Monday, 27 October 2008

Half Way Hopeful

Heading out of Montreal en route to Toronto, on a rain-soaked 401 highway, we speed south through Ontario, on the first day of serious rain we’ve seen for a while. We take a full 20 minutes to pass a huge convoy of RVs, flocking before heading south for the winter on their annual migration of retired adventurers, jeeps towed behind, throwing up a dangerous spray that reduces visibility to feet and increases braking distance to miles. It is a reminder that touring like this is more of a challenge, the occasional nine hour drives between cities taking their toll on energy and conversation. Not for us the comforts of the European tour bus, with the flat screen, lounge, beds and kitchen… but there’s something satisfying about really feeling the miles rather than just waking up in a new city. More like sailing compared to flying, and about as wet.

Thank god, then, for the comedy channel on satellite radio, that offers respite from the continual heavy rotation of classic rock that clogs the airways in North America and Canada. It’s as if time and culture stopped sometime around 1976, before Zeppelin split and punk burnt down the houses of the holy. It’s not a bad way to travel, imagining myself aged seven again, listening to Blinded By The Light, wearing jumble sale clothes and counting down the days to the release of Star Wars. Hearing those classic clips of Bill Hicks, Mitch Hedberg, Richard Prior et al reminds me that it isn’t just rock stars that die before their time.

The shows have all been fun to play, some bigger than others, but they're all special for their own reasons. I’ve been given a scarf, and bottle of Canada’s only Single Malt Whisky - so bring on the New York winter – you hold no fear for me now. I love the change from Fall to Winter here, the trip from Boston to Montreal left me more exhausted by the beauty of the leaves on the trees, ablaze with every shade of yellow and red – than by the actual driving. That’s Steve’s job. And to think he laughs at me because I don’t drive. He’ll figure it out one day.

Now, with the final Montreal and Toronto shows done, making good on last year’s promise to return, it’s an early start and a thirteen hour train ride to New York City. The train moves so slowly I could get out and walk alongside and still be in the city before the Amtrak wagons roll into Penn station… but I don’t. It’s on these train rides that ideas for songs come, that dreams come bubbling up from interrupted sleep. Dreams of downing tools and moving to a place somewhere upstate, settling down in a quiet little town and forgetting about everything. Dreams of spending my days fishing in the Catskills. Dreams of Barack Obama in the Whitehouse, George Bush in the ground, and dreams of a brighter morning on November 5th. Half way between things is a nice place to be. Half way between sleeping and awake, half way between seasons. Half way between cities, half way on the tour, and best of all, half way hopeful.


This is going to be a strange question; of this I am aware.
So would you rather pull all of your veins out with tweezers, interview Madonna-in her fake British accent, no less-about hungry cats, be forced to vote for John McCain, or put up shelves?
Just curious...

There was a cartoon in a recent New York paper of Madonna asking her lawyer about her divorce settlement, with the caption: "Do I get to keep the accent?". Made me chuckle. This is one of many Madonna themed questions recently. Years ago, when I was full of piss and vinegar and moral fury, I would have ranted about Madonna being culturally toxic, a vapid role model for empty ambition that has fuelled a misguided generation of young women who believed she represented power, liberation, sexual equality and spiritual enlightenment. Now I don't really care. I take this position as I believe it would hurt her the most, to have someone be not outraged by her, not fascinated by her, just bored. Having said that, I picked this question to answer, somewhat trampling my own point in the process. I can only hope that soon Lourdes will move back to New York and cement a proper accent, as I fear that being raised by Guy and Madge will leave her sounding like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins.

So, to the answer. What was the question again? Er... I'll interview Madonna. The first option is painful and dangerous, as is the third and fourth. If McCain wins however, I will gladly pull my veins out with tweezers.


Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Yorkshire Gold

So - after desperately figuring out how I could fund the Malawi trip to play at the Lake of Stars Festival - it turns out at the last minute to not be possible. Damn this economic crisis, stopping me in my bid to become the next Bob Geldof, or more likely, Peaches. Ah well, these things happen, and it was nice to be asked. There's always next year, as Liverpool fans tell themselves, usually in a few weeks time (you know, I don't hate Liverpool, I respect them and admire Benitez, but if it wasn't for the hate emails I'd never have contact with another human).

I sublimate my heartbreak by contributing several metric tonnes of CO2 to global warming and jetting off to New York to prepare for the tour. I then sublimate my environmental guilt into... let's face it, a large whisky, and the promise to help build the sea defenses around the city when the need (and water) arises. But of course I do actually worry about flying too much, and touring in a bus too much, and about not recycling hummus tubs which are just too tedious to rinse out...(CAN YOU IMAGINE THE SHEER TONNAGE OF ORGANIC VEGAN HUMMUS TUBS THAT CHRIS AND GWYNNY HAVE TO RINSE OUT A WEEK? WHY AM I SHOUTING?) but I've yet to hear a coherent plan to tackle the real issues. And if the leaders of the world can't control (or save) the economy, then what hope the planet? Ah,Tom, it's better to light a candle than to sit and curse the darkness, although I suspect that lighting candles is probably a major cause of the planet overheating, so I've resolved to not celebrate my next birthday - which would be an awful lot of burning wax - and I will instead sit and make a wish as I try to blow out a low energy bulb provided free of charge by my energy company. Thanks for that EDF - a free bulb from you is a bit like being fucked up the arse and offered a cup of tea at the same time, one does resolutely not make up for the other. At least not in any prisons I've visited recently. Although maybe Yorkshire Gold at a push, that's a damn fine cup of tea. (Anyone from Yorkshire Gold wishing to sponsor the next tour please contact the usual address - Yorkshire Gold, takes your mind off prison sex.)If the music fails there's always a career in advertising.

And I see the Forum's not working again... sorry. I don't know what's up... but it'll be fixed soon. That's really what I came on here to say, but ended up spewing forth more nonsense. The live album ships in week's time, and to those of you who have pre-ordered it, I would tell you exactly how much it means that you have, but that would embarrass us both, so I'll just quietly say 'thanks' and move on. Okay, I've just re-read this... what the fuck am I talking about? I should drink way less caffeine. I just woke up, hold none of this against me.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Ask Tom #4


Whatever happened to this song? Will it ever surface on a cd?
Could you play it when you come to the Hotel Cafe in Nov?

Hmmmm, I have no idea. I may have just fallen out of love with it, or it didn't survive the recording process - sometimes these things just fade away, like making eye contact with a girl on the subway but never asking her name, or Liverpool's championship dreams...

All unrecorded songs live on in some great MP3 player in the sky, to be downloaded one day by another songwriter searching for inspiration - probably for as little as 9 cents. Could I play it in LA? I doubt I could remember the chords, but stranger things have been known to happen.


Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Stalking Wounded

A week ago I do a bit of talking head to camera for a Nick Cave documentary, as I leave the studio I pass Seasick Steve on the stairs. I nod hello, a "you-had-to-get-up-early-on-a-Sunday-for-this-too-did-you?" sort of way, and he nods back. A few days later I'm dropping off a guitar at a hotel for one of Pink's backing singers to borrow while she's in London (don't ask, I lead a complicated life) when I turn round and bump into... Seasick Steve, clearly a guest at this hotel. Do his friends call him Sea? Sicky? Steve? Probably Steve, now I think about it.
I nod hello, in a sort of "I-nodded-at-you-last-week-and-now-I'm-nodding-at-you -again-but-I-don't-know-why" sort of way... he nods back, in a sort of "I-
have-no-idea-why-you're-nodding-at-me-either, shorty-Sean-Bean" way, and then turns and leaves. Two days later I'm in Soho looking through the window of a guitar shop (no, really) when my eye shifts focus from the guitars in the foreground to a bloke inside the shop who turns and looks out the window and stares me directly in the eye...he looks familiar. It's Seasick Steve. He is unamused. Like most blues singers.

By this point it is clear that one or either of us is stalking the other... I assume he thought I was the nutter as he has just sold out The Royal Albert Hall and I'm off to play venues in the US that would struggle to hold the Team GB sprint relay team. So now that's what I'm reduced to... inadvertently stalking old blues guys. Or maybe we're just destined to be together. Who knows? Safe to say I am not leaving the house until Sicky has left the country.