Out Of The Bedroom

After my fooling around with an 8-track digital recording studio (see this post for the results of a recorded song), I realise that I have to set myself a goal of playing music in public again. That's the only motivation that encourages improvement in technique. I shocked myself when I realised that the last time I played in public was in 1999 - some eight years ago. Probably the last time I properly played a song on the guitar or the piano privately was five years ago. I could devolve personal responsibility by blaming the fact that I don't hang out with students anymore; or the I.T. industry drains my creative spirit; or the last two women I dated were not just discouraging, but frankly confidence-shattering, to put it politely. However, the buck stops with me. Since I've started recording again, I'm utterly despondent at my sloppy playing - it certainly ain't like riding a bike.

To this end, rather than just recording stuff, I've set myself a goal of playing in public again. Now, I imagine the majority of blog browsers reading this will shrug, "Heck. I don't care". Admittedly, this post is only aimed at a small club of people and, more specifically, one particular person who has poked the occasional finger of encouragement in my direction. That club is 'Out of the Bedroom' and that person is the utterly charming James 'Big Jim' Whyte. I promise, Mr Jim, that I'll be along for the next OOTB session and I will try and rake up the courage to get better and better in my music, so that I can do a performance within the next six months.

To the rest of you blog browsers, if you're feeling the need for a pint on a Thursday , why not enjoy it to the sounds of some unknown/unsigned musicians? "Cos they'll be rubbish", I hear you cry. "Um, no they're not - I've been to a couple of OOTB nights and they've both been good!" I cry back. More to the point, if you're an aspiring musician yourself and looking for a place to wap out your musical credentials, then mosy on down there too. Down where?

Okay, here's the plug:

Out of the Bedroom is an open mic session for songwriters every Thursday evening donwstairs at the Canon's Gait bar in Edinburgh's Royal Mile. All songwriters - and anyone who wants to enjoy good original music - are welcome!

For the sake of a quiet life, I suppose I'd better plug another night at the Canons Gait - namely John and Kenny's Pub Quiz, hosted by the irrepressible John 'Big John' Griffiths and Kenny 'Big Kenny' Watt (and how come everyone I know has a nickname where the prefix is 'Big', plus their forename?). Again, if you fancy a pint on a Monday night and feel like showing off your general knowledge, then go along to the same venue mentioned above. Again, it's a cracking night out.

I'll add the above links to one of me sidebars, fellas.

Two nights in the same pub during a week - plus, it's a lovely venue, seriously in danger of becoming my version of The Winchester from the movie 'Shaun of the Dead'.

Life On Mars

Just in between these rather personal blogs, I pay tribute to some truly marvellous pieces of art that our modern culture moulds.

Currently, the last episode of "Life On Mars" has just screened. It was a belter. Except the ending. But before I get to that and before it looks like I've written off the most important denoument of any television phenomenon, let me get this straight. The ending was still fantastic. I'll get back to it though. Be patient, my grateful blog browser.

John Simm and Philip Glenister were completely firing on all cylinders for a pscyhedelic finale that somehow managed to incorporate flailing fists, outrageous Sweeney-stylee shouting and screeching cars that should be in something more sickeningly mundane like a one-off jack-off episode written by an alcoholic team writer of 'The Bill', desperately yearning off his early childhood memories of Dennis Waterman. Only this was the eminently more cleverer Matthew Graham chewing up the scriptwriting scenery of all the best that was in TV over the past 40 years. Those who know me really well, will know I'm going to boringly reference iconic and ground-breaking 1960s TV series "The Prisoner". But in a minute.

The thing I've really liked about this series is the ability for the rug to be pulled out from beneath the viewer and, in normal circumstances, antagonise the viewer too. The great thing is that that big glowing box in the corner of your room also manages to snook a massive wink in your direction when doing it. Ha, ya bastard, it's the 'The Professionals'. No, it's not, it's 'Doctor Who'. "I fucking hate Doctor Who," snaps the viewer. Nah, only kidding, me old China. We're back in 'Minder' territory. "Oh, I like Minder, reminds me of those fantastic free-market jive bunnies of the Thatcher years...". No, no, no, sorry, mate. Pyschological whirlwind of the criminal mind? We'll give you 'Cracker', son. Yes, yes. Let's get dug into the criminal mind... no, too late, Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister) is kicking several shades of shit out of him before we can get to the cause of the mental root of the crime. Fuck, I know, let's reference innocent children's TV plasticine paradise 'Camberwick Green' while we're at it.

Then, the ending occurs. I'm glad to report I'm not going to put any spoilers in. I realise that we're in a global community now and I can't do that. But it is beautiful and simultaneously annoying at the same time. Just like the whole series. Annoying, because I'll end up asking questions like: did he actually die at the start? Is he still in a coma? Was Gene Hunt the "malignant growth" or was it actually the new 'guv' and he was always living a glorious life? Or, teasingly, was it all the audience's hallucination (see absolutely final frame)? Certainly, by the sounds of that beautiful cover of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" to tickle you. Are we back in Kansas?

I was going to bore you all to death with 1960s TV series "The Prisoner". At this point in TV history, it was possible for the late Sir Lew Grade to hand power to one individual (Patrick McGoohan, a true television auteur) and walk away. The result was a switchboard meltdown when the final episode was screened. A true acid-trip ending to end all TV series. "Twin Peaks" in 1992, was the only TV series to come close. "The Prisoner" ending left you pondering whether you were still a prisoner, as you walked into your house from your flash car, then back into your car and into the sunset.

"Life On Mars" had an ending that left you questioning reality, but nothing that would involve the massive customer complaints that the "The Prisoner" generated. True art pisses the "The Daily Mail" reader off, rather like 'Brass Eye' did. Ultimately, "Life on Mars" still gave a heavily postmodern wink from your idiot box. But it made me laugh and it made me cry. Compared to nearly everything on television at the moment, surely that's utterly life affirming? I can't wait to see the feverish, face-in-the-pillow 'alternative' ending that Mr Matthew Graham dreamed up. Can't wait for the DVD extra features.

Five stars out of five stars. "I don't give a tart's furry cup what you think, Tyler!!".

Vote Saxon indeed. Roll on John Simm's next enigmatic incarnation, post-Van Gogh and post-Sam Tyler. I salute you, as always.

An Audience With King Lear

A few months ago, I embarrassed myself with such incredible ferocity that a friend of mine had to dig me out of the floor as I'd screwed my heels further and further down as the night progressed.

I went to see King Lear one Saturday. Anyway, there I was, standing in the foyer of this theatre, awkwardly shifting from foot-to-foot. I was supposed to be accompanied by an actress friend of mine to watch the production, but she was running late. So I stood alone and anxiously studied the colour of my beer bottle. I know the director and he spotted me, took pity on me and proceeded to introduce me to some people he knew. After meeting and greeting, I discovered that a lot of the people were, unsurprisingly, in "the show we call biz". But some were not and it was from there that I attempted a bit of mingling.

First embarrassing moment of the evening then occurs. I get introduced to a young attractive woman - she asks me what I do for a living.

Me: "I could either tell you the truth, and you'd then think I was really boring, or I could lie and it would at least be interesting."
Her: "Cool, I think the lie sounds more exciting."
Me: "I'm a male prostitute."
(She laughs. Heck, this could get fun)
Me: "And what do you do for a living?"
Her: "I'm a lingerie consultant."
(I laugh. She looks frozen-faced.)
Her: "No, that's actually what I do."

Second embarrassing moment happened after the play. I noticed with some amusement that the actor playing the Duke of Norfolk looked like Darius from Pop Idol. I then proceeded, with much merriment, to jolly along the director with, what I thought, were some great gags ("What was he like at his audition? Did you have to tell him not to over-act? Did he do a Britney Spear's song?" etc. etc.). The director looked at me slightly aghast. The actor was Darius's brother.

This particular weekend, I'd also knowingly abandoned a work colleague, so she had to work overtime by herself without any help from me. I later told this work colleague of that weekend's incidents and she proceeded to laugh her arse off at me. Any slight guilt of me not going into the office that particular weekend was offset by me, karma notwithstanding, making a total twat of myself instead.

Who I'd like to meet

As one of the many things you are asked when creating a profile or writing some type of autobiography, a typically austere and slightly archetypal question one answers is, "Who are your heroes? Who would you most like to meet?". It's one of the questions I got asked as I was creating a MySpace profile yesterday. If one is understandably guarded about the truth of self-projection, I might be tempted to answer Nelson Mandela. I've got his autobiography and it confirms everything about the man that I initally thought; a man of such impossibly high integrity and grace, as well as possessing a formidable intellect. It also bolsters my own self-image, to be associated with such a worthy hero.

However, if I analysed this highly hypothetical scenario of meeting Nelson Mandela, the truth of the matter is that it's a path strewn with so many massive bear-traps as to be unbearable (pun intended). If I met him, how do I introduce myself. "Um, yo, Nelson - I sure dig what you did after you left prison. Who am I? Um, I'm an IT programmer with an unhealthy predilection for rubbish cult TV and my biggest achievement has been keeping my pet fish alive". That's just the start of a potentially disastrous meeting. "Um, what are you up to later, Nelson? Fancy grabbing a few nibbles from Kebab Mahal?".

A far more subtle truth to emerge from this blog entry is one of acute embarrassment. An emotion I seem to suffer more than any other. It's also going to be a common theme to this blog - trust me on this. My next few blog entries will touch on this exceedingly painful truth, all told from different times of my life. It will make it clearer why I've malformed into the pained and closeted individual that my friends scratch their heads at.

It's with all this in mind that I've decided a far more relevant person that I'd like to meet and have a serious conversation with, is this bloke.

He's now also under the "Who I'd like to meet" section on MySpace. Now, that's a far less cringe-making proposition for any hypothetical scenario turned real. For sheer idiocy value, I'd have to ask him what made him appear on national US television and how he now feels being an internet phenomenon and then politely refer him to some of my own red-faced exploits on Youtube's flickering monopoly. Have at him (special note: it's Steve Harvey, the presenter, and his expression of "What the fuck are you doing, pal?" that really makes this clip).

Direct to Youtube here.

I Look Like These Celebrities

Apparently, I most look like a cross between Art Garfunkel and Nick Lachey.

After not being especially pleased about this, I decided to try the same trick with two mates of mine - Kenny Watt and Barry Stewart.

Kenny Watt

Barry Stewart

Then I realised I shouldn't be bothered that much, when one of my mates is compared to Adam Sandler and Stephen Jay Gould and the other isn't even recognised as a frickin man!

It was after some consideration that I thought that this face recognition stuff might not work properly and a litmus test would be to try one of my female mates. Since women are traditionally more sensitive about their looks and also because I like annoying her a lot, plus she lives thousands of miles away and can't come around and kick my arse, I tried Christine Day.

Christine Day

Sadly, it appears to have back-fired. Firstly, I overlooked the fact that Christine is quite pretty - so it came as no shock and some bloody-minded annoyance that it claims she looks like a cross between Jessica Alba and Soffia Coppola. Secondly, the few male traits she has, are comparable to such distinguished gentlemen as Ang Lee, Jason Biggs and Stephen Chow.

She'll probably still want to kick my ass though. But she'll have to fly back - long haul.

10 Years Too Late

I recorded a song.

Again, my Luddite sensibilities have got the better of me. I should've got an 8-track years ago, when some of my student mates cum frustrated rock stars were all fooling about with them.

Some 10 years later, I've finally got one. Fiddling about with it is great. I've even tried a "first cut". It's a version of the first verse/chorus of "I Want You Now" by Depeche Mode. And, yes, for those who haven't heard the original, the original is way better. But I'm vaguely pleased that I've managed to create a decent mix - on my first go. Although the bass guitar rather hilariously is the only instrument that gets the beat right in the fifth-from-last bar. Serves me right for doing everything manually without a sequencer.

If people end up liking this stuff, I'll try posting full songs - rather than the fragment here. I'm sure as I get better with the recording, I'll shove in a few covers and (gulp!) some of my own songs wot I've written. You have been warned.

Original music and lyrics: "I Want You Now" by Martin L. Gore

Acoustic guitar, bass, keyboards, piano, vocals: Chris Nicholson

Download Self Deluded - I Want You Now.mp3

Luddite Musings

I finally got around to it.

In fact, I finally stopped procrastinating on two things that betray my stern Luddite sensibilities. I refuse to allow gadget envy get the better of me; to me, it's just as bad as the blokes in pubs that talk about cars. But I did eventually get an MP3 player a fortnight ago. Plus, this new blog from me furthers the other niggling little thing that I needed to get launched.

Enjoy, by all means.