A Trip Back in Time – Part 2, From Comedy Punk to Creepy Trip-Hop

So yesterday I took you back to my quite frankly embarrassing musical beginnings. Today I continue the build up to my album release by moving on towards the millennium.

It’s May 1999. Manchester United have just beaten Bayern Munich on “that night in Barcelona”, Shanks and Bigfoot are at number 1 with ‘Sweet Like Chocolate’, and I was enjoying the benefits of the newly introduced £3.60 minimum wage at McDonalds.

The last solo music I released was in September 98′, but I hadn’t been slacking, oh no, I had been honing my craft (and there was a lot of honing to be done). As the world hurtled towards a new age of technology I was ahead of the game. I had taken the bus to Shirley, gone into Fret Music, and come out with one of these.

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This cost me over a months worth of McDonalds wages. Thousands of Big Mac’s. Days spent mopping floors. But now at last I had it. My four track. One cassette tape, limitless possibilities. Ok, so it was a bit limited but when you can’t actually play any instruments properly 4 tracks is MORE than enough. I immediately set to work and released ‘Toxic Jumper – Slam Dunk Da Punk’. Here’s a clip from a song which I think was supposed to be a witty response to the grown ups who were trying to get me to do something with my life, ‘Lazy Git’, with lyrics that I am sure will delight my current employers (NB these lyrics are the opinion of a 17 year old james consterdine and not the one who now works in a school so you can’t sack me, probably).

It’s still really bad of course, but am I wrong to say there is some sort of tune emerging? I also had a good stab at murdering ‘Hey Jude’ by turning it into a punk song about a surfer, although I do quite like the lyric “remember, to stop sharks biting your heart” for some reason.

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I came to a realisation around this time, I was trying to record funny songs but I really wasn’t funny, at all. So I switched to being very very serious instead.

I ended the millenium with a tape recorded under the name ‘Demon’. The album was called ‘Blurry at the Edges’ and for some reason had a picture of Zippy on the cover. It was mostly loud and guitary but I was also getting interested in other types of music, there is a brilliantly painful dance track called ‘Suburbia’ which repeats the following for 8 minutes… “C’mon!”

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I still couldn’t sing, but my guitar playing was improving and I was listening to A LOT of Placebo. This clip from ‘Reunion’ sounds a bit like music, I think.

I arrived in the year 2000 with a four track and a fairly consistent set of 5 or 6 people who were prepared to listen to my music. But I was about to throw them all by getting heavily into trip-hop. You might think it’s not possible to do good trip-hop on a four track, and you would be right, but I gave my Massive Attack impression a bloody good low-fi go. I will leave you with a clip from my first recording of the new millennium, the angst ridden and ever so slightly creepy ‘Does He Do it Better’. Thanks for reading, in the next part I will spend two exciting years working as a sales junior, before moving to Brighton and starting a noisy band.

A Trip Back in Time – Part 1, 1998

You want to read this post, you really do, it has clips from my music when I was 16, if you think I’m bad now wait till you hear this!!!

We are days away from the album release, I am just waiting for confirmation! In the meantime I am going to put together a few nostalgic posts tracking my progress from a crap musician into whatever it is that I am now (a crap musician with lots of equipment probably).

To start this series of posts off we are heading right back to 1998, oh yes, Tony Blair was the hope of a nation, Oasis were amazing, the millennium dome was going to be incredible, and I had just bought a guitar and a tape recorder. My debut EP “Toxic Jumper – Perspiration Overload” was about to be unleashed upon Peter Symonds College, and bloody hell it was appalling! I have listened to all of it, and really don’t want to play any of it to you. In the end I’ve ignored great tracks like ‘Typical Housewife’ and a cover of Whigfield’s ‘Think Of You’ and opted for a short sequence from the hilarious ‘My Favourite Bands’, a song about rubber bands. Prepare yourself, I mean it.

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“Once I needed something, to erase some pencil, but I didn’t have a rubber only some small lentils” – Lyrics need some work I think.

1998 then saw the release of not only my second, but also my third album. I can honestly say that the phrase ‘quantity over quality’ has NEVER BEEN MORE APPLICABLE. The topically named ‘GCSE.P’ and it’s follow-up ‘Be a Horsey’ (I have no idea) were both equally as terrible as ‘Perspiration Overload’ and so I have neglected to include any clips. Take the clip you heard, multiply by 14 and you have these two albums.

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“I hate Croatians, why do they always fight? It would be better if Whitney Houston was Croatian, because she’s the queen of the night” – Simply finding words that rhymed was apparently enough for me to consider lyrics finished back then.

In the Christmas holiday of 1998 I started recording with Tom Morton of ‘Lardpony’ fame. Under the name ‘Flameboy’ we recorded the tolerance preaching ‘Big Gay Bauble E.P’.

It’s still pretty appalling, there’s no getting away from it, but listen REEEEALLY carefully, there’s some sort of progression here, there is multi-tracking, there are drums (sort of)! You may feel that multiple tracks of my musicianship is just amplifying the pain, but this was pretty cutting edge for us at the time. I still couldn’t sing or play guitar but my eyes had been opened to the joys of owning a four-track. Also, Tom would regularly tell me that my lyrics were crap and force me to think of ones that were marginally less crap. Here’s a clip from ‘Power Cuts Ong’.

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“He brought some candles, which allowed us to see, because we couldn’t turn the lights on, obviously” – Ok, so it’s hardly Shakespeare, but it’s better than my line about the lentils, that’s progress.

That brings us to the end of my most prolific ever year of recording. After this I appear to have taken a break until May 1999, I think the reaction to those initial 3 tapes may have shocked me into actually trying to learn how a guitar worked. You have all that to look forward to in my next post in the lead up to my album release!

Hope you don’t have nightmares, James.

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