Kickstarter is Flying!!!

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Can’t quite believe how well the Kickstarter is going. We already have reached 66% of our funding goal and raised £1339 in way less than 24 hours. FANTASTIC. Thank you all so much. Please pledge if you haven’t already.

Here is the tracklisting of the album. It’s subject to change as the album is in it’s final stages of mixing and editing.

  1. Norbert Nigbur [8:29]
  2. All You Want / All You Need [7:11]
  3. Stranger – Outside [7:18]
  4. Glück Auf [9:48]
  5. (Don’t Try) Anything Else [9:47]

EX II Kickstarter RSD…

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I’ll be launching a Kickstarter for EX II on vinyl this Saturday, which is record store day so we can have our own RSD celebration without getting all commercial.

I’m so pleased with this album because it’s been years in the making and although it was quite quick to record because it’s mostly all live it was fastidiuosly put together and laboured over like no other record I’ve ever made before. It sounds monstrous. I’ve paid such attention to detail to the instruments used that everything on it is from the 70’s and the album has a very authentic feel, exactly how I wanted it. It took me years to save up and put the sound pallet together for this record. It was all recorded analogue and mixed on an old soundcraft desk.

I’ve also spent ages sitting on it, going back and listening after long breaks to make sure it still sounds good. I really feel like this is the start of something new for me, this album goes much deeper into a kraut feel than the first EX album. It’s definitely out there and I’m not going to post any tracks up in advance on soundcloud because I want the record to be listened to properly on decent equipment, in two halves, full blast. It rocks.

It’s only coming out on vinyl and limited to 300. No CD or download, sorry, that’s just the way I want it to be.

I’m also going to offer a reward (at no extra cost) whereby, if you pledge, you can choose to have your name on the album as co-producer. The front cover photograph (above) is looking pretty mean too I think! (yeah that is me).

Hopefully, together, we can make this a reality. Roll on RSD / Saturday.

Dealing with Narcissists….

People with Narcissistic Personality Disorders have an inflated sense of their own importance, a strong sense of entitlement, a deep need for admiration, yet a lack of empathy for others.

They use verbal abuse for power and control. Verbal Abuse is often dismissed as insignificant when compared to physical abuse. BUT, the long-term effect of verbal abuse is that you can lose your sense of ‘self’. You no longer know who you are. It feels like you’ve lost your soul.

A few years ago my sister phoned me up and told me some things that no one should hear. I can’t begin to tell you the world of good she did me though and it’s great to have her back in my life. During the conversation she asked me to go and get some Therapy. I said I didn’t think I needed it, and bless her, she agreed but asked me to do it anyway, to do it for her, so I did.

I spent 6 months talking to a stranger about my life, dutifully answering questions as best I could. I didn’t think much of it at the time to be honest, it made me think, but I wasn’t learning anything new. There was a beginning and an end. At the beginning she said: “I’m not here to fix you, if anything we talk about does resonate, you will feel a lot worse before you feel better.” Bring it on, I thought, I like a challenge, I used to be in a rock n roll band, what could possibly go wrong?

At one point, it was strange to see the therapist grabbing for the tissues on the table to wipe her eyes as I talked about my life. I didn’t think anything much about my life,  there was nothing unusual in it. “Why are you crying, I thought it was like that for everyone?” Turns out it wasn’t. The end of the therapy didn’t bring about any real answers or conclusion, just a few words to take away and ponder over. What she told me was that at the age of ten I looked at my Father and said to myself: “I will never be like him.” That kind of took me aback but oddly enough it never shocked me. So apparently from the age of ten all I had really wanted to do was get away from my Dad and my life ever since had been a struggle to do that. Your Father is supposed to be your role model and to a certain extent he was, he had become a blueprint, for me, of how not to be.

The other thing she kept saying was: ‘you don’t know what you don’t have’. If your parents don’t give you real love, you will never know that you never had it and you will learn to adapt and cope but you will never know it wasn’t there.

You see my Father is a narcissist. He won’t agree with that because that is what narcissists do. What was strange was that I had already been looking into this thing called narcissistic personality disorder before I had the therapy and what I found out was quite amazing. These people are everywhere. They are charming and they are clever and they are only in it for themselves but above all, they cannot live without what is called the codependent. The codependent is the arsehole who puts up with them. I’m a codependent who, in the past, through observing my parent’s behaviour, have adopted the traits of narcissistic behaviour, when needed, to get what I want. It’s probably one of the main reasons why six by seven worked. That’s another story. The main story here is that going through life as a codependent means that narcissists and people with narcissistic behavioural tendencies are drawn to you like a fly is drawn to shit. I spent my adult life attracting these rats and being fucked by them, without even knowing it.

The therapy only unlocks thoughts but change is something you have to instigate yourself and it doesn’t happen overnight. If things are gonna change, they have to change from within and you have to start to learn to try and understand the things you are talking about and the meaning they have and then affect that change yourself. It’s almost like you have to look at your life from an outsider’s point of view and it’s really fucking difficult. If you do this then things really do start to change but not as you thought they might. What is likely to happen is that everything you once had and believed in is likely to start falling through your fingers like water.

The key word is change. It’s something a lot of us human beings are afraid of, but I guess for me and my rootless upbringing it’s a perfectly normal thing to adapt to. So what do you do when you realise that you are a codependent and have surrounded yourself with narcissists? Well at first you go – shit! Then you go – you fucking idiot! Then you go – I fucking knew it! Then you go – what am I gonna do?!

You can only do one thing; get rid of them. There is no other way. Zero contact is the minimum requirement otherwise you will be fucked.

It’s hard at first and the ones you least suspect are usually the most terrifying of all. You see, the narcissist is like the mafia, they kill you with a smile, half of the time you don’t know it’s happening and these fuckers are everywhere. A helpful way to spot them is to look out for the one who calls you brother and often talks a lot about friendship and how busy they are and how many friends they have and family members that go on about ‘blood being thicker than water’ and ‘family values’ or ‘sticking together’ and things like that. It’s all a ploy to trick you so they can get what they want. I used to do it myself in order to get what I wanted: “We are a band boys, we are in this together.” If I was saying that it was likely that I was looking for recognition or demanding that something go my way for the ‘good of the band.’ For the good of me more like!

Now I see it more and more but the trouble is that I had such a thorough job done on me as a kid by my narcissistic parenting that I ended up completely surrounded by these arseholes. Imagine it like a cowboy breaking in a horse. Soon enough you are broken in as the narcissist rides on your back showing you how it’s going to be. Now you are in a corral surrounded by other broken horses and dominating masters. The only thing you can do is jump the fence and run as fast as you can towards the natural life you should be living. Ironically, that is just what I did as a teenager, I ran away from home and never went back. But there is getting away and there is truly getting away. From now on I intend to truly get away.

Now, one by one I’ve been chopping down my Christmas card list to the point of decimation and let me tell you, it feels good.

Once you begin to see the narcissists and the people with those tendencies you begin to be able to deal with them but then you have to keep reminding yourself that the only way to deal with them is to get rid of them completely (or if you can’t do that because of professional reasons, like you have one in your fucking band, then avoid as much contact as possible). This takes a while to sink in. It’s hard. You are in effect seeing what has always been there, deplorable behaviour, a one-sided relationship littered with empty words and hollow meaning. I used to find myself being driven mad and hitting the off licence every night and I never knew why. The behaviour of these people is incredible and you accept it and because they are constantly talking about how many friends they have and how much of a brother you are to them etc. you begin to feel isolated and without realising it, you turn your rage inward and you start to damage yourself.

When you pull away from them and ultimately cut them off and dump them you quickly realise that now, with the ability to look from the outside in, their incredible one sided behaviour, well, it’s as plain to see as the day is long, and you become aware that in reality they have no real friends and the people they hang around with are usually fucked up and drunk and unhappy themselves. Either that or people around them are using the narcissist quite casually by paying them money for a service that they provide. The narcissist calls these people ‘friends’.

The trouble is, you can’t see any of this until you break away. You have to break away, and once you do, it feels like a million pennies dropping and a thousand weights lifting and this change brings about the real change in your own life. I know that for many of you reading this you will be thinking that this is obvious. It is.

What is scary for most people is that they don’t want to lose these ‘friends’ for fear of backstabbing and reprisals. In my experience there is nothing to fear because this will already be going on anyway.

What is scary is that even though I’m aware of all this, I’m still in the early stages of recovery and pulling away and when it happens, I’m still turning my anger inwards. However, what I am realising is that with each one that I cut off it gets easier and the anger now lasts for only a day or even just a few hours. Initially the anger is always directed at the narcissist because they trigger something in you that makes you mad, but you soon begin to realise that your anger is actually directed at yourself. It’s because you are coming to terms with your own lunacy at accepting the madness of these people. What is mad is how many of them there are and how clandestine they are and how deceptive this character trait actually is.

I let another one go the other day. I’ve known him for years and I let this person mistreat me and have a pop and dig at me whenever he could. I never questioned it, I almost believed him and I let him do it again and again until the other day.

It culminated in him having to come round to my house to pick something up yet again which he hadn’t been able to properly fix (he’s an amateur sort of electro handyman that fixes pedals and amps) and as he took it away he actually said this to me:

“No doubt I will get this back to my workshop and find there is nothing wrong with it as usual.”

Now you have to think about that for a moment, and for the first time I actually did. For years I knew this person was like this but now for the first time, instead of being in his house, at his corral, on his terms, the changing person in me questioned what he had just said. I closed the door on him and two things went through my mind. One, could I be a fool for once again giving him something back that really didn’t need fixing? Two, what the fuck did he just say?!!! I stopped myself and looked at the evidence. Nothing I had ever given him back had ever not needed fixing again? However, it didn’t seem like that because when this did happen, after he fixed it, or corrected his mistake, he always pointed out quite categorically that it was either me or the thing itself that was the fault, never him. When someone does this, repeatedly, it’s easy to start to believe them. He probably even believes it himself. It’s narcissism at work again, in it’s most clandestine form.

The enormity of the patronising arrogance of what he had said, the sheer unfriendliness of it and the unwillingness to accept responsibility and even admit to one’s own mistakes to the point of actually believing your own bullshit is pure narcissism at it’s worst, it was all in there in this one comment. He was coming to collect something that had been serviced and repaired by him (badly) and I had complained about it not working correctly and yet before assessing it or even looking at it, he was already implying that there would probably be nothing wrong with it and that I probably don’t know what I’m talking about. It’s insane when you stop and think about that but it was only covering some of the traits of the narcissist: Self importance, lack of understanding or empathy for others, feeling you are always right, having a hard time admitting you are wrong etc.

For me, for years, it had been normal to accept this kind of behaviour from him, it was normal. So for years I would bang my head against the wall and drink and curse the human race and write another song about wanting to live on a different planet. But you know what, this was the planet I had created for myself by allowing people who can be like this into my life. It wasn’t just him, there were so many that I had to question my own sanity. I gravitated towards them and vice versa. I understand that now.

This awareness phase is cruel because you have to come to terms with the fact that you’ve been a complete fucking idiot. You start by being angry at the person who is being narcissistic then you begin to chastise yourself as you realise you put up with something there was no need to put up with. But after the anger and self incrimination you get the solace and the sheer exuberance of knowing that you are moving on and it’s incredible how within a few short hours you begin to feel life change and get better. These people, the one thing they all do is try and make you feel that you can’t do without them. They are clever at this and for a while you actually believe it, but then, when you do make the move, you realise how many others are out there who are kind and generous and helpful and not like that and you start to find them and gravitate towards them and they gravitate towards you and usually bring a healthy slice of misanthropy with them. And so, quite naturally it is you that is changing, not them. As in this case, the narcissist will always be the one to ‘break off the relationship’, because they know you are about to cut them off, they can sense it, they see it coming, they have to make themselves feel better by doing this, after all, it’s all they are left with.

This is happening more and more in my life now and as you can imagine, my life is changing. One by one the narcissists are gone. I haven’t had any contact with my Dad for at least a healthy 4-5 years now. In the past even a phone call (they used to come in weekly or fortnightly to keep me in my place) used to leave me fucked. I didn’t know it at the time. I was persistently abused and name called and put down, I was told I was a loser, I was lazy, that I always ran away from my problems, that I would amount to nothing, that the degree in Photography that I got myself was worthless and was just something I did to repair a damaged ego because I had failed my A Levels (which incidentally he had chosen for me). I was told that people no longer cared for me or for what I did and that ‘gyrating around the stage’ was just a pathetic attempt at getting some attention, that my wife was only with me because she felt sorry for me and my children should be felt sorry for for having me as a Father and that I was living in the wrong place and I should be doing this and not that and blah blah blah. Conversations were quickly steered towards football and politics and I was constantly told my views and opinions were wrong if they in any way went against his views. It went on and on and I used to take it and not question what he was saying because I knew that if I did, the phone would be slammed down and I would lose my Father. Lose what exactly?

I used to drink at least two bottles of wine a night and now I don’t drink at all and what is mad is that I haven’t even tried to stop. I’ve changed my life and got rid of the shit and the drinking has stopped. I never fucking needed it anyway, who does?

For years I used to tell myself that I needed to stop drinking. I knew I was damaging myself but I didn’t give a fuck, I was unhappy but I told myself I wasn’t. When I walked to the off licence it wasn’t because of my Dad or because so and so had made a nasty comment to me, it was because of something else; I told myself ‘life was shit’ or ‘I needed something to take the edge off’. When I look back now at the situations I was in and the ones in which I drank most heavily, it was because I was in direct contact with a narcissist or someone using narcissistic tactics to get their own way or get away with their outrageous behaviour.

 

When I was with Julian Cope I drank like an absolute sod. When I drove down to his house in the night (at his behest) I would drink three bottles of white wine the evening before we were going to spend three days together recording. I told myself that it was because of the long journey or I needed it to help me sleep but in reality I was in the midst of an extreme narcissistic personality disorder. Everything I did was controlled by him, even down to the clothes I was wearing and the music I was making. He even tried to get me to wear a swastika, I drew the line there. That was the beginning of the end actually as I then really started to question his ethics.

He wanted us to go to Cornwall to disrupt a Pagan Festival down there and I said no. It took me about an hour to summon the courage up to call him and tell him I thought it was a bad idea and I wouldn’t be going. The outcome was predictable, it was weird as I literally heard him turn into my Father and accuse me of amounting to nothing, having potential but being lazy, having an ego problem, being a general failure etc etc. This is what happens when you challenge the narcissist. The result was the phone being slammed down and it took him 3 years before he could talk to me again. This was because I voiced an opinion that I thought it was a bad idea to go to this festival and disrupt it. It turned out that I was right and they all nearly got their heads kicked in and the police arrested them all and drove them to the outskirts of Padstow and told them to fuck off.

In the interim years, every single one of those people involved with him had walked away and none of them has a good word to say about him or will indeed ever be involved with him again. I went back to him because he was charming and clever and he soon coerced me into doing exactly what he wanted again. I was useful to him. It couldn’t last though because I started to question him and his radical ideas. He didn’t like it and cut me off. It had to be him that cut me off, he obviously was sensing that I was on my way out, eventually he did it with everyone.

Now that I understand the narcissist and have an understanding of what being the codependent is, I am slowly but surely dealing with it. It’s hard, you would think it would be easy but it’s not. They employ all sorts of different tactics and some are worse than others but they are also charming and clever and sometimes the one you least expect is the worst one of all and you really don’t want to believe it. Don’t forget, they’ve been doing a job on you and probably a pretty thorough one and you probably let them get away with it for years.

Now, to a certain extent I’m literally rebuilding my life and the evidence is that it’s working. I’m not blaming the narcissist, I’m gaining an understanding and I’m understanding that blaming myself is not going to work either. I’m trying.

There are definite patterns, I see them. Sometimes it feels like being a teenager and having been with a girlfriend who was cheating on you and when you finished with her your mates finally tell you what she was up to. You feel anger, then you feel stupid. What you gonna do?  You have to realise that you are not stupid, you’ve moved on. The stage of me being angry is diminishing more and more. It’s still there, it has to be while I get rid of the last vestiges of my previous life.

I can’t wait until I get to the point where I see the narcissist straight away and just turn away with a happy smile, I think it’s already happening, I suspect it will be a natural progression, they will no longer gravitate to me nor me to them.

I guess that is just what most sane people do? The narcissist is in fact very lonely. As he tells you of all his friends and how busy he is you have to remind yourself that his put downs and caustic comments are just a way to prop up his own fragile ego. They will never change but I can.

 

The Manics Want To Kill Me…

RICHIE MANIC

Richey Manic, just sort of stood or sat on the stage looking cool and drank red stripe while the others played.

This month I’m going to release another chapter of my autobiography with MuZiK KluB 45. I’ve been serialising the book chapter by chapter across my MuZiK KluB releases. This month will be Chapter 8 and all about six by seven. Anyway, I’ve decided to publish chapter one on my blog! Unlike most autobiography’s, I didn’t want to start at the beginning of my life, I always find that a bit boring when I’m reading about other people’s lives, maybe I should be, but I’m not so interested in reading 3000 words about Neil Young’s primary school. Here you go… hope you like it.

 

CHAPTER ONE

1991 Nottingham Polytechnic.
Another New Start
John Martyn
The Manics Wanna Kill Me
Bill Hicks

After finishing Art College in Wakefield at the beginning of the summer of 1991, I headed off to take my place at Nottingham Polytechnic where I had gained a place on the BA Hons Degree course in Photography. I also was accepted for a place at London Polytechnic but decided not to go there. I liked the look of the course in Nottingham and the cheapness of living there as opposed to the great expense of London. Ironically they also had loads of great bands on a weekly basis at the Poly in Nottingham and that is what I wanted to do, build a portfolio of great band shots and then take them to London and get a job with the Melody Maker. I had already been photographing loads of bands in Wakefield and the very week I started at Nottingham I had my first picture published in the Melody Maker, a picture of singer Ihor from local Wakey band ‘Gentle Ihors Devotion.’

It was Ihor who drove me to Nottingham from Wakefield, he was the only guy I knew with a car. We packed my stuff up, an old army suitcase, some records, a ghetto blaster, camera, enlarger and chemicals and a bag full of clothes. That’s all I had to my name. I’d sorted a terraced house out a few months earlier in Forest Fields and Ihor dropped me off outside it in the pouring rain. My room was the one on the other side of the front door, the living room in a two up two down. As I said my goodbyes to Ihor, a blonde girl walked up the street, folded down her umbrella and made a move to walk in through the front door into my room. I said, “Ah, Hi, you must be one of the people I am sharing the house with?” “It fucking looks that way doesn’t it mate!” came the reply as she walked past us and into the house. “See you later” said Ihor smiling and eyebrows raised, “Have fun.”

That evening, after unpacking, I had one of the most miserable nights of my life. Once again I had uprooted and moved, once again I had to start all over, I seemed to be doing this all my life. I missed my girlfriend Liz who was still in Wakefield finishing her course at Bretton Hall. I missed all the friends I had made up there over the last few years. I felt so isolated and I couldn’t breathe any deep breaths because of my Asthma. I went out to speak to the girl I was sharing the house with but she couldn’t even look me in the eye, I thought she was going to twat me when I asked her where the nearest shop was. I found out later that she fancied me so much she would completely go to pieces when I approached her. In the weeks that followed, she would curse me, ignore me, or she would write me strange letters and make me Welsh Rarebit and leave it outside my door with a quick knock before escaping to her room. She moved out before the term was over, thank God. Another lad from Preston moved in, so there were three of us and we all called each other ‘charver’ and got on ok.

I always used to make a massive pot of curry once a week so I could heat a bowl full up when I got home at night and eat it with pitta bread. It’s all I lived off. They were always complaining when I made it,  “Fucking hell charver, that stinks, you’re smoking the house out!” It was a vegetarian delight the Asian corner shop man in Wakefield taught me how to make and soon enough they were eating it too, living off it with pitta bread to be precise.

I had a tough start at College. I had a really bad chest and sometimes I couldn’t even make it up the hill towards the college. For some reason I couldn’t breathe deeply and the doctors couldn’t sort it. I was on all sorts of pills and antibiotics and I figured it would either kill me or go away. After three or four weeks it eventually went away and I could at last take a deep gulp of air and get up that fucking hill without having to stop and rest 3 times like an old man. After my first week in Nottingham, a couple of mates from Wakefield came up for the first weekend to ‘cheer me up.’ That consisted of drinking copious amounts of beer and smoking draw and driving around Nottingham pissed in a VW Beetle. Clever for the old Asthma.

The following weekend my cousin Joerg came over from Germany to ‘keep me company’. He confided in me that he was a smack addict and would be coming down over the next few days. I had already guessed as much but this was the first time he admitted it to me. He started drinking white wine at 9 in the morning and swallowing valium and other pills to keep the cold turkey and shakes at bay. This guy was like my brother, I had grown up with him almost every holiday and it broke my heart to see him in such a state but there is nothing you can do to help when someone is an addict and doesn’t want to change. He had been in a terrible motorcycle crash a year before that ripped his arm off, took his finger off and smashed his jaw to pieces. They sewed his arm back on but it just hung there quite limp and he has perpetual pins and needles in it. He got some large insurance payouts as the accident happened on the way to work and I guess he figured the best way to spend his money was to inject his fucked arm with heroin. Joerg I love you but that was a terrible thing you did to us, to those that loved you and to yourself. I vowed never to take Heroin. It steals your soul and leaves you empty, like a shell, it steals your character and all you do is sleep or withdraw. Boring.

We spent the weekend visiting all the Robin Hood sites in Nottingham. People jousting up at the castle, a Robin Hood film at The Broadway Cinema and sitting in these weird contraptions that took us around ‘The Tales Of Robin Hood’ a living experience of the times the legendary thief lived in. It sure was, we sat there in the dark drinking whisky out of miniature bottles and throwing the empties at the plastic Merry Men and the Sheriff.

I got through my first term at college by generally keeping myself to myself. I didn’t want to make too many friends because I knew I’d spend the rest of my time trying to fuck them off. The first thing I was going to do was find out who was responsible for booking all the bands. I took my portfolio of pictures to the Student Union Entertainments Secretary, Bill Redhead, an avid Arsenal Fan. He liked my pictures and could see I was keen and he agreed to give me a free Access All Areas pass for every show as long as I gave him one colour and one black and white 10” x 8”  photograph of each show.

My girlfriend Liz came up to see me a couple of times from Wakefield during my first term but we quickly fell apart from the distance between us. She seemed more interested in free Tori Amos passes than hanging out with me anyway. To be honest, I was more interested in having a laugh, I didn’t want a girlfriend, just wanted to keep myself to myself and fuck about and do what I wanted. I actually managed to fail my first term on a technicality because I forgot to hand something in, a scrapbook of collected magazine articles. It was a project we had to do to prove we were reading all the leading Art and Photography Journals. I felt I was above it all, it was a crock of shit because I had been reading all these journals anyway, why should I be treated like a kid and have to prove it? Anyway, I came down off my high horse and quickly made the scrapbook and handed it to the authorities to pass the first term. For me so far the course was very uninspiring and boring and not a lot happened, it was too slow and I was really just interested in photographing bands.

The Student Union club was called Gigs And Things and I got to know a lot of people in it who were really in it for the music. A lot of those guys are now front of house and monitor engineers for the likes of Jools Holland, Gomez, The Cure and Arctic Monkeys amongst others. They were all really dedicated people who used the Society to get into the music business and Bill Redhead gave them all an opportunity to learn hands on.

Because of my involvement in Gigs And Things, I pretty soon got myself a job in the Student Union Bar as a door security guy. This meant I had to check everyone’s student union cards and if they didn’t have one they had to be signed in by me or refused entry. I got £10 a night for sitting on my arse drinking pints of beer at £1 each and letting all and sundry in. One night, I even sat there tripping my nut off on acid. It was great, I would do other peoples shifts too and most weeks I was on the door 6 nights and in between running down to the photographers pit to photograph Suede or whoever. It was great, free beer and some extra dosh and film for my camera.

The first band I photographed at the Poly was John Martyn. I had been a fan of his for years and had already seen him a few times in Canterbury, once in London and also a couple of times in Leeds. I went down early to watch the guys build the stage and get a feel for what went on to make a gig happen at the poly. There was a fuck up with the PA that night and it never turned up. John Martyn did though and when he found out he promptly went down the pub until it got sorted. The guys from the Student Union were professional as ever, calmly and without panicking they made a few phone calls and sorted a PA. They made the gig happen even though they could have all by rights just fucked off home. Someone went down to the pub opposite the poly and managed to haul John Martyn out and I saw him come into the downstairs bar of the Byron building, absolutely steaming. Soon enough he was at the bar holding his Martin Dreadnought guitar screaming at the young girl behind the bar “MICE, MICE!!!” She was absolutely petrified and didn’t know what he meant. I grabbed my chance and went over and said, “He means ice, he wants ice in that drink!”

john martyn

John Martyn sozzled… (actually pissed as a fart but still able to play and sound amazing)
I politely asked him if I could take his picture and he agreed. I pointed over to the corner of the room and he followed me over and sat down on a chair in front of me. I had an old Rolleicord Camera from the 60’s and you have to look down into the viewfinder to take the picture. He loved it and started to relax. For years I had tried to learn to play his song ‘May You Never’ on the guitar and I couldn’t let this opportunity go begging so I asked him if he could play it for me. He immediately launched into it and started singing very quietly. He played it in standard tuning in the key of D. ‘Wow, so that’s how you play it, I thought it was open tuning, I can show you three different ways to play that song John” I said. He laughed at me and started playing some old blues stuff and mumbling about Big Bill Broonzy. At my request he also started to play Easy Blues off Solid Air. He had fingers like sausages and the strength of his grip on the guitar was immense yet he floated across the fret board with grace, a truly amazing guitar player. Then suddenly he stood up and shouted, “BOYS BOYS!! I gotta go, I gotta play. Sound check! My son, he’s doing front of house you know!!” and off he went, swaying from side to side like an old MFI wardrobe, guitar in hand and onto the stage for sound check.

During my first year at College I photographed many bands, every single one that came through. The ones that stand out are Curve, because me and my mate hassled the singer so much to let us go on tour with them that we got thrown out of the dressing room. Gong, because we stole their rider and they nearly came back to stay at my house. The Australian Doors, because they did come back to stay at my house. Daisy Chainsaw because the lighting rig fell over and hit me on the head and knocked me out. The Manic Street Preachers, because they were going to kill me. They were promoting the single You Love Us and I was at my station between the stage and the barrier waiting for the band to come on when Bill Redhead crawled in and said, “You need to get out of here Chris, I just spoke to the band, they said if you take a single picture of them they are gonna jump off the stage and kill you.”

“What? Why? You’re joking?” I said. “Nope, they mean it, you need to get out of here.”  I got out of there, the atmosphere was hostile anyway, I’d already had little oiks shouting and spitting at me while I was in the pit and I thought it would kick off as soon as the band came on. If the little designer punk fans didn’t give me a black eye, now it turns out the band would. I went to the balcony and observed from a distance as the Manics came on and launched into You Love Us. I’d never seen them before and to be honest I thought it was a joke, they looked like fancy dress Clash and they were posing and posturing around the stage all gushing angst and poodle metal disguised as punk rock. The kids at the front loved it. I wandered off down into the pit and stood in front of Richey Edwards who spent most of his time on the floor drinking cans of Red Stripe and not playing at all but I realised it didn’t matter. It was all blood and thunder and the band knew exactly what they were doing. I shot off three rolls of film without them even noticing and for the final frame I lifted my camera so high it was practically under the singers nose. When he saw me he became furious and pointed at me and shouted and mouthed the words ‘I’m fucking gonna kill you.’ I wasn’t going to hang around, I didn’t think he would but I ducked under the barrier and off to the side of the hall. He was still pointing at me and shouting as I gave him the two fingered salute and made my way up to Rock City to see if there was anything decent on.

Manics Live

YOU LOVE US TOUR Manic Street Preachers : No pictures or we will kill you. I remember thinking: ‘This is all style over substance and didn’t the Clash already do this?’ 

Years later the Manic Street Preachers asked us to go on tour around Europe with them during their all white ‘Teletubbies’ period, don’t ask me what album, the single was ‘If You Tolerate This Then Your Children Will Be Next.’ We got the call from our record label whilst we were on tour with The Delgado’s in the UK. We were having a good time and people were coming to the shows, I didn’t want to do The Manics Tour but the management and label wanted us to go so we voted on it and it was 4-1 against me. On the first night of the tour in Stockholm I remember meeting the singer James Dean Bradfield at the after show at a bar in a club. I reminded him of the fact that the last time he saw me he wanted to kill me. He just shook his head and denied it saying “We were never like that mate.” At that time I didn’t have much respect for the Manics, I didn’t particularly like what they did and they weren’t very friendly towards us, I never even spoke to Nicky Wire or the drummer in three weeks of touring. They asked us on tour and just weren’t interested. By the end of the tour though I did have an understanding of why they just wanted to keep themselves to themselves. Just by being the singer in the support band I got fed up of being asked where Richey Edwards was by their obsessive fans. One fan even tricked me into doing an interview with her and then risked her life climbing out of a four-storey window to try to get to their dressing room before I hauled her back in screaming. They performed consistently great every night and were just being professional. We got on with their crew who were all mad Millwall supporters with baseball bats in their flight cases. I had to keep my mouth shut about supporting West Ham. I think we were probably quite a troublesome support act for them.

Towards the end of my first year I was broke. I was living off my homemade curries and Carlsberg Special Brew and pints of Lowenbrau whilst at ‘work’ in the student Union. The photography course was a real drain financially. The cost of film and paper was much more than any other students had to bear and I was doing course work as well as firing off 10 rolls of film each week on bands. I had managed to stay at my Auntie’s in Blackpool over Christmas and she fed me and I spent most of my time in a room reading books for college. I used to dread the holidays. Things were ok when I got my grant at the beginning of term and then they brought in the student loans system so I managed on that. Trouble was, it was difficult getting a job for just 3 weeks at Easter and everyone else went home to his or her parents. My first Easter break involved me going over to Germany to see my cousin Joerg. I thought I may as well be broke in Germany as in England and the trains were cheap. When I got to Germany Joerg was in a terrible state. He tried to hide the heroin habit from me but I couldn’t help but see how his life was changing and all the druggies that he was now surrounded by were the scum of the earth. At least he had fallen into it with some kind of romantic Bukowski kind of notion, he was a good person gone wrong because the drugs had really taken hold of him, but the others were creeps and freeloaders. I told him we should get out of Dorsten, the town where he lived and get on the train to Berlin. We went down the station and just jumped on the next train and headed for Berlin.

My recollection of what we did and how we got there is hazy. Somehow we ended up on another train to Warsaw. I think it was so we had somewhere we could sleep. I kept waking up and looking out of the window of the train and seeing fields with horses and ploughs like it was 1940. When we got to Warsaw we were going to buy tickets to Moscow but first we set about going into Poland’s capital city. We’d barely got out of the station when Joergs legs couldn’t carry him anymore so we got on a bus with absolutely no idea of where it was going. The bus was a boneshaker that hit every pothole in Poland on it’s way into the hinterland between Warsaw and the Russian border. We were on it for hours and went through dense forests and past villages that no tourist would ever see, it was total poverty and I couldn’t believe I was still in Europe. The Berlin Wall had only been down a couple of years but this part of the world hardly looked like it had noticed. When we stopped at the end of the line the bus driver asked us where we were going. Joerg was asleep on the backseat. I told him we needed to get back to Warsaw but we shared no common language. He laughed at us and shook his head. A few hours later we were back in Warsaw and it was getting dark and Joerg had woken up. We tried to get some beer and some food but everything was just shit. We thought about Moscow but quickly decided to get back to Western Civilisation, we’d had enough of the East after only twelve hours or so. We got back to Berlin and the first thing we did was stuff our faces with cake and coffee at the station.

I went back to England to start my third term at college at the beginning of May. When the summer came I went to stay at my Auntie Madge’s in Blackpool. I searched for work. She said I would easily get a short-term job in the summer months in Blackpool and I immediately started applying for jobs in the local paper. I got more and more desperate wandering from pub to pub asking for bar jobs, anything. I went down to the pleasure beach every day, but no jobs were available. It was the worst holiday season in Blackpool’s history apparently. I applied for a job at the Sea Life Centre on the Golden Mile as a living ‘monster’ who interacted with the public, scaring them on a ghost train ride. I went through two days of auditions only to be told, ‘You’d make a great Frankenstein but we don’t need one right now’. I was becoming increasingly more desperate and even applied for a job as a nude model and a snake holder. In the end my Auntie gave me a job. She owned a big rest home called The Beeches at the top of the prom and had me building en suite toilets with my Uncle Bob and cousin Terry. We had a great time, they got me to do all the shitty tiling and artexing jobs and I soon became an ‘expert’. I caked the artex on so thick that it’s still there to this day, you need a jack hammer to get it off. I had my own Black and Decker workmate which one of the residents, an ex tramp called Bobby, used to piss all over when I was out of the room. We worked hard from 8 till 6 everyday and my Auntie gave me £120 a week and a room and great food. After a few weeks I had enough money to buy a Metz flashgun, the holy grail of flashguns was mine! Life was great. One night the phone went and my Auntie said, “It’s for you, it’s your Dad.” He said to me, “Son are you sitting down? I have some news which might shock you.” I thought ‘Shit, it’s Joerg, he’s fucking killed himself with the smack.’ I yelled at my Dad, ‘What’s wrong, who is dead?!!” “Oh! On the contrary” he said, “you have a one year old sister Chris, I had a daughter with my mistress that I never told you about, but I’m telling you now because your Mum has found out and I don’t want you to hear it from her first.” “Oh right” I said, “thanks for that, what am I supposed to say?” “How about congratulations?” came the reply.

At the end of the summer my Auntie Madge and Uncle Bob gave me a lift back to Nottingham in their camper van as they were due for a trip down to Leicester to see the family (most of my English side of the family are based in Leicester and Rugby). They dropped me off at my new digs in Sherwood and came in to have a look. I had moved into a shared house with four other girls from the photography course and had just dumped my stuff off in the room before heading off to Blackpool at the end of the last term. It looked a bit scummy and they weren’t too impressed. “Good grief, is this where you are going to live?” asked my Auntie, “You haven’t even got a telly!” She went straight down and ripped the telly out of the camper van and gave it to me. “Here, I can’t possibly leave you here without a telly!” she said. Bless her, they were so great to me and still to this day I know there are two people out there that I could turn to in a time of crisis. Everyone needs that.

My second year at college was much better than the first. I had a couple of good mates and my music portfolio was beginning to take shape and now I was no longer a ‘first year’ and could laugh at the next lot of newbies coming in. The course became easier and I started settling in and loved the new house I was living in with the girls. The only problem was that the old student union had been gutted to make way for a new era. Gone was the old red fabric airport 70’s lounge workingmen’s club and in came the new steel and girder hacienda look. My job became a nightmare as they told us we had to now actually check everyone’s Student Union cards. Shit! I pushed it as far as I could, letting people in and not really doing my job but it wasn’t much fun, more like real work. The £1 a pint Lowenbrau had also been replaced by Carling and Fosters, everything was turning corporate. I carried on, I needed the money but worked less hours. There were still great bands coming through the college, even better than in the last term. Bill somehow managed to negotiate a gig with Shakespeare’s Sister and they played the poly the week they were number one with the massive hit ‘Stay.’  David Icke came in to give the inaugural Lecture and Bill could hardly keep a straight face when he introduced him, asking people to be respectful to the ‘Son of God’ and to “please let him talk without interruption.” They crucified him as soon as he walked on and he spent the first five minutes shouting: “Empty Vessels make the most noise!!!!”

There were also a lot of new comedians coming through the college circuit at this time; Mark Lamarr, Sean Hughes, Eddie Izzard and Bill Hicks was back a second time. I’d already photographed him a few months earlier when he did an amazing performance in the Student Union. To be honest I didn’t really know who he was at that first gig and I only went down to take some quick pictures on a Friday night before heading off to a party I’d been invited to. I stayed for the whole gig because he was so funny. This time around I asked Bill Redhead if I could go down to his dressing room before the gig and meet him and take some proper portraits. He agreed I could and I practiced a week before hand on fellow students with my Rollei and Metz attached to it so I would get the lighting right. I was also trying to take pictures through a magnifying glass with a 35mm camera.

I went down to the dressing room and was a bit nervous to be honest. Bill Hicks could be quite incendiary on stage and I don’t think he suffered fools gladly. I knocked on the door and it went flying open and Bill Hicks was standing behind a small table in the middle of the room, his driver had opened the door, they both said nothing. “Hi, I’m Chris, I’m the photographer for the Student Union and I photograph all the bands and comedians that come to play and perform in the Byron building here at Nottingham Polytechnic.” Nothing… just silence and staring. Then Bill Hicks spat his chewing gum out on the table, leaned over it and pointed at it as if it were a tiny insect and said, “Well film that then Motherfucker!”

I thought, ‘Shit, he’s a dickhead, oh no!’ I didn’t quite know what to do, I was shocked. Then he suddenly jumped up and came over to me and said “Come on in Chris, just foolin’ around with yer there son!” I spent the next hour photographing him and talking to him about life, music and comedy. He was very obliging and was proud to have stopped smoking. I asked him how he had managed it. He told me he used Nicotine patches, sort of band-aids with cigarettes in them! What? You have to remember this was 1992 and long before Nicorette patches were heard of here. He got his driver to go upstairs to the car and get them to show me. He jumped around the room doing Dracula impressions with his coat, he was pissed off that all his friends in America had already seen the new Gary Oldman Dracula film and he was stuck on tour in a country where it wouldn’t be released for a few more weeks. I noticed that he kept fluctuating between being quiet full on and jumping around and making jokes to suddenly going very quiet and sitting down, looking really tired. He was probably knackered out from all the touring but when his driver returned from the car with a suitcase full of pharmaceutical drugs I thought he might be ill.

His driver opened the suitcase to get the patches out to show me and it was like a mini drug store in there. I asked him why he had given up smoking and he said, “I can’t do this job and smoke too, no way, not anymore.” He then wrote his address in LA down on a small piece of paper and asked me to send him the pictures. “Send them here quick” he said, “before I move to the relative safety of New York, these drive by shootings in Los Angeles are becoming worrying.” He put his hand in his pocket and gave me all his change to cover the postage, no one had ever done this before. I showed him some of the pictures I had taken of him during the previous show at the poly and he chuckled to himself as he looked at them. He kept some and signed two of them for myself and Bill Redhead. A week or so later I sent him the pictures and a card with a picture of an American thirties style cop, shooting the heads off some flowers in a vase standing on a table with a caption underneath, “Tex’s Tulip threshold was low that day”. To my amazement, a few weeks later I received a letter from him thanking me for making him look like Randy Bachman and he loved the magnifying glass shots too. I still have that letter, it’s hilarious and one of my prized possessions.

Bill Hicks 1741

Last year I got a phone call from a guy in New York who worked for the record label Ryko Disc who put Bill Hicks stuff out. The A&R man at the label had tracked me down because they were working on an anthology 4 DVD box set and they wanted to use some of my pictures. It turns out Bill Hicks kept everything and my pictures had my name and address stamped on the back. I told him I also had eight other unseen and unpublished shots of Bill from that session and he was really eager to see them. I dug the old negatives out and scanned them and emailed him the pictures. He was on the phone pretty sharpish after getting the attachments saying he would send a contract through for me to sign as they wanted to use the pictures desperately.

Me and my wife Karen were excited and thought we might make a bit of much needed cash. When the contract came through it was with Universal, not Ryko Disc, and they wanted the rights to use all of my pictures in perpetuity across the territory of ‘the known universe.’ There was also a list of what they wanted to use them for including everything from simple key rings to giant Billboards and everything in between. The list read like an Argos catalogue, they had left nothing out, not even car mats. The fee they were offering was $ 0.00. I phoned the guy up in New York and was told a sob story about how everybody was working on this project as a labour of love and even John Cleese was writing the sleeve notes for nothing. I tried to negotiate but he wasn’t having it. I said they could use a picture for total exploitation if they gave $1000 to pancreatic cancer research. He said that they couldn’t even do that as they had no budget. He added, “These pictures will make you famous.” No they won’t! I asked him if he would be getting any wages who exactly was paying for his office on Broadway, the phone bill and chair he was sitting on?’

I told him I would think about it and send him an email. I put the phone down and sent him an email saying:

“IF YOU ARE IN MARKETING KILL YOURSELF”