UPDATED 28/6/16

Caution – some strong language ahead.

So. How about that referendum, eh? Pretty wild stuff. Pretty wild.

I’ve had a day or so to process the result (51.9% in favour of leaving the European Union, in case you haven’t been keeping an eye out), but it still makes my mind reel a bit. I feel disappointed, angry, but most of all I feel just a little bit sweary. So let’s get into it.

There are several things about this result that make me worried, but let’s start with the numbers. The total turnout for the vote was 72.2% according the BBC, which is historically high. That’s important on its own merits – people caring enough about the issues to actually get out and take an active role in democracy should be encouraged. But we shouldn’t miss the fact that this still leaves over a quarter of the electorate missing from an historic and important vote – almost 13 million people.

When I see a number that large I’m confirmed in my support of compulsory voting laws, which Australia, for example, has been making use of since the early 20th century. Don’t support any candidates in an election, or any options in an open vote like this? That’s totally fine – get down to your polling station anyway and spoil your ballot. I cannot stress this enough: this is an option. Your voice gets heard, and your politicians don’t get to sideline your views by saying ‘well, they didn’t vote so obviously they don’t care anyway’. I’m obviously not saying that every single one of those votes would have joined the Remain camp and seen us soar into victory, but it would at least have been (a) truly representative and (b) possibly a little more decisive.

Which brings me onto my next point – I, for one, feel extraordinarily uncomfortable about the closeness of the result. If everything goes ahead and Britain activates Article 50 to leave the EU (and there are a few dim rays of hope on that front), I don’t like the idea that 48% of the country is essentially being told to go and, if you’ll pardon the language, fuck themselves. I felt the same in the wake of the Scottish independence referendum a couple of years ago, where the results came out 55:45. I was totally in support of Scotland remaining the UK at the time, but I recognised then and now that much work needed to be done to improve the relationship between the country and Westminster. But when the results came in, it was treated as an overwhelming victory, despite the fact that almost 2 million people were so disillusioned with the way the country stood in the United Kingdom that they would rather brave independence than carry on with it. How’s that for the democratic process?

I don’t see why we don’t have something like a two-thirds majority rule on things like this (and it plays into our first-past-the-post system in general elections as well, but that’s a rant for another day). If a vote doesn’t hit that sweet spot, well, hey – perhaps it’s a complicated and nuanced issue that shouldn’t be decided by a disillusioned and overwhelmed public with no experience or in-depth knowledge of the issues presented and bogged down with misinformation and scaremongering from all angles? Perhaps it’s time to see what experts think (oh, hang on, never mind, Michael Gove says that we’ve had enough of these pesky ‘experts’ with their ‘facts’ and ‘experience’)?

In the run-up to the vote, the idea that this question should not have been a referendum at all was, to a lot of people, anathema. I suspect that many people are changing their tune on that front since yesterday, if reports of Leave voters immediately regretting their decision are anything to go by. Every fibre of my being wants to scream at these people ‘well, what the ever-loving fuck did you think was going to happen?’ for not realising that a vote to Leave was, surprisingly enough, a vote to Leave. But I get it. I do.

We, the British public, have been taken for a ride by the political class. David Cameron called this referendum in a cynical and short-sighted attempt to score some cheap political points, massaging our egos and saying ‘yes, yes, you’re all so smart, tell us what to do on this whole EU question OK? What’s the worst that could happen?’ The fallout has been devastating – pretty much the only good news (and in context it’s not even that good) is that Cameron’s little stunt has led to his resignation. Let’s run down the ways in which we’ve all (Leave and Remain alike) been fucked over by Cameron, Boris Johnson and the other lovely and colourful characters sitting in Westminster, shall we? Altogether now!

  • Nigel Farage – not an MP, not even an official member of the Leave campaign despite being one of its most vocal proponents, and yet inexplicably on every TV channel at once within minutes of the results being announced – has stated that the much-vaunted ‘give the £350 million we spend on EU membership to the NHS’ was a ‘mistake’. Now, since he has no actual political power here it’s difficult to say what this means for the Leave campaign as a whole – but if the country suddenly starts growing hospitals like an unsightly rash, I for one will be extraordinarily surprised (especially considering the real figure we pay to the EU is much lower).
    • UPDATE: this NHS back-pedalling has now been echoed by Iain Duncan Smith, which gives it a bit more credibility. Hooray.
  • MEP Daniel Hannan, another voice of Leave, has backtracked on his immigration policy, from ‘no more immigrants’ to ‘well, uh, we want to be part of the European single market so I guess free movement then!’, prompting Newsnight presenter Evan Davis to point out the gulf between campaign promises and reality. I would obviously like to make it clear that I support free movement and immigration – but when a bunch of people have just voted Leave in order to stamp down on that sort of thing, this is a colossal betrayal on the part of the campaign.
  • David Cameron has announced his resignation, with a new Tory leader to be elected by October, prolonging the break-up between the UK and the EU. I understand not wanting to go through with it after campaigning on the side of Remain, but on the other hand – this is your own fucking fault, you spineless giblet. This is what you get when you force a referendum on such a complex and emotionally-resonant issue as this.
  • The pound hit its lowest value since 1985 on Friday morning, and the markets have been struggling to recover since. Probably unrelated.
  • Despite promises of continued unity within Britain from both sides, Nicola Sturgeon has announced her intention to push for a second referendum on Scottish independence, and Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness has renewed calls for a vote on Irish reunification. Again, I’m sure that’s unrelated.

There’s more – plenty more. But I need to leave for a gig in 4 minutes, so I’ll wrap this up.

Whatever has happened, whatever will happen, remember this – if you feel disillusioned about what’s going on, whether you’re a Remain voter who feels disenfranchised or a Leave voter seething with righteous rage following the campaign’s furious back-pedalling, do something about it.  This website has several options, including direct contacts for political parties, organisation dedicated to governmental reform, and plenty more. Protests are happening right now (though you’ll likely need to look hard for them – somehow they never seem to make it into the mainstream media) – get out there and make your voice heard. If you don’t feel represented by the political class, tell them so. They sit in the House of Commons because we put them there, and we must make sure they follow our needs and wants in a truly democratic way. I’m rooting for all y’all.

UPDATE 28/6/16 – A few more points that have struck me the last couple of days.

  • That petition for a second referendum has been going crazy. I wrote at length about it on Facebook so I won’t get too into it here, but I’ll sum up by saying that my feelings on it are to treat it, in essence, as a real protest and challenge to the political elite lying to us, messing us around and expecting to get away with it.
  • There’s been an awful lot of information passed around concerning the age brackets in the vote – specifically, that older voters were significantly more likely to vote to Leave, while the young (who, it has been argued, have longer to live with the consequences of this vote) overwhelmingly voted to Remain. A YouGov poll from the day suggested that while 75% of those aged 18-24 voted to Remain, just 39% of those aged 65+ did.
    • This is a tough one, as it seems momentously unfair and is so easy to jump straight into ‘the older generation have fucked us over, I hate them so much’. This is dangerous territory, though, and ageism isn’t the way to sort this whole debacle out. I know plenty of older voters who, for example, voted Remain or voted Leave under false pretences. Just as, while there are xenophobic bigots who voted Leave, not all Leave voters are xenophobic bigots, there are plenty of older voters who aren’t out to wreck your futures. In addition, turnout figures have indicated that turnout amongst the 18-25 bracket was significantly lower than in higher brackets, which can’t have helped. We need to keep our focus on challenging the power structures and systems that led to a crisis like this, rather than squabbling amongst ourselves and ladling in ad hominem arguments – like a call for lowering the voting age as in Scotland, finding ways to enthuse the younger generation on the subject of politics, and making sure that people know there are better ways to protest than simply not voting (see above re: spoiling one’s ballot).
    • I heard an interesting suggestion that, amongst the even older crowd (we’re talking 80+ here) the vote was significantly more geared towards Remain – the theory runs that the generations who can better remember the perils of world wars were less willing to undermine the tentative peace of the European Union. I can’t seem to find much to support this though, so if anyone finds anything let me know!
  • Much has also been made of the idea of a pro-Brexit working-class revolt within the traditionally Labour heartlands of northern England and Wales – Owen Jones has written a lot about it at the Guardian. This has no doubt contributed to Labour’s own troubles in recent days, including the no-confidence vote, the results of which have just been announced. This, I think, is one of the elements that saddens me the most – the EU has been painted as the big bad bureaucratic behemoth that has been responsible for many of the plights of the working class, and to be sure it has plenty of problems and issues, but it seems to me that in voting out the political elite of Brussels, they’ve merely legitimised the political elite of Westminster. I’m sure I’m simplifying this particular issue though, so please feel free to comment about it!
    • Interestingly, it seems that the Leave vote was often strongest in areas most reliant on EU funding. I’m not sure exactly what this means – perhaps it’s that they had more interaction with the EU than other areas and got more of an insight into its inner workings, or perhaps it’s because it is easier to blame the EU, as a primary contributor to these local economies, for whatever problems have plagued them. Most infamous of these, arguably, has been Cornwall, who voted overwhelmingly in favour of Brexit but now stand to lose a significant amount of funding if it all goes through.
  • An odd little, mildly ironic addendum – it seems that new member states of the European Union have to adopt the euro as a currency. So if we leave the EU and decide, a decade or two down the line, that we actually want back in, it looks likely that we’d have to adopt that hated single currency that has so many up in arms. Sad trombone indeed.
  • My friend and I are on a small segment of Radio 4’s The World Tonight talking about our Brexit reactions. I’m somewhat disappointed that they only included the ‘angry, wanna break some plates’ soundbite, considering that we talked the issue through from various angles. I feel like it’s doing nothing to dispel the idea that Remainers are just throwing their toys out of the pram, and makes our justifiable anger out to be far more one-dimensional. It’s a shame, because it could have been a real platform for informed but non-officially-aligned voters like us to say our piece. Ho hum.

All in all, it’s been a weird and stressful few days. There’s still much we can do – protests and marches are happening right now, so you can get down to Trafalgar Square or Parliament and show your politicians how you feel. Half the population cannot simply have the voice ripped from their throat, not when there’s so much on the line. And especially not when it makes Donald Trump so happy (bonus points for him claiming that Scotland was overjoyed with the vote, when they as a country voted to Remain).


Diamonds are La Voix’s Best Friend

In case you missed the violence-inducing number of status updates and tweets I inflicted upon the general public this weekend, I spent my Saturday playing with the London Gay Big Band and La Voix on ITV’s televised talent trap, Britain’s Got Talent. I’ll be the first to admit that I generally steer clear of this particular brand of TV – I normally catch the highlights (or more commonly, the lowlights) of BGT about a year down the line, at which point I question how some of these acts were even allowed on TV, let alone made it to the semi-finals. I take little pleasure from the schadenfreude of seeing abjectly terrible singers get ripped a new one by Simon Cowell on X Factor or American Idol. I don’t even understand why things like Next Top Model are a thing. And I would rather gouge out my eyes with a rusty spoon than watch TOWIE. I have a very strong and vocal dislike of reality television, is what I’m saying.

But in all honesty, Saturday was an absolute ball. BGT had already gone up in my esteem for having a class act like the LGBB through for the semi-finals, and all the other contestants there were genuinely lovely to meet. The production team were professional and friendly like you wouldn’t believe. The judges had nothing but good things to say about us (even the infamous fuhrer of reality TV, Simon Cowell himself) and even though we didn’t go through to the final, the two acts who did (the fantastic Jack Pack and Paddy and Nico – hell, even I wanted to vote for them) were absolutely great, and deserved every single vote they got. Nice.

In fact, the response to acts like the LGBB and Jack Pack is really great – we all know that swing music is enjoying something of a renaissance, with groups like Swing Patrol taking us back to the roaring 20s, 30s and 40s, that golden era of hot swing jazz, but seeing groups such as these go so far on national television and get such a positive reaction from the general public…well. It’s nice to see people enjoying it, you know?

At the end of the day, we had a great time on Saturday – a big thank you goes out to everyone who watched and voted, and even though we didn’t make it through to the final, at the end of the day, we played awesome jazz music on national television in front of like 11 million people. So that’s pretty cool.

Speaking of swing music, though, Down for the Count is heading up their very own swing festival in September! Rhythm Junction London will be hitting up Hackney on 13th September, and tickets have just gone on sale – the first 50 or so are discounted, so get on that now!

In other musical news, this week will mostly be comprised of rehearsal for upcoming show Rock the Jazz-bah, back at UCL. The premise is jazzed-up versions of popular songs. How can you go wrong with that? They’ve got stuff by Postmodern Jukebox and Jimmy Fallon’s Ragtime Gals on offer, along with plenty else. I’ve done a number of arrangements for this one, including a samba version of Gangnam Style, a bossa medley featuring Lady Gaga, Earth Wind & Fire, The Beatles and Maroon 5, and a kick-ass neo-ragtime (which is apparently a thing) version of Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy. So come on down! It’ll be hella fun. Sunday 8th June, 7pm, in Mully’s Basement Bar on the corner of Gower Street – right by Euston Square, convenient!

Alright, Max out. I’ll see you all…on Sunday.

Eight Things That Rock About Being a Musician

It’s been quite busy lately, what with Down for the Count gigs (oh, and on that note, head over to the DftC blog for some words I put up there recently), some other things with a couple of other bands, and a trip with the ULU Big Band to the Montreux Jazz Festival. Recently, recovering from a particularly brutal weekend, I started thinking of a few of the less savoury aspects of the musician’s career – the unorthodox hours, the fending-off of groupies – until I caught myself, and thought, ‘Hang on, I’m basically living the dream here. There are far more positive things about being a musician than there are negative.’

Like government support. And unicorns.

So I thought I’d share them with you guys – this is for anyone who’s curious about what makes it worth it, and anyone who’s giving it a go but is starting to lose heart.

1) Meeting interesting people

The people you meet in the world of music are key to one’s enjoyment of it. Whether they’re a fellow traveller of your winding road, an agent, a client, or anyone, you’re sure to come across plenty of interesting types.

Networking is important, no doubt about it, so don’t be afraid to swap business cards or email addresses with other musician types, but there’s much more to it than that. An example: at a recent Down for the Count gig, we met a violist by the name of Brian Mack who, it transpired, had played alongside the likes of Frank Sinatra and Buddy Rich. It was great to hear some of his stories, and just what we needed to break up the sets! So have a chat with the people that you come across in your travels – they’ll probably turn out to be pretty awesome. Speaking of travels…

2) Seeing the world

It’s all very well to want to stick around in London and never venture out any further than Watford, but you’ll be hamstringing yourself if you do that, professionally and culturally. A number of the function bands I’ve worked with gig all over the country, and a few even do some overseas gigs from time to time too. Sure, it’s a drain on energy and resources to drive to the other end of the UK for a gig, but along the way you get to see lovely swathes of the country that you might never come across otherwise. I’ve done gigs in Birmingham, Bristol, Portsmouth, Hastings, Oxford, Cambridge, Wales and plenty more. It’s awesome.

And that’s not even touching on that holy grail of musical ban(d)terousness – band tours. The most recent of these for me was to Switzerland, for the Montreux Jazz Festival. That alone was cool enough, but our hostel was right on Lake Geneva, treating us to beautiful scenery every single day to go with the balmy weather and fantastic music. Other tour destinations have included France, Spain, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic and New York City, amongst many others. None have ever disappointed.

3) Discovering new music

Recently, Down for the Count have been branching out more into some old-school swing and dixie repertoire, to keep up with their new swing orchestra persona and the increasing popularity of swing dance groups like Swing Patrol. And I couldn’t be happier.

DftC provides plenty of awesome music for any occasion, but I had already discovered most of the previous jazz and soul stuff we do. When Mike started throwing more swing stuff into the mix, I found they were tunes I could really get my teeth into. I started listening to more and more of it, and discovered, for example, a love of Harry James and a renewed appreciation for Louis Armstrong.

Seen here forgetting which end of a horn to blow into.

It’s important to keep growing as a musician – wherever you are, there are always places still to go, and the discovery of new and interesting music not only keeps you on your toes, but broadens your horizons and provides endless enjoyment just as listening material.

4) The Spice of Life

‘Musician’ is one of those catch-all terms for a vocation that can encompass a world of different professions. It’s one of those careers that is exactly what you make of it, and which comes with a huge degree of what some might term ‘customisation’.

There’s the more obvious dichotomy between a ‘classical musician’ and ‘jazz/pop/soul musician’ that I’ve come across a lot, for example, but there’s so much more to it than that. Over the last few years, I’ve played in big bands, orchestras, jazz quintets, quartets, sextets and trios, function bands, pub bands, and in the pit for a whole range of shows. I’ve sung in choirs, as a backing vocalist, even as a soloist in my own right. I’ve taken up a baton and been an MD for a musical theatre production in a West End theatre. I’ve organised gigs, helped other bands and musicians get some work, done some teaching, arranged and composed music, picked up a few pinches of knowledge on the more technical side of things, and so much more.

Also this.

The sheer variety of stuff on offer in this business is astounding, and despite keeping rather busy over the years, I still feel like I’ve just scratched the surface and that there’s plenty more to come in the future. What other vocation can offer that sort of scope, eh?

5) Flexible hours

This is more of a personal one, I guess, and it applies primarily to those who aren’t holding down a full-time job alongside doing music. But still, it’s a big one for me – I love the hours. Which is to say, whatever hours you damn well feel like. I’m more of a night owl these days, but that suits me just fine – I’ll end up getting to bed late after a gig night, but then be able to sleep in til eleven. In fact…

5) Flexible hours Lie-ins

Yeah, that’s probably more honest.

6) The food

Oh God, the food. Sure, sometimes you get sandwiches three meals a day, but every so often you’ll get so well looked after by the client and the catering staff that you won’t know what hit you. Guinea fowl, gourmet cuisine, steak, oh, the steak!



7) Encores

So you’ve just done a cracking gig. The band sounded as tight as an inappropriate simile, the vocals were off the charts, the sound balance was perfect. The crowd’s going wild, and undergarments in various flavours are sailing through the air. How could it get better than that?

I’ll tell you how: hearing that old French gem, ‘encore!’ These people loved the music so much that they’re demanding even more. It’s already the wee hours of the morning, but that’s not enough for them. Sure, you can play coy and pretend you don’t have, like, four encores lined up already, but they’ll get what they want. And you will love it.

8) I Really, Really Love It

This may seem like a bit of a generic cop-out of a ‘reason’, but it’s crazy important to me. I’ve been doing music-related things since I was 8 years old, and if I didn’t enjoy it I probably would have given it up a few years after that. But there’s something about playing music that I just absolutely love. It’s a combination of all the above reasons, with a little je ne sais quoi on the top, which just works for me. Through school and university, I happily gave up hours a day to play music, for no reason other than a desire to do it – and now people are actually paying me to do it. There was always a part of me that was afraid that I’d have to get a job in an office somewhere and that the music on the side would suffer as a result, but no. There are people in the world – a surprising amount of people – who will quite gladly give me real-people money to turn up and do something that I love to do for a couple of hours.

Living the dream, you guys. Living the dream.

A Magically Forested Evening at Charlie Wright’s

So last week, I was playing with a new jazzy venture: a quintet known variously as The Men With No Name, 9 Hands, and 3 Mikes and 2 Fags (the latter caught on alarmingly well). Featuring my own brother Hugo Fagandini on drums, and the Michaels Powell, Cearns and Roberts on tenor sax, piano and bass respectively, it was something we’d wanted to do for a while in a slightly more official capacity, so when the opportunity came to play at Charlie Wright’s in Hoxton alongside More Ice and Honey and Amy Heasman, well, we jumped at the chance.

We knew it was going to be a cracking evening the moment we walked in and were greeted by an alto saxophone at the bar, converted into an Asahi beer tap. Jazz and beer? Now we’re talking. After a little scurrying around to locate a hi-hat stand for the drum kit (thanks go to the kind staff at The George and Vulture down the road) and a brisk sound-check, we were ready to kick off the event.

The talented Amy Heasman – who would later sing with us – opened the night, accompanied by piano and providing a delightfully warm set featuring tunes like Fever and Someone to Watch Over Me. Seriously, go check her stuff out on YouTube and things, she’s good.

After Amy’s marvellous performance The Men With Some Names could consider the crowd pretty well warmed up for our own jazzy offerings. As well as a mix of original tunes (penned by Hugo, with more from other band members to come) and other numbers designed to lead the audience slightly off the beaten track of jazz – including Miles Davis’ Seven Steps to Heaven and the classic On A Slow Boat to China –  we collaborated with three lovely singers: Amy, singing Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man, Lyubov Pronina who sang Peggy Lee’s Don’t Know Enough About You, and the talented organiser and promoter herself, Elena Dana, with the classic All Of Me – with a latin twist.

Also, we occasionally turn into illustrations and have adventures.

Also, we occasionally turn into illustrations and have adventures.

But it was More Ice and Honey, with their genre-defying (unless acoustic/jazz/folk/indie/awesome is a legitimate genre, which it may well be in this age of anti-folk and pseudo-metal post-modernist hip-hop) and unreasonably catchy music, that really tamed the crowd. The first half an hour or so entailed their vocalist Natalie and guitarist Ivan delighting onlookers with gypsy-jazz versions of standards, and when the full band took the stage, they took off with original numbers like Racecar and Forgive Me. It’s an unusual set up, with vocals, guitar, piano, alto sax, cello and percussion, but damn, do they ever make it work.

More Ice and Honey on stage at Charlie Wright's

More Ice and Honey on stage at Charlie Wright’s

The Men With An Undisclosed Amount Of Names will be returning to Charlie Wright’s at the end of May, alongside a line-up of great singer-songwriters and UCL’s musical comedy troupe, The Wrong People. So come check all that out. You won’t be disappointed.

The Two Rules Big Band

Well, many moons after my initial vague mention of it, the Two Rules Big Band is totally now a thing. A full 17-piece big band plus a number of awesome vocalists, playing more jazzy goodness than your little hearts can handle.

Future performances are being organised, so watch this space. In the meantime, check this out!

Don’t forget to tell your friends!

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…).

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.

Political Storms

Scouring the BBC website just now I happened across their article on the debate currently raging over whether the country should have a referendum on changes to the electoral system. For what it’s worth, here are my thoughts.

One. The main problems that nay-sayers seem to have with it (at least which I can see from the article) are rather selfish (at a party level that is) at best. A Conservative MP apparently expressed fears that an ‘outright Conservative government’ would never be in power again; Labour has brought to the table the idea that rejigging the constituency boundaries might ‘disproportionately’ hurt their figures in Commons. No specific Liberal Democrat comments appear to have been recorded, though I suspect that if they had as much of a vested interest in keeping the system exactly the way it is as the Tories and Labour do, they probably wouldn’t sound much different. The idea that a change to the electoral system might allow the British electorate to be more accurately represented within the body that governs it seems to have escaped them, possibly swallowed up in a tide of self-interest.

Two. Ever since the general election there has been more clamouring for change in the electoral system than I, personally, have ever heard. That the numbers of seats in the House of Commons that each party ended up with is so incongruous with the number of votes they received is absurd. Electoral change has already been talked down from real proportional representation to the alternative vote system, and at this point many MPs are still trying to quash the idea altogether. This is an issue that needs to be decided by the people whose electoral relevance it deals with, not those who have such vested interests in keeping themselves in power.

Three. The idea that MPs should decide the method by which they remain in the House of Commons is utterly illogical. It’s like letting students decide their own exam grades. I know we have a parliament to decide on matters of state, but this strikes me as an issue that, if decided by any means other than the will of the people (which is to say, a referendum), could be seen as dangerously illegitimate.

As far as I can see, politicians are, by nature, going to be wary of anything that looks to pull the rug out from under their feet. Any sort of change in the electoral system looks like it could do just that. Change like that could be beneficial, or it could be dangerous. But it would be fair.

This has been: My Two Cents.