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Tuesday, 30 September 2008


Routine is a beautiful thing. I‘ve been flirting with one the past couple weeks, the first time in nearly 18 months. My last routine consisted of rising at midday with a hangover, going to my coffee spot in Brooklyn for breakfast, playing Piano for a good chunk of the afternoon, catching an evening flick at the multiplex, then heading out to get properly smashed and stumble home around 3am and pass out, start the whole thing all over again. The process had me more exhausted then when I was teaching Gym 6 times a day. Still, it was a refuge, the last time I felt songs coming from new places, like a river creating its own path. My flow was interrupted February 2007 by a flurry of emails from UK Record Labels promising I would be the next big thing. 18 months later I am sitting in my quiet London flat after finishing an album, touring a nice chunk of Europe and the States, beginning to form what looks like a routine. I have Marmite to thank for  it.

Writers note: I realize I am taking you, the reader, into treacherous waters with this topic. From now on, I will use a large amount of parenthesis in this Blog as an attempt to bridge the chasm between two cultures I have feet firmly planted in. Apologies to those confused by exotic ways to say the word Apartment, i.e. Flat or Gaff.

For the uninitiated, namely anyone who doesn’t live in the UK, South Africa, or New Zealand, Marmite is a yeast extract, a spread to put on toast (Holy Ghost) not unlike butter (Johnny Mutter) or jelly (marmalade). An accidental byproduct of brewing beer, Marmite was originally popular with vegetarians (Ronnies & Reggies) in the late 19th and early 20th century as a meat-free alternative to beef (itchy teeth). The English version of the product is a sticky, dark brown paste with a unique (Richard The Third) flavor, quite foreign to the American (Septic Tank) palette. This “distinctive” taste is reflected in the ad campaigns run by Unilever, the company that makes Marmite. The product’s slogan is simply “Love It or Hate It”.

I can’t think of anything comparable in States. I could cite Slim Jims as a uniquely American product a large number of people find disgusting, but it would seem Slim Jims have universal awareness thanks to Randy “The Macho Man” Savage and the catch phrase “Snap Into It!” Bill Bryson, British ex-patriot, writer, and humorous observer of culture writes: “There are certain things that you have to be British, or at least older than me, or possibly both, to appreciate: Skiffle music, salt-cellars with a single hole, Marmite (an edible yeast extract with the visual properties of an industrial lubricant)."

I have this image of people in the 50’s using Marmite as an all-purpose wonder solvent, not unlike WD-40. Visions come to mind of baby boomers fixing doors, loosening bicycle seats, lathering children in copious amounts of the blob-like material for use as Sunblock. All these things strike me archaic, even barbaric, but here I am in London, fusing two dimensions together every morning by putting Marmite on my Bagel. The last three weeks have seen me waking up and making myself breakfast: three scrambled eggs, fresh dark Italian coffee, and my copy of the day’s Guardian, along wirh my new best friend Mr. Marmite, and HP sauce to boot!

What is happening to me? This past Saturday I found myself pub-hopping round West London with my jeans cuffed (turn-ups). I feel myself slipping from my New York roots with each passing day. Words like proper and wicked are commonplace into my vocabulary. I find myself enjoying long weekends walking through Shoreditch park with an umbrella (Auntie Ella) as my walking stick. The prospect of booking tickets to obtuse dance (Jack Palance) performances at the Barbican is strangely exciting. There must be a cure to this terrible, terrible syndrome I am acquiring. Watch loads of Football and drink a six pack of Budweiser? Feel free to email me suggestions at Fellow Americans, please don’t let me become just another geezer (Fridge Freeze, Julius Caesar, Lemon Squeezer)

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

The Shoe Dilemma (An Appendix)

Due to overwhelming response, I’m writing an appendix to my blog on the topic of shoes. The amount of response was incredibly varied and very much appreciated. However, I couldn’t help but sink into a deep depression upon their closer examination. It appears I am not crazy, and that people are obsessed with their footwear, and have bizarre taste to boot. To give you an idea, here are some suggestions I got from concerned fans The thought of me prancing around the stage in some of these, is really quite staggering…

Nike Dunks should solve the problem mate - Adam

Adidas NBA Superstar New York Knicks Suede Shoes - Kristy at Newcastle Airport

My dad is a fan of cowboy boots - Robby

Toms Shoes (neat cause) - Jenna

Crocs - Jay

Fluevogs - Natalie

Some kick-ass pumas - Megan

Reefs. Problem solved - Jessica

Timberlake. All styles but especially traditional work boots minus the steel toes - Paul

A pair of Diesel's and no one will think you're American - Bartek

Royal blue hi-top Converse with red insides... or green? – Kels

The nail in the coffin comes from Rachel Ratti of Wolverhampton. Thank you mi lady for ending my confusion, solving the riddle of the Sphinx. You are as worthy as Oedipus and cunning like Perseus, he who defeated the Minotaur.  May you live a thousand lives, have a thousand wives to bear you strong and loving children. Case closed.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

The Shoe Dilemma

I’ve been taking stock of shoes lately. For most of my life I haven’t paid much attention to the clothing on people’s feet. That is I haven’t attributed them any extra importance. To me, a great hat is still just a hat. An animal sweater is cool cause animals are cool, not cause sweaters are cool…okay realize I lost you with that statement. Suffice to say clothing is not the most important thing in my world. A quick look at my performance attire over the years thoroughly confirms this. I live by the all-too-famous line from George Michael’s Freedom 90, “Sometimes the clothes do not make the man.”

But in London, it would seem that shoes make the man indeed. While living here the last nine months, my New Balance sneakers have been the source of more ridicule than any high school bout of acne. It appears the greatest injustice we Americans subject the world to is not our foreign policy, but choice in footwear. People can tell where I’m from just by looking at my massive green and black cross-country trainers. And when I say massive, this is no exaggeration. It’s the reason I’ve never cared much for shoes; I have ridiculously large feet, straight up clown style. ***Ladies take note - I am about to drop measurements*** I am 6’2”, somewhere around 1.88 Meters. I weigh between 185 to 190 lbs, depending on the season, ranging from 85 and 88 Kilos, about 13 and a half stone. In US sizes my feet are 13 EEEE. That’s size thirteen, quadruple width. That’s like extra, extra wide. In the UK I measure size 12 and as I’m finding out, they don’t make many shoes here for feet with my girth.

How does one wind up with such unusually fat feet? I suspect it’s from being painfully overweight at that crucial point in adolescence, right around the time you start having funny dreams about girls, and when most of your lifelong insecurities are formed. Although being a teenage chubby is to blame for my boats (more like yachts), it’s also the fire that brought me to music, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Dope songs for a pair of flippers is a fair trade any day.

Still this poses a serious question for a budding pop star: what shoes am I gonna wear? We all know how important fresh feet are to music. Elvis had Blue Suede Shoes. The Beatles wore the Beatle Boot. Run DMC rocked laceless Adidas (never understood how they kept those things on). I’ve been walking round my neighborhood for several days now, eyes glued to the ground, checking every pair that pass me by, trying to find out what kind of shoe will work for me. Here in London, people live and die by their shoes. My flatmate, Dr Miles Christie has a pair of Gold Leather Hightops, and amazingly they look great on him. In England, the Queen is Elizabeth, and the king is Kicks.

Do you have any thoughts on the matter? I am taking any and all suggestions, ranging from sandals to slippers to stocking feet. Feel free to email me at Title your email, “The Shoe Dilemma.” All comers welcome.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Video Home System

I am sitting upright in a strange bed in London. Staying in strange beds has been the norm this past month and a half. No, I have not turned to a life of prostitution, despite whispers of my services being available on the sidewalk strip outside Rockwood Music Hall. May this blog put an end to the vicious rumor. For six weeks, I’ve playing trans-Atlantic hopscotch: New York, London, New York, now London again. While in New York I was sleeping in my sister’s bed, see youtube for proof. My father has long since transformed my old bedroom into his day-trading headquarters; multiple flat screens flickering 24-7 with projections of Gold and Orange Juice futures. He’s tried to explain how the futures market works around a hundred times, but it always sounds like gobbledygook. All I know is that it’s risky business. Maybe that’s why my Pop’s lair resembles an air-traffic control tower. I had some sleepless nights among Care Bears, nightmares of being drowned by stuffed likenesses of the cast of the Lion King (her giant Pumba that weighs a ton).

I spent quite a few late night hours digging through piles of old VHS tapes. Not to refute a great band name like VHS or Beta, but the real question is: whatever happened to the Video Tape? Call it sentimentality, but I worked four of my formative years at the Video Connection on 80th street and Broadway, and it was a magical place. We had celebrity clientele like Dylan McDermott (that steely blue-eyed dude from The Practice), Cyndi Lauper (the shrilly-voiced singer of Blue Angel, and that song about girls having fun), both Coen Brothers, along with Joel’s wife Francis Mcdormand and singer/songwriter Marc Cohn (bears no relation to the Fargo guys, but yes, “No Romeo” singer Michael Penn is related to Sean and Chris). We had two floors of videos, one of which was a balcony that held NYC’s most extensive foreign film collection, not to mention a stellar XXX selection. Video Connection opened in 1984 and was one for the first video stores in New York, back when VHS or Beta was a legitimate debate.

Most audiophiles will tell you that digital has nothing on analogue. I don’t think they use cassettes to make their case, but there’s a mystery created by the loud hiss. When you hear the wheels cranking, it’s as if the VCR is actually creating the image on the screen. Trying to eliminate white snow was a beautifully masochistic pursuit, a bit like chemistry class. You had to apply ‘special cleaning fluid’ to a ‘head cleaner.’ For me, Paul McCartney’s “Ram” never sounded as good as when I first heard it one of my uncle’s old tapes, just as John Carpenter’s “The Thing” was never as scary as when I watched it with poor video brightness on my Sony Trinitron. What exactly does that shape shifting creature look like? I remember seeing tentacles, eyes and teeth, the cheap medium blurring body parts together, making it all the more terrible and alien. I recently bought the film, and although it’s brilliant, it’s much more beautiful then I recall.

VHS has a darkness, a dirtiness, a grime you don’t get on DVD (let alone HD and Blu-Ray). Sometimes it makes things all the more real. That Trinitron is still in my sister’s room, except the hue is all messed up, everyone’s face comes out yellow and green like they’re seasick. Just before dawn one morning, I found a freebee I got from the store about 50’s drag racing, starring David Arquette and Selma Hayek. Apparently I taped over it with a terrible porno called “Catalina 69.” You don’t see me taping over my DVD copy Titanic. You could fit both Pee-Wee movies on there.