Nov 27, 2023

Ancient potted shrubbery: some thoughts on the new Beatles track

The brand new Beatles song Now And Then caused quite the stir. The lost Lennon song returned them to the number one spot for the first time since 1969. That's an awfully long time. To be fair, Free As A Bird should have been top of the pops in 1995, but the exorable Earth Song kept it off number one.

I should be frothing at the gills for a new single by the Beatles. Truth is, the Beatles never really excited me. Yeah, I know their place in history. Their phenomenal production techniques, their tape-twisting sonic savviness, the blueprint they set for the rest of time. But songs about submarines and octopuses seemed so childish. Says the man who owns numerous cartoon rave singles.

I spent many of my younger years in the Manchester Boys Choir, a well-regarded choir that hit the buffers when its choirmaster turned out to be a wrong 'un. My overwhelming memory of our repertoire was singing the iconic Beatles song Yesterday over and over again. And again. And again. This was not a good thing. It quashed any kind of Beatlemania I could have developed as a child.

As a fan of dance music, I should be into the Beatles by law. The references throughout the history of electronic bleeps are legion. The Chemical Brothers paid tribute to the Beatles on more than one occasion, from aping Tomorrow Never Knows for Setting Sun, to dropping in a snippet of Revolution 9 into Chemical Beats

Danger Mouse spliced The White Album with Jay Z for The Grey Album, one of the most interesting mash-up albums. You can hear a bit of the Beatles in the Black Dog's Book Of Dogma, and on UNKLE's Psyence Fiction album. And Massive Attack directly referenced Here Comes The Sun on their Blue Lines album.

Having said all this, a few years ago, I did make a video about the Beatles. It called The Fabulous Four, made for a project called Let The Artists In. The cartoon video has television snakes, ancient potted shrubbery, a safety-conscious canary, and an unexpected fourth member of the Beatles. Absolute glorious nonsense. And quite fitting too: I have a copy of John Lennon's In His Own Write, which is also full of cartoon daftery.

Incidentally, the silly Ringo reference in the video was taken from my Seven Inch show (2018/2019). The Beatles sketches featured in the video are the actual A3 cartoon props used in that show.

There you go. A blog post about the Beatles. And I didn't mention Candy Flip once.

A few years ago, I suc

Oct 30, 2023

Things I am willing to sell for Underworld

Underworld are playing in Manchester next year, and I completely failed to get a ticket.

No. You don't understand. I am really, really into Underworld. I've listened to loads of their songs. Like, more than ten of them. I've followed them from before you even grew ears. And I failed to get tickets. Call myself a fan? This is pathetic.

The news of their latest show passed me by. I must have received an email, but it was subsumed into a mire of spam messages and mailing list gunk. I must have been pinged by Facebook, or poked or shanked or whatever Facebook does these days. But the notification would have been lost in an endless scrolling carousel of political memes and nostalgia clickbaits.

So if you are selling a ticket for Underworld's Manchestet show in April 2024, here are ten things I would be willing to trade in return for said ticket:

An arm

A leg

One little finger

That green patch on my shoulder that seems to change shape every day

My shadow

All but three of my regrets

My ability to taste semolina

A greckel, whatever that is

The angry accountant that lives in my loft because I demand to have prime numbers shouted at me every 41 seconds

The value of the ticket

The Underworld gig is at Aviva Studios, Manchester's brand new mega-venue run by Factory International. I went there for Danny Boyle's Free Your Mind, a dance show based on The Matrix and Alan Turing. Which sounds awful, and the second half was ropey, but the first half was mesmerising and full of surprises.

Also I had two interesting encounters at the Danny Boyle show. One: I met a giant rabbit. Two: I met Danny Boyle. I only have a picture of one of these encounters, as you can see in the picture above. I wonder if the rabbit had an Underworld ticket. Hmmm. Should have checked its pockets.

Note to self: Always check rabbit pockets for elusive merch.

Sep 30, 2023

A yammer about planners and crammers

There are two ways of approaching deadlines. There's planning, and then there's cramming.

Planners will be methodical in their use of time. They will make lists, draw charts and use coloured pens to track their progress. They embrace routine, and know that a little goes a long way. They are the organisation equivalent of Doctor Who's Weeping Angels, slowly creeping forward knowing that they will eventually snog their victim to death. Is that what the Weeping Angels did? I can't remember.

Crammers will leave things until the last minute. A deadline is an abstract concept to be ignored, like death or mortgages or Pokemon. They will wait until the white heat of a deadline is burning their eyeballs before starting a project. And that's when they will do their best work. Like Superman only saving things at the last minute because he suddenly remembers he could rotate the Earth in a backwards direction and therefore reverse time, a chunk of scientific bunkum that would have left Isaac Newton literally spinning in his grave. 

I realise this sounds awfully binary. Planners and crammers. Opposite sides of a coin, like odd socks versus matching socks, toilet roll positioning, Tennant stans versus Smith stans, or techno heads arguing over their favourite Orbital brother.

The truth is, life is not binary. Real lift is nuanced, with gradations of grey, or 'greydations' for short. True joy is found in the inbetween places, in neither one extreme nor the other. How else can you explain the beauty of twilight, the thrill of salted caramel, or your third child who is neither the prettiest not the brightest but, y'know, they're a good kid.

But if we are to buy into the pseudo-psychological device of identifying people as planners or crammers then I am most definitely a crammer. I need deadlines to add spark to my creativity. It's why this blog post exists: I promised that I wouldn't go a month without blogging, and look, here we are, on the last day of the month squeezing out a blog turd before the month is flushed away.

A while ago, I posted about a rather large medical crisis. I am doing well, and my medical stats are good. Last week. my GP rang me to tell me how well I was doing, and how handsome I was, and how if I was to ride a horse, I would ride it brilliantly. Something like that anyway; I wasn't really listening. But yes, I am surviving well. Thriving, even.

This does mean that next month, I am going to step up my creative projects. I am back to full-time at the Burgess Foundation, and I have continued to pen my column for Electronic Sound magazine. In a few weeks, I will step up my commitments by increasing my writing work.

This does mean I'm going to have to learn to plan*. Now that I'm using assistive technology for read and write, and now that I am susceptible to the kind of fatigue that is probably common for people whose brains have exploded, I'm going to have to get organised. Writing diaries, wordcount deadlines, not starting my end-of-year album countdown a few days before the end of the year. Planning, not cramming.

There are three, not two, ways of approaching deadlines. There's planning. There's cramming. And there's planning the cramming, a whole new third nexus of human operation that will (a) blow a hole in all of our existing realities and (b) maybe guarantee that I produce more than one blog post a month.

* "I'm going to have to learn to plan" makes me sound super amateurish, as if I'm careening from one calamity to another. I'm actually an excellent planner. I remember to empty my bin before the bin lorry comes and everything.

Aug 31, 2023

Twitter: a pile of collapsed scaffolding populated by only bird crap and rats

Every now and then I will publish a 'my favourite tweets' blog post, because it's easy content and I am so super lazy.

Except, I can't do that anymore, can I. Twitter is now a waste ground, a pile of collapsed scaffolding populated by only bird crap and rats. It's not even called Twitter anymore. It's called Eggs or something. Absolute rubbish.

Which is a shame. I quite liked the synergy between my Twitter feed and this blog. Twitter definitely fed this blog. And sometimes I would fart out a tweet with very little forethought, and that would inspire a blog post.

Facebook isn't in great shape either. Recently I read every single post on Facebook that had ever been published in the history of humankind, and 98% of them were a picture of a cassette tape and a pencil, next to the words "like this picture if you know what the link is". I'm old enough to remember cassette tapes. We didn't use pencils to wind them. We use tape players. They had fast forward buttons. AND a rewind button. Pencils?! Jeez.

And then there's Instagram and Threads and Blue Balls and Mastubate and honestly I can't keep up with the modem world. In my day, the only way you could publish something was to cave ten commandments into a stone tablet then hike up a mountain until you were smited by God.

Good job Blogger is still massively trendy. All the kids are on Blogger. Skateboards, handstands, tank tops, blogs. These are all the cool things that cool kids keep cool to.

Crikes. What a waste of a blog post. This is worse than Twitter. I could have written something interesting, such as the fact that the top seven positions in the current UK singles chart are occupied by women, or how to get Pot Noodle stains out of a vicar's underwear. But no. More semi-translucent thoughts vomited into a cavern of nothing.

I shall end this blog post with a list of my five favourite tweets, although they're not real tweets because I just made them up right here right now.

1. Aaaaargh.

2. Aaaaaaaaaargh.

3. Seriously, is someone going to help me, I'm up to my neck in frogs.

4. Aaaaargh. Why are you typing? Stop typing. The frogs!

5. Oh hi. A frog here. Ignore the screaming. Nothing suspicious going on here. Go about your day. Pay no attention to the millions of frogs with knives. Nope. Everything is normal.

* As of week ending 31 August 2023. In order: Dua Lipa, Billie Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo, Doja Cat (pictured), Taylor Swift, Peggy Gou, Becky Hill.

Aug 20, 2023

Belief to the Max: What my brain enjoyed at BlueDot 2023

I never thought I would make it to BlueDot Festival. As mentioned in a previous blog post, my brain exploded and I've been quite poorly.

But made it, I did. It was a real achievement, like Neil Armstrong walking on the moon, or even more impressively, the moon walking all over Neil Armstrong. One small step for a pre-stroke Roland, but a giant leap considering my recent circumstances. 

BlueDot is an annual festival dedicated to music and science. The music often has an electronic music bent, which is my favourite kind of bent. And the science side of the programming is especially relevant because the festival takes place at the Jodrell Bank observatory, its giant outer space magic dish looming wherever you go.

Honestly, that dish is so dang cool, firing its radio waves with abandon at the furthest reaches of space. The dish constantly moves throughout the weekend, and during headline performances it becomes the trendiest projection screen this side of Venus. The dish is especially exciting for Doctor Who fans, of which there are many at BlueDot. Firstly, a TV prop version of the telescope killed off the Tom Baker Doctor Who. And secondly, the dish often moves position when you're not looking, like those scary statues in Blink.

So let's go through some favourite acts from the weekend.

Pop powerhouse Georgia plays all of the instruments all of the time. Joyous sunshine on a cloudy day. Her father Leftfield also played the festival, Neil Barnes' perfect sound design making him a contender for the loudest act of the weekend, perhaps tying in the decibel destruction stakes with the raucous Snapped Ankles.

We danced like crazy to Acid Klaus, a wonderfully hedonistic party band led by Adrian Flanagan from the International Teachers Of Pop. Onipa was my surprise of the weekend. They gave us a relentless Afrobeat explosion led by human Duracell bunny KOG. Irresistible  Ghanaian rhythms colliding enthusiastically with UK electronica. And the bawdy electrostomp of MADMADMAD brought on the cowbell apocalypse while, later in the gig, channeling the ferocity of very early Chemical Brothers.

There was so much more, including Grace Jones and TVAM and Creep Show, but let's end things with my top two bestest fave acts of the weekend. 

Belief were in many ways on of the simplest acts in the line-up. Two guys, a bunch of gear, not much else. But when it's acid house of such housey acidity, I'm not complaining. Oh, it was so good. 

And all hail Max Cooper, whose audiovisual extravaganza I'd failed to catch on two previous occasions. He. Was. Stunning. One of the best gigs I've been to, with super duper techno gorgeousness soundtracking colossal juxtaposing visuals. I mean, really colossal. Front rail, eyes the size of jellyfish, brain flung into the cosmos.

There's much I missed, including most of Grace Jones because I was busy maxxing out to Max Cooper. The endless deluge of mud curtailed much of my casual browsing, so I missed Adam Buxton and Toby Hadoke and Pavement. The one talk I did catch was the brilliant Matthew Cobb talking about all the horrible diseases that are going to destroy humankind. Maybe not the best talk to attend when you're up to your neck in mud, but hey ho.

A special shout-out to Nina, Nick, Dave, my surprise neighbour Angela from Nine Arches Press, my glamping tent which lessened the worst effects of the mid, the topless drunk dancer who fed me pizza, and the horrible person who did a big Mr Whippy poo in the showers.

Roll on 2024.

Aug 13, 2023


I'm 50 years old today. The full Five Oh. In da club with 50 Cent. 50 wheels on my wagon.

I don't really know how I got here. I started this blog when I was 31. And now here I am, on a diet of coal dust and zimmer frames. I remember when this was all fields.

I'm super grateful to reach this landmark. It is, of course, completely arbitrary. I might as well measure my life in shapes or whisks or Aphex Twin Soundcloud tracks. Still. It's a sense of achievement, like getting your steps in or putting the bins out.

My original plans for this landmark birthday were grand. Go clubbing. Ride on a pleasure cruise. Launch a rocket and punch Jupiter in the face. But I scaled down my ambitions. I've had to make do with drinks with friends, which has been a whole bucket of lovely. Friends are great, aren't they.

Can I derive any special meaning from having my 50th today? Probably not. Barbie Girl by Aqua is currently number 50 in the singles chart, an unwelcome revival prompted by the (very good) Barbie movie. At number 50 in the current albums chart is Legend, the greatest hits compilation by Bob Marley and the Wailers. This all seems suitably old school for an old guy.

How about the number 50 in terms of Warp Records catalogue numbers? WAP50 is the woozy space jam Wilmot by Sabres of Paradise. That'll do nicely. The track is drunken and lazy and atmospheric and giddy, and I shall wish for no better a metaphor.

Orbital's fiftieth album track, if you line up their studio albums on Discogs then do a rough count that might be wrong, is the Ian Drury-sampling bovver boy techno stomp Oi! Maybe that should set my attitude for the next ten years. Lots of stomping. Shouting "hit me!" a lot. Kick up a bit of trouble.

Earlier this year, Fifty Fifty became the first female K-pop band to score a top ten single in the UK. Cupid is a sickly-sweet slice of Spice Girls-lite pop that, I think, I've heard knocking about TikTok somewhere. I like this much less than the Orbital and Sabres thing. Forget I ever mentioned this.

I feel optimistic about my fifties. Partly because I came through a lot to get here, and I'm grateful for being on planet Earth. And also partly because I have an empty brain and I am easily amused, like a puppy or a jellyfish or Ken from the Barbie film.

Enough waffle about being 50. I've got a pub to go to. I'm going to have 50 pints and them I'm going to have 50 cakes and then I'm going to go to 50 more pubs, because I will double down on this 50 theme until I'm 50 feet under.

Further Fats: Because / a melon / only slightly: birthday thoughts (2012)

Further Fats: Five starring roles in the video for Aphex Twin's On (2018)

Jul 17, 2023

1990s techno just trended on TikTok

Latest news from TikTok land. A user has posted about a misprinted vinyl edition of Taylor Swift's Speak Now (Taylor's Version). Instead of the dulcet tones of Pennsylvania's favourite country music escapee, it played the album Happy Land: A Compendium Of Electronic Music From The British Isles 1992-1996 Vol. 1. Quite the surprise.

I have to admit something. I know nothing about Taylor Swift's music. I have a good working knowledge of a lot of pop acts – Girls Aloud, Lil Nas X, Pet Shop Boys, Years & Years, Kylie Minogue, Crazy Frog. But Taylor's music leaves me cold, with her being my least preferred speed-themed music star after Rush, Fast Food Rockers and Hurry Styles. (Sorry.) 

TikTokker Rachel Hunter was the victim of an anomaly, like buying a packet of porridge and accidentally getting a vortex to an alternative universe in which glow sticks and tie-dyed t-shirts are the norm. She accidentally found herself listening to:

Xeper's Carceres Ex Novum, produced by the bloke from The Black Dog and featured on the first Trance Europe Express album.

Soul Vine (70 Billion People) which found Cabaret Voltaire embracing 90s techno while sampling TV show The Outer Limits.

Thunderhead's 11-minute acid ambient dub monster True Romance. This also appeared on Holistic Recordings' Paul Smith EP, which I don't think has anything to do with the similarly named lead singer of Maxïmo Park.

And more. There's Matthew Herbert, Aphex Twin, and Happy Land by Ultramarine starring the melty vocals of Robert Wyatt.

The original TikTok video is great. She focusses on a sinister Cabaret Voltaire sample. "There's 70 billion people on earth, where are they hiding," says the voice. Fair point. My local Spar is always dead so they're definitely not in there. Where are they? Inside the freezer cabinet? Hiding under the frozen peas? Good question, CabVol.

I once bought an album called Anthology by the 1990s techno act Pentatonik (listen to Green here). A lovely vinyl edition bought from an underground independent Manchester record shop, the name of which escapes me. I was gutted to find two sides were identical: clearly a misprint. I never got it replaced. I've still got it somewhere – it's probably worth, oooh, at least £5.24 now.

Big up to Above Board Distribution, who I hope will sell loads more copies of their British electronica compilation. I didn't expect 1990s techno to be trending on TikTok. That's like a penny farthing competing the Tour de France. Us old timers will never win, but, y'know, it's nice to be noticed sometimes.

Further Fats: Tiny promises that get me through (2016)

Further Fats: Are number one singles getting shorter? (TL;DR: #1s shorter Y/N?) (2022)

Jun 30, 2023

Braindance: an update


Hello there, reader. My name is Fat Roland. You might remember me from the blog post that leaked an Autechre album that turned out not to be an Autechre (pictured) album, or that blog post about Guru Josh that got a slightly snarky response from Guru Josh's PR people.

It's nearly two months since I posted about "my personal braindance", a euphemistic name I gave to a stroke that I suffered ten weeks ago. I wrote about my hallucinations, my loss of eyesight and the smattering of internet projects that had to come to an end. Go here to read that blog post.

It has been a while, so I guess we're all due for an update.

There is good news and bad news. Actually, no. There is only really good news. I am doing well. The hallucinations have calmed down, I'm getting better every week, and I've even lost two and a half stone in weight because I'm being a good boy and eating all of my vegetables. I suffer from dizziness and fatigue, but nothing that I can't handle, and even this is improving week by week.

My vision has improved. In that original blog post, I talked about hallucinations of an inter-dimensional bicycle and a dog-walking shrub. Since then, I've had no significant visual disruption aside from small glitches. My knackered brain has clearly figured out how my eyes work. Well done, brain. I'm still using visual aids to read text, but I don't need it all of the time, although I get less worn out if I let the technology do the work.

Another thing that happened to me two months ago, and I didn't mention this originally, is that I was diagnosed with diabetes. Type two, which is twice as cool as type one because that's how numbers work. The undiagnosed diabetes didn't cause the stroke, and the stroke didn't cause the diabetes. They both developed because of my crap lifestyle and being a lardy old sausage.

The medical system is looking after me. I've been to a diabetes support group, I've had personal phone calls from my GP, and on Monday someone's going to put knives in my eyes to see if my brain has fallen out (or something, I didn't read the letter properly). When you have two major conditions, you suddenly get shoved to the front of medical queues. It's like being a celebrity, but almost dead instead of famous.

So yes, things are going well. Hurrah. Worst and best moments, aside from (worst) the stroke and (best) surviving the stroke?

The best moment was when my mates delivered a Cameo message from IndyCar racing driver Romain Grosjean, who had famously risen like a phoenix from the flames in a terrible crash at the 2020 Bahrain formula one grand prix. Romain said some very sweet things which made me cry for joy. I'll post the video one day, if you're allowed to post these type of things.

The worst moment was in the hospital, just a few days after the stroke. The entire ward had just one pillow. One. In the bed next to me was a septuagenarian with a broken hip, so he got the solitary head support. Poor guy. I used my own clothes as a pillow, which is a bit awkward when you only have the one set of clothes and none of the pyjamas fit you. Humiliating. The NHS needs more than claps and rainbow flags. 

I'm doing well. Resting lots, working more, eating boring things, getting stronger. I'm still writing my column for Electronic Sound magazine, and I've still got a hand on the tiller at the Burgess Foundation. Both have been tremendously supportive.

And I might write more blog posts soon. I've been slacking off recently...

Further Fats: I have just burned down my local NHS hospital while listening to Phil Collins on my walkman (2010)

Further Fats: My own personal braindance (2023)