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Diary Of An Anti-Tory Protestor – Part 1

George Square, 30th March 2013

There comes a point in every man’s life – or, at least, I hope there does – when you realise that clicking “like” on shared Facebook photos and statuses is not an adequate or forceful form of protest. My own study of history leads me to believe that women received the vote as much for the roles they fulfilled during the First World War as for their widely-known protest movement. Yet, it is is hard to believe that Emmeline Pankhurst would have been quite so powerful and historically renowned a figure had her cohorts not chained themselves to the railings of Downing Street and instead merely hashtagged #Suffrage on Twitter. On Twitter, due to the limitations of hashtags involving punctuation, it is not even possible to accurately tag it #Women’sSuffrage.

I was aware, through Facebook, of an actual physical protest being held in my city on Saturday 30th March. This was the end of the week in which, as previously documented here, I had sent out a Tweet requesting that someone hit That Cunt Cameron in the face with a shovel, which was subsequently retweeted by an MSP. It was reported in the Daily Record, and then raised at First Minister’s Questions in the Scottish Parliament. My involvement, the reasons for my tweet, and the sentiment behind it were not discussed, and the full (lack of) reaction can be read in the follow-up post here. It seems that I had violently and abusively summed up the consensus of growing public opinion.

I can’t remember how the protest first came to my attention, although due to the political motivations of several of my friends and mutual friends, it began appearing on my pages with some regularity. I have since joined the Anti Bedroom Tax Protest In Scotland page, and have long been a follower of the “The last person to enter parliament with honest intentions was Guy Fawkes” page.

 

Last summer, I had bought a couple of Scottish flags, saltire crosses upon the centre of which I stencilled the logo of my favourite band. One of them ended up on stage with them at their Glasgow gig, held aloft during their encore at The Arches to loud cheers. I had planned to do something similar for another band I was seeing in Berlin at Christmas, but never got round to it. With this “spare” flag still in a drawer, I looked it out and wrote “F_CK THE TORIES” across the middle of it. While the back of my shirt has the same phrase uncensored, it occurred to me that self-censoring the first word would make it more publication friendly, should any photographers or cameramen happen to record it. The message is still unmistakeable, and I deliberately used an underscore in place of the “U” so that, if I decide to, I can fill it in later. The task, which I had started when I got in from a late-night comedy show, was finished by about 5am. I slept a few hours, and then dragged myself out of bed and down into the town.

I knew a few people who had said they were going, and another couple of dozen who had clicked “attending” on the facebook page with no real intention of showing up. One of the former, my friend Matt, was also attending his first ever protest, and I had provisionally arranged to meet him. The overall plan was to assemble at the Green, march to George Square, and rally there. I was running a little late, thanks to the company who – due to the frequency with which they announce it – may be known to the uninitiated as “Scotrail Apologise.” This same company is better known to users of social media as “Fuck Scotrail.” Thanks to their sterling inability to run trains to anything even approaching the timetable they set, I made it to the Bridgegate just as the march set off. Matt was, he texted me, next to a large black Scrap Trident banner, and I stood on the corner of the street until I spotted it. This being a protest march and not an orange walk, it was very easy to infiltrate the ranks to cross the marchers and join him.

 

It fair fills you with civic pride to march alongside hundreds – thousands – of others who all care passionately about the same thing. Especially when you know you are in the right. This “Bedroom Tax”, to use the accepted colloquial term, is completely unworkable. The government are demanding people downsize into homes that just do not exist – it has been widely reported that there are tens of thousands of people who are now required to move into a couple of thousand homes. The housing needed – affordable single-bedroom homes – is not physically available in anything even approaching the numbers necessary. Those affected, therefore, will have to make up the resulting shortfall in their rent, on the back of this cut, and if they can’t keep up payments they will face eviction. On the face of it, this does not affect me. I live in a one-bedroom flat. However, on the back of all the other ill-thought-out strategies – involving Workfare, ATOS, the NHS in England, funding for Trident – and the general hypocrisy of Tory rulers who are, largely, millionaires and have little or no idea what life is like on the breadline – I have had enough. This party has one MP in Scotland. One. That is not a mandate to rule, and when That Cunt Cameron installed himself as the Prime Minister I immediately wrote “Fuck The Tories” across the back of a shirt, in the DIY protest spirit of the original punk movement.

 

With growing anger, I have watched as the Tories have systematically undermined the entirety of the welfare state – rights that were hard fought for by our recent ancestors. On the back of my infamous tweet, mentioned in the blog already linked to, and the general apathy with which it was mostly met, I realised that it is time to protest in a more visible form. I don’t mean, and am not advocating, masks and molotov cocktails, but just being on the streets and marching and swelling the ranks by the number of one. It is my belief that people are taking to the streets to protest the Bedroom Tax, because if they don’t then inordinate numbers of people will be forced to LIVE on the streets. That’s when homelessness increases, and then crime increases, while businesses fold as people divert disposable income into living expenses. It’s time to stand and fight.

This is how I came to find myself in the midst of three thousand people, wearing a shirt and holding aloft a flag that both state my view clearly – Fuck The Tories. I didn’t join in with any chants, partly from being self-conscious, and largely because everything I wanted to say was clearly written upon my person.

msp shirt protest

To my mind, this is the part in the film “Network” where he says “I want you to get up right now, go to the window, open it, stick your head out and yell ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this any more!’ I want you to get mad!”

I want you to get mad. This affects us all, directly or indirectly. You don’t have to support the SNP or want independence to realise that this whole Bedroom Tax fiasco is unjust and totally unworkable.

 

When we got to the Square, I bumped into or met up with another few friends. My friend McGovern is no stranger to socialism and protest marches, and he joined us to listen to the various speakers being introduced by comedian Janey Godley. I found the pair of us in one of the photographs that was circulated online after the event.

msp protest circled me mcgovern

At least four people took pictures of the back of my shirt – they got my best side – and three of them had the courtesy to ask first. When I went home afterwards, I stopped at a local shop to pick up some messages. A wee woman came up to me from behind and said “Do we just add a tick if we agree?”

Like I said, the feeling is widespread. If you feel that passionately, then do something. Make yourself heard. Stand up for what you believe to be right. Stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. Today, for the first time in my life, I realised that I feel prepared to lock arms with people and prevent evictions, if it comes to it. I’ve had enough.

I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this any more.

 

bedroom tax meme


It’s All Fun And Games Until You Realise You’re Being A Dick About Music.

When I was eighteen, I knew everything. I knew that I was smart, I knew that I was funny, and I knew that the music I listened to was the only music worth listening to. I especially subscribed to the mantra “if it’s not metal, it’s not music.”

This elitist belief denied me some of the finest music ever made, and although my taste widened enough to incorporate a vast amount of classic rock and even some indie, as well as the punk I had discovered at the age of 16, I deliberately denied myself the pleasure of anything vaguely termed “dance music.”

It was not always this way, but my earliest album purchases – Iron Maiden’s The Number Of The Beast and The Shamen’s Boss Drum – had seen me pursue the former as my way of (teen) life. I spent entire student loans on Maiden memorabilia, which is still in my possession (and soon up for sale.) I still love the latter album, but for years I stubbornly refused to acknowledge the artistry or musicianship involved in any of the music that got repeat radio airplay. There were songs that came out that I liked – Born Slippy by Underworld; Hey Boy, Hey Girl by The Chemical Brothers; Around The World by Daft Punk – but in an age when music had to be bought to obtain it (or taped off the radio) I didn’t engage with these iconic songs enough to purchase them.

 

It all changed when I was nineteen, and it all changed because of a girl. I think the age had less to do with it.

It was a chance meeting: I had gone to a gig with a friend to see some band he was into, their name being the only thing I now recall about them. Afterwards, he was refused entry to the club night due to a lack of ID. He went home, and I went in to see a casual friend I’d seen at the gig and recognised from school. She introduced me to the group she was with, and one girl in particular caught my immediate attention. This was in April 2001.

On the back of this turn of events, I found myself with a new social life, going to The Cathouse every Friday night to hear the same music played upstairs that now, in April 2013, they still play downstairs every Saturday night. The girl I liked, she despised Iron Maiden, and her own all-time favourite band was Depeche Mode.

Depeche Mode. “Haha, Depressed Mode!” I said, full of the ineptitude and cockiness that had helped render me entirely single for the duration of my life up to that point. This wordplay combined two of my favourite things – being a play on words and also a pop culture reference (it’s the name of a remix on Type O Negative’s Least Worst Of album) – or three of my favourite things if you include my longstanding habit of making quick-witted remarks at every available opportunity. Well, almost every opportunity – I’ve spent years learning that sometimes it is better to remain silent, for various reasons. Learning to enjoy the silence.

This conversation may have been the moment that changed my life.

I didn’t particularly want to belittle someone for their taste in music, finally maturing a bit as I then was, and I certainly didn’t want to do so ignorantly. Not to a girl I liked, anyway. I decided, perhaps for the first time, to check the band out before dismissing them out of hand. That way, I would have an informed opinion, grounds on which to judge them. If that sounds like a mixture of arrogance and common sense, then that is probably what it was.

It was the time of Napster and AudioGalaxy, of 56k dial-up modems that screeched intolerably as they downloaded one MP3 file every fifteen or twenty minutes. Depeche Mode had just released an album – Exciter – and I picked a track from it at random, probably based on the size of the file or the anticipated download time. I forget which track, although I think it was “Shine”, but down it came and I played it. To my surprise, I liked it. I liked it a lot. I downloaded the entire album, and burned it to CD using then-emerging technology. Given how commonplace downloading has become, the speeds now involved, and the gradual eradication of physical media formats, it is crazy to realise that a mere 12 years ago we still believed our VHS tapes were collectors items, while DVDs were some exotic and expensive novelty.

 

I enjoyed the “Exciter” album, and I went out and bought, on CD, in shops, the compilation albums “Singles 81>85” and “Singles 86>98”. The latter opened with Stripped, and I knew there was no chance that it could possibly be as good as one of my then-favourite tracks: Charlie Clouser’s remix of the Rammstein cover version. Again, I found myself proved wrong. Stripped, in its original form, is such a beautiful and subversive song. It far surpasses the excellent cover.

My eyes were opened, as was my mind, and I fell in love with DM and their melodic, entrancing music. I loved their experimentation with musical styles and with samples. I loved their music, I loved their lyrics, and I loved how dark and subversive they were. This is how it began. I started buying up their back catalogue on CD, including the occasional maxi-single when it appeared in the local second-hand record stores, and I picked up most of their early video releases in the same way. Again, those VHS tapes were collectors items at the time, yet they are now obsolete and (I suspect) largely worthless. I had been wrong.

I downloaded one of their tracks, so as to have a basis from which to decry them. And then I downloaded the rest of that album. Then I bought their two “best of” albums. Over the years that followed I bought the entirety of their back catalogue, various tribute albums, half a dozen second-hand videos, three or four DVDs, a paperback band biography, five t-shirts, a hooded top, some posters, most of singer Dave Gahan’s solo output, and tickets to see them on four occasions on three tours in two countries.

I think there was a valuable lesson in there, about prejudice, about arrogance, and about not being a dick. It has certainly led me to be a lot more open-minded, and was the first step in the considerable broadening of my musical taste. Not least because I barely listen to Iron Maiden (or even metal) these days, and now own a huge number of albums by The Chemical Brothers, Underworld, and Daft Punk. Underworld are one of my top five favourite live acts too.

As for this girl, who was the unwitting catalyst for this voyage of discovery? We dated for a few months, we stopped, we remained the closest of friends. She was there at the very start of my twenties, and she was still there at the start of my thirties. I trust and respect nobody on this planet more, and have mentioned before how her influence, inspiration, and significance in my life is second to none. This morning, I phoned the ticketline the minute it opened and bought our tickets to see Depeche Mode play live at the end of the year. It will be only their second Glasgow show in about twenty years. We were at the last one too, and I bought the officially-released live CD recorded on the night.

 

“You don’t have to come with me,” she said when I asked if she wanted me to get tickets, the nature of our friendship having changed although the fierce loyalty remains. “I’m happy to just go alone.”

I cannot imagine seeing them without her beside me. We made a pact shortly after we met in 2001, having just missed the Exciter Tour, that we would definitely travel to see them on the next tour. True to that, we went to Manchester and London in 2006 (when again there was no Scottish show), and saw them in Glasgow in 2009. I have every intention that we will see them together in 2013.

Now I am 31 and I am fully aware that I definitely do not know everything. What I do know, though, is that I was exceptionally fortunate to meet her.

 

 


Karaoke – What A Carry-On.

My aversion to karaoke as a form of entertainment is such that, if I am in a pub and it becomes apparent that there will be karaoke, I leave. I am willing to accept most types of music as background noise to whatever conversation I may be having, but I refuse to accept the dominance that is afforded a procession of tuneless drunks.

There are a handful of exceptions – I’ve tolerated it at a few places-of-works’ nights out, a stag night, and – well, that’s it to the best of my memory. As a general rule, if there is no occasion and I am just out for a drink, I’ll go elsewhere.

I have been coerced into participating only twice in my life. This is, in part, due to my complete and very noticeable inability to sing. The other factors involved were alcohol (lots of it) and peer pressure.

The first occasion was in “My Father’s Moustache”, a pub in East Kilbride, where I then worked. I worked for the catalogue shop Index, and our entire staff (numbering about twenty or thirty) were in the pub for some reason or other, besides the obvious. The drinks were flowing freely, and it was the night that Darius was kicked off Pop Idol. I remember this clearly, because at the time I was being told on a regular basis that I looked like him.

As a succession of regulars crooned their ways through all the usual hits – Mustang Sally, Brown-Eyed Girl, Wonderwall, I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles), New York New York – our party got progressively drunker. We were loud, rowdy, good-humoured, and having great fun. Somehow, I got roped into going up.

My song of choice was “My Way” as sung by Sid Vicious. This was probably towards the end of the period I spent listening to Punk, and I recall that I was wearing my Slayer tour shirt that evening. My name was called, along with the observation “As a special treat, here comes Darius, straight off Pop Idol,” and I ventured forth amidst gentle laughter, to take the mic.

The punters would look to the screen as each singer stepped up, to see what song they would be assailed with, and so up came “My Way.” People went back to their conversations, absolutely not expecting the off-key and piss-taking intro to that version of Sinatra’s classic. You know that scene in the western film, when the guy walks into the bar and the music stops and the place falls silent? I achieved that. My “singing” of that verse, in that vocal manner, briefly shut up an entire pub.

As the song kicked in, and I sneered my way through the second verse as Vicious had done, I was joined on the stage area by a stranger who – judging from his age and enthusiasm – was part of the original musical and social movement that produced it. He grabbed a second mic from its stand, and tried to join in as the host took it from him and reprimanded him with the rules – one singer, one song. No backing vocalists. So, instead, he began vigorously pogoing around the floor, clapping his hands, headbanging, and trying to cajole everyone sitting near the front of the stage area into sharing his energy and appreciation.

That was the first time I ever attempted karaoke, and I still remember it vividly eleven years later.

———————————–

The second time, it was an aftershow party in very early 2008. I had been working on a pantomime, and all of the cast, crew, and ushers were enjoying private use of a hired nightclub. There was karaoke, and by about half-two in the morning I was drunk enough to agree to a pal’s suggestion to participate.

As one of the cast belted through his own unique, and trademark, rendition of The Sweet’s “Ballroom Blitz” (“Balls and Tits!” he cried gleefully), we decided upon the song for us. The obvious selection was Falco’s “Amadeus” – renowned, fondly remembered, and suitably ridiculous. Up it came on the screen.

Revealing himself to be surprisingly astute, given his aptitude at work, my friend immediately spotted the flaw in our plan and helpfully announced “Fucksakeman, it’s aw in German.”

It was, indeed, in German. We hadn’t thought beyond the famous chorus.

I rapidly descended into drunkenly listing all of the German words I could think of, rather than attempting to read aloud those on-screen. For a start, I’ve never studied the language, and I wasn’t helped by how fast Falco was rattling through lyrics I was struggling to comprehend let alone pronounce.

In hindsight, it’s unfortunate that most of my German comes from war films, Spike Milligan sketches (“Schweinhund!”), and five years of schooling in the achievements and failures of Bismarck, the unification of Germany, the first world war, and Hitler’s rise to power. It is probably just as well that it was a private party, I think in a pub I would have achieved silence a second time…

There are no plans for a third attempt.

 

 


Dubious Claims To Fame – 19 (c)

Of the three singers who have fronted Iron Maiden – Di’Anno, Dickinson, and Bayley – Blaze Bayley is the one who has most impressed me. He had just joined them when I first got into them, and so my burgeoning love of the band was tied to the period during which he recorded with them. Those two much-maligned studio albums hold a lot of memories for me, and “The X Factor” is still one of my favourite of their fifteen LPs – its darker style and lyrical content appealing to my then teenage angst, creating a bond that has been hard to break. Blaze was fronting the band when I first saw them, which was also my first ever music gig, at the Barrowlands in 1998.

I remember vividly (and still have the magazine clippings) when Bruce came back, denying the rumours one week and confirming them the next. I felt a bit sorry for Blaze, whose job of filling those shoes was never going to be easy for any singer, and he admits now that he should have maintained a more visible public presence afterwards rather than going to ground and burying his head. It meant that he had a harder job when it came to promoting his first solo album, the excellent melodic-thrash masterpiece “Silicon Messiah.” I saw him on that tour, and then waited years for him to come back to Glasgow. When he did, I was up north and missed the gig, but I finally saw him again nine years later, in 2010.

Back in January 2001, my admiration for and obsession with Maiden was still growing. I saw Blaze in the middle of the month, and then made my first ever trip to London at the end of it, alone, to see Maiden play two Rock In Rio warm-up shows at Shepherd’s Bush Empire. Blaze’s gig was intense – the energy in the Cathouse was intense, and I remember him getting right in amongst the crowd, standing on the barrier with one hand on the ceiling to steady himself as his band ripped through the fast, melodic, and beautiful songs. At the end of the gig, the whole band came out to the merch stall to meet the fans. When the security guys kicked everybody out, to set up for the club night, the band joined us outside the front door of the venue. They were surrounded by fans, of Maiden, Blaze, and Wolfsbane, and dutifully signed everything they were asked to. It was a freezing winter night, but the band stood there and signed everything for everyone until there was nothing left to sign.

I got my CD sleeve signed, as well as setlist I’d got from the stage. I discovered their drummer, Jeff Singer, had previously played for Kill II This – another favourite band of mine, with whom I would later have far greater involvement when I arranged to help them with load-ins and load-outs on their Scottish dates. I regretted not having any K2T stuff with me to get him to sign, and haven’t seen him since. He later joined Paradise Lost, but has now left them.

I lost interest in metal for a few years, and by chance found out that Blaze had put a new album out – I downloaded it, not expecting much, but I have come to love “The Man Who Would Not Die” and have since purchased the CD. In the interim, I later discovered, Blaze had suffered a number of setbacks – the band line-up had changed a lot, and often, they left their record label, had issues with management and finances. and his wife died just over a year after they married. Through it all, though, Blaze continued making music, playing live, and drawing strength from the loyalty of his fans. That’s what impressed me about him, as much as the great music he has made and which has soundtracked a lot of my life – that he managed to find the will to struggle on, and continues to persevere despite the personal tragedies. I have a lot of respect for him.

I saw him a couple of years ago, and dug out a few more CD covers for him to sign. He sat at the merch booth from the time the doors opened until five minutes before he went on stage, happily chatting to anyone who approached him, with a supply of pens to hand for autographing everything he was asked to. I spoke to him briefly, as he appended his signature to various rare and promo items, and then stood at the barrier for the duration of his set. I was a little disappointed that there was so little material from the debut album in the set, but aware that there had been ten years and four more albums since that time.

As much as this has been a companion piece to the other Maiden stories – and even then the only real ‘story’ as such is the Di’Anno one – Blaze is one of the people I most admire, for embodying the true spirit of the trooper. Every time he has been knocked down he has dusted himself off and come back stronger and more determined. I respect that.

Above: Inside of the “Silicon Messiah” booklet, signed by the band.

 

 


Dubious Claims To Fame – 19 (b)

This minor incident is included purely for completeness, inasmuch as I have met and had stuff autographed by all three of Iron Maiden’s vocalists. There isn’t a great deal to tell about the time I saw Bruce Dickinson in person, one of the few encounters I have documented on here that involved virtually no conversation between us beyond a cursory “would you mind signing this, please?”

It was 2004, and Bruce was recording his BBC 6 Music show in Glasgow’s Cathouse Rock Club. The show would feature live and recorded interviews with some of the bands playing the Scottish edition of the Download Festival on Glasgow Green, the one year that the promoters brought a scaled-down version of the festival north ahead of the renowned Donington version.

It was the time when my interest in Maiden was peaking, if it had not already peaked, and it was less than a year before I first discovered Combichrist – the band who would replace Maiden in my affections and in a much more sociable way. Given the chance to finally see, probably meet, and certainly be close to the world famous Air Raid Siren, I picked up my free ticket and armed myself with the sleeves from some of the rarest Maiden releases and promos that I had by then lovingly accumulated. Bruce’s vocal booth was set up on stage-right, and there was a sofa centre stage for his interview guests. Although he did interview the Lostprophets, this was pre-recorded backstage at the festival, and all I remember of the band that he interviewed live in front of us is that I had never heard of, or had no interest in, them.

The crowd barrier had been set up, and I stood at the front for about three boring hours. People would use the breaks while songs were playing to pass items to the security guys, who would hand them to Bruce and then pass them back appended with that famous hastily-scrawled signature – a B and a squiggle and an overlapping D and a longer squiggle. I followed suit, one item at a time as was the rule they were enforcing, and at the end of the evening I engineered myself into a position where I could get a couple of other bits signed too as Bruce left the stage. His manner was, at the risk of punning, brusque. Although he did autograph the things I presented in front of him, there was no warmth from him. I suspect he was probably looking for friends, family, alcohol, or the green room – his evening’s work done.

Anyway, that’s it. It’s not much of a story, save for the nostalgia aspect of people reading this and remembering that Download did once do a festival in Scotland (Metallica, Korn, Slipknot, and Iggy Pop were some of the headliners.) It does, at least, account for the signed Maiden stuff I now have and will one day sell. The only real claim to fame is that, for a while, the BBC illustrated their 6 Music site dedicated to that show/broadcast with a photo of the crowd, taken from the stage. I was clearly visible and identifiable, but for whatever reason I didn’t right-click on the image and Save As, and that page of the site has long since disappeared. But there’s the claim to fame, and what a dubious one it really is – I once got the widely-acknowledged premier heavy metal frontman to scribble his name on things that cost me a small fortune to obtain, and then had my face plastered on the associated BBC website.

 


Bouncers Say The Stupidest Things.

I started this blog relatively recently, but I have anecdotes and stories going back a  few years. I hope to eventually add everything I remember to this site, because so much of life has amused, bemused, or confused me.

A few years back, I went to an aftershow club night with a friend. We were waiting outside for other friends to join us, and to our chagrin the bouncer started making small talk. The conversation was memorable for being both banal and stupid, and related to my choice of footwear. When this incident came back into my mind yesterday, another friend asked about the infamous “No Trainers” rule that so many bouncers employ – “Do they think we’re going to come in and start playing football??” she asked. Well, it amused me – I would like to see that.

This particular bouncer was checking out my army boots, that I wear as a matter of course for being comfortable and hard-wearing.
“They’re not steelies, are they?” he asked.

“No.”

“Can I check?”

“How,” I said, “Do you not believe me?”

“I just don’t want to find out that they’re steelies later on, when you’re kicking me in the head.”

I do have a reasonably eloquent way with words, as well as the Glaswegian sensibility to pick people up when they say exceptionally stupid things.
“It’s okay,” I reassured him. “I’m not in the habit of ending my evenings by kicking people in the head.”

He brushed this off, casually remarking “I need to get a new pair of steelies, actually.”

“Why, so you can kick people in the head?”

He just looked at me. We moved away and waited for our friends elsewhere.

Doormen: unlikely to discover the cure for cancer any time soon.

 

 


People Insistent On Telling You The Nothing They Have To Say.

This has happened to me twice now, once a few years ago at Glasgow’s “Bedlam” nightclub, and again in a pub last week. The latter incident annoyed me much more than the first, and since it has now occurred more than once I’m going to document it.

I wear band t-shirts every single day, t-shirts that I used to buy at every gig I attended (or bootlegs picked up outside afterwards). Since 1998, I have accumulated something close to a hundred and fifty t-shirts. Some fit better than others, some are bands that I have since lost interest in – hell, some are bands I wasn’t even that interested in when I picked up a cheap piece of clothing. I have drawers full of ripped and long- faded shirts I keep for work, newer shirts that haven’t lost their pristine black colouring which I wear if I’m going out, and then numerous ones that lie between those states. I’ve got shirts I have literally never worn, and shirts that are almost see-through on account of fourteen years of wear. As it happens, I usually wear a dozen or so in rotation, for months at a time.

This means that, given the diversity of music I have listened to over the years, and the sheer number of shirts available to me, I am very rarely aware which band’s logo I am sporting emblazoned across my chest on any given day.

Band shirts have long been the accepted way for metallers and their ilk to recognise like-minded fans. It is unacceptable to wear the shirt of a band you haven’t heard, because you will be found out and thought a dick of when some long-term fan addresses you in the pub. This is the simple and long-standing rule, because sooner or later you WILL be addressed by a fellow fan. Or more likely by dozens, over the years. Here are the two most memorable to me.

Firstly, at Bedlam a few years ago, I was wearing a KMFDM t-shirt. I am not a huge fan of them, but have amassed ten or so of their shirts and at least as many CDs. I only saw them once, in 2005 if memory serves, and I now remember very little of the gig. In the club, some guy approached me to ask me about the band. There was a brief exchange, and he told me he had met them and drank with them in Poland on some previous tour. I think they were due to play Glasgow again imminently, and he gave me some message to pass on to their guitarist – something forgettable, and more designed to make me believe his story than to actually hold relevance for the band.

As though I was going to hang around to meet the band post-show and say “Hey, some stranger I met once and had a really slight conversation with says [‘don’t eat the honey’, or some equally-banal reference to an experience they once shared, one day in the band’s thirty-year history.]”

I shrugged it off that time, because I work in film, TV, theatre, and live music. I can take your meeting with some band or other and match it with half a dozen encounters of my own. I just choose not to, because I often meet these people in a professional capacity and it seems inappropriate – dickish, even – to boast. If you do want to read about some of the “celebrities” that I’ve happened to meet in an everyday capacity, then read the blogs on here tagged “fame.”

 

Last week, I was in the pub having a quiet drink. It was a very quiet drink, as I was alone at the table – one friend was playing a game of pool with his pal, and the other had nipped over the road to get food.

I was sitting in silent contemplation, my mind elsewhere and occupied by a couple of personal things that have been or were weighing on me. My peace was suddenly disturbed by an unknown wanker ambling towards me and demanding “What tour’s that from?”

It took me a second to break from my thoughts, and I had to glance down to see whose name I was displaying that day. Iron Maiden.

I was a diehard Maiden fan from the ages of 12 until 24, and no other band defined my teenage years so wholly. I’ve moved away from them now, but still have the sizeable collection of rare memorabilia I hunted down when I had the taste for it. This means that I can hold my own in any conversation about them, something I used to relish and which I latterly concede to – provided I am in the mood. I wasn’t in the mood.

As I was asked again which tour I had picked this top up on, I gauged from the artwork that it was probably the 2003 UK tour. He asked me if I had ever met the band.

The truth is, I have met all three of their lead singers at one time or another, in different circumstances, and all three have signed items for me: this was back when I cared about such things. I could tell from his demeanour that he wasn’t interested in my experiences, and was only asking as a means to share his own. I let him.

He had met all of them outside the SECC in Glasgow on the last tour, and what lovely blokes they are, apart from Bruce Dickinson. They put him on the guestlist for the Aberdeen show the next night, and – blah, blah, blah. It was apparent he had only approached me so that he could give me this information – he didn’t ask or say anything else about the band, and as soon as he had told me this he made to leave, offering his hand for me to shake. I had already ignored this advance when he interrupted me, but with it now thrust towards me it was easier and less hassle to shake his hand than not.

“That’s the hand that shook hands with all of Iron Maiden,” he told me triumphantly. If I wasn’t already resentful of the intrusion into my personal space, that sealed it. Fucking wanker.

Seriously, what kind of arsehole stoats up to people just to brag about how great they personally are? I could do it, I could go up to anyone wearing an Alice Cooper or Combichrist tee and impart, apropos of nothing, tales of meeting them and what we spoke about. I just don’t. If it happens to come up in general chat, that’s one thing, but I don’t engineer it and it certainly isn’t my opening gambit.

When this guy left the pub at last orders, he shouted across to me to say goodbye. My friend had returned and was sitting across from me, and when I shouted a goodbye so did my friend. “Not you!” the guy yelled at my pal.

So yeah. Nothing to say, but he made a purpose of telling me.

 

 


Good Ways To Make A Bad Impression.

I lived in ten flats in the space of three years – where I define “living in” as “staying there at least a month or more, during which time I paid rent”. I do not recommend it, it was hellish, and the result of a quite unprecedented run of bad luck, bad decisions, bad flatmates, and owners selling up.

I took a room in Maryhill for a few months, a room too small for unpacking in, and more just a base from which to find somewhere else. I was living with two other guys, one a student from Ireland and the other owned the property as well as having a room in it. He was studying property development or something similar, and since this job entails being a reprehensible cunt he was getting some practice in. At the time, though, he seemed like a decent guy, and I have no doubt he mostly meant well. I left that flat after he impulsively bought another, realised he’d better sell the one he was in, and gave us ten days to get out. Maybe that’s not cuntish, but it was certainly inconsiderate and inconvenient. Here’s another example, and you can form your own opinion.

I had just gone to bed at 3am one night, when the front door opened and a few people came into the flat. There was a knock on my door, and I got up to answer it. Adam was standing there, and explained the situation – he had been at a nightclub, and outside in the taxi queue he’d met two girls. He had convinced them to come back to his flat where, he told them, he was having a party. The problem was, now they were here it was pretty fucking obvious there was no party. I was invited through to join them, as he confided that he really like the dark-haired one, and that I should “take the blonde.” I was naturally sceptical, but threw some clothes on and joined them in the living room.

The girls were good company, and remarkably good-humoured given the false pretences under which they’d been lured. We sat and drank for a couple of hours, the first and only time Adam and I socialised, and it became quickly apparent to everyone except him that 75% of the people in the room thought he was an idiot. The only part of the conversation I remember was his loud assertion that Oasis pissed all over Blur (in 2007, this was hardly relevant anyway), which the three of us disagreed with – Blur were far more musically diverse, for a start. He continued with further dull observations, while it came out that the dark-haired girl had been in a few theatre groups that I’d had a passing acquaintance with. So we spoke about that, and had a really good night despite the numpty in the corner.

Eventually, it came time for them to leave. They decided to phone a taxi, but Adam insisted on calling it for them. He took their mobile phone, dialled, and requested one, giving his address. After forty-five minutes or so, while looking at her phone, the girl he liked announced that the taxi was outside. They got up, and we walked them to the door. He tried to give each of them a goodnight kiss, but they were having none of it. I exchanged nice-to-meet-yous with them, and they left. Returning to the living room, Adam beckoned me to the window – where we watched them walk down the street and turn the corner, gone forever, and with no taxi in sight. He started laughing, and I was confused. So he explained.

He hadn’t phoned them a taxi, just gone through the motions and pretended. She’d obviously looked at the last number dialled, and – being already demonstrably smarter than him – deduced this, then claimed the taxi that they both knew wasn’t coming had arrived. I laughed too, big bellylaughs, at how casually and brilliantly she had played him at his own game. It was also funny that he’d thought his ruse would work. And that’s my abiding memory of Maryhill, that evening.

About a week later, I was in the living room with the door shut. Adam was down the hallway at his bedroom, having a conversation on the phone. I could hear it clearly, and that’s when it dawned on me that, when Adam had knocked my door and told me which one he fancied and which one I should “take”, they must have heard every word. Which makes it all the more incredible that they stayed as long as they did, unless you consider that they were just humouring him for their own amusement. Well played, girls, well played.


The Londoner With A Sense Of Humour.

I go to Camden Town with some regularity, and have done since I was first introduced to the market there in 2001. A crowd of us had gone down on a chartered coach overnight, in order to see a five-band bill headlined by Dimmu Borgir, and – having previously been to London only once, three months earlier and on my own – I followed the crowd. So that was my introduction to Camden.

Since then, Camden has been my main stopping point during any trip down. Since 2005, I have made the trip annually to see my favourite band (Combichrist) play in London, and as often as not it is a venue in that town that they play. I used to crash with friends or family, until I made two discoveries: Euston Station is a fifteen minute walk from the venue, and; the cheapest train of the day leaves there for Glasgow at 5.30am. So now, on the past few trips, I’ve gone to the gig, then to any aftershow party, and then slowly made my way to sit outside the station for a few hours before getting the train back home. It means I don’t have to hassle anyone for crashing space, don’t have the added expense of a hotel or hostel, and don’t need to fork out the best part of a tenner to get a travel card. I never have to research and run for the last tubes anymore either.

Pulling an all-nighter on the streets of London might be risky, and the first time I did it I was in the vicinity far in advance owing to the train I’d elected to get down. I wandered from the station to the market, looking for anywhere that might be open in the small hours – a 24-hour coffee shop or fast food establishment – and was surprised to see none. On the previous trip, I’d sat in a McDonalds all night, next to a different station from which I was departing. In Camden I decided, in true British style, to ask a policeman.

The first one I saw was on the street behind the Electric Ballroom, and as I approached he was hailed from a side street by a very drunk and cheerful native of the city. “Heh!” he cried, in a manner designed to attract the attention of anyone he chose to address, “Here!” The policeman stopped, looking, and by this time I was in earshot – both of us curious as to where this was headed. “What do you get hanging from trees?” the drunk asked, the answer being “Sore arms!” He then told another joke, which I forget, bid the policeman good day, and disappeared off down the street. I never knew until that point that anyone in London was in possession of a sense of humour. Or that there was a polis out there who could take a joke.

I walked up, as intended, and asked if there was anywhere nearby where I could kill the small hours. It still surprises me that there is nowhere in Camden – a vibrant and bustling town all day long – that stays open 24-hours to serve up a combination of grease, coffee, or internet access. The thought of having to walk or get buses miles out of my way to find somewhere didn’t appeal, and I’ve sat in train stations or at bus stops overnight in Glasgow plenty of times through the years when I stayed at home. I asked him what the area was like, and specifically if I was likely to get jumped. He stood, and looked me up and down – all six-foot-two of my mohawk-sporting, broad-shouldered, seventeen-stone. Scottish frame – and said “You’ll be alright.”

It’s little exchanges like that which keep me going to London every year. Well, aside from the band I love and the friends I’ve made.