I now pronounce you band and album… you may now kiss your sanity goodbye!
For the epic tale of how we made the ‘Feels Good to Feel Good’ album from an old fairy liquid bottle and half a ball of string you can refer back to previous blog posts… it’s all there, in all its raw glory… this one isn’t about that.
This is all about suddenly having the Master files in your hand and realising that you’ve now actually got to make things happen to get this beast out there…!
And then it hits you…! But you got lucky, so next time you attempt to cross over to the other side of the road you’ll probably make sure you’re not daydreaming about a big showbiz style album launch with chorus girls, dancing seals, and fizzy pop again…! Ah! but psychologically it does feel a bit like being in a metaphorical motorway pile-up, bang, bang, bang… and just when you thought you’d got everything covered…. another bang hits you! Phew!
Maybe it was just the strong, afternoon coffee, but when Gary Frost handed over those Master CDs to Jeff & Sack on a sunny afternoon in late May at the Fat Cat Brewery Tap in Norwich, there was a moment where it felt we’d only got a thousand metre start to outrun a humongous looming pyroclastic cloud of intense pressure and stress… but then, maybe that was just Sack being a caffeine drama queen..?
In boring old realityville the cogs kicked into gears, and the gears pumped up the pistons, and it all became a process of synchronisation and finger crossing! Of course there’s always the glamourous admin to distract attention as well, product codes needed for the CD, promo versions for radio etc. I’d go on but the defibrillator is low on battery! Our first physical port of call however was to the creative warren of Shaun Speight, as we realised that we still hadn’t agreed and finished the album cover design… but one good session, the necessary information and links to ‘Audio Tree’ …our excellent chosen CD printer and reproducer… and before we knew it we’d collected a big box of packaged product to peddle! Now for the serious stuff…
Ethos and agenda orientation
At the time of the official release of the album (…why? …Because we said it was official… so it is), Banjaxeld had become a solid four piece working unit, but we wanted to include both Jamie Roe and Gary Frost at the launch gigs, because they both played on the recording, and we wanted to get as close to that as we could to introduce the album as we felt it deserved to be heard.
The Rehearsal at Matt’s with Gary playing his keyboard parts was like spooky haunting howl in the marshes reunion. In the same room that we recorded most of the album at the start of the process, we were now at the other end of the process some eight months later, and it sounded sweet. Gary enjoyed himself, nailed his parts (…no… that really isn’t a euphemism…!), and we all started to relax a bit… and even when we finally had to accept that Jamie couldn’t make it to a rehearsal before the gig, we still felt reasonably confident all would be magically well on the night.
I have to say that I’m not overly fond of the typical ‘local high profile’ album launch gig and associated hype thing. It seems that these days its becoming a bit like a public ‘celeb’ marriage ceremony… a totally un-necessary, over stated, show-bizzed up, ego fed expense, which often equates to little more than a personal promo exercise for family and friends (…although if they were real friends, they’d just say “don’t do it…!”). Maybe it’s because I come from the old school region of the past, from when glitter was a dangerous concept, and mud was mud! Back when Independent releases were proudly non-music establishment and Indie labels weren’t trying to, and didn’t really want to, pretend to be any part of that product placing industry circus that has shamelessly exploited musicians and fans for decades in order to feed big fat bonuses to bonehead businessmen whose globalising dictatorial capitalist ideals suck the marrow, life and soul out of humanity and its freedom to express itself through creative exploration, growth and expression.
Luckily however, some of us were fortunate enough along the way to escape the deadly glare of the corporate establishment’s media’s brainwashing images and other bile… that’s why I always recommend you keep your sunglasses on… twenty four hours a day… every day of the week… and every moment of your life.
Remember kids… think ‘SHADES’ …Saving humans from the cancer of normality since rock ‘n’ roll invented ‘em…!
Having said all that… we thought we’d better do one of them there launch thingies…! But naturally without the over-the-top, dress it up like Liberace, pseudo showbiz hype…! At first Vinny was excited… then disappointed… because he thought we’d said ‘lunch’…! However, the plan was simply to introduce the ‘Feels Good to Feels Good’ album by playing live as near as possible to what’s on it, and pointing to the ‘point of sale’ pile of freshly pressed CDs displaying their obvious availability whilst awaiting potential purchase. Call us ‘old school’ (I know I already have, but this is your invitation…!), but we actually have a great deal of conviction in the music itself (…otherwise we wouldn’t have gone to all the trouble and expense of recording it!), and confidence in our ability to perform it. In reality all we are doing is what we always do… enjoying ourselves, expressing ourselves, and letting the music speak for itself. Time to bake the pudding.
Back to the Future Radio
Jeff & Sack popped back in to have another little chat with Richard Harrison at Future Radio in Norwich, armed with a brand spanking new copy of the ’Feels Good to Feel Good’ album of course. This time we didn’t have any instruments, we just had half an hour to sit in Richard’s studio, relax with a coffee, naturally …and chat and play a few tracks off of the CD …and generally promo the arse off it!
Thankfully it wasn’t a live broadcast, we were in to record it a couple of days in advance, but it was still very early hours of mid-morning for delicate musicians like ourselves (…we’ve got artistic temperaments to maintain you know!). It really was a bit a blur, we had to be there for 11am to meet Richard, I remember it was a rainy, miserable time of the day, and was glad I wasn’t human enough to have to suffer this on a regular basis. However, Richard was his usual friendly and convivial self (…he’s obviously used to this time of day!), he made us feel welcome, was enthusiastic and complimentary about our music, and the edited interview intertwined with album tracks broadcast on the show a couple of days later, sounded really relaxed and Richard even made us sound quite human.
The album launch pad… The Fat Cat Brewery Tap… Friday 27th June 2014 (T – 0)
Whooohoo…! (…whatever that means..?)… Flutterbies in the gut and a healthy impatience masquerading as anticipation… helps keep one on one’s toes! And finally, after all the months of palaver and mental agonies, we were actually, in real reality, at the point of delivery.
Before kicking the evening off proper, as is our way we like to cook up a sound check. As per is the norm we run through a number to check instrument levels and monitor mixes… and sometimes… just sometimes… we go off on a little bit of a jam… which is exactly what occurred… with serendipitous spontaneity it kind of just happened! A funky, sleezy, foot-tappy kind of vibe… and then we remembered that we still needed to sound check our guest artists as well..!
Our first guest artist / lamb to the slaughter, actually only travelled about three metres to open for us… but what a three metres! Jude Garrod, also known to his customers as ‘arf a larger n a pakit of krisps please Jude’, extracted himself from behind the bar, peeled off his apron, picked up his guitar, and proceeded to drive everybody to drink…! Ha ha! Seriously though, Jude has a beautiful voice, and an infectious personality. A natural performer, he just banged through his tunes to the appreciative delight of the audience… there were still plenty of people buying drinks …but then they serve bloody good real ales at the Fat Cat Brewery Tap, so no surprises there.
Hot on anybody’s heels, let alone Jude’s we had the inimitable blues powerhouse duo that is Dove & Boweevil. Lauren Dove has an incredible voice …but also with a great blues feel, and the personality to front one of the classiest blues combos this side of Louisiana. Combined with Bo (Mark Howes), a superbly natural blues guitarist who has immersed himself not only in the delta style, but also in the delta culture, they make a damn fine noise, and it’s even better when the full band are backing them. Nevertheless they work really well as a duo, Bo’s slide guitar work in particular is sublime, and with Lauren’s range and feel they had the audience pretty much in their hands.
Wow! …follow that.
It’s a strange old feeling, a cruel mixture of unreasonable nervous anxiety, an impending indelible judgement on a body of work that exposes the expression of not only the songs, but also of the performing musicians. Add into the equation the guest players, including Gary Frost’s debut performance on keyboards with us for a couple of tracks, and the shifting dynamics throughout the gig with Jamie Roe also playing with us on several other tracks. All that, juxtaposed with us having played the majority of the songs as a band for some considerable time, and our usual unfettered enthusiasm to get up there and do the most enjoyable job in the universe of this world… (I do not exaggerate… for once!), and having the pleasure of being supported and entertained by a couple of real classy acts, you’d think it should all just be a breeze…?
So, we got up, we played, we bantered, we got Gary up, we played, we bantered some more, we got Jamie up, we played, we even threw in a couple of new songs, we encored, we sweated… and yeah, it really was a breeze..! As boring that sounds, and it might just have been more interesting if we’d been invaded by aliens, it was still a great evening, and one that will live in my memory all the more for having to write this blog about it! Even so, I have to admit that my memory of a lot of the evening is still floundering in hazy speculation. Everything seemed to just flash by, and I feel like I needed a rewind and a slower speed button. It really is difficult to take it all in when you’re so closely entwined in trying to ensure that the whole process happens with some cohesion. Come to think of it… we could have been abducted by aliens… and fiddled about with… I guess we’ll never truly be sure …Watch this space….! (pun).
Visual evidence of Gary Frost’s debut apperance with Banjaxeld. From the album launch @ The Fat Cat Brewery Tap. Video by Emma French.
It was a happy mood for the drive home afterwards… and quite a big relief to have finally delivered the goods, so to speak, and conquered that first big psychological hurdle and ‘officially’ got the album out there… and survived to tell the tail. Four or five hours later when the adrenaline buzz started to calm down… I realised just how sore my fingers were. Oh well only another two gigs to do this weekend… and as my old Chinese Taoist bamboo kazoo music teacher used to say… there’s still bones under that there torn and worn flesh!
The album ‘first orbit launch party’ …Club Uniquity… Friday 4th July 2014 (T + 7)
Just as rapidly, our ‘week off’ between gigs disappeared in the mental preparations for our visit to The Duke’s Head Barn in Somerleyton for part two of our ‘tour of two places we play regularly’ anti-tour, to brazenly promote our new debut album… it’s called ‘Feels Good to Feel Good’ by the way. There’s a link at the bottom of the page.
Mr Club Uniquity, Paul Johnson, has been a champion of Banjaxeld virtually from the start, giving us one of our very first gigs before we were officially Banjaxeld and frying us alive with his solar flare capacity stage lighting in the process! We’ve played a few gigs there since, always been well received and managed to enjoy ourselves.
However since our last visit there in December, Club Uniquity had undergone a number of changes and a subtle but distinct revamp. It really hasn’t lost any of its unique and intimate identity, but simple things like moving the mixing desk, improving the P.A. system, reducing the stage lighting, adding a green room, and stage access directly behind the stage, as well as changing the décor and layout of the sofas and chairs, all appears to work nicely within the ethos of the venue.
As with the Fat Cat we wanted to make this a real event, and considering we again decided not to charge any entry, I think we provided a damn good evening of entertainment… for free!
Our first guests for the evening were The Osborne Files, the main squeeze of our occasional stand-in drummer, nice bloke and mate Mac (Martyn McCarthy). I hadn’t seen them before, but they’re well worth checking out, they’ve got a nice sound going on and they’re really nice people too. Fronted by singer / songwriter Ian Osborne, they have a real laid back feel, and the audience really appreciated them… and they certainly made some new friends for their efforts. We in turn were glad to be able to introduce them to the discerning Club Uniquity crowd… I’ve a feeling it’ll just be the first of many for them there.
If you’ve ever seen the Duracell battery adverts then you’ll have some idea about the little powerhouse duo that is Millie Manders with her guitarist Davide. Millie has a strong stage personality, not afraid to play the good humoured banter with Paul Johnson, even if it kinda gets a little raucous at times, but when she sings everyone listens. Pulling out a great little set wasn’t enough for Millie though and with a little playful cajoling she managed to get Vinny, Sack & Jeff up on stage with her and Davide to jam a couple of her songs. We had a great time adding some Banjaxeld style Island rhythms, and just a bit of funk! And getting the chance to play on a big crowd pleaser by Millie, ‘Thoroughbred Potato head’ was a pleasure to corrupt musically.
We did manage to grab a quick break and cool off a little, before doing our thing. We went for pretty much the same format as the Fat Cat set …except we didn’t have the services of Mr Jamie Roe …who was off sunning himself with his lady in Turkey. So we did a slightly shorter set, which given the heat up there was fine by us. Gary still came up and played, and nailed his parts again…! (Okay, you can have that one… I’ll admit it’s just filthy smut!) The Club Uniquity audience were lovely… there were lots of familiar faces to catch up with… even Bryan Halsey showed up (I think he just wanted to remind us that we were on his radio show the next day…?).
Once again, in the blink of an eye, or it may have been the moon? …it was time to break down the gear and pack it all away… until the next gig of course! As I recall the many conversations in the car park at the end of the evening went on long beyond the venue lock-up time, illuminated in the end simply by the light of the blinking half-moon and the celestial rhythm of the twinkling stars… if only we’d brought Shed Cat, we could’ve recreated the ‘Feels Good to Feel Good’ album cover live…!
‘Band of the Month’… July..? No, I always tell the truth!
The very next day, when we eventually realised it was the very next day, we headed off down to the south east tip of Suffolk, at a very reasonable musician’s time (…that’s the ‘pm safe zone’ by the way!), with acoustic guitars and a smokin’ hot CD to deliver to Bryan Halsey as July’s ‘Band of the Month’ guests of ‘The Band’ show on Felixstowe Radio 107.5FM.
Having agreed to play a couple of live songs, as well as Bryan playing a selection of tracks from the CD, we decided we’d prepare and do a couple that weren’t actually on the album, Distant Smiles & Crazy like a fool (Sack time blues). With just three acoustic guitars and a Cajon… and three rather sweet voices… it felt more like busking than performing live on air, but we wouldn’t be Banjaxeld if we weren’t up for a challenge!
Not sure if there is a podcast available of this session, but here’s kinda’ what it should’ve sounded like…
As with the last time we visited, we got a great reception, but this time they’d learned a valuable lesson… and the much needed complimentary coffees came quicker and more frequently. We managed to arrive almost an hour before the show started at 6pm, so we had time to relax and get set up for the two numbers we would be performing live, as well as drinking lots of coffee.
All the guys and gals in the studio were great to work with. Matt and Jeff did the really easy part of chatting to Bryan in his booth, so Sack and Vinny did some hard sitting around, pacing around, playing I spy, dominos, a couple of rounds of whist, a mini backgammon tournament, opened negotiations on a unilateral peace treaty between Norfolk and Suffolk, and generally wished they’d brought respective pasties, pies and packed pre-prepared pick-nick hampers (…for medicinal consumption and relief of course!) …whilst awaiting our slot.
We did leave some ’Feels Good to Feel Good’ CDs for sale in the shop at the front of Felixstowe Radio, so if you’re in the area you can perk up your ‘Feel Good’ levels simply by popping in and purchasing a copy. And it’ll have the butterfly effect of perking up our ‘Feel Good’ levels too…!
It was an odd feeling at the official end of our ‘official promoting the album period’. Travelling back from Felixstowe in the dreamy glow of the glorious summer evening daylight, there was the sense of relief that it had all somehow come together, but then slowly sinking back into the reality of the prospect of returning to the drudgery of ‘normality’. Thankfully, the ‘normality state’ for us musicians is somewhat more ‘un-normal’ than your average ‘civvies’ normality’. Its true that we still suffer the ‘normality’ of others… but there’s always a chord for every mood, and a blue note for every searing emotion.
And of course we’ll still be promoting the album at every gig, and every opportunity. We’re already working on lots of new material we want to bring to the development of the next project, and we have options for taking our music in new directions that will give us the opportunity to experiment and try new stuff… and one way or another life in Banjaxeld is never boring!
The other video of Gary Frost’s debut with Banjaxeld… from the album launch @ The Fat Cat Brewery Tap, captured by Emma French.
Stroke the lamp…! Back to the album stuff…
Just when you thought it was safe to put your reading glasses away… we’ve decided to grant you access to the innermost cobwebs of Banjaxeld and the rather splendid ‘Feels Good to Feel Good’ album. We’ve had a few requests for the lyrics to the songs on the album, but we feel it would be a major creative injustice to just post the words to the songs without some background rumblings on their construction and their journey to being chosen for our debut offering. Via the process of dissection and examination we will aim to get right down to the nitty-gritty of what inspired the writer, how it was created, and how it has translated. In addition we will endeavour to include the personal views from the other members of the band on their interpretation and understanding of the songs that they played on.
So don’t touch that dial…… especially if it’s a crocodile…!
Check out the samplers for the ‘Feels Good to Feel Good’ album… but be warned if you buy a copy of the CD… it will wear out your CD player…!
Stay loose people …………….…and buy a copy the album!
Much Banjaxeld love x
Our new album ‘Feels Good to Feel Good‘ is now available to make you feel good… why not make us feel good and get yourself a copy…. they’re available either at our gigs (…don’t be shy!)… or you can order from: banjaxeld.co.uk
……or simply ‘click on the pic’ to get there quick…..
Future Radio: www.futureradio.co.uk/
Gary Frost (MDM Recording / Icecube Records Ltd): www.Icecuberecords.com
Dove & Boweevil: www.doveandboweevil.co.uk
Jude Garrod: www.soundcloud.com/jude-garrod
Johnski Le Rue: http://www.facebook.com/john.askew.35
Broken Seven Events: www.facebook.com/pally69
Shaun Speight: www.behance.net/speightartist
The Osborne Files: www.facebook.com/osbornefiles
Millie Manders: www.milliemanders.wordpress.com/
Jamie Roe Band: www.jamieroeband.co.uk/
Club Uniquity: www.clubuniquity.co.uk
Felixstowe Radio: www.felixstoweradio.org.uk/