Masons In Distress!

Thursday 6 May 2010

Unscheduled computer maintenance. Today’s blog post is sure to appear tomorrow.

Gig tomorrow + World Class Anxiety (Slight Return)

Wednesday 27 January 2010

No updates the last few days ’cause I’ve been busy preparing for tomorrow night’s gig. Also, I’ve been gradually upgrading all of the main website to the new design, in the hope that it, too, may soon be a World Class Facility like this bucket in Melbourne:

A World Class Bucket

Ignorance achieves wonders.

Sunday 20 December 2009

I’d like to apologise for a fundamental error in my review of the Crumb Total Immersion day. I mistakenly referred to the composer as George Crumb throughout. George Crumb is, of course, the famous cartoonist. The composer’s name is Robert Crumb, as correctly identified by BBC Radio 3.

It’s good to see Radio 3 diligently pursuing its remit to “inform and educate the audience about music and culture”, although when you try to follow the BBC’s own link to its Radio 3 website it in fact takes to you BBC Three, a television station dedicated to programmes like Bashing Booze Birds and Britain’s Most Embarrassing Pets.

There seems to be a webmonkey at the Beeb who gets easily confused over names.

There is no Tooth Fairy, there is only Tooth Jesus.

Sunday 13 December 2009

Sorry I haven’t written this week. My brain took a few days off after seeing a dentist whose idea of relaxing ambience in the surgery was a very loud radio tuned to an evangelical christian station broadcasting an emphatic sermon about Hell. I’d have asked her to turn it off but really you don’t argue with a woman holding a drill to your molars.

The latest thrilling dispatch from my crazy dream world.

Thursday 3 December 2009

Last night I dreamt I trimmed my fingernails. There were some minor complications, but nothing I couldn’t handle.

Fan Mail!

Sunday 11 October 2009

In the early days of the internet, I used to get email every now and then from deluded fanboys who had mistaken me for a different Ben Harper. Of course, I always replied. That hasn’t happened for years, but last week I got fan mail from none other than the King of the Delta Blues, Robert Johnson. Apparently the afterlife now has email, but not Google.

Mr Johnson’s remarks were apposite, albeit misdirected:

Who did you have to blow to get to the level of semi-fame you have been handed? In your entire career there has not been one original moment. Your vocals and guitar playing, not to mention your lyrics, are dull, and the worst thing is your deep sense of self-importance. You seem humorless and totally self-involved. And you are just generally so AVERAGE. If it weren’t for your connections,you would be playing in a bar somewhere in the Inland Empire on a Sunday Jam night.

I know that your career was handed to you, so that’s nice for you. Since you have a soapbox on which to stand and pontificate, why not take just a minute and write something catchy? Be a pop star and a star-fucker (you already are), and stop with the fake social consciousness.

PS congratulations on those tattoos. They are about as original as your music.

Rolling over in my grave,
Robert Johnson

PS please stop playing my music. It’s embarassing.

As I said, I always reply to fan mail, regardless of whether it’s meant for me or not:

Dear Mr Johnson,

Thank you for your email. In reply to your question, I had to blow an old gypsy at the age of 12 to attain my present day success. Funnily enough, it took place at a crossroads. Ain’t that a kick in the pants? Thought you might find it amusing.

I know I got a pretty sweet deal going here so I have no intention of shitting where I eat and showing up my lack of talent by trying and failing to write something fun and tuneful. As for the fake social consciousness, well as you are aware I have next to no mojo so it’s the next best way to get laid. Sure, they’re those liberal arts student chicks who don’t shave in the right places but they’re hella uninhibited and besides when you’re almost drowning in pussy you don’t want to make waves, you get me? Same goes for the tattoos, they’re a real leg-spreader for the sheltered neurotic type that tend to hang out at my gigs.

To be honest, I have been working on some new material, its uploaded on my new website at I call it Klezska, its like a combination of klezmer, ska, and polka all wrapped up into one. I hardly need to keep typing cos I know you’re already downloading it, who can resist such an amazing blend of rockin styles. It’s pretty fucking awesome, though I say so myself.

Also, Eric Clapton and I have been talking about issuing a sort of customer loyalty/credit account card with your picture on it. You know, as a tribute. Is that cool?

You’re my idol,

The Lightning of Idiocy Strikes Again

Sunday 4 October 2009

Me, three years ago:

I just explored one of the last unopened boxes that I packed before leaving Melbourne eighteen months ago. Amongst the electronic gear stuffed inside was an ancient Sony Discman. I popped the lid open and found Disc 2 of a three-CD set of John Cage’s Etudes Australes. It looks like I left the country in a bigger hurry than I remembered.

Me, this weekend:

I just pulled that old Sony Discman again, having stashed it away for a year after its behaviour became too erratic. I popped the lid open and found Disc 2 of a three-CD set again; this time of The Barton Workshop plays Morton Feldman. It looks like I’m even less careful and organised than I realised.

Azerbaijan unclear on concepts of Eurovision, Europe

Tuesday 18 August 2009

Pace Terry Wogan, Eurovision is not always a vote-for-your-neighbour contest. A total of just 43 people in Eurovision newcomer Azerbaijan voted for neighbouring country and traditional rival Armenia. How do we know? Because officials from the Azerbaijani National Security Ministry are rounding them up:

“They wanted an explanation for why I voted for Armenia. They said it was a matter of national security,” Nasirli said. “They were trying to put psychological pressure on me, saying things like, ‘You have no sense of ethnic pride. How come you voted for Armenia?’ They made me write out an explanation, and then they let me go.”

Disappointing news. It makes one yearn for the simpler, more innocent days of yore, when Eurovision points were allocated on the decisions of government-appointed judges, without all this pesky voting messing things up.

Filler By Proxy LXXIII: Round The Worst In A Tall Canoe

Monday 10 August 2009

Can’t blog too busy watching this stuff over and over.

No wonder London’s public transport is so unreliable.

Thursday 6 August 2009

All this time, and I never realised that the buses were made of cardboard.

Filler By Proxy LXXII: You Passed Too Bad Gas!

Monday 3 August 2009

Hooray! StSanders, the genius who gave the world so many excellent shreds of the world’s finest guitar heroes, has raised the stakes in a new video that’s gonna make the people sway and rock and clap their hands to the beat. Hooray!

Because YouTube kept taking them down, the complete gallery of shreds can now be found here.

Going Back to Riga

Thursday 9 July 2009

I’m excited about making another visit to Riga; only this time it’s not for a holiday. I’ve been chosen to perform in a new production of Hamlet that’s going to tour there. The main reason I got the job is because of this jacket I have which has a papier-mâché puppet of Maxim Gorky sewn onto the left shoulder. He cuts a rather louche, melancholy figure with his Brylcreemed hair and waxed moustache. I’m not quite sure how my part fits into the play but they want me to appear onstage and engage in dialogues with Gorky, who will make sardonic comments on the action and the society depicted at Elsinore. I have to hunch over to the left to play this part because the puppet is sewn on crooked. We’re going to be performing in an abandoned warehouse so at the moment we’re rehearsing in an underground car park and it turns out I’m not going to Riga after all it’s all a dream it’s just another bloody dream.

The Boring Like A Drill Mailbag

Sunday 5 July 2009

A mere two weeks after that friendly missive from Suzanne Somers, I’ve received another email from an admirer:

X-Mailer: YahooMailWebService/
From: Stave Scout
Subject: ORDER
Dear sir/madam

My name is stave scout and urgenly need some DRILLS to order from your company.please email with the types of DRILLS you have in stock for sale now.and the price and i will like to know what type of credit card do you accept. I will be looking forward to hear from you soon.


Always willing to assist, I immediately sent a reply.

Dear Sir/Madam,
Thank you for your enquiry about DRILLS. I have a wide selection of reconditioned DRILLS and DRILLBITS for sale – from the most delicate surgical equipment to heavy machinery for vast construction projects (laparoscopy, shipping canals). Please inform me of what type of DRILLS you need and I’m sure I can arrange prompt delivery. I accept Mastercard.
Kind regards,

I’ll let you know when I receive a reply. I’m sure it won’t take long.

The traditional summer solstice ritual of hiding in my bedroom all day with the curtains drawn

Saturday 20 June 2009

This blog doesn’t get much mail, except for some crazy oboe-playing guy who writes in every six months or so to complain about a passing comment I made about a music critic several years ago. So I was quietly excited to discover that a lonely missive had dropped into my inbox today.

That thrill turned to disappointment when it turned out to be be from Web Sheriff, an apparently legitimate company that perversely tries to make their emails look like spam by putting “EXTREMELY URGENT” in the subject line and using an embarrassing, fakey old-west style sheriff’s badge as their logo. Best of all, despite the company name and logo, they’re British; and there’s nothing funnier than the British pretending to be cowboys (except for Germans pretending to be American Indians.) I guess the old company logo of Robin Hood being persecuted by Lily Allen’s dad didn’t inspire as much confidence.

Anyway, this EXTREMELY URGENT email from Deborah Sykes was a “DMCA REQUEST” to “remove Infringed Title(s) from Infringing File Location(s)” I thought the DMCA was an American law, so I’m not sure why a British company is so keen on enforcing it. I haven’t bothered to look this up because the file in question had already been taken down, so I guess their urgency wasn’t extreme enough.

You’re probably wondering what file on my website the sheriff (head office in Wiltshire, not Nottingham) was so exercised about. It was because I had briefly included a copy of that massive Van Morrison hit, “Thirty Two” – all sixty-one seconds of it – in Please Mister Please. Van’s time here has come and gone, but you can recreate the magic of the song in your own homes by strumming any old chord on an acoustic guitar and reciting over the top these deathless lyrics:

I see, you see, we’ll get a guitar,
yeah, we’ll get a guitar
and, oh, we’ll get, we’ll get three guitars,
No!, No!!, we’ll get four guitars
and we’ll get Herbie Lovelle to play drums,
and we’ll do, the
“Sha-la”, sha…
We’ll do the sha-, sha-la bit.
“Sha-la, sha-, sha-la, sha-la”, we’ll do it,
we’ll get together, uunghh, we’ll get
uunghh, ttcchh, uugnhh-uunghh-uunghh, like that,
and we’ll do the sha-la bit and then,
then, then, and we’ll get, we’ll get sixteen guitars,
and then, then we’ll play it,
and then we’ll do that one, yeah.
Let me hear ya’ do that again.
Over and over, Bert Berns song, over…
[clack, clack-clack, clack]

The Labour Party vs the BFG9000

Tuesday 2 June 2009

The election for members of the European parliament is on this weekend, so I’ve been getting a motley assortment of pamphlets shoved into my letterbox. I’ve had one from the racist loonies in the BNP, the not-so-racist-but-still-pretty-loony Ukip (apparently that’s how you spell their name), Christian loonies, and the authoritarian control-freak loonies in the Labour Party, who tried to disguise their pamphlet as a community newsletter.

Headlined “Action on Crime”, the blurb boasts about Labour MEPs voting to “ban the import of replica weapons which can all too easily be converted into working firearms”. The accompanying photo shows police posed next to one of the frighteningly realistic weapons which hoodlums have been concealing on their persons while terrorising London’s streets.