Thursday, 25 December 2008

My job in Camden

So I started a job at this school a couple of weeks ago, in the role of Performing Art’s Technician. It was actually the first job I applied for when I first arrived in England two months ago, though I only got asked in for an interview four weeks later.

Basically my job entails maintaining the equipment in the drama and music departments, and providing technical support for either class or school production. They can employ someone like me (and another person who does a similar job in the fine arts department) because the school is an “Art College” under the national education framework. It therefore gets extra funding for equipment and support staff for its art departments.

Onto the school itself. People had warned me about London public schools, saying they are rife with gang-related violence, and the classrooms really unruly. As far as I can tell so far only the latter in true, with the teachers spending most of their time trying to keep the kids on task. So far I haven’t witnessed any stabbings though – Though I did help one kid out the other day record a rap over a “grime” track where the main hook was “This is not a child’s game.” Coming from a 14 year old I found that kinda cute. One odd thing about the school though is that only 25% of the students are girls. This is apparently due to a high percentage of girls-only schools in the area.

Anyways enough of my stupid fun-facts. Here’s some photos.


The front reception area.

Ahhhh England

There's a staff smoking area. This school officially rules!

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

SXSW

Okay so I got an email the other day from the South by Southwest organisers informing us that our application to showcase at the 2009 SXSW music festival was successful. Naturally I was totally stoked. We'd applied to SXSW before, and been denied, so this felt pretty good.

However now the band is faced with the mammoth task of trying to raise enough money for plane tickets, accommodation, and visas for the US. Adding to our problems is fact that half of the band still resides in Dunedin, New Zealand, while the other half are in London.

Now I've always been the (often foolish and overly confident) optimist in the band. I personally think we can pull this one off, but I think the others have very real concerns about how the hell we're going to raise this cash. The only other band from Dunedin to have actually managed to go in the last 10 years or so has been Die!Die!Die! and I think they had managed to tie it into their existing touring commitments in the US.

So yeah, anyone got any good ideas? HELP!

Monday, 1 December 2008

The Windmill, Brixton

So I’ve started working part time at a live music venue down in Brixton called The Windmill. It’s awesome. It’s pretty small (capacity would have to be 100-150), run by Irish people, has a reasonable PA (EV acoustics), and appears to be the preferred small south London venue for up-and coming touring bands. Tim, the promoter is really enthusiastic, clued up, and friendly which makes things easy. So far I’ve done sound there 3 times, and 2 nights have been dominated by really awesome American bands. I love doing sound for well-toured bands; they’re really easy to make sound good, are easy going when faced with poor foldback/other technical issues, and generally make good music which is actually enjoyable to listen to.

Smoke or Fire. Notice how the British are actually moshing/dancing/enjoying themselves. Crazy.

Okay so the first night of American bands I did featured a Fat Wreck Chords band called Smoke or Fire, a relatively straight-ahead California-style punk band headlining, and they were supported by a bizarre powerpop/Americana/punk band from Florida called Fake Problems. I wasn’t so much into Smoke or Fire’s music (I definitely would have loved them when I was 16 however), but they really were awesome at what they did, were really friendly, and were really easy to make sound good. Fake Problems however I really did enjoy, though probably mostly because I spent most of the time trying to work out where the hell they were coming from. The guys were all really baby-faced and twee looking, but would flip from playing post-hardcore stuff to country, and back to pop punk. It was pretty weird, but they were really tight, really nice guys, and definitely had enough of an “x-factor” for my liking. Unfortunately the stuff they’ve got posted on their myspace doesn’t really give much of an impression of what they’re actually like live.

My view from the mixing desk: Fake Problems

The next night I had the pleasure of doing sound for a guy called PW Long, the songwriter from ex 90s grunge band MULE. This guy was ridiculous. It was an awesome mix of growly, moody Americana – mixing blues, country, and folk. Though please don’t get the wrong impression, this was not the usual brown vest wearing, airy-fairy cheesy folk artist. This was a guy who’d played in touring “grunge” bands in the early 90’s who’d just gotten angrier. He certainly played his beaten up old strat at levels that would have probably more suited a band situation than solo in a small, and admittedly that night, basically empty venue. However it worked, I got my jollies, got paid, and had an awesome time.