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! 


Jun 8, 2021

Cover me bad: De-Orbit by Speedy J

Cover Me Bad: De-orbit

Look, can everyone just get off my back?

I've accidentally ruined by blog. For the past three days, I've got caught in a daily loop of (a) pretending that I'm making cover versions of other songs and (b) then posting one of my favourite electronic music tracks and being silly about it.

If I post one more stupid blog post about covering a song then not actually taking it seriously, this blog is finished. You're all hating it: you've made that much clear. Just leave me alone. This has to end.

No more stupid 'Cover me bad' blog posts. 

It. 

Stops. 

Here.

Artist: Speedy J
Track: De-Orbit
Year: 1991
Reviews: "Spine shivering" 4-star Discogs review 

Oh crap.

This is perhaps the only track I love that has, at its centre, a Kool & the Gang sample. It's the breakbeat that persists throughout the track. Sigh. Are we really doing this? Alright then...

To do a cover version of De-Orbit, I'd kidnap Kool & the Gang and make them perform for me under duress. If they don't cooperate, then I'd threaten to withhold their comfort blankets / Gameboys / Pot Noodles / crochet sets / whatever gets them through the day.

There's a squeaky square wave keyboard motif that sounds like a guinea pig having a tantrum during a game of Monopoly. So I'd have a guinea pig. And a game of Monopoly.

Look, I said I would stop doing this. It's demeaning. No-one wants to read this.

There are warm pads adding rich melody in the background that sound like a whale quietly appreciating Water Lilies by the impressionist artist Monet. So I'd use a whale. And I'd get that painting from wherever they keep Monet paintings.

This blog used to matter. It won two awards eleven years ago. That MEANS something, y'know.

As the track fades out, there's some DJ-scratch style detuning going on. The effect is something akin to a malfunctioning laser in a science fiction film. So, er, I'd get Fatboy Slim and detune him. And get a laser. From a film.

Look, I don't know. It's a classic track and nobody should be doing a cover version of it. This whole thing is ridiculous.

Never again. There will definitely not be another stupid 'Cover me bad' blog post tomorrow. Definitely not.

*looks to camera*


Jun 7, 2021

Cover me bad: Chime by Orbital

Cover Me Bad: Chime

I have to make a huge apology. For the last couple of days on this blog, I have pretended to launch a covers band. I then spooled off a load of nonsense about whisks, washing machines and constipated cows. I am sorry to everyone I disappointed.

Please do not read the last two blog posts. They were a waste of valuable internet resources.

Let's take this seriously. I'm going to write a proper cover version, with proper instruments, and people are going to respect me as a musician. Let's choose a random song from my record collection.

Artist: Orbital
Track: Chime
Year: 1989
Reviews: "What a tune!" 5-star Amazon review (I genuinely couldn't find a comedically bad Amazon review)

Bells. We're going to need lots of bells.

Tubular Bells. Cowbells. Church bells. Anything that goes clang.

Kettle bells, which I don't think are real bells, but are the kind of things weightlifters lift up to show people they can lift things off the ground. I want those kind of bells.

Bell's whisky. I need to drink as much Bell's whisky as possible even though I read a booklet once that said blends aren't as good as single malts and I never learnt why but I remembered it so I could sound intelligent when I talked about whisky.

The TV programme Saved By The Bell. Alexander Graham Bell who invented the telephone even though it was probably one of those urban myths where he got the credit but the telephone was actually invented by Ainsley Harriott or something. 

Ali Campbell from UB40! He's a bell. A camp bell. I'll have him as well. While I'm at it, I'll have David Bellamy, the Scottish band The Bluebells. And Belle and Sebastian. Actually, I'm not that bothered about Belle and Sebastian.

I think that's going to sound lovely. Friedrich Nietzsche once said that “without music, life would be a mistake.” My beautiful cover version of Chime by Orbital, with its infinite cacophony of bells, finally gives Nietzsche's statement true meaning.

Chime has got bells in, right? I can't remember.

Told you I was going to take this seriously.

Jun 6, 2021

Cover me bad: Block Rockin' Beats by the Chemical Brothers

Cover Me Bad: Block Rockin' Beats

Yesterday, I decided to form a cover band. It didn't go well. I've literally had billions of messages accusing me of cruelty to the clergy. So ignore yesterday's blog post. I've decided to try again, properly this time.

I still reckon I could pick any random track in my record collection, and I could perform a brilliant cover version. I am, famously, as talented as Mozart at doing music things, with the added bonus that I can play the kazoo way better than him.

So let's pick a tune and see how we go. I've got my record box in front of me, wedged between my thighs. Eyes closed. Let's choose!

Artist: Chemical Brothers
Track: Block Rockin' Beats
Year: 1997
Reviews: "One, two, three, goodbye!" 1-star Amazon review translated from Spanish

Crikes. This is a tough one. The first thing to note about Block Rockin' Beats is the really tight drum rhythm. They sampled this from a Bernard Purdie drum solo, so I suppose I could sample something as well. Let me just fill my washing machine with coat hangers and put it on fast spin. There we go. A lovely sound.

The next main thing is the screechy sirens bit. Sounds like constipated horses alarmed at a particularly aggressive cow. I haven't got a horse or a cow. Can you buy them off of the internet? Crikes, there's one website that says people drug horses at auctions so they appear calm. Nope, I'm not buying a horse. Let's compromise. Let's find a cow, get it constipated, and wait until it makes a noise. From either end. Sorted.

The final main bit of the song is the voice that goes "Back with another one of those block rockin' beats." Apparently this is a sample of Philadelphia rapper Schoolly D, who narrated Aqua Teen Hunger Force and played a big part in inventing gangsta rap. Simple. All I need to do is become a gangsta rapper, and I've completed my cover version of Block Rockin' Beats,

A Gangsta Rap
by Fat Roland

Roland Fatty Fats is bustin' down your door
So back up otherwise I'll, erm, do a poo on your floor
Gimme the microphone and make sure it's plugged in
Compton and Long Beach, they are places I've never bin
Dibbly bop a-wah-wah-woo
Insert something about g-thangs, although I'm not quite sure what they are
Put a glock on your, um, AK-47
And then put it back again because you don't know where it's been
Inglewooooood!

So there you go. That's my Chemical Brothers cover version done. Got a bit side-tracked there with rapping a different song, but let's not question the artistic process.

Please send complaints to the usual address.

Jun 5, 2021

Cover me bad: Are We Here? by Orbital

Cover me bad: Are We Here?

I've decided to form a cover band.

Ages ago, I found a bunch of tribute band flyers in a pub. Among them were Korn Again. Guns Or Roses. U2-2. Bon Giovi and Slipnowt. The latter being from Yorkshire, I presume.

Tribute bands are the extremists of the cover band world. Committed to one particular act, one particular musical backlist. You can't stray if you're a tribute band. Perhaps a Busted tribute band called Busted Flush could get away with a McFly track or two, but you have to stay within your own chosen discography.

Not so for other cover bands. You know the kind. They play every Tuesday night in the back room of the Duck & Testicles, with the same old playlist. Achy Breaky Heart, Simply The Best, Knocking On Heaven's Door. They'll play anything that gets someone's foot tapping over a warm pint of John Smith's. Instead of going balls deep into a single act's oeuvre, their repertoire is wide and shallow, like a puddle or similar spillage.

You know what? I can do this. Let's dive into my pile of gramophone records and choose a song at random. I bet you ten billion pounds I could do an ace cover version of any song. Okay. I'm flipping through now. Eyes closed. Here we go!

Artist: Orbital
Track: Are We Here?
Year: 1994
Reviews: "Hasn't grabbed me yet." 1-star Amazon review

Oh. Right. I was hoping for My Way or something. We can work with this, don't worry.

The first main element are the questioning vocals. Some bloke waffles on asking questions, as if they're bugging a woman on Twitter. Are we here? Are we unique? What does God say? I'd recreate this by kidnapping a vicar and make them read a sermon under duress.

Then there's the drum and bass-y stuff. Easy. Set up an obstacle course of kitchen implements on the hill near my house. Whisks, toasters, knives, that kind of thing. Anything metallic that will make a clattery noise when hit. Put the vicar on roller skates, and as soon as they starts their sermon, give 'em a good push down the hill.

And finally, the other thing about Are We Here? is that it's long. So once the vicar has rolled to a stop, their battered body embedded with various kitchen gadgets, yank them back uphill with a rope and start all over again. It'll be like Sisyphus with his boulder but, y'know, not that at all.

Like I said, I can do an ace cover version of any song, and I've just totally proved it. You now owe me ten billion pounds.

Who said blogging doesn't pay?

May 31, 2021

This is not an interview

Hello, Fat Roland. Thanks for joining us.

My pleasure. I've always wanted to appear on this talk show.

It's not a talk show. Tell us what you've been up to this month.

I've been busy. I was the venue keyholder for a polling station. I went to the cinema for the first time in ages. I saw Judas And The Black Messiah, which was great. I bought a Playstation 4, long after it was cool to buy one. A chat show, then? Is it a chat show.

Nope. Is it right you had a gig? With a socially distanced audience?

Game show?

Just answer the question.

Yes, I had a wonderful time at Making Waves: Queer Edition, a cabaret night for Pride In Trafford. I did some silly cartoon things that involved gay pop anthems, a comedy strip tease and an unexpected Annie Lennox.

That must have been strange, being in a room with an audience.

Not at all: it was lovely. I'm going to guess reality show. Quiz show? I'm not sure what other kinds of shows have interviews like this.

Did you have to put much work into the performance?

Tonnes. That's why I've not blogged much.

What's a blog?

I'll explain later. There was quite a bit of new material so I spent a lot of time on props and making new music. And just the basic writing, of course, which takes forever. What with me being an artiste and all.

Erm. I suppose. And do you have lots more gigs coming up?

Is this a roast? Like they do in America? I've heard about those.

No, it's not a roast.

Oh. I'll answer the question, then. I don't have much in the pipeline. I'll be doing the Sunday Assembly on June 27th. I'd love to be booked for more stuff, performing and compering, but there aren't that many things going on just yet. Things will get busier as we continue this rocky road out of lockdown.

It's a soap opera.

What?

It's not a a talk show or a game show or a roast. It's a soap opera.

I don't...

This isn't an interview. It's a script for a soap opera.

That doesn't even make any sense. In form or content. It's clearly a question and answer session.

Yes. Like a melodrama. You're the hen pecked husband, I'm the wronged wife looking for revenge.

That sounds terrible. I'd like to go now, please.

Thanks for joining us, Fat Roland. Have you anything you'd like to plug?

Yeah. Your face. WITH MY FIST.

Ha ha ha! Brilliant roast.

What?!

May 7, 2021

Noel Gallagher: mask-avoiding shopper and... Record Store Day Ambassador?!

Record Store Day and Noel Gallagher

Record Store Day is amazing. In an era when record shops should be crumbling to dust, Record Store Day has helped record shops not only retain customers, but turn them into destinations worth cueing for. Like Boxing Day sales, butchers at Christmas, or donkey rides.

So whatever I'm about to say, you need to bear that in mind. Record Store Day is a wonderful thing. Yes, vinyl is so expensive, it would be cheaper to make them out of diamond-encrusted mortgages, but it is still a fantastic project and long may it thrive.

Earlier this week, Record Store Day UK announced Noel Gallagher as their official ambassador. The announcement was accompanied by a video of Noel praising Sifters Records, where I bought my first ever seven-inch singles. And yes, as it says in Shakermaker, I would have been just 16 when Mr Sifter sold me those songs. 

So yeah, I get it. Noel. Record shops. Makes sense.

However, Noel has been a naughty boy during the pandemic. Last year, he took against face coverings, wibbling something about liberties and not being able to catch the virus, and eventually getting challenged in a supermarket for not wearing a mask. "It’s not a law," he said about the, er, law. Why is this such a mantra for so many older men?

I had a moan on Twitter (hey, I'm an older man too) saying that mask avoiding puts all retailers and shoppers at risk, which it does, and this decision to appoint a 'mask denier' should be reversed immediately.

I also wrote an email. For the sake of transparency, and to show off the fact that I know how emails work, here's the text. I got a quick response from Record Store Day, or rather the Entertainment Retailers Association, the organisation that drives RSD. Their reply follows my email below.

Hello Record Store Day pals,

I’m writing to ask you to reconsider appointing Noel Gallagher as ambassador for Record Store Day.

Following a difficult year for high street shops, Record Store Day will play a more important role than ever in restoring activity to indie record stores. Appointing inspiring and characterful ambassadors is a great way to promote publicity for the project.

However, Noel Gallagher is an insensitive choice at best, and an irresponsible choice at worst. He received widespread publicity for his refusal to wear a face covering as a mitigation against Covid-19. “They’re pointless,” he said, railing against the removal of liberties and referring to mask-wearing podcaster Matt Morgan as a “cowardly germophobe”. This is despite clear scientific evidence that, alongside other measures, mask wearing helps to protect ourselves and others from the virus.

Opening up a high street shop presents an instant Covid-19 danger to customer-facing staff. Mask avoiding puts all retailers and shoppers at risk, and choosing Gallagher as the ambassador for RSD legitimises dangerously complacent views and puts at risk those people that will be working and shopping to make Record Store Day a success.

Ethical considerations are part of the DNA of Record Store Day, whether it’s supporting high street shops, promoting War Child or raising donations for the AAPI Community Fund. This appointment undermines the image and ethos of your organisation.

At least you didn’t appoint Ian Brown.

Please, for the sake of RSD fans, customers and retailers, reverse your decision to make Noel Gallagher as Record Store Day ambassador.

That's alright, isn't it? Covered my points, didn't waffle too much, didn't say 'bum' or 'willy'.

Here is the reply from the Record Store Day people.

Hi Roland,

Thanks for contacting us about this.

I appreciate your concerns and have contacted Noel Gallagher’s team about this issue.

As background, the record stores chose Noel Gallagher as their ambassador as he has a long and celebrated history of supporting them and their businesses. He has taken part in RSD many times with special and thoughtful releases that so many of their customers love. What is important for RSD is that he shares their love of vinyl and independent shops, and for that reason RSD do not believe it is appropriate to reconsider his involvement as our ambassador.

However, we have been reassured that Noel won’t be making any other comments about it whilst he is an RSD ambassador. 

We know just how hard every single RSD shop has worked to keep their customers safe throughout last year’s 3 Drop events and Black Friday and are confident this will not impact on any of the official social distancing rules in place.  All our shops enforce mask wearing for all their customers.

Thanks again for your email and for supporting your local record stores.

No doubt written through gritted teeth, but a very cordial response. That's enough for me. They've made their point, and I'm not going to labour mine: it's not as if they're toasting puppies over a burning orphanage. OR ARE THEY? No. No, they're not.

I have some take-aways from this.

1. The record stores chose Noel as their ambassador. This pretty much deflates my argument with one sharp prick. My worry was the message it sends about mask-wearing in record shops, but if the shops ain't bothered, then why am I moaning.

2. Noel has been told to shut up about not wearing face coverings. This is brilliant news, and should ensure he sends the right signals as RSD ambassador. And if he suddenly goes all David Icke, they can fire him from the role, preferably out of a cannon.

3. Noel's love for record shops is far more important to RSD than his skriking about masks. This is another indication, echoed in my last post about plague ravers, that there are many people in the music industry far less vexed by viral risks than me.

That last point rankles the most. As we move into Covid 2.0, learning to live alongside this new element of our lives, mask-avoiders and plague rave DJs will thrive without consequence of their previous statements or actions. That somehow seems wrong.

Record Store Day is amazing. Remember that bit? It's still true. And when next I go to an indie record shop, I'll trust their Covid precautions, if indeed they're still required by then. However if Noel Gallagher walks in, I'm pouncing on him and sellotaping album sleeves on his face. It's for your own good, Noel.

Further Fats: Glastonbury's got 99 bands, and Jay Z should be one of them (2008)

Further Fats: The Battle of Britpop – the dullest beef in the history of beefs (2020)

May 3, 2021

The First Dance: scientific clubbing versus plague raving

A clubber and a crowd in Liverpool

The sight of thousands of revellers crammed into a Liverpool club the other night was initially quite disconcerting.

Where were their masks? Why weren't they distancing? Where were all the awkward elbow bumps?

Circus's The First Dance was actually one of two nightclub experiments at the weekend to see if large-scale music events could work with the right safety measures in place. The clubbers went through a scientific testing and monitoring, turning them into guinea pigs with glow sticks. Which obviously is the cutest thing in the world.

These are the first official club events in the UK since the virus hit, and it was a delight to see. Big up to Liverpool for pioneering our way out of lockdown: until now, the city was only famous for Richard and Judy, The Zutons, and Ken Dodd.

The line-up included the Blessed Madonna, Fatboy Slim and Sven Väth. The last name impressed me: he's one of my all-time bestest faves: here's me raving about him in 2010. Sven Väth helping end the apocalypse. Brilliant! I knew I could count on Sven...

Except...

I mentioned Väth on Twitter, and I was immediately put right by Posthuman, who in non-virus times runs a night called I Love Acid and is an all-round good egg. Turns out Sven is a plague rave DJ. Posthuman was hugely positive about the event, but likened Väth's booking to a "having an arsonist on the fire safety board".

What's a plague rave? These are big club events held in places in the grip of Covid-19, with headline acts flown in while the virus spikes with deadly effect. In fact, the events are probably possible precisely because the host country has lax virus regulations. Clubbers arrive in their thousands and the virus claims its victims, putting pressure on already inadequate levels of testing and health care.

Sven Väth has been touring India, a nation suffering a brutal Covid surge. Väth has always had an attachment to the iconic clubbing destination of Goa, so it was no surprise that particular Western Indian state was on his gig schedule. His appearance behind the decks at a particular Goa event in early March was described by one giddy electronic music website as going "viral among fans of electronic music." No irony whatsoever. I won't link to it here.

Let's draw out a timeline. In the month after that March Goa gig, Covid cases across India rose by a multiple of six. Now let's extend that timeline. On the day of writing this piece, around two months after that Goa gig, the number of cases across India was 26 times larger. And in Goa specifically, cases were 64 times higher than they were in early March, albeit rising from a comparatively lower base. 

Excuse the number crunching, but this helps us understand that any big-name DJ show taking place in India in early March could easily have had the consequence of being a super-spreader event.

This isn't just about Sven Väth, of course. Business Teshno has been raising awareness of such Covid-calamitous behaviour for months, calling out the likes of DJs Dixon, Luciano, Solomun and Nina Kraviz.

There are plenty of acts criticising plague ravers too. Carl Cox said in Mixmag

"It’s irresponsible to be out there at the moment... Having a party in a pandemic, it doesn't make any sense whatsoever. People are still suffering from this and we aren't out of yet. This isn't a Steven Spielberg movie called Panic, you know: we are in it."

And Bicep called such Covid-careless DJs "disgusting", saying:

"They don’t need to do this. Take a year off, write an album. So many people lower down in dance music are struggling and this paints the whole industry in a bad light."

I feel weird linking to Mixmag considering they've been raving about Väth's Liverpool appearance on social media, but anyhoo...

This brings us back to the Liverpool experiment. This project was a shining example of science-led creativity, and everyone involved deserves a jolly good pat on the back. The line-up had its problems, but the larger picture could mean a route out of the apocalypse, and the revival of a zillion careers across the entertainment industry. 

It's a shame about Sven. I'd been slow to pick up specifics on the whole plague rave thing, hence me initially praising Väth's involvement. I'd seen Business Teshno's social media activity, but it all seemed rather confusing. Mainstream outlets like Resident Advisor and Mixmag don't seem particularly vexed with the plague rave thing, and there appears to be a widespread suspicion that once the clubbing industry gets back on its knees, the offending DJs will continue to coin it in, with no consequences of their pandemic actions.

As for me? I'd love to go clubbing again – I Love Acid have committed to not booking plague rave DJs, and it will be one of the first nights I go to. That said, as someone who's higher risk, it'll be some time before I have the confidence to get all sweaty and giddy with strangers. We'll see.

More importantly, what about the awkward elbow bumps? Honestly, a little wave is a lot less cringy. Let's stop the elbow bumps. Please. For the sake of future clubbing coolness, let's stop the elbow bumps.

Further Fats: A ticket to ride: bumbling into MC Tunes and putting the green suit away (2007)

Further Fats: The quarantine raves – Top one, nice one, get Covid? (2020)

Apr 30, 2021

A rainbow of Aphex Twins

Just because. The orange is too red, I didn't really nail the cold colour spectrum, and the final 'violet' pic is a record cover because I couldn't find anything more interesting.

Still. Here's Aphex Twin express as the mainstream seven colours of the rainbow.








Apr 28, 2021

What was the best 1990 UK number one single?

Snap - The Power

1990 was a big music year for me. I was 16 going on 17, blossoming from a snot-nosed teenage misery into a slightly older snot-nosed teenage misery.

This mean I have OPINIONS about chart hits in 1990. That's OPINIONS in capital letters. In fact, I'm pretty sure I could grade all of 1990's UK number one singles without much thought at all.

Let's do it. A first-draft blog post, no editing, no research (apart from getting the list from Wikipedia). What were the best UK number one singles from 1990?

Let's go through every dang one of them. Firstly, we have Band Aid II's Do They Know It's Christmas? Bros and Sonia? Pretty terrible, although not as embarrassing as the third one in 2004. Then there was New Kids on the Block's Hangin' Tough, which sounded as tough as a floppy curtains fringe (which hadn't quite hit the mainstream just yet). A bad start to the year. 

Then we have a half-decent run of number one singles. Kylie Minogue turning into a career artist with Tears on My Pillow, a weeping Sinéad O'Connor being iconic on the Prince-penned Nothing Compares 2 U, and Norman Cook foreshadowing his 1990s dance music dominance on Beats International's Dub Be Good to Me. Let's put Sinead and Beats into the top tier, which I will discuss at the end of this blog post.

Remember, this is all first reactions. Looking through the list, typing these words, zero post-editing.

Ah, now here comes Snap!'s The Power, a strange, angular block-party jam with Turbo B looking like a president or something (pictured). I hated this track when it came out: so strange and discordant. I was wrong, of course. This genius track goes straight through to the top tier.

Madonna's Vogue was a huge hit, but it was no Like A Prayer. Adamski's Killer rocked my world in so many ways, and despite a pretty ropy album, this goes through to the top tier, as does England New Order's World in Motion which is the only acceptable football song alongside that crowd-chanty Pop Will Eat Itself track. 

From June onwards, it's a pretty rough run of number ones. Elton John's Sacrifice was the one where he started giving all his royalties to charity. Then came the novelty hits: Partners in Kryme's Turtle Power, which taught kids about the names of classical painters, and Bombalurina's Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini - Timmy Mallett later became a painter himself and has a website called Mallett's Pallet. No joke.

Is it one T or two Ts for Mallett? No time to check: this is all first-draft.

Those novelty hits were bad, but nowhere near as bad as The Steve Miller Band's The Joker, which is one of the worst singles of all time. I'm getting upset just thinking about it. Was this the one with the guitar wolf-whistle? I want this song to die.

This next bunch of number ones, taking us from September through to November, I kind of respect, but they're not for me. Maria McKee's Show Me Heaven is an undoubted tune, The Beautiful South's twee A Little Time has its own charm, and The Righteous Brothers rerelease of Unchained Melody was a chance to revisit one of history's greatest anthems. My mum loved that one. No top tier for any of these, though. 

That leaves us with Vanilla Ice's Ice Ice Baby, only really good for karaoke, and Cliff Richard's Christmas number one Saviour's Day, which I don't think even God would listen to.

So that's the year. Most of the good stuff was in the first half of 1990. Now let's visit the top tier choices, and sort them into some kind of order. We had weepy Sinead and Norman's Beats International and angular Snap! and Adamski's Killer and New Order's football fun. Yeah, I'm pretty sure I can grade this lot without much thought.

The bestest UK number one singles from 1990, as decided on the spot by me.

5. Snap!: The Power 

4. England New Order: World In Motion

3. Beats International: Dub Be Good To Me

2. Sinead O'Connor: Nothing Compares 2 U 

1. Adamski's Killer 

There you have it. Killer was easily the winner: it gave me permission to become my own bedroom-based keyboard wizard. To live my life the way I wanted to be-ee-ee-eee, yeah! I hope I didn't make too many mistakes in this entirely unedited blog post. We should do this again: 1991, maybe. *hits publish*

Further Fats: The Designers Republic vs B12 Records: are the 1990s dead? (2007)

Further Fats: The doctor (Adamski) will see you now (2018)

Apr 22, 2021

Hitting the Sweet Spot and not going to the circus

Sweet Spot promo card

What is word? How is sentence? How grammar work does it?

I'm glad you've brought those questions to me, a literary genius. 

Alongside blogging for the past gazillion years, I also like to tell stories. I've not written much this past year due to general apocalypse concerns: it's amazing how much headspace is taken up by a constant low-level of panic. I'm keen to get back into it. The writing, that is, not the panic.

Arts organisation Spot On Lancashire has a series called Spot On Shorts, where professional writers, storytellers and actors make short films to impress you with their narrative, poetic and artistic wizardry. I was born in Lancashire – just: they renamed it Greater Manchester when I was seven months old – so I was delighted to get involved.

My contribution was released today and is called The Sweet Spot. I won't spoil the story for you, but I can tell you it was inspired by (a) eating too much during lockdown and (b) not going to the circus during lockdown. Not that I went to the circus much anyway. Hardly ever, in fact. Anyway, shut up and watch The Sweet Spot (watch it on my video page if you want to browse more of my gubbins).

That's a real helmet, by the way. Honest.

I want to do more story things this year, more narrative oddities with my stupid cartoons, and more performances in actual real rooms. If you're planning an event that you want improved / enlightened / confused / ruined with my mad entertainment skills, then get in touch. My email address is next to Lionel Richie at the bottom of my About page.

As Covid restrictions ease, venues will re-awaken like neon-lit kraken. I've missed the terrifi— er, I mean, entertained looks on audience's faces in the heat of performance. In fact, there won't be long to wait because, as long as regulations allow, I'll be appearing on the bill at Pride Trafford's Making Waves: Queer Edition on May 22nd alongside especially commissioned works from Cheddar Gorgeous and Jason Andrew Guest.

What is word? Eggs. How is sentence? Verb-handles. How grammar work does it? Absolutely jackson. I'm glad I could clear that up for you.

Apr 4, 2021

From catatonic breakdance to a need for speed: new electronic music for April 2021

Eomac

Are your ears stupid idiots? Do you want to punish your ears? How about punishing your stupid idiot ears with some brand new electronic music?

Here's a smattering of bleepy albums due for release in April 2021.

Murcof's rejoins the Leaf Label for The Alias Sessions, an album written for a dance company in Geneva. I'm not much of a dancer, myself: my moves are limited to confused salsa, catatonic breakdance and eyebrow tango. Murcof's music often resides in little ripples of waveforms, but there are great big tidal washes of noise on this new album. One of my favourite Murcofs for a while.

Jimi Tenor's putting out Deep Sound Learning (1993 - 2000). This scoops up a load of unheard stuff from, you guessed it, 1993 to 2000. Apparently Jimi bombarded Warp Records with endless DAT tapes, presumably using some kind of cassette cannon, and much of it remained in storage until now. I really want a cassette cannon. A tape trebuchet. A reel-to-reel rocket launcher.

The album I'm most looking forward to in April is Eomac's Cracks. This is darkly desolate Dublin bass music that blends the atmosphere of Rival Consoles with the melodic motifs of Aphex Twin. Eomac (pictured above) is 'Cameo' backwards, but I don't know if that means he does backwards walk-on parts in movies, or whether every track is the 1986 party track Word Up! played backwards.

What else? Look out for Facta's Blush, a debut album of folky electronics released on the label Facta jointly owns with the equally pastoral K-Lone. K-Lone's Cape Cira made my best-of-2020 list and Blush certainly feels like a sister album to some extent.

By the way, I'd like to point out that I'm typing all this without the use of one of my index fingers. When cutting bread, I decided to use my hand as a chopping board. This wasn't a good idea, and I cut my finger. It's not a big cut, but it's in a really annoying place, so my middle finger is putting extra work in while my index finger has a long hard think about what it's done. I'm amazeb any og these words sre coming out okau.

And finally, look out for: Caterina Barbieri's Fantas Variations, an album of remixes of a single track from her excellent Ecstatic Computation album; Dawn Richard's Second Line which promises chart-friendly sassy bangers and a whole lot of fun; and Herrmann Kristoffersen's thoroughly listenable Gone Gold, an IDM-influenced imaginary soundtrack for the Need For Speed racing game. Vroom flipping vroom.

Take THAT, stupid idiot ears.





Mar 31, 2021

Justin Bieber's Justice injustice

Justice and Justice

Here's the Justin / Justice story. The cover art for Justin Bieber's new album Justice appears to have ripped off the logo of the French house band Justice. A big cross for a T is the clue: this was very much Justice's thing, particularly on their cross-emblazoned debut album.

In itself, this isn't that incriminatory. In a past life I worked for a Christian bookshop and people plastered crosses on everything. They turned Ts into crosses, Xs into crosses, laugh-cry emojis into crosses. Maybe not that last one. It's a pretty route-one design technique, like turning Ss into snakes or turning As into anarchy symbols.

However, there's a paper trail (and no, we don't mean this joke doodle from Justice's record company). We all know from cop shows that paper trails are bad. Apparently one of Bieber's people wrote to Justice's people, according to an email seen by Rolling Stone (the magazine, not the wrinkled rockers). No-one got back to the Bieber peeps, so they pressed ahead anyway, but now Justice's people are cross (geddit?!) and have issued a cease-and-desist letter. The war is on.

Bieber also used audio of Martin Luther King on the album, for which he received permission. This is, of course, problematic in a different way. It's good that a famous white man is introducing black history to his fans, many of whom may never have been exposed to this stuff before. But it's also dodgy that a famous white man is appropriating stuff like this to sell records, especially when there are current black voices being silenced. This is, of course, from the same bloke who said Anne Frank would have been a belieber. It's all a bit icky.

It also seems that the justice theme is pretty perfunctory. There's the Justin / Justice wordplay. Yep, I get that. Then there's the MLK samples, including the line "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." But according to Buzzfeed, that's it. Hold On is about holding hands with his girl. Holy is about having a nice hug with his girl. Lonely is about the isolation of fame, probably while playing pat-a-cake with his girl. This is not an album about justice: it's just a selection of his usual watery pop guff.

Let's think about that for a moment. Someone came up with the Justice title because it sounds a bit like Justin. They made an apparently half-arsed attempt to get permission to use Justice's cross logo, then used it anyway. And then they dumped some MLK speeches about justice into an album that is otherwise nothing to do with justice. 

That's like setting up a lemonade stall dressed as a lemon, with a whole range of home-made lemonades laid out neatly on a a table-cloth displaying a lovely tapestry of carefully illustrated lemons, with little handmade paper lanterns in the shape of lemons, then stealing someone's overweight poodle and calling the stall Look At This Massive Poodle. 

Just stick to the lemons, Justin. The unnecessarily purloined stuff is just complicating things. It's a distraction and it's getting you into trouble.

I guess what I'm trying to say is if this ends up with a load of overblown proggy Justice remixes of Justin Bieber songs, I'm moving to Mars and never coming back. Now excuse me while I edit this blog post to ensure every small-case m looks like a pair of testicles.

Mar 30, 2021

A mad March catch-up with Fat Roland, i.e. me

Hey Fat Roland, what have you been up to?

Thanks for asking, opening sentence. I've had a busy March, hence the lack of blogging. Here's a quick summary.

I broadcast a show for Turn On Fest. This was Seven Inch, the one-hour solo work originally commissioned by The Lowry and adapted for the Edinburgh Fringe. It was great fun to film, and hugely gratifying to dig out my 200+ props to discover they hadn't all been eaten by piranhas.

If you bought a ticket, thank you from the bottom of my bloomers. I'm not sure where the show will go next, but I will probably do a live audience version once things are a bit less socially distanced.

I've been working on a couple of other projects too, including a video thing which will plop onto your internet fairly soon. Hush hush. (Please imagine me winking at your screen, but in a teasing way rather than in a creepy way.)

I got vaccinated. This isn't really news because it's so dang common. As I pointed out on Twitter, the annoying thing about the vaccine is now everyone seems to be getting it. It's gone mainstream, like Feeder, Daft Punk or hummus. We need an alternative, cool rad vaccine: one that turns you purple and your head falls off or something.

I launched the F1 Losers League. The what now? The F1 Losers League. This is an upside-down fantasy league dedicated for Formula One fails, a project which fizzled off in 2014 but revived for 2021. It's too late to enter, but have a look at the website here if you fancy it (I spent a lot of time on it so I hope you like it).

Alongside my venue getting busier, thank Lordi, that's pretty much it. But that's quite a lot, right? All this plus long walks in the park.

What? You want more? Right then.

I climbed Everest. There. How'd you like that? Did it in one big step. I won the lottery fifteen times. I went to Mars for a bit, dropped some litter, came back. Didn't even apologise. I invented the snorkel. I joined then quit Good Morning Britain. I became an NFT. I did all that while getting wedged in the Suez canal while people tried to tug me off,

See? Told you I was busy.

Here's to a fun April with hopefully more blogging. Then again, if I wrote a blog post for every time I apologised for not blogging enough, I'd be blogging too much. What? Did that make sense?

You can stop writing now.

Thanks, penultimate sentence.

Mar 21, 2021

Tiësto is doing very well, thanks for asking

Tiesto

Admit it: the last time you paid attention to the pop charts, you were doing wheelies on your penny farthing during your job as a chimberly sweep.

Let's talk about the current singles chart. In fact, let's talk about one particular artist in this week's chart: Tiësto. 

For me, Tiësto's name is associated with one era of music: millennial trance pop. I'm talking clean-shirted four-to-the-floor melodic house music with big fat chords, cheery basslines and chunky snare fills, all ever so Euro. Think Ferry Corsten, ATB, Armin van Buuren, or William Orbit doing Barber's Adagio For Strings.

His 1999 track Theme From Norefjell is a perfect example. A big synth line, a no-nonsense driving beat, sweeping strings, and no vocals. In all honesty, it could have been produced by anyone. 

That's the point of all that post-Chicane / post-Insomnia stuff: just a "pop-trance, pop-trance, pop-trance" rhythm at a merry 140BPM. Good and solid, like a Volvo.

In these modern times, I'd assumed Tiësto was an irrelevance, like VHS rentals, milkmen or smallpox. Dance music is way beyond that basic trance pop stuff, right? These are the days of trap, of mumble rap, of moombahton. 

Nope. Turns out, the dancing Dutchman is still going strong. 

Not only has he been busy remixing John Legend and Avicii, and teaming up with big hitters like Martin Garrix and Post Malone, he is currently enjoying what might be the biggest hit single of his career. The Business peaked this month at number three in the UK singles chart, and is currently only a few places behind that awful sea shanty thing that's ruined TikTok. Tiësto is *big* right now.

This is starting to sound like one of those hagiography Wikipedia articles, but honestly, this really interests me. It seems weird to have Tiësto in the charts in 2021, because it doesn't follow a standard dance music artist career trajectory. Standard in my mind, anyway.

Take Underworld or Erasure or Orbital as an example. They don't have hits anymore because they now occupy the Old Act Precinct of the dance music world. They'll make money from making soundtracks, or BBC commissions, or selling tour tickets to original fans whose wrinkled bodies could do with a good old dancefloor shuffle every couple of years.

People like them aren't meant to be mixing with the cool chart kids after all these years. That's like going on your first date with the boy from school and dragging your Uncle Kevin along. Jeez, face the other way, Kevin, you creep.

However, unlike my underwear, Tiësto has changed with the times. He doesn't sound like he used to. Instead of being indistinguishable from every other millennial trance track, he now sounds like every other Calvin Harris track. Again, solid, like a Toyota. The Business fits in brilliantly with recent dance music trends, and it's no wonder it's a hit.

And watch out, because all that old trancey pop gubbins could be coming back too. Climbing to number 11 this week is ATB / Topic / A7S with Your Love (9PM). Yes, it's *that* ATB. Yes, it's *that* 9PM track.

So maybe there's not much point in paying attention to the pop charts, because it all comes full circle anyway, like that big old penny farthing wheel. Encore une fois and all that. Either that, or next time you look twenty years later, the hit parade is still full of the same clean-shirted millennial trancers.

You could say that Tiësto (there's a really good joke coming up, so get ready for it) has stood the tiëst of time. Ha ha ha ha. No? You just wait: that joke will be cool in a couple of decades' time.

Further Fats: How to keep cool in a heatwave if you like dance music (2015)

Further Fats: Soaking up the rays with Way Out West (2017)

Mar 3, 2021

303 blog posts (actually, just six, but who's the heck's counting) about the 303

It's 303 day, which celebrates a very special Roland. Me. It celebrates me.

Apparently some crazy people think 303 day celebrates the Roland TB-303, a silver box originally designed to create a 'transistor bass' sound but instead adopted by rave kids to create acid tweakin' mayhem.

Let's humour these crazy people. Let's combine the two: me and the acid machine. 

Here are some of my blog writings on the 303 and/or acid house. Think of this as a flashback episode, churned out due to budgetary restraints...

Some 303 writings

"The whole idea of Acid August is that you spent the whole month listening to acid house music and nothing else. Are you telling me you've not done this? Have you that much disrespect for Acid August?!" [What do you MEAN you haven't heard of Acid August?, published August 2020]

"For a couple of days last week, I took over @303OClock, a Twitter account dedicated to posting acid tracks twice a day at 3:03 O'Clock. I thought I would record my takeover here, because Twitter is ephemeral like mist or memory or biscuits, while a blog post is forever, like Jesus or shame." [I recommend three, oh, three great acid tracks, published May 2020]

"This is like One Direction relaunching as a thrash metal band. Or like The Beatles returning as a drum 'n' bass act. Or like Jive Bunny revealing that all the music was made by actual bunnies." [Calvin Harris launching an acid house project is the biggest music news of all time, published February 2020]

"I'm no stranger to a filter-tweaking acid house night, so I'm delighted to see that the latest Electronic Sound is dedicated to acid house records." ["Acid house - it's not real music, is it" said the idiot, published November 2019]

"Luke Vibert calls the album, out in May on London's Hypercolour Records, an 'ode to the era of M25 convoys, mobile phone hotlines and raving amongst dogs on strings in British aerodrome fields.' That, my disco-brained friend, sounds like a challenge." [Luke Vibert just made me do a poetry, published March 2017]

"Acid, though, is the music I'll always go back to whatever my mood. Because of its technological restraints (imagine having a genre of music that can only be made on the banjo), acid barely changes. One Josh Wink record aside, it has never commercialised, nor has it ever faded to nothing." [I love acid and the acid loves me, published October 2015]

Feb 28, 2021

There is one John Cage joke and it is this:

John Cage

There is one John Cage joke.

The avant-garde US composer had a long and fascinating career, but he's best known for his 1952 composition 4′33″.

The whole thing with 4′33″ is that's it's silent. Four and a half minutes of nothing. That's the schtick he's known for, whether he liked it or not. Kenny G's got his saxophone, Cher's got her autotune, Eric Morecambe's got his glasses, and Cage had this weirdly silent record.

Of course, it's not silent. The record is actually a bunch of musicians sitting down in a room for a bit, not making any deliberate noise. What you're hearing is the sound of a room in which nothing much happens. 

But it's easier – and funnier – to think of 4′33″ as a silent record. Because then you get jokes like this in Viz:

John Cage joke in Viz

Let's zoom in:

John Cage joke in Viz

Hat tip to whoever I saw post about this online: the origin is lost in the depths of an infinitely scrolling timeline.

There are plenty of other similar cartoon jokes on the internet about this quietest of records. A pianist messing up the song by accidentally playing a single note. John Cage carol singers standing shtum in the snow. And this XKCD cartoon.

I'm not immune either. My show Seven Inch (March 17th tickets available here) has a silent John Cage joke. Of course it does. I leave no hack comedy stone unturned.

There's a bit in the show where I talk about lyrics. This gives me a repetition joke as I recite the ad infinitum inanity of the Black Eyed Peas' I Gotta Feeling (although I'm swapping this out for a different song at the March 17th show).

It also gives me a chance to recite the lyrics for John Cage's 4′33″. The joke is, of course, there are no lyrics: there's a whole load of nothing. Ha ha ha ha. So funny. Look at him standing in silence, confused. Sigh. It comes across as a special joke for music nerds, even though 4′33″ is stratospherically famous for a piece of experimental classical music.

This is the point in the blog post where I hilariously include a quote from John Cage about his famous work, but actually it's just a few blank lines. Ha ha bonk: you just laughed your head off.

Maybe I should do something in the show about the loudest song ever. Ten minutes of me yelling into a microphone, and then I explain that it was a tribute to AC/DC or The Who or one of those screamo metal bands that sounds like a malfunctioning washing machine.

Please don't leave a reply in the comments. It's what John Cage would have wanted.

Further Fats: Reviving my shrivelling grandma and getting out of my depth with Mahler (2007)

Feb 24, 2021

Warning! Dinosaurs are taking over the UK album chart!

A dinosaur and an album chart

You know that movie where Richard Attenborough breeds a load of dinosaurs and then they stomp all over a theme park while Jeff Goldblum from The Fly doesn't turn into a fly and Richard's all like 'screw this, I'm off to play Santa Claus in Miracle on 34th Street instead'?

Well, that exactly what's happening to the album charts.

The dinosaurs are taking over. Instead of the album charts being full of cool young bands like The Kneepads, Post Office Flip Flop Explosion or Digital Colostomy, it's packed with bands that have been around the block so many times, they've worn a groove in the pavement.

By the way, those cool young bands don't exist. I made them up.

Mint Royale pointed out that this week's album chart is full of incredibly old LPs because music fans are streaming the same favourites over and over again. "An Oasis compilation is getting enough steady streaming to probably just sit in the top 30 for ever," he says.

He's not wrong. The current number one album is brand new: Tyron by that cheeky scamp Slowthai has been around for precisely one week. But that's not typical. 60% of this week's top 100 has spent more than a year in the charts, which is a big rise on five years ago when it was just 35%.

Let's take a look at the longest-toothed dinosaurs in the current album chart. Here are the LPs sitting in the charts right now that have clocked up the most chart weeks since their release.

ABBA: Gold – Greatest Hits (981 weeks)
Bob Marley & the Wailers: Legend (965 weeks)
Queen: Greatest Hits (933 weeks)
Fleetwood Mac: Rumours (876 weeks)
Michael Jackson: Number Ones (483)
Oasis: What's The Story Morning Glory (476)
Eminem: Curtain Call – The Hits (449)
Amy Winehouse: Back To Black (411)
Oasis: Definitely Maybe (392)
Foo Fighters: Greatest Hits (392)

Just outside that tyrannosaur top ten? Time Flies 1994-2009, that aforementioned Oasis compilation which has spent 389 weeks in the album chart, 216 of those weeks consecutive.

This is theoretically fine. People are caning their favourite music, maybe having living room discos on Saturday nights while their pet dog looks on in confusion, and there's nothing wrong with that. You spin that old ABBA record, daddio.

However, these craggy dinosaurs will sell bucketloads of albums come rain, wind or scattered sunny spells. And they're clogging up the charts, reducing the number of chart opportunities for newer acts further down the pecking order: active bands who are writing and releasing fresh tunes in a Herculean effort to gain chart recognition.

Just a couple of blog posts ago I raved about the appearance of bleep techno in the hit parade and how it blew my tiny mind. I'm fascinated by new shiny things, like a magpie or a baby or a magpie looking at a baby. I don't want to delve into the latest album chart and see the same ancient faces with their expensive microphones and branded plectrums and anecdotes about how they met George Harrison once in a Tandy electronics shop. Serious yawn.

That's like searching on YouTube for bitcoin investment advice, or the Mars landing footage, or the latest Taskmaster challenge, and every time the only result that comes up is that bloke singing Chocolate Rain. Every time. Chocolate Rain. You try adding quote marks or searching in Welsh. No luck: just Chocolate Rain. You try the 'Contact Us' link to get help, and Mr Clippy pops up and starts singing Chocolate flipping Rain. You keep rocking those 2007 trends, daddio.

Mint Royale goes on to suggest that perhaps the album chart should be subject to ACR. This stands for Accelerated Chart Ratio: in the singles chart, this is used to weaken the chart position of songs if they've been around a while. It's a modern oddity that became necessary after Ed Sheeran almost monopolised the charts in 2017 in a move that even the Roman empire would have called "brazen".

I hope they sort it out soon. Otherwise the dinosaurs will continue to rampage unimpeded, and before we know it we've got a Lost World situation on our hands. And nobody wants Lost World.

More Fat Roland: No new electronica in the singles chart, repeat to fade (2009)

Even more Fat Roland: What's happening with the not-so-current current album chart? (2016)