Friday, 15 January 2010

Commons the biffy!

Biffy Clyro became the first rock band to play the Houses of Parliament on Thursday, and yours truly witnessed it. The band played an intimate acoustic set to a selection of MPs, industry professionals and competition winners to celebrate Absolute radio achieving 50% of their audience...ah who cares why.

The biff played Mountains, Many of Horror, The Captain, Machines….all were absolutely awesome. It’s amazing to hear the songs stripped down and realise what the term “melodic” really means – when you turn of the distortion it still makes sense.

It was a really great night. Free booze and parliamentary canopes (including fish and chips in a cone!) and on top of that Frank Skinner pushed in front of me in the security queue, Dave Gorman let me through a door before him, I met Ben from the Biff at the urinals and shook Simon's hand in the Westminster entrance hall. As my friend said shortly after accidentally burping in Speaker of the Common’s Jon Bercow’s face:

“It’s probably the best Thursday night I’ve ever had.”

Pics are copyright of Jonny Garrett 2010

Guy Ritchie's House band sign to his new label

Tuesday saw the first official showcase of Guy Ritchie’s house band, The Punch Bowl Band, who have signed to Ritchie’s new label.

The Irish folk group played to a group of music professionals, executives and friends (including me) upstairs at Ritchie’s pub the Punch Bowl in Mayfair. Kelly Jones of the Stereophonics put in a brief appearance, but disappeared before the music actually started. Free food was laid out for the guests and the Guinness flowed freely, mostly put away by the band themselves.

The Punch Bowl Band have shot to fame after Ritchie set up Punchbowl records, a subsidiary Universal, solely to sign his house musicians. They now have their debut album Journey out on 1 March and a full UK pub tour being put together. It’s quite a turnaround for a house band that play together more out of accident than design.

Fiddle player Steve Mulhern says, “It only started because my friend asked me to cover a gig at the Punchbowl. I got some friends together and we played the night. At the end Guy [Ritchie] came up and said ‘Who are you and why aren’t you here every week? Are you free next Tuesday?’”

Since then the band have jammed with Justin Timberlake (who accordion player Daniel Gott said was the “quickest learner on a barrel drum I’ve ever known”) as well as Robert Downey Junior. More importantly Paris Hilton likes them. Horn and pipe player Brendan McAuley also worked on the soundtrack to Ritchie’s new film Sherlock Holmes with legendary film score composer Hans Zimmer. Such a history points to a bright future, but it is their more down to earth appeal that made Ritchie want to launch their career:

“It's exciting to venture into the world of the music industry. It's a tough place, but I've witnessed this band connect with people first hand. They have every chance of being embraced by a wider audience.”

The pub has had several battles with local residents who complain regularly about the pub noise levels. With the band going on tour, hopefully now they might get some peace.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Interview with Jon Morter the Rage in the Machine.

They say that you should never meet your heroes, so I didn't. I called him. Jon Morter, the man behind the Rage Against the Machine Christmas campaign, may not be everyones idea of a hero, but he certainly made my Christmas and for once stopped corporate culture pissing all over the masses. That's more heroic than I will ever be.

We chatted for about half an hour, and he came across as genuinely bemused by his new found status, delighted by people's reaction and childishly excited about the future.
His latest venture is a campaign to get Top of the Pops back to its weekly format. It's a much tougher task, but its the joy of trying that made the RATM campaign a real success. As he said:

“We thought if we got rage to number 1, let’s try something harder! Can we find enough people of the social networks to get TOTP back...yes I think we can! It’s definitely going to be a bigger challenge. How ever many people we get the BBC may still decide not to take the risk.”

The idea seems to make many people's eyes roll, but actually its a damned important campaign. We have no chart show whatsoever on TV - something noted by industry people like Mark Goodier, Paul Gambaccini and Dylan White.

"TOTP got me into lots of stuff I wouldn’t have known about. I remember watching White Snake when I was 7 and thinking, 'that’s good.' They weren’t pop and there wasn’t any internet back then so I couldn't have found them otherwise. It’s only X Factor that gives us a regular dose of music now. TOTP used to be the one stop off to see whats going on"

With a few format changes TOTP would make a very welcome return - particularly if the performances were live and the playlists a little more varied. Chart coverage no longer cuts the metaphorical mustard.

"I think a new show needs a new format, and amalgamate TOTP one and two – mix archive footage with live studio stuff. Why shouldn't Motorhead come after Leona Lewis?"

The campaign has started well, with a much quicker take up than the Rage Facebook group. Started at midnight on New Years Eve the group already has nearly 4,000 members and media the news has already hit the major papers (see my article in Music Week). In fact, our chat was cut short by Kerrang calling.

"THe last couple of weeks haven't really sunk in yet. I'm still working my way through the 7000 messages we received. The whole Rage thing isn't over yet. Simon Cowell has offered to take us out for a drink when he's next in London too."

I'm pretty sure it's Simon's round.