Dec 31, 2023

Muskering, sorry, mustering up the courage for 2024

Hello, it's Fat Roland here. You can think of me as your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man. Except without the spiders. Or being in your neighbourhood. And I'm not sure how friendly I am. Am I even a man?

I'm always sceptical about the effectiveness of new years' resolutions, and I certainly didn't have 2023 down as my "stroke year". But let's play some lip service to this annual festival of arbitrary date-based life curation. Here are ten resolutions I have for 2024. And because I like to cheat, I've made a start on some of these already.

Resolution one. Embrace colour. I wore black for years, but the Johnny Cash aesthetic doesn't really suit my mood. I'm not saying I want to look like Timmy Mallett mating with the Teletubbies, but splashes of colour would be welcome in 2024.

Resolution two. Come up with more contemporary references than Timmy Mallett and the Teletubbies. That said, Mallett has an endearing TikTok account. Not sure about the social status of Dipsy's gang.

Resolution three. Build on my amazing day job. This isn't the most exciting of resolutions. It's a bit like a plumber wishing for more pipes. But I enjoy my work at the Burgess Foundation, and I want to push myself to be more efficient and more creative and more of an ultraviolent droog. Watch out for your kneecaps!

Resolution four. Let writing become the fulcrum of my artistic, erm, lever or something. I really should have looked up the word 'fulcrum' in a dictionary before writing this. I continue my scribbling for Electronic Sound, and in 2024 I shall return to writing short stories. Performance is also a Thing in my life, with a capital T, and I'm sure this will happen to. But writing comes first.

Resolution sixteen. (I've lost count.) Get cartooning again. Drawing my eggs on social media (see my previous blog post) was a way back into restarting the broken visual section of my brain. Expect more of this in 2024. Not professionally. Just faffing. Proper good faffing.

Resolution five hundred and ninety six. Be healthy. I did not do a good job of this in 2023. Stupid brain. But this is not just about a better body, although a healthy(ish) lifestyle will certainly help. Better living space, better relationships, better downtime, the whole holistic sausage. No pressure or anything, but if I do not do this exactly right, I will give everyone on earth a million pounds.

Resolution infinity plus three, and this is related to the previous resolution. Don't have another stroke. This seems obvious, but writing this down makes it official. At some point in 2024, my brain is going to read this back and decide, "Yeah, Fats, that's a cracking idea. Let's not have another stroke."

Resolution alpha epsilon followed by the eye of Horus. Social media has become a big pile of meh. This scrolling world of ours is fractured, and any one social media platform is not the behemoth it was. The only way to get traction is to personally fist dollar bills into Elon Musk's trousers on the daily. I will post, of course, because people seem to like it. But... let's hold it lightly.

Resolution a badly drawn picture of an egg. Learn to count. I mean, seriously. I know most of the numbers. Seven. Is seven a number? I'm going to buy a calculator every day until I learn to count to ten.

Resolution ten. Yes! I did it! Carry on blogging. Sorry to disappoint you with this, but this tired old blog will drag itself onwards like a knackered horse attempting a never-ending lap of the glue factory. This has been my worst complete blogging year in history but HEY, I HAVE REASONS FOR THAT. However, this is my home, and this is where my words belong, and I am grateful for your visit.

Happy new year. As Spider-Man would say, to 2024 and beyond!

Pictured: Hyperfuturistic digital 3D rendering of Elon Musk

Further Fats: My New Year: pub, Gorman, egg, pi (2005)

Further Fats: Happy new 2021 Fat Roland (2021)

Dec 13, 2023

Eggvent: it's what Father Christmegg would have wanted

Eggs. Loads of eggs. Everything is full of eggs. 

As readers of this blog will know, I've had quite a year. My brain went bang and I've been recovering ever since. To be fair to my brain, it is doing a brilliant job of helping me recover even though it's my stupid brain that caused all this trouble in the first place. I am working again, and writing, and going to gigs, and doing many things a normal human would do.

I've been slower to get back to cartooning. Lots of screen time makes me tired. When I'm creating cartoons digitally, that involves peering at pixels for long stretches of time. This is no good. I had to come up with a way of getting back to cartooning that wouldn't overwhelm me.

The solution? Eggs. Lots of eggs. They are easy to draw. There is no shape more simple than an egg shape. This is geometric fact. Look at triangles: eeeugh, they're so complex and full of angles. Unlike an egg, which is easy. Anyone can draw an egg, even if they have a brain made of bent spanners.

My egg series has been published on my social media throughout this month, It is, of course, advent themed. "Eggvent." There has been a nativity shepherd that's an egg. Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer that's an egg. The robot from the Dr Who episode 'Wild Blue Yonder'... that's also an egg with a Chrimbo hat on.

The latest one is the Christmas chart topping London band East 17 as eggs. Who, of course, had an excellent hit single with the chorus "Everybody in the house of l'oeuf." I just thought of that on the spot. Maybe my brain isn't so spannered after all.

What's next? I could do other foodstuffs. Potatoes. They're kind of egg-shaped. Sausages. They're just oblong eggs. Broccoli? No, way too complicated.

Follow my egg exploits (my eggsploits) on Twitter (X), Instagram, Facebook or Bluesky.

Further eggy Fats: Weebl & Bob pimp kudos joy (2005)

Further eggy Fats: This is what happens when I change my Facebook profile picture (2014)

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)

May 3, 2023

My own personal braindance

It’s when the cycling postman folded into nothing next to the vanishing pensioner that I knew I had a problem.

A few Saturdays ago, I went to see Plaid. Second time in a year. They were on great form, all angular and melodic and alien. The visuals by Emma Catnip were a treat.

But the dancefloor was a strange experience. I was right at the front but floating in a void, unaware of those around me. I’d walked into a bin on the way to the gig, and when buying headache tablets from Spar, the packet read like hieroglyphics. I’d have hung around in town, but my head was exploding. And I mean that more literally than you might think.

After scans and prods and hospital trolleys, I now know the truth of what happened. I might be the first person boogying at the front of a Plaid gig having suffered a stroke earlier in the same day. I wouldn’t be diagnosed for another three days after the concert, with eye drops and brain diagrams and that Kubrickian body tube that goes bang a lot. I was disorientated because part of my visual cortex had fried, rendering me partially sighted.

The clues were there in the intervening days between my disorientating gig and my hospital stay. On my walk to my GP with what I assumed at that point to be a minor eye problem, two odd things happened. I saw a pensioner walking towards me on a leafy lane. He was on his own. Narrow pavement, casual amble, a rickety wall on one side and a rickety cottage on the other. When I glanced at him a second time, he was accompanied by a wife who definitely wasn’t there before. Shortly afterwards, a postman riding a bicycle folded out of sight then reappeared. It happened before my eyes, as real as the words are on this page. I don’t know much about modern employment conditions within the postal service, but I don’t think dimensional teleportation is part of the contract.

The stroke has destroyed half of my eyesight. In true surrealist Fat Roland style, the missing halves are the right section of each eye. Because eyes dart about and the brain is clever, I don’t have black spots. I can see everything. But if my brain hasn’t received full information about a section of what I’m looking at, it makes things up. This causes hallucinations. I have looked into the twilight sky and seen a hospital floating mid-air, in full detail. I have seen imaginary crows flapping around the edges of my vision. I have seen a cheerful dog on a lead being walked by a bush because my brain couldn’t register the difference between a dog owner and shrubbery. A quick dart of the eyes, and my visual register filled in the correct information. I think my brain is having far too much fun with this.

This also means I am learning to read again. I’ve lost the ability to laterally scan text, which is pretty essential for a horizontal writing system. I have lost definition, and may never read a paper book again. That said, I have already seen improvements. I am writing this in Word without the use of a screen reader, which I couldn’t have done a week ago. However, I’m choosing to use assistive tech because reading things – including reading back over these sentences – is a strain. Might as well use tech to preserve stamina. It was worse in the first few days after my stroke. In hospital, all signs were confusing. Words had lost their  visual symmetry entirely, and all d’s and b’s and p’s looked the same. I now have my symmetry back as my brain tries ever so hard to cope with my condition.

The damage is permanent. The fried part of my brain will never be unfried. But I’m confident about recovery as I begin what feels like Life Part Two. I will be slowly integrating back into my role at the brilliant Burgess Foundation. My work with Electronic Sound will continue, although for now will be restrained to a slightly shorter column. I’m sure I will cartoon again, although I may need to learn new techniques. I will likely have to give up running my F1 Losers League because there’s too much detailed spreadsheet and website work. And because casual social media browsing is no longer viable, I am retiring the @AngryBeetham Twitter account which I have been secretly running for ten years.

Best of all, this blog will continue. With my visual input reduced, the world of music is so much more important. Expect a 10,000 word review of the MRI scanner: its endless claustrophobic bangs at my heavily constrained body was some of the best techno I have ever heard. This stroke could be the most techno thing that has ever happened.

Featured video: Plaid’s Return to Return, aka This Is What My Brain Looks Like Now

Apr 9, 2023

It's a Miracle: The race for Easter number one

Can we talk about the extraordinary run of Easter number one singles we had in the second half of the 1990s? Yes, I know Easter is no Christmas, but bear with me.

By the mid-1990s, Take That had locked out the Easter number one spot. Yawn. Everything Changes? Easter Sunday number one. Back For Good? Easter Sunday number one. The Manchester popsters had become the second coming of Jesus. This was all about to change.

On Easter Sunday 1996, the Prodigy scored their first number one single with Firestarter. A devil-horned Keith Flint would contort and grimace at the camera and the Easter bunny would be writing a letter of complaint to its local vicar.

The following Easter, 1997, the Chemical Brothers would follow up their Noel Gallagher collab Setting Sun with the brilliant Block Rockin' Beats. Easter number one. Its b-side was Morning Lemon, which sounds like something you’d definitely eat at Easter.

The following year’s Easter number one was It’s Like That, Run DMC’s remix with LA producer Jason Nevins. The track kept Celine Dion off the number one spot for three full weeks, which is pretty much the equivalent of dying for our sins.

Already, we’re in uncharted territory. Cool hits had topped the charts sporadically at Easter – Let’s Dance in 1983, Pet Shop Boys’ Heart in 1988 – but never three years in a row. We’re truly in the middle of an Easter miracle.

In 1999, a puppet as yellow as an Easter chick topped the Easter chart. The underrated Mr Oizo scored his only hit single with Flat Beat. The sausage-chomping muppet Flat Eric (yes, it’s a muppet) denied Eminem a number one spot with his debut single.

Easter number one in 2000 was Fragma’s Toca's Miracle, and while this clever mashup wasn’t quite as critically acclaimed, it concluded a remarkable five years of electronic music Easter chart toppers. The following year? Emma Bunton or something. Rubbish.

2023's Easter number one is, as it happens, a song called Miracle. This trance collaboration between Calvin Harris and Ellie Goulding is a real throw-back to the classic era of dancey Easter number one singles. Electronic music has risen again. It’s what Jesus would have wanted.

Mar 31, 2023

808 State's number tracks in number order

Just so we can all get organised, here are 808 State's number tracks in order:

One in Ten (=0.1)

Trinity (=3)

Cubik (=6 sides)

Atlas 7

Plan 9

13 13 (=26)

20:20 (=40)


10 X 10 (=100)


Pacific 202


Pacific 707

Pacific 718

Pacific 808:98 (=906)

808080808 (=loads)

Feb 28, 2023

Ten album titles that are puns - the good, the bad and the willie

Recently, Drowned in Sound's Twitter account posed the question: Has there ever been a good song or album title containing a pun?

Let's find some kind of answer. Here are ten albums with punny titles along with my thoughts on each and every dang one of them. 

The Orb: Orblivion
Plays into the ever-pulsating galactic dramatics of The Orb. Certainty works better than "Armageddorb" or "Catastrorbphe". Undermined by their other album UF Orb which sounds like a pun but really doesn't work. In fact, it's terrible.

Sleaford Mods: UK Grim
Nottingham’s mouthiest geezers have been knocking about for yonks, but it’s only until now that they’ve concocted the perfect album title. This play on ‘UK grime’ speaks to the core of the band: rap music, British vibes, everything being crap. This is excellent pun work from the guys that gave us Tied Up In Nottz and Eton Alive.

Blink-182: Enema of the State 
Just thinking about this album title makes me empty my bowels. Which is exactly what the California rock imps wanted. Even the cover is awful, with its sexy gloved nurse. A childish embarrassment to puns everywhere. Jeez, guys, what’s your age again?

Salt-N-Pepa: A Salt with a Deadly Pepa
For a band with a wordplayed DJ in the form of Spinderella, you'd think everyone's fave condiment-themed rappers would nail a pun. Not so. The album title starts well, but like the album it runs out of ideas. "Pepa" is standing in for the word "weapon". Unless you're talking about pepper spray, this doesn't cut the mustard gas. Poor. 

The Shirehorses: Our Kid Eh
As suggested by Thomas Ragdale on Twitter. It feels like puns come with the territory with Mark & Lard's parody project, and indeed the first track on the album is If You Tolerate This Piss by the Manic Street Sweepers. What raises this above the average pun is the delightful audacity of knocking off Kid A only a mere seven months after that seminal album's release. Talk about poking sacred cows with a stick. Impressive.

Rednex: Sex & Violins
Sparks: Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins

David Bowie: Aladdin Sane
Bowie really didn’t have many options after Ziggy Stardust. He’d been to Mars, he’d invented the bisexual alter-ego as icon, he’d made a synthesiser sound like a saxophone. A-Lad-Insane is a pretty solid pun which carries all the weight of the craziness of stardom. It's a bit naff but, whisper it, Bowie often was. (Complaint letters to the usual address.)

Will Smith: Willennium
Big Willie Style is perhaps a more famous album for this freshest of princes, which is unfortunate because in UK slang this is definitely not the kind of pun you need. Willennium is Will Smith’s wild wild western era, and it feels like there were greater puns to be found here rather than this millennial mediocrity. The Good, the Bad and the Willie, maybe.

Bola: Soup
Bola: Fyuti
Bola: Gnayse
Bola: Kroungrine
Bola: DEG
I had to include Manchester’s downtempo maestro in this listing. The albums listed here are puns on a bowl of soup, a footballer, bolognese, crown green bowler, and boiled egg. This should be awful, but Bola somehow managed all this while maintaining his creative integrity. Quite frankly, I’m Bola-d over.

Phats & Small: Now Phats What I Small Music
Sometimes you don’t know whether something is absolute genius or the worst thing ever invented, like Marmite or crocs or the jelly toaster. I may have made that last one up. The jury is still out on the title of Phats & Small’s debut album. Considering the album is only ten tracks long and Turn Around features twice, let’s not lose any sleep over it.

Punning album titles are still all the rage, as evidenced by the title of Orbital's brand new album Optical Delusion. Which punning album titles impress you? Which make you feel all Blink 182ed? Let me know on Twitter.

Jan 16, 2023

My magical dream: everything's gone all Chris de Burgh

A vending machine

There's an old 808 song about a magical dream that goes:

It's a fantasy taking over your mind 

So let it roll, let it roll with ease

It will take control of the rest of your soul

And explode... into a magical dream

The song about a magical dream carries on talking about the magical dream and how having a magical dream is great because it's magical and a dream. Can't remember the name of the track.

Which brings me to the subject of this blog post. Dreams. More specifically, a dream I had. People waffling about dreams can be pretty dull in the scheme of things, so feel free to scroll off to some more fascinating corner of the internet.

Last night, I dreamed I used a 3D printing vending machine for dresses. A what now? A unit where you pressed a load of buttons and it would spit out a dress. For a women. A proper figure-hugging dress like you see at awards ceremonies.

After scrolling through some templates on the vending machine touchscreen, I decided to get one. The quality of the material looked good. You could choose the strap design and the neckline and any little extras. Lovely.

I chose a red dress. Really red, like Mr Strong driving a fire engine then blushing about it. Soooo red. As Chris de Burgh sang:

The lady in red

Is dancing with me

Bum cheek to bum cheek

At least, I think that's how the song went. Looking at the preview screen, the colour was a bit too blocky, so decided to personalise it with a text pattern. Lots of small white type all over the dress, with the words "Fat Roland" over and over again. FAT ROLAND FAT ROLAND FAT ROLAND.

The machine couldn't handle things, and the text rendered badly. Overlaps, warps, random lines criss-crossing. But then I angled the text at 45 degrees and it was kind of fine. That'll do. If people wanted to read FAT ROLAND, they'll just have to look at it wonky.

At the bottom of the vending machine menu was a big PURCHASE button, alongside the final price including customisations. It would cost £450. Shocked at how expensive this was, I brought my friends in to discuss the wisdom of the purchase. We had a long conversation acknowledging the substandard quality of the final product, even though it was still a preview on a screen rather than the end print. We discussed my financial situation and whether I could afford to take the hit. We also needed to balance that with a need to serve my monstrous narcissism. 

I also asked if this is how much dresses cost in Primark because, as you can tell from all this, I don't buy dresses.

And then I fell into a deeper sleep. Drifted from REM into heavy unconsciousness, any dream sequences fading into darkness. Do we still dream when we're properly conked out? Probably not. My drapery frippery was long lost.

When I finally started waking up, a couple of minutes before my alarm, the dream briefly returned. The discussion with my friends was just finishing. Had they really stuck around all this time? I had opted to not buy the dress because that was the pragmatic and grown-up thing to do. The sense of making a decision made me feel assured as I started my day back in the real world.

Which is why I'm writing this blog post in my usual rags, and not crammed into a red dress looking like Elmo with haemorrhoids.

Jan 10, 2023

An interview with Black Box and why Ride On Time was not of its time

Here's a Fat Roland flashback (a Flat Rolashback?) to an interview I conducted in 2019. I spoke to Black Box's Daniele Davoli about the band's massive 1989 hit Ride On Time. Labels said the vocals were “very aggressive” and it barely shifted a copy of its first pressing. "It completely cleared the floor," he told me when the tune hit the clubs "It was heartbreaking."

So how did it become such a big hit single? Read on for a preview. You can read the full piece over at Electronic Sound.

Black Box in their studio

In a dusty room above a garage in northern Italy, a musician brandishes a vacuum cleaner. Scattered along the walls is a guitar, some old keyboards, a half-broken mixer, and a speaker with a wonky tweeter. 

Outside, a bell tower shatters the silence and next door’s dogs yap in response. In this damp, distracting space in Reggio Emilia, Daniele Davoli is trying to rewrite house music history.

“The bell tower was ding dong, ding dang dong,” recalls Davoli, “and the neighbour’s dogs were woof woof woof. If we were recording vocals, we had to stop. There was no insulation, it was just a bedroom without the bed.”

This story ends well. Davoli will go on to form Black Box, whose Ride On Time, released in July 1989, popularised choppy Italo house piano lines. But we’re not quite there yet. As the group formed, sample culture had become the socks-and-sandals of dance music: a shortcut for naff. Where Paul Hardcastle once stood, now there was Harry “Loadsamoney” Enfield parodying Pump Up The Volume. Ride On Time was against trend – and its journey to success had more stumbles than the Stutter Rap.

Davoli was DJ Lelewel, banging out soul and disco hits at Rimini’s Starlight club... [continue reading this article on Electronic Sound]

Further Fats: Is Fat Roland my real father? Norwegian woof. *click* (2011)

Further Fats: 5 great new dance hits from January 1989 (2019)

Jan 6, 2023

Bang-on electronic music releases in January 2023

Music For Dead Airports cover

Hello, you. You're looking wonderful today. I love that tartan eyeliner, and those designer galoshes really compliment your knee pads.

It's 2023, and if the progression of previous years is anything to go by, we'll be swallowed by burning lava or eaten by locusts within weeks. Still, there's lots of music to enjoy, and I am going to bang on about some of that music now.

All these January 2023 releases are proper bang-on.

The Black Dog: Music For Dead Airports (Dust Science, EP, pictured above)

These four tracks are atmospheric spatial electronics, at least in part recorded in Sheffield airports. The work is inspired by Sheffield's troubled history with airports, including the doomed Sheffield City Airport which had a runway too short for popular budget airlines. Also Sheffield's really hilly and planes hate hills. Music For Dead Airports is released alongside the band's 2010 field recordings album Music for Real Airports.

Rian Treanor & Ocen James: Saccades (Nyege Nyege Tapes)

A remarkable listen, this. Arising from a residency in Kampala, Rotheram's Rian Treanor produces folk techno with Acholi fiddle player Ocen James. Think super rhythmic Ugandan techno using real instruments. This follows 2020's Treanor album File Under UK Metaplasm, which I described previously as "a rave in the middle of Mike Teavee's fractal transfer in Charlie And The Chocolate Factory".

Oceanic: Choral Feeling (Nous'klaer Audio)

We've had an artist from Rotherham. Now let's have one from Rotterdam. For this debut album, Oceanic asked his friends to sing for him. Simple. The resulting vocal melee is mesmerising, with the rhythmic vocals sounding fully human yet so alien. The repetitive and blossoming Sunshine, Dear is a banger. Oceanic is not to be confused with the early-1990s rave act signed to Cheshire's Dead Dead Good Records.

Ryuichi Sakamoto: 12 (Milan Records)

No Bandcamp preview for this one. This is a selection of musical sketches to mark the revered composer's 71st birthday. He's approached it as a kind of diary, and it tracks a long battle with cancer in which he found himself "reaching for the synthesiser". The track titles are all numbers, and look like a Sudoku grid has glitched because Elon Musk sacked all the puzzle setters. There's a super minimal album teaser on YouTube, although it doesn't give much away. I'll bang on more about this album in Electronic Sound.

Eat Static: Abduction (Planet Dog) 

And finally, look out for this reissue of a 1993 ambient trance classic by the Ozric Tentacles offshoot. It's on double vinyl and comes with added John Peel session tracks. Psychedelic trance that is very druggy, very snappy, and very Planet Doggy.