Hungry Like The Wolf

Aside from being a fantastic drummer, my fellow Boogieman Kerry had a second equally impressive talent. Back in the days when I needed to pay my way through college, and then university, I had joined a functions/party band, called The Boogiemen. Kerry was already installed as chief hitter of stuff when I joined.

I sort of knew Kerry at that time. We’d both been to Wakey College and had a few friends in common. Kerry had been on the Wakefield music scene with an indie band called Cherry Bus Pass at roughly the same time as I was making a grungy racket with Homegroan, so I’d seen his band’s posters up around the music venues we both frequented of a weekend. Oddly, our paths never really crossed until we found ourselves at a charity dinner, getting changed into our Boogiesuits in amongst stacked up tables and chairs in a glorified cupboard within the bowels of whichever hotel we were performing at that night. It wasn’t at the charity gigs that Kerry’s additional talent came to the fore, however. No, it was at the wedding gigs that Kerry truly shone.

Now, in my experience wedding gigs can go one of two ways. They can either be a joyous, relaxed, affair at which everyone is unified in their happiness for and goodwill towards the happy couple, or they can be soulless, uptight, affairs at which everyone is unified in their desire to let it be known how much the thing cost them to attend, dress for, cater for, book for, hire for, decorate and accommodate, verbally and/or otherwise.

I’m happy to say that, also in my experience, the former proved to be the case more often than not, but I remember one night the father of the bride coming into the dressing room to give us all an extra fifty quid each, which was tremendously generous of him, I have to say. The cost of being on the receiving end of his generosity was, however, for a good fifteen minutes, to stand and listen as he openly boasted, in a way that only self-interested, self-made, middle aged men full of their own self-importance can, about how much money he’d spent on his daughter’s wedding (£40,000 if you’re interested). It was almost like he had, in his head, a mental inventory of every single thing he’d paid for, from the hired Rolls Royce to the wedding dress to the expensive champagne right down to the napkins. Not once did he mention how happy and proud he was of his daughter on her special day, which I thought was quite telling and really quite sad.

I also remember a truly bizarre night in Bury. There were two weddings in the same hotel, in two separate rooms. During the first set, the wedding party who weren’t being entertained by us, or any other band, invaded the wedding party that we were entertaining. Words were exchanged. There was a scuffle. There was a fight. A big fight. The police were called. Two police vans showed up. Many well dressed people were unceremoniously thrown into them and swiftly taken away. The celebrations ended. We went home early.

The best wedding we ever played at was at The Royal Armouries in Leeds, mainly because we all got to dress up as Muskateers and very dashing we all looked too. For proof of this, please see the photo below.

Regardless of the who, what, wheres and hows, Kerry only had one thing on his mind when the weekend came around and The Boogiemen prepared to hit the road to our next wedding gig and that was the buffet.

It has been quite well documented that keeping well fed and watered whilst on the road is quite a difficult thing to do. Many musicians have suffered from terrible malnutrition while out there in the cruel, hard, world of fast approaching white lines on never ending Tarmac in their completely altruistic quest to entertain the masses. Back when The Boogievan was eating up miles of motorway, service stations weren’t the complete shopping/dining experience that they are now. Not all the food groups were fully represented and if, like Kerry, you were a vegetarian, well then, you were pretty much fucked. While the rest of us were chowing down on a hot Burger King or KFC, Kerry would be making do with a sorry looking, pre-packaged, cheese salad sandwich filled with rock hard cheese slices, brown lettuce, smelly onions and moist tomatoes that turned the bread soggy. It was a heart-wrenching sight…

So a good quality buffet, with plenty of veggie options, could really perk Kerry up and provide him with the sustenance required to carry him through the gruelling two 45s, plus encore, that constituted The Boogiemen’s spectacular and unpredictable show. The trouble was, as he wasn’t officially invited as a guest of the bride or groom it wasn’t very often that Kerry was ‘officially’ invited to partake in it. A minor detail, as it often turned out.

There are ways and means for a determined, hungry, drummer to get fed, one of which is to put on your smart looking, if a little musty, Boogiesuit, grab a paper plate and simply join the queue, preferably next to an old dear ripe for the charming. Once your plate is stacked full of exceedingly good, meat free, nibbles all you have to do is excuse yourself, slip unnoticed out of the room and head back to the dressing room. Job done.

Usually, we would arrive at the reception venue early, to get set up and soundchecked while the happy couple were still at the church getting spliced with God and all their wedding guests as their witnesses. Occasionally, upon arrival, the buffet would already be meticulously laid out, hermetically sealed under layers and layers of cling film but still looking mouth-wateringly tempting.

Set up and soundcheck complete, we would retire to the dressing room to sit around scratching our balls and take the piss out of each other, for want of anything more interesting to do, until show time came around. Kerry would often hang back in the function room to ‘fix his kick drum pedal’ or ‘tune his drums’, which we all came to know as code for ‘raid the buffet before the wedding party returns from the church’. The first time this happened, I was absolutely gobsmacked.

After just five minutes or so apart, Kerry returned with his plate so full of buffet that I refused to believe that there was any left for the bride and groom and all their guests, so much so that I went back to the buffet table to have a look, fully expecting to find huge gaps where sandwiches, vol au vents, bhaji’s and buns used to be, along with masses of hurriedly torn up cling film resting on top. When I got there I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was as pristine as when we had left the room just minutes earlier.

I don’t know how he did it but Kerry had pulled of the greatest buffet heist known to mankind in an unfathomably short amount of time and without being spotted by any of the hotel staff, carefully peeling back just enough cling film to gain access, extracting the food then rearranging the rest of the platter so as to fill in any gaps, before sealing it back up and moving on to the next one. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Well, give it a try yourself and you’ll find out.

These days Kerry is playing bass guitar in a band called Wonders of the Yukon, who I’ve just joined as third guitarist. I’m very much looking forward to getting out gigging with Kerry for the first time since our Boogiemen days, but I reckon he’s probably a bit rusty when it comes to raiding buffets. Still, it would be fun to find out…

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boogie muskateers

The Boogie Muskateers!

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Celebrated Summer

Julian was there right at the start.

We got our guitars the same Christmas in 1988, mine a red Squier Bullet, his a black Squier Bullet Bass. Julian was in the first few bands I was in, the first of which was called State of the Art.

Now, I’ve been trying to think of ways to describe this little ensemble in a way that will make it seem somehow as cool as I thought it was at the time, but to no avail. Its just too… odd. There were three of us, two guitarists and a bassist. No drummer. No singer. Not much ability between us. Amongst other crimes against music, we played fairly poor cover versions of Sunday Bloody Sunday by U2 and Apache by The Shadows (including the little dance) while looking like a cross between the children of Ramsay Street and Iron Maiden wearing novelty slippers.

A little later came Pandemonium. This was the band where mine and Julian’s collective teenage heavy metal wet dreams finally came true. We had a proper heavy metal drummer, Marshall amps, pointy guitars and a look that simultaneously said satanic worship and sports casual. By this time, we could actually play too, kind of.

By the time we were 16, Julian looked just about old enough to get served booze in McLeans, our local off license, by which I mean he looked 16. McLeans was run by a bloke known to his customers as ‘Chief’, for reasons which I never got to the bottom of but I don’t think it was because he was formerly a fireman due to the illegal games arcade that he opened in the cellar of the shop that had one way in and no fire escapes. Anyways, much to our delight, along with fire regulations, Chief didn’t much care about age restrictions either, so Julian would go in to buy various bottles of the most potent, puke inducing, fruit based, sugary awfulness that you could imagine.

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Came in two ‘flavours’, apple and pear. Apple was best in the same way that drinking petrol is better than drinking diesel.

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A variety of fortified fruit wines that came in a small bottle full of coloured liquid so luminous that it could double up as a night light if necessary.

Hooch

Hooch is the booze equivalent of a ninja, in that it creeps up on you without you realising it. Feeling good, feeling really good, feeling great, feeling good, feeling good, still feeling good, feeling bleeeeuuurrggghhhhh!!!!

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When Joan, the generally afflicted with poor health OAP who occasionally worked the till in McLeans, said to Julian one day “Have you tried Over 21 love? Its lovely!”, she was FUCKING LYING.

Horrendous booze purchased, our little gang of school leavers would then transfer it into a guitar case (upstairs for thinking) and head down to the football fields at the end of Parker Road, where we would drink as much as we could possibly bear whilst swearing blind that even after we turned 18 we’d still do all our drinking in a field.

Later, when we started writing and performing our own songs, as much as I wanted to be the cool frontman of the outfit, much like Nicky Wire from the Manics Julian was always the coolest member of any originals band we were in together, with his bass guitar slung down by his knees and his brooding rock star intensity, hammering out powerful, precision timed, bass lines with an effortlessness that would make any song I could write sound a thousand times better than it actually was.

Later still, Julian joined a band called Gledhill, who recorded an album with Owen Morris, producer of Oasis’s (What the Story) Morning Glory? Upon the album’s release Gledhill embarked on a UK tour supporting Tears for Fears. I went to watch them play at the Manchester Apollo and was struck by how everyone on the stage looked a little tense… a bit like the desire to play well surpassed their ability to relax. All except for Julian, who just looked right at home on that big Apollo stage.

I’ve known Julian for over 30 years… That’s three quarters of the time I’ve spent breathing thus far. We’ve never spent our friendship living in each other’s pockets, except perhaps for our school years. Like most enduring friendships, in adulthood, we’ve drifted in and out of each other’s lives as the years have passed but, thankfully, we’ve always had the making of music to pull us back into one another’s orbits.

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http://www.philgreenwoodphotography.com

 

Mark Me Absent

Dave and I used to bunk off college to go skateboarding, smoke cigarettes and listen to Metallica. Somehow we’d found ourselves ‘attending’ the Media Studies course together at Wakefield College, having spent the last five years at comprehensive school being aware of each other but not really knowing one another that well. I was the small kid who played guitar but was otherwise unremarkable and Dave was the skater who spent most of his time in the headmaster’s office, or so it seemed.

Pretty quickly we found that neither of us were interested enough in the course to give it our all due to our other preoccupations, such as being a rock star (me) and getting a job and earning some money (Dave), hence the regular bunking off. After Dave had skated his way expertly around the streets of Gawthorpe, popping ollies, kickflips and a variety of rail slides along the way – as I spent most of my time expertly falling off in my futile attempts at getting that damned skateboard to do anything other than just roll along the tarmac – we’d retire to his house, ensuring mum was at work first, and listen to …And Justice For All while leaning out of the bedroom window smoking cigarettes and marvelling at the complexity and speed of Kirk Hammett’s guitar solos or the sheer weight of James Hetfield’s riffs, some of which I’d learned and then showed Dave how to play.

Suffice to say, despite somehow making it onto the second year of the course, neither of us covered ourselves in academic glory. I barely scraped a pass and I don’t think Dave cared enough by then to even turn up for the end of course exams. For a short while we went our separate ways. I went back to college to study something I was actually interested in and Dave got on with earning himself a living.

Its all a bit hazy now but at some point we started spending time together again. By this time we were both self-employed, myself as a freelance sound engineer and Dave ran his own print shop with his brother Danny. Dave was doing well for himself, had his own place, his own car and some money in the bank, which I think was pretty much what he wanted out of life back when we were not studying at college together. His work ethic was second to none. I was self-employed but at that time I lacked the drive and pragmatism that Dave had to be successful – my head was still very much up in the clouds still dreaming of rock stardom. Was I jealous? A bit.

When I formed an originals band called Chief Mclean Dave quickly became our number one fan and for a short time he was our only fan, but his dedication and commitment to the cause and his encouraging enthusiasm for what we did were at once inspiring and unwavering. Certainly, he spurred me on even in times when it all seemed pointless, however, eventually, inevitably, Chief Mclean fizzled out, but out of its ashes arose the second incarnation of The Ned Rierson Trio, a covers band comprising all the members of Chief Mclean plus Dave on guitar.

And that is how I met your mother… I mean, came to be in a band with Dave.

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http://www.philgreenwoodphotography.com

The Green Green Grass of Home

When I was thirteen I joined my first ever proper band. We were called Special FX, later shortened to just FX because… well, I don’t really remember why but thank god we did, I mean, how much better is the abridged version? I seem to recall our fanbase tripling on the name change alone, by which I mean that the few school mates I had probably didn’t mercilessly take the piss when I told them about it. That isn’t to say that they didn’t take the piss at all, but the act of eventually stopping taking the piss is as close as a group of thirteen year old boys can get to expressing a liking for anything outside the norms of playing football and bragging about how many pubes they’ve each grown as you could hope for.

Special FX, later FX, was, shall we say, an interesting sonic experiment conducted by six, occasionally seven, kids who had very little in common musically at all. For example, I was really into Guns N Roses and Iron Maiden at the time and desperately wanted to be old enough to smoke Marlboro reds and drink Jack Daniels out of the bottle, which manifested itself in some cringeworthy attempts to try and to behave as if I was doing both. Eddie, the keyboardist, was the parish vicar’s son who was classically trained on piano and enjoyed the privilege of playing the church organ after hours. This formative experience obviously transferred itself to the band as Eddie’s Casio keyboard found itself jammed on the ‘organ’ setting and original compositions, without exception, very closely resembled a hymn or a funeral dirge depending on whether the song was major or minor.

Neil was the drummer. I was never quite sure of Neil’s musical tastes at the time but he definitely wasn’t into heavy metal and I seem to remember seeing him on non-uniform day wearing jeans with pictures of The Flintstones printed on them, which were very much in vogue in the late 80’s, so I’m guessing he was listening to cooler stuff than I was at the time. Neil was the first drummer I’d ever played along with and although we were all still learning our instruments and honing our skills, therefore not the most proficient group of musicians, one thing I can say about Neil is that he shared exactly the same temperament as almost every drummer I’ve played with since. What is it about affable, happy people that makes them want to twat things?

So, we’d meeting up in the front room of the vicarage every Saturday morning and practice carefully chosen covers that suited the venue, our age and experience, such as Black Sabbath’s Paranoid and Guns N Roses’ Paradise City, alongside original compositions with titles like ‘Teenage Rebel’ and, inspiringly, ‘Instrumental’. Listening to the few rehearsal tapes we made that still exist one thing stands out, which I missed at the time due to being too busy taking the band very, very, very seriously indeed, is how much of a laugh we were having (sometimes, quite deservedly, at my expense), at the vanguard of which was Neil.

Nearly thirty years later and Neil is still that good natured, good humoured and sociable person he was back in the late 80s when, being in a band with a thirteen year old me, he probably needed all those qualities most.

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http://www.philgreenwoodphotography.com

Tattoo

Just before Christmas I got myself tattooed. Why? Well, why not, I guess. Life’s too short not to, etc…

I’ve told this story to a number of folks in the last few months since getting inked, so if you’ve heard it before, tough tits, you’re going to hear it again. Between 2001 and 2007 I lived in Preston, where, at the end of Friargate nearest the university, there was a coffee shop named Wise that I used to frequent on almost a daily basis. On the opposite side of Friargate to Wise was a row of establishments that comprised what I then considered to be the perfect microcosm of Preston and, indeed, any urbanized, highly populated, area found within these fair isles. From right to left there was a pub, a sex shop, a tattoo parlour and a florists. I’ve since revised my opinion, realizing that I was probably doing the tattoo parlour something of a disservice lumping it in with the other three.

There I sat in the window with my panini and a cup of tea watching the comings and goings of the people visiting each of these places (oddly, I don’t think I ever saw a single soul enter or leave the sex shop though, which is a little strange when you consider how much sex there is in the world…) and I always found myself drawn to the tattoo parlour thinking about what kind of tattoo I’d have done were I to one day venture across the street and cross the threshold into a world that I knew absolutely nothing about. Gradually the idea of having a tattoo began to take root and I began creating concepts and designs in my head that I thought would a) look good and b) carry some continuously relevant meaning for me throughout the rest of my existence on this blue ball.

At the time I was studying for a degree in Contemporary Music Studies at Uclan and was having something of a musical awakening, having been exposed to the minimalist composers such as Steve Reich, Phillip Glass and Terry Riley amongst others, so it seemed pretty obvious to me that there should be a musical inspiration behind anything that got permanently embedded into my skin. What though? I was buggered if I knew.

Fast forward 12 years or so and there I was approaching my 40th birthday thinking to myself, if not now, when? I’ll admit, yes, I am a chronic procrastinator, that it took me 12 years of trying, on and off, to come up with a design that I liked to finally decide to let go of the reins and let somebody who actually has artistic talent have a go. So, I took the bull by the horns (the bull having starved to death while waiting 12 years for me to get my shit together) and began my search for a tattoo artist in whom I could entrust my most precious thoughts and philosophies to be rendered visually upon my upper left arm (the upper right has a skin tag on it, which ruled that one out).

Having done quite a lot of research I had discovered a liking for a style of tattooing named ‘Trash Polka’ (very graphic and predominantly in black and red) and decided that that was the style I would go for as it seemed to sit well with the source material, two compositions I created in my third year as companion pieces for my end of year performance that provided the inspiration for the tattoo. A quick Google search ‘trash polka tattoo west yorkshire’ later and I had, miraculously, found the artist pretty much at the first click, a thoroughly decent bloke named Daniel Hartley (Dude Skinz) working out of The All Seeing Eye Tattoo Lounge in Heckmondwike.

Dan and I sat down to discuss my tattoo design last August and I was really pleased to see that he was obviously quite enthusiastic about the concept behind it, it being something he could get his teeth into design wise. So I paid my deposit, booked a date, went home and got on with my life for six months. In the meantime, Dan came up with what I think is a work of genius. He’d obviously taken on board everything I’d offered him regarding what I felt the tattoo should represent and the concept behind it and came at it from angle I’d never even considered. When he emailed me a copy of the design about a week before I was due in the studio I was speechless. I just sat there looking at the screen, taking it all in. Any concerns I’d had previously regarding the permanence of what I was about to do disappeared immediately and I couldn’t wait to have a needle stuck into my arm repeatedly, over and over and over again…

I know what you want to ask. Did it hurt, right? The short answer is yes, it fucking hurt. The first couple of hours weren’t too bad but the 5th and 6th hours were hard work. Still, it can’t have been too bad because I’m planning my next one already, for just after my 52nd birthday.

Thanks to Dan.

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http://www.all-seeing-eye.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/DudeSkinz/

http://www.philgreenwoodphotography.com/halifax-tattoo-collective

Tea for One

Last week I photographed Matt Stacey for my Bandmates project. As a founding member of The Boogiemen (Wakefield and surrounding area’s premier party band) Matt was responsible for giving me my first ‘professional’ gig, so I have much to thank Matt for. For instance, had it not been for Matt I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to visit Guernsey to witness the locals literally rolling around drunk on the street after we’d performed at Guernsey’s answer to Buzz Bar. Had it not been for Matt I wouldn’t have got to dress up as a real life Muskateer when we played at The Royal Armories in Leeds and, had it not been for Matt, I wouldn’t have got to play my guitar in the fantastic Chartbusters show (if you want some rock and you want some roll, who ya gonna call?).

There are a couple of things about Matt that I noticed fairly early on in our time working together. Firstly, Matt’s ability to pack the most gear into the smallest car. Before I joined The Boogiemen as the guitarist I’d occasionally do the sound for a couple of Matt’s other bands. On one such occasion Matt, in what I seem to remember was a Volvo 340, gave me a lift to the gig (at The Half Time Orange in Leicester if I recall correctly), into which we packed my flightcase full of shit I never used plus my headphones, which I did, Matt’s keyboard, keyboard stand, mic stand, amplifier, saxophone and suit bag… in addition to, wait for it… wait for it… the drummer and his drum kit. A very cozy journey it was too.

It was on this journey that I became aware of the second thing about Matt. Between Wakefield and Leicester, a journey of around 90 minutes back in the late 90s, I counted 15 cups of tea consumed by Matt. How big was his flask?! I hear you ask. The answer to which is, there was no flask. There was a travel kettle that sat on the dash and was plugged into the cigarette lighter, a 2 litre bottle of water, a two pint carton of milk and a tea caddy full of tea bags. No spoon required as Matt had perfected the art of brewing up using just the fingers of his left hand, while his right hand remained on the wheel.

Matt’s prodigious tea consumption continues to this day, so I thought it only right that I document it for old time’s sake. However, the travel kettle on the dash is no more, sadly. Matt has replaced in with a gas camping stove, which he places on the passenger seat instead. Obviously not while he’s driving, I hasten to add. Unless he’s stuck in traffic…

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http://www.weddingsaxplayer.co.uk/

http://www.philgreenwoodphotography.co.uk