Friday, 24 May 2013

Cremate My Care

Last Sunday, that strange orange ball in the sky showed its wayfaring self.  It had been lost behind chalky grey windy skies for the last week.  I set out to town to do some busking, as the previous night I had spent my last penny on watching one of the best bands ever 'King Twit' and dancing crazily at Kazimier gardens.  The worm came out, and tore my jeans, dirtied every part of me but it was worth it!  The next morning, I felt hungover for the first time in a while.  It dawned on me, that for the last 2 years, I have been drinking more days of the week than I havent.  I thought will someone come and give me a mug of beer and say 'Congratulation, your are well on your way to becoming an alcoholic'.  Although I wasn't in the mind set to go busking, I had to because of the weather.

When I got to town, it was crazy!  For a start there were accordion players EVERYWHERE, then on church street everyone with their amps, I thought 'Shit, where am I gonna play' I was beaten to the best spot by seconds by this Dylan wannabe LIPA boy.  He said he was gonna play there for 3 hours, and so I dug out a few spots to play till then.  I was doing alright, made about 20 quid, couldn't resist a pint, and buying some tobacco.  When I came back to the spot, he played for another hour while I waited.

The moment I set up, the drops came flying in.  It had just turned 9pm, and there was a buzz in town.  I made 60 quid in an hour ana half.  And waddled to the train station with two back pockets full of silver and gold.  Phew!  I think part of the feeling of being down that morning was because my jar was empty.  I had spent it all.  I had used a big chunk for a disasterous busking trip down to Hebden Bridge, and going out on a few dates.  But now I was back up to a jar full of quids, and could relax a little during the week.

Monday started with rain, wind and coldness all over.  I always thought 50 shades of grey was just a description of the British summer!  When the weather is bad, I stay in and learn and write new songs.  The wind has lasted all week.  Violent wind that makes a short dash to the smoking greenhouse a body tenser!  So I bought some smoke, and just went about getting a few new songs together to maybe record.  Plus I finished the book 'The Master and Margarita' which I reccomend to everyone!  What a great book, a few of the lyrics of this new e.p are inspired by it.

Last night I went to the legendary Radio Ray's Moon Apple Studio (Radio Ray is the Mike Oldfield of Space Rock :) and recorded 3 tracks.  The first one has some nice lyrical luminosity, the second one is a way of getting over a sad memory, and the third is just an idea for a big song in dropped D I am doing.  3 demos, but I like the freshness of them.  It is a way to get things out of yourself, and release them into the world.  And it worked!  As I was walking home at 2 am it dawned on me that I love being single.  Sure it's sad when you get really close to someone then break up, but recording this e.p made me feel much better about things, that's the power of music.

As I was walking home, the wind was calm, and I though, Fate!  Tomorrow let's have a nice calm day, so I can get out busking!  Alas, the wind is pushing as violent as ever and I'm debating wether to head out.  The one thing that makes me want to leave England right away and head for Berlin is the weather.  I cannot be arsed with a summer of grey after the Winter I have had.  I think after the Free Rock n Roll weekend at Kaz Gardens will be my last weekend in Liverpool for a good while.  I have really enjoyed this recharge but am prepping myself to leave her shores for a long while again.

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Tuesday, 21 May 2013


It's been two weeks back in Liverpool now, and God, do I feel good!  Life is good as a busker and someone who needs music all around him.  I have been making very very good money from busking even in comparison to what I made in Amsterdam!  And even though there are buskers EVERYWHERE here, I can still make almost a hundred quid each day.  My diet has been bacon, egg sausage, beans, bread, chips, pasties, tea tea tea, and all the good food I was brought up on.  I have loved it.  Seeing my family, friends, bands, places, bumping into people I know several times a day.  But where were we?

I watched the sun rise on the English channel.  We had been on the bus for about 8 hours.  I hadn't really slept.  I forgot to bring a book, and for the first 3 hours of the journey, there was this beeping buzzing sound that was almost sub conscious, I thought am I getting tinitus or is it someones phone, or wha?  I never found out what it was, but that made sleep impossible.  I was feeling good about getting back though.  The driver of the bus, was a southerner, but with one of those proud manners of being a bus driver.  You know that kind of Britishness you get from someone who enjoys his job a bit.  It was a good sign, and made me realise I was ready for a little dose of home.

On my way to central station I found ten Euroes at our busking spot.  I thought, 'thank you Amsterdam'. She always looks after me! When we got on the ferry I bought a pint of stella and a bag of crisps with it.  Tasted gooooood, was so windy smokin outside on the deck, but I could start to taste and feel England getting closer.  When we got back on the coach I smiled as we were driving through the English roads and sign posts and language.  Hello old blighty.

I left a heatwave in Amsterdam, the weather was gorgeous.  And was forecast to be for a while, then when we hit England, it was cloudy grey and rainy.  That's the only thing bothering me, as I know last year England didn't get a summer at all really.  A few nice days, but heavy heavy rain that some places even got badly damaged from floods.  I have just spent winter outdoors, and really fancy some sunshine.  We got to Liverpool and it was still cloudy, but then once I started walking down the streets it cleared up and went so beautiful   When the sun shines on Church Street it looks like the pavement is gold.  There was only one place I was heading...

Hello Mello Mello....The hub of the creative, crazy and beautiful souls of Liverpool.  It just oozes music into the city, is built on good motives by people who are all brilliant musicians, acrobats, poets, producers, actors, directors and sometimes all of those!  I enjoyed a cup of coffee and catch up and got myself on the guest list for the Sound City at the Kazimier later that night.  I arrived back in Liverpool with the same clothes I left in.  Those brown pants were done for, no buttons at the font, holes in the crotch, but they served me well!  Anyway, I looked like a tramp, hadn't slept, was dirty and didn't have a penny to my name. I jumped the train to my mums house and like the last time I took the journey, felt like I had never been away......

My plan was to make use of the fact that you don't need a permit to busk in Liverpool, so I could use my amp and maybe even save a little money!  I hadn't told anyone I was coming back, as it was all a last minute thing, but my sister told my mum the day before so she was expecting me. We had a good cuppa tea, egg and bacon butty and I dug out an old pair of jeans and top, showered, and got some batteries for my amp.

I got the train to the city and there were buskers everywhere!  I thought shit, I won't make anything here.  But I set up in between a few and started 'singin me heart out' within ten mins I had made a tenner, and then this girl came and set up right next to me!  I kept playing, but then the pain of hearing two different songs playing stopped me and I went over.  I said what's up love?  Why you setting up right here?  Noone wins then, we just make a bad sound.  She said she always plays here, I tell her I have just got back from Amsterdam and will be here a lot over the next month.  I let her keep her spot, as the one at the top of church street had just become free.

I dashed up and played, within the hour my bag was full!  Made over 50 quid, and went to the gig at the Mello and Kazimier.  Enjoyed a nice drink, seeing my friends but most importantly being around musicians and music.  There were bands everywhere as it was sound city, and I met an old friend Alicia at the mello who said I could crash at hers.  We went back accompanied by an Argentinian Rock band who then played a gig in her house.  Not sleeping for 2 days, I found a floor and crashed to the sound of music being played in a living room, with 2 lovely dogs sleeping by my side.

The next morning the sun was beaming!  It was derby day, Liverpool V Everton and town was buzzing!  I found my spot and played for an hour, people were really responding to me.  Talking to me, girls dressed in cow outfits dancing and shaking their udders in front of me.  The electricity of Liverpool was buzzing, and I realised more and more how special a place it truly is.  Though there are buskers every few metres, here it is something that is respected, people happily give.  It reminds me of that saying that the poor are the most generous of people.  They respect musicians here.  They don't video or take pictures, just come and chuck in a few quid, dance, sing along, or kiss you.  The streets are alive with the sound of music and love.

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Sunday, 19 May 2013

Better You Give - Better We Live II

With every part of me, I hoped, felt and thought that March would be a great month.  I felt it was gonna rain down spring blossoms, and tulips everywhere, and that I could finally say the Winter was over.  Instead, it snowed, rained, the wind blew harder than before, and I would have to wait a bit longer to welcome in the spring.....

So after the Reggae album, I was a bit detached from recording, I just wanted to busk.  As did Dominik, who had given up his job, spent his last bit of money on a portable PA system and loop station.  We became a team, and we were getting a good set together.  We never rehearsed once, we just went straight to playing.  We had a golden ticket with the busking permit and the equipment to put on a real show.  We didn't want to waste a second, and all through that miserable March month, we gave Amsterdam a shine with our music.

It was a Friday, and I looked out the window in the morning and there was some nice blue skies, it was still bitter cold, but I had a good feeling about it.  We met at Central Station, smoked a joint and drunk a coffee and was about to set up when a dark grey cloud carrying some snow unleashed itself on us.  Dominik is a very determined lad, and was still eager to set up and play.  I worried about the equipment and said maybe we should play just at the entrance to the station.  It was unheard of in Amsterdam, you cant just set up a PA inside the station and play, but we did, and the police came on us in a second and once they seen our permit wished us good luck.

We had just set up, and then we heard a voice coming from the station, 'You can't play music here' it was Virgillio!  The brilliant percussion and drummer from Italy who had been involved in the reggae album.  He had just come back from a trip to London and was with his guitarist friend.  They played the set with Dominik and made a nice chunk of money, I felt a little left out just watching but left them to it.

Although it ended badly with the reggae album, I had good feelings towards all the people involved except one.  Raffa, he was poison and a con man who pretended to have cancer and couldn't walk.  But people had saw him walking.  The rasta was a legend, but turned on me because of Raffa.  Virgillio was just an amazing musician and guy, lot of respect for him, and his guitarist friend.  Even Gabriel Cage who funded the whole operation was a good guy at heart, with all his mad characters.  Dominik was a good friend though.  I liked his mentality to just steam roll ahead and do it.  After their set, me and Dom went for a smoke, then went back to Central at the same place and played a set.  We did great and made even more than what they made just before.

It was snowing all day, and biting cold, but we still stuck at it.  We had 3 days a week we could play on the permit, and so we were not gonna waste a session.  We started to overwork the spot though, playing there 3 or 4 times a day, then the spot starts to reject you.  There is this woman, who sells a magazine like the big issue, and she constantly says this 'Dog daaa, dog do daaa' or something like that.  But her words could not be heard over our playing. We seen her say to the police and point at us, so then came 2 officers who were hunting for blood.  They looked at Dominiks permit and said that Central station is seperate to the city, and the permit has no ground here.  They then came to me, and said that because I have no permit, they will be arresting me.  I had no ID or nothing, as they routed through my wallet they found my BBC ID, some business cards, letters, photographs, but were still intent on arresting me.  I tried to be as charming as I could and said how much I love the city and stuff.  After a while they backed down, and said they would let me go, but we cant play together anymore, and especially not at central station.

I was starting to question busking with the PA and stuff.  I felt it was taking me away from acoustic busking, and the road I had set out on.  It seemed like Amsterdam didn't like loud music, and it was creating a bad energy.  Plus the bike we would carry the gear on was massive, it would hold up all traffic, run into people, and was so heavy to ride.  After playing just acoustic on quiet street corners, and feeling that the city really did love that, to blasting out a PA with a trumpet and disrupting the city I was doubting wether it was the right thing for me.  It attracts the police in a second, it stops the homeless from selling their mags, it just felt like it was the wrong energy for Amsterdam.

We were making quite good money though, but we were spending it as fast as we could make it.  Enjoying the Amsterdam ride.  I had kind of moved in with Maud and said I would pay her some rent, as I really thought March would be the start of making good money from busking and the tourists would double.  I was still busking with Dominik, but told him about my doubts.  I was feeling we were not respecting the city and it was starting to reject us.  I thought of how me playing at Waterlooplein even in the winter would sometimes look after me with like 30 euroes an hour, I always felt I had to respect the city, not be a burden or a noisy disturbance.  Amsterdam is such a quiet city, and they like it that way.

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Thursday, 9 May 2013

Better you give, better we live.....

Now I am back in Liverpool, I want to try and document all the stuff that I haven't yet about this past year,  before it becomes a memory with more reverb each passing day, lets call it a conclusion, or a ramble, or a brief history, or something less..............

I started to miss Amsterdam a little bit today.  My leg muscles have altered themselves to get used to all the walking I am doing now.  My shoes last much longer over there because I ride everywhere.  In the Winter I purchased the best pair of boots, a pair of Dutch leather Van Bommels.  They were a well made pair of boots.  Strong sturdy, great shape.  They had a good, almost military stomp as you walked.  They lasted me well, but a few weeks ago they perished.  Holes in the soles.  I would have carried on wearing them, but they were taking out a pair of  my bright socks each day.  I have a nice comfy pair of trainers now, but I often think of those Van Bommels.  I got them after I had made a good busk at Waterlooplein, my other pair were in bits, they had no zip, holes, were hanging off my feet.  I walked through the market, and my eyes spotted them immediately.  I tried them on, and they fitted like a dream.  I asked the guy how much, and he said 10 euroes.  I said 7.50 but it felt wrong trying to haggle as they were such a good pair of boots.  I said, my good sir, you have a deal.   R.I.P Van Bommels.........

I think one of the best memories of Amsterdam, was the garden house.  After the festival season, I was very empty and tired.  Maud had gone to the States for 2 months.  I wanted to hold out for her, cos I felt we had something special, while she was away, I was living in a garden house.  It is in the East of Amsterdam in this garden area.  Because everyone lives on top of eachother in Amsterdam, there are no gardens in the houses, lots of lovely balconies, but not gardens.  So for those with the green fingers they can buy a patch of garden in the East. Cato has a great one.  In each plot of land people build little houses and sheds and there are some beautiful ones.  Catos was a vintage one from the 30s.  It has a little wood oven, a gas oven, places to sleep.  It is a really amazing place.
I would cook my coffee the way I learned from Danni, the Moka way on the wood fire oven.  It would take 30 minutes to heat it up, and slowly fuse the coffee with slow steam.  I would mix in some milk, and some chcoclate sometimes.  It really was the best coffee ever.  I would drink them until 9pm just playing guitar, singing so loud cos not a sole was around for a mile.  I would wonder why I couldnt sleep, but I just couldnt resist those coffees!  There was no distractions there.  No electricity, just a guitar and a very good acoustic sound.  No light, just candles, I really would play for hours and hours, then go busking, then go back.  It was the first time I really felt I had my own place in Amsterdam. I watched the season turn into Autumn there, the leaves falling one by one, the squirrels burying nuts, a beautiful change to yellow and gold and red.

It was the perfect remedy after a heavy festival season.  I have not even mentioned I dont think, Fusion festival.  That is mostly because it is still like a dream to me.  It was June, I jumped the train to Groningen the other side of Holland and met with Danni.  We had done a couple of festivals together over the last few weeks, the squatted villages of Ruigoord and ADM.  Making good coffee and food, sleeping in the camper van.  Taking in the sunshine.  We took an 8 hour ride in a massive van to Germany.  The camper was a big one, and had a kitchen, it was carrying all the stuff and even the motorbike we cook the coffee on.  It was a great ride, with the open skies and fields infront of us.  Cruising along at a slow 70km all the way.  Feet up under the window.  We got to Fusion and it was a strange atmosphere at first.  But once we were setting up some lovely German lads came and helped, drunk a beer with us and I got a great vibe.

The festival started to build, and it was special.  There was not one security guard around, just people.  It was a massive festival, but such a calm atmosphere.  I loved working the coffee bar, I would take pride and make it with love, people were quite fascinated by me.  I met some really amazing people there, and got a great feeling towards to German people and language and all.  I would wonder around in a crazy trip all evening watching guys fight with lightening, amazing bands, a hammock, a pale crescent moon on a clear summers night, just good people.  Once sunrise came, I would snap out of it, and go and get the coffee bar running.  The coffeebar is a motorbike with a wood oven on the front, and is this amazing creation.  I would wheel it to a good spot and watch the sunrise making and selling coffees, having great conversations.  Wow, such a warm smile just thinking about it.

As the days passed the party became even grander.  Saturday night was the peak.  After experiencing such amazing things, a guy on a piano, on wheels cycling all different directions, singing mad lyrics.  Fire shows in the middle of nowhere.  All through it, the lyrics to a hard rains gonna fall was going through my head, and all the imagery that it conjoured, I felt I was living.  On the Saturday, Danni said to secure my tent, as a storm is coming and a hard rain is gonna come tonight.  After the final show, 2 am a hard rain fell.  A thunder and lightening show.  It was God's show.  And it was beautiful.  I lay partly sheltered under a cannopy laughing and smiling and watching the skies change so intensely beautifully, I watched a guy just stand in this flood of rains getting drenched just holding his beer in the same pose for hours. I still cant fully explain what happened there.  But as the lightening and storms screamed and sparked, the grand finale, I felt to myself that I could die right this minute and be happy as I have lived truly something special through this festival.

Festival season has just started again in Amsterdam and last week I played a gig at Ruigoord.  It was an International troubadours contest.  I really enjoyed it, I played 3 songs and got some great responses.  They gave me second place for it, which I was quite flattered by.  The skies were perfectly blue outside, the fire was burning, beautiful girls in summer dresses, the start of festival season.  It was when I saw some of the old faces, and the regulars, I asked myself if I truly wanted another season on the festivals in Amsterdam.  I loved them, but they are heavy times aswell.  Good parties, but I think I want to be somewhere else this summer, my heart is set on Switzerland and Berlin.  But back to Amsterdam......

I am still to write about what happened at the end and after the reggae album, but it is late now, and I think I will save that for a fresh as it's a biggy.  End of part 1

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Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Bombs Away

Well, where to start.......At this moment I am back in my family home in Liverpool and realising why it is such a special and unique city.  My first night back, I made 50 quid in an hour busking, went to the best gigs in town and filled my heart up on the music that is the fabric of this great city.  It has been a crazy couple of months, and I wasnt sure if I was going to take the bus ride home, I was torn.  But I did, and I am glad.

I fell madly in love with a girl in Amsterdam.  She always asked me never to mention her on my diary blog, so for the sake of this chapter, lets call her Maud.  She is a special one.  A beautiful girl and a strong woman.  A fiery passionate heart, beatiful Auburn hair, and pale skin.  She was like a girl from those paintings from the 15th century.  Great taste in music, and is great at what she does in the art world.  Unfortunately, our lives started to pull away from eachother.  She goes all around the world with her job and life, and I am a street musician bum.  I wake up most days with no money in my pocket and have to go out and earn some food.  It is such an unpredictable life style that it was causing problems with us.  She wanted a bit of security that I couldn't give her.  A month ago we split up.

I am not going into all the reasons or things that caused it, but it left me hurt, empty, lost, alone and unsure even more about what to do with myself.  I hit the busking hard with Dominik.  He is a good friend, and the best busking buddy and business partner you could meet.  Plays the trumpet with every ounce of breath in him.  He has a busking permit and a portable PA and loop station.  We meet at his in the morning, eat some Polish goulash, drink a coffee then head out for a breakfast joint.  We play a 40 minute set, then wait an hour and a half to play again (The permit has set times we can play)  So we just spend the whole day, drinking Leffe blonds, and smoking lots of joints.  Last saturday we made 250 euroes (though we spent a hundred of it on food, smoke and beer)  But it was just what I needed though.

I kept thinking about what I wanted to do.  There was this pain in my heart and belly that just wouldn't go.  I missed Maud, I missed her so much.  It was like being so warm and cosy and happy, then someone rips the duvet off you in a flash, and you are cold, alone and miss the warmth. I was starting to feel detached from the songs I was singing, couldn't feel the lyrics anymore.  The key to busking, is really feeling the songs you are singing.  When I was playing, I had stopped feeling them.  It lasted 3 weeks, and then things started to feel better.  I knew it was getting better, because the 1st set me and Dominik did, I sung just like I used to.  Completely felt the songs again, and we made 70 euroes in half an hour.  I had booked a ticket, and was now starting to doubt wether I was going to take it.......

It was Queens Day, and we took the stuff out busking.  Our 3rd set was the winner.  We played right next to the Waterfront, and watched the party ships roll in, a big sea of Orange, and a big crowd had sat down to watch us play.  They were Woooing and loving it so much, and as we played 'Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay', the sun hit hard, the ships rolled in, and so did the money.  It was an amazing day, and I was so glad I stayed for it.  I was staying at this girls house, who I had been doing some recording with, and we had a good laugh together, the busking was good with Dominik, and the days that followed we made good money again.  (It goes so easilly though)  On the morning of my bus ride, I was staying, by 3pm I had decided it is best to go.  I raced back to Barts to get my stuff packed, he gave me a great pair of trainers as I had holes in the souls of all my others.  I smoked one big final joint and then headed to the East close to where the Magneet was and the bus was leaving from.  The perfect blue skies, were turning red, with a golden sun setting on the city I love so dearly.  I was still unsure fully wether to go.  But as soon as I got on the bus and the wheels started moving, I felt great.  I was excited to get back to Liverpool.  We took the ferry and I watched the sunrise come up over the English Channel.

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Zappas Vibrations

Although I speak with so much love for my studio space, it does come with its challenging sides; mainly, the noise. You can have it all cos...