About Max Fagandini

Music, history and popular culture

Catapulted into the Real World

University life now sits behind me, a sort of hazy fever-dream of sex, drugs and rock and roll gigs, coffee and the occasional bit of work, and with that I find myself chucked out the door onto the Sidewalk of Reality, like an unruly drunkard at closing time at the Pub of Life. Stripped of the warm embrace of the education system (haha?) I stumble onwards, and turn towards that one thing that’s generally guided my way in times of strife: music.

Enjoying continued work with my good friends at Down for the Count and seeking out further opportunities with The Martinis (and yes, our album is still to come – I’ve put up some samples for your aural pleasure) are the main plans, supplemented by further work as a session musician, instrumental teacher and band leader. The creation of a big band is another project, following the discovery of a DVD-R full of charts long thought lost to the abyss while clearing out my room at home (OK, Mum, being tidy does have its merits I suppose). I’m also going along to my first rehearsal with the amazingly-named King Groovy and The Horn Stars on Thursday, so that ought to be fun.

At the advice of my stalwart and talented friend Claire Waterhouse I’ve also put myself out on this Internet thing, with profiles at UK Music Jobs and StarNow, so feel free to stop by those pages if you want to give me some work/fancy a laugh. They are both in progress, so don’t be put off by any lack of photos or anything at the moment. That will be rectified.

As always, I’m always happy to hear from potential clients so don’t hesitate to get in touch through the website too.

In other news, as well as the upcoming Martinis CD, there are also new albums from both Down for the Count AND The Emily Tree to look forward to in the next couple of months! Goodness me, what lucky people you all are. If buying music and supporting local artists isn’t your thing (and if it isn’t then your morals are bad and you should feel bad), then check out some of our upcoming live performances, including The Emily Tree playing at Candied Nonsense at The Wilmington Arms in Clerkenwell on August 2nd, and Down for the Count’s next gig at Winslow Public Hall on September 8th.

Until next time, my lieblings.

The Boat Race Swimmer

I know, it’s been a long while. I’ll save excuses for when I have more time, but I wanted to get down my thoughts on the protestor of the Oxbridge Boat Race while I’m still staring in mildly-amused disbelief at his website.

Before anything else, I want to say that I do get it to an extent – elitism and the void between classes is a big problem in our society. There’s little doubt it’s driving a lot of the less popular legislation that the Coalition is pushing through Parliament. And if you’re going to protest something like that, well, a pseudo-competitive event between the universities of Oxford and Cambridge – no doubt steeped in tradition and monocles and top hats galore – is, in theory, the perfect place.

Still, the whole thing seemed a bit…trivial. I’m still a little uncertain of what exactly Oldfield intended to accomplish by it, other than getting an oar in the face. Sure, now we know his name, and he certainly livened up an event that might not otherwise have exactly set pulses a-racing (pun unintended, for once). But I fail to see how his cause has benefited. Elitism runs rampant in the Oxbridge system and across the country? Get outta here. Seriously, we know already. And I don’t see anyone rushing to arm themselves over it because this one chap decided to take a dip in the river in the middle of a race. Perhaps I’m missing the point, and I’m sure my more politically-minded friends will be quick to hammer it home if I have.

Still. I don’t have much more to say on the subject, but would like to point out some of the suggestions he makes on his website to contribute to the ‘civil disobedience’ and ‘guerilla tactics’ that he feels will win this war on the oppressed masses.

  • ‘[If working for a corporation or government department]…work slowly, make mistakes, loose [sic] documents, sending large documents to clog up email accounts.’ – Ideal! Keep it up and you’ll be out on your arse by dinner. Being deliberately incompetent isn’t going to change the world, it’ll just get you fired.
  • ‘If you clean the bathroom of someone that considers themselves elite or is an elite sympathiser, like a right wing professor, can you never put loo paper in their bathroom?’ – That’ll learn ’em!
  • ‘If you work in a restaurant where elitists eat, can you serve the food once it is cold or cook the wrong food?’ – What a good thing that our restaurant workers so hate receiving tips.
  • ‘If you are a builder repairing the house of an elitist can you also bug it and share the footage and audio online?’ – Holy crap. Is this…is this any sort of legal?

Alright, so I’m giving him a bit of a hard time here. In the interests of fairness, I’ll highly some of his suggestions I actually quite like too:

  • ‘Can you take up the time of a ‘VIP’ you work for by arranging time consuming meetings, asking as many questions as possible? Can you make them late?’
  • ‘If you work in a call centre, can you refund people and find the best discounts?’
  • ‘If you are a student and attend a talk, can you challenge the professors? Can you take the stage and highlight to the audience the work they have done in contrast to academia?’
  • ‘If you have a tow truck company can you park in front of Nick Clegg or David Cameron’s driveway, accidentaly? Could you tow their car away?’ – I don’t actually think this is doable, but I do think it’d be really rather hilarious. Make it happen!

And that’s possibly enough of that for now. Watch closely for news of upcoming gigs – the summer draws near, and I should have more time to update (he said optimistically…).

Freedom

Exams are over and I have a brief window of freedom before I’m tied down with rehearsals and concerts in the upcoming couple of weeks. So, I decided to pick up L.A. Noire, the new detective-’em-up from Rockstar Games. Short story: I love it, it’s great.

The facial animation technology for which people have been foaming at the mouth is…well, let’s just say it deserves the attention. It’s a key part of the gameplay too – a hefty chunk of your time is spent interviewing witnesses and suspects, and you can inspect the facial tics and tells that will betray a liar. It’s an ingenious mechanic.

What I found funny is that it’s not necessarily the type of game you’d expect from Rockstar, famous for the Grand Theft Auto titles. It’s refreshing to see games like this and Red Dead Redemption (which is arguably a Wild West GTA but still a great game, different enough in its way) coming from the studio. I loved GTA 4 but it’s nice to see a little variety.

Anyway. I’m making the most of my freedom while it lasts, because rehearsals start tomorrow for the UCL Summer Ball, followed by a smaller quintet gig, the Musical Theatre society gala and various gigs with Down for the Count.

You can see why I enjoy the time off.

Minor Updates

A quick mid-exams update (four down, one to go!) – I’ve added the wondrous Max Holloway to the Associates page, along with a link to his and Alex Goodall’s current project involving alcohol and DIY (what could be better?). Hit him up if you want a class tenor sax player for anything, you won’t be disappointed.

Hasta mañana! Or something.

Manners Cost Nothing

I’ve worked with a few people in the past who’ve taken what I view as a very negative approach to the music business (and indeed, the world in general): a sort of ‘take-no-prisoners’, very, ah, self-centric approach to things. Why, a previous acquaintance of mine even used that cliché phrase ‘I’m not really here to make friends.’ Whoa there! Settle down sport. This isn’t an action movie. This is real life, and however you try to dress it up, you’re going to need other people.

It’s not even just a cynical commentary on business, though an ability to network efficiently and know the right people can get you pretty far. Being friendly to other people can simply make life much easier and more pleasant. Doors open up for you, and they’re doors that are made of awesome stuff like bacon and gold. Here are a few ways to spread the love, most of which may not even get you arrested.

  • American comedian Jimmy Durante once said ‘Be nice to people on your way up because you meet them on your way down.’* Be nice to people serving you in coffee shops, supermarkets, bars and, well, pretty much everyone. We get it, you’re a massively ambition-driven go-getter full of so many words like ‘synergy’ and ‘consumer-centric paradigm shifting’ that they’re coming out of your ears. Great. Go you. That doesn’t mean you’re above a ‘please’ or a ‘thank you’ to the people around you. You start with something that basic and maybe you’ll be able to break up the monotony of your day with a pleasant conversation or two.
  • It’s not all about you. If you’re trying to build a network of contacts, you can’t just hand out a business card and wait for the rest to happen of its own accord. Take the freelance musician biz – do some scouting yourself and, if you find a gig or something that you can’t do for whatever reason, pass it on to one of your contacts. Big other people up and you’ll often find that they’ll do the same in return. Example: in case you’d forgotten, Down for the Count’s big live gig in Winslow, On The Town, is coming up soon, and you’d be a fool to miss it. Now, with any luck, they’ll give me a bathtub full of money. Right?
  • Now this one may come out of left field a bit (was that a baseball idiom? What is happening to me?) but being nice to people can actually just make them like you more and make your presence more tolerable. I know, right? That is some mind-blowing stuff right there. But it’s important – if people don’t like you, they’re not going to want to work with you, they’re not going to want to be around you and they certainly won’t go to the extra effort of not spitting in your coffee in the morning. Just a heads up.
  • Just try and smile a bit more. Finding even that difficult? Listen to music you find awesome, read something entertaining, do some sort of menial task that nonetheless revitalises you with that ‘job well done’ feeling. Britain is possibly the worst country in the world for spotting happy-looking commuters en route to whatever toil they’re engaged in today. Seriously – the average Tube train is a veritable picture of despair. So buck the trend and go around looking like you’re actually have a pretty good time – people will generally either think you’re crazy (and really, aren’t we all a bit crazy?) or will be buoyed, however mildly, at the possibility of a non-miserable journey.

It’s important to remember that being nice is not the same as being a doormat. Try and avoid being guilted or emotionally blackmailed into doing something, saying something, or being something you’re not. If someone’s trying to take advantage of your good nature – and there will be those who will try and take advantage, it’s how people are wired – you go ahead and slap that bitch up call them out on it.

Anyway. That’s enough moralising for one evening. For those of you keeping score, the Martinis CD is still in the works, and you definitely should all come to On The Town – it’s going to be fantastic.

* That quote has also been attributed to Wilson Mizner, another American wit, in case you were wondering.

It’s Pelvis to be Rectangular

The Martinis headed over to The Bull’s Head this morning for a recording session and I have to say, it was great fun. It didn’t look good when I got to Vauxhall and discovered that 90% of the trains that I could get to Barnes were delayed by unspecified amounts of time owing to an incident at Clapham Junction, but we all got there in the end and actually only ended up starting a little later than I’d planned. We got 6 tracks down over the course of the morning and I’m very much looking forward to hearing the masterful Craig’s final mix. A big thanks to everyone involved, and watch this space for CD news!

I was thinking on the way home about different musicians’ approaches to these sorts of occasions. I’ve played with some people who deal with this sort of thing with an air of ‘professionalism’ that borders on suffocating – no laughs to be had there. At the other end of the spectrum you get some musicians who can’t really hack the organisation that has to go into these sessions – and there is an awful lot of stuff to be sorted out, both in advance of the session and when you’re actually in the studio – and end up losing sight of what they want to do. I like to think we hit a happy medium today: much banter was had and I got the feeling people were enjoying themselves, yet we approached the actual recording bits with such a real sense of thoughtful, concentrated musicianship that I can’t wait to hear the final mix. Nice one guys and gals.

What’s in the daily news? I’ll tell you what’s in the daily news…

So in the midst of revision, rehearsals and recordings I find the news (plastered across Facebook, Twitter and various other corners of the Interweb) about Osama bin Laden’s death. People seem to be equal parts thrilled and wary about it and I have to say, I can see why.

It is, of course, pretty great news – he was definitely a Bad Man and it’s good to see a conclusion to ten years of searching for him. And as an added bonus we have the pleasure of his death happening under Obama rather than George W Bush – one fears we might never have seen or heard the last of it from the American right if Dubya had been ‘responsible’ for the end of Osama.

But on the other hand we have two things to consider: firstly, bin Laden was not the sole thing binding Al-Quaeda together. Far from it. They’re still there, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they were pretty pissed. I don’t want to come across as a crazy fearmonger but we should probably keep alert. Secondly, the end of bin Laden accomplishes one of the USA’s more concrete aims for their presence in the Middle East. So…what are they to do now? I sincerely doubt they’ll just up and leave. I think the next few weeks will be very telling.

I know, I know. ‘Quit it with the serious stuff!’ Well, on a lighter note, Down For The Count is taking to Don’t Tell Fred in East Sheen for a live gig this Friday (6th May), and the Martinis are heading to The Bull’s Head in Barnes for a recording session on Wednesday. Very exciting stuff. Watch this space for details of our CD!

End of term, and not a moment too soon

So I shut my finger in a lift door for 4 floors a few weeks ago, and typing is still weird for me as one side of it is still kind of numb. On the plus side, I…well, there isn’t really a tangible upside to it, but people laugh at the story and give me that look that implies it’s exactly the kind of thing they’d expect me to do, so there’s that I guess?

We’re a little way into the Easter holidays now, though it’s only felt like it for a few days for me – contrary to my belief up until about a week ago, 6000 words on the comedies of Aristophanes do not, in fact, write themselves. That said, setting the general essay-panic of the last couple of weeks aside, I found the whole process quite enjoyable – I kept finding interesting articles and the like that I wanted to shoehorn into my dissertation (it was technically an ‘extended essay’ but dissertation sounds as though I did more work for it), and it made me glad that I’d sent in an application to do an MA next year. Well, you don’t want to be doing something you don’t enjoy, do you? Besides that, I also found this wonderful blog that presents a…somewhat different take on a number of myths. Hysterically funny stuff.

Speaking of next year, the Bloomsbury Theatre will be in for a treat in the form of UCLU Musical Theatre Society’s Guys and Dolls in the first term, directed by a schoolfriend of mine, Nick Goodman, and with myself as MD. It’s going to be a cracking show and will probably be the first week of December or thereabouts, so keep it free! (Also keep it real.) More details as and when, but for the time being I need to brush up on my ‘waving my arms around like a loony’ skills.

I’ve been preparing for various gigs and the like coming up by shopping around to see about upgrading some of my equipment – new mutes, a clip-on bell microphone, things like that. Have to say, Dawkes seem pretty good and they come well-recommended. I’m also looking forward to finally buying a flugelhorn this summer, at long last. Any recommendations on that front will be duly noted! Oh, and money. Gifts of money.

Other exciting upcoming events:

21st MayDown for the Count bring you a fantastic live gig at Winslow Public Hall: On The Town! Celebrating a brand new recording, signing up with several new agencies and even a music video (I know right), it’s set to be a brilliant night. Get tickets from their website before they run out!

4th June – UCL-goers et al, take note: UCL Jazz Society are going to be rocking up to the Summer Ball this year. After the success of Sextetera last year, the Jazz Soc have been asked to bring along a full big band to wow the crowds this summer. Not to be missed – buy your tickets around UCL or head to this site to avoid disappointment!

There are a few other bits and bobs coming up, but I’ll keep them to myself for now to avoid jinxing them…so watch this space…

The Gatsby of Campania

I return to The Smoke tonight, having come home to finish off an essay on the Cena Trimalchionis from the Satyricon of Petronius which was driving me mad. Only 1,500 words and it ended up taking days to complete satisfactorily. I found myself asking a question usually saved for when spiralling circumstances deposit one in the gutter with a bottle of whisky (probably something embarrassing like Bell’s) in one hand: how has it come to this?

The answer is typically multi-tiered (short attention span definitely factors into it), but I’ll just go ahead and say that a big consideration is that we’re probably not getting our money’s worth at university (cue cheers of affirmation from many humanities students). I’ll make it clear, though, that – by and large – tutors themselves aren’t to blame. Plenty of my own lecturers are passionate about their chosen topic and manage to convey that excitement and interest to their students. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the classes and taken great pleasure in reading around the subject and picking up more information on it.

Unfortunately, although that’s certainly what I had hoped to get out of university, the methods of assessment don’t really seem to want to look into that. Even at a tertiary level of education, we’re encouraged to memorise and regurgitate for exams, and to write essays according to a series of arbitrary rules that seem to me – someone with, I like to think, at least one creative bone in my body – designed to produce a set of twenty nigh-identical papers. I of course value the merits of proper citation and bibliography and the like, but in the course of research I find myself reading articles and books with a decidedly personal flair to them – first-person perspectives, narrative passages, sentence fragments and even the odd bit of slang for good measure – in exactly the manner that would get red pen scrawled over one of our essays. Are we paying those fees for something that feels alarmingly like secondary school all over again?

To put it another way – for £3,125 a year (and more for future students – but that’s a topic for another day) I get between 6 and 8 hours of lectures a week, a maximum of two (restrictive) essays a term, and plenty to complain about. Not really value for money, is it?

But enough of my whining. The new term is beginning, and that means shows and gigs coming up. We’re heading up to Bristol on the 12th February, so if you’re in the area come see a joint gig between the UCLU Jazz Society and the Bristol Uni Big Bands. Warwick Uni Big Band are also coming down to London at the beginning of March, and we have our second term Garage Theatre Workshop show towards the end of term. On top of all that, Down for the Count have a live gig in London planned at some point over the next few months, so watch this space! Or their website, that works too.