Saturday, 29 June 2013

THE LAST OF US


I've always been a big fan of post-apocalypse fiction since reading Roger Zelazny's Damnation Alley (1967) when I was a kid. In that book a prisoner, Hell Tanner, is offered a full pardon if he agrees to drive a plague vaccine across the radioactive wasteland between Los Angeles and Boston. He is terrorized by various gangs of bikers and marauders in his attempt to deliver the vaccine, and picks up a girl, Cordelia on the way. Things don't turn out well for Hell Tanner.


In many ways The Last Of Us revisits this plot, via contemporary influences such as The Road, The Walking Dead and Children Of Men. Our hero, Joel, embarks on a journey through a devastated United States, charged with delivering a young girl, Ellie, to a medical unit in Salt Lake City. Ellie, we find out, is immune to a fungal plague that has transformed the infected into flesh eating zombies and can provide a vaccine that will save millions of lives.

For me, The Last Of Us is the perfect game, with incredible graphics, the most brutal combat sequences since Manhunt, and most of all an incredibly well thought-out story arc that show the characters really developing throughout the 15 or so hours of gameplay. Naughty Dog have created a masterpiece in The Last Of Us, and it really is the most immersive and emotional game I've ever played.


Saturday, 11 May 2013

SIRENS - EXETER INDIE (C.1986)


Going through my office I found some videos and photos of my first band SIRENS, who formed in Exeter in 1986. The indie scene was pretty sparse in those days, with the only other band I can remember being THE VISITORS who put out a flexi disc for the brilliant Bristol fanzine of the time Are you Scared To Get Happy? We had our on single out The End, My Dear which was financed by Dave Henderson who ran Henderson's Records in an arcade called Mr Bumblebees Bazaar, on Fore Street (later he moved the shop to the Real McCoy Arcade).


Sirens first guitarist was Emma Mitchell (in the photo). The guitarist in the video below is Lisa Cole who also played in her own band Southside.

A few promoters were doing indie nights in Exeter at the time; The Big Chill put on bands like The Wolfhounds and Mighty Mighty, who we supported, and there were other notable shows such as Primal Scream, Loop, the Charlatans, The Flatmates and Spacemen 3. Our first show was actually supporting The Shamen in a club on Union Street in Plymouth, called Aliens!

James from Timepiece did a night called Aural Hexen and Ben Ballin put on the Wedding Present in Boxes (posters below)


Here's video of Sirens live at The Exeter Arts Centre in 1987 or 1988...

video

I did an interview for an Indie Fanzine called Cloudberry about the Exeter scene a couple of years ago. You can find it here...

CLOUDBERRY RECORDS


Tuesday, 7 May 2013

HOMETOWN ATROCITIES - EXETER PUNK


   Before we opened the Cavern - around 1988/89 - a group of us formed a collective called Hometown Atrocities, with the loose aim of bringing a load of punk and hardcore bands to Exeter.


   I was in a band at the time with Martin Edmunds called Mad At The Sun, and we put on a bunch of shows including, Fugazi, Verbal Assault, Sink, Victim's Family, Cowboy Killers and Senseless Things. The first hometown Atrocities show was at The Art College, with skate ramps put up in the bar (it was before the days of health & safety!)


   There were no real venues so we set up in various pubs around town, usually for only one show, sometimes only half a show if the pub landlord managed to pull the plug on it, like they did at The Printers Pie (now called The Monkey Suit) when the irate landlady walked in halfway through a Cowboy Killers set. One show that did go ahead there featured a band called Headless Chickens who had Thom Yorke from Radiohead on guitar. (Thom was at the art college and was also part of the Hometown Atrocities collective). You can see a photo of that show below - the other guys in the pic are John Matthias and Shack who now DJs under the name Elite Force.

We went on to put out a couple of EPs with Exeter bands including The Hometown Atrocities EP which now fetches a high price amongst collectors due to the fact it is the first recording with Thom Yorke on it.


Recently, IAN GLASPER featured Mad At The Sun, Wordbug and Annalise in his quadrilogy of books about the Eighties/Nineties Uk Punk Scene - Burning Britain, The Day The Country Died, Trapped In A Scene and Armed With Anger. Those books contain everything you need to know about the underground scene from 1980-1999.


THE COMPUTERS IN BERLIN


     In December 2012 we drove over to Berlin to film a video for THE COMPUTER's single DISCO SUCKS. What an amazing place Berlin is. Filming there was hassle free... the band set up along the Berlin wall, on the Tube, and even managed to do a shoot in front of the Brandenburg Gate, without once being told to move on. (Imagine how quickly you'd be shut down if you started filming in Princesshay!)


    Carl Shanahan shot the video on a Canon 7D with a crew of just one - me! It was bitterly cold and the poor bastard forgot his gloves. I think he did a pretty good job though....


  There were a few shots that didn't make the cut including some in the amazing Ramones Museum which is situated on Krausnickstrase 23. You've got to pay the place a visit if you ever go there -it was set up by a guy called Flo Hayler in 2005. www.ramonesmuseum.com


Sunday, 6 February 2011

GOOD TIMES IN BELGIUM


I found this video of my old band WORDBUG playing live in someone's back garden in Belgium back in the early 90's (around the time the Cavern first started). It was a weird gig - I don't now much about Belgian licensing laws but it appeared as if some kid had turned his terraced house into a pub, with bands on in the back garden! It was a proper bar with ale on draught, bar staff, spirits on optics etc.
We were touring Europe with a Belgian band called BYETAIL, playing squats and anti fascist benefits and generally having a great time. The photos are when Craigy was still in the band, the vid is around the time we were changing into ANNALISE, with Tripey on guitar....

COMPUTERS - GROUP IDENTITY


Been busy doing a load of work for Exeter punk and roll band THE COMPUTERS this month. Their new single (released on 7" White vinyl) is out on the Cavern's 20th Anniversary MON FEB 14th and looks like its going to do very well indeed! The band have just signed to One Little Indian (home of Bjork and Dan Sartain among others).
Just before Christmas we filmed a video for GROUP IDENTITY down in Kingsbridge at Aiden's Nan's house! The video was shot and edited by CARL SHANAHAN on a bitterly snowy day. It was that week when Devon ground to a halt with snow blocking all but the main roads, and it was so cold that the batteries to my camera drained in about 5 minutes when we went outside to take some stills.
Fair play to Aiden's Nan for letting us use the house though - the footage is actually of a real gig and a number of shelves came down with ornaments everywhere!



We've just filmed a new video at the Phoenix for MUSIC IS DEAD which Carl is editing this week for a very tight deadline! I'll post it in this Blog as soona s its ready to go....

Monday, 16 August 2010

TOXIC SHOCK SYNDROME


I met Ronnie, the original Cavern manager, through her band FRANTIC SPIDERS, Exeter's first and best 'Riot Grrl" band.
They had been making a name for themselves supporting the likes of Huggy Bear and The Voodoo Queens around the UK, and were on this occasion playing with us at Exeter Art College.
I was at the bar when Ronnie walked past carrying a ridiculously tall tower of glasses.
“Can you drink up please mate!” she barked at a frightened looking student in John Lennon glasses and a Doctor Who scarf, snatching his half-finished drink and adding it to to the top of her large stack.

When I got back to our van it was so full of empties you couldn’t fit in the amps.
“Somebody said you were opening a pub.” Ronnie explained. “I thought you could do with some glasses!”
They had collected about 400 of them.
“Hey, do you want to be bar manager?” I asked her, while the hapless Art College dudes walked around scratching their heads, looking for something to put in the dishwasher.



The Frantic Spiders had been played on the John Peel Show, and got ‘Single of The Week’ in Melody Maker for their “You’re dead” 7” single. They were on the verge of being signed to Elastica’s label before they went their separate ways.
Singer Charlie went on to playing in Spy 51 and Gay Dad, and Ronnie started here ultraviolent industrial noise band TOXIC SHOCK SYNDROME.

 

TSS were a band that really tapped into the raw emotions of life, with Ronnie’s onstage personas, such as the bloodsplattered Psycho Surgeon, really acting as a protective buffer between band and audience. By that I mean the Personas protected the audience from the true content of Ronnie’s songs!
She is a great writer, and went on from TSS to become reviews editor for Rocksound.
I found this battered, never-before-seen, video we made for Toxic Shock Syndrome in the early 90s.
We filmed it in that Pet cemetery down by the bridge to the Double Locks.