Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Cutting a tune with the New Cut Gang.

I was working in Topman, Oxford Circus, at the time. Most employees were poncey little kids with a chip on their shoulder and pin up tattoos on their forearms. I was probably one of them. Then I met a kid named James Whatley, a lad after my own heart. He had a thing for Bob Dylan and a belief that the Libertines had saved the face of English soft Rock and Roll. We got on from the start.

He was in a band called 'the Pistons' at the time and lived in a dis-used pub in Bermondsey. I remember going down there most evenings, pushing past the ghetto boys on the estate in our skinny jeans to buy Red Stripe from the corner shop, then going back to his to play some tunes. I would hum along or blow the harmonica whilst he and the other guys played their own songs or busted out some Beatles tunes in their pokey rooms. It was good fun.

One night I got a phone call at silly o'clock in the morning asking if I could drive down to South London in my Volkswagen Camper van. When I arrived, the boys proceeded to pack up their lives in the back of my beat up people carrier and told me to get moving (they didn't want to pay the rent) As we began to pull away, the boss turned up looking angry and confused. After being threatened with Police action, we coolly talked our way out of the situation and drove on to Peckham (consciously forgetting to give a forwarding address)

We even went over to Kilkeel, Northern Ireland for the Mourne Rock and Blues Festival 2006. There, we did stuff that wasn't really good for us but made us feel on top of the world. I was known as 'Uncle Phil' and would follow the band around with a spring in my step and a beer in my pocket. Highlight of the weekend was nearly getting into a fight with the UK Guns and Roses and almost getting thrown out of the hostel we were staying in because some jumped up prick thought he owned the small fishing village. It was a blur of a weekend.

'The Pistons' were a pure Rock and Roll band, relying on simple chord structures but really impressing with an energy and passion that saw them steal the show in Ireland. '453' was a powerful piece about the ride home across the river on a rowdy bus. 'Lady Left Behind' and 'Lions Share' were more English than a fat man with a hanky on his head, eating an ice cream on Brighton beach. The spirit of the Libertines streamed through their songs. Not many people turned up to their gigs but when we were all there, we got caught up in the music and normally came out dripping in beer. James usually bled from the finger tips for a few days after and amps would have to be replaced.

We lost contact for a year or so as I fucked off round the world to get away from my mundane life, but on my return 'The Pistons' had disbanded. 'The Dirty Notes' took their place, but James was still delivering the Peckham inspired lyrics backed up by powerful guitar riffs and ear splitting drum solos. 'The Dirty Notes' began to experiment with new sounds and musical processes but never lost that Rock and Roll edge. Slowing their songs down tenfold but still retaining a Ska sound that Suggs would have been proud of. With intensely dark and broody recordings, such as 'Bored' and 'Messed up,' an insight into the turmoil of South London life, 'The Dirty Notes' produced nothing like the manufactured, happy pop we hear from so many bands these days. 'The Ballad of Peckham Rye' also comments on the more miserable side of life south of the river. And with other opinionated demos, like 'Generation Roll Over' and 'Broken English,' their catalogue paints a picture of a broken society that most of us worry about each and every day.

And then 'The Dirty Notes' decided to hang up their microphones like a bolt from the blue. Mr Whatley was reduced to singing in his Peckham flat hoping for the next big break. Like the man he is, he didn't let himself or his audience down. 'The New Cut Gang' emerged from the flames with a dark, fast tempo pop that reflected his maturity and musical evolution. Obviously mirroring his change in mentality, songs such as 'Love', 'Pretty City Girl', and 'Have You Seen Her?' focus on the brighter things in life. Removing the shackles of London life depression, Whatley and his band retain a murky undercurrent but brighten the edges.

The trio, all school friends, consisting of Whatley on Bass, Thomas Loxley (guitar and vocals) and Patrick Dixon (drums) have been tearing up the stage since the latter end of 2009. James' journey through the underground of the London music scene brings with it a determination and eagerness to please his audience. Influenced by Soledad Brothers, Gun Club, the Modern Lovers, the White Stripes and the Clash, to name but a few, James describes their sound as 'modern Rock and Roll/Dark Pop, with driving bass lines, Bluesy guitar licks and pounding drums.' The band argue that a burning desire to put on a good show to the few hardcore that trawl the small clubs and pubs, makes for a fresh Rock and Roll experience.

'The New Cut Gang' are tirelessly setting up their amps and guitars across London. Gigging at venues such as the Dublin Castle, the New Cross Inn and Victoria E1, the boys also set up at underground warehouses and squats across the city. Current winners of the London Fringe New Music Award, held at E1ectric in East London, 'the NcG' are starting to attract admiration from discerning audiences. Collecting their award at the Waldorf Hotel, the Fringe celebrates new talent across the capital, much like the world renowned festival held in Edinburgh. I for one will be looking out for Mr Whatley and his boys because I have seen and heard him struggle through the saturated landscape of new music in London. And with a record deal in the pipeline, their sound will hopefully hit the mainstream very soon.

Spare change guv'ner?

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Loving the blues with the Lipstick Melodies.

I remember when I was a nineteen year old kid, in short trousers and a Pete Doherty t-shirt, trilby hat and dirty finger nails, thinking the self confessed Libertine was a dying breed (excuse the pun) Standing at the front of Koko, with all the other skinny Indie kids waiting for him to stumble on and play some off-tune Babyshambles songs, just praying he would turn up.

I loved Mr Doherty, but was pleasantly surprised when a lad called Alan Wass appeared on stage one night. He proceeded to play some Deep Southern Blues inspired tracks that transported me back to a different era. An era when Bourbon Street invented the Blues, an era when folk rock (and a certain Mr Dylan) changed the face of music as we knew it.

Back then, Mr Wass played with a group called Left Hand. A band that I followed around London, a band that stole the show at Tommy Flynn's in Camden every Wednesday night, a band that I would buy shots for at the George Tavern. A band that I became a little bit obsessed by. I was an easily led child. Anyway, Mr Wass had a bit of a break down, maybe it was the company he was keeping, maybe it was the tequila I insisted on buying him, or maybe it was just the Tottenham in the man (we'd all wanna be wasted if we lived in Tottenham, I should know, I live in Walthamstow) Like his mate, Peter, a spell in rehab and a few months getting clean has led to a new beginning and a new band; the Lipstick Melodies.

'Hired Gun' was always my favourite tune, a real Wild West inspired composition, exposing Wass' voice at its finest and causing audiences to hang on to his every word. You could literally smell the final frontier on his cowboy boots and fedora hat. Wass has a Rock and Roll stagger and aura around him that few modern artists can claim to match. His infectious lyrics, driven by guitar riffs, saxophone and energetic keyboard solos wouldn't be out of context in a dusty, Austin bar.

Other notable additions to the Wass catalogue include 'No Protection,' 'Go It Alone,' and 'Runaway Blues.' All steaming into powerful choruses and dripping with a Rock and Roll spirit that seems to be absent from today's mainstream billboards. Wass has a similar stage presence to tabloid favourite and good friend Peter Doherty; even if we don't like him we can't help but watch. There is an innocence behind the dark eyes and a magnetism that seems to strengthen with every word delivered.
Wass has had his ups and downs and we can read this pain in his songs. He complains of a 'Golden Heart Ache' in one of his closing numbers, an ache that adds an uncontrolled passion to his lyrics. His friendship with Doherty must be down to their similarities in living out mistakes and regrets through their music.

It is a mystery as to why Wass and the Lipstick Melodies haven't been signed up. With such influential friends and a heavy tour schedule that sees them travel the continent, it can only be a matter of time until they join the big boys. Wass is a breath of fresh air in an industry that keeps knocking out bands that look the same, sound the same and remain the same.
Spare change guv'ner?

Photographs by Egle Achmadijevaite

The Queen visits Walthamstow Village!

Thursday the nineteenth of August 2010, a day that will go down in the history books, a day when Walthamstow stood proud, a day when the simple people of the East End put down their pints and said 'Fuck me, is that the Queen sitting over there?'

I'd just collected my dole money on Forest Road, had a pint at the Waltham Forest Social Club (leave September the third clear in your diaries as Tina Turner's making an appearance at the Town Hall) and caught a cab to the Village with the middle Ford. There was a buzz in the air, rumours were flying that a few members of the Royal Family were coming down to the Queens Arms on Orford Road for a question and answer session.

The pretty little thing above was a Miss Philippa of Belle Vue Estate. She smelled like a Summers day and looked radiant in black. Pick of the bunch, the people of Walthamstow treated her like a film star. I managed to steal a string of pearls from her vanity case and am currently trying to push 'pearls on men' as the must have look for Autumn/Winter 2010.

Unfortunately, Prince Philip didn't show up, he was overheard at Buckingham Palace, whilst shooting red squirrels in the garden, saying 'Walthamstow, why, I wouldn't be seen dead round those parts, full of ethnics.' He's not wrong.

I managed to meet some of the Queen's distant cousins, all slightly inbred, and most noticeably, quite hairy in places where there shouldn't have been hair. The lovely lady above, the Duchess of Titley Close, smoked like a chimney. A close friend of Camilla, she also had a face like a slapped arse.

So the Queens Arms has been put on the map for years to come. It isn't everyday that Royalty graces the beer garden of an East London pub, and I doubt it will happen again in the near future. I managed to get the number of the lady above, loved her fringe teamed with bouffant sides. I can see love on the horizon.

This unfortunate looking Royal had a potty mouth and attitude to match. Asking her whether she was sad when Diana passed away on that fateful night in Paris, she declared 'I couldn't give a fuck, Charles told me she was shit at sucking cock anyway.' With an official title of Lady of the YMCA, she then offered to give my friend a blowy in the gents. Nice lady.

After rubbing shoulders with the cream of nobility, I'm on holiday next week, hobbing and nobbing with the wonderful people of Vilamoura, on the Algarve. A hot spot for footballers and golfers, I am hoping to pap some real classy people. Hopefully they will be orange skinned and dripping in Pucci, Gucci and Primarni. Keep reading!

Spare Change guv'ner?

Monday, 16 August 2010

Jennifer Juniper rides a dappled mare.

Jennifer was hitting the ripe old age of 27. The anti wrinkle cream, which she has used since the age of 19, would have to be caked on in double amounts. Her back pains are getting worse and she complains about a lack of sleep. Jennifer has blossomed into a beautiful woman.

So we all went out for a bite to eat down Walthamstow Village, the only nice area in this section of London. 'Eat 17,' which has featured in Time Out's good eating guide, was our preferred destination. A lovely little restaurant selling English grub with a posh twist. I love Walthamstow Village, it makes me proud to be from this borough. Along with the dog track, now closed down, and Brian Harvey, who is probably running himself over as we speak, the Village has put us on the map, and it was a perfect place to go for Jennifer's birthday.

Most of the family were there. Kenny, the Ford clan's grandad, ex-sailor, ex-carpenter, was on top form. He opted for a medium rare steak and a dark rum, a true man's meal for a real gentleman. Born and raised in the East End, this man could whip up a wardrobe in the time you could brush your teeth. Always looking effortlessly handsome, Kenny wore a knitted jumper and trousers for the occasion. Famous for turning up at the Toby Carvery in a pinstripe suit, he has a style that no-one can match. A real pleasure when he makes an appearance, the man didn't let us down.

Young Alice and her hubby seemed to co-ordinate in nautical blue. An avid Tottenham fan, Andrew has had a bit of bother with the mother-in-law, who's a passionate gooner, but due to my allegiance to the mighty reds of the North, he seems to have slipped through the net. With Alice's hair getting blonder every day and tan getting deeper in that hot East End sun, Andrew is gonna have his hands full keeping hold of her. Having known her since she was 6 years old and witnessed her impression of Tina Turner on numerous occasions, the youngest Ford is always the life and soul of the party.

So after we ate, we were walking back to the car when we heard some rock and roll music blaring through the doors of the Queens Arms, and decided to take a peak. As you can see from the pictures above, the live music of 'Double Trouble,' who looked like a couple of scaffolders, was too much for Kate and Jennifer. Adam was tempted to ask for an autograph from the lead guitarist but was scared he would start a stampede, and I just sat as usual. It's good being a cripple sometimes. Least I never have to go to the bar.

It was a very important day coming up. A barbecue for 30 people at my house and also the start of the football season, perfect. We hailed a cab home and opened a bottle of wine to wind down. Five hours later we were still drinking in the front room as the sun started to come up. The mix of painkillers, wine, beer and anti depressants was a perfect cocktail for the 16 hour bender that was ahead.

So the girls got up after a couple of hours sleep and proceeded to cook tons of food and arrange the house so that the many people who were due to arrive could squeeze in. My job was to blow up the balloons. Another perk of just getting out of hospital. I decided to wear my liquorice all sorts knitted jumper and tweed jacket, I don't know why, maybe the lack of rest had affected my mind. We were all geared up for the day ahead.

Dave Hughes, aka the 'Budgie Smuggler,' turned up and instantly recognised the house from many years ago. As an awkward teenager, I had a party when the old folks were away. A few friends ended up sleeping in the front garden, one passed out in my bed and I woke up in the bath; those 3 hooch's really went to my head.

Outfit of the day went to Adam Mulhern. After his 'Thomas the Wank Engine' ensemble of a few weeks ago, he stole the show again in black bow tie, fitted white shirt and black skinnies. Hiding behind a pair of RayBan's due to a thumping headache, the man owned the barbecue. Producing burger after burger (Nottingham Chris had just arrived) his energy levels increased as the number of Carling in the bucket fell.

We were honoured that he lovely Miss Draper came to the do. Drinking vodka and coke in a wine glass, her Amersham class couldn't be suppressed. Calling me 'Philium' all day, which I may change my name to on depoll, I always get a bit morbid around her, which I apologise for. Now living in Leeds, I can report that she hasn't picked up a strange accent.

Cheeky Nottingham boy, Chris, a University friend of the middle Ford, became obsessed with my hat. Nicknamed 'Chrissy two burgers' for his ability to munch fast food in seconds, he fell asleep kneeling on the floor at about 4 o'clock in the morning. Rumour has it, Chris wants to move to London but has to man up if he wants to live in the big smoke. A lovely lad, if a bit of a lightweight, he's welcome back to my gaff anytime. Just warn me and I'll get the fridge filled up.

Even Stevey Ward turned up to the party. Having been banned from nearly every licensed premise in Chingford, and even friends houses for being a general pest, the lad was pretty well behaved. His karaoke performance was shocking, and the slurring of words increased with every jack and coke, but the dancing was inspirational.

All in all, the day went without a hitch, apart of the pissing down of rain all afternoon and the Chelsea score. The neighbours were probably fucked off, and the house looked like the shoe bomber had made an appearance, but I heard through the grapevine that Jennifer had a good time. And that's all that matters.
So, after 11 months, numerous operations, and a metal rod being shoved down my leg, I'm hoping I'll be able to walk again soon and get blogging properly. Thanks to everyone who came on Saturday, you know who you are.
Spare change guv'ner?

Friday, 13 August 2010

Cut open in Whitechapel.

So for the last few nights I've been stuck at the Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel. Turns out I was walking around on a broken leg for the past month. They wheeled me in, cut my leg open at the knee and drilled a metal rod into my tibula. Hopefully it won't bend anymore! But I'm back, and there is much fun on the horizon!

I met some great people at the Royal. A young kid was under police guard after a robbery went wrong and he ended up getting sliced. Part of the 'Roman Road' E3 crew, he proceeded to tell the police names and addresses of all his accomplices. I look forward to hearing the news on 'London Tonight' when his 'friends' find out he has suddenly become a super grass.

Another kid got stabbed 9 times after leaving a club last Saturday night. Getting caught down a dead end, a lovely group of Beckton kids decided to shred him to pieces with screwdrivers and knives. Oh what a wonderful city we live in!

The nurses were amazing! An old gentleman next door to be, who had just undergone a biopsy, asked for a bowl of water so he could wash his aching body. The Jamaican sister declared 'Can you not walk! Are your legs not working? There is a bathroom over there!' When we are at our lowest there is always someone who will push us down that little bit more.

Anyway, it took me about 8 hours to get out of the hospital. Even though the doctors had said I could go, the lovely staff on George Ward must have liked my face just a little bit too much. I could tell they liked me, after calling me stupid for getting so many tattoos, and kissing their teeth at me because I asked if they could fix my bed, I could feel the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

Another hospital stay over. Hopefully my leg won't snap again, but I'm not too sure. But enough complaining. It's my girlfriend's birthday today, so we're having a little soiree round my gaff tomorrow, so I will be blogging furiously over the next few days. Keep reading!

Spare change guv'ner?

Monday, 9 August 2010

Dead End street with the Dead Royals.

'The Dead Royals' is a punk influenced band started by Al James, a fine Aussie fella who I met drinking one night at the Cock Tavern, Oxford Circus. I used to spend many a night there, chewing his ear off over vodka and sodas, and on some occasions woke up on his bedroom floor, feeling a deep hatred for myself.

Anyway, this guy has a passion for music. Hailing from Cairns, Australia, a relatively sleepy town, the man decided to sail the seven seas and come back to his spiritual home, England. I count him as a true Londoner. Talk about music, he'll know his shit. And with a love for the legend Iggy Pop, and a talent for strumming the guitar, I knew he'd eventually form a band that would make more than ripples on the music scene.

So it all happened about a year ago at a Stooges gig. Al met a guy called Keiran, they chatted, they drank, and they decided to write some songs together. A band had to be created. A friend called Gregg joined the party on drums and Nick plucked the bass. They were ready to hit the studio, and last August began rehearsing a few things they had written. They cut a demo, 'Broke,' last November, and have been furiously playing gigs around our great city for the last few months. Nick went missing in action, didn't answer his phone, maybe made it big in Hollywood, no one knows. So Tom came in. And the 'Dead Royals' as we know it were born.

Harping back to the raw guitar playing of the punk era, and dynamic presence of Iggy Pop's stage performances, the 'Dead Royals' are an explosion of energy, owning the room and its audience. For such a laid back fella, Al attacks his guitar with ferocity and immerses himself into all that he has written. The first verse of the track titled 'Strong' focuses on the struggle to be noticed and how your background can dictate what you will achieve in life. 'Take from me, what you will, take it, I don't care........... I was raised into tenancy, education made a fool of me, cause I'm from a broken family.' Describing all his lyrics as 'meaningful and equally powerful,' there is an obvious confidence in Al's words.
Kieran, with his flowing black hair, and a strut that even Mick Jagger would be proud of, delivers each line with determination and clarity. As a foursome, this tight unit, with music running through their veins, live and breathe their craft. A night with the 'Dead Royals' will both stimulate and exhaust you at the same time.

So if you wanna listen to some music that has the passion of Sabbath, and the cleverness of Joy Division, hit up Al and the 'Dead Royals.' If not, go and have a pint with him down the Cock, either way I'm sure he'll be happy.
Spare change guv'ner?

When Harvey met Lola.

It was the talk of Walthamstow, the day that Harvey would finally meet Lola. People were rumoured to believe that there would be more passion in the room than beneath the covers in the big brother house. It would be the wedding of the year, a seven figure sum would be on the table for a picture of the first pup. Videos would be circling the internet of the first arse sniffing, some believed it would get more hits than 'One night in Paris.' Unfortunately, these reports were way off the mark, it was a game of cat and mouse all evening at Bridge End. Lola was indifferent to Harvey, and Harvey was indifferent to Lola. There were barks, nips and playing dead. Lola ate Harvey's food, Tom ate Lola's food. It was all a bit up in the air.

So the day kicked off relatively quietly in E8. Lola picked a somewhat Dickensian outfit for a day in the park. Teaming a white cravat with polka dot waistcoat, she looked elegant in the London rain. She was on her best behaviour, saving all her energy for the night ahead. At one point she ignored the flirtings of a six month old whippet. There was only one thing on her mind, Harvey, the pretty little King Charles Spaniel.

As the afternoon rain began to lighten and the sun slowly emerged from the clouds, Lola settled down on the picnic blanket in a mustard cardigan and flowery scarf. The contrast of monochrome neck piece and vibrant knitwear attracted the followers more so. A terrier was literally salivating at the mouth as he strolled by, a rough looking staff (from the towering estate yonder) bowled over and kissed his sharp teeth. Again, Lola was not impressed. Hackney boys just aren't her thing. She had a spot of lunch, stole some of my strawberry cheesecake and pilfered some wine, a little bit of dutch courage for the night's encounter.

Harvey welcomed Lola with a snarl, he was unimpressed. This was his territory. He had styled his beard and trimmed his hair, hoping this would be the beginning of a wonderful relationship. However, jealousy rippled through his bones. Being a cheeky bitch, Lola ran through the house, pissed on his lawn and nipped at his ears. Harvey retreated to the arms of his owners and proceeded to sleep the evening away. Any friendship formed would be on his terms, and his terms only.

Jason Barra, not wanting to be outdone by the lovely people of Southend, donned socks and sandals for the occasion. Add a pair of grey, Nike tracksuit bottoms and we have the style of a true Walthamstow boy. Harvey seemed embarrassed to be seen with his owner, and at one point tried to bolt it out the front door. Harvey was beginning to like Lola and her quirky ways and didn't want to be shown up by his landlord.

There was much dancing and merriment to be had at the Barra's. Lola did a jig, Harvey bum surfed and Steve had a fit. The evening was running very smoothly indeed. Everyone was talking about the sexual chemistry between Lola and Harvey. They just couldn't leave each other alone. Lola tried to mount Harvey, Harvey was playing hard to get; the OK! magazine deal was on. This was going to be bigger than Katie and Alex. A fly on the wall documentary was on the cards.

So I had a chat with Harvey, asked what he thought of my bitch. It was all positive. He thought she was pretty, had just enough junk in the trunk and had nice dog breath. He wants to meet her again. And Lola, well she'll hump anything. But there is some bad news, Harvey's had his balls chopped off and Lola's been spayed, so there won't be the pitter patter of tiny paws.
And the last word went to Mr Barra. He warned me that if Lola ever fucks around behind Harvey's back, he'll hunt me down and put a bullet in my head. But don't worry about me cos I've already put in a complaint to the fashion police.
Spare change guv'ner?

Friday, 6 August 2010

Kerry shines in Kilburn.

So I've heard that Thursdays are the new Fridays. And on this note I decided to go and listen to some live music, somewhere. Where did I end up? Kilburn. I'm not a great fan of North West London, I would never choose to go there and have no desire to know anything about the area, but on this lovely August evening I'm glad I went.

I ended up in a pub called the 'North London Tavern'; a traditional English boozer with the customary drunk locals scavenging cigarettes and love struck couples sharing bottles of wine.

Up a set of rickety old stairs and through a wonky old door was an intimate little area where a small group of musicians were tuning their guitars. Youngsters were lounging, candles were flickering and glasses were clinking. It was the perfect surroundings to hear some English rooted folk songs.

And then up she stood, Kerry Leatham, aka the guerrilla busker. In a striped jumper, drain pipe jeans and tied back hair, her shyness, modesty and effortless cool seemed to draw the audience under her spell. Hailing from Colchester, Essex, the 23 year old was showcasing songs from her first album, Stories from the self obsessed, to be released in the UK in September.

A maturity in her songs far beyond her 23 years burst through from the onset. 'Do you fancy me?' an upbeat song, which was featured in TVs 'Greys Anatomy,' cut through the Kilburn darkness. It strips back the barrier that many people put up to protect their insecurities from the world and the real passion in her voice suggested that she had lived through her words.
Another love soaked track 'A Different Light' focuses on an encounter overlooking the rooftops of London. 'And I kissed your lips so tight, and in that moment they were mine,' her songs were full of humility, which is very refreshing in this era of super egos.
'Run Dry' is an emotional song telling a story of love and its shortcomings. 'You squeezed every last morsel of love out of me and left a bitter crusted shell.' With her angelic face, it is difficult not to get involved with her poetic prose.
'Social Structure' addresses the obstacles that have to be hurdled in all our private lives, and how we will 'break down the walls' in order to be with the one we love. 'Are we all anything but normal? Deep down in, deep down inside?'
Kerry Leatham presented a diary of her life through music with clarity and feeling. Each song was delivered with a sparkle in her eye that suggests she will not stop until she has achieved all that she wants to achieve.

Effortlessly switching between acoustic, bass guitar and drums, each song showed off the young singer/songwriters obvious talent. With a hint of Lily Allen and writing ability of Laura Marling, Kerry Leatham is destined to join the long list of successful solo female artists that Britain has produced over the last few years. Currently touring the UK and Ireland, her intensity towards her music, which has been recognised on the other side of the pond, is bound to hit the mainstream.

Spare change guv'ner?