Wednesday, February 25, 2009


We spent the last three nights in the Earl’s Court section of London at a Holiday Inn Express. Since we left France the croissant quality has suffered, wine is less available and never free. Tradeoffs have been that we have been able to communicate with people, the beer is warmer, and we know some people. We spent our full day off, our first in a long time, in London, doing our own personal things. There was napping, billiard playing (tiny balls!), and bar-going. I went to visit a friend who lives in Oxford, who showed me the scene that is said to have inspired the Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe: a lion carved into a door, two nymphs carved into ceiling supports, and a lamppost in the distance. I also saw Thom Yorke on rollerblades and in hotpants, pulling a little salamander with a leash.

We were fortunate to be asked to do a radio spot with BBC Radio 1’s Steve Lamacq the next day. All of this went down in studio #4 at BBC's Maida Vale Studios, which is said to be famous. Led Zeppelin may or not have once been there. Outside the studio hung a portrait of none other than John Peel, the man who is responsible for, among countless other amazing things, my favorite Galaxie 500 recordings. All of these sessions took place in this very room! It was renovated in the early 90's, but the microphones were the same as the ones that many of our idols sang into at some point. If you listened to the recordings, the quality and pace of our repartee with Lamacq likely suggested that we were looking this man in the eye, but nay, he phoned in just as we were about to record our three songs. We were standing up the studio room, speaking into microphones covered in festive windbuffers. When we finished, Simon the cool engineer played back the tracks and we pantomimed, sort of, the songs we had just played for the benefit of a team of cameramen who had descended upon the scene. Reasonably enough, the engineer stopped us halfway through the second song because our pantomimes were too ridiculous, à la Nirvana on Top of the Pops. Simon's voice came in from the control room, “There’s rock and roll, and then there’s being a bunch of twats.” A funny man, and also a wizard of an engineer.

Stay tuned for info about how to hear that session and see the videos, if that's ever possible.

Here's a video of Nirvana pantomiming "Smells Like Teen Spirit" on Top of the Pops. Note Kurdt's voice has been brought down an octave.

All this before a good show at Hoxton Bar and Kitchen, a black and white room within a posh bar. Ticket presales were encouraging, and the room was filled nicely for our third ever London gig. The man who runs visual design at the bar at the club goes by McDeath, a nice Irish boy, who e-mailed us days in advances to see what we had in mind for visual design. Nobody knew what he meant, and so the e-mail went unacknowledged. When we arrived and McDeath once again asked us the question we did not know how to answer, Bo arranged it so that McDeath projected images of the American Civil War on the screen behind us. The band before us projected images from the movie Badlands, Martin Sheen in chains, a close-up of Sissy Spacek with the desert in the background. But its gravitas was undercut by interspersed family photos of people standing before the “Welcome to Badlands National Park” sign. In particular, there was a picture of a fat man hiking at that park. McDeath’s Google image search, it seemed, was cursory. Nonetheless, when we were at the plate a picture of Abe Lincoln popped up behind us just when we played a new song that is roughly about him.

We are traveling for four days with Little Death from London, who we are traveling with for four days here, and who like true punks took the bus to Manchester last night and will do the same to Glasgow this evening. I believe their name is the anglicization for the French phrase “Petite mort,” little death, their term for an orgasm. They are orgasmic in the bonhomie they each emanate, and their band is good too. Net effect, Manchester was fun. I got the impression that it was sort of like the Chicago of England, where the vast infrastructure of a shattered industry has been reclaimed by culture. It is said that Mancunians love to fight. Eric and I were looking for falafel when a man yelled at us, “Are you looking for pussy, then!?” He wouldn’t go away, and Eric said, “No man, we’re just looking for falafel!” The man was incensed but was soon distracted by something that made him even madder than the fact that Eric and I wanted falafel. Our last time there we played at an Irish club where there was a 21st birthday party downstairs. The girls there insulted for our band: “What are you, the Ting Tings?” Some of the girls made fun of Ian’s pants. I spent too much money on beer, etc. Last night was better, for some people had come out to see the band and were highly complimentary, and beer was free. Nobody’s feelings were hurt. The kids enjoyed themselves. No harm, no foul.