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.

Phew.



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

Jul 3, 2021

30 qwerty years: a quick overview of my writing life

This month marks 30 years since I became a journalist.

More accurately, it's 30 years since I crashed and burned in my A-Levels, and then at the age of 17 started three weeks of work experience at my local paper, the South Manchester Reporter. They kept me on because the editor said I could type fast. A skill which was, in all fairness, not that common in 1991.

My first assignment was as a music columnist. I would review gigs in the grotty basements of Manchester venues, and tip local bands, always incorrectly, as the next big thing in rock and roll. My pseudonym was Trelawney, and the column was called Sound of the Suburbs, a music reference that was entirely lost on the teenage me. I was paid via a government Youth Training scheme, while previous Trelawney columnists before me were proper freelancers. I could type fast and I was cheap.

Throughout the 1990s, I built up my career at the paper. I worked in the dark room at their production office, a job conducted amid fumes of stinking chemicals. Unlike the newsroom, I could blast the radio in the dark room, and this proved surprisingly informative, especially when John Peel took over a daytime Radio 1 show. I continued as columnist, then went on to become a chief reporter on two of their other newspapers, then music and features editor for a couple of spin-off magazines. Friend to the pop stars, I was. Well. For my allotted 20 minutes during a mid-tour interview schedule.

Then came a big life change. I lost both of my parents quite young, and the subsequent mire of depression had me quitting journalism. After a brief time trying PR, I stumbled into what would become my longest career: bookselling. I was a bookseller for a full 18 years. That's, like, a whole Greta Thunberg. The great thing about bookshops is you're surrounded by writing and writers, so it was quite easy to carry on with freelance journalism here and there.

We're fast-forwarding really quickly now. I did a bunch of DJing. I started this blog. People noticed this blog. I started performing. I became a spoken word artist. I released some books. I did an album (it's on Discogs). Our monthly night won awards. I now work for uber-cool literary venue the Burgess Foundation, I job which I adore and which combines all the skills of everything I've mentioned so far. Oh and Electronic Sound took me on as a music columnist, which means I've technically regressed all the way back to 1991.

It seems weird to have a 30th anniversary of anything, and to count your adult memories in decades rather than years. As I've moved my performance work from spoken word into alternative cartoon comedy weirdness, I've increasingly felt like that naïve but endlessly creative teenager that first walked into the newspaper office asking for work experience. I'm growing older, but younger at the same time.

And yes, I cann stull tyope fast. Sorry, try that again. And yes, I can still tyep fats. Nope. And yes, I can still type fast. Slick work. My old editor would have approved.

Jun 10, 2021

Cover me bad: Flow Coma by 808 State

Cover Me Bad: Flow Coma by 808 State

Dear reader,

This is the blog police. It has come to our attention that there has been suspicious activity on this Blogger account for the past five days, masquerading as a blog series called Cover Me Bad.

The conceit of the series is that the writer and performer Fat Roland thinks he's brilliant at creating cover versions of electronic music tracks. The 'joke', and we use that word loosely, is that he's really bad at it, and each blog post ends in a stream of idiocy.

According to the Weblogs Policing Act 2005, this is really bad blogging. Let's use an example.

Artist: 808 State
Track: Flow Coma
Year: 1988
Reviews: [Mr Roland would then insert a genuine review here, but make it look like nonsense]

He would always print something like that. It is alleged this is a random song choice, picked from his record collection. We have evidence to believe the decision is actually more half-hearted, plucked carelessly from thin air. He clearly is not researching his blog posts.

He would then take elements of the track, in 808 State's the case the dirty acid and the skippy snares, and then imagine how he would mimic the sounds. However, instead of a serious tutorial on Ableton or similar music-making equipment, he usually resorts to bad puns or forced literalism. 

For example, taking the dirty acid and the skippy snares, he would have then talked about getting some actual acid and putting dirt on it, or placing a snare drum in a skip.

This is, at best, lazy writing and, at worst, a crime against blogging. The evidence is written in black and white.

In a recent post, Mr Roland pretended to have a conversation with his own blog, thereby breaking the structure of the Cover Me Bad blog series. This was a particularly heinous crime and we hope he doesn't do this again.

The reader is advised not to have any contact with Fat Roland's blog, otherwise the reader will be charged with accessory to poor interneting.

Yours sincerely,

The Blog Police, 999 Letsbe Crescent (near Letsbe Avenue), Blogford, Bloggington, Greater Bloggery.

Jun 9, 2021

Cover me bad: Eggshell by Autechre

Cover me bad: Eggshell

Nope. Not doing it.

Ah, go on.

I can't keep ruining my blog like this. The previous days' posts have just been embarrassing.

It's what your public want.

No it's not. I've seen the visitor stats. The whole website's tanking. I've lost 20 followers on Twitter.

Just a little one. Go on. Do it.

Absolutely not.

Artist: Autechre
Track: Eggshell
Year: 1993
Reviews: "Muestra el lado más minimalista y bailable del trabajo." 4.5-star Rate Your Music review 

Look, you can insert that text, but I am absolutely not doing one of my parody cover version blog posts.

But it's Autechre. You love Autechre.

Yes, and that's one of their best early tracks. Weirdly euphoric despite being all wibbly and downbeat. That's why I don't want to do a cover version.

Is it because you're not good at doing cover versions?

Shut up. I'm brilliant at cover versions, me. That's why I'm setting up a cover version band-- wait, no. You nearly got me. I am NOT doing this.

How would you make the main tingly keyboard line?

Nope. Not going there.

The smoky IDM chords? Maybe get some smoke?

Stop it. I'm not playing along.

The crunchy percussion? Perhaps get something crunchy, like crisps, autumn leaves or fried chicken.

That's done it. I'm switching you off.

What? You can't switch a blog off. It's not possible.

Yes it is. Stay still. There's a switch here somewhere. Is it round the back?

GET OFF MY BUM.

Do you promise to behave? Stop all this 'Cover me bad' nonsense? It was a vague idea that turned out confusing and bad.

Okay. I'll stop.

Promise?

Pinky promise.

Good.

...

Artist:Aqua
Track: Barbie Girl
Year: 1997 
Reviews: "Garbage!" 1-star Amazon review

AAAAAAARGH!