Thurs 17 May There's something about these overcast mornings when you can smell the leaves on the trees, flowers, weeds. Summer is approaching, not sure what season we're in. Reminds me of the west of Ireland, a previous life. The sort of morning where an Andy Irvine record makes sense. Or Bonny Prince Billy. On I rambled to the post office to send a few packages to the Netherlands and good old Deutschland, always on the look-out for a club or bar that may wish to hire me 'for one night only.'
I've been running the Acoustic Lounge over in Smithfield now since February, and while we got off to a good start, these past few weeks have been quiet. A few friends are regulars, and the more popular special guests bring down a crowd. Some friends haven't made it over to any of the nights at all. Then on the other hand , I've had people drop in that I haven't seen in 13 years (in one case) or 16 years in another case. Last Friday night we ended up in Toast in Rathmines afterwards with Jimmy from Twenty Percent Dead, and Triona. The place was half empty and it brought it home to me that bars and clubs aren't having it as easy as they used to.Saturday, bright and early I cooked breakfast after a cocktail of vitamin pills, and quickly got down to recording. I managed to get a few good ideas down, so I didn't feel the day was wasted. Later, I found myself in Cornellscourt, a place that had hitherto existed for me only in the realm of advertising. A massive shopping centre on a Saturday evening is not my idea of fun. We located the off-licence, bought beer and tonic water and off we went. We had been invited to Tove's pad in Foxrock to watch the Eurovision song contest. I kid you not. Tove is a good friend, she contributed backing vocals to a few songs on 'Silver & Dust' and she's from Stockholm, and the Swedes love the Eurovision. Thankfully, we arrived too late to catch the Irish entry, and before long we had settled into a eurotrash world fuelled on rum and coke. With Mark I discussed the art world (he knows some art hustler I hung out with last month in Philadelphia) we listened to a lot of Nina Perrsson and generally it was a good time and I got home by around 4.30.
On Sunday, I continued recording and as night fell, I had a few drinks and played some records and went to see Claydolls in the Sugar Club. A good gig, although there was a small attendance.The recording process continues. This morning at 8am I got a melody swimming around my head. Turned out a simple enough riff would suffice, moved it up a key from what was in my head, easier to sing that way. After a few hours I had 3 acoustic guitar tracks down (with a click/metronome) and a good vocal. It may or may not require drums and bass. Time will tell. I also managed to get 'Nine Bridges From Town' down, after about 7 takes. It a song i started to write in a cheap hotel in Amsterdam in March. I got the last verse here at the living room table, and I've aired in in Smithfield now on the last two Fridays. Another new song recorded last weekend and finished today is called 'Never Enough Time' which is a good title.... and it's true. There never is enough time to do all that needs to be done. Even when you get up at 7am as I did this morning.
I've been listening to the great great Nancy Sinatra a lot. The album she did in '94 is ok, but the song 'Don't Let Him Waste Your Time' is a killer. Great lyrics (written by Jarvis Cocker) and a wonderful vocal delivery. Sexy and sweet. Miss Sinatra is about sixty years old now, still beautiful and still cool. Check out her performance of this great song on youtube. May we all be sexy and cool at sixty.
Thurs 24 May The Acoustic Lounge over in Smithfield was good fun on Friday. Alice Jago did a few songs, and performed admirably despite technical difficulties. The battery in her acoustic guitar died, and as she's left handed, I couldn't lend her mine. We miked it up and she soldiered on, a little unhappy, but it was the best we could do. She's gonna come back this Friday to play again, and Jimmy Cinder is going to play too.Afterwards we ended up with Tom in our pad, drinking red wine and playing choice cuts from The Clash's triple album from 1980, "Sandinista"...we put on "the Equaliser," "Broadway," and Tom's favourite "The Call Up." Other records that graced the turntable included Springsteen's "Nebraska" The Stones, Nikki Sudden, Nancy Sinatra and "Claudette" and the wonderful "Afraid To Sleep" by Roy Orbison from 1965. It wasn't a late night really, so that getting up at 9am to catch a bus to the west wasn't a big deal.
A 24 hour period was spent chatting, drinking wine and eating a lot. Filmed my old man playing mouth organ and later the fiddles were taken down. Too soon, I found myself on a bus heading east, watching the cattle graze lazily in the rolling fields. Sunshine streaming through the window as we drove through the flat midlands, down through Rathowen before sunset. I gave up on Rick Moody's 'The Black Veil.' The first few chapters were fine, but despite glowing praise from Thomas Pynchon, I found that Moody seemed to get bored with his own story after a while. I never came across a writer who made drinking to excess seem so mundane.
Thankfully the postman brought me an interesting grimoire type tome from the pen of Michael J. Ford, so that's now keeping me occupied.The recording goes on and on. Paul Thomas (best known for his work with Horslips, Thin Lizzy, Nikki Sudden, U2) called around with my old Lacie harddrive on Monday and we resurrected a song we recorded a few times back in 2003 when we were in the midst of trying to make what became "Exit Hellsville." I had heard a mix of this song "1849" in Sweden last February and thought to myself that if it had a new vocal and perhaps some extra guitar it could come in useful. The version we finished in 2003 never got released. So, Paul tweeked it a bit and uploaded to my recorder and off he went. I put down a vocal, rhythm guitar part and a guitar solo.
Tuesday morning, I re-did the vocal, much better too. Wrote two new country type songs, which shall remain nameless for the time being. Recorded a new vocal on a song that was called "Slide On" but it's now called "Return Of the Snakes." Recorded other bit 'n' pieces, made phone calls, emails etc. Designed a poster for Canada, and finished four paintings, two are on paper, two are on canvas, no titles yet. I suppose they'll get piled up in the corner for a while.
Later, Tom arrived over having dragged a double bass up from Wexford Street. We rehearsed, running through about twenty songs. The chord changes in my songs seem to baffle the man, as he listens to a lot of rockabilly, bluegrass and cajun, basic three chord stuff. Tom used to be a drummer with Aces Wild, and he also plays a bit of banjo and accordion. We settle on covers of "Folsome Prison Blues" and the T Rex classic "Telegram Sam." I reckon we've nailled them well enough to perform in public. After a few glasses of red wine and having listened to a few Johnny Burnett Trio and Charlie Feathers records, Tom went off home. I was having a bit of cabin fever, so with miss Kärrman as a travelling companion I took a taxi over to Harolds Cross to a crap bar called the Cross Bar. The place was empty. Ten years ago you'd find more people in a Dublin bar at three o clock in the afternoon that you would find in a bar now at 11 o' clock at night. How things have changed. When the looming property crash happens, there will be even less people able to afford a pint.
After drinks with Jimmy Cinders and Maria we walked home, it being a warm night. Stay up til 4am playing records and painting and sipping wine, all on my own. Booked a ticket to New York with Virgin. I'll be flying via London, and Virgin is a far superior airline to Aer Lingus, and €60 cheaper too. The food is better, staff are generally more helpful, better planes. I'll have a few days (hopefully a gig too) in NYC before heading north to Canada to continue the Too Late To Stop Tour which, at the moment comprises of 23 gigs. 3 in Ireland, 4 in Germany, 1 in the US and 15 in Canada. The band will be travelling to Germany with me. Last time we were there was last September and we had a ball. I like the Germans and I like the Canadians too. Let me tell you who I DON'T like. I don't like any of these useless politicians that are trying to get elected in the Irish General election. Maybe, just maybe I could trust Pat Rabbit, but none of the other fuckers are worth a vote. I'm tired now...got a gig later.....don't want to type anymore......
Wed 30 May A dark overcast day, rain pouring down, the low hum of nearby road works for company. Only noticed it now, as I was listening back to recordings from the last few days. Very loud. Some of the stuff sounds good, some, I'm not so sure about.Since my last scribblings I went down to vote, and here we are a week later and still no sign of a government, useless lot thery are. On my way back from the polling place, I heard my name being called out. It was Fergal Davis from Suite Studios who mastered 'Silver & Dust' (and 'Exit Hellsville) He was standing ouside a newly opened Art Gallery on Dunville Avenue. At least I think it's newly opened. Last time I looked it was a shoe repair place or a pharmacy or a newsagents or a hairdressers, perhaps a cafe, maybe a travel agents. Now, it's none of these.With glass of wine in hand, Fergal beckoned, I made my way over. After some friendly banter, I went inside and had a look at the paintings on exhibit. Axel had just sold one for €1,650. Not bad. His stuff is good, and you can see the influence of Turner on his style. Axel has been my neighbour for a few years, but I hear he's just moved to Portugal. A grand and a half will go a long way in Portugal.
As usual in these circumstances, I was called upon to regale the folks with tales of the road and madness. Fergal had played a few gigs with The Racketeers, standing in on bass a few times, and told me he was sorry to miss out on the opportunity to travel outside Ireland with us. Well, there's always time for that in the future, but going by the ammount of money he's making running his mastering studio, I don't think he wants to spend a week or two with me in Germany. We drank more red wine and John from Sun studios invited me down for a look around sometime, and I will. I then realized it was getting late, so I went back home where I found Tom and his double bass ready to rock. Out on the street (my regular driver wasn't available) I grabbed a taxi and then phoned Tom to say I had a van taxi on the way to pick him up (these double bass's are huge) but he said he had changed his mind and wanted to go home !! Very strange behaviour. We rehearsed, at his behest, he turned up at my humble abode all dressed up and then decides to go home. So, onwards we went in the taxi, no special guest tonight. Played my solo gig, chatted to Darren afterwards, and unfortunetly we had to drop into some dodgy singer songwriter place on O Connell Street to pick up some gear.
After that, Terry dropped me home, and with glass of red wine in my hand I watched The Sopranos which the missus had taped for me while I was off playing my songs to the disinterested and the drunk. Pressed the play button and Im in Jersey. The Sopranos is the only thing I watch on TV these days. Occasionally I might look at the news if I need reminding what a crap world the powers that be would like us to believe in. Or a documentary on Discovery. I gave up on The Simpsons long ago. I found Weeds on the internet the other night , but haven't gotten around to watch any of it yet. That's the US drama about a 30 something middle class lady who sells weed for a living.
The following day (friday) I was over at the Acoustic Lounge. Alice Jago didn't show up, so Jimmy Cinders played a longer than usual set, and he was great. He had Maria on backing vocals, Beverley on sax and Hughie Friel, ex- The Atrix on percussion. I knew John Borrowman well. I loved The Atrix, a great band, sadly forgotten by most and of course John is off with Elvis now. I played my set, and if I say so myself, I wasn't bad at all. Trevor, who I hadn't seen in ages was down and kindly bought me a drink. Afterwards we ended up in Toast (surprise, surprise), as did Mr Cinders. Met a few people I knew, drank some beer and vodka and made it home in one piece.Saturday wasn't up to much. Got a few sets of lyrics down onto paper, and then decided I didn't like them. The next few days sort of melt into a blur of reclusive activity.Recording, writing, making phone calls and writing emails to people who don't bother to reply. I keep writing songs by accident. I was putting down a guitar part for example yesterday on a song, when I came up with a new riff that was too good to go to waste. So now its a complete song in itself. I got a demo of it, vocals, bass, 3 guitar overdubs (drum machine) and its not bad. Yesterday, guitars mandolins, microphones and erratic scribblings on paper kept me occupied from 11 in the morning until 1am, the only break being an hour at 5 for dinner.
By 1am I was fucked, so I listened to the Gun Club and drank some wine and when that ran out I went for the beer. I wound down like a tired spinning top and entered the land of nod with little difficulty.
Tues 12 June A few months ago in Sweden I heard a mix of '1849' which was first recorded during sessions for what became Exit Hellsville. I thought to myself, if it had a new vocal track, some extra guitars and perhaps a new bass line, it might be worth working on. So last Wednesday we finally got it finished when Les put down the bass part. Two new guitar tracks, rhythm and solo, as well as a new vocal had been added by yours truly last week. After that, we got down to rehearsing, running through some of our repertoire for roughly three hours. Chris regaled us with tales of his recent travels to Chicago to record with Steve Albini, Stockholm to do some sort of work-shop and Australia to spend time with family.
Then Johnny Cronin from the Aftermath phoned to see if I was going to make it to the Sugar Club for the tail end of the Hot Press Yearbook launch. The free bar had ended by the time we got there, but it was good to be out and about for a social evening. Johnny and his crew including brother Mick had relocated to Keoghs, so that meant a brisk walk across St. Stephens Green. There I was introduced to Bresy from the Blizzards who was in the process of telling Johnny that his first gig ever in Dublin was supporting my gang of reprobates back in the mists of time. Apparently I was very nice to the guys and let them use our backline.On Thursday, following a stress free meeting with the tax people I picked up a copy of NME so I could get my hands on the free 7inch red vinyl one-sided single by the White Stripes. Its good, not exactly mind-blowing, but its ok. Later on I found myself over at The Belvedere. Once the gig was over and money changed hands, Jimmy and I took a taxi over to Toast in Rathmines for a late drink where we met Pat Cannon, who will drive me to Tramore on Saturday.Friday was taken up with following up phone calls and emails and I watched an episode of the Sopranos, which I had taped while out gigging. Then a few beers at tea time.
The missus rented the Da Vinci Code movie, which was bad beyond belief. I gave up after 10 minutes and lay down on the bed and got stuck into reading Lawrence Sutins 'Do What Thou Wilt,' one of the better Aleister Crowley biographies. I had read it before, but my brain works differently now, so I wanted to see if I could get a different angle on the Great Beast 666. Great fun indeed and he never fails to inspire.Saturday was yet another hot hot day. Following a three hour drive we rolled into the sea-side town of Tramore in the sunny south east of Ireland. With an aching back and shoulders, I felt as if I had been run over by a bus, but following self medication I perked up and we soundchecked and hung out. That's what bands do a lot....hang out. Then we played the gig and it was good fun and Chris and Les enjoyed themselves, and so did I and by coincidence, so did the audience. The rather baleful waning moon hung low in the sky as we made our way back to Dublin. Blood red, it seemed to cast an ominous spell. The thick fog added to the atmosphere. Still, we arrived back home in one piece and I fell into bed at 5am and slept well.