my wife laughs at me every time I mention that at heart I am a minimalist. Anyone who knows me we knows that I am a hoarder and live surrounded by clutter and mess. I try to get rid of it, but I accumulate clutter faster than I manage to purge it.

I once managed to get my possessions down to a nice minimal level. Post university and single I rented a room in a shared house and turned up with a duffel bag of clothes, three guitars (lead, bass and acoustic), bass amp, portastudio, stereo amp and speakers, about 50 CD’s, a box of tapes, a camera, CD walkman, a futon mattress, duvet, sleeping bag, tent, a car, skateboard and a pushbike. Minus the car, this is what I had been carrying around with me for 3 years whilst at Uni. Oh and tools and cooking utensils. and a radio alarm clock. In truth there were still one or two items stashed back at my parents house.

Anyway, compared to now that was a fairly small hoard of belongings. It was nice to be able to cram it all in the back of a car and "up sticks" to somewhere else.

When I went travelling in a camper van for six months a few years ago, I had even less possessions and was really enjoying the feeling of having so little to weigh me down. I had given away quite a lot of my stuff, even one of the guitars, and felt good doing it. Once again I had off-loaded a fair amount of stuff at my parents house beforehand, but had almost forgotten what they were six months down the line.

There was one moment on the trip where I realised how little I needed to be happy. I was making a living busking, so the guitar was essential. I was travelling around in the van – my shelter, kitchen, home and transport. Add some clothes, tools and cooking utensils and I was fairly self sufficient. When I was settled for a while in El Morreon, an isolated valley near Orgiva in Andalucia, I remember telling someone that all I was missing was a girlfriend (there were virtually no single lasses in the valley!) and a skateboard ramp (I daydreamed about building one and living under one of the platforms!), I could stay put forever.

There was a personal test towards the end of the trip. The van engine was knackered to the point that I didn’t know whether it would even make it back to the UK. The sensible thing to do would be to sell the van, even if I didn’t get much for it, allowing me to fly back. I even had a couple of people interested in buying it at one point.

I failed that test – I decided to chance it and drive back anyway, based purely on the fact that there were a number of possessions that needed a vehicle to transport back to the UK. Sad as it sounds, apart from my clothes these consisted of:-

– Acoustic guitar (glad I kept that, although I could’ve taken it as hand luggage on a plane anyway)
– Skateboard (still got it, easily replaced though)
– Surfboard (ended up selling it for £10 two years later, kinda wish i’d kept it)
– Mountain Bike (pile of crap, gave it away 4 years ago)
– box of tapes (threw them away when I moved 2 years ago)
– ghetto blaster (gave it away 4 years ago)
– cheap tent (got knicked from boot of car 3 years ago)
– small box of tools (got knicked along with the tent)
– cooking utensils (now live in shed, used for non-existent camping trips)

I wouldn’t call it a regret, more of a lesson. These things were practically worthless yet the next month of my life was dominated by them, as I transported them back across Spain in a very reluctant van, which became a dead weight sat on my parents driveway and I ended up selling for scrap because I was too broke to replace or rebuild the engine.. I should’ve sold the van in Spain, dumped everything I couldn’t carry and got a £50 flight back to the UK.

After adjusting back to "civilised" life I moved to Bristol with a similar minimal hoard to when I left uni – all of it fitted into the back of a citroen 2cv (with the back seat removed).

Since then I have become much more domesticated, a happy family man with a house and a whole load of clutter, prone to making drunken new years (or any time of the year) resolutions to clear out the junk.

I’ve also been meaning to take that rotting xmas tree in the shed down to the tip for a month or four…

archived comments

Great Article…

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less cynical about video over the web

Last year, I posted a rant about the poor quality of video over the web. Things have changed, at least in my mind.

I have spent a lot of time recently looking at skateboard videos on the web – some use streaming windows media, some use downloadable or streaming quicktime, but all are watchable. I have 512k broadband at home and a fat pipe at work, most of the videos are only a few minutes long and start playing almost immediately.

I want a min-dv cam. I seem to be incapable of just sitting back and enjoying these videos, without getting the urge to go out and start producing some of my own.

Begone Amazon referral scheme

I decided to remove my amazon referral links as I haven’t made a single penny out of it. I left the links up for a while because I was under the misapprehension that it might make my site look more important than it actually is. How sad is that, I sold out, didn’t make any money out of it, then carried on advertising a corporation because I thought it made me look good. Not very punk rock eh! Never mind i’ve learned from my mistakes I suppose, which is always the best way to learn something…..

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recognise - all bases covered - no taste catered forLast night I rolled down to Recognize, a night run by a friend and ex-drummer of mine. The idea of the night is that there is no specific genre – the music can go in any direction, depending on what the DJ’s feel like "all bases covered, no taste catered for…". There were also projections onto sheets and TV screens, giving me something to stare at while I was standing there drinking a pint billy no mates style.

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mental caricatures

Most days I arrive at work and park my car, then it usually takes a while for me to leave the car. Apart from the chores I have to perform in order to leave the car – turn engine off, take seatbelt off, put steering wheel lock on (done religiously since having a car nicked on the one day I forgot to put it on), remove stereo facia and put in bag, remove glasses/shades and put in bag, zip up bag to stop stuff falling out -, I don’t like to rush if i’m not late, and sometimes I like to listen to the rest of the track which was playing in the stereo at the time. If I had a thermos with me and a book I would probably sit and and have a coffee before I get out out of the car – although this sort of behaviour does freak people out. In fact when I had my camper van, I would often get in the back and cook some pasta or something before going into work (but that’s another story).

Anyway, most days just as i’m getting to the point where i’m ready to open the car door and get out, I see this particular person just arriving into the car park, he always manages to put his car in a space and instantly get out, and is halfway across the car park before i’ve climbed out, grabbed my bag and locked the car. I can only presume that he’s already taken off his seatbelt before the car comes to a standstill, and doesn’t require time to organise himself/ faff around like I do.

This morning walking across the car park I conjured up a mental caricature of this guy just bailing out of his car as he passes the car park entrance, so that the car carries on driverless down the road and crashes into a lamp post, and he doesn’t even notice, because he’s long gone. Meanwhile i’m watching this from the comfort of my imaginary winebago, debating whether to fry up a full veggie breakfast.

This made me giggle to myself as I walked into work, resulting in a few weird glances…

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goldfish memory

Last night I printed some screen-grabs off for work (I have a colour printer at home, but only B&W available at work). I got to work and realised i’d left them at home, even though I had been thinking about them on the way to work, as I needed to post them somewhere urgently. Terrible memory. I "nipped" home (1 hour round trip in traffic) to pick them up, and i’ll be darned if I didn’t nearly forget to pick them up on the way back out.

This is typical of me – my favourite crap memory habit, part of my first thing in the morning work ritual, is heading out of our offices to the communal kitchen down the corridor to wash out my coffee mug, getting to the sink, running the hot tap until it is hot, then realising I didn’t bring the mug. On special days I also forget my key to get back in the offices, and usually being the first person in, have to go and speak to the people upstairs to borrow a spare.

(And for the record I don’t smoke dope).

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bad parrot

Another thing i’m hoping to change about this blog is my urge to regurgitate stuff just because it is mildly interesting. For example I just read a mildly interesting article about how a skateboarding ban in LOVE park, Philadelphia, may be lifted because they just announced intentions to rig the park up with Wi-Fi and realised that the skateboarding and mobile internet user demographics might cross over.

There was no need to blog it though. oops, too late.

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more about music and me

so as I was saying, I was fairly obsessed by music for a while. At 14 I got my first bass guitar, mainly because Danny Haines down the road got a guitar. We bought the guitar and bass tab book for U2’s Joshua Tree album and attempted to learn a few songs – the basslines were easy, not so with the guitar and Danny soon dropped it. At the time I was heavily into Level 42, with the excellent Mark King on bass, and I set about trying to play like him. That proved quite tricky, and luckily about 6 months later I started getting a few bass lessons from someone at school who was into The Cure . I had already started to listen to a bit of indie stuff because my sister was into The Smiths, so I soon abandoned Level 42 in favour of The Cure, The Smiths and the Pixies. Basslines were much easier to learn, once I had moved into that genre, and I also become a bit more cool 😉

After about a year I was invited to join a metal/punk band called Witchhunt – we played mostly covers (Black Sabbath, The Cult). I was much younger and less experienced than the rest of the band and I soon found myself sacked in favour of a an older, better, less embarrasing bass player. That was quite gutting at the time, so I ploughed loads of time and energy back into my bass playing, vowing to become much better. On the sly I was listening to level 42 again and learning to play slap bass and use my fingers rather than a plectrum.

I joined a kind of pop-rock band, called Clarence – we recorded some stuff but never gigged – we didn’t have any kind of focus for the style – I was trying to push it into an indie direction, with a bit of funk thrown in, but it didn’t really happen and we lost momentum.

One day I watched an appalling 80’s skateboard movie called “Thrashin” (west side story on skateboards), and at one point in a film, they go to a Red Hot Chili Peppers gig, in their early days when they dressed up in wigs. They played Black Eyed Blonde from the album Freaky Styley – a seriously fast punk funk track with a manic slap bass bassline. I managed to track down a bootleg tape with Freaky Styley on one side and The Uplift Mofo Party Plan on the other. This was then welded into my walkman for the next year at least.

Predictably I went on to form a couple of Red Hot Chili Pepper style bands, first Funky Octopus, which then morphed into Groovespider. By that time The Chilis had released Mothers Milk, which was a bit metal, and they became known on the metal scene, which was handy because really the rest of the band wanted to play metal and punk, but the existence of the Chili’s, Faith No More and Fishbone meant that I was allowed to play some slap bass.

I got quite good at the bass, or at least it is fair to say that I could play fast, manic slap bass lines and give the impression that I was better than I actually was. If you asked me to play any of those basslines slowly I just couldn’t do it.

I went off to uni and joined a Stourbridge indie band called Manic Thing. They were mates with Neds Atomic Dustbin and had previously played some support slots for Neds, so were fairly well known on the local indie scene. I formed part of a new line-up and the style changed a bit. Inevitably my egotistical playing bubbled to the surface – if there was a gap in the music anywhere I would fill it. That band sort of faded out, our last gig was at a bowling alley – no-one came to see us at all, we played in front of a few members and liggers of the support band, most of whom left halfway through. We split up the day after.

I had a four-track portastudio and continued to try to record music of my own. I had picked up an acoustic guitar, electric six string and a drum machine. That kept me happy musically for a while and apart from the odd jam, I didn’t play in any more bands for a while, until I got a phone call from Stourbridge based Floyd Brennan who wanted a bass player to do some recording. Being in Floyd Brennans band was the most “serious” musical thing that i’ve done – he was (and still is) a very talented singer and songwriter with close interest from the music industry. Floyd taught me a lot about music – most importantly about grooves and how to let a bassline breathe. I won’t go name-dropping here, but I got to meet and jam with some well-known musicians along the way. I also got to do some demo recording at the expense of a couple of major labels. We didn’t play any gigs, it was mostly recording with a view to getting signed. At that point in my life, when I was 20 – I really wanted to “make it” as a professional musician, playing in a world famous band.

It is fair to say that my playing was a bit sloppy, and also i’ve never been a “session” musician – I can’t just play something and memorise it immediately and I certainly can’t read music. To learn or write a bassline I usually need to go off for a few days with a walkman and spend some real time on it, and this became obvious when I was put in a room with some real session musicians. I was holding things up, and if it wasn’t for being dropped from the band, I probably would have left anyway.

After that I concentrated on my guitar playing and started learning to sing – I recorded a few demos, and also spent six months in Spain doing a lot of busking. I really enjoyed that – busking during the day and often playing in bars in the evenings, in return for beer. I still wanted to be a musician, but I was starting to become more balanced and realise that I could still be a musician without being a “star”. I was singing and writing my own material too, and apart from the dubious melancholy lyrics, it was pretty good (I like to think!).

Back in England and settled in Bristol, I formed Braxton Hicks -an acid jazz band, playing bass again – that went on for a couple of years and never had any serious intentions – it eventually got shelved when a few of us lost interest, and it was becoming a pure covers band, playing at weddings – I had always vowed to knock it on the head when I found myself in a wedding band!

I haven’t even touched my bass since, I still play acoustic guitar and i’m also concentrating on playing electric guitar, mainly Rock/Indie/Punk. I have intentions to do something with that in the future – either recording or a band or hopefully both, but time is very limited at the moment because of better and more important things!

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music and me

There’s more to life than music. Thats what someone said to me when I was 16, and at the time I took some convincing.

I had a plan in my mind – a major, all encompassing world domination plan, that music was going to put me on the map, make me immortal and most importantly famous. In my mind I would become so famous, such an exceptional mega star, that everyone who ever knew me would stop what they were doing and think "didn’t he do well, that lad, once an ordinary person, now a rich and famous megastar". so the daydream went.

Sad as it sounds, this fantasy went on in one form or another for another seven years or so, before I managed to grab hold of my ego. The style changed, the ability/imagination ratio changed, but the basic belief continued that I wouldn’t be happy, I wouldn’t be complete until I was hanging out on a yacht with a bevvy of adoring supermodels, and jamming with Sting.

It wasn’t a single thing that bought me down to earth, and made me see my superficial goal for what it was, it was more a combination of things, an accumulation of realised truths. That and the fact that I really am quite shit on the guitar.

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