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Pubs Are GRATE!
I've been back working in the centre of London Town for nearly six months now but my DELIGHT in it has yet to dim, especially on nights like last night when it meant I could leave work and, ten minutes later, be in The King & Queen!

I was there to meet my old chum Mr S Wilkinson, but on the way I bumped into another, newer, chum: Mr Ivor Game. Amazingly he was on his way to the same place, to take part in a night of music and poetry upstairs - there ALWAYS seems to be something going on upstairs at The King & Queen, all it needs is a hand-typed and badly photocopied piece of A5 with gig listings on it and it would be like The Magazine Hotel Leicester circa 1993!

Ivor said he was thinking about hiring a PR company to help him with his next release, and I related my DREADFUL experience with the one I hired to promote Regardez, Ecoutez Et Repetez all those years ago. On further investigation it turned out that he'd been in touch with THE VERY SAME PR company that I'd used, and so I was UTTERLY DELIGHTED to be able to give him the full details and advise NOT using them. It was MOST satisfying!

Ivor went upstairs to do his SHOW and Simon turned up for some PINTS and DISCUSSION on what was and wasn't wrong with The World Today, differing only on the subject of whether or not Weatherspoons pubs are "all right" (NB they're not). We also got to re-do "Shop Cop", an ongoing SKIT what we used to do 100,000 years ago in Leicester when we co-hosted The Casbah, a monthly student comedy club which ALSO saw the debut of VOON. I'd been reminded of it while talking to Mr John Dredge the other day, and was delighted to find that between us we remembered the whole thing.

A very pleasant evening was topped off by an offer to CHOOSE BEERS for the Totally Acoustic all-dayer that's taking place in August. "If you're going to be here all day I might as well get some beers on that you'll like", said CJ when I went to the bar. My eyes did that thing that Cartoon Characters do when they think of CA$H except instead of DOLLAR SIGNS it was PINTS that flashed by! This is going to be GRATE!

posted 30/3/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Sticking It To The Man
I had the afternoon off on Monday to go to a DEMO, for LO! there was a debate in the House Of Commons about the Badger Cull and so The Words On My Placard and I were there to support The Badger Army.

It felt weird coming out of Westminster Tube, into a scene which had been all over the news the week before. As I walked around Parliament I saw policemen going about their business and tourists being tourist-y, and then I saw all the flowers laid out in front and attached to the railings. It was all suddenly very moving and real, that something awful had happened here just a few days ago, to people just like all of us, here for all our various reasons in one of the most exciting cities in the world.

Like everybody else I carried on, literally, in fact, carrying along downn the road and soon found myself at the demo where The Members Of My Crowd had been given a LAB COAT to wear and a placard to hold. The lab coat was part of the plan to draw attention to the Scientific FACTS around the Badger Cull i.e. that there is absolutely completely no evidence WHATSOEVER that Badgers are carrying Bovine TB to cattle. The actual truth of the matter is that David Cameron brought in the cull as a way to allow gits to murder badgers, EITHER because some farmers think they're a "pest", OR to allow easier planning permission for HS2, OR just because some people enjoying killing animals, depending on who you believe. Whatever the reason, it's a total pile of bollocks which results in the cruel deaths of animals that are meant to be protected.

We stood around for a bit and then there were SPEECHES, during which we discovered that Bovine TB may not have been found in badgers (they're not actually TESTING the badgers they kill for some reason, almost as if that's not why they're doing it...) but HAS been found in Hunting Hounds! So, the people who are most keen on killing animals are CAUSING the disease they're using as an excuse for doing it! Worst still, this has been the case for DECADES, but has apparently been covered up - we stood AGOG, taking in this news!

After the speeches we were told there'd be half an hour or so break and then some more speeches. This, I thought, would coincide with the debate in parliament which was due to start at half past four. Time passed, however, and nothing much happened - the lab coats and placards were collected up, people drifted away, but of speaking there was none. At about half past five someone started up a chant of "Save our badgers - stop the cull!" which everyone joined in with for about fifteen minutes, until some of the (very friendly otherwise) police came over to ask us to stop, as there'd been a complaint from over the road. There were about six loudspeaker things being used, so it was quite loud, but The Voices In My Chorus suggested that maybe this was just part of the process. The demo makes a right old racket for fifteen minutes, the police come over and give us a reason to stop, and everyone can go home happy.

It was a perfectly reasonable plan, spoilt slightly by an "anarchist" who took this as his cue to stick it to the man by continuing with the shouting. When asked to stop he looked all innoccent, waited two minutes, then started blowing a HORN. SIGHS all round were heard as the policeman dutifully plodded over to ask him to stop - it was a bit of entirely unnecessary dickheadery which resulted in a KERFUFFLE which was SOMEWHAT undermined by the self same Anarchist leaving five minutes later because "I've got a train to catch".

Or maybe that was just another part of The Traditional Process that I was unaware of?

Anyway, we stood around a bit longer until the organiser said that that was the end and we could go home now. As ever with these events I found it slightly infuriating, also PUZZLING - if someone has the wherewithal to ORGANISE a demo like this, with all the police negotiations and booking of locations, PA systems and speakers, why do they always allow it to drift off into complete disarray on the day itself? The only time I've ever been to ANY demo that was properly organised all the way through and DIDN'T end with everyone standing around going "Is that it? Can we go home now?" was another badger demo a few years ago when BRIAN MAY came and talked. It was almost as if everyone thought "Crikey, Brian May is coming, we'd better make sure it all goes properly!" That one finished EARLY!

Still, it was good to be there and make our point - with all the utter nonsense about flipping Brexit going on, and all the unutterable crap that will be filling up the news for the next two years about it, it's important to make sure the Tories don't get completely away with everything unchallenged!

posted 29/3/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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A Trip Completed
This Saturday, The Sights On My Excursion and I headed way out West to Hampstead Heath, to finish off a trip we'd begun way back in October. On that occasion we'd had a big walk and then gone to Kenwood House to look at some ART, but we'd only ended up looking at the ground floor of the museum. We'd promised ourselves that we'd go back another time to see the upper floor, and so that is what we set out to do.

On the way there we passed through Mirabelle Gardens, a small park near chez nous, and heard a BURD singing in one of the trees. In the past couple of years I have realised that if you HEAR a bird singing nearby then there must BE a bird singing nearby, and if you look you can usually see it. I know this sounds BLINDINGLY OBVIOUS but it's been a bit of a revelation to me, as I've realised that there's all SORTS of birds all over the place. This time we stopped and looked and were astonished to see a GOLDFINCH. Apparently these are super common but I've never seen one before, so we stood AGOG. Later on that day, on Hampstead Heath, we saw a GREEN WOODPECKER, something else I'd never seen before. "I wonder how many birds I COULD see," I wondered to myself, "perhaps noting them down in a book when I have seen - or 'spotted' - them?" Luckily I realised what I was thinking before I had gone too far - I do NOT need another hobby right now!

Hampstead Heath is an AMAZING place to stomp through, it's like a wallop of countryside dumped in London, with all sorts of different parts all over the place so that (as happens most times we go there) we managed to get LOST. We eventually found Kenwood House where we DID go upstairs and saw The Miniature Room - lots of tiny portraits, including one that looked like a HOLOGRAM, also jewellery and BUCKLES - and then The Suffolk Collection, which is a room full of ancient paintings of posh people. It was Quite Good but didn't GRAB me in quite the same way as Paolozzi the other week, which probably definitely means I am SUPER MODERN.

And that was IT! It turns out the upstairs has SIGNIFICANTLY less things to look at than the downstairs so we were able to wander out and stomp back across the heath for our meeting with a woodpecker. It was a RUDDY DELIGHTFUL way to spend an afternoon and it only cost us a few quid each for the TRANE too. Sometimes That London can be pretty flipping GRATE!

posted 28/3/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Socks And Cocktails
Thursday night found me out and about in downtown ISLINGTON, where I was due to meet Mr S Hewitt. It seems weird these days when I enter a pub and DON'T see him sat at a table glaring at his phone with a half drunk pint in front of him. This occasion was NOT a weird one!

As other people arrived I went to get some drinks and ended up waiting TWENTY FLIPPING MINUTES as it was one of those pubs that a) serve cocktails but b) do not seem to train their staff how to do it and c) have only one person on at a time, so it took FOREVER or, at least, until 6pm when some other people came out of the kitchen to help. It made me GRUMPY!

Luckily for all concerned GRUMP was deflated by the fact that we were going round the corner to The Bill Murray to see The Scottish Falsetto Sock Theatre Company Do Shakespeare. I have seen The Socks MANY times but this was my first time seeing them anywhere outside of Edinburgh and with me anything but Quite Drunk. It turns out they are JUST as good Mildly Sober (i.e. VERY GOOD INDEED) and there was MUCH chortling, sniggering, and general GUFFAWING. It really is a very silly sort of show indeed, and I liked it a LOT.

I also liked the fact that the bar served St Mungo, the Only Lager Brewed To German Purity Laws Outside Of Germany as certain BORING and possibly WRONG people will tell you at length if you let me... I mean THEM, do so. It was LOVELY and may well have been the ingredient that allowed me to cope with not being in Scotland while I was watching. I would heartily recommend it, and The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre Company, to ANYBODY, and if you can combine the two then all the better!

posted 27/3/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Another Secret Revealed
For the past few weeks I've been going ON and ON about all the various Exciting Things that I couldn't talk about - one of these was The Validators appearing at this year's indietracks, and today I can REVEAL what one of the others is, for LO! I have got an LITERARY AGENT!

"That is not quite as exciting as I was led to believe" you may think, which is fair enough, but to me it is THE MOST EXCITING. Ever since I (re)started with The Writing back in The Space Year 2012AD one of the AIMS has been to get an Agent - everybody always says "You don't need an agent, you can do it all yourself" but, to be honest, after 500 years in ROCK I have got pretty much all the transferable skills I need. I know about PRS, PPL, setting up PA systems, invoicing, manufacturing schedules, and the difference between CMYK and RGB, so would rather NOT have to learn the equivalents of the above for the BOOK world!

For LO! (again), it is MY NOVEL that this is all related to. When I re-read it a few weeks ago I thought "Actually this is quite good, maybe I should try and see if anybody wants to put it out?" After taking ADVICE from various sources I did The Proper Thing and got myself a copy of The Writers And Artists Yearbook, went through the lists of agents, identified ones which looked suitable, emailed them with whatever their requirements were for Unsolicited Enquiries (usually a covering letter, synopsis, and first 30-50 pages of the book), and then sat back to see what would happen.

I must admit I had precisely NO expectations WHATSOEVER - all my experience of doing The Proper Thing in regards to AND of The Arts has been that you sit around for months and nothing happens. I was fully expecting to get either NO replies or polite form letters, and had put a note into my diary to wait six weeks and then start properly investigating self-publishing via Amazon. Imagine my SURPRISE then when, a week or so after sending the emails out, I got a request from one of agents for the FULL novel! "It might take a few weeks to get round to reading it", she said, so imagine my FURTHER ASTONISHMENT when she emailed my the other side of the weekend to ask if we could have a phone chat! "Maybe she wants to tell me personally how rubbish it is?" I thought.

To cut a very long story short, that WASN'T the purpose of the call and so, some further weeks later, I am VERY PLEASED INDEED to say that I am now Officially Represented by Franca at Zeno Literary Agency! I'm on their webpage and EVERYTHING!

The next stage, apart from SWANNING AROUND saying "Oh I shall have to ask My Agent" (OBVS), is for them to send the book out to PUBLISHERS to see if they will, well, PUBLISH it. It's being PITCHED as for the 9-12 age group, which a) was a surprise to me as I didn't WRITE it that way b) meant a couple of very minor adjustments (apparently you're not allowed to rampantly kill human beings, textually, but small dogs are fair game) and c) probably says more about my MENTAL AGE than I would care to consider. That said, it is MORE than fine with me - I went to Waterstones to look at THE COMPETITION the other day and there are a HECKLOAD of AMAZING books in that age range!

My sole hope at this point is that I might help to DELIGHT and EDUCATE a few CURIOUS MINDS, and I have definitely NOT been fantasising about making 100 BILLION QUID from MOVIE DEALS, nor have I spent hours rehearsing CHAT SHOW APPEARANCES, and anybody who says I have is a rotten fibber. Either way it is all EXTREMELY EXCITING - it may, of course, all come to nothing, but you never know, it might end up with an ACTUAL REAL BOOK with my name on it! ZOINKS!

posted 23/3/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Banned From The Technical Area
Last Thursday found The Seats In My Stadium and I going round the back of The London Stadium for a Residents' Meeting about the Olympic Park. I must admit I was slightly GIRDING myself for BOREDOM as I have been to quite a few profoundly DULL meetings of late, but this was actually DEAD interesting. For one thing, we got to go into the Hospitality Area of the stadium, and then listen to some INTERESTING FACTS about what was coming up in the area. We also got to hear from some ARTISTS from the local area, one of whom seemed to think he was a REVOLUTIONARY ACTIVIST. He challenged one of the speakers, saying "Film has EMERGED of you saying this thing that is slightly inaccurate!" We thought "Ooh, secret filming!!" but it turned out to mean someone in the meeting had been recording it on their phone, in full view of a public meeting. Oooooh! SCANDAL!

After the talking was over we got to go on a TOUR of the stadium, starting in the Directors' Box where we stood out on the balcony looking onto the pitch. It felt WEIRD - I could see the SKY but still it felt like we were inside and the actual pitch looked TIDDLY. We then went to look at (and SMELL) the changing rooms, before heading down a tunnel and - LAWKS! - onto the pitch itself. As you can see, I found this EXCITING!



Other people - especially West Ham fans - were EVEN MORE excited, and all took turns sitting in the players' seats. I, of course, was much too dignified to do anything a silly as pretending to be a Beleagured Manager.



All right, maybe I wasn't. It was GRATE tho - we watched Match of the Day ESPECIALLY on Saturday to shout "LOOK! We have SAT there!" - and when we were finally SATED we headed back down the tunnel and OUT, for LO! it was the BEST kind of tour i.e. one in which we followed the route at our own pace without people telling you what you're looking at. After all, when one is presented with a football pitch one doesn't really need someone telling you what it is. And CRIKEY, when you're in a Football changing room your NOSE can definitely work it out!

posted 20/3/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Paolozzi Good Times
Saturday found the Theme Of My Curation and I off to see some of that there ART, in the company of Ms H Arnold. We were off to The Whitechapel Gallery ("I did a gig here once" I said, as i seem to do EVERYWHERE) to see the Eduardo Paolozzi retrospective. Short review: it was BLOODY GRATE.

Living in That London I like Paolozzi mainly because you keep bumping into his WORKZ all over the place, like the murals at Tottenham Court Road, or the big Newton outside the British Library, or the Self Portrait With Banjo that used to be on High Holborn. ALSO, his sculptures 'Piscator' and 'Head Of INvention' feature pretty heavily in MY NOVEL, and ALSO he did the cover to Macca's 'Red Rose Speedway', so he is compliant with my interests on MANY levels.

Despite all this the exhibition was packed with LOADS of things I didn't know and loads of ART I'd not seen before, and the way it was laid out in vaguely chronological order made it weirdly EXCITING. "Ooh look, he's started doing collages!" I said to myself, when they popped up, and you could see his LINES starting to appear and then mutate into sculptures and SO ON. It was also full of HUMANITY e.g. the sculptures of people that look like calcified cyborgs are a) weird and strange b) weirdly TOUCHING. AND there was a sense of humour throughout, especially when he got DEAD SARCASTIC around the early 1970s.

It was the best ART thing I have been to in AGES and has stuck in my BRANE ever since. Even better, we bumped into that nice Mr Dec Munro, Hero Of Edinburgh, on the way round, and it turned out he's one of the people behind The Bill Murray pub where ALL comedy gigs seem to happen now, including the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppets that me and Mr S Hewitt are off to see next week.

It was, all told, a pretty flipping great afternoon out. ART! It's GOOD!

posted 14/3/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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DOS Reunited
I am STILL unable to reveal the various SECRETS what I have been going on about lately, and it is starting to do my NUT in. One of them in particular is something I am DESPERATE to shout about online, but so far am only able to do so in PERSON for fear of tempting fate. MANY is the time I have sat on Twitter about to TWEET about it or - worse yet - say "I have AMAZING news I cannot tell you about" and only just managed to pull away (and write a blog instead...).

Yesterday THINGS were going on to do with it and I felt as if I would go LOONEY if I did not tell SOMEONE. "I know", I thought, having deleted a tweet for the millionth time that day, 'I shall go to the comic shop. I often bump into people on the way there, maybe I shall do this time and manage to BLURT it out to the THEM!"

I set off for Gosh and DIDN'T meet anybody. "Probably for the best", I thought, as I stood before the RACKS perusing the most recent releases, but then Mr N Metcalfe, who works there, said hello and then FOOLISHLY added "How's it going?"

"GRATE!" I said, loudly, with a MAD GLEAM in my eye. Nat did not take this as a clue to FLEE (he works in a comic shop, I guess if he RAN every time someone said something KRAZY to him he would be winning Marathons) and instead said "Really? What's happened?" and reader, I TOLD him. At SOME LENGTH. Sorry Nat!

I CALMED myself back at work by reuniting with an old colleague: DOS!

There's a DOS database what I have been GRAPPLING with lately to try and get some information out of, and it has been surprisingly emotional. Looking at a DOS interface is like looking back a quarter of a century to my first endeavours in the field of employment, when EVERYTHING on computers was done this way. The way you move around the screen, the type face, the way it represents ICONS, the incredibly limited ways you can DO stuff - EVERYTHING about it is a nostalgia trip which I found myself ENJOYING whilst also wishing for stuff we take for granted now, like OPTIONS and MOUSE CLICKS and proper HELP functions. This database is SO VERY OLD that there isn't anything on Google to tell you what to do (which leaves a Computer Guy like me FLUMMOXED, as I have to use my BRANE instead!). Wonderfully, the system is very proud of being able to use new-fangled .dbf files (which was a legacy format even when I first started) although it is unable to export more than 15 variables at a time. AND! AND! I spent ages trying to work out why it was refusing to do something before finally realising it was because my FILENAME contained more than 8 characters!!

It's all oddly lovely, and I can't shake the sense of WONDER that it still actually works, although there's no reason why it wouldn't. The PROGRAM is a series of zeroes and ones, it's not like a rusty old PLOUGH or something that would wear out - as long as the files don't get corrupted something like this could work FOREVER!

PHEW! It was a right rollercoaster of THRILLZ - I thought when I sat down to type this blog entry that my inability to reveal The Big Secret Thing would lead to a dull blog, HOW WRONG I WAS!

posted 9/3/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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Art School Confidential
Despite nursing a SEVERE post-Totally Acoustic hangover, I managed to DRAG myself over to West London on Friday lunchtime to meet The Artist Tom Smith for a cup of tea and a PRACTICE, for LO! that very afternoon we were due at Wimbledon College Of Art to do a TALK SLASH CHAT called "Scary Monsters And Super Creeps" about superheroes, performance personas and SUCHLIKE.

It was all to do with the Acts Reacts festival at Wimbledon College Of Arts. The college is a part of UAL so as a GRADUATE (him) and CURRENT STUDENT (me) of Central St Martins (as seen in That Pulp Song, and ALSO part of UAL) we thought we'd apply to DO something at it. When we got ACCEPTED we had to think about what we were going to say and, several emails, one skype chat and one trip to the pub later, we found ourselves sat in his kitchen with a fully loaded Powerpoint Presentation having a bit of an old run through.

Much to our mutual relief it turned out to make some sort of sense even OUTSIDE of the pub, so we set off for the tube ready to ROCK. Unfortunately the tube itself was not so inclined, as the District Line was KAPUT, so we had to go back to his house and use the CAR instead. This took AGES and denied us the time for nipping into the PUB on the way, but it did at least mean I was able to discover that my phone has flipping SATNAV on it. It was INCREDIBLE! "Just put in the postcode we're going to and press that button" said Thomas and LO my phone TALKING to me! I was ASTOUNDED!

We got to the college and met the VERY friendly and capable people running the tech side of things, who got us all set up in rapid time. We then went in search of a coffee or similar, and were DELIGHTED to find a whole table of coffee and cups just outside... though less delighted to be told to GERROFF in no uncertain terms by the people who a) had ordered them b) were nothing to do with the festival. FOILED!

Further investigation uncovered a vending machine and, duly refreshed, we returned to the room, which remained empty until PRECISELY 5pm at which point a whole BUNCH of people - 18 of them, I think - rolled up and came in. PHEW! I had been imagining the two of us just sitting there CHATTING to each other ALONE - I mean, that was what we'd PRACTICED, but I had hoped some other people might come and listen.

We got going and I THINK it all went all right - it was hard to tell as it was so ALIEN to what I usually do. For a start, everyone was STONE COLD SOBER, and also some people didn't seem to understand poorly spoken Peterborough-accented English hugely well, so were relying on the slides (which didn't have text on them) for guidance. Also also I'm used to doing 3 minute bouts of SHOUTING followed by (hopefully) applause and occasional LARFS, whereas here we were talking at LENGTH about various ARTY-TYPE THINGS with no discernible gaps.

Thomas seemed happy with it, and audience members who approached us afterwards said they'd enjoyed it, so I reckon it was OK. Weirdly, for the second night in a row, I found myself talking to another Peterborough United Fan - you don't tend to talk to them that often when you're IN Peterborough, so two in London was very odd!

Job done we FINALLY made it to the pub, for a VERY MUCH needed pint - who knew YACKING about ART could be so stressful?

posted 7/3/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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From Despair To Wahey
Last Thursday's Totally Acoustic began with PANIC - the acts had arrived, the audience had arrived (in LARGE number - we only just managed to fit everyone in), the beers were bought, but where was Steve?!?! His seat has sat sadly empty on other occasions, but those times I had been forewarned. Seeing it UNEXPECTEDLY unfilled like this was UNSETTLING. Had he been KIDNAPPED? Had he been waylaid by an EMERGENCY?!? "Where is he?" we asked. "Oh, where?"

"In the pub", came the answer, as he made it just in time wearing the face of a man who has had one too many while staying at his Mum's house. An "I'm ferpectly pine" sort of face. WOT a relief! After all that excitement it was almost relaxing to get the actual gig going, even though it was starting with ME doing a whole HEAP of new songs. Here's what I did:
  • Cheer Up Love
  • Come The Inevitable Apocalypse
  • My Computer Guy Voice
  • I Like You
  • Wallies
  • I'm Doing The Ironing
  • The Saturday Lunchtime Wrestlers

  • It all SEEMED to go OK - I had my music stand with me so I didn't need to worry about remembering all the WORDS, but that didn't stop me messing them up a couple of times ANYWAY and also getting the chords wrong, but other than that it all went pretty smoothly. Cheer Up Love surprised me by going down well, the joining in bit of Wallies worked (even though I PANICKED and did my bit wrong) and my belief that I'm Doing The Ironing is the first SUREFIRE HIT of the new batch was borne out by it getting the best reaction of the LOT. HOORAH! I also did The Saturday Lunchtime Wrestlers at the request of Mr J Anderson - if you ever want me to do a request, get it in several weeks in advance (NB months for The Validators) and I/we'll most likely do it!!

    Next up was Mr Matt Abbott, POET and recently arrived Londoner, who was GRATE. I'd asked him to come and play at short notice, after Ms G Petrie found herself double-booked, and he was an EXCELLENT replacement, being STRIDENT and funny and well worded and so GOOD in fact that - hey - you almost forgot he didn't have a guitar round his neck!

    And finally there was the always wonderful Mr G Osborn who was, as always, WONDERFUL. Seeing him and Matt one after the other gave me a serious bout of the MAN LOVES, especially when I got to be PART of Gav's new song "Don't Know Enough About That", reading out a series of questions at the end, most of which I managed to read out almost correctly!

    It was a pretty bloody fabulous night PACKED with goodtimes and also AUDIENCE - one of those shows which make me think I must keep doing this FOREVER!

    posted 6/3/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Secret Revealed
    For the past couple of weeks I have been BLEATING ON about the TWO (2) Exciting Things that have been in the offing which I can't tell you about. As you may know I absolutely HATE going on about myself (hem hem) so it has been a bit frustrating not to be able to get it OVER with and tell you, but thankfully ONE of the Exciting Things has been revealed: me and The Validators are playing Indietracks this year! HOORAH!

    We are OBVS very excited about it and have been DISCUSSING setlists and walk-on music (it is the only time we ever GET to have walk-on music!) since late January when Team Indietracks got in touch. Some of our BEST EVER gigs have been at Indietracks, also some of our BEST EVER weekends as a whole, so we are RIGHT looking forward to playing there again!

    The OTHER Exciting Thing is not quite ready to shout about yet, and it has been joined by not one but TWO more Exciting Things which I cannot speak of either! I don't know why this is all going on at once - if I COULD bang on and on about these Things then believe me I totally would, and very much hope to be able to soon. Just to prove these are REAL, one of them is a SCRIPT what Mr J Dredge and I have SOLD and has been FILMED (with proper actors and everything!) but has not yet been UNLEASHED, and another is a SONG wot the aforesaid gentleman and I have recorded which WE THINK is going to be on an album. The final one I shall save for a full SHOW-OFF about another time!

    In the meantime though, the Indietracks news is very much out there and SHOUTABLE about, and features a metric TONNE of GRATE bands, including Ms G Petrie FINALLY making her Indietracks debut. It's going to be BLOODY GRATE, come along if you can!

    posted 3/3/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Primary Sources
    Last night I FINALLY did some ACTUAL PROPER RESEARCH for my PhD and it was VERY exciting!

    "But Mark", you probably cry, "Surely you have done several metric TONNES of research over the past few months?" and you would be right to cry out so, for LO! I have been reading approx a MILLION books, papers and articles about comics in order to firstly get ONTO the PhD course and then to persuade people that I should be allowed to STAY. I've filled in forms, been to meetings, done presentations and TALKED about it no end, but this has all been reading what other people have had to say about it, or have DISCOVERED, rather than me actually going to PRIMARY SOURCES (i.e. COMICS) to look for myself.

    That changed last night. The current TASK is to create a definitive timeline of Doctor Doom's appearances in the Marvel Universe during "The Marvel Age". Just SAYING this throws up a whole HEAP of questions e.g. These are all EXCELLENT questions, which I have been a) asking b) trying to ANSWER, THUSLY:

    First of all, in order to get a "definitive" list of Doctor Doom's appearances I have been using SEVERAL databases of comics. I'm using the Grand Comics Database as my starting point, largely because you can download it as an SQL file (which Mr T Eveleigh, ROCK star and also my SERVER PROVIDER for these very webpages, very kindly uploaded to my server for me). I'm then getting data from The Marvel Chronology Project, The Comic Book Database and The Marvel Database to check that what I HAVE got is correct and to see if there's anything I HAVEN'T. Finally I'm using Comic Vine for MANUAL checks as we go along.

    Once I've got all that going on I need to look at the second question - what is "the Marvel Universe" then eh? For these purposes I'm saying it's anything published by Marvel comics that ISN'T a reprint OR some kind of FLASHBACK. The first bit's quite an easy one, but the second takes a little bit of digging. If Namor The Sub-Mariner THINKS about Doctor Doom (as he is WONT to do) then it gets logged in some databases BUT it's not actually Doctor Doom HIMSELF appearing and so isn't part of his timeline. I think that makes sense, but it takes a bit of checking!

    FINALLY, "The Marvel Age" itself. I have been GRAPPLING with the whole TIME PERIOD business ever since I started all this and originally was going to base everything on "The Bronze Age Of Comics". However, I VERY QUICKLY discovered that this is almost impossible to pin down. The Golden Age and Silver Age are pretty SIMPLE to define (first appearance of Superman in Action Comics #1 and the new Flash in Showcase #4 in 1956 respectively), but the Bronze Age starts anywhere between Jack Kirby leaving Marvel in 1970 to The Green Goblin killing Gwen Stacy in 1973, and the ending is variously "Crisis On Infinite Earths", "Secret Wars", "Watchmen", "The Dark Knight Returns" or approx 500 OTHER options - and that's even if you think there IS such a thing as "The Bronze Age" which about half the people I've read so far DO NOT.

    It was a FLIPPING NIGHTMARE so instead of that I decided to say I was researching "The Marvel Age" which, it turns out, is quite straightforward to define - it starts with the first issue of "The Fantastic Four" in 1961 and ends in 1987 when Jim Shooter gets fired as Editor-In-Chief. You can't say fairer than that can you? It includes everything Marvel did that was EXCITING and FUN before it all went down the plughole in - WHAT I LIKE TO CALL - "The Dark Age" of all comics being rubbish, or, as it is also known, "the decade that I didn't read comics in".

    And so it was that I spent a VERY ENJOYABLE hour last night actually LOOKING at some comics to see when EXACTLY this "Marvel Age" finished. I've got a subscription to Marvel Unlimited, an APP which lets you read LITERALLY THOUSANDS of old Marvel comics, so I looked through a whole heap of them from late 1987 and discovered that all Marcel comics dated October 1987 have Jim Shooter listed as "Editor-In-Chief" but MOST have changed over to Tom DeFalco by November 1987. So far I've found ONE exception, as Captain America 335 still lists Jim Shooter in November then switches to Tom DeFalco the next month, but I can happily deal with that SIMPLY by looking through EVERYTHING they published in those months. It's RESEARCH baby!

    I need to finish doing all this and get it written up in the next couple of weeks as the putative first bit of ACTUAL WRITING for the thesis itself - tho thinking about it, I have pretty much done that with this here blog haven't I? Throw in a couple of REFERENCES and it's ready to roll - doing a PhD is PEASY!

    posted 28/2/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Like A Six Month Festival
    While preparing the next issue of the newsletter I've been looking at my forthcoming gigs page and thinking "This is all looking a bit same-y isn't it?" Don't get me wrong, I am VERY HAPPY INDEED to spend LOTS of time in The King & Queen, but it does look a bit STRANGE having my next FOUR gigs (and 3 of my 5 so far this year) all in the same place! I do have plenty of other places to play during the summer - including some we've yet to announce and HOPEFULLY a few performances of Still Valid at FRINGE Festivals - but there WAS a time when my gig list would look like an Exciting Travelogue around our great NATION.

    Of course there was ALSO a time when I was ten years younger and quite happy to spend half my life zooming around on TRANES, sleeping in IBII, and NOT sitting at home in The Olympic Village (have I mentioned I live there?) having a lovely time instead. I think the key is to look BEYOND the location and instead examine the - really pretty bloody AMAZING - line-up of ACTS what I have got booked for the rest of this SEASON of Totally Acoustic, THUS:

    Thursday 2 March ME (doing new songs), Gavin Osborn and Matt Abbott
    Thursday 6 April Helen McCookerybook, Robert George Saull and Jack Rosies.
    Thursday 4 May Royston Vince, Matthew Stead & Rob Ash, and The Perfect English Weather.
    Thursday 1 June Nathaniel Metcalfe and a full band set from PO!
    Thursday 6 July Emma Kupa, The Indelicates and Deerful.
    Saturday 12 August Pete Green, Chris T-T, Gavin Osborn, Frankie Machine, Matt Tiller, Keith Top Of The Pops and MORE (All-Dayer)!


    I mean to say, look at THAT, if it was a festival line-up I ... well. I might even think of GOING, if there was a Premier Inn nearby! You may NOTE that it is now pretty much all booked up until the summer - I had PLANNED, this year, NOT book it all so far in advance, but to give myself SPACE in case I saw other bands I liked along the way. HOWEVER a) I hardly ever go to gigs anymore, so that wasn't hugely likely to happen b) I got a bit excited and asked loads of people anyway c) I had a Emergency Booking Flurry this week, which had CONSEQUENCES. I DID have the ever-amazing Ms Grace Petrie booked for our next show in March but she forgot to put it in her diary (we International Rock Stars do do that sometimes, it is a TRAIT!) and got booked on a whole TOUR instead! I'll get her in for a FUTURE show, but in the meantime I was down one act so emailed around several people who were on my LIST to see if they could fill in. Approx THREE of them couldn't do next week's show but COULD do others so, not wanting to pass up the chance of GETTING them, I booked them, HENCE the rather impressive list above.

    Happily Mr Matt Abbott COULD do next week, which will make for RATHER a good evening and the continuation of a pretty flipping AMAZING run of shows. If you're out and about in That London on the first Thursday of the month (or the... er... second Saturday of August?) pop along, you are guaranteed to have a GRATE time!

    posted 23/2/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    (Still) Defying The Man And All His Machinations
    After the BUILDING BUSTING excitement of the night before, Saturday morning found me feeling headache-y, poorly in the stomach, and oddly fatigued - I guess I must have caught a BUG in the pub (etc etc). I decided the best way to sort myself out would be to have a nice big breakfast, so set off round Leicester city centre in search of such a thing.

    "I'm not just going to go to Weatherspoons", I said to myself, and thus spent an unproductive twenty minutes failing to find ANYWHERE open for breakfast foods... except for the Weatherspoons. Resigned to my fate I went in and, actually, had some decent grub, though I WAS slightly OFFENDED when the young lady bringing my breakfast over said "Large vegetarian?" That's a bit personal isn't it?

    Duly FED I headed over to the station where I met Mr M Whitaker, erstwhile AAS Board Member, who was coming with me to meet the THIRD corner of the AAS Board Triangle, Mr F A Machine, in Derby for the Winter Beer Festival. Mat had come to the gig the night before and I'd a) told him I was off the the Derby Beer Festival next day to meet Frankie then b) asked/INSISTED he come along. He did!

    The Beer Festival was taking place at the Derby Roundhouse, just by the back door of the train station, which was VERY handy. As we rolled up I got a text from Frankie saying that the Beer Bus had been delayed. I thought he was JOKING, referring to a LIFT he was getting or something, but then the ACTUAL Beer Bus arrived! It was a shuttle service from town with BEER as the destination, FULL of middle-aged CAMRA-looking gentlemen. Frankie came running off to meet us, eager to get into the festival before everyone else disembarked, but was halted by the glorious, unexpected, sight of Mr WHitaker waiting for him. We shared a three-way HUG and headed in.

    The Beer Festival was GRATE, and very similar to all the other Beer Festivals I've been to i.e. free for CAMRA members, you could hire or buy glasses (although quite a LOT of people seemed ot have brought their own with them) and there was LOADS of beer within. The big differences this time were that they ONLY had half pint glasses, and it was CIRCULAR, so that it was very easy to lose your bearings. That's my excuse anyway.

    What followed were several hours of IMMENSE pleasure, as you can see here:



    The three of us yacked away and tried OVER SEVERAL different kinds of beer. Mat had never been to a festival before, but he soon got the hang of it, and I must say the circular layout made it VERY easy to do the traditional Start At One End And Wander Round. We paid a trip to the Shiny Brewery Stand, featuring young Jimmy Machine proudly selling his wares, and tried some Lime And Chilli Chocolate. PRO-TIP: if offered some Lime And Chilli Chocolate, don't try it, it's disgusting!

    Soon it was nearly 3pm and time for us to toddle over to catch our train. This was perfect timing, as we had had JUST enough to remain Lightly Squiddly but still MORE than sober enough to do trains properly. It had been a LOVELY afternoon, but if you heard a TITANIC GROAN echoing around the land on Saturday afternoon, you now know what it was - it was THE MAN, breathing a sigh of RELIEF that we had concluded our meeting. Rest easy for now, THE MAN, but one day The Board Of AAS will reunite again!

    posted 22/2/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Bringing The House Down
    Last Friday afternoon found myself and Mr S Hewitt on the train once again, heading for Leicester, where we were due to DEBUT Still Valid at the Leicester Comedy Festival. It's AGES since we last did anything like this but we fell into our ROUTINES easily, although it must be said that our usual habit of "doing lines" (i.e. talking through all the words and lyrics for a show while sitting next to each other EN ROUTE as opposed to any OTHER kind of "doing lines") is a bit different when there aren't, technically, any LINES as such, just a general idea of what we're meant to be doing. On the upside, this means it's a lot harder to get it wrong!

    We arrived in Leicester and checked into The Ibis, tho NOT in our Usual Rooms this time, as they had been REFURBISHED. It SMELT like they had been refurbished very very recently - the whiff of carpet glue was so strong I had to leave the windows open the whole time I was in there! Despite this my Ibis Afternoon was as enjoyable as ever, especially after receiving a text from Steve almost as soon as I'd got in. "Yes Minister on Yesterday!" it said, and I LEAPT for the TV remote control.

    It wasn't all TELLY tho - we are PROFESSIONALS, and bravely missed the end of "Pointless" in order to get to The Criterion on time for "soundcheck" (i.e. saying "we don't need a soundcheck"). It was GRATE to be back, and we were relieved to discover that, despite the change in management, they were still selling Pizza. PHEW! We met Sam, who was doing the door, and explained our needs (i.e. lights on and off), and then were soon joined by a whole HEAP of pals who'd come to see us. It was lovely!

    The show itself was a bit of a worry to start with as this was the first time we'd EVER performed it in front of ANYBODY in ANY way. Previously we'd have had at least a script reading at home AND a "rehearsed reading" in front of An Invited Audience before even TRYING to do it for a Proper Audience, so would have some idea of it being OK, but this time there'd been none of that. My nerves were definitely NOT calmed during the first section either - I could dimly see people SMILING out in the room, but couldn't hear any LARFS. This reached it's most TERRIFYING point when we got to the "what a twat" line in 20 Things To Do Before YOu're 30. That nearly ALWAYS gets a big LARF, but was received in SILENCE on this occasion. Had we made a TERRIBLE MISTAKE?!?

    Happily, as it turned out, we hadn't, and things warmed up A LOT as we went along, so by the end people were CHUCKLING away like nobody's business. It also ended up becoming a GREAT deal of fun to actually DO. Compared to previous shows it felt like we'd LEAPT from the first couple of rehearsals STRAIGHT to the bit where we know exactly what we're up to and can MESS AROUND, cutting out entirely the tedious six months or so of WORRYING and not knowing the lines. Clearly DEVISED PIECES are the future!

    Afterwards we were hanging round chatting to our various PALS when someone - I believe it was Mr CM Lawson - said "Come and have a look at THIS!" I followed him out of the bar to the PORCH area, where I could see it was POURING with rain outside... and the rain was HOT. So hot, in fact that it was STEAMING. WOT on earth was going on?

    Closer inspection showed that it was actually water pouring through a light fitting in the porch, coming down through the ceiling from upstairs. The management had been informed but didn't seem to be able to do much about it, and a small CROWD had gathered outside to watch it. I went and stood outside with them, and was just asking whether we expected anything else to happen when something DID - the CEILING in the porch FELL DOWN!

    It was all very exciting - most of the pubs that I've ever played in in Leicester have been demolished, but it's never actually happened AROUND me before!

    After that the rest of the evening dissolved into BEER and YACKING, so it was a Comfortably Merry Hibbett who staggered off back to the Ibis, via a now dry door, happy with how it had all gone and rather looking forward to doing some more!

    posted 21/2/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Not Reading Comics
    Tuesday evening found me back at Central St Martins, with THREE Action Points to Action. The first of these was a recurring minute: looking ASKANCE at The Students with their Funny Trousers and CAPES. It was actioned IMMEDIATELY!

    The second was to pop into the library to snaffle some BOOKS. This is always EXCELLENT fun, although I do have to exercise a WILL OF STEEL whenever I'm there. There are HUGE long bookcases FULL of books ABOUT comics and books which are COLLECTIONS of comics, and it takes me straight back to being approx 11, standing in the Science Fiction section of Peterborough Library, thinking "But I want them ALL!"

    What I do now, being a sensible ADULT, is to write a LIST of books BEFORE I go to the libary, and STICK to it. Sometimes this is not easy! One of the books I got this time was "Conversations: Stan Lee", which is a collection of, well, conversations with Stan Lee, taken from magazines, conferences, radio and TV shows over the years. I am roughly 35% of the way through now and it is BRILL - you can say what you like about Stan Lee (and people do) but BY GOLLY he has an engaging way of conversing, and he believes many things with which I entirely AGREE - possibly because I have spent my life READING Stan Lee and thus most of my OWN thoughts are based on HIS. There's one bit in particular where he talks about how comics can be LITERATURE just like someone playing KAZOO can be music - Stan, you are singing my song right there!

    With books collected I headed upstairs for a Supervisory Meeting, where myself and Mr R Sabin and Mr I Horton, my two Supervisors, went through my Registration Document. This is a form you have to complete during the first year of a PhD (at UAL at least) to persuade them that what you are doing is VALID, and thus I have been working on it A LOT over the past couple of months - I thought doing a PhD on Marvel Comics would mean reading COMICS, but so far it has been mostly FORMS.

    We went looking for an empty classroom and found a GIGANTIC room that spanned most of the width of the ATRIUM, with huge glass windows on either side so anybody entering the building could look up and see us. We then put my form up on a GIGANTIC screen approx the size of my LIVING ROOM. It may seem excessive, but this turned out to be a pretty good way to collaborate on TEXT, as the three of us gently scrolled through it, making corrections as we went.

    When it was all done and, with a few more amendments yet to do, almost ready to submit, talk turned to what I should do next for the PhD. "How about writing something?" suggested Roger. "Maybe about the actual comics?"

    He was suggesting I actually READ SOME COMICS! Yikes! To be honest this freaked me out a bit, and after discussion we agreed that I'd do a TIMELINE first - the PhD is partly about DOCTOR DOOM, so we I suggested that first of all I do some research into his publication history before I do something as RADICAL as Actually Reading Comics. The very idea!

    When that was all settled we popped downstairs to the CSM bar for a PINT - after that shock I needed one!

    posted 16/2/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Being Covered
    It was the Pop!South Weekender in Glasgow this weekend just gone, apparently the last one EVER. I have played there TWICE before, once with Mr S Hewitt in 2014 and then last year with The Validators, and both times it has been BLOODY GRATE - lovely organisers, lovely audience, lovely venue, fantastic city. What more could you ask for eh?

    I was a bit sad not to be there for this final one, especially on the Sunday when they had not one but TWO awesome chums - Mr P Green and Mr G Osborn - playing, along with A New International, who are one of those bands where everybody who sees them (including me) goes "Cor! They were good!" If it had been a bit less MILES away I would have gone (flipping Scotland with its insistence of taking HOURS for me to get there) but I assured myself that I would at least be able to enjoy PARTS of it, via twitter (with people going on about A New International, as predicted) and indeed The YouTube, where some kindly soul has uploaded the below video:



    This is Gav doing his AMAZING version of It Only Works Before You're Here. I've heard the RECORDED version (on my TRIBUTE album hem hem) but I don't think I've ever seen him play it live, largely because USUALLY when I see him play I'm ALSO playing and will thus tend to be doing this song myself. I would very MUCH like to see it sometime though, as even over the interweb it made me feel all AGLOW. Many years ago, when I first started playing solo gigs, I wrote a LIST of things I would like to happen, and near the top (below "be on the radio" and above "produce someone else's record") was "hear someone cover one of my songs". This has happened a FEW times over the years (NB though not enough - KANYE! Get ON it!) and it always makes me VERY happy, especially when it's as GORGEOUS a version as this.

    The only thing Gav gets WRONG is that he doesn't have some people doing the "La la la" bit in the middle section which would put him off so he gets the words wrong and has to do the whole section again. That's the best bit, surely!

    posted 15/2/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    The Five Doctors
    I had a THRILLING ENCOUNTER last Thursday lunchtime. I was just sitting down with my sandwich in the EAT next to my work when I heard a Scottish Voice that sounded familiar. I looked up and LO! chatting to someone as if it was perfectly normal was David Tennant off the telly!

    This was QUITE EXCITING, but I managed to stay cool about it, as indeed did he (I'm sure I heard him nervously humming "Hey Hey 16K", but apart from that it was if he hadn't even spotted me). One of the more FUN things about working in the centre of That London is that you DO occasionally spot famous people wandering around, and it set my mind to thinking about the OTHER famous people I'd seen. "I saw Christopher Ecclestone over the road at the Optician once," I thought,"and Tom Baker looking worried in a Pret A Manger."

    "Hang on," I thought some more, "That's THREE Doctors Who!" I'm sure it's technically "Doctor Whos" but that looks weird written down, and "Doctors Who" is also more fun to say. Anyway, just as I was thinking how COOL that was I suddenly remembered that I'd ALSO seen John Hurt just round the corner in The One Tun pub a few years ago (my friend Simon went to speak to him but he was not really in any fit state to chat. He did ask me where the toilet was though, so technically we have MET), and then that I had ALSO seen Sylvester McCoy in The Museum Tavern!

    That's FIVE Doctors, all within a very small area - an area which can be plotted THUS:



    As I mulled this visualisation over I wondered if there was a PATTERN and so decided to investigate further with the following ANNOTATIONS:



    I can't really see a pattern of the individual Doctors - they don't seem to be arranged in terms of age or order or anything - so I am open to any suggestions anybody else may have. It MIGHT be that New Series Doctors are in one half of the circle (using Percy Street to Montague Place as the dividing line) but I'd need more data to know for sure. If I spot Peter Capaldi outside ULU on Malet Street, or Peter Davison looking lost outside Tottenham Court Road tube, then this theory will be PROVED!

    What I can predict with some certainty, however, is the location of Paul McGann. As the JOIN between old and new he must surely be somewhere in the dead centre of the circle which is, I reckon, at the end of Gower Mews. I can't see him on streetview, but I'll pop and have a look next time I'm passing - if you don't hear back, you'll know I've gone off with him for some ADVENTURES in time and space!

    posted 14/2/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    A Lovely Time, Guaranteed
    Sunday afternoon found me back at Bally Studios for a SECOND practice of me and Steve's new show "Still Valid". Yes, that's right - we might not have written a script or new songs, but we HAVE had more than one practice! PROFESSIONALISM!

    This time around it was a BREEZE as we knew which BITS went where and, without a FORMAL SCRIPT to adhere to, could muck about as much as we liked so long as we got to the next song eventually. It felt very strange, also FREEING. For previous shows rehearsals have been a right old pain in the wotsits, as we've struggled to get the WORDS right, especially for shows like Moon Horse or Total Hero Team which were PACKED with PLOT that had to be said out loud. This one doesn't really HAVE much of a plot - there's a THEME, a General Idea, and several ACTUAL JOKES, but they're loosely hung like TINSEL between songs rather than complex teetering mechano constructions that cannot be leaned on too hard (METAPHOR) so it's all quite GROOVY.

    It was also a LOT of fun. Usually we only get to the LARKING AROUND phase of the show when we've already been DOING it for several months and are confident in how it works, but this time we were there right from the start, and it made me wonder if this might be a way forward for any FUTURE productions. I mean, OBVIOUSLY I am thinking this because it is DRAMATURGICALLY forward thinking, experimental and inherently theatrical, and not at ALL because it would save us a LOT of work and stress, but I must admit that that appeals too. If and when we do another show then perhaps the way to DO it is NOT for me to spend three months working out plot, character and GAGS (I hear a chorus of voices say "You worked all that rubbish OUT before?!?") but instead to work it up ORGANICALLY.

    It's certainly a THORT, but before we get to any of that we've a SHOW to do in Leicester on Friday. As mentioned previously, the PLAN is to see how that goes and then, if how it goes is WELL, book some more shows. I've a feeling it WILL go well - as Steve said during practice, "I think everybody is going to have a LOVELY time", and I reckon he might just be right!

    posted 13/2/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Exam Conditions
    Wednesday night found me back at Bally Studios for the first time in AGES, there to meet Mr S Hewitt for a practice of our new show 'Still Valid', which we will be PREMIERING next week at The Leicester Comedy Festival (tickets still VERY much available). I haven't been there for AGES - for one thing, we haven't had a show to practice for AGES, but when we HAVE needed to do stuff we tended to go to Theatre Delicatessen instead, as it was in town. HOWEVER a) we DO have something to rehearse now and b) Theatre Delicatessen have moved out to Canary Wharf, and thus we returned to Bally to find Tottenham Hale SLIGHTLY CHANGED. Not only had the studios had a lick of paint and a swap round of pictures on the wall (we used to have MOTOWN in our room, now it had changed to Early 90's American Alt ROCK) but the AREA was gradually becoming an AREA. To get to Bally you have to walk through a housing development, which was pretty much EMPTY when we first went there but now, much like my own OLYMPIC VILLAGE (where I live but don't like to go on about), was becoming an Actual Place.

    There is a theory that the best way to revise for an EXAM is to do it in EXAM CONDITIONS i.e. in a large quiet room full of lots of other people, such as a LIBRARY, so that your BRANE will associate such settings with remembering the information you shoved into it there. THUS I thought it would be good for our PRACTICE if we did the same for rehearsals, so we enjoyed a very nice bottle of GHOST SHIP as we set to work. This is one of many SACRIFICES we make for our ART.

    We'd had a couple of DRAMATURGICAL sessions already, where we'd sat in the pub and worked out a rough idea for how the show would work, and I'd typed the results of all this up as a guideline with bits of SCRIPT in, but we had never actually DONE it OUT LOUD before. The general idea of the show (SPOILERS) is that it's an episode of Classic Albums from 2037 covering Still Valid, which is as good an excuse as any to talk about the songs and then sing them. It all went SURPRISINGLY well - it's a simple set-up with no complicated BITS to remember (or tap dance routines) so we could pretty much skip straight to the MUCKING ABOUT stage of rehearsal, which tends to be the best bit anyway. It's not the SLICK OPERATION that, for instance, Hey Hey 16K was, and if I was starting from scratch there are definitely a couple of songs that I'd take out, but all in all it seems to work as a COHESIVE WHOLE... which is a great relief, what with us being booked to DO it a week tomorrow!

    The plan is to see how it goes in Leicester and, if it's all OK, book a few more shows at the NICER Fringe Festivals and also a couple of other places. I'm secretly (not that secretly) hoping that it gets the ALBUM out to a few more people and, hey, if it takes a few nights out on the BEER with Mr Hewitt to achieve that aim, then it is a price I am prepared to pay!

    posted 13/2/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Mandatory Days
    I've spent most of the past couple of days back at SCHOOL for Mandatory College Days for my PhD. The experience was something of a MIXED BAG.

    Day one was (SPOILERS) RUBBISH. All of us first year PhD students sat in a big room while a selection of second years gave brief talks about their research areas. None of them were talking about anything relevant to MY topic, but hey, that's all fine - we were there to ENGAGE with RESEARCH and so forth, and who knows where you will find something interesting that will spark off yr BRANE? The problem was that it was all done in such a THUNDEROUSLY DULL way, with nearly ALL of them just reading off a piece of paper in a dreadful monotone, that the sole result was to make me FLIPPING FURIOUS! Surely the BLOOMING POINT of doing research is to share your findings with people, and if you want to do that then you have to be able to ACTUALLY PRESENT IT PROPERLY. I know not everybody likes doing it, and if I go to a talk at WORK or something when somebody has been FORCED into giving a presentation then it's understandable if it's not exactly a GLITZY SHOWBIZ EVENT, but these were people giving up 3 to 6 years of their LIVES to find something out, who can't apparently be bothered to spend a couple of hours planning out their talk properly so they can AT LEAST make EYE CONTACT with the audience who are forced to sit through it.

    At one point I got SO VERY BORED and IRATE that I decided to write down some of the LUDICROUS words that were being bandied about. Here's what I got, all within half an hour:
    Contemporaneous Utilisation Process Multiplicity Inherent Implicit Conceptualise Interrogate Retrospectively Challenging Practice Assertions Methodology Navigate The Space The Work Analogous Shorthand Performative Positional Response Representation Marginality Materiality

    Obviously those words are all FINE in their proper context (i.e. written down in an academic paper) or used SPARINGLY but when you have to sit through a CONSTANT BARRAGE of them intoned like LATIN PRAYERS is it any wonder that people (ME) become ENRAGED? It made me so angry that I did not leave ENTIRELY POSITIVE FEEDBACK. THAT is how angry I was!

    The next day was MUCH better, as it started off with two presentations by people who LOOKED at us while they were talking and used ACTUAL HUMAN LANGUAGE with the intention of EXPLAINING things to us so we would UNDERSTAND. They were both talking about Methods and also Methodology, which everyone goes on about ALL THE TIME when one is filling in one's FORMS at this stage, but which no-one ever tells you what they MEAN. For instance, the second speaker said "asking what your methods are is like asking how you are going to DO it all." Written down now that seems blindingly obvious, but when he said it you could feel the entire room breath a sigh of relief and say "Oh YEAH, of course! PHEW!"

    Over lunch me and the other Comics Guys (yes, we are all men, surprising isn't it?) had a chat about STUFF then ended up in the same group for a session on LEXICONS. We had to read out words common to our RESEARCH, so while everybody else had stuff like "contextualise" and "autoethnography" we had "superhero" and "supervillain". The course leader read our list out and said "You've got 'comics' AND 'graphic novels' here, surely that's the same thing?" To my delight half the ROOM let out a GROAN OF TERROR, not just us. "You do NOT want to get into that," I said, for LO! you really don't.

    It was actually all Quite Interesting and Worth Bothering With, especially as we managed to fit in a chat about a SYMPOSIUM (oh yes!) what we might be organising about Comics And That. By the end of the day my BRANE was KNACKERED, but in a GOOD way, so I went home and watched THE LEGO MOVIE in order to recover. It worked - in fact I'd go so far as to say that it's contemporaneous utilisiation of the hypothetical space was inherently challenging to the normative materiality of conventional representation/shorthand in this kind of performative response. I just wish the theme so wasn't so flipping catchy, I was singing it in my BRANE all night!

    posted 8/2/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Shepherd And Game
    When I got my new job one of my first thoughts was "Hoorah! Now I shall be just round the corner from The King & Queen, and - ARF - I bet I will be in there - ROFL - every day!!!"

    Little did I realise that this prophesy would start to become EERILY TRUE as I was back there last night for the FIFTH time this year, for the latest edition of Totally Acoustic. On the way to the pub I got a message from our "Mystery Guest" telling me that they wouldn't be able to come after all. I was half expecting this, as they'd asked not to have their name mentioned on any Events Pages or Listings (hence "Mystery Guest") so had already decided that I'd get everybody's favourite headline act to fill in: the always marvellous Finishing Slightly Earlier!

    Our other acts were there in good time, as was a delightfully sized and constituted audience, so we kicked off at the usual hour with a rendition of the theme tune, then I launched into In The North Stand (because we'd been talking about football earlier) and It Only Works Because You're here (because I like it).

    The first PROPER act was Mr Matthew Shepherd, who had FACEBOOKED me way back in August to ask about playing. This happens every now and again and USUALLY I dutifully go and listen to some tunes online and think "That was a bit rubbish". THIS time however I really enjoyed his stuff and found myself singing several of his songs, so got him BOOKED. In person he was a DELIGHT, with lovely tunes, a lovely voice and a CHARMING manner which made much of the room say "What a nice young man". This is probably not the PUNK ROCK PERSONA that most people wish to project, I know, but that is what occurred. He was FAB.

    We then had a break before the second, and now FINAL, act Mr Ivor Game. Ooh but he's good. When he played last time the room was ENTRANCED and this was the case again. He really is not like anyone else we've ever had on, a bit jazzy, a bit Beatle-y and all round hugely TUNEFUL and GENTLE and... well, you can listen to him on the podcast from last time for yourself and see what I mean. We sat, AGOG!

    And that was that done, very successfully, for another month. Myself, The Dates In My Diary and Mr S Hewitt celebrated with a pint and a chat downstairs before heading off into the night. Astoundingly I am not predicted to be back in the King & Queen for FOUR WEEKS now - I may PINE!

    posted 3/2/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    An Afternoon Of ARTS
    We do like a bit of CULTURE in our house but with today's giddy go-ahead lifestyle it's sometimes difficult to find the TIME and/or energy to go and experience all that is on offer, even when you live in That London where there is a TONNE of it, there for the taking. THUS this year The Galleries In My Museum suggested that we try and get out roughly every couple of weeks and LOOK AT/ENJOY some of the many and various activities what are available here in our capital city.

    And so it was that on Sunday afternoon we found ourselves in The British Museum, looking at an exhibition of French Drawings through the ages. It was a) the last day of the exhibition was on b) just the right size for comfortable viewing (i.e. one big room, so about 45 minutes of Looking) and c) DEAD GOOD. We agreed that it's always amazing to see pictures up close as it's The Actual Paper that was TOUCHED by The Actual Artist, and it was especially so with pencil and chalk drawings like these, which could so very very easily have faded or just been lost. My favourite was a set of 16th century drawings of The French Court, as they looked like real people who had fallen somehow into a Dressing Up Box. There were also some ACE sketches (which seemed to look just like a quick sketch would NOW, as opposed to Formal Pictures which always look dead old fashioned) including some GRATE ones by Toulouse Lautrec, whose work I am otherwise only familiar with from framed posters in downstairs toilets of the 1980s.

    With that done we went to have a quick look at The Jericho Skull a 10,000 year old SKULL with plaster on it, which was A Bit Creepy, before heading round to The Museum Of Comedy for some culture of a different kind. Mr J Dredge and Mr A Harland were competing in the first round of "Sketch-Off", a sketch comedy competition. The idea was that there would be seven different acts all doing five minutes of sketches each, and then at the end we'd vote for our favourites. Cunningly they had a voting scheme very similar to the one used when I went to The Sitcom Challenge - everyone got TWO votes, so you could vote for the act you'd come along to see AND then also for the ones you actually like best. This is a GOOD system!

    The show itself was surprisingly good - this was the first HEAT so I expected it to be like a Battle Of The Bands i.e. mostly awful. If it had all been STAND-UP I think it probably would have been, but the thing with SKETCHES is that there's always at least TWO people involved, so there's always SOMEBODY beforehand to say "No, that's rubbish, don't do that." Even when THAT failsafe doesn't work then it's only really people MUCKING ABOUT TOGETHER and having fun, which is a very pleasant thing to spend time watching. Not all the acts were my cup of tea, but I LARFED OUT LOUD at least once at nearly all of them. The only bit that didn't really work was at the very start when the compere did that thing where they ask people in the audience what they do for a living, and then completely fail to say ANYTHING FUNNY AT ALL. Stand-up comedians! That bit is ALWAYS TERRIBLE! Stop doing it! Write five minutes more jokes instead and it will be MUCH MUCH BETTER!

    John and Andy were GRATE but ALAS did not win. They seemed to be happy with the outcome - if you ignored the whole "competition" aspect then it was basically a VERY enjoyable late afternoon of Sketch Comedy in a slightly odd smelling venue (NB it was in the undercroft of a CHURCH, which made it smell of EDINBURGH!), and who could ask for more than THAT of a cultural event? NOT US, and we strolled back home safe in the knowledge that we had absorbed ART and THEATRE in one highly efficient sweep! Roll on next time!

    posted 31/1/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Sonic Noise Terror And Balloons
    On Friday night I was back at The King & Queen AGANE, not this time for a Totally Acoustic nor even for an Collaborative Meeting, but rather for an appearance at SCALEDOWN, the monthly show upstairs that gave me the idea to move Totally Acoustic there all those many years ago.

    It was an AUSPICIOUS occasion because it was also the birthday of Mr S Hendry, who had BOOKED me. I wished him a very jolly birthday then went downstairs to find old pal Mr S Wilkinson, who had come along for the evening. We had a good old CHAT, also PINTS, before heading back upstairs for the start of the show, where I was delighted to find some things NEVER change: the opening act was a nervous young man doing one of his first gigs, who had a clutch of excitable CHUMS who had come to see him. As is the LAW, these chums didn't enter the room until 5 seconds before his first song and then, the very INSTANT he had finished, they stood up as one and left EN MASSE, even whilst the next act was making his way to the stage. Ten years ago, when I used to do gigs all the time with people who did this, I found it ANNOYING, but I must admit this time I found it quite sweet. There is an INNOCENCE about it - they have come to see their friend and, having fulfilled this duty, now wish to go and talk about it, with no knowledge or understanding of the kind of Obligation To Stay that we OLD HANDS might feel we have.

    Also, as the next act was ME, I was quite happy to be able to gently mock them as soon as they had gone. HA! Take that, YOUTH! Here is what I done:
  • Song For A 49th Birthday
  • 20 Things To Do Before You're 30
  • That Guy
  • It Only Works Because You're here
  • The Lesson Of The Smiths
  • Song For A 49th Birthday is a brand new DITTY what I wrote because Shaun had (joking, I think) asked me to. I was a bit worried about how it would go as I had never played it to not nobody before, but it all seemed to work out all right, and the rest of the set was a LOT of fun, especially in between songs when I took QUESTIONS on a range of subjects. I hadn't started out intending to do that, but that is what ended up happening!

    There was a short break and then we were back for part two - I'd been very impressed to find an ITINERARY for the evening laid out on the tables, specifying that there would be THREE sections, each featuring two acts doing fifteen minutes each. This all went AWRY, however, when the next act took about twenty minutes to INTRODUCE himself, and then another twenty to do his BIT. He did a thing where he got the whole audience to "play" balloons, inflating them then letting the air out together to make squeaky noises. It was a good idea, but it didn't half go on, and i FELT for the other three acts still to play who must have been thinking "Is there going to be TIME for us to do anything?" Goodness knows I have been in THAT position enough times! When this chap finished he said "Shall we do one more PIECE together?" and there was some POLITE, but FIRM silence as people indicated in a very British Way that perhaps no, maybe we wouldn't. He didn't seem very pleased, but it was getting Actually Late (gone ten o'clock! Imagine!) so things needed to move on.

    As indeed did we, due to TRANES and so forth, which meant we only got to see a few minutes of a chap doing SONIC MISCHIEF on his guitar. utilising PEDALS and a bag of household implements. Usually that is the sort of thing I would be WELL up for, but Transport Requirements dictated otherwise, and we had to sneak guiltily out. It's very difficult to assume a facial expression that says "We are not like those friends of the first act, honest, we just have to get home" but I think - HOPE - we managed it!

    posted 30/1/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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    Artistical Meetings
    Yesterday was a day of PRODUCTIVE MEETINGS and DRAMATURGY, as I met with not one but TWO of my Regular Artistic Collaborators and managed to Effectively Move Forward various projects in a high powered way. ALSO I got to have beans on toast AND beer while doing so.

    The BEANS occurred during my regular lunchtime reconnoitre with Mr J Dredge. We were getting together to discuss the VERY EXCITING THING what we are doing that we are not presently at liberty to talk about. This is partly because we're not sure whether we're allowed to, and partly to avoid JINXING it. Short version: we've had a script accepted for a THING and now we need to come up with some more scripts in case the first one goes well. Thus we had a VERY jolly lunchtime making each other LARF and even managed to come up with ANOTHER idea for ANOTHER thing. It was dead good, although I accept that me being MYSTERIOUS about it may be a bit annoying to everyone else. Rest assured, as soon as I know I can talk about it freely I will talk about it in ENORMOUS detail!

    My second meeting was later on in the day with Mr S Hewitt. The original plan was to have a Proper Rehearsal for "Still Valid", the show we're doing at The Leicester Comedy Festival (tickets VERY MUCH still available!!), but we ended up sitting at a table in The King And Queen TALKING it through instead. This actually worked out really well, as we got to HONE it down to a point where we pretty much have a proper SHOW. The PLAN from here is to have a couple of ACTUAL practices, try it out in Leicester, and then if it works OK take it out to some other Fringe festivals later in the year. I'm pretty hopeful of it being Quite Good, although it is a bit WEIRD not to be spending SIX MONTHS writing it!

    Today I am NOT having Artistical Meetings. BOO!

    posted 25/1/2017 by MJ Hibbett
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