Oct 26, 2006

Fatbelt: notch 6

As you join me on the last of my blogs about the Greenbelt Festival (yes, it really has taken me two months to write this blog series), you find an ill man, a DJ at death's door, a broken soul tearful at the terrible prospect of being too poorly to finish a final day working with the BBC on Greenbelt FM.

Fellow DJ and twin brother Lee (aka NineTenthsFullOfPenguins) had told me a story about eating spicy food then working up a sweat on a football pitch. He said this was a great way to kill off any nasty viruses in your body.


I decided to take his advice. I staggered to Manna Mexico, one of many fast food vans at Greenbelt that excel in both scrumptiousness of food and, like all the food vans, heftiness of prices. Grabbing the counter with both hands - partly for drama and partly for support as my legs were beginning to give way - I made my demand.

Me: I want a burrito with loads and loads of jalapeno peppers.
Manna man: How many? Five? Six?
Me [makes cowboy-tough-guy face]: How many have you got?
Manna man [making the burrito]: You'll kill the taste, you know.
Me: I don't care. I'm ill and I want you to make me well with just one meal. Just ONE MEAL! [Flourishes camply]
Manna man: Ah, a challenge! [Makes a pile of peppers not entirely unlike the mashed potato mountain in Close Encounters]

I ate the hottest burrito this side of The Titty Twister, if 'tasted' is the right word. Belching fire, I retired to my tent. That night, clothed in everything I could find, I sweated through pores I never knew existed, and by morning I stank like a rotting buffalo that had drowned in a vat of sewage after a night out with a skunk and John McCririck.

And I felt great. Like I was never ill!


My final lunchtime show - and my last job for Greenbelt FM - was almost a serene affair. There was one hiccup - a bunch of Daniel Bedingfield fans, who had won in a pop trivia quiz, turned up to collect a prize I had never promised them. Lee actually bought them a CD, but their mum looked at the one CD, then looked at her three girls, and said: "Oh. We'll just have to copy it". Ungrateful cow.

I am immensely grateful to the Greenbelt FM crew for the chance to mess around on radio for a long weekend. And I will be forever indebted to the BBC crew that supported us on the pretense of it being something to do with the Beeb's regional religious commitment, but really it was everything to do with giving a committed bunch of radio hacks the boost of a lifetime.


I had time off in the afternoon. Bill Drummond talked about The 17, and I caught some decent music. I got my trainers muddy, and poked a sleeping pig with a stick ("zzzzz grrrrrrnt zzzzzz..."). I enjoyed the beer tent for the first time. And as I left the site at Cheltenham, a thought edged its way into the corner of my mind...

"Hmm, what if I was to do a series of blog posts about my experience at Greenbelt? I wonder if it would be interesting enough?"

...and now we know, don't we?

Oct 19, 2006

Reviews: Squarepusher, Mary Ann Hobbs & Badly Drawn Boy

Filter this
Artist: Squarepusher

Title: Hello Everything
Label: Warp

Light sticks and jazz hands ahoy, it's Squarepusher's most enjoyable album to date. Still sounding like a tin of angry spanners attacking a robot giving birth, the Pusherman hasn't strayed into any new territory. Yet this new album seems rooted in more joyous melody and frenetic bass guitar performance than ever before. I haven't had this much fun since I shot JFK. Highly recommended.
Listen here.

Filter this
Artist: Mary Anne Hobbs
Title: Warrior Dubz
Label: Planet Mu
Mary Anne Hobbs isn't John Peel (apparently), but she does stick up for some good music. Warrior Dubz is a Laahndan thing. It's dark, grimy, wallowing in filthy beats, and makes you want to stride across the dancefloor as though you have super-elastic underwear. The intensity of this compilation matches its diversity, and if you want your beats a little, well, lowdown and dirty, this is definitely worth a shot. Listen here.

Cut off this
Artist: Badly Drawn Boy
Title: Born In The UK
Label: EMI

I respect Damon Gough because he's from Manchester and he wears a hat, and he has produced his new record with Nick Franglen from the lovely Lemon Jelly. But really! U2 lost all cred when they made an album consisting almost entirely of advert backing music, and now Badly Drawn Boy has done the same. He's gone too safe. All he needs do now is write a song in tribute to some dead tart and he is officially the new Elton John. Listen here.

Oct 16, 2006

Orbital's One Perfect Sunrise

Oh so sad.

Orbital's legacy is they made the world a sadder place. This is not a bad thing, and it beats bloody Armand Van Helden or women squealing about taking them away to another place blah blah.

This track, from their Blue album, was the last tune of the last set played by the Hartnoll brothers before they retired as Orbital. Which increases the sadness factor nicely.

Cry, damn you, CRY!

Oct 13, 2006

Fatbelt: notch 5

Candles have only one end for a reason. If you burn both ends, you not only get covered in wax, but you find yourself wading in a horribly overused metaphor.

The saga continues (finally). After DJing at a Sanctus 1 event at Cheltenham's Greenbelt Festival, I scuttle back to my tent in the early hours of Sunday morning. After a smidgeon of sleep, I am woken up by a phone call.

"We need you in the studio by 9am. At the latest."


It takes a few moments for me to remember I am in a tent and I'm working with the BBC on Greenbelt FM, the festival's on-site radio station. You can see previous posts on this here. I carry my groggy body to the studio and within moments I am miked up ready to co-present a broadcast of the festival's two-hour communion service.

It was a bit like commentating on the Queen Mother's funeral. I've never actually done that, so I could be guessing. There was the sense of fevered anticipation, bolstered by my lucid descriptions of people gathering in a field doing exciting things like sitting down and looking at grass and thinking.

When the event was underway, it was all hushed tones and snipped descriptions ("And that was Reverend Randy Bottoms and his flashing cassock. And now, the prayers...").


It was immense fun. You had to know when to speak, and you had to watch the tone of your voice, depending on how sombre the mood of the communion service was. And yes, 'sombre' is the right word; it is the best word to describe most church services I have sat through.

I have always been waiting to put on a serious 'radio voice'. At times I was just seconds away from lapsing into Mitchell and Webb's languorous snooker commentators.


The afternoon was fraught with activity, what with having lunch in the rain and interviewing peacenik pensioner and former Iraqi hostage Norman Kember. Well, 'fraught' wasn't quite the word. But I did get stressed when I was bellowed at by a colleague for no reason at all. And with stress, long hours, tiredness and tight deadlines comes only one thing.


By early evening, I looked like death. I worried a few people. I felt like crap. My throat was a war zone, and I passed from dizziness to muzziness with all the finesse of Alton Towers' Pirate Ship ride. I could hardly walk without feeling like that scene in Trainspotting where the ground swallows up that druggie bloke. My dulcet timbre and positively dashing vocal chords were evicted without notice. A tight, wheezy cough had moved in, shacked up with his squatter mates Captain Phlegm and Major Aching Shivery-Bones.


I don't know exactly when my immune system collapsed that night. But I nearly cried when I realised that I was heading towards my last day on Greenbelt FM. My final chance to impress the BBC and follow this crazy dream of being the next Brand / Moyles / Radcliffe / Peel (delete as inappropriate) could be a complete wash out.

It was a few hours before bed and I could only see myself getting worse.

This is the cliffhanger bit, when you post comments like "oooh, how exciting" and "do tell me more" and "hey Fats here's my photo hows about a date do you mind if my grandfather comes along". See you on the next post.