Monday, July 30, 2007

V for Vini

Very exciting day on Saturday. As mentioned, Vini was depping. And we had two gigs. And he had one gig. Which, in total, is three. There was some doubt as to whether we could do all sets especially since Vini was also working that day, but we vowed to try.

I vividly recall when I first met Vini. I met him through Andy, who used to play with him in The Flyers, many years ago. He brought him to visit me, about ten years ago. “Voilà! May I introduce, a humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of fate. Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose, so let me simply add that it's my very good honour to meet you and you may call me Vini.” That’s what he said, verbatim. Back then he had a tendency to melodrama. When the drummer position in Bombskare became vacant in early 2005, I immediately envisioned Vini in the job. He had depped for Mark. He knew all the songs. Even today, after vacating the drummer’s position in the band, Vini still plays a valuable part in the various Bombskare endeavours. As demonstrated clearly on Saturday. He came straight from work at Drum Central and got on stage with us. In addition we had only had one rehearsal with him, earlier that week so he was in the hot seat.

First gig was at the Ross Band Stand again, this time part of the Rat Race Urban Adventure event, complete with giant video screens and half pipes for BMX stunts. We played a reasonably short set from our voluminous repertoire, which included an impromptu Inspector Gadget. Impromptu in that we hadn’t rehearsed it with Vini so it was a bit risky, but he nailed it perfectly. Great victory! I don’t know why everyone loves that tune but there you go. I find it a bit vacuous. But who am I to contradict the Vox Populi. We were also being filmed as we were playing. There was definitely something very strange about seeing ourselves on ten foot screens as we were playing. A terrifying vision for most I daresay. As soon as we came off stage, Vini’s phone rang. His metal band, the Messiahs of Metal, were on stage at Henry’s Cellar Bar, waiting to start, minus a drummer, and considerably vexed. We raced up there at a dangerous velocity. Within five minutes he was on stage playing Anthrax and Black Sabbath tunes, still wearing his suit and tie, looking suitably en vogue. As soon as the volume of the last chord on ‘Into The Void’ had died out, we were back in the van, we vacated the place and were speeding off, violently, to The Big Event in North Berwick. It was vital we got there before ten.

We got to North Berwick with half an hour to spare. Very great success! We had missed the Tyrant Lizard Kings, Man of the Hour, Certain Death amongst others but caught the last of Catch It Kebabs who were excellent, full of vim and vigour. We went on and played a slightly different set to the one we had just played, but we included Gadget again because Vini was on fire. There were all sorts of varied people there; vagabonds, vixens, vigilantes. It was good to see so many youngsters jumping around. Obviously most gigs are over eighteens only, because they are usually in licensed premises, so usually the puir weans miss out on the Ska. Appalling. Especially since our music is so juvenile. Thanks to Ally and everyone for having us down there for a visit. Well done to Vini for remaining vivified and vitalised through three rapid gigs. What a star.

Next gig, Toots and the fucking Maytals. Yaaaass! Some vintage Ska! We’ll be needing plenty of vitamins for that. See you all there!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Friday the 13th; or The Awful Spectre of Catastrophe and Ruin

Unusual gig the other night. Even by our own admittedly outrageous standards. We were asked to play for the opening night of a new venue in Edinburgh, The Ark at Waterloo Place. But before I go any further I would remind you that it was Friday the 13th.

When we arrived for the sound check they were practically still painting the place, laying the dance floor and wiring the lights. There had been problems getting the place ready in time. It’s the old Trafalgar suite above the Waterloo Bar and has a clear view down Princes Street through the columns at the east end. Our buddy Ralph who was engineering proceeded to tell us about the various teething problems with the place such as lack of acoustic treatment in a room with lots of windows, lights not installed yet, air conditioning not installed yet, etc. Lots of technical stuff. However we didn’t mind about that because we knew that Ralph knows his stuff so we let him get on with it. We had DJ Tall Paul Robinson and Root System to open the show who were both great.

When we started playing the whole place started bouncing. Literally. It felt like we were on the back of that truck at the Linkylea Festival again. After a few songs the temperature in the room was unbelievable thanks in part to the air conditioning not being installed. Then Dave Lawson, the manager, got through the crowd and up to the stage to tell Andy that the bouncing was causing the ceiling of the bar downstairs to cave in! People were fleeing the bar. Andy told the crowd we were causing the building to collapse, and the place erupted with cheering! I kid you not! He asked the crowd to take a few steps back, which is a first in the history of Bombskare gigs, and which lasted about ten seconds before everyone surged forward again. Its official now, by the way. Our music causes mass insanity. People don’t care about there personal safety when they are dancing to us. If the stage wasn’t at the opposite end of the room from the stairs, I have to admit, I would probably have bolted.

We didn’t play well that night, in my opinion; plenty of fuck ups, which we can chalk off to the intolerable conditions on the stage, that it was Friday the 13th, and by being distracted that we were about to destroy one of Edinburgh‘s finest examples of Georgian architecture, with Ska. I was drenched in sweat two songs in. My guitar was literally dripping. It reminded me of one time in Bannerman’s a few years ago, when there were similar conditions and I nearly fainted on stage. The whole room slowed down into bullet time, but I was watching everything in real time thinking, hang on, I’m about to pass out. Similar thing happened on Friday. Half way through the set, I noticed Colin frantically trying to open one of the big windows looking onto Waterloo Place, to let some oxygen in, but they were all nailed shut. I was sorely tempted to smash one in by the end.

The coup de grace was of course near the end when after I’m so Happy, I think, the lights fused plunging the whole place into hot sweaty darkness, which is of course, my favourite kind of darkness. We pressed on with World Turned Upside Down, in the dark, and wouldn’t you know it, we played it perfectly. The one song of the set. After that we called it a night. We had a few more songs on our set list but any more songs and we would have been pressing our luck. The building would probably exploded next. Or been sucked into a vortex like at the end of Poltergeist. Fuck that!

It was a difficult set but in spite of all the problems, it was actually a pretty good night. It was Friday the 13th, after all. You can tell that the place has the potential to be a great wee venue; great location with plenty of natural light and a great view, not too big, not too small. Good PA system. Admittedly it was a pretty full on first night for the place and most other bands won’t be threatening the foundations of the building, but still, it’s going to take some work to get it right. Thanks to our buddy Machine Gun Ralph Viterbo for doing an incredible job under far from perfect conditions, to Tall Paul for the tunes, to Root System once again, to Rick and Mandy for all the hard work during the chaos, and to Dave, and of course thanks to everyone for coming down and literally breaking in this new venue. In our next episode. Three gigs in one evening! Can Vini do it? Tune in next week to find out!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Congratulations, Sally and Dod Morrison

Congratulations to our friends Sally and Dod Morrison on their marriage on Saturday and thanks again for inviting us up to Banchory to play at their wedding. We wish them all the best, and hope they enjoy The Azores (the lucky …..!).
We’ve played weddings before of course, but not a Medieval themed one. I personally found it hilarious watching Dod try and dance to our set in chain mail armour. Priceless!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Fiat Justitia Ruat Caelum

You may not know this, or care, but ever since our last gig with the masks we have developed a bit of a fetish for wearing them more regularly, we just feel so dangerous in them.  So the next natural step is to officially join the Justice League alongside other super heroes such as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash; it’s a real honour. For tus as well, of course. Our special ability is Ska of course, the power to make villains dance uncontrollably until we can overpower them or the cops arrive.  It's actually more exciting than it sounds.  Pretty soon they will be publishing comic books about our exploits in fighting injustice, wherever we find it. We’ve been doing it a while now, wandering about in masks, threatening people. But unlike other superheroes we don’t care about crime. Crime is a matter of Law. A few years ago in the United States it was a crime to drink alcohol. Imagine. No, we don’t care about crime, we care about justice. Laws come and go, but justice is justice. It all started at one of our Monday night rehearsals.

You wouldn't think it but Bombskare rehearsals are actually quite civilised affairs. Mainly it consists of sitting around drinking cocktails, eating creme brulee, and reading the Financial Times. Kind of like an old fashioned private gentleman’s club, such as the Reform Club, but without the racism. Recently at rehearsal, whilst enjoying a game of backgammon with Mathew, Colin casually informed me, whilst reading from an article in The Economist, that the company directors of a certain private equity firm in London, worth billions, were paying less tax than the cleaning staff of their offices thanks to creative accounting practices and a handy tax loophole. “In addition” he said, “it says here, the richest 100 people on the planet own more wealth than the bottom third of humanity, and they‘re getting richer.” “My God!” I cried whilst leaping to my feet, knocking the backgammon board over and spilling Mathew‘s martini. “That’s outrageous!”  “I say, old man” said Mathew, un-amused.

“We have to do something. We can’t let those fat cats get away without shouldering their fair share of the tax burden! Where’s the justice? Where’s the humanity?!” I was beginning to become agitated. “Raising money for cancerous dogs is one thing, or Chiapas Mexicans, or Indian Orphans; those guys are OK I suppose, but we need to do something more direct, more hands on, to increase the overall justice in the world. Ok men, suggestions.”

“There’s a bank round the corner”, said Mathew, puffing on his pipe. “We could set fire to it”

“We could write a letter to The Times” said Mike, from behind his newspaper.

“What about the World Justice Festival.” said Colin. “We could play at it. That’s bound to increase the justice in the world.” Its obvious when you think about it. That’s how we ended up on the stage at the Ross Band Stand on Princes Street, more or less. I’ve glossed over some details, and make some stuff up, but thats about it..

A 10.30am sound check, especially on a very rainy Sunday is unpleasant, but we take world justice very seriously. Very seriously. We were headlining out of three bands. The Edelweiss Pirates are a young band from Haddington who featured at last years Linkylea Festival. They went on first to a startled Princes Street full of Sunday shoppers and really got things going. Next up was Junction Pool. Fourteen piece folky/funky/jazzy craziness featuring our Tom amongst many others. They were outstanding. Whilst they were playing, Andy and I took a walk up to Starbucks for badly needed coffee, and the sound from so far away was just incredible. All of Princes Street could hear it clearly. We couldn’t wait to get up there and show these Sunday shoppers what a Sunday sale was really all about. Before we went on the MC chap asked me how best to describe our music. A heady mix of Ska, propane and testosterone, I told him, which is almost true. We’re not that heady.

We had played on the Ross Band Stand before, back in the dark ages of 2000. Big John had just left the band and Andy had just joined the band as harmonica player. We’ve come a long way since then, judging by the footage of that gig on YouTube. This time though, everyone was there on time. By the time we got through two numbers, we had drawn a big crowd in spite of the atrocious weather. We played for an hour and included Inspector Gadget as a request for Susan, which has been missing from our set of late. Make no mistake, everyone in a half mile radius knew we were playing that day. Thanks to everyone who came down and of course to the organisers especially Susan. Cheers to Joe and Dino from DM Audio for providing the sound, cheers to The Proclaimers for donating money to help fund the stage, and cheers to Vini for helping out. We hope that we have contributed something to World Justice, anything at all really, because we are anxious to move onto Interplanetary Justice as soon as possible. (I’ve got this brilliant idea for a united federation of planets!)

Recording. Yes we are still at it. People keep asking me and I keep poking them eye and kicking them in the shins. Its like rolling a giant boulder up a hill, you do it by inches. One time about a month ago I thought we were near the summit and I got quite excited, but then I realised there was another peak beyond it, goddammit! At the minute we are mixing the thirteen tracks that we have. There are still plenty of vocals to be recorded and we wont be able to get back into the studio properly to record, until August unfortunately. The thirteen tracks are

A Fistful of Dynamite
World Turned Upside Down
Desayuno Con Carmela
Force Ten from Navarone
Hand of Fate
Damaged Goods
Rather Die
Forget the Nineties
Don’t Give it All Away
Crime of the Century
Panic Button

We had intended to record Yellow Pages but would you believe it, funny story this, on the weekend we were laying the drums down, we forgot to record it. Its worth repeating that. We forgot to record it! Obviously we couldn’t record every song from our back catalogue. We specifically limited the material to the period between Big Andy leaving the band and to when Vini left last August. Nothing written before 2003, and obviously only material that was written up to when we started recording. Some of these tunes have been around a while (Beatriz, World Turned Upside Down), others were still being written as we went into the studio (Don’t Give It All Away). In reviewing what didn’t make it onto the album, we realised we could record a whole other album of strong tunes, except the strain on my nervous system would be too great. I definitely think I would snap. So what we’ll probably do at some point is put together a shorter EP with some of the material that didn’t make it. Its still good stuff, honest, its just that we had to make sacrifices. In addition we are still writing new songs so by the time the album is out we will be gigging new material that is effectively going to be our second album.

So realistically, I think it will be a few months before we’ll be seeing the album properly finished. Sorry folks. We will definitely sorting out previews and probably a single too, our first since, wow, 2002! Jesus, are we that disorganised. Eh, yeah! Our next proper gig will be at the new place on Waterloo Place in Edinburgh, The Ark with our associates Root System. Its above the old Waterloo Bar and holds about 200 to 230. I’ve a funny feeling it may sell out so get tickets early. You were warned. After that we will be playing the Ross Band again as part of the Rat Race Urban Adventure. And then straight down to North Berwick on the same day to headline the Big Event down there. We have our cousin Vini deputising for Sam that day. He will be finishing work at six, running down to Princes Street to play a set with us at six thirty, heading up to Henry’s to play a set with his metal band at eight thirty, and then I will be driving him down to North Berwick at breakneck speed to get on stage at ten. Three gigs in one evening. Rock and Roll! My record is four, with different bands. Yes indeed, being me is a full time job, but I haven’t missed a day yet.