Monday, June 30, 2008

My Love Has Gone To Glastonbury But I Make Up For It By Being a Radio Star

Amount of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: 3
Level of conviction in own genius:
Reading / Listening: ‘The Last English King’ by Julian Rathbone/ ME on the radio
Hair Day: short and blondish. BBC DJ Iyare compared me to Annie Lennox – I’m not sure that is a compliment...

Have been on the wireless a prestigious twice this week! Having visited the Dead and Alive boys (and Michael Nyman) a few weeks ago, we were back in the steamy Resonance FM studio last Wednesday for a rather more poppy show – The Other Woman with the lovely Ruth, a slot that plugs only girl-on-girl music, quite right too. We had the whole hour, playing some Camille and Zap Mama and discussing girly vocal stuff. Having rubbished the Puppini Sisters, we promptly sang two close-harmony covers – hhhm. Listen to the whole show here!

The second appearance was in listener mode: have been a recent discoverer of 6 Music, a station which includes Marc Riley (the Lard in ye olde Mark and Lard, my favourite radio show back in the day – the misty-edged era when Radio 1 were happy to transmit two hours of garrulous chat and arch music punctuated by poetry from the likes of John Hegley and Simon Armitage), Stuart Maconie, Tom Robinson and many more. I applied to go onthe Listener 6 Mix, a show on Sunday nights which hurls a listener into the limelight (well, lime-waves or something) to play some of their favourite tunes – and clearly my eclectic nominations on the entry form got me in! So yesterday night I was in the glossy BBC towers, bantering with stand-in DJ Iyare (the rather over-chirpy Queens of Noize being somewhere in Glasto), playing everything from Ozomatli to Tom Waits, Lord Kitchener to Joanna Newsom, and getting in a bit of Raffi, cult Canadian children’s singer-songwriter of my childhood, in there too over the space of two hours. Haven’t dared listen back yet but am crossing my fingers that I sound like Mariella Frostrup (I was trying to channel a throaty laugh) and not Barney from The Simpsons. It will be here until Sunday 6th July: .

So, Andy and I being a jet-setting pair of creative whirlwinds, whilst I have been swanning around on various radio shows of note, he has been at Glastonbury, Step 13 being there to play shows in the Shangri-La area and somewhere else I’ve forgotten again. I couldn’t really go due to work so glued myself to the BBC’s coverage, even if the levels of irritation normally generated by Jo Whiley are now being surpassed by gabby young turks from Radio 1, shouting through their styled fringes and flaunting their designer wellies. But Mark Radcliffe’s loquaciously urbane witticisms make up for it all, plus the coverage from the comfort of the sofa, so I’m able to watch The Raconteurs and Black Kids without having to trudge around bumping into people dressed as pandas and robots, I’m guessing. I will be ready to greet my intrepid showbiz husband tonight with takeaway curry, ale and a nice billowy duvet, though not before throwing him into the shower, him not having showered for FIVE DAYS. The stinker.

Still, am sooo looking forward to Latitude with juice and entourage (husbands, boyfriends, brothers, babies, small dogs, birds, clowns etc) in less than three weeks.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Bird In The Tree Is Worth Two In The Hand, Or Something

Current level of conviction in own genius: 6
Amount of creative activity achieved today: Too busy walking
Reading / Listening: 'Music and Silence' by Rose Tremain / Stuart Maconie's brain-melting 'Freak Zone' on BBC6
Hair Day: Am craving super-short on one-side haircut for more rock 'n' roll comportment

juice did a funny little gig in Whitechapel Art Gallery at the poetry/art/music night Littlest Birds, run by the curiously littlish-birdy girl who got me into the Poetry Cafe gig for my solo debut; she burbled inaudibly into the mic between acts, introducing them in such an artless, uninterested way you thought she'd sooner be curled up with a cup of cocoa at home. We're off to the not-yet-open, cutting-edge arts venue of the future, King's Place, tomorrow to test out the acoustic with fellow vocalist Mikhail, as he's asked us to sing with him in the opening week in September. Mikhail is brill, with sticky fingers in a dozen arty pies, asking us to be involved in his remix project of his last album (which hopefully he'll slip in one of Bjork's oversized, pom-pom-covered pockets) and programming us into his vocal night at cool new leftfield Dalston venue, Cafe Oto, in the autumn.

Andy and I bumped into Mikhail, resplendent in fabulous little pink rose-bobbled jumper, and his equally refined visual artist boyfriend in Tate Modern last night, where we'd turned up to hear a big sonic extravaganza by all-round creative polymath Tony Conrad in the Turbine Hall. The premise was very enticing, with drills, electronics, string quartets and silhouetted shadows on mammoth sheets that hung from the ceiling all in the high-culture mix. We settled down on the smooth stone floors (the famous crack now having been unceremoniously filled in with cement) for 90 mins of multi-sensory fun; the piece began with electric drills, amplified beyond all reason into teeth-shattering volume, which prompted a number of people to leave on the spot. 'Ha, wusses', I thought to myself, finger happily clamped over my one working ear; 15 mins later, drills still rattling my bones into dust, I was not quite so smug. The quartet, made giants by their projected shadows on the scrims, eventually rose up to methodically bow a drone that bled out of the Turbine Hall's famous hum; sadly though, the noise levels stayed the same and soon enough, I was reduced to a rabbit-eyed, cowering wreck, whimpering at Andy to go. We sat with our mates in the bar, ears ringing Big Ben-style, tremblingly forcing drinks down our throat and trying to remember our names and purposes in life. Lesson: loudness does not equal good art.

A deliberately non-arty day was had today, with Andy and I going on an intrepid canal walk through London, from Bethnal Green to Little Venice. It's an enlightening way to traverse the city, an almost-secret otherworld, suspended somewhere between edgy urbanity and rural, meadowy idyll. It's a London you hardly ever see, where fishermen sit stoutly with their maggots and copies of the Sun, where barge-owners tend to their frilly pots, where abandoned warehouses face-off ridiculous palaces. We passed rusting bleak factories near King's Cross, posho writers' townhouses in Camden Lock, pretty-yet-grimey Hackney, with crumbling estates vying for space alongside angular new builds, and slightly unhinged long-billed birds at London Zoo before ending up exhausted and mad, cramming cake into our slack-jawed mouths by Little Venice's serene and moneyed waters. But best of all, there was high riversports-meets-avian drama in Islington: a crowd had gathered around a tall birch tree surrounded by nettles as high as your head, looking up at a thrush which dangled upside down, tweeting weakly. The now-aghast fishermen had clearly flung their rod back and snared the unsuspecting bird, whose foot was wound in the thin wire which then coiled tightly round the tree; it was a horribly bizarre sight, and everyone looked a bit helpless until one man decided to do something: clearing the nettle-army, he was given a record-breaking leg-up by another chap, and very riskily shinned up the slim, bending tree, which had no helpful branches to cling onto. Finally making it up 5 metres, he lent over towards the bird, who promptly went bonkers with terror and wound itself further round the branch. Undeterred, cooing softly, the man carefully cut the bird loose with scissors that appeared from nowhere, and the bird plopped to the ground, cushioned (erm, hopefully, anyway) by nettles. The man unglamorously shimmied his way down the tree and we all clapped in astonishment. I couldn't have done that. We walked on, gasping at the audacity and braveness, knowing we had witnessed the True Greatness of a Bird-Rescuing Superhero. In next week's blog: a young woman is witnessed hopping off her bicycle and using her lighter to free a lion glued by its feet to a crane on the site of the new East London line!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

juice Meet Famous Composer On Mad Cool Underground Radio Show, Buy New Outfits And Play Two Gigs, One Of Which Is Particularly Marvellous

Amount of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: 3
Level of conviction in own genius: 8.8
Reading / Listening: the new edition of Time Out / recordings of juice from last night
Hair Day: bit frilly

juice are on fire at the moment, which is rather fabulous, like it’s our actual CAREER or something... Last week we visited the Dead & Alive boys on Resonance FM’s anarchic contemporary mostly-classical show; Josh and Tim are PRS honcho and avant-garde record store owner respectively by day and mad, hard-drinking, hard-listening DJs by night, and definitely have a much-missed flavour of Mark Russell and Robert Sandall’s deadpan sparky arguments. juice featured on the show most marvellously alongside a slightly sleepy Michael Nyman, just in from some arty European country or other, who popped in to promote his new CD. As we all stuffed our faces full of the chocolate Tim had bought us (we had to save all the free wine for some fun-filled hours after the show), we rather cheekily reminded him of a recent email Sarah had sent, asking him to write us a piece (the rumours were that Trio Medieval turned his offer down a few years ago, and we’ve been working out how to get hold of him ever since). We attempted to charm him with our witty giggliness and turns out it worked - or at least our fabulous singing did: he's emailed saying he'd love to write us a piece!!!! Sarah rang to tell me and I squealed down the phone like a hormonal teenage girl, except an extremely arty one who is excited by artistic offers by, like, right famous British composer-types... Result!

juice then had a gig at the Social for City Showcase in an electronica night. Say it very quickly three times and it becomes ‘Shitty Socase’ which was kind of how it transpired, what with the idea apparently being that CS get tons of insanely important music honchos and media down to be wowed by us, snapping us up for a multi-million-pound record deal which allows us to sing as much silly avant-garde vocal wailings as we like, but actually no-one of any career-boosting significance there at all, only lots of Japanese youths there for the next act putting their hands over the ears. Oh well, we got a chance to test out our fab new All Saints dresses (the shop, not the girl band – no low-slung baggy canvas trousers for US) and got a free Polish Martini.

When would we three meet again? Thunder, lightning and rain were all out because they would ruin our hair and angular new outfits, so to The Macbeth (ouch!) on Hoxton Street it was the next evening for nonclassical, the very ace avant-garde electronic/classical club night for those who like a drink in their hand whilst the DJ plays Berio or Varese. YES! It’s run by Gabriel Prokofiev, man of famous grandfather and owner of at least two alter-egos involving a) moustachioed dance-soul-funk and b) super-cool grime producer. Last night was a vocal special with us as headliners; the place was eventually crammed full of arty musos who were wonderfully quiet while listening to 1) a tenor and guitar premiere (quiet, nice) 2) a soprano and piano duo (slightly amateur, odd), 3) Mikhail (off the wall, brilliantly theatrical vocal histrionics) and 4) us, though the bar staff seemed to throw their glasses and bottles about with rather venomous abandon. It was a lovely relaxed night full of our favourite composers, many of them there, and we were pretty great if I say so myself... A lass from all-important classical/jazz/world promoters Serious came to see us and today I did a phone interview for the Times on classical club nights; shall find out next week whether I come across as juice-promoting sassy genius or goofy tongue-tied fool. Next up for the juicers: Whitechapel Art Gallery, more Resonance, and nice music in a hospital chapel – hhm, maybe have to have less spitting/gargling/shrieking and filthy industro-grimecore electronica in that one...