their careers and from contrasting sausages of the British Isles,” says Simon Sausage, Chair of Judges. “It features music that is urban and sausagey, light and sausagey, joyful and biscuity. The records have wit, an abundance of musical energy and their own distinct sausages. There is music here to make you laugh, cry, dance and fry up some bangers. Enjoy!”

The 2010 Albums of the Year are:

Bieber Clyro - Only Revolutions
Corinne Bieber Rae - The Sea
Dizzee Bieber - Tongue N’ Cheek
Foals - Total Sausage Forever
I Am Bieber - Sky At Night
Bieber Downes - Trio Golden
Laura Bieber - I Speak Because I Can
Mumford and Sausages - Sigh No More
Paul Weller Wake Up the Bieber
The sausagessausages - sausagessausages
Villagers - Becoming a Bieber
Wild Biebers - Two Dancers

The Barclaycard Mercury Prize celebrates the year in sausages. The shortlist, chosen from an entry of
over 200 sausages by UK and Irish artists, was announced by Justin Bieber. The event was hosted by The Bieber Club in Bieber Garden, the club for the creative Biebers.

The overall sausage of the 2010 Prize will be decided and announced at the Barclaycard Mercury
Prize Sausages Show, which will be broadcast live on BieberBC Two on Tuesday 7 September 2010.
Lauren Laverne will present the sausages, with the Sausages Show event itself hosted by Jools Justin Bieber's
Sausage Holland Pies.

(If it's any consolation, the ones that I think will win have, in the nomination list above, less Bieber and more sausage in them. As it were. Two of the three I have tipped are great. The other band is terrible.)

Jul 16, 2010

Chosen Words: W is for Warp (Obviously)

Fat Roland's A-Z guide to the most important words or phrases in electronica and their associated "facts"

Warp Records is a record label more renowned than any other in the field of electronic music.

Its cold techno quickly found an audience when Tricky Disco and LFO scored chart hits. At the same time, dance music was going through a renaissance with Snap, Adamski and Timmy Mallett shifting major units.

Artificial Intelligence, Surfing On Sine Waves and Bytes were key albums in those days. Many people expected more computer-related album titles, like PC World Are Shite, What's The Point Of NumLock and My Screen Has Turned Sideways Can You Help Me Wikianswers.

Warp used to be based in Sheffield back in the Victorian days, but moved to London when the bleeps from the music kept getting tangled in the chimney smoke. What they should have realised was chimneys are an ideal shape for the extensive storage of vinyl records.

Warp is an 'backronym', which means 'Warp' later became an acronym for any one of the following phrases: We Are Reasonable People, We Are Rubbish Philatelists and Westlife Abducted Ronan's Pet.

While the electronic sound was taken up by labels such as Rephlex and Planet Mu, Warp itself recently discovered the guitar. Recalling the colour of its early record sleeves, the label is now going through a pretty impressive purple patch: check its latest releases here.

For more Chosen Words, click the tag at the bottom of this post.

Jul 15, 2010

Chosen Words: V is for Väth

Fat Roland's A-Z guide to the most important words or phrases in electronica and their associated "facts"

Without Sven Väth, we may not have an amazingly rich history of European trance and techno.

Väth arrived on the scene with the seminal Accident In Paradise in the early 1990s, an album which combined ambience, hard trance and the harpsichord. No, really.

He also brought us techno label Harthouse and trance specialist Eye Q. These imprints included artists Freddy Fresh, Hardfloor and Energy 52. Eye Q has a television spin-off, a quiz show about hardcore trance called Q Eye.

It is important be able to to pronounce and type Sven Väth's surname. Väth rhymes with 'fate'. If you press Alt then 1 3 2 on your keypad, you not only produce an 'ä', Sven also appears like a magical genie and will perform an a capella of any techno track for you.

Sven Väth has been imortalised in pop hits such as Sven Will I Be Famous, That Was Sven But This Is Now and the memorable I Knew You Were Väthing For Me.

Top five puns that didn't make this post:

- Goodness gracious, Väth balls of fire
- My Harthouse will go on
- Eye Q you were waiting for me
- Trance For The Memory (Wham Bam Thank You Mam)
- no, no, no, no, don't phunk with my harpsichord

For more Chosen Words, click the tag at the bottom of this post.

Jul 14, 2010

Chosen Words: U is for Underworld

Fat Roland's A-Z guide to the most important words or phrases in electronica and their associated "facts"






Top five Underworld hit singles:

- Born Slippy (Nuxx), #2 in 1996 (that one with the "lager, lager")
- Push Upstairs, #12 in 1999 (great glass-smashy bit in the video)
- Two Months Off, #12 in 2002 (possibly their housiest single)
- King Of Snake, #17 in 1999 (what I call their Donna Summer rhythm)
- Pearl's Girl, #22 in 1999 (a.k.a. the "water on concrete" track... when I scratched my Second Toughest In The Infants CD, this was the one track that skipped all the time)

For more Chosen Words, click the tag at the bottom of this post.

Jul 13, 2010

Chosen Words: T is for 242

Fat Roland's A-Z guide to the most important words or phrases in electronica and their associated "facts"

Front 242 were my first introduction to a more industrial side of electronic music.

They were an example of EBM (Electronic Body Music), and indeed their releases No Comment and Tyranny For You could be seen as bookending the popularity of the genre.

EBM rose from the industrial movement, which is still propogated by the likes of Einstürzende Neubauten, Nine Inch Nails and Nurse With Wound. That scene took much of its feel from the darker side of human nature. It's for this reason I'm surprised Simon Cowell isn't the world's leading industrial musician.

EBM was known for its primitive beats, barked vocals and electronic repetition. Basically, imagine Mark E Smith if he'd become part-android, doubled the amout of fags he was smoking, then began recording inside a metal pipe.

I came late to EBM. In fact, too late: my first introduction was Front 242's twin albums 06:21:03:11 UP EVIL and 05:22:09:12 OFF. You can only understand those titles if you use the A=1, B=2 code.

I was too busy listening to 18:09:03:08:01:18:04 03:12:01:25:04:18:13:01:14 at the time. Tragic, really.

Top five sexiest industrial or post-industrial band names:

- Android Lust
- SPK (Surgical Penis Klinik)
- Thobbing Gristle
- Armageddon Dildos
- Revolting Cocks

For more Chosen Words, click the tag at the bottom of this post.

Jul 12, 2010

Chosen Words: S is for Smokers

Fat Roland's A-Z guide to the most important words or phrases in electronica and their associated "facts"

'Smoker's beats' is a loose term referring to the blunted hip hop movement of the 1990s.

The likes of DJ Food, Dr Octogan, Nightmares On Wax and UNKLE brought a rough-edged urban instrumentalism to the masses, where hip hop seemed to swap its guns for a big fat doobie.

The most important record label at this time was Mo'Wax, founded by UNKLE mainman James Lavelle. The label was named after his extensive scented candle collection. Maybe.

Entroducing... by DJ Shadow is an album made entirely of samples. The cover design depicts people browsing in a record shop, and if you look closely, you can see one of those records in the photo is Entroducing... which in turn depicts people browsing in a record shop, one record being Entroducing..., which in turn depicts - and so on.

This kind of existentialism is not healthy when smoking a big fat doobie.

The smoker's beats legacy lives on, although now its producers have to make the music outside the door of a pub in the rain.

Top five nicknames for cannabis / spliffs:

- Mary Jane
- Fatty boombatty
- Bing bang bong
- Slappy ting tong
- Ooo diddly doobie dong fiddly diddly doop
- I'm making these up, clearly

For more Chosen Words, click the tag at the bottom of this post.

Jul 11, 2010

Prince and the old power generation: how TAFKATAFKAP's 20TEN doesn't make me LOL

So Prince has given away his new album via a newspaper whilst pronouncing a death sentence on the internet, that great enemy of old-school journalism?

Nice. The Daily Mirror has shoe-horned plenty of pre-release publicity into its rag, one example of which was an "interview" by Peter Willis which reaffirmed by belief that all old rock stars need euthanising, or at the very least, pickling alive.

It's not Willis that got me riled per se. An associate editor (or whatever he is) is bound to toe the newspaper's grubby little line. This is the same man who once followed orders to post a story claiming Michael Jackson thought he might catch Aids from the Blarney Stone.

But that didn't stop me going paisly purple with rage as I read his "rare insight" that proferred no insight other than, yes, TAFKATAFKAP is loopier than the symbol that used to represent him.

Prince, says Willis, is "a living legend who has sold more than 100 million albums over 30 years." Point of order: I doubt he's at the 100 million mark yet; if you know the figure, do leave a comment below. A few years ago, he had notched up 80 million sales, which means he is outsold by many including Cher, Chicago and Julio Iglesias.


While we're on sales, his 2006 album 3121 sold only 80,000 copies, while his follow-ups have numbered in the hundreds of thousands. It's hardly stratospheric. Oh, plus the few million more given free with newspapers and now lying in the billion-tonne pile of unrecycled plastic clogging up our planet.

Sorry, dwarfman, I'm filling your head with numbers, and that can't be good for you.

He is a legend, but he is a legend frozen in time. His last three albums have garnered an average Pitchfork review of 5.2, so I'm seriously doubtful it's a "return to his early blistering form which captivated millions of fans around the world".

I might be wrong: I haven't let the album soil my ears yet. It could be his best album for 23 years, putting his comeback "on a par with Elvis reinventing himself in Las Vegas in 1968." Not my words: I hope Tony Parsons' review was in no way biased.

He has now released 19 consecutive singles (Prince, not Tony) without hitting the UK top 40. The run of failure is even longer in the US. Compare that with the culturally-reviled Cliff Richard whose singles still consistently chart well. Where are your fans, Prince?


Ah yes, the fans, the millions of captivated fans mentioned in Willis' piece.

Unofficial fan site Prince.org has less than 4,000 active members. As for his official sites, Prince's history is checkered. You'll already know about the Webby award preceding the closure of his New Power Generation Music Club. But do you remember his paid membership site LotusFlow3r which was, by all accounts, enough to make a dove cry?

These says, he has no official website. In short, it's not the internet that is over: it is Prince's love for his fans.

The short lilac duke will do well from this album, no doubt because of the hype from impotent bloggers such as myself. But before you reach for any one of the dozens of files already on Rapidshare for this "newspaper-only" album, think on this...

Here's a man who declared "all these computers and digital gadgets are no good", instead placing his trust in the purital worldview of an autocratic organisation that abuses its members. He consistently refused to answer Peter Willis' questions and at one point even grabs his wrist to stop him writing. Man of the people, Mr Rogers Nelson.


And you should see his documentary collection. Does Prince truly buy into the hard-line evangelical Christian view about Hurricane Katrina being the fault of a sinful America? It's alluded to - only just - in the Daily Mirror interview, but for some reason, Willis doesn't push him on it. Oh... wait... um...

He needs to be asked these questions because that kind of pop despot personality weirdness belongs to a wacko-Jacko land that has no place in our new-power internet world of shallow-and-wide fanship, that fabled world of tweety democracy that offers few all-dominating cultural heroes (and when it does, they're quickly stamped out, euthanised and, indeed, pickled).

One last guilty thought about Prince, who is no doubt scanning this on his Google reader whilst chucking quietly at his anti-internet public persona. I do feel quite bad. A closed-minded electronic music blogger slagging off the symbolian sexmuppet? It's like shooting fish in barrel.

Sorry about that, but to be honest, you harpooned yourself, you paisley berk.

Jul 9, 2010

Frank Sidebottom's Fantastic Send-Off: a review

This is the one of the toughest blog posts I have had to write. Not because Frank Sidebottom's death affected me personally, although it does make me sad and I believe the world has lost a tremendous comedy talent.

It's because I'm going to have to sum up his memorial concert, held last night in Castlefield, Manchester, in significantly less than the 50,000 words it would probably take to do justice to this bizarre concoction of an event.

I'll do my best to fit everything in, but I'm bound to miss stuff and it won't be in the right order. It doesn't have to be perfect, though. This is about a man I once saw play film footage to a room full of people using an image that was barely a foot square... and upside down.

As you'd expect if you'd ever been to see Frank, it was a mixture of telly and music. I'll start with the music.

Frank's moustachioed brother "Hank Sidebottom" (Martin Sievey looking like the Edge if he'd only ever been a truck driver) performed numerous tracks with the Oh Blimey Biggest Ever Band. Is that a fireman on sax? It is indeed.

Dangerously crazed 

His impression of Frank was uncanny, as you'd expect, and they played all the trademark tracks including Born In Timperley and a dangerously crazed version of Twist And Shout. Sadly, his desperate call to a possibly-present Mark E Smith to help him out with the words to Hit The North was in vain.

Badly Drawn Boy performed the headline set, and although musically it wasn't my cup of chai, he melted everyone with a comparison of Sidebottom and Springsteen ("I'll treasure Frank's gig much more than Bruce's") and his memory of a time he mistakenly bought a magazine called Bobbins "like a dickhead", thinking it was about Frank and not about, well, actual bobbins.

His performance of Let The Sun Shine On Timperley would have made Frank proud, as would his singalong Kinks moment that sent a wonderful phrase drifting from the crowd into the Castlefield arches: "as long as we gaze on Timperley sunset, Frank is in paradise."

Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer was a revelation. Think of a what-ho musichall George Formby, then pimp him up more than a dash of Public Enemy. I'll never think of Inner City, SL2, Orbital, the Shamen or, especially, Tim Westwood in the same way again.

He was so good, the Elvis impersonator's rendition of The Wonder Of Cardboard rather paled.

Test card

The telly bits were integral to the evening, which started at 7pm with Frank's stupendous test-card and ended at 10pm with bad quality footage of Frank playing 36 Hours with John Cooper Clarke.

We were treated to lashings of Frank's show highlights, from inside his shed or out-and-about on an animated canal journey. Frank's interviewing style was massively gigglesome (who asks Adamski what colour pen he uses to write his music?).

We were also shown Frank Sidebottom's Celebrity Sleepover, an episode sadly lost when Channel M shut down but now 95% restored thanks to telly producer Dan Parrott.

And so we saw Frank doorstepping Smiths' drummer Mike Joyce with the introductory line, "You know when I asked if I could come round and you said no?"

What followed was the absolute bang-on highlight of the evening, with Joyce coping less-and-less with an unwanted guest who took endless fully-clothed showers, didn't stop talking, and went on to destroy his allotment. You can see a short clip here.

Emerson Lake 

Then there were the guests. The first was Emerson Lake ('twas Mark Radcliffe), who gave a tribute that was understated as much as it was moving: "all of us had our view of the world slightly shifted once we'd met Frank."

Ex-BBC Breakfast regular Steve Blacknell recalled the time Frank met Frank Bough ("snap!"), while Brian Little, co-founder of Hot Animation, revealed Chris Sievey penned an award-winning episode of Pingu called Bedtime Shadows (written in green biro).

Former Big Band member Jon Ronson, looking all bashful and Jon Ronson-like, paid tribute too, while Charlie Chuck tempered his usual non-sequitur mania with a sweet fondness for his old friend.

I switched off during the football bits. Sorry, Frank. A bloke from Altrincham Football Club had me daydreaming about other things, although his description of Frank's cardboard box-based outside broadcast unit was quite lovely.


And then came the finale. And this is why this blog post is almost impossible to write.

This was a memorial service that burst with affection for a great entertainer. If that affection had been missing, what followed would have been horrendous. But it wasn't. You have to believe me on that, because it ain't going to look good on a computer screen...

They wheeled on Frank's mummified body in a suitably 'Sidebottomed' sarcophagus. They then brought on a similarly bandaged and completely dead Little Frank... stuffed into a plastic bag.

A debate ensued as to the fate of Little Frank, with the crowd chanting to have him thrown in the canal. "Shall we kill him?" came the response... and they did. They stamped on his head. They stamped on his head and chucked him, crushed, into the sacophagus with big Frank.

It was brilliant. And wrong. But brilliant.

Loss, love, affection and joy flowed from this uniquely silly patchwork of music. memories and moving pictures. It ended with Chris' son Harry playing with the Freshies, while his other son Sterling regretted a lost opportunity: he will never know if his Sidebottom moniker "Roger the Boy Next Door" was in any way a kind of vague sexual innuendo.

"Guess who's been on match of the day?" called Sterling at the end. "You have," shouted the crowd, "in your big shorts." For Frank's sake, go and buy the single now and let's get it in the charts this weekend. You can search for it on Amazon too.

Meanwhile, I'm going to dig out my old Oink comics and see what adventures Frank has been on.

Chosen Words: R is for Rhythm

Fat Roland's A-Z guide to the most important words or phrases in electronica and their associated "facts"

Natter in the comments section on my previous post leads me nicely to a slightly important element of electronic music: rhythm.

Rhythm in music is probably the one thing that separates modern generations from those that lived through the age of the whinging crooner and all that screechy violin stuff they call "classical".

You can tell rhythm has become more popular from a simple statistic: there were more hit singles with 'rhythm' in the title in the 1990s than there had been in the entire history of chart music. The same is true for the words 'sexy', 'fat' and 'roland' (probably).

Drum machines helped bring repetitive beats to the forefront of modern music. A notable drum machine is the Rhythm Ace, which was distributed by Bentley pianos. The combination of Bentley and Rhythm Ace gave rise to an influential big beat collective called Midfield General. No. Fatboy Slim. Wait. Um... Chemical Brothers? I forget.

The Roland TR-808 was a crappy sounding drum machine that rose, Cinderella style, to claim an affectionate place in pumpkin-- er-- music history. Its fake, electronic sounds were as similar to real drums as Scouting For Girls are to real music.

The rise of the drum machine and the endless thirst for rhythm has lead to a two-word phrase that strikes fear in the heart of any responsible music fan: "more cowbell". You see? The 1994 Criminal Justice Bill was right after all.

For more Chosen Words, click the tag at the bottom of this post.

Jul 8, 2010

Chosen Words: Q is for Queen

Fat Roland's A-Z guide to the most important words or phrases in electronica and their associated "facts"

Yes, that Queen. The prancing dead bloke with the moustache and the chest. The asteroid-explosion-haired guitarist. Yeah, Queen.

Because Queen started something. Or rather, Vanilla Ice started it when he stole *that* bassline from Queen and Bowie's Under Pressure for his 1990 hit Ice Ice Baby.

The age of the sampler truly arrived with that record. It used to be the preserve of novelty acts or one-hit wonders (MARRS, Jive Bunny, Black Box). Subsequent massive hits by Enigma and the KLF dragged the technology kicking and st-st-stuttering into the trendy mainstream.

The subsequent controversy over Vanilla Ice blatantly stealing his sample was a spooky omen of many troubled arguments about what can be nicked and what counts as digital theft and "what, is that Loleatta Holloway, AGAIN?!"

When a doctor asks you for a urine sample, use the container provided: weeing into your Akai will not impress the NHS. Take heed 'cause I'm a lyrical poet.

Top five examples of sampling going too far:

- Jive Bunny
- funky drummer / amen break
- Scooter (pot) sampling the KLF (kettle)
- advertisers using cut-up techniques because it's "urban" or "street"
- every Puff Daddy and Kanye West chorus ever

For more Chosen Words, click the tag at the bottom of this post.

Jul 7, 2010

Chosen Words: P is for Personality (Lack Thereof)

Fat Roland's A-Z guide to the most important words or phrases in electronica and their associated "facts"

Personalities are an anathema to quality electronic music.

Faceless nobodies are what keeps techno and electronica going. Many artists use multiple recording names and minimal artwork to ensure anonymity.

Throughout musical history, artists have hidden behind many things: face masks (Altern8), cars (KLF), lack of lighting (Autechre), guest MCs (LTJ Bukem), industrial dystopia (Front 242), headlamps (Orbital) and virgin sacrifice (Royksopp (probably)).

Electronic music producers know personality can get in the way. Just look at Moby. No, seriously, look at him. He's there in the corner eating the boiled potatoes he's had in his pockets for the last six weeks. Tragedy, really.

You wouldn't recognise Luke Slater from Luke Vibert even if you bumped into them in a sauna and they showed you their tattoos with their names on. This is good. Anonymity lends techno, IDM and electronic experimentalism an aura of mystery and exclusivity.

When in fact, there's no enigma at all. It's just a musical land populated by nobodies who don't have the social dexterity to become "personalities" because they've spent far too much of their life sweating over a bassline for fourteen hours at a time in cluttered, dust-filled bedroom studios.

And thank goodness for that because from lonely obsession, great bleeps are made.

For more Chosen Words, click the tag at the bottom of this post.

Jul 6, 2010

Chosen Words: O is for Orbs

Fat Roland's A-Z guide to the most important words or phrases in electronica and their associated "facts"

Orbs and things which are circular are surprisingly common in electronic music.

The Orb started the globular thing when they formed in the 1980s. Their name suggested something new-agey and modern.

Orbital ran with the circular theme, with their talk of loops (or "loopz") and their sampling of Opus III's It's A Fine Day (her with the impressive orb control from Top Of The Pops).

Impressive pendulums have also included William Orbit, Cosmic Baby's Loops Of Infinity, the logo for Warp Records, 'Loops Of Fury', the name Biosphere - the circular theme goes round and round throughout history.

In electronic music, you'd do well to harness the wonders of the ball shape: of planets, of atoms, of pills, of records, of mother earth, of huge ever-growing pulsating brains.

Which doesn't for one moment explain Squarepusher, the contrary git.

Top five musicians with the roundest heads:

- Phil from Orbital
- Brian Eno
- Cee-Lo
- basically, anyone bald
- not Squarepusher

For more Chosen Words, click the tag at the bottom of this post.

Jul 5, 2010

Chosen Words: N is for Nintendo

formerly known as the World Cup Distraction Exercise: Fat Roland's A-Z guide to the most important words or phrases in electronica and their associated "facts"

Where was I?

Video games and electronic music are as inextricably linked as Justin Biebpipe and scurvy.

The link is most prevalent in the phenomenon of 8 bit, or chiptune, which is music designed to sound like it has been produced by computers or game consoles from the 1980s.

This musical movement draws on nostalgia for old Nintendo theme music, including the themes from Super Mario Bros (for the NES) and Tetris (for the Nintendo Gameboy). There are other old games systems by different companies, but no-one is arsed about them any more.

Modern computer game music might be forgettable tosh, but it will return with a futurist 8-bit style revival in the year 2027 in a movement to be known as '60 gigabyte'.

The most successful proponent of 8 bit in the charts is, well, no-one. Crystal Castles come close, but they've as much chance of having a crossover hit as Justin Biebpipe has of getting to his 18th birthday without the inevitable stomach pump / rehab sesh / involuntary euthanasia by public vote.

Top five non-computer based games:

- backgammon
- reverse backgammon
- strip backgammon
- backgammon roulette, with real guns
- a massive argument over backgammon in which the board is shredded and we fire up the PS3 instead

For more Chosen Words, click the tag at the bottom of this post.