Nov 30, 2021

Selected tweeted works: bagel, beards, bungs and beaches

An end of a month is a time to take stock. To think about our regrets. To consider the endless void. To paint our toenails cherry red and hide inside a trifle.

Here are some recent tweets from my FatRoland account. It's a way of creating blog content with as little effort whatsoever. I suggest you put an equal amount into reading this.

Regrets. The void. Trifle. It's all here. Yes, including the trifle: each tweet will be accompanied by a trifle ingredient, which I suggest you eat at the same time as reading.

Bon apetit.

1. Breakfast
Been around the cinnamon whirl and I I I, I can't find my bagel.
Ingredient: custard

2. Appointment
I am delighted to announce I am the new CEO of Twitter. Character length increased to 20,000. Only cartoon avatars. Scratch and sniff. 5p per retweet. Cats with beards.
Ingredient: jelly

3. Grift
If any health companies or meat distributors want to give me £100,000 to ask questions in parliament, please get in touch. "Do you like ham?" "What's your fave rash?" I'd be really good at it.
Ingredient: strawberries

4. Festive
Just so people know where I stand on this, I think Christmas should be aggressively enforced all year round. Everyone to dress as Santa every day. Only trees allowed to grow are Christmas ones. Cars have baubles instead of wheels, etc etc.
Ingredient: chocolate

5. Location
Movin' to the country, gonna eat a lot of beaches.
Ingredient: prune juice

6. Hope
Okay gang, it's a new day, fresh start, new goals, we can achieve amazing things together. You get the butter and I'll start asking round for funnels.
Ingredient: sponge (food)

7. Breakfast again
Omicron? OMICROISSANT, more like. Yeah? Think about it, sheeple.
Ingredient: sponge (bathroom)

8. Anniversary
On this day 24 years ago, all five members of the Sneaker Pimps climbed into Robbie Williams's mouth and were never seen again.
Ingredient: wafer-thin ham

9. Elevator pitch
Pitch to publishers: A book based on themes in well-known palindromes. "Murder for a jar of red rum" (crime novel). "Mr Owl ate my metal worm" (science fiction dystopia). "Go hang a salami, I'm a lasagna hog" (recipe book).
Ingredient: hummus

10. Despair
The inappropriate fade-out on the Spotify version of Orbital's Lush 3-1 is why the world's gone to hell in a hand dryer.
Ingredient: baking tray

11. Etymology
Today is Halloween, which as we all know comes from the phrase "Hello, Ian".
Ingredient: armchair(s)

12. The big question
Who was the renegade master, what were they trying to damage, and were they behaving ill so they could bunk off work?
Ingredient: the 18th century

Further Fats: Come on my Selected (2006)

Nov 29, 2021

Apart from the music, there is one thing wrong with Ed Sheeran's Tiny Desk Concert

Here's a screenshot of the pop music artist Ed Sheeran performing one of those NPR Tiny Desk Concerts.

I can't remember what he performed. One of his pleasing ditties, I suppose. A warm guff of mainstream melodies. Maybe he performed a six hour homage to kittens being drowned in a vat of Monster energy drinks. I don't know. I could barely listen to more than a few seconds of his Tiny Desk Concert.

No, the music is not the point here. Take a look at that screenshot. Go on. Take a look. Take a close look. Can you see what's wrong? It's there, glaring you in the face.

Here is Ed.

Look at his cute hamster face. He's holding that guitar deftly. No doubt he's good at holding other things, like potted plants, soft cheese or ransom letters. Ed is standing in the middle of the room, light from the windows gushing through his legs. He is, right at this moment, probably singing the word "spatula".

Next. Here is the concert.

The musicians stand around Ed because standing around the singer is the minimum requirement to create a concert. I wonder what their names are. Malchom. Guffery. Kendoolix. Colin. Although we can't see a drummer, I reckon there are seven musicians. That's a lot of people to fit into a room, especially when it's a home library where half the books seem to be missing. Nevertheless, good concerting, musicians.

Finally. Here's the desk.

YOU'RE MEANT TO BE BEHIND THE DESK, ED. Not around the desk. Not near the desk. Not, as in this case, not only standing next to the desk, but facing the wrong way so you can't even shuffle sideways and open the drawers.

Look at Lizzo doing her Tiny Desk Concert. It appears to be a reception desk, slightly shallower than usual. Lizzo is behind the desk. Therefore Lizzo is doing a Tiny Desk Concert.

Look at Miley Cyrus doing her Tiny Desk Concert. She's clearly positioned in front of a child's make-up desk. Therefore Miley is doing a Tiny Desk Concert.

Even flipping Coldplay get the desk thing right. Look at how many people are behind that desk. There's even a poster on the left showing someone sat at a desk. 

Ed Sheeran is doing it wrong. The desk, which may or may not be tinier than usual, is not being interacted with. It is separate from the performance, as if a desk thief has dropped it by mistake while running from the dining room to the billiard room.

This isn't a Tiny Desk Concert. This is a Tiny Desk Next To A Concert.

The fact that it took me ten minutes of scrolling through Tiny Desk videos to find those desk-performance links because it turns out hardly anyone doing Tiny Desk concerts has a desk in their video therefore rendering the series a total con IS ENTIRELY IRRELEVANT. I just wanted to have a go at Ed Sheeran.

Stupid Ed and your stupid desk.

Further Fats: What was your first concert? (2019)

Further Fats: Story: A meeting regarding new material by the electronic music producer Aphex Twin (2020)

Oct 30, 2021

A pressing problem: trouble at t'mill for vinyl production

The vinyl production industry is in meltdown. Which could be a good thing if melted vinyl records made crude oil or liquorice. But it doesn't. This means trouble, with Mixmag saying the industry is in "a state of chaos".

I'm planning on buying my mates 37 copies of Ed Sheeran's new album for Christmas. That's 37 vinyl copies to each friend of Ed's =. That's his album name, by the way, not a typo. My pals are going to love me, especially as each one will be individually wrapped in three rolls of toilet paper.

However, there's trouble at t'mill. Are records made in mills? No idea. Anyway, due to extreme weather, staffing shortages, a lack of raw materials, and vinyl now outselling CDs for the first time in history, it's taking longer than ever to get a record pressed. Especially if you're a small label in a queue behind a mass-producing major label. Vinyl production seems to have more delays than a dub reggae remix of the band Delays. 

This means consumers may be waiting a long time for their vinyl. A bunch of mums aren't going to get their Abba or Adele for Christmas Day, leaving weird Uncle Derrick to recreate entire albums on the spoons.

It's really unfortunate for small independent labels, who pride themselves on high quality product that's now in an endless queue behind some dreary Pink Floyd special edition. And with Brexit making Bandcamp sales to EU customers uneconomical, they're having to work harder than ever to make any money. 

Sorry, that last paragraph was all serious. Erm. Sausages. Clowns. Cats falling off tables. Phew, saved it. 

The Mixmag article suggests solutions might be found in an increase in pressing plants, the revival of dubplates, and a more creative approach to physical releases. However, electronic music duo Posthuman seem to have a more pragmatic handle on things, saying the whole thing will burn out soon:

"As soon as it isn’t profitable, [the major labels] will jump ship just like they did before. There has to be a saturation of Led Zeppelin and Elton John B-sides where the public will just say ‘enough is enough, we’re not buying any more’. I don’t think this crisis will last for much longer.”

I'm off to record a cover version of Ed's album on my cassette player. Piano, Casio keyboard, trumpet, kazoo. No spoons. I'll copy it across on the tape-to-tape bit of my old hi-fi unit. If I set it to double-speed, I'll easily have a load of toilet-rollable copies done by Christmas. Sorted.

Further Fats: A creative meltdown means horrible bowls and don't you forget it (2012)

Further Fats: Do you remember the first time (with your own money)? (2019)

Sep 4, 2021

Selected tweeted works: synthesiser worms, big shops

Is it against the law to copy and paste a bunch of tweets into a blog post? Making the micro-blog a macro-blog? It does seem wrong somehow.

Here are some recent tweets from @FatRoland, which is me. Like all social media, reading this is mostly a waste of your time. Imagine every word covered in paint, then watching that sweet, sweet paint dry.

For the sake of completion, I have included location tags on each tweet. 

1. Ear worm
Had a banging electronic music anthem stuck in my head today. And then I realised it was the Channel 4 News theme tune.
Location: basement

2. Synth worm
What if every time someone pressed a key on a synthesiser, a worm came out? You hadn't thought of that, had you? You need to be aware of all possible worms.
Location: a different basement

3. Guest appearance
Yes, that *is* me doing guest kazoo on Kanye's new album, good spot.
Location: end of garden

4. Down time
It's a low fuse kind of day. Housework. Chilling. Writing. YouTube. Snorkling. Mind control. Turning my knees into UFOs. Just boring stuff, really.
Location: top of telegraph pole

5. Animal
WAKE UP, SHEEPLE. (This tweet should only be read by people who are a grotesque hybrid of a human and an actual sheep, and who are also having a nap.)
Location: inside tube

6. Maths
Big Nas XL > Lil Nas X
Location: left of dog park

7. Zither
I'm sorry to announce that I've quit the extreme speed zither scene and will no longer be performing my sixty second soundtrack of The Third Man.
Location: three feet high and rising

8. Big shop
Went to do my big shop but it's bank holiday closed. Am now big shopping in the park (twigs = pasta, autumn leaves = cornflakes, sparrow = toilet roll).
Location: a collection of numbers and an arrow

9. Cover version
Kinetic by Golden Girls but performed by clockwork cymbal monkeys and Rowlf from the muppets.
Location: 1970s Granada TV

10. Key strokes
I have used computers since the 1980s. If I average 20,000 keystrokes a day, that's probably about 255,500,000 times my fingers have have touched a computer keyboard. And not once in those 255,500,000 times have I wanted Number Lock off.
Location: metaphysical

11. Watching
I see your tweets. I see your tweets and I like them. I want to become them. I want to be the negative space in your weird new font.
Location: location, location

Further Fats: Selected tweeted works – young lovers and yawning (2020)

Further Fats: Selected tweeted works – 17 Fat Roland tweets as recommended by Fat Roland

Aug 31, 2021

Wipe that smile off your face: ravers go right wing

Smiley faces - credit: Bob Bob

Have a read of this article by music writer Harold Heath about the UK dance scene's uncomfortable dalliance with the far right. Go on. Have a read. What do you mean you haven't read it yet? Read it. READ IT.    

In the article, he outlines the bizarre phenomenon of the acid house movement being co-opted by anti-lockdown protesters. The anti-establishment attitude of rave culture seems to link all-too-neatly into anti-vaxxers railing against the status quo. Not actual Status Quo. Just the general status quo.

A few weeks ago, I witnessed an anti-lockdown protest in Manchester. The posters and t-shirts were full of conspiracy theory nonsense. Their main symbol was the yellow smiley face. This left me pretty shocked and not very smiley at all.

Obviously, I was more horrified that so many people want the virus to run amok among the most vulnerable in our society, but hey! Don't use our smiley face. It's OUR smiley face. That gaudy vacant fake emotion is reserved for us ravers, not keyboard warriors on day release.

Those Little England Brexiters probably don't even know what the symbol stands for. Peace, love, unity and having fun? They wouldn't know those words even if they were tattooed on the massive snowflake that replaced whatever brain they used to have. Yeah, I can do mixed snowflake metaphors too. I thank you.

Of course, not everyone who is anti-lockdown is right wing. But these kind of protests definitely lean towards a political side. Folks frothing at the mouth about "face nappies" are a virus-filled sneeze away from the grim world of self-serving libertarians falsely claiming victimhood, through to the uber-grim underworld of full-on anti-Semitic conspiracists. Yeeps, keep it light, Fats.

It's not possible to be a clubber and be right wing. Simply not so. I'm sure there are conservatives that go to Creamfields, which totally destroys the opening point of this paragraph. But the very act of clubbing is a political statement. Just ask John Major, whose government legislated against repetitive beats.

As Heath reports: "There are a set of shared values around tolerance, inclusivity and community, born in the very earliest days of disco, that run through the DNA of house and techno that we like to think we all share."

Although the disruption to the dance music industry has been difficult for those trying to make a living from promoting, performing and hospitality, going on Covidiot marches is the antithesis of what the dance music scene should be about.

I would have left my blog post there, but something else just happened. Something awful. And alluring. But mainly awful.

I won't post the video here, but at the time of writing, the internet has been reeling at a recording of Pob-faced Tory Michael Gove clubbing in Aberdeen. Proper going for it, he was. In his suit. You can look it up on an internet near you.

Look at him dancing. Writhing, gurning, waggling his arms as if trying to bat away poor people asking for money. I can't stop watching: I'm repulsed yet strangely turned on. Ooo, flip my second home, Michael. Pull out of my EU, why dontcha.

Gove has clearly done a biscuit tin of eckies and will no doubt be a member of Kicks Like a Mule by the end of the week. What? Oh, right. My legal department has advised me to tell you that Michael Gove has definitely never taken ecstasy and instead spends his days hoovering up crystal meth like any self-respective Tory.


Aug 7, 2021

Backstage with the Backstreet Boys (off camera)

Backstreet Boys messing about on a sofa in front of tasteless curtains

While tidying, I found an old photograph from the time I met pop royalty.

I wish I could say it was a picture of me meeting the Backstreet Boys. Sadly, I'm in the room, but I'm behind the photographer waiting for them to finish this photoshoot.

This was backstage at the Manchester Apollo during their 'Live In Concert Tour. It was late 1996, around about the time Quit Playing Games (with My Heart) launched them to international acclaim. I was a local journalist, and I'd rung up their PR people pitching an article called 'backstage with the Backstreet Boys' in which I hung around backstage with the Backstreet Boys. The simple ideas are the best.

So here I am, off camera, hanging out backstage with the Boys. I have no idea how I ended up with a copy of the photograph. It doesn't look much like a PR shot. Nick Carter with the floppy blonde hair is hiding his face, Kevin in the East 17 hat looks extremely bored, and the one trying to show his belly button (AJ?) was only posed like that because he took a flying leap onto the sofa at the last minute.

I half wonder if I took this photograph myself, although I know there was a pro photographer in the room because a magazine called Big! showed up to take pictures of Nick Carter. He was big hit with teen fans at the time. They set up a portrait station just to the left of where this photograph was taken. I can only assume the proper professional photographer took this pic, and they sent through a copy via their PR people later.

That said, I nearly had the opportunity to take lots of photographs with lots of cameras. On arriving at the stage entrance of the Apollo, I was mobbed by teenage girls. They were amassing like Hitchcock's birds in the vague hope of spotting a Backstreeter nipping out for a fag. On wading through the teenage throng, I must have said something like "EXCUSE me, can you let me past, I need to get to the band, don't you know who I AM?!". Suddenly, I was their easiest access to their pop heroes. They were armed with those insta-cameras that you use for holiday snaps: I immediately had a dozen of them shoved in my face. "Can you take a photo of Brian? Tell them Tracey says hello!"

The atmosphere backstage was quite amiable. The cheeky sofa-diver (or is it Brian?) was hyper, and spent the time pinballing around the room like a terrier on heat. I chatted to Kevin for some time, and came away supremely impressed. Although BSB were a manufactured boy band, discovered by pop mogul and Ponzi scheme fraudster Lou Pearlman, they'd been working hard as singers, and they seemed more authentic than the infinite number of copy-paste Ken dolls that were clogging the charts at the time.

If I find the published 'backstage with the Backstreet Boys' article, I'll let you know. Fancy finding something like this from 25 years ago. I had no idea I had this photograph: until now it had only existed as a memory, mainly of the belly button bloke (Brian, I'm sure it's Brian) diving onto the sofa.

And what horrible curtains behind the sofa. I suppose horrible curtains was pretty much the hairstyle of the time, arf arf.

Further Fats: This is a review of an Aphex Twin gig (2011)

Further Fats: Mark Morrison pumps up the world and lets down my dreams (2020)

Aug 3, 2021

I got the ping!

I got the ping! I am self-isolating. Please can someone deliver to me: (a) glitter ball, (b) party trousers, (c) a phalanx of dancing kittens, (d) Altern-8 karaoke CD. Thank you.

Actually, it's not so bad. I've only had to isolate for five days, and although it's been inconvenient for work, I've had quite a nice time tootling round. I even started rewatching season four of Better Call Saul, which I've previously twice tried to watch and failed.

I should point out that I am well. I suspect the ping came from a bus journey. Stupid public transport. What I need is my own private helicopter, or perhaps a jet pack. Knowing me, I'll catch bird flu from a passing seagull.

What? Better Call Saul? It's great, but I think I was spoiled by season three, which I think was a masterpiece. I should have left much longer before starting the next season. I'm the same with Drag Race. I get so emotionally invested, that I have to have a good chunk of grieving time before finding mental space for a whole new bevy of high-heeled hunks.

Back to the isolation. Apparently you don't need to self-isolate by law if it's just an app ping. But then I don't need to wear a mask by law, but I like to do the right thing. I'm a polite boy. I wear my mask, I don't drop litter, I always say please, and I never swear at vicars. Actually, scrap that last one - I've done that loads.

I finish isolation tomorrow. I shall frolic o'er hill and vale. I shall dance in the moonlight. I shall go to the shops and stock up on Pot Noodles.

Now can you please stop reading. I've got another episode of Better Call Saul to watch.

Jul 31, 2021

Erasure's video for A Little Respect, line by line

Erasure's Respect video

In this essay, I will prove that the video for Erasure's A Little Respect is a cinematic masterpiece, on a par with Citizen Kane, the Godfather Trilogy and the Spongebob Squarepants Movie.

Actually, it's not quite an essay. I'm simply going to describe how the video subtly illustrates each line of the lyric. Strap in. Get the video loaded up (or stream at the bottom of this blog post), and follow along below.

Erasure's video for A Little Respect

"I try to discover"
Vince Clarke looks through a magnifying glass while Andy Bell peers into a microscope

"A little something to make me sweeter"
Loads of sugar is spooned into a decorative tea cup, stretching the meaning of the word "little"    

"Oh baby refrain from breaking my heart"
Andy Bell tries to stop a hammer-wielding Vince Clarke from breaking the heart that Andy is holding: Vince does indeed smash the heart, and Andy laughs at the futility of life

"I'm so in love with you"
A child dressed as Cupid curls up on the seat of a JCB, perhaps suggesting love is a bulldozer

"I'll be forever blue"
Vince Clarke and Andy Bell turn blue

"That you gimme no reason why you make-a-me work so hard"
Andy Bell dressed as a construction worker has a lovely time with a pneumatic drill

"That you gimme no, that you gimme no, that you gimme no, that you gimme no soul"
Andy Bell is festooned with presents, none of which seem to be someone's soul, until, that is, we cut to the logo of the Seoul Olympics

"I hear you calling"
Andy Bell, finished with his construction work and what appeared to be an impromptu birthday, is now yodelling

"Oh baby, please, give a little respect to me"
Vince Clarke gives Andy Bell a small sign with the word RESPECT on

"And if I should falter"
Andy Bell leans onto a pillar which falls over, taking Andy with him

"Would you open you arms out to me?"
Vince Clarke opens out the arms of a skeleton and looks very pleased with himself

"We can make love not war"
Clad in army camouflage, Andy Bell and a lipstick-kissed Vince Clarke hide in military netting

"And live at peace with our hearts"
Andy Bell and Vince Clarke stand in the doorway of their home, which is called, according to a tasteless sign above their door, PEACE WITH OUR HEARTS

"I'm so in love with you"
The Cupid child fires a bow and arrow, then cheers furiously, presumably in delight at the person he's just killed – a risky crime considering we know the Erasure boys own a magnifying glass and a microscope

"I'll be forever blue"
Vince Clarke and Andy Bell turn blue again, and show no concern at this repeat incident

"What religion or reason could drive a man to forsake his lover?"
In a scene reminiscent of Bronski Beat's Smalltown Boy, Vince Clarke and Andy Bell walk away, bindles over shoulder and surrounded by the precarious pillars that previously foxed Andy

"Don't you tell me no, don't you tell me no, don't you tell me no, don't you tell me no soul"
Vince Clarke shakes his head lots, perhaps in judgement at the next shot, which is Andy Bell using sole fish as earrings

"I hear you calling"
Andy Bell dresses as an old man and uses an ear trumpet to listen to Vince Clarke who is dressed as an umpire or sweet shop owner

"Oh baby, please, give a little respect to me"
A smug-looking Andy Bell gives a larger RESPECT sign to Vince Clarke, further stretching the definition of the word "little"

"I'm so in love with you"
The Cupid boy again, whose actions are harder to make out but he could be playing darts at God's face – he doesn't appear again, presumably smited

"I'll be forever blue"
Vince Clarke and Andy Bell turn blue again, the former's raspberry blow showing a cavalier attitude to an increasingly disturbing medical condition

"That you gimme no reason, you know you make me work so hard"
A flat-capped Vince Clarke mops his brow as he pick-axes, off screen, a pavement or possibly the Cupid child

"That you gimme no, that you gimme no, that you gimme no, that you gimme no soul"
Andy Bell and Vince Clarke are festooned with pieces of paper, none of which seem to be someone's soul, until we cut to, er, someone sewing

"I hear you calling"
A telephone shakes vigorously, perhaps ringing amid an earthquake

"Oh baby, please, give a little respect to me"
Andy Bell and Vince Clarke frolic around some massive letters, which are not yet fully apparent but we can probably guess

"I hear you calling"
An audio speaker is spray painted silver to make the sound go faster

"Oh baby, please, give a little respect to me"
The camera pulls out and we can see Andy Bell and Vince Clarke hanging round some absolutely huge letters spelling the word RESPECT, shredding any vestiges of meaning from the word "little", and finally leading to a letter-stealing Vince taking the "P" in what is perhaps the best metaphor of the whole video