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December 24, 2008

Merry Mutherfuckin' Christmas. Yo!

Don't ask. For some reason I've come over all Ghetto Xmas! I have no explanation other than it just felt right.

Normal services will resume shortly. DO NOT PANIC!

I had the weirdest frikkin' dream last night. I think it was triggered by us seeing "Sunset Boulevard" last night...

[Side note: no matter how queer I may become in my dotage, I will never be as gay as the fellow sat next to me in the theatre yesterday. Every time the Norma Desmond character came onstage to sang he wept uncontrollably then gave her an arms-fully-outstretched standing ovation, gasping "Bravo, Bravo" whilst choking back tears! Frankly, that's just 'feeling' too much!] Sunset Boulevard... strange dream!

In the dream I was on holiday and found myself downing a few pints in a remote country pub. It was packed with locals, all there to see a new 'band' play. The band was actually just a lone guitarist doing 'the Steve Vai thing', with a young blonde rock-chick type, dressed only in hot-pants and a fur coat. Think 'girl from Blind Faith album', minus the plane, plus a furry outdoor garment.

You got the picture? Nipples were involved. Did nothing for me!

So, the guitarist was running around the pub, shredding demonically, whilst the young lady ground (grinded?) herself against him as if he were a human pole. The guy was having real trouble keeping his axe in tune. Every bend went horribly wrong. Eventually he just sat down in the corner twiddling with the machine heads whilst the girl kept on keeping on.

The crowd didn't seem to mind. I don't think they were there for the music.

Anywho, being civic-minded I decided to try and help by loaning him Red. I pulled the guitar out of its case and got to tuning it up. The harder I tried, the more difficult it became and the weirder Red started to look. Eventually it became clear that not only did I not have enough strings, but that my beloved Les Paul was actually just a couple of 2x4's nailed to a badly painted plank!

Frustrated, I grabbed a minicab and headed back to my trailer, not really noticing the route we took.

At this point I really should have realised it was a dream and woken up. I mean... me... vacationing in a trailer? Not bloody likely!

So, I get dropped off at the trailer park (insert your own Britney Spears joke here) and, after avoiding a pill-popping drug dealer, I settle in for the night. The next morning comes around rather quickly and I awake in a panic, realising that I'd left Red in the bar and that I didn't know where the hell the joint was.

The dream ended with me running around trying to quiz locals as to where the last nights festivities had taken place! Kinda like that scene at the start of "An American Werewolf..."

Bzzzzzz... Bzzzzzz... Bzzzzz...

Alarm. Morning. It's CHRISTMAS EVE!!!!

So, the good news is that I spoke with my boss last night and there's no budget left this year for me to be in the office (!) so I get just over a week off. Tim'll be studying for his exams in the New Year, so it'll mostly just be me and Red, p***ing off the neighbours!

I'm really looking forward to the time off. I'd originally thought that I'd be working right through Xmas and New Year so yesterday's 11th hour stay of execution came as a more-than-pleasant surprise...

Okay, and just because I'm sure all of you have been nice, not naughty, here are the lyrics to my all time favourite Chrimbo song...

"Tonight's The Kind Of Night"
Written by Melanie Safka Schekeryk
Best ever performance by Kiki & Herb

Tonight's the kind of night
Where all things come together
Tonight's the kind of night
Where nothing need be said
Tonight's the kind of night
Where all the lamps are burning
And nobody wants to go to bed

Some will have crackers and
Some will have pudding
Soup and crispies and home made bread
And no one will go hungry
And lovers will be faithful
We'll sip a little cup and
Then we'll sip another and we'll sing

Come all ye faithful tonight, sing out
Merry Christmas, oh yeah!
Ave Maria we'll cry, one more time
Merry Christmas

Mommy's and Daddy's are loving all their children
And from a distant room
We can hear then giggling
One of them is dreaming
The world a little brighter
And everyone is listening
To the song in their head, and they sing

Come all ye faithful tonight, sing out
Merry Christmas, oh yeah!
Ave Maria we'll try, one more time
Merry Christmas

Tonight's the kind of night
The world won't hold us down here
From planet to planet
From star to star
We'll shine our little light
That everyone can follow

Tonight's the kind of night
Where all the lamps are burning
And no one will go hungry
And lovers will be faithful
Tonight's the kind of night
Where all things come together
Tonight I make a promise
That I will sing forever
Tonight the kisses fly from all our little fingers
And nobody wants to go to bed

Come all ye faithful tonight, sing out
Merry Christmas, oh yeah!
Ave Maria we'll try, one more time
Merry Christmas

Come all ye faithful tonight, sing out
Merry Christmas, oh yeah!
Ave Maria we'll try, one more time
Merry Christmas
Merry Christmas

So! Merry Christmas one and all. Be beautiful, eh?

December 23, 2008

Okay, Okay, Okay...

So it'll still be "The Fillmore Five Project"!

I need to change the blurp, though. Maybe do some (early) Spring cleaning. Dress this ageing piece of mutton up as a bouncing baby lamb... Feel free to slag off any of the changes I make over the coming weeks! I probably won't listen, but hey, you'll feel better for having said something... And any changes will be work-in progress for a while.

You know, when we went for the Indian on Sunday I didn't think it would be possible for me to eat any more food than that. Last night I definitely beat Sunday's effort with a Chinese. I can still feel the duck pancakes pressing against my ribs...

God, it's almost Xmas... and the weather in London's turned (relatively) warm again! What's with that?

December 22, 2008

The Future...

Oh, by the way, I'm currently taking suggestions for the title of 'the new blog'...

Best I came up with was "The Continuing Adventures Of Red Dog"...

Too bloody long.

Maybe I should just stick with 'Fillmore Five' and drop the 'Project'...

Or... "Fillmore Five" (subtitled "The Continuing Adventures Of Red Dog")?

Too cornball, I guess...

Same Old... Same Old...

...or "When Exactly Will I Become An Adult, Mommy?"

So... new valve arrived on Saturday morning...


[Side note: if Special Delivery is so special, why don't they make the postman wait until you're at least awake and preferably dressed before knocking on your front door?]

Anywho. Valve arrived. Didn't have time to fit it on Saturday. Had literally 10 minutes free time to shove it in and have a play on Sunday, in between hurriedly vacuuming the flat and guests arriving at 12:30.

Rewind... what?

Okay, so Tim and I were supposed to be having a day together on Saturday, having been royally punished by our personal trainer for being so lardy... at 10am! Now, c'mon, everybody's a bit lardy at 10am, aren't they? So, he basically spent the hour between 10 and 11 trying to kill us, forcing our puny bodies to do all kind of things that are grossly unnatural.

"Why the hell would I want to lift that?


So, battered, bruised and broken after the gym we headed into town on the bikes for the day. Zoom-zoom, beep-beep, all good. We had theatre tickets for a show at 20:00, so after a few hours of terrorising unsuspecting Chrimbo pedestrians we returned home, showered, changed and headed out.

Oh, before we leave the West End (for now), special note goes to Carnaby Street (as usual) for having the season's best Christmas decorations! Giant inflatable snowmen! Terribly "Ghostbusters" but rather fun.

Everything was going according to plan. We arrived at the theatre just in time for a swift beverage, took our places in the darkened hall and sat through the first half.

...'Sat through'... no laughing... at all... and it was supposed to be a comedy! In deference to the performers I'm not going to let on which show it was, but let's just say that sometimes theatre is less than the sum of its parts. That was soooo true in this instance.

The interval lights came up, we looked at each other knowingly and walked out. We never do that! About that time our best laid plans started to fall apart. After a quick dinner at Ping Pong (WHY???!?) we headed into Soho to try and salvage the evening. See, the thing is that we knew that this would be about our only time to enjoy ourselves, what with my work and Tim's studies. We also knew that we had friends arriving at around 12:30 on Sunday so we couldn't stay out late.

I think it was the mojito at Ping Pong that did it. That was the tipping point. After that everything seems like a blur.

...or maybe it was the cheap mixed drinks at one of the backstreet bars in Soho... one that we had to leave because some weird (drunk) guy was gushing about how he'd been with his partner for 26 years but Tim was the most handsome man he'd ever seen in his life (whilst squeezing my knee! Of course, I'm contracturally obliged to agree that Tim is the most handsome man in the world but I suspect that the blood in this guy's alcohol system may have been affecting his judgement. Whatever. We elected to change venue...

I distinctly remember not dancing at the Shadow Lounge... seemingly a spot to 'get on down' with the cream of the C-list crop. After the Shadow Lounge I unsuccessfully tried to channel my mother, saying that we should be sensible and get home so that we could get up early in the morning to clean house. Next thing I knew it was 4am and we were dancing on a podium in one of London's many, many underground clubs.

12:30 comes around quickly when you're out all night shaking your groove thing... and the morning mirror is not your friend, I can tell you!

...all of which is a long-winded way of saying that no, I didn't get the chance to road test the new valve in my amp. I fitted it and noodled for 20 seconds before realising that I needed to scrape the residue from my drunken late-night pizza making attempt from the kitchen surfaces.

Today I'm just keeping on, keeping on. Sunday's gut-busting Brick Lane curry is still sitting heavy and I'm slightly dreading the meetup with friends for Xmas drinks tonight. Maybe I should stick to soft drinks... there's always a first time, eh?

December 19, 2008

Chasing Valves..., not "Chasing Cars"... chasing valves!

So, it's been two weeks and no valve, despite having chased the supplier earlier in the week and being told (rather off-handedly) that my order was in a batch that had been processed so I should receive it 'within the next couple of days'.

Phoned them up again just now and got someone else, who searched their system and found that my valve hadn't been processed for some reason. She was very apologetic and promised to comp me next-day delivery, so I should hopefully have it tomorrow... hopefully.

We shall see!

In other news, the powers that be just suggested to me that perhaps I'd like to work all the way through Xmas and New Year's as our software licence for a particular program is running out and they'd like to get the best value possible out of the remaining few weeks.

I'll leave it to your imagination how many fingers I mentally held up!

December 16, 2008

Derek Trucks New Album

...due out in January!

Okay, so I knew the new Derek Trucks Band album was coming out. What I didn't expect was to be asked to promote it on this site.

Anything for the dTb. Here you go... here's a short video about the making of "Already Free".

Project Recap: Headed Towards Xmas

I only just realised today how close we are to Chrimbo! I guess I should have known, given the recent spate of text messages from people wanting to set up the annual work-night piss-ups. It'll be the same story as ever: we'll have a good time catching up, swear that we'll meet up more often and then never manage to find time, except maybe for a bbq in the summer. Such is life, especially in the city.

At least this year I'll have something new to bore people with... but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Last stop for the Swirling Mists of Time! All aboard!

So, we got back from Morrocco and I jacked in metal music. How does the saying go? As one door closes, another one opens. I'd been contacted by a fellow strum-meister who'd got together 3 other guitarists and a drummer. He wanted to know whether I'd be interested in coming in on the ground level of his new band. It didn't sound that promising... I mean, what a line-up! 4 guitarists!... Nevertheless I said 'yes' and went along to meet the guys. It turned out that one guitarist wanted to play bass and one wanted to focus on singing, which left a two guitar, bass, drums, vox line-up. Things were looking up!

So, flashing forward to the present day, there's been some drama, but there's still the band. Everyone's keenly looking forward to getting out there and gigging, to making a name for ourselves on the sawdust and stale beer circuit.

I make music, therefore I am... a musician! I look forward to the concussion sustained from that first half-filled beer bottle slung at the stage.

Once again, I want to thank everyone of you who's watched and helped along the way over the course of the year. I'm sincerely grateful to each and every one of you.

So what's next? Well, the sands of time have run out so The Project as such. I've really enjoyed blogging about the journey so I think I shall carry on... I just need to come up with a new plan for what to write about, I suppose.

And yes, I look forward to boring friends silly over drinks, regaling them of tales from The Project and letting them know that they need to make sure they come along to our first gig...

Project Recap: Summer 2008

The summer, such as it was in the UK, turned out to be a dry patch for The Project. I'd got to the stage where I knew I wanted to play in a band and was 'out there' looking for other musos, but to no avail. Getting two people into a studio was hard enough, what with everyone heading off on their hols. Trying to get a whole band in one place at the same time proved to be impossible.

So, in the project recap we're lumping July, August and September into one lazy, hazy summer reminiscence!

Move along, nothing to see here! Really! I was really starting to get frustrated with all the 'Join My Band' type websites and the flaky people who inhabit them (most of whom hadn't as yet escaped the ravages of puberty). Finding people to play with was an (unsuccessful) exercise in patience.

Well, the project took a bit of a left turn in August. Having failed miserably to find anyone to play with to date, out of the blue I landed a sesh with a nascent metal band. They had a singer, one guitarist and a drummer. I was invited along to a rehearsal (along with another guitarist) to shake the tree and see whether anything fell out. Unfortunately, what fell out was my elbow joint! Metal strumming simply didn't suit me, it seemed, and as I was approaching light speed on some of the faster riffs the muscles in my right forearm simply gave up the ghost. Shooting pains. Tennis elbow. Ouch. Basically, that not only screwed me as far as playing metal was concerned, but made any kind of strumming incredibly painful!

Upon our return from a brief trip to Morrocco I came to the realisation that there was no way I'd cut it as a metalhead. I let the other guys in the band know that I was done and I moved on. I'll admit I was fairly despondent about this as I had felt I'd fluffed a good opportunity. September came, September went. Things were not looking good!

And NO Santa...

That last post about the Mesa Boogie was in no way a hint. If you come down my chimney with a £1599 tube amp (available on interest free credit from Andertons Music in Guildford... I did not say that) then I'd feel obliged to return the favour and buy Mrs Santa an equally fabulous gift of similar value which would somehow make her feel special in the same way...

...possibly a box of 50 rabbits? The remote-control kind!

Okay, so that random post was supposed to be somewhat comedic. I DO NOT WANT ANYONE TO BUY ME A MESA BOOGIE FOR CHRISTMAS!!!!

[Okay, so obviously I do want someone, somewhere to buy my one but nobody that I know or am in any way related to... and Mr Jackson, if you're out there and feeling randomly generous and Christmassy, you should know that I'm the only person to have never, ever said anything bad about you... though I did once snicker at that joke about you and 'Aladdin']

December 11, 2008

Project Recap: June 2008

Bo Diddley died, my trans-atlantic in-laws descended upon us, I started my new job. We also had a bit of a concert run, culminating in the fateful Robert Randolph & The Family Band show.

Fateful? Painful! The show itself was great, but it was in the crowded, overheated Borderline club. Something in my back went and I was laid up for most of the weekend. I think that was the point that I revisited my idea of getting in shape more... core stability... core stability...

Luckily, since starting a new training regime I've not had any back issues. I distinctly remember my 5-hour session with the metal band, though. At around the 3-hour mark I found myself forced to lean against the rehearsal room wall to stop myself from collapsing!

Well... I spoke with my valve supplier... despite having ordered a new Tung-Sol 12AX7 a week and a half ago, my order still has yet to be processed. So much for speedy service! Must be Christmas, eh?

What I really need to do is replace every single part in my old VS100 and turn it into one of these bad boys...

I've only played a Mesa Boogie amp once, and it wasn't even the Lonestar Special, but this puppy is high on my 'I WANT ONE' list. If only it matched the furniture it'd be an easier sell... amp cover, anyone?

Smart money's on sticking with a small all-valve practice amp that works for home use and recording, though. Perhaps the highly rated 5W Epiphone Valve Jr is one way to go... though I just priced it and guys, for those of you who snatched up the latest model for just £75... you made out like bandits! It's now retailing at over £130! Damn!

Project Recap: May 2008

Around about May I was starting to believe that maybe I could pull this thing off. I'd had my introduction to rehearsal rooms (thanks to Col of Axe Victim/Magic Ship fame), my juices were flowing and I felt like I was moving forwards. Not only that, but I gave up trying to make my daily commute more productive and simply secured a new job in the city (but not a 'city job').

Then the sun came out... and I, being a complete sun-whore, couldn't stay indoors!

The month passed with precious little movement on The Project. Moreover, little did I know that the summer months ahead and people's vacations and so on would cause such problems.

Well, this weekend was interesting. We went to a fancy-dress party on Saturday night, the theme of which was 'what you wanted to be when you grew up'. Many superheroes, a Bond. I shot for Rock Star and got the rather dubious compliment from one of the less into-it guests that at least she wasn't the only person who couldn't be bothered to dress up!

Played some guitar but not as much as I should have. Our internet and phone connections were out, so I had no way to investigate the new songs I'm supposed to be learning. Hey ho...

Still no news on my replacement valve and I've had no response to communications with the vendor's sales department! Still, they've not taken any money, so... maybe they've gone bust! Maybe I should take Col's suggestion and go and try out some all-valve amps to match up with my Les Paul properly!

Project Recap: April 2008

So, at the start of April I was running out of ideas as to how to move forward. I'd taken myself down to open mics but had failed miserably to network with anyone who wanted to collaborate. I'd not written any new material and I hadn't recorded any demos.

Whatever drive I had was petering out and it looked likely that I would remain stuck as a bedroom noodler for the rest of my life.

Just as I was starting to give up, the hand of fate intervened and I got an invite from fellow blogger and top bloke, Col of Axe Victim and the rockin' band Magic Ship. He asked whether I'd be interested in coming over and jamming with his side-project 'The Sociables'. Pre-project Ken would have shit his drawers and run away screaming... 'Fillmore Five' Ken recognised that this was the opportunity he'd been waiting for. At long last a new experience and a quantum leap in the right direction! I'm still immensely grateful to Col for the opportunity and all the support and advice since then. Without the foot in the door I reckon I'd still be on the outside.

I had momentum again and I started to be more proactive about creating music. I recorded a couple of demos. Despite not being great art, they were something concrete at least. I also started to consider how I could make better use of my time. The 3+ daily commute was starting to take its toll (after two years!) and I hated the fact that it was simply dead time as far as The Project was concerned. Time was ticking away.

Back to today... still no valve in the mail, BUT I did actually get to have a play with another VS100. Whilst the amp itself didn't sound as nice as mine for some reason... perhaps it'd been ridden hard and put away wet... it didn't suffer from any of the background noise that mine does. At least that confirms that there's definitely something wrong! Hopefully a new valve will fix it, otherwise I'm going to have to look at other options.

December 9, 2008

Project Recap: March 2008

March was the month that I had planned to kick things into high gear, but, in reality, The Project was starting to stall. Pressure was building at work, I had no time to play and the WAES course came to an end, leaving me high and dry. My half-hearted attempts to use sites like 'Join My Band' only led to frustration as I was clearly over the hill as far as the youf market was concerned. Something had to happen soon to get things moving again... but it seemed like I was running out of ideas. Little did I know that the hand of fate was around the corner, waiting to give me a hard shove in the right direction...

In present-day-land, my new valve didn't arrive so practice time last night was a low volume affair. I rechecked the invoice and saw that where I had thought delivery was guaranteed within 4 days, in fact, processing of my order was guaranteed within 4 working days. In other words, the damn thing probably hasn't even been mailed out yet, so I may not even have it in time for the weekend. I'm certain the neighbours didn't mind the reduced noise levels. I have no doubt they're sick and tired of me playing through "Supersonic" at full tilt.

On a whim I signed up for 6 months of "Lick Library"... 6 months seeming to be the minimum subscription at a cost of £1.50 a week. Some of the lessons I was interested in cost £2.50 or so to purchase without membership so I figured 'what harm' to just sign up for a bit.

I don't know whether it'll be a worthwhile investment or not, but I certainly had fun with it for a couple of hours last night. It's much easier to be taught a song than to learn it by yourself. From what I've seen the teachers actually know what they're doing, too, which is unusual! I'm not big on these pay-for-play sites at all but I've been getting seriously tired of searching through YouTube for anything worthwhile that doesn't feature a spotty 13 year old prodigy.

I guess I was interested to check it out, not only because it had a few songs I want to learn, but also to get hints and tips on riff writing and to push me towards genres I wouldn't normally consider. We'll see how it pans out.

The only negative I'd say about the site right off the bat for me is that the song choice veers towards the heavier side of rock. If you're interested in joining then take time to look through the track listings to see whether the style you want to achieve is represented... Also, for no apparent reason from time to time it seems to log me out so that I have to re-login to view paid-for material. I wouldn't suggest it for a beginner guitarist, though. I think it's more aimed at someone who knows what they're doing and who wants to learn songs.

I've not really checked out all the jam tracks, but it's interesting to me that there seem to be more backing tracks than lessons. For example, if you search for Eric Clapton you get:

Wonderful Tonight
Tears In Heaven

Bad Love
Before You Accuse Me
Change The World
Layla (Unplugged)
Old Love
Tears In Heaven
Wonderful Tonight

That's not a bad thing... it just surprised me.

Project Recap: February 2008

Geez, February saw me in a really reflective, yet strangely forward looking, mood. I was really into the WAES acoustic course, totally pre-occupied with learning to play the intro to Jack Johnson's "Taylor". Boy-oh-boy, did I build up some calluses with that puppy! Someday I'll revisit it and have another go, but I definitely remember getting so sick and tired of trying (and failing) to get the synchopation down at the time that I was about ready to smash Blackie into a million pieces.

We took a quick trip to psychadelic Amsterdam and even before coming home I was missing the cool, creative vibe there. It has dark and seedy aspects, but they only serve to add spice to the mix. Watch out, though. The Dutch government are planning on cleaning up the city, forcing coffee-shops and brothels near to schools and churches to close down. The city will change, that's for sure. I love amsterdam and will hate to see it change, but I do get why they think it's a good idea. It will be a shame, though, if some of the more historic establishments can't be kept on under 'grandfather' laws.

Our Amsterdam trip also put me in mind of how I used to feel when we'd head over to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Good times, good times.

On The Project front, that was about it. I was trying to build up my confidence through the WAES course, knowing full well that once I was done with that I'd have to pull my finger out and try and 'get out there'.

Travelling back through the swirling mists of time to RIGHT NOW, I was reading (I think) "Classic Rock" magazine over the weekend and it had a couple of snippets about Genesis, over in Way-Back-When land. It made mention of "Selling England By The Pound", something like their 5th studio album and the one just before 1974's "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway" which, to me, has always been their opus magnus. After "Lamb" Peter Gabriel quit the band and headed off to pursue his solo efforts.

Back in the day I used to be a major Genesis freak. This was before I discovered Southern Rock and I think it was what got me hooked on 15 minute overblown swirling instrumental breaks grafted onto rock songs.

The wail of Duane Allman's slide guitar was the death knell for my Genesis phase. I simply stopped listening to those well-worn vinyls and never really went back. Over the years I've replaced the records with CD's, but never really got hooked on them again. I think the spectre of Phil Collins' solo career overshadowed the majesty and freak-a-delicity of The Old Stuff.

Well, today, RIGHT NOW, I'm listening to "Selling England..." and I have to say it's bringing back memories. I had thought that it might provide inspiration for some new tunes or at least riffs, but I do... not... think... so! I like it... I get it sonically, but it's not where I'm at right now.

The other thing I uploaded onto my iPod to have a sneaky listen to this morning was some stuff by Live. They're another band that I used to take guilty pleasure in cranking up. I loved their albums "Throwing Copper" and "The Distance To Here". In a weird way "Secret Samadhi" was probably my favourite.

Then, well, they went all Goddy. Now, I don't mind if people want to sing about religion, spirituality or whatever, but does every single song have to be about how God does this that or the other? I completely lost interest when they released the album "Birds Of Pray". As far as material for 'homage' [cough] goes, there's potential for some rifftastic stuff in there. I'd seriously consider doing a cover of "Waitress" from "Throwing Copper" just because it uses the words 'fucking' and 'bitch' so much!

Come on baby leave some change behind,
She was a bitch, but I don't care,
She brought our food out on time,
And wore a funky barrette in her hair.

Come on baby leave some change behind,
She was a bitch but good enough,
To leave some change,
Everybody's good enough for some change.

The girl's got family,
She needs cash to buy aspirin for her pain,
Everybody's good enough for some change.

We all get the flu,
We all get AIDS,
We've got to stick together after all,
Everybody's good enough for some change,

And finally on the list of crap I've put onto my iPod we have... "Pride" (1995 Best Of Living Color). Vernon Reid... should be a few licks to cop in there!

And... again... the new preamp for my Marshall didn't turn up yesterday. The issue with the amp seems to be getting worse and the whine's become noticeable on the clean channel. Not fun. We'll see whether the replacement valve improves things. What I don't want to do is spend £100 getting the amp fixed when I could just get a small all-valve practice/recording amp instead for now... or a Mesa Boogie Lonestar Special (you gotta dream, don't you?)

Project Recap: January 2008

Wow, I just re-read the stuff I wrote back in January. I really didn't have a clue what I was doing, did I? Talk about naive! Well, at least I started putting one foot in front of the other, and that got me on the path.

Let's go back to where it all began...

Starting From Zero
...Got Nothing To Lose.

Almost a year ago my husband and I were bellied up to the bar at one of our now-traditional "beer & ribs" joints in Amsterdam. It was mid-afternoon, New Year's Day, and we were well on our way to resurrecting our drunk from the night before. Our last day in Sin City was slipping by. London, and real life, beckoned.

Neither of us are big on making New Year's resolutions but as we sat there chatting about how far we'd come in the past year it seemed only natural to speculate about what we might achieve in the months to come.

During a discussion which ranged from getting more tattoos to deciding whether or not to adopt a child, one theme kept on rearing its ugly head: music. More specifically how I manage to constantly under-achieve when trying to improve.

Another twelve months have passed and I have yet to make significant progress in my playing. Why am I not in a band? When am I going to be good enough to play open mic's or jam sessions?

So, here it is, the question that I'm asking myself for 2008: how can I go from zero to hero in a year?

What happened next? Well, I set myself a preliminary action plan that went something like this:

1) Get Good
2) Record Demos
3) Get Out There

On the 'get good' front I actually did pretty well. I signed up for a course and it really got me motivated to practice daily and improve. I do feel like the nature of the course distracted me somewhat from playing electric, possibly delaying me slightly, but at the same time it got me playing in a group situation and meeting like-minded people.

I never really did record demos and 'getting out there' in terms of meeting other bandmates would come later. I went to loads of open mics but never had the guts to stand up and do my thing, not that I had a thing to do...

Overall, January wasn't a bad start. At least I was moving forwards.

Oh, the other thing I'd recognised was that middle-age spread was creeping in and that I could do with shaping up a bit and working on my image. For a while I did the diet thing, but it wouldn't really be until after having back issues in the summer that I'd seriously look at addressing my weight issue. More of that later, I guess.

The one bit of current news to share with you guys is that I'm awaiting delivery of a new pre-amp tube for my Marshall VS100. It recently developed an annoying whine whilst on the overdrive channels which isn't horrible but it's distracting. Since the amp's possibly 10 years old and the pre-amp tubes are only really expected to last 4-5 years I figured I'd try swapping it out to see whether it made any difference. I'll keep you posted! It's due for delivery today (so I probably won't get it for a week!)

A New Beginning

Well, I got the chance to speak with Jon last night and clear the air a bit. Whilst I'm not going to discuss what was said (for obvious reasons), one of the things that was mentioned was that perhaps it was too drastic to stop blogging entirely because of the situation. Also, I got a few supportive emails to say that I should carry on, but cut out stuff about the band unless it was only relevant to me.

In all honesty, the 'Zero to Hero in a year' aspect of things is coming to a close. We're hurtling headlong towards Xmas and from there it's a short downwards spiral to the New Year. So, what I'm considering doing is writing a more graceful close-out to the project... an end of year summary, if you like. Kind of like one of those god-awful 'so that was 2008' programmes! Yay! Lessons learned, blah, blah, blah. I've been meaning to read through the blog again myself, anyway, as a reminder of the journey.

After that, who knows. Perhaps a new blog? Similar content, different focus? Who can say. Watch this space, I guess.

December 7, 2008

Move Along, Nothing To See Here...

...that's it, I'm done. All gone.

Well, overall I think I can honestly say that (at 2:30 on a Saturday night/Sunday morning after a few vodka tonics) the project has been an unmitigated disaster. Rock God? No. Not in any way, shape or form. I've met some people along the way, had some good times, but really... when all's said and done, well, it's all said and done.

So... so long and thanks for all the cheese.



It's 12 hours later, I'm sober (so far... it's early). Here's a bit more of an explanation than I gave above.

I was feeling pretty stupid last night. I still am. I started this blog as a motivational tool to keep me focused on the job of getting into a band in 2008. Well, I got into a band... me and 4 other great people. At that point I should have signed off, said thanks to everyone for all their support and halted the blog, or at the very least changed the subject matter to make it less personal. I'll admit, though, that I was hooked on blogging. I discovered that I enjoy the process of putting my thoughts into words and had come to feel a part of the 'blogging community'. I allowed myself to believe that it was important for me to maintain my so-called 'journalistic integrity'.

So, against better judgement I chose to continue blogging about what was going on in the band each session, chronicling how things were coming together or not, as the case may be. It's obviously not an anonymous blog but none of the other band members had mentioned that they knew about it, which is fair enough. I wrote it, I put it in the public domain. I take full responsibility for anything I said.

So, you can guess the punchline. I wrote stuff based on my perception of what was going on and I was utterly frank about it. I showed no real consideration of what the other band members' feelings would be if they read it and that was foolish, to say the least. I guess in some ways you get sucked into the ego trip that is blogging and you simply say what's on your mind, not really considering the what the fallout might be. The fallout from blogging about the band is that I may have now only ruined my friendship with one of the band-members but I may also have ruined his friendship with the other guys aswell, having portrayed them in an unjustified bad light. They're not malicious people and I believe they didn't want to talk to Jon in an upfront matter because they wanted to get consensus before potentially hurting his feelings. I hope to try to mitigate any of the damage I've caused but as yet I don't know whether that's even possible at this stage.

So, with 24 days of 2008 left I'm pulling the plug on "The Fillmore Five Project".

The band situation is unresolved, but clearly I can't write honestly about it here for fear of doing more damage than I already have. If I can't write the truth then there's no point in writing at all, right?

Will I blog again, oh loyal 5 or 6 readers? Perhaps. I don't know. My obsession with musical advancement was really the driving force behind this effort and since that option has been removed I don't really know what I have to talk about that anyone would take the time with... how the cat is responding to his asthma medication? Doubt it! The new stationary they ordered in at my office? Thrilling stuff...

So. Here it is. The End. I really do want to thank all of you guys who've shown so much support over the past 12... let's make that 11 months. Without the advice/breaks you've given me I doubt I'd have come as far as I have.

So, once again it's time to say... so long and thanks for all the cheese.

December 5, 2008

And In Other News...

Jason Mraz is coming back to the UK in the Spring! I know, I know, aren't I a bit too rock 'n' roll to be a mraz-a-fan? Well, maybe, but I like him. We have two tickets. We're going.

The other youf-ful luminary who's gracing our shores (and possibly trailer parks) with her presence is none other than...

[Drum roll]


Now, funnily enough, I was shooting pool with a friend at bar a couple of weeks and saw the following graffiti scratched into the men's room wall.

...Oh, trust me... I will! I'm not even going to pretend to be interested in seeing that young lady do her thang!

The Die Is Cast...

...and George Harrison rocks on!

Okay, it must be Friday with a ropey connection (or lack thereof) like that!

Band stuff: I think we've all basically agreed that at the practice session next Thursday (for which I'll have to skip Rockschool again) will be without Jon. The original lineup was:

Jo: vox
Rich: bass
Jon: drums
Bo: guitar
Me: guitar

The new line up we're going to try is:

Jo: vox/bass
Rich: drums
Bo: guitar/vox
Me: guitar

We've not said anything to Jon yet. I feel really shitty about it as I don't buy into the whole politics thing. I know the other guys feel bad, too, and nobody really wants to kick him out of the band. Hopefully Jon's absence doesn't throw a cloud over things.

We're going to have a chat after the practice session. After that we'll either talk to Jon and tell him that sorry, you're surplus to requirements, or we'll ask him to come to the next rehearsal as if nothing's happened. That doesn't sit well with me, but I'm not going to invest any emotional crap in the politics otherwise I'll lose the sense of fun about playing. I have no real choice but to be mercinary.

We'll see what happens. I really liked Rich's bass playing so it'll be a shame to lose that. Despite being a guitarist, he was really getting into it, laying down a good fat groove for us to jam over. Will Jo be able to fill his shoes? Will Rich play better drums than Jon?? How many rhetorical questions can I ask??? How many question marks are strictly-speaking necessary????


Oh, go on... one more...



I think I need a cigarette, and I don't even smoke.

I didn't go to the Rockschool Christmas concert last night. I just didn't feel that using my free time to travel across London and spend an hour and a half with beginner musicians was high on the bangs-for-bucks scale. Instead I stayed home, cranked the amp and rocked out on Red Dog.

Felt good, very cathartic.

[Is that the right word? Ach, who cares!?! Ooh, exclamation points, too!]

Started off with some of our band standards, but wasn't really in the mood so I switched to Rockschool homework and took another look at George Harrison's solo on "Let It Be". It's not too complex, but contains most of the elements of standard electric rock 'n' blues playing: pentatonic licks, slides, bends, hammer-ons, pull-offs etc. No sweep-picking, fretboard tapping or playing with the teeth!

One thing I don't practice enough is string bending and last night I kept going sharp, which is the big no-no! Go flat, you've got room to correct and pretend you meant it. Go sharp and you're ske-re-ooed. Next happy note's a looooong way off!

I decided to crank the Marshall a bit more, illiciting a gorgeous hollow tone from the amp (accompanied by an annoying whine that I couldn't get rid of... too late to ask Santa for a new amp for Christmas?... Ach, I'll order a replacement preamp valve for a tenner and give that a go first). Standing up and letting go a bit, suddenly everything came into place. Here's the real skinny folks, when you stand up and play, you subconsciously use the weight of the guitar to anchor your bends. Do it. Be a rock star.

Sounded good. Better than George... or at least better than Ringo!

The weekend is MINE, ALL MINE... so I get to put in some serious practice time, hopefully nailing everything on the band playlist and maybe bringing something new to the table. In these times of change it'll be smart to be seen to be invested, eh?

December 3, 2008

Die Politik Der Band

Okay, so here's the thing. I wasn't going to blog about this until I knew what was actually going to happen, partly because I didn't want to make a big deal about something which might turn out to be a non-issue and partly because, well, although I've not told my fellow band-members about this blog, if you Google my email address... voila!

So, if any of you guys are out there having a sneaky read, well, this is a significant ongoing issue to me right now and please, please try to understand that I use this site for advice and support from friends and random strangers with opinions... and I know that there will be some opinions. I also try to be as honest as possible here, so what's the point in having this site if I don't say what's going on.

Looking back, I didn't blog about last week's rehearsal. I'm not sure why other than that I simply didn't have time! It was the one where I had to cut out of Rockschool early just to arrive late for practice. So... that seems like a good place to start!

[Swirling mists of time]

Okay, so after Rockschool I rode over to Camden to join in with the rehearsal. When I got there the guys were running through a punk song that Rich (bass) had written. Sounded really good. Catchy. Sounded like a real band, all pulling together (without me [cough]).

They ran through it one more time for me and I tried to pick up the groove, volume rolled off to begin with then joining in. That's one of the things I never really knew I'd enjoy so much... the collaboration and the feeling of being at one with other musicians, the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.

We went into a couple of our other pre-prepared numbers: "I Wanna Be Your Dog" and "Supersonic". It was during the latter that I first realised we had something of a problem. Jon (drums) was having difficulty keeping the tempo even. Moreover, he was slowing down the further we got into the song, taking all the momentum out of it.

From there on in the rehearsal never really recovered, our timing being all over the place. I remember looking over at Rich to see what his expression was at one point when the timing was, shall we say 'somewhat synchopated' (not in a good way), only to realise that he'd simply stopped playing and was standing there with a puzzled look on his face. I pulled up short on the rhythm and the tune petered out.

The first thing that came to mind was that maybe Jon was having an off day. Whilst he's no Ginger Baker, with less than a year of drumming experience under his belt, I'd not really noticed too many issues other than when called upon to improvise new rhythms on stuff like the song Bo wrote.

The other thing I should mention is that I'm in a bit of a glass house here. My playing over the last few rehearsals has been patchy at best... missing chord changes, missing entire strings, losing my groove etc. For me to criticize any of the other performances would be hypocritical. It's coming, but fitting into a band takes time. Maybe on guitar, though, you can mask some of the howlers. If you lose it on drums, you're history. Hey, besides, even if I don't always sound musical, at least I can bring the kudos of a shiny Les Paul to the mix!

Once we'd all packed up and headed to the pub for a swift half I made a mental note that I should have a chat with Jon and ask him what had happened. As it turned out, I didn't get the chance. Just before leaving for Paris, a group email (Jon excluded) was sent round, saying that we have a real problem with Jon on drums if we're serious about gigging.

I'm not going to say who the email was from. Frankly it doesn't matter as it might as well have been from me or anyone else. We were all thinking the same thing, that we needed to do something about the situation.

Right now it's all up in the air and smacks of band politics. We need to talk it through. My preference would have been to make the process 100% transparent by including Jon in all discussions, but I guess majority rule says that we need to figure out what path we're taking. I see some logic in that, in that if we decide to simply carry on as we are, other than trying to nudge Jon in the right direction and support him as much as we can, there would be little reason to muddy the water by telling him what alternatives had been discussed.

The thing is that we all really like Jon and are impressed by his enthusiasm, dedication and, well, he's a cool guy. He brings his own energy and character to the band. I do think that he's falling behind, but, like I say, in the 'who's the best bandmate' race, I think I'm only a nose in front of him. We all like him and, same as everyone else, he's an integral part of 'what we are'. It's a bit like Tolkein's "Fellowship Of The Ring"... only without the orcs, warlocks... horses... the ring... okay, so it's NOTHING like the book, but my point is that we all started in on this together.

I think the thing that's changed is that whilst none of us had any expectations of being able to get up and gig in the short term we all realised that with a bit of polish we might make it to the seedy spit-and-sawdust circuit sooner rather than later, if only we could get our crap in a sock. Therein lies the rub. Do we a) hope for the best, that Jon's playing will come along leaps and bounds in a short time, b) find something else for him to do in the band... (what??? Be a 'Bez'?) or c) mercillously cut out his heart and somehow find a replacement.

My initial thought (saint that I am... look... you can see my halo if you squint) was that there had to be something we could do to smooth over the rough edges, for example by making him play to a click or something. Not being a drummer, I don't know what the tricks of the trade are. He's not a complete clunker... he wouldn't have made it this far if he had been.

I have a feeling, though, that the tide may be turning against him. Being a rookie when it comes to such band matters I'm not sure what opinion I should have, if any. What's becoming clear is that the real decision we have to make is whether we're all about getting a songlist together and starting to gig (I typed that as 'gag' first time round!!!!) or whether we're a bunch of like-minded souls playing music for ourselves and no-one else. Personally I don't buy into that 100%, but that's the spin on things at the moment. Who's to say that in 2 months Jon's not going to have pulled it together, or indeed whether in 2 months anyone else might not be up to scratch either. Right now the 'not knowing' seems to be driving a wedge between everyone, so we need to sort this out one way or the other ASAP.

Y'know, I can sense the hunger in everyone. I can feel how nobody had expectations but then we all realised that we might actually come together as a band... even if it means leaving someone behind.

Hey, maybe it is like Tolkein after all...

[Only without the horses, the narks, the gimlets, the niblets, the wacky-dacky-do-dahs or whatever... oh, and without Christopher Lee doing a fabulous impression of Cher circa her 23rd farewell tour]

December 2, 2008

Back In The UK!

Yes, we're back from Paris. Very brief weekend Thanksgiving trip. The above photo (stolen from the internet as I don't have access to the ones we took right now) is of one of Jeff Koons' sculptures on display at Versailles at the moment. If you get the chance, go see the exhibition. It's great. A stunning mix of classical architecture and uber-contemporary art. Absolutely mind-blowingly cool.

There's some band news that I need to write about, but not right now. I want to get the full picture before I say anything. No, we haven't been signed by a label, if that's what you're thinking...!

I got back to Blighty to find an email in my inbox saying that Rockschool is having a Christmas concert this Thursday, in place of the regular class. Attendance is not manditory, but if you do turn up with a guitar and amp then you can join in on "Knocking On Heaven's Door". Not sure whether we're talking Dylan, Clapton or Guns, here... trying to find out the real skinny before I say yay/nay. I could use the time to catch up on other stuff I've missed along the way. Apparently, last Thursday's lesson was 'great', 'the best yet' (according to Teach, whose opinion may well be biased!)

Work? Aaaargh!!! Okay, not as bad as it was (hopefully), but the end of the month wasn't quite the watershed I was hoping for. The biggest difference, though, is that my attitude towards it has to change. I need to make sure I don't stress as much about it as I have been.