May 5, 2019

This can't just be a blog post moaning about trains, can it?



Utter flipping disaster. Thursday was meant to be a mega day in Liverpool. It wasn't to be.

Firstly, my appearance at a spoken word night in Liverpool was kiboshed by a power cut. The venue was without electricity and apparently my performance wasn't going to be electric enough to compensate. We quickly rescheduled. One of them things, innit.

That wasn't the annoying bit. I'd decided to be clever and get to Liverpool early to check out The Beatles Story, an exhibition about the Merseybeat band that invented the submarine or something. I'm working on a commission and I was hoping to foment some fab four fun in my brain follicles.

I hadn't counted on our awful trains. They weren't just delayed - they were deleted. Not a single train in my local area for hours. Signalling failure.

But Fat Roland, I hear you say, this can't just be a blog post moaning about trains not being on time.

Yes it is. It is a flipping blog post moaning about trains being rubbish. Not a single train. FOR HOURS. I went to see some superhero thing at the cinema instead - the one with the glowy woman and Samuel L Jackson looking about 12. It was quite fun, but it was no trip to a Beatles museum.

Trains, you ruined my afternoon. I did eventually get to Liverpool, moments before I learned of the power cut, and even that trip was a litany of lateness and last-minute platform changes.

Maybe this blog should be about trains. Forget electronic music. Each blog post is just me screaming at a departures board, or delving into 92 pockets to find the ticket I had just seconds ago, or weeping into an expensive panini.

To paraphrase The Thick Of It's Steve Fleming: "Choo flipping choo."

May 2, 2019

Fat Roland: Seven Inch


Hey look, it's an actual show!

Fat Roland: Seven Inch at the Edinburgh Fringe
Aug 1st to 13th 13:15 (1 hour)
Comedy (spoken word, absurdist)
Laughing Horse @ The Newsroom - The Basement (Venue 93)
Show details here

In the last record shop still standing, Manchester comic Fat Roland re-examines his life through not-so-teenage kicks, surrounded by forgettable (and unforgettable) pop music. Amid the cobwebbed racks and fading seven-inch singles, he faces his 45th birthday alone – when a new opportunity comes knocking, will Roland pack up his gramophone? A five-star, one-idiot commission for The Lowry, Salford, adapted especially for the Edinburgh Fringe. ‘A comedic onslaught of musical puns, cultural references and audience interaction.’ ***** (UpstagedManchester.com). ’A funny, silly and entertaining show that comedy and music fans will love.’ **** (TheReviewsHub.com).

Apr 29, 2019

Being Frank & Bobbins: celebrating the life of Chris Sievey


Being Frank: The Chris Sievey Story is out on DVD today. Do get it if you can. It's a glorious celebration of a man who was endlessly creative, gleefully eccentric and ultimately tragic. Here's the cartoon me holding the DVD for dear life.


If you're quick, you can just about catch the Frank Sidebottom Bobbins exhibition at Manchester Central Library. It closes tomorrow ("one of them Tuesdays", says the publicity). Pictured here is his actual head - he only ever had two, and this is the only one that survives.

Incidentally, and this is a total side note, I'm currently watching the Batman prequel Gotham. I've had to stop watching because the scripting is so shoddy. In the episode I've just seen, a whole bunch of people have been murdered, each one with their throats slit. It's how they connected the murders.

Twenty minutes later, someone mentions in passing that they also had crosses drawn on their forehead in blood. Mentioned in passing? What? Surely THAT would be up-front and centre much earlier on. Gah.

If only they took a Batbottom and Bobbins route instead (pictured above).


One thing about the exhibition is that there are lot of lists. Pages and pages of lists. We've all made and neglected to-do lists, but Chris Sievey made it into an artform. There's one graph-paper page of things to do, segmented into thematic sections, tonnes of to-dos each with its own little hand-drawn tick box. Not a single thing was ticked off. I relate.

Pictured above is a fun list - Frank Sidebottom's top 5 computers. I had a Spectrum 2.


Considering the record shop theme of Fat Roland: Seven Inch at the Edinburgh Fringe (SEO-friendly plug), I had to snap this highly advanced record player. One of the key themes of Being Frank is Chris Sievey's music career, as it happens - especially the moment a badly-timed strike scuppered his chance at stardom.

I suppose if he'd been more successful, there wouldn't have been a spirited crowd-funding campaign to get Being Frank made, and I wouldn't have got my name in the credits as a backer, and there wouldn't have been such a cluttered and creative exhibition in Manchester which closes tomorrow (one of them Tuesdays).

Incidentally, in this blog post I have very secretly hidden a photograph of me meeting Frank Sidebottom ages ago. Can you spot it?

Apr 27, 2019

The Pet Shop Boys and Madonna: Into The Minimal Groove


Not that I haven't got a life or anything, but I have spent many hours searching for the perfect Pet Shop Boys mashup.

You remember mashups. Songs that have been cut-and-shut together, like a Mini Metro welded to a Transit Van: totally unofficial, sometimes ugly, potential death trap.

I think I have found the perfect PSB mashup, and it comes from the bottom drawer of their back catalogue. Into The Minimal Groove mixes Minimal (Tocadisco's Sunday At Space Remix) with Madonna's Into The Groove.

Whoever did this spent a lot of time working on Madge's vocals. They work brilliantly over a track that likes to take its time: it's full of surprises.

And like my dodgy cover version of Carly Rae Jepson, they've kept the title hook until much later in the track - it's five minutes before Madonna says "get into the groove", and even then it almost passes by unnoticed. A deliberate trick to neutralise the original track to make something new and interesting.

I can't stop listening to it. You could say.... ahem... [steps closer to microphone] that I have very much got into its groove.

There's a video of sorts, which you can watch here.

Mar 31, 2019

Seven Inch at the 2019 Edinburgh Fringe


My third Edinburgh Fringe show will debut on August 1st 2019, running for 14 dates as part of the Laughing Horse free festival.

I'm adapting my Lowry show Seven Inch, turning a grand theatre production into something more up-close and personal suitable for the Fringe. I will be able to see the whites of your nostrils.

The show is set in the last record shop still standing, in which I examine life through not-so-teenage kicks. Actually, it's an excuse for me to be silly for an hour, show off stupid cartoons, and to infect your brain with forgettable (and unforgettable) pop music.

It's not been officially announced yet, but how could I not share this video with you?

Mar 18, 2019

Knob-twiddling and Salad Fingers

Things have been quiet around here because I've been under the weather, literally because of the proximity of the sky, and also metaphorically.

So here is a bit of audio and a lot of a video to keep you entertained.

Underworld have posted a 2005 as-live studio session of Twist, from their A Hundred Days Off album, and it sounds pretty sweet. It's free to download too.



David Firth has plopped all the old Salad Fingers episodes onto YouTube, now including more recent ones. It's as sinister as you remember, and of course the soundtrack is excellent.



I advise looping the two simultaneously and see what happens. In the meantime, I shall try my very best to get well soon.

Mar 7, 2019

World Book Day: music books I have read and should have read


This World Book Day piece on the Official Charts website reminds me that I haven't read as many music biographies as I should have done.

I remember reading Chuck D's Fight the Power: Rap, Race, and Reality twenty years ago and thinking he talked a lot about making money. And I tried to read Morrissey's List of the Lost before firing out this status update on Facebook:
"Morrissey's novel. I read some of it yesterday. You know how sometimes people write like teenagers with no knowledge of the well-worn amateur mistakes a lot of beginner writers make? The kind of adverb-strewn purple prose on which we look back and blush, with the sentences all imprecise and confused because when we were young that's how our minds worked? Morrissey should aim to get to that level before putting out another book."
A friend once gifted me John Lennon's nonsensical books, and I really value them. And I've probably read more histories of rave than is wise for one person. I inhale almost anything Underworld-related. Oh and I used to read the Guinness Book of British Hit Singles even though it was just lists.

The problem is when you're buying a musician's book, it could be coffee table dribble with glossy but anodyne photographs, or some kind of ego trip from a lyricist who thinks they can write something other than lyrics.

Or if you're Madonna, just a load of people having sex all over the pages and everything sticking together. Yeeps.

The most interesting one in those Official Charts picks is Stormzy's Rise Up, which launches his #Merky Books imprint that's dedicated to encouraging young writers with submission opportunities and internships. He's a good chap, that Stormzy.

As for my should-read pile, I should read How Music Works by David Byrne. I need to get my hands on that Beastie Boys Book that came out before Christmas. And I'd read a right-riveting biography of Kate Bush, if there's one knocking about.


Feb 28, 2019

On my gramophone in February 2019: Pye Corner Audio, High Contrast, Seb Wildblood, Four Tet and, er...


Here are a few things I've been spinning on my gramophone in February 2019.

1. Pye Corner Audio

Pye Corner Audio's Hollow Earth, which purports to revive the “ghosts of ’90s house euphoria” but actually ties the corners of those ghosts to fashion them into a parachute designed to glide you into seriously smoky ambient valleys where you'll be lost forever. In a good way.



2. High Contrast

High Contrast's 2002 debut album True Colours, a great sister sound to Roni Size's Brown Paper Bag. In recent years, he was a music selector for the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony, and he had a track in T2 Trainspotting. Which is like going from the sublime to the ridiculous. In a good way.



3. Seb Wildblood

Seb Wildblood's Grab The Wheel, an EP from last year which is only just tugging on my musical heartstrings now. His deep house is simple, almost by-the-numbers in its structure - but boy, it's weedled up my pee-hole right into my guts. In a good way.



4. Four Tet

Kieran 'Four Tet' Hebden still refuses to tell anyone what he did with the first three Tets. While we wait for an answer, we'll have to make do with this cheery little album from 2017. I overlooked this at the time, but it's growing on me like a particularly persistent moss. In a good way.



5. Sweep

Experimental sound artist Sweep has often found himself under the shadow of the better known silent composer Sooty. But this symphony of squeaks, juxtaposed perfectly with floppy ears, really speaks to the zeitgeist of our times. It's like having your brain scooped out with kazoos. In a good way.