Friday, 6 November 2009

The Death of the Line Up Change

I love the story of Rock and Roll as much as I like Rock and Roll itself.

I love the story of Rock and Roll more than I like Rock and Roll itself.

Once, back in my glory days, I was flown to Stockholm for a promotional day. The ‘indie’ press officer wasn’t available so I got the ‘metal’ press officer. We talked about Bruce Dickinson all day. I didn’t care, I’ll talk about any of this shit for as long as you like.

The story of Rock and Roll is being spoilt however. The ending is being changed, the best bits taken out.

We have already lost the ‘break up’ to the endless hordes of reforming bands. Our music biographies are getting unwanted codas and messy epilogues.

Not only that, important chapters are being removed, namely the ‘pivotal line up change’, Brian being replaced by Mick and then Ronnie, Pete getting ditched for Ringo. Do you prefer the Bon Scott or the Brian Johnson era AC/DC? That type of thing.

I miss the excitement of bands getting new members. As I teenager I loved the Dammed. They had a line up change every week. I had a notebook to keep track of who was on bass. The band had an ongoing narrative that demanded loyalty.

Ian McLagan (of the Small Faces) once told me my favourite line up change story; “Mick Fleetwood told me to come over and meet his new singer and guitarist. Now look, Lyndsey is a girl’s name and Stevie is a boy’s name. How was I supposed to know?”

So why don’t bands replace missing members any more? I know that the Rolling Stones have had a bass player since Bill Wyman went off metal detecting. I can even tell you his name. His name is Daryl Jones and he has played with the Stones for 16 years.

But the Rolling Stones I see in photos and videos don’t appear to have a bass player. Like a half formed group of teenagers in their parent’s garage.

Similarly when it comes to publicity shots, REM seem to exist without a drummer. They obviously need a drummer and have one all the time at shows and recording sessions. His name is John or Brian or something.

Bon Jovi currently have an absurd personnel. They are ostensibly a ‘rock’ band with just keyboard, guitar and drums.

Something is being taken from us; the unveiling of the new member, the new sound, the new look, the myth of the band as a gang, an ongoing adventure. They’ve ruined our Rock Family Trees. Do we enter these new members in pencil or brackets?

Worst of all these mutant half bands reveal an unpleasant truth, that the world of music is financial, legal and contractual, that it would cost someone too much money to have the new guy standing in behind Gem and Andy on the back of Heathen Chemistry.

I think the band that appears in the photos should be made to do a concert without their waged accomplices, just once in while, to prove they’re a band. What would the 2003 three piece Blur sound like? I want to pretend these characters just get together and play sometimes for the love of it. As though they were in ‘Fame’.

It’s just more corporate ugliness. Stick the session drummer in the photo. Pretend you are friends who like music.

We used to like those stories.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Jack Hayter

Tonight I’m going on Radio 6 with my friend Jack Hayter to talk about Hefner and the new re-issue of We Love the City.

I first met Jack around 1997. He was playing Pedal Steel on lighted disco flooring at the Paradise Bar in New Cross. The first thing I noticed was that he and his band were laughing. British bands were, and still are, very po-faced on stage. I find playing music on stage to be an absurd activity and find I can’t stop laughing. Never can Jack.

Jack is an unusual musician. Give him a simple sequence of notes to play in repetition and he’ll stare at the guitar as though it’s made from cheese. Give him a song with no instruction and he’ll play beautifully and make the song sound twice as good as it really is. Just make sure you press record.

Last year Jack and me did some shows where we played Hefner songs. Our audience and wage packet doubled. I had mixed feelings. I was glad to be on stage with Jack again and have no problem with playing those songs, but I have a small tolerance with this reformed bands thing.

I don’t care if it’s Pavement, Pixies or Skunk Afuckingnansie, all reformations have cheapened the band in some way. I can’t think of anyone who has pulled it off. Apart from Take That of course.

Despite making it clear that we weren’t Hefner without John and Ant I was worried that we had detracted rather than added to the Hefner story.

Jack and me fell out a little during the shows as well which didn’t help matters. This had nothing to do with Jack and everything to do with the insurmountable sleeping problem I have on the road, which is starting to prove a real barrier to touring.

It’s careless of me to fall out with Jack, especially at our age. Jack is soft spoken, intelligent, creative and wonderfully tender. Amongst all the Hefner related stuff last year we managed to record three or four new songs, which will appear on my next record. I can’t wait for you to hear them.

My favourite time with Jack was in 2001 when we made Dead Media and Practical Wireless simultaneously.

‘Dead Media’ is the album where Jack finally got to be himself in Hefner, contributing space age steel guitar, home made Theremins and even dueting with me on the last Hefner song on the last Hefner album.

‘Practical Wireless’ is a Jack’s only solo album so far, though I know he has enough material for three more. We made it during downtime for Dead Media and it features all the members of Hefner. We hope to make it available again soon.

You’ve been patient with me; here is a link to Jack’s Myspace where you’ll find some of his songs. Jack Hayter Myspace.

Here is an MP3 of one of the 'Jack and Darren play Hefner' shows. It’s from Madrid in December 2008. Franic, Jonny and Dave from the Wave Pictures also appear. It's free and yours to keep.

Darren and Jack play Hefner