Nov 17, 2020

Daft Punk not living up to either part of their name

Daft Punk

I love this photograph of mid-1990s Daft Punk.

They look like they're about to record a cool skateboard fails video but their mate with the camcorder hasn't turned up yet.

They look like an N*Sync tribute act just after the other band members quit.

Guy-Manuel looks like he's asking for his ball back, and Thomas is so over with Guy-Manuel always kicking the ball into other people's gardens.

They look like they're filming a Breakfast Club sequel. Or if you squint, they could be a pre-pubescent Jay and Silent Bob.

They look like they've just finished a particularly coordinated graffiti session in which they perfected the logos of Sun Records, Motown and, right at the edge of frame, the Beatles.

They look like, and is final, two unassuming DJs who had just knocked out one of the most revolutionary debut albums in dance music history. I mean, wowsers, I know this is stating the obvious 25 years too late, but how damn good was Homework?

Whatever they look like here, they are neither daft nor punk. And I quite like it.

Shortly after this picture was taken, the pair had their veins replaced with iron tubing in their first transition into all-conquering robots. You can see more pre-helmet Daft Punk pics at Daft Bootlegs, which includes Thomas wearing a Back To The Future t-shirt at Manchester's Bugged Out.

Thomas Bangalter in 1997

Oct 30, 2020

The most Halloweeny music acts ever

Bjork being scary

It's Halloween. 

Since I can't do my usual trick or treating dressed as a bat panda, the most frightening creature known to humankind, I'm going to have to entertain myself with this instead. 

Here are my top thousand million scary music acts (or fewer if I run out of ideas). 

  • Boards of Canadaaargh 
  • Spice Ghouls 
  • Pop Will Trick or Treat Itself
  • Lady Gagaaaargh 
  • Calvin Hair-raise
  • Ghoul Scott Heron
  • Tears for Fears (actual fears)
  • Venetian Scares 
  • Rihanaaargh
  • Cardi (Zom)B
  • Fright Said Fred
  • Bjeeeek! 
  • Matt and Spook Goss
  • Chemical Brothers (broth as in witch's broth) 
  • Adam and the Ants (actual ants)
  • A-haaargh 
  • S-Express (the S stands for Scary) 
  • Lemonster Jelly
  • Ca-boo-ret Voltaire
  • Bananaramaaargh
  • S Club 7 (the S stands for Scarier) 
  • Aaargh-phex Twin
  • Smashing Pumpkins (it's a pumpkin, the kind you use at Halloween) 
  • Enyaaargh
  • The Rolling (grave) Stones (suggested by @AcidGrandads)

I'm getting paid by the word, right? Hello? Anyone there? 

Sigh. 

Oct 28, 2020

17 Fat Roland tweets as recommended by Fat Roland

Three Twitter birds

Hey Fat Roland, how do you come up with fresh blog content 16 years after starting your blog?

Thanks for asking, lovely reader. I guess I'm just extremely creative and very clever in the brain department. Also, you can just copy a load of recent tweets, dump them into a blog post and pretend it's brand new content. Result!

17 Fat Roland tweets as recommended by Fat Roland

1. Ageing
A month ago, I turned 47, so I really think it's time I started taking things more seriously. *draws the concept of existential trousers playing Twister with a sausage*

2. Politics
Ben Bradley? Ben BADLY more like!!!!! Yes? That's good, right? Please tip this tweet five pounds.

3. Time
Clogs go back tonight. Also: espadrilles go forward and tennis racket snowshoes go sideways.

4. Warning
Comrades, there's a storm coming. THERE IS A STORM COMING. Sorry, not storm. Snail. There's a snail coming. It's just over there. Look at its cute ikkle face

5. Animal
Fox making a right old racket outside my window. Went outside and read it my writing until it fell into a deep coma. Winner = ME.

6. Song
Heads and shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes /
Knees and toes and knees and toes, knees and toes /
Toes and toes and toes toes toes toes toes toes /
Toes toes toes toes toes toes TOESTOES TOESTOESTOES.
(Millipede version.)

7. Covidiot (Ian Brown)
Ian Brown crashes into the ceiling. His phone stays zipped in his Kappa jacket as he bangs into rooves, treetops, seagulls. If only I believed in gravity, says Ian Brown, knocking a helicopter for six. Every collision, an accidental pocket tweet, each more absurd than the last.

8. Planning
I just used "Let's dip our Poe in the water" in a Zoom meeting about a new poetry project. #winning

9. Success
I'm happy to announce that I have received £15 billion in government support just for being a great guy.

10. English
I'm sorry to be a grammar pedant, but the apostrophe goes AFTER the umlaut and BEFORE the white space indicating the cold nothing of eternity.

11. Stance
I'm sorry to say, but I am thoroughly Anti-Vax. I much prefer Henrys and their little smiling face!!1!!!]!

12. More politics
I would be a terrible shame if Trump's head fell off and his willy exploded and his knees turned into ants. Just saying. JUST SAYING.

13. Nature
I've just been for a walk in the park and I'm very sorry to tell you the trees are a mess. The leaves have gone the wrong colour and they're dropping off the branches like old scabs. Sad.

14. Dream
Last night I dreamt I bought some pitta bread then I ate the pitta bread so I bought more pitta bread. Sorry, not pitta bread. Hamsters. I meant hamsters.

15. Internet
Last night I was browsing videos of cats destroying model railway sets and ended up watching the whole of Duel.

16. Covidiot (me)
New Covid restrictions:
- Legs must stay two metres apart
- Do not socialise with own face when looking into mirror
- Brain must not be used after 10pm
- Please ensure your home stays home even when homing from home
- Goves are now illegal

17. Oh dear
Wrong Said Fred. Geddit?! Huh? GEDDIT?!?!? Hello? Hello? Anyone? Sigh.

Oct 20, 2020

Blog-rolling back the years: my 2010 writing awards

It's a full decade since I won the Manchester Blog Awards, the world's most prestigious accolade after the Booker Prize, the Nobel Prize and the Darwin Award.

The story goes like this. I gave up my telly to allow more time on this blog. Better writing, a more frequent posting schedule, a few design bells and whistles. Less than a year later, I won at the blog awards. The resulting networking, fizzed with euphoria, cemented a bunch of new friendships that led me into a life of writing and performance. The win was a big kick up my ego's bum.

I won the category of Best Writing and then jointly-won the overall Best In Show prize (shout out to my co-winner Love Levenshulme). I was an extremely happy puppy. According to this account of my win ten years ago, in my acceptance speeches I apologised to James Blunt and namechecked Venetian Snares.

On the back of that night, I ended up prancing around Manchester's spoken word open mic scene with increasingly ambitious and silly props. This led to three Edinburgh Fringe shows and a crazily fun theatre commission from the Lowry Theatre. I produced two collections of my own short stories, and co-edited a third with a bunch of writing friends. I ended up hosting a leading spoken word night and, ultimately, the wacky world of literature events became my main source of income.

I'll forever be grateful for my blog awards win: I cannot overstate how much confidence it gave me, almost as if I needed that permission to take my creativity seriously. I'm also grateful to Caribou's Sun for being the anthem for my drunken celebrations that night. Listen to the radio edit of Sun below.

Here I am a full ten years later, and life couldn't be more different in a Covid-curtailed 2020. I've spent seven months cancelling literature events and spending an awful amount of time not seeing those friends who'd made the last decade so amazing. No shows, no silliness, no props. Just me sitting in a dark room writing this, my 1,394th blog post, reminiscing about the good old days when men were men, sheep were sheep, and blogs had readers.

I'm not sad, though. The elapsed time means nothing because the feelings are still so immediate in my mind: the announcement shocking me so much it felt like an arrow to the forehead, walking up to the stage in slow motion while trying not to fall over, the awkwardness of the unprepared speech, and that woozy drunken glow for a long time afterwards. And a whole decade of amazing collaborations and friendships. Proper grand.

Sun, sun, sun, sun...

Further Fats: Hammer time for Fatty Bumchops – how to blog properly (2011)

Further Fats: Blogging highlights 2004-2014 (2014)

Oct 19, 2020

A Full On Guide to Full On: Megatonk's Belgium and Frendzy's Can't Stop (these are real tracks, honest)

Megatonk and Frendzy

I've been blogging my way through the 1990s house music compilation Full On: Edition One. But then I stopped for a bit. I had to take a break. 

I've been living a slightly isolated life during the whole coronavirus thing. No partner to say good morning to, no elderly relatives to mouth greetings at through a window, and no Fat Roland clones in my basement lab, not since they escaped. I can spend days locked in my own head.

Which means my mental health ebbs and flows, like the tide of an ocean, only with less seaweed. Sometimes I need to step away from things to allow myself to be a bit mentally quieter. Hence not blogging for two weeks.

Let's get back to the 1992 Deconstruction compilation, which most of you won't remember, but which all of you can look up on Discogs.

Megatonk's Belgium is a perky house track with sampled diva vocals that were the staple of Moby tracks back in the 1990s. Have a listen here.


Megatonk was one of the many aliases of Charles Webster, a remixer and label owner who once engineered for the likes of Juan Atkins and Kevin Saunderson. 

There's not a huge amount to say about Belgium. The track appeared in a mix by Sasha at the Universe club back in 1992, blended in with Lil Louis's Club Lonely. The two tracks work nicely one after the other. On an Azuli Classics compilation a number of years later, DJ John Digweed would mix into Belgium from an INXS track, which sounds terrible but I'm sure worked just fine. Probably.

A more interesting track, in my humble opinion, is the next Full On tune: Frenzy's Don't Stop. I'm pretty sure that echoing saxophone sample is from a Grid track. Have an earful:


The track's actually called Can't Stop and the act seems to be actually called Frendzy, but let's not let a wonky CD listing get in the way of a good tune. This track is deep and hypnotic and everything good about house music in the 1990s.

I can find naff all information about Frendzy, a name which sounds like a failed social network. Production was by Hari, a long-time DJ fixture at Glasgow's Sub Club, and Shug Brankin, who has remixed Apache Indian and, if my googling is correct, once got a load of college kids to make balloon hats.

What can we conclude from these two tracks? One reminds me of Moby and the other reminds me of The Grid. No bad thing.

More Full On faffing to come.

Read the Full On series in, er full.

Read the Full On introduction explaining what the heck this is all about.

Oct 5, 2020

A Full On Guide to Full On: Eternal's Mind Odyssey and Felix's It Will Make Me Crazy

Eternal (not that one) and Felix

Next up on Full On: Edition One is Eternal's Mind Odyssey

Eternal was Melbourne club promoter Mark James, who set up the Eternal project with uber massive DJ legend and drag racer Carl Cox. 

Mind Odyssey came out on Warp Records in the UK, with a catalogue number WAP 27 which places it at around the same time as Polygon Window's Surfing On Sine Waves. This makes him proper techno royalty.

Pop this in your ears:

This Eternal is not to be confused with 1990s r'n'b popsters Eternal who wanted to "be the only one, the only one". 

Having said that, Mark has his pop side: he was in a band called Bass Culture with his then girlfriend Gina Gardiner, who later had a big Eurovision hit as Gina G with the appalling Ooh Aah... Just a Little Bit. Gosh, is this what it's like to write a gossip column?

Eternal would be the star of this blog post, but next up on the Full On track listing is Felix. 

The track is Felix's second biggest hit It Will Make Me Crazy, remixed by Rollo of Faithless fame. Listen here:

If Mark James is techno royalty, in the world of Euro-flavoured progressive house Felix is even bigger: a huge pulsating techno God larger than the known universe.

That's not to say Felix was more successful: James' career is huge. But the Felix sound summed up the Full On experience for me. Big cheesy chords, big housey vocals, super-sharp snare clicks, moody minor chords, simplicity throughout. 

It has to be said, this did sound a lot like his biggest hit Don't You Want Me, and the album was very samey. But if it was a formula, it was such a satisfying formula, and I got the impression that a lot of people were copying the Felix sound. Including me at the time on my little Korg keyboard.

Stylistically, Felix's sound isn't a hundred miles away from 2 Unlimited, whose career was taking off at the time of Full On. 2 Unlimited were much bouncier and stoopider, and had far less credibility. 

The lyrics are hugely different for a start. Here's the words for It Will Make Me Crazy:

It will make me crazy!
It will make me crazy!
It will make me crazy!
It will make me crazy!

And here are the lyrics to 2 Unlimited's Get Ready For This:

Techno!
Techno!
Techno!
Techno!

See? Totally different. 

Incidentally, and sorry to keep bouncing between the two Felix singles, but Don't You Want Me hit the UK top ten twice, and then charted a third time when it was used in a Tango advert. 

Felix was born in Chelmsford in Essex, as was Squarepusher, Ceephax Acid Crew, Hazell Dean, Sarah from St Etienne, Grayson chuffing Perry, and, er, the drummer from McFly. There's something in the water in Chelmsford.

What does this all say about Full On and its significance for 1990s dance music? I dunno: I stopped paying attention around about Gina G.

Have an advert:

Read the Full On series in, er full.

Read the Full On introduction explaining what the heck this is all about.

Oct 2, 2020

A Full On Guide to Full On: Orson Karte's Tonight

Orson Karte

My deconstruction of the Deconstruction album Full On: Edition One continues. I realise this is niche, but it was a great compilation that deserves more attention. See all my Full On posts here.

The next track is Orson Karte's Tonight (Original Mix), a smooth-as-a-sausage progressive house track with sampled voices drifting loosely above warm ambient chords. It doesn't stay in the same place either, as it gets its head down for some skippy breakbeat action later in the track.

Have an ear-check here:

Let's have a bit of context. I'm about to throw a lot of information at you. If this following paragraph had a montage sequence, it would freeze at each person's face like a Guy Ritchie film to give you time to absorb all the names. 

Orson Karte was not a well-known act in itself, but its members Julian Dembinski and Lex Blackmore also recorded as Positive Science for Ascension Records, an offshoot of the legendary ambient label Rising High Records probably best known for releasing music by The Irresistible Force, A Homeboy, A Hippie & A Funki Dredd and Luke Vibert. In short: no-one's really heard of Orson Karte (terrible name) but they come with some considerable pedigree.

More interestingly, Alexis Blackmore – Lex to his nearest and dearest – is responsible for one of the most memorable top ten hits of all time.

"Which memorable top ten hit?" I hear you ask, as you gasp in awe at your computer screen. "Is it Vienna by Ultravox? Blue Monday by New Order? Lovin' Is Easy by Hear'Say?" If you can just shut up asking questions, I'll tell you.

Lex ploughed a furrow on the dance music scene touring with The Shamen, apparently contributing to the rap on the Mysterons-sampling Make It Mine. Following the untimely death of The Shamen's Will Sin, he moved to Glasgow and became... drum roll... Blue Boy.

"Who?" 

Who?! What do you MEAN "who"? You definitely know Blue Boy. They had one of the most memorable top ten hits of all time. Positively iconic. Here are the lyrics, which you definitely recognise:

Remember me?
I'm the one who had your babies
Remember me?
I'm the one who had your babies
Ging-giggaging giggigiggiging etc etc etc

Yeah, you know it. Incidentally, Remember Me sampled Marlena Shaw's 1973 live version of Woman Of The Ghetto, which is definitely worth a listen right here. The "babies" line later on in the song contains so much sorrow.

So here we have another insight into Full On. A relatively anonymous act called Orson Karte can be tracked to, five years later, a big stonking top ten single which went some way to defining a '90s 'sound'.

There is plenty more Full On analysis to come (see the track listing here), but it will all be a bit less interesting than this one.

"WHY won't it be interesting? I want everything to be interestiiiiing! Waaaaah!"

You're really starting to get on my nerves, imaginary reader's voice.

Read the Full On series in, er full.

Read the Full On introduction explaining what the heck this is all about.

Oct 1, 2020

A Full On Guide to Full On: Lionrock's Lionrock and Little Rascal's Movin' To The Beat

Lionrock Little Rascal

After a bit of Italian and Spanish flavour, the next two tracks on Full On bring us to Northern England.

Track four is Lionrock by Lionrock, or Lion Rock as they are also listed. Is the emphasis on the Lion or on the Rock? Who knows.

It's another early progressive house classic. Justin 'Lionrock' Robertson worked in Manchester's Eastern Bloc Records and built up a neat line in banging four-to-the-floor tunes. Get your ears around this:

 

What's most interesting about Robertson is how his music went on to progress throughout the decade. 1993's Packet Of Peace was notable not only for its acidic lines, but for its conscious-style rap from MC Buzz B. (Not an actual bee.)

By 1995, he was pumping out breakbeats in the form of Straight At Yer Head, and in 1996 he blessed us all with his brilliant Sherlock Holmes-themed big beat album An Instinct For Detection. Oh how this Mancunian trilled at the Manchester-themed track titles: Snapshot On Pollard Street; Wilmslow Road. If memory serves me correctly, he was living in Withington at the time.

His inclusion on 1992's Full On album cements Manchester's reputation as a far-flung Balearic isle: shake those maracas, Bez.

The next track on Full On keeps us in Northern England. Little Rascal's Movin' To The Beat is a lively piano house track with a dollop of Newcastle attitude. I'm pretty sure this would have stormed the Northern clubs back in the day. It's insanely happy:

The Little Rascal himself is label owner Chris Scott, who has electronic music projects coming out of his ears. He's a member of Lexicon Avenue and Echomen, and scanning his list of remixing and production credits, you can spot names like Darren Emerson and John Digweed. This is a bloke hard-wired into club culture.

I know very little about Newcastle. The only time I have been in the North East, at least as an adult, was a visit to a single pub in which a guitarist was playing Jimmy Nail's Crocodile Shoes.

Do you know what I like about this album already? There's something gratifying about a club sound that can slip so easily from Northern Italy to North-East England. It's deliciously European and delightfully unifying.

Speaking of careers progressing throughout the 1990s, the next progressive house track on Full On – Edition One features someone responsible for one of the most memorable top ten hits of the decade. Think blue...

Read the Full On series in, er full.

Read the Full On introduction explaining what the heck this is all about.