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.



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.



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.


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…



Toys in the Attic

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You’ve been following me round like a lost dog all morning. What’s wrong?

Err… Nothing. Just at a loose end really, honest.

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We should invite the stereotypical French dude and the flamenco dancing Spanish lady round for tea.

That drawbridge looks like it needs fixing. I could fix the drawbridge…

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I’m going up to the balcony, wanna come?

Washing machine needs fixing too…

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Lovely view up here, isn’t it?

Some of those tiles need replacing. What? Oh, yeah, nice view…

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Are you coming to sit down?

Ramparts need fixing…

Come sit down!

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So, why are you acting like a dick?

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Um… Am I?! Uh, well… I was thinking… That is to say, I was just… wondering. If… Well, the time seems right and I… I thought I’d… enquire… as to whether or not…

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…you’d marry me. Is all.

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Your head wants fixing.

Martha My Dear

Continuing the Bandmates project, I recently met up with Neil McLarty with whom I used to be in an Alt. Country band named Roseville Grand. Neil, like myself, put down the guitar in favour of the camera a few years back and began studying for a masters degree in film making. I met him on the set of his directorial debut entitled ‘Martha’, featuring Rita May currently of ‘Trollied’ fame, (who also appeared in two of the scariest feature films I’ve ever seen, ‘Threads’ and ‘Red Riding: In The Year Of Our Lord 1974’) and Benjamin Harris who recently completed filming on his first feature role ‘ID2: Shadwell Army’.

Time was short, as you might imagine Neil was working to a tight schedule and had generously given up his lunch break to accommodate the shoot, but we did manage to have a catch up while I clicked away on Neil’s portrait and a couple of production stills with the cast. I was pleased to find that Neil had found another creative outlet and if he’s half as talented a film maker as he is a songwriter then Martha is set to be an outstanding debut. Below is an outtake from the shoot, my thanks to Neil and the cast and crew for being so accommodating on what must have already been a massively hectic day!