Wednesday, 19 January 2011

You Are Worth More Than You Earn

For the first time in a very long time, I am now in full-time employment.

It's not that I've been idle for the past seven years, it's just that my sources of income have been myriad and I've been living a hand-to-mouth existence, much like everyone else. I've slept on hundreds of couches, passed out on many a floor and covered many miles in the back of various bands to sweat and scream my balls off to a handful of disinterested midweek drinkers. This is the first time I've been happy at home, in a space that I can call my own and share with a beautiful, kind-hearted, supportive and loving woman. Now I have the employment and income to support dreams of progress.

I am no longer defined by my 'moichness'.

The past year has been a rollercoaster; there is absolutely nothing that is the same now as it was a year ago. Cliche though it may be, "a lot can happen in a year" ranks highly up there as one of the most insightful and true. As I move even deeper into my late twenties, I find myself asking the 'big' questions with greater frequency. I'm clearly never going to be a stadium-humping, continent-straddling rock'n'roll star. It's almost like those early Oasis songs lied to me. I'm perfectly at ease with this realisation but it does make one think "why in the hell am I doing this?" sometimes.

We've been running the Make-That-A-Take collective for around six years now and I think, in it's own modest way, we've achieved quite a lot. I couldn't put a number on the amount of shows that we've done, much like I couldn't put a figure on the amount of Guinness that has been poured down my neck at punk shows over the past decade. We put on shows because we love it and clearly there are very few other people putting on the kind of shows that we want to go to in our area. I guess a lot of it is borne from the thought "if we don't do it, who the fuck else is going to?". It's been like that since we were boys. As a teenager, there was no chance that any of the local pubs were going to put us on based on our youth, let alone the fact that we were a noisy punk rock band. So, with very few options, we put on our first gig at a birthday party in a guide hut. Yes, it was a musical abomination and we played the same songs three times consecutively, but to us it was the doing that was important. I'd like to think that somewhere deep in my heart of hearts, I still maintain that boy-ish defiant 'can-do' enthusiasm, despite the fact I'm a cynical late-twenty-something stuck in a town that I was dubious about moving to in the first place.

I have much to be thankful for.

I was having a smoke and a cup of tea with an old friend the other day and he asked me why I bother to continue to write and record songs, play and put on shows and generally stay involved with the music scene when it was apparent that I am "never going to make it". I think it depends on how you define success. Yes, we'd all very much love to make music and tour full time, to never have to worry about working hard to pay our bills and to live a decadent rock star lifestyle. However, once you can get past your ego, you've got to realise that that is never going to happen. It's not about crushing dreams, it's about being realistic and trying to maximise your own efforts to make yourself happy. At the level most of us are at (us being the Scottish underground music scene), we have to realise that most of our interests and tastes are niche. It's not like we've got millions of fans hanging off our every word. We exist within our own community, however small and hidden, and it is up to us to get involved and make the most of what we have. Of course we want more people to be aware of what we are up to, we all want our shows to be busier and we all want to make some money somewhere along the way, but that's why you work. Anyone trying to make a living from the DIY scene is delusional beyond belief, unless you are constantly ripping off and/or exploiting the scene. At a DIY level, especially in Scotland, to expect large-scale financial recompense is not only naive but also rather insulting.

I think we are worth more than the money that we make.

I work because I have to pay rent, pay my bills and keep us fed. I love the work that I do and feel that although it is very challenging, it is also very rewarding. As has been said many times before, working hard avoids hard work. Work pays for what I want in life. I am a man of simple pleasures; a good meal, a good show, a good book, a good beer, cuddles. Work, music, love.

I don't want the scene to be a chore; I have no interest in career-orientated punk rock. By all means, bands should horse on and make music videos, record overly-polished demos that they can never replicate live, enter ridiculous corporate-sponsored national battle of the bands competitions and talk about nothing else other than themselves and their aspirations all they wish; just don't expect me to be particularly interested. Also, don't come to me looking for favours when you've done nothing but disappoint me in the past. The DIY scene is small but active. Word gets around.

I have no interest in safe, NME-friendly government-approved rock'n'roll.

Now I'm off to work...

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Sometimes it's the first line that's the hardest.

Sometimes I stutter and can't get the words out, some days it just spews out of my head and onto the page. There are so many thoughts that it's hard to know where to begin. It's the special few that provide the nourishment, the encouragement and the motivation to keep going forward. Without kindred spirits and people to share your stories with, are they ever more than just restless murmurs inside your head?

You can stop the thought process.

Creation can be elusive.

Reflect; how much has changed in a year?


The therapists say be retrospective; at what point did things change? Sometimes there isn't a point, a milemarker; can it be constant? I used to be a young man and now I have developed, grown, 'matured', but have I evolved? Am I still chasing those boyish adolescent dreams or is this my lifelong path? I look back now and feel detached, like it was someone else committing the sins and paying the pennance, yet I know every story and could sing you every line.

At what point does repetition replace conviction?

Friday, 7 January 2011

New Tragical History Tour Songs

I recorded some new Tragical History Tour songs with my good friend John Lindsay yesterday. It's the first time I've recorded any new THT songs in well over a year and the first time I've recorded anything since the last Joey Terrifying songs we did for the Ska Mutiny Records Triple Threat CD. We set up in my living room and blasted through four songs, which took about five hours in total, stopping only for coffees and a quick trip to the doctor.

These songs are just demos. I don't know what I'm going to do with them yet but will probably stick them up online for download somewhere once John has mixed them. I've never been a fan of taking ages recording songs and my impatience inspired the name of Make-That-A-Take Records. I prefer just to get them blasted down. I'm just one dude with a guitar and a guttural voice, so how tech can it really be? Over the course of four solo releases, I think I've probably spent about the grand total of a day recording them. Maybe at some point I'll actually get my finger out and do a full-length. There are definitely some older songs that I could be doing with recording again. It seems that my songs aren't actually finished until I record them, as something always seems to change between the initial writing process and the recording. I guess that's just they way these things roll and is much the same for everyone.

The four songs I recorded include three brand spanking new ones and an older song that I wrote originally for the short-lived APP. I've got loads of songs that I've written but never recorded, so each time I do a new session, I'm planning on doing a handful of new songs and at least one that's been written but never recorded before. Maybe at some point I'll finally manage to persuade Papa Gain to lay down an acoustic version of 'Suicide In The Trenches'. Bleak as it may be, and as long ago as we wrote it, I still love that song.

Thanks very much to John for helping a punk out yesterday. He's a good lad. Here are lyrics for the new songs. It's your crossword puzzle, make of them what you will. It's the writing that's important, not the reading, right?

What I'm Doing Here

I must applaud the impeccable timing
of your decision to leave
Abandon all our dreams
As it tears me apart at the seams.

You've made your choice
But my brother,
I can't silence the voice.
It's the only thing I own,
The closest thing to home
And it keeps me from being alone
With these screams.

When what you want is gone
Do what you can to stay strong.
Keep on singing along.

When what you need is hope
Do your best to keep afloat.
Keep on singing your songs.

It's what I'm doing here.

Well, I hope you're right
but it feels like a Saturday night
That's gone too far
Spent too long in the bar
And we've ended up in a knife fight.

But I wish you luck
O my brother, I can't cover up
Just how bad I feel,
This is so surreal
But I guess it's all part of the deal

When what you want is gone
Do what you can to stay strong.
Keep on singing along.

When what you need is hope
Do your best to keep afloat.
Keep on singing your songs.

It's what we're doing here.

Tall Tales

I'd write a song about myself
but it's more fun to pretend
that I'm someone else
so I can tell tall tales.
Celebrate success.
Ignore the fails.
But you're right.
You're right, I'm not right.

But I will fight
every day of my life
to get some sleep tonight.
It's been like this for years,
write a song and fight back the tears.
But you're right.
You're right, always.

But I'm still here
And I'll face my fears,
But deep inside, I'm paralysed
When I feel you draw near.

So, what do think?
Was it cold down there?
How far did you sink?
Did you see me down there?
Were you well-prepared
or were you scared?
It's alright, it's alright

Because I'm still here
And I'll face my fears
But deep inside, I'm paralysed
When I feel you draw near.

Last Song For You

I was angry at the start,
never thought it would fall apart.
I thought love was a work of art.

But then, I looked at you,
saw you didn't have a clue
about the hell that we'd go through.
You couldn't care less.

I hope that you can tell
my sincerity as well
as my deep regrets.
I hope by now you know
sometimes that's how it goes.

This is our last dance.
The last song for you.

Now time brings with it change,
new rules to the game
and I don't know how to play.

I'd be happy staying sane.

I hope that you can tell
my sincerity as well
as my deep regrets.
I hope you're happy now.

I hope by now you know
sometimes that's how it goes.

This is our last dance.
The last song for you.

You're still priceless.

The Village Idiot

The village is missing it's idiot
now I'm so far from home.
I'm dreaming.

I miss the beer bottles
and the pointless brawls
but it's time to let it go.

Let it go.

Hold the sunrise 'til we're gone.
I'll send a message from the road.
It's the only life that we know.
Hold the sunrise 'til we're gone.

Now I've got a plan,
get together with my band.
It's time to hit the road, dreaming.

I dream of Transit vans,
eating beans straight from the can.
It's nothing, but it's our own.

At least it's our own.

Hold the sunrise 'til we're gone.
I'll send a message from the road.
It's the only life we know.
Hold the sunrise 'til we're gone.

The village is missing it's idiot
now I'm so far from home,
I'm dreaming.

I miss the beer bottles
and the pointless brawls
but it's time to let it go.

It's time to let it go.


Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Splatterpaint for a while.

Open up your brain and let what's inside pour out onto the page. Maybe we'll learn something from the experiment or maybe it'll just be a bunch of disconnected thoughts woven carelessly together under the guise of narrative.

Throw shit at the walls and see what sticks.

I'm looking for that gem in the quagmire, the needle in the haystack, the diamond in the dogshit, the illusive truth, a moment of silence.

It's easier now; I remember when we had to dig. The plethora dilutes impact, you'll never appreciate what you've got when all you're used to is abundance. Remember those that have nothing before declaring your boredom.


Freedom to bore yourself shitless and share it with others.

Freedom to eat yourself to death.

Freedom to hide away, freedom to say absolutely nothing at all. Do your best to remain docile.

"We regret that all our operators are busy at the moment. Please hold or try again later."

I'm sick of the same three chords, the same cycle of empty protest. Don't tell me you didn't see this coming?

I'm just circling dates on a calendar, counting down the days I defeat myself. The record is too short. I can't relax before I need to change it. It keeps skipping. I'm throwing my turntable away.

I'll call this modern art, for lack of a better expression.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011


Violence has been kind to me.

The first act of violence that I remember was self-inflicted. As a three year old, I was playing on my tricycle. I found myself a stick and figured that it would be a great idea to try and pass it through the spokes of my front wheel. Call it an early science experiment or safety test. As logically follows, the wheel jammed and I went flying over the handlebars, landing face-first on the offending stick. Part of said stick managed to work its way right up my nose and down the back of my throat, leaving me screaming in a puddle of my own blood. I like to think that stick is partly responsible for my voice, scraping my vocal chords on the way down my thrapple. I don't remember the look on my mother's face, but I'd imagine she was somewhat horrified.

I've always been good at terrifying my mother.

I was always getting into fights at primary school. There were three chaps in particular with whom I seemed to have perpetual active beef. I don't remember exactly how it all started, but I'd imagine my quick wit was a little too scathing for them, even at an early age. They were always picking on folk and, developing an early sense of injustice, I would stand up for those who wouldn't stand up for themselves. This almost always ended up with me getting punched in the face. I was prone to nosebleeds as a child so I'd often bleed Ric Flair-style. I liked the drama and it freaked people out.

My bloodletting ability served me well come high school. One lunchtime, when a bunch of friends and I were 'wrestling training' in the gym, I managed to knee myself in the face and my nose exploded. I was used to people finding me a little strange so thought nothing of walking through the recreation centre with blood pouring down my face. I tried to stem the flow with my white Offspring shirt, but it was a losing battle. Most people were quite concerned but one chap, a prefect two years older than I (and a total douche), laughed at me as he walked past. This bastard had been at a party thrown by my sister at our house and he'd poured cherry brandy into my goldfish bowl. At least Eric died happy, I guess. All I could picture was my dead friend so as he laughed, I literally saw red and grabbed him, headbutting the swine right in the side of the face. The image of my blood staining his school shirt remains. I'm not proud of myself, but that boy was a grade one dickhead, so I stand by my actions. He also never killed another one of my pets, although I suspect he continued to give my sister some grief. She can fight her own battles.


I remember once when she had trouble with a few girls at school. There had been some beef or other, probably because she's intelligent and goofy-looking with a big mouth (much like myself). I was a karate enthusiast at the time and was always entering various regional and national championships, so I took her upstairs in our house and showed her how to punch properly. This was a bad move. A few days later whilst having a barney about something or other, I whacked her in the back of the head with a pillow, although I was fantasising that it was a steel chair. Immediately upon impact, she swung around and levelled me with a perfectly thrown right hand to the nose, busting the bastard open again. The student becomes the master.

There were always fights on the school bus. In fact, I saw one of the worst beatings I've ever witnessed on that school bus. There was one girl, a member of the drama society, that always seemed to be a target of the bullies. This one time, she was just sitting there, probably too far up the bus for some peoples' liking. The first punch landed on her left cheek and that was it, like sharks to a bloody corpse. Six or seven girls starting weighing in about her, punching and kicking her from all sides. They pulled her hair back over the seats and yanked at it with all their might. As she was being dragged backwards and battered repeatedly, a particularly loathsome male punched her square in the face. The slap of the flesh was brutal. Nobody did a damn thing so I stood up and pleaded with them that enough was enough. Valiant though it may've been, it earned me a punt in the bollocks and a smack in the face. Strangely, the victim and I became friends for a while after that. That was around about the time she announced she was a lesbian, which came as a surprise to absolutely no-one. She definitely didn't deserve all the abuse she got for it. Who cares where people get their kicks? Mind you, we did grow up where we did.

I got bottled for the first time just after my seventeenth birthday. By the time I reached that age, most of my friends had left school and had jobs and/or went to college, so the weekends were the only real times that we got to hang out. It was handy that one of the crew didn't drink and that the other worked in a shop, as that meant we had a plentiful supply of pikied cigarettes and bottles of whisky. Nobody ever suspected the youth of stealing whisky, so it was nigh on bulletproof. Not that it mattered to me, I wasn't a thief and I wasn't the one doing the pinching. The only time I ever got busted stealing was when I didn't pay for a bottle of cola. I was so petrified that I apologised and paid for it; saved me a ban at least.

The party that wasn't a party, but a gathering, was just getting started when the doorbell rang. Those that attended Hardcore Friday knew not to ring the doorbell, but to just come straight in the side door of the house. This meant either gatecrashers or the police, and it was far too early for them. I went through the hallway and saw through the window that it was my favourite three bullies.

"Hain a perty th'nite Larry?"
"Naw man, just a few pals roond."
"We nae yer pals like?"
"Ah widdnae say so, naw."

Headbutt to the cheek.

The bastard had broken the left leg of my specs and barged passed me into the hallway, making towards my bedroom. Everyone in the room was terrified of these swine and they began taking bottles of beer from the box in the middle of the room and asking the girls for cigarettes. The boys, disappointingly, just sat there with their mouths gaping, too ripped and too paranoid to do anything about it. Anna stood up and got in one of their faces. The tall one grabbed her and went to swing, which sprung me out of my disbelief and into action. I forgot my fear and went crazy, shouting and screaming and ushering them outside. The adrenaline was pumping and I got all three of them outside. Eventually they left and we got down to our business; mainly getting shitfaced, listening to punk records and putting the world to rights (strange that a decade later, we perform the same rituals).

Gregor got battered by those same three boys a couple of weeks previously, so was too scared to walk his girlfriend to the bus stop, so being the gentleman that I am, I offered to accompany her. Bad move. This girl is a magnet for maniacs and as soon as we reached the main road, the abuse began to fly. She would snap into these frothing fits of rage and lose all sense of perspective, ranting, raving and goading people into conflict. I thought we'd had enough beef for one evening and managed to get her into the graveyard across from the bus stop until the bus itself went up and turned at the square. Thank Buddha we got rid of her when we did because she wouldn't have made what was to follow any easier.

Eventually, it was home-time for Anna, so I walked her home. She didn't want me to go alone as she lived right beside the park where our enemies hung out. I took Julie with me for moral support, although she was hardly the ideal tag team partner at 5 foot 2 and weighing maybe nine stone soaking wet. We walked on. We dropped Anna at her front door and hurriedly scuttled over the bridge in the park and back over the main road. We though we'd gotten by undetected when Julie heard noises;

"Dinnae worry, it'll just be the pubs emptying."
"I'm no sure likes."

Just like that, we looked behind us and our favourite three lunatics were sprinting down the road towards us. At this point, there was one choice; take a kicking or fight. I opted to the latter and charged forward, only to be met with an empty bottle of Grant's smacking straight into my cranium. The glass didn't break and I didn't bleed, I just slumped to the ground as Julie screamed at the top of her lungs. One of them, the legitimately psychopathic one, grabbed her by the throat and slammed her against the wall. I dragged myself up and jumped on his back, trying to claw his eyes out. It was at this point that I just lost it and we managed to fight them off. I think they were dumbstruck that they hadn't killed me with the bottle shot and they seemed to disappear, at least for a moment.

We stumbled down the road and thought we'd lost them. We were on the final stretch home when two of them appeared from the sheltered housing complex next door to the primary school. This truly was do or die time. I heard the sound of running feet behind me and knew that this was it; I had to fight. I spun round and, for the first time in my life, through the perfect spinning discuss punch, taking the lanky uncoordinated oaf clean off his feet. Kerry von Erich would've been proud. At this same time, I felt the punches raining down on the back of my head. I don't know how many times I was hit but I was beside myself, utterly flying on adrenaline and the thrill of the fight. My shirt was ripped from my back and I was bleeding from the lip, nose and eye by this point. It was primal, it was violent and I felt alive. I was drunk and crazy, half-naked in the street on an early December night and covered in my own blood. I'd torn my favourite shirt and had lost my hat, a present from Canada, somewhere along the road. My parents were home by this point and they led the charge of a dozen steaming teenagers into the street as neighbours turned their lights on and peered out of their curtains.

It took three hours for the police to show up. They were no use in moment like these anyways. I'd have to wait another two years until they caught me in the act. That's the irony of protect and serve; never there when you need them, always there when you don't.

A Brief Rambled Introduction

Thinking creates nothing but discontent. Internalising will eventually destroy you. We all procrastinate, discuss, enthuse, plan. All the pure intentions are worthless unless we act. The problem is knowing WHAT to do.

I've been told it's the writing that's important, not the reading. All I do is rattle off timelines and sit on a pink couch. I don't even know why I am doing this. It's the same old story on repeat, not skipping a single beat. It gives scope to embellish and refine details, to manipulate narrative and rewrite history. Don't betray yourself with over-confidence. The eyes tell the real story.

We are all writers, the custodians of history.

I've never had a boring year. Something always starts, something else always ends. I don't keep a diary anymore but I know that if you come out of a year happier than you were when you went in, then it was a good year. Last year was difficult, but we're here and we're together. That is more than some people can hope for and I'm grateful.

I've mad another promise to myself, one that I'll probably break, but the aim is there. I haven't been writing nearly enough. I have no band and it's driving me insane. Things are changing and it's up to me to get things done. I have been encouraged recently to some of my stories down and to actually do some serious writing. This is my attempt to do so.

It's not the reading that's important, but the writing.