2015 was a particularly efficient 12 months for me in the realm of listening to new music, probably because I was on tour for most of it and therefore had much bunk time... Consequently I feel qualified to narrow down my experiences to 10 long playing records that rocked my world this calendar year. So, in true hit-parade style reverse order, here we go...
With the assistance of my publication of choice, Melody Maker, my eyes were opened to an increasingly large list of often ridiculously-named bands. The movement's zenith for me will always be the early 1990s; but time (i.e. the press) has not been kind to the memory of the indie music from this period.
A festival tour, where you're encountering different bands from all over the place day after day, is even more likely to fill your brain with the most insistent variant of demented earworms. And so, upon my return from Fink's June/July festival run, I present to you, with the assistance of Spotify, my latest Festival Trip Tunes...
Weather, food, wine, beer and scenery aside, the things that keep us happily heading back to the big hexagon are the loveliness of the audiences and the quality of the French rock clubs. The owners, staff and often volunteers who work on gig evenings at theses places take such immense pride in their venues...
Returning to Britain, I joined another band and hey presto, two of the members were Swedish. Perplexingly we never got round to playing a gig in their home country, but we did manage to all go to a wedding in Stockholm which is the first and only time I've ever seen a wedding cake being thrown across a dancefloor. It ended up, quite literally, in the best man's face.
Plans for Fink's production rehearsals are plunged into a skipful of turds by one of those professional rehearsal spaces turning round at the eleventh hour and calmly announcing that they don't allow use of a smoke machine. Panic! Fink's entire live show is based around a smoke machine. I'm personally lost if I can actually see the rest of my band through lack of fog.
He recoils with a faintly amused expression on his face, shrugs, then glances around for an appropriate piece of hardware with which to impale me. He seizes a nearby spare mic stand, and so begins a Tom and Jerry style chase around the backstage area, me leaping over flight cases and knocking guitars to the floor in my efforts to escape... My tour bus dreams are getting stranger.
Minneapolis. I don't know about you, but when I think of Minneapolis (and granted, it's not often) I imagine somewhere quite westerly within the whole US of A scheme of things. Today I am finding out quite how wrong I am. It's not in the west. It's not even in the middle. Look at a map. It's in the east.
It's big. It's got tall buildings. It speaks French. It has strange red flashing traffic lights that confuse the hell out of us. It's like a cross between a North American city (which it is), a Scottish city like Aberdeen or Edinburgh (which it isn't), and in some strange way (and I'm really gonna get lambasted for this one) - Sydney. Where am I?
Throughout British rock'n'roll history, the USA has been an elusive, tantalising territory. Rather like an enormous, vertically rock-faced mountain with a finger-lickin' banquet hot and ready at the top, but with a steaming inferno populated by ravenous fire-resistant crocodiles lying in wait at the bottom, it has both lured and repelled practically every half-successful UK act since The Beatles first cheesily waved from the tarmac at JFK in 1964.