AT NIGHT I AM KING
Eeeesh hello! It’s been a while. Have you done something with your hair? I love the new ‘you’. I haven’t written a blog for a little while as I decided that the internet is already full to the brim of people whinging and ranting about negative things without me then just adding to it. I decided that my policy would be ‘if you can’t say something positive, then don’t say anything at all’. And THAT is the reason that I appear to have said nothing at all. So before I start quoting Ronan Keating songs, I think it’s best to let you know that this blog will be about my new album which is coming out on Sunday (Yes! Sunday!)1st May.
The significance of the release date is that I needed to give myself enough time to make sure the album was ready, I’d have all of the promo ready so that all 6 people who like my music would get the chance to hear about it pre-release and that I would be certain to have the cash on the hip to pay upfront all of the various costs involved in releasing a little DIY album. I chose my birthday as a good date to aim for but then decided that if I am to go all out Bowie and release the album on my actual birthday then, ultimately, I would need to then die two days afterwards for the reference to have its full media impact. I then noticed that I have to go to work on an early shift on the day two days after my birthday and thus making having to also die that day a little inconvenient. And so instead I moved the release date forward by a couple of days meaning that it entirely breaks that association with the great man and means that those 6 fans will get wind of the fact that I have released yet another new album, without the added inconvenience of me having to die 2 days hence the release date. Also, I have not managed to become terminally ill over the course of the writing and recording process, rendering the lyrics meaningless and a somewhat wasted opportunity in the event of my untimely demise. However, as an added bonus, I have added the guarantee that I will die at some point after the album’s release and this will come at (spoiler alert) the end of my life. Then some of you people who said that I ‘sound a bit like David Bowie but hasn’t fully committed to following the extraordinary career path of that great man’ will be laughing on the other side of their faces. I say ‘some’ because most of those people will have already noticed that I haven’t committed myself to that path already by being neither successful nor good.
So now we have got that out of the way, being as I am aware it must have been the ‘elephant in the room’, can I just get on with telling you all about my new album? Thank you!
Believe it or not, it has been almost two years since my last album, Something Funny Happened On My Way To Utopia, came out. It did OK but I have released an album every year for four years by that point so I thought it time to give it a rest for a bit. The reason I had released so many albums between 2010 and 2014 is that I was kind of playing ‘catch up’, having not really done music of my own for about 10 years and then started performing again, at first for a laugh and then quickly discovered I really was enjoying creating stuff again. So I get to 2013/2014 and realise that I have recorded nearly all of my old songs that I wanted to get out there and written a few decent new ones to go alongside and it is really now time to shut up and let them work their musical magic over time on that internet and make me into the local cult hero that I truly deserve to be.
Of course when you work on and release albums in quick succession like that you don’t really have the time to go and promote what you’ve done and you don’t spend any time reflecting on what you have done and how next time you could make it better. I am not saying that I am not proud of the 40 tracks over 4 albums in 4 years that I have released between 2010 & 2014 but perhaps I should have ditched the ambition of doing that and made fewer albums and amalgamated at least the last 2 into one really decent album.
So here we are in 2016 and I have another one coming out on Sunday (YES!! I mean it, SUNDAY!) 1 st May. The idea was to write 10 brand new songs rather than mainly re-recording older songs and that idea almost came to pass until I noticed a couple of gaps that could be nicely filled with music I had written in the past. The result is a 9 track album (I stopped at 9 tracks as some of the songs are a bit lengthier than my older outputs and I really do try hard not to push people too far beyond their limits of boredom, however I do still insist on pushing that limit).
So the title of the album is ‘At Night I Am King’ and apart from the odd post on social media bragging to indifferent people about how good I think it is, I have mainly kept it all to myself for the 18 months I have been working on it. I did originally want to include a guest musician on every track but for some reason or another that didn’t come to fruition, perhaps because people are just too busy but, unable to take a hint, I cracked on and did it all myself. There’s something very satisfying in doing everything yourself. When I find out what that is, I will let you know.
The working title for the album was ‘Too Much of Everything’ until one day I was walking through Dunston which is a wonderfully quaint and peaceful hamlet in Tyne & Wear and noticed some vandalism on the end of a terrace row that read in big white spray paint ‘AT NIGHT I AM KING’. They may have even put a comma in. It was hard to tell. I wrote down the phrase in my stereotypically middle class songwriter’s notebook and pencil manner and thought I’d do something with that phrase. My intention was to go back there quickly and take a photograph next to it donning my suit and tie for the album cover but I never got back to it and I am guessing it has now been rightfully cleaned up by the ever so efficient people at Gateshead Council.
Anyway, I had my new album title and when it came to the album artwork, it seemed appropriate to use images of New York, as the first couple of songs that I wrote were, after all, inspired by a trip there that we made in late 2014. They became the theme for the album. I was trying to make new music that would be an, albeit very slight, departure from what I had done in the past. I also had in mind some words from Billy Bragg that he said when I saw him play at Glastonbury where he was complaining that nobody was writing protest songs anymore. I have also become obsessed with city life and especially 20 th century architecture ideas of concrete and steel; ‘urban utopias’ in my home city of Newcastle upon Tyne (you can see some of this stuff in our 30 minute film Geeks Guide To Newcastle on YouTube if that’s your bag. www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kmMl-h0IgM
So upon return from New York, with all of those memories of bits and bobs in my head and with Billy Bragg’s words ringing in my ears I wrote the first song I had written for a while called Freedom of the City and then, of course I couldn’t have it just sit there all lonely on its own, so I wrote a bunch more to go with it! Here is my track by track breakdown of the new album, letting you know, whether you like it or not, what each song is about. You may leave at any time.
Lunch Atop a Jumbo Jet
Originally titled ‘I’m Not Afraid’ it is really about my fear of heights and, in particular, of flying. There was a point where I had told my partner that I would not be going to New York as I couldn’t do the flight. My GP gave me some wonderful tablets in order to get me to New York and I considered asking him if I could get some more to cope with things like talking to central heating engineers, car mechanics, call centres or just visiting my mother. I thought it odd how you can be in a tin can full of compressed air, travelling at 500 mph at 40,000 feet, over vast miles upon miles of deep and cold ocean and all that the 400 or so people around (apart from a handful of distressed crying babies, who I think must definitely side with me on this) seem to worry about is when their meal will arrive. By epeating the words over and over again to a bit of a Nick Cave-y style piano riff, I think it sums up my horror and observations rather well.
I was also looking at this famous photograph for some time when I we visited The Rockefeller skyscraper in New York. The men in it are posing for a publicity picture, but then I looked at some of the other photographs taken at the same time where they were doing other silly things and for some reason the marketing people of the 1930s chose this one which was entitled Lunch Atop a Skyscraper. Nobody seems to have credited the identity on the real life workers posing in the photographs and the song became my ode to them. Me being such a scaredy cat for doing what millions of travellers do every day and them not seemingly being in the slightest bit concerned about posing for silly photographs at such an altitude and without even having to go crying to their GP beforehand begging for Diazepam.
Freedom of the City
This is the first song I wrote for the album. Very much a ‘New York song’, we’d ended up in the newly opened 9/11 museum quite early on in our trip, as we’d accidently stumbled into Ground Zero territory whilst looking for something else. I mean, in hindsight, it’s difficult not to stumble into as it is a massive piece of land right in the heart of Manhattan. The 9/11 Memorial Museum itself was not what I was expecting. I was expecting some photographs and a bit of storytelling but when you realise that you are in the basement of the former World Trade Centre and what is effectively a mass grave for those who were never found or in reality were never recovered because there was nothing left of their bodies, then all of those horrible repeated images you saw on the TV that day become a sudden reality. I did not expect there to be anything left at all of the Twin Towers and I did not know at the time that they were what we were queuing up to go into but when it slowly dawned on me that’s what it all was then I knew the next few hours were going to be pretty heavy. I don’t know whether going into it unprepared for what it was, was better than going into it prepared. I remember, at the time, I wanted to leave any 9/11 stuff for later in the week as it felt a bit immoral to go straight to it, like rubber-necking drivers who slow down on a motorway when passing a fatal car crash. As we were unprepared and did not even know of the museum’s existence, just stumbling into the area and thinking we’d go and look at those big waterfall fountains, it was an extraordinary few hours. There were big signs saying that photography is prohibited. Of course it is, that is just a basic bit of respect in a place like this… but some (perhaps they could not read the signs as they were in English) were still taking photographs. As you got further into the exhibits, I noticed the photographing petered out as it became more and more harrowing and intense.
There is one really nice exhibit in there that I was standing in front of for ages and which I am happy to write about. It was a pane of glass. Seemingly the only pane of glass which survived the collapse and then a man from the museum came over to talk to me about it. He told me that the architect of the skyscrapers, Minoru Yamaski had a fear of heights, and so he designed each window to be narrower than the breadth of his own shoulders, therefore when you stood by and looked out of the windows, you didn’t get so scared of falling out. A testament for all of us who have such anxieties that may stunt our creativity.
For the rest of my trip, every time I looked up or I saw a beautiful skyline view of that city, the thought and mental imagery crossed my mind of how awful a sight it must have been on that dreadful day. When I got home I almost immediately wrote Freedom of the City with Billy Bragg’s rant echoing in my head, I applied myself to write a protest song. The ‘airplanes overhead’ mentioned in the song are not only the ones flying over New York that day, that the people who live there must have been so terrified of, they are also the ones that flew (and still are flying) over cities in Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria that I am pretty sure the people who live there are just as, if not more, terrified of. So the lyric ‘with the airplanes overhead, I will write to you. When there’s freedom and respect, I will call’ is directed at both sides. As I remember, Tony Blair maintained constantly that he was doing the ‘right thing’ by his own ideals at the time despite millions of people saying otherwise… perhaps those terrorists thought the same but they had different ideals. I think they are all wrong.
Of course it is far more complicated than that but perhaps, I think, blowing things up and killing people forevermore and a day may not be working out and so, perhaps a new, more peaceful, approach might work? Billy Bragg got a protest song and I finally managed to form an educated opinion on foreign policy.
As I understand it, Doki Doki is Japanese onomatopoeia for the sound of a repeatedly pounding heart. So it’s not even a Japanese phrase, as bearing in mind translated into English, it is probably nearer to me saying ‘my heart feels like butterflies’ or ‘my heart is going boom, boom, boom’. I have written many words and many songs about my own problems with depression and anxiety but these two Japanese words (one, if you discount that both words are actually the same word) seemed to sum up how I sometimes feel quite nicely.
I wondered if I could create a lovely musical anthem for people who might feel the same at times. I don’t know if anyone else does feel that way but sometimes I get myself into such a tizz of nervous excitement and confusion that my mind and body become detached and my heart starts to accelerate to such a rate that I think I might be about have a fatal heart attack. This is of course only an anxiety attack and I have become used to them. Perhaps I am just a massive wet lettuce and nobody else has this but I am fully aware that there are thousands of people that do and so I thought it’s time I wrote yet another song about depression and anxiety (I did a whole album’s worth back in 2011 with Where Reality Ends and I Begin).
Much the same as with Freedom of the City, this song just seemed to write itself. Sometimes, ideas can just spill out of your head. I wanted this song to sound a little bit ‘80s’ and I put little lyrical ‘jokes’ in there too which I really like. ‘I had a bad paper round a long time ago’ alludes to me, that I am a young hipster musician at the age of 19 and I just look older than the rest of them because I have worked so very, very hard but, on the flip side, I am worried that I am getting too old to be writing songs like this and constantly trying to gain people’s approval. Having been out to watch some local bands recently, it appears that I am about 10 years behind the trend so it is all irrelevant. ‘I’ve got a lot of baggage in tow’ makes me smirk a middle-class songwriter’s smirk too. It’s basically about how, roughly once a week, I tended to think I was going to die immediately. ‘An impending sense of doom’ I think they call it in medical terms. And so… I thought I might try and make light of that by making it all into an 80s synth led pop song. It must have worked as at the time of writing I haven’t had this for a long time and, in fact, as I get older my regular bouts of depression appear to be getting more and more sparse (which, strangely, I think is a bit of a shame as I’ll have nowt to write songs about unless I go on holiday or something). This was truly meant as an anthem song for the depressed and peeps full of anxiety that now I seem unable to tap into as I am not full of anxiety or depressed (but to be fair, if I was either, I would be unable to write about it). Ask me next week, I’ll probably have a different take on it.
Is God Magic?
David Bowie did ‘Joe The Lion’ on the Heroes album by just making up the words and melody as he went along – all in one take. I had the music for this song ready and a few words in my head and thought I might give it a crack too! Shamefully, I didn’t do it all in one take though. I did 3 or 4 versions and then cut out my ‘best bits’ and then edited them all together. I then did a live vocal take of me singing the song that I had accidentally created over the top. I thought that might be a nice new way of how I write music until I remembered that I used to do this a lot when I was a teenager before I had even heard of Bowie. I like the Super Furry Animals stylee space computer noises in this song, I like the chorus lyrics and I like the bass line. I also like the lyric that I came out with; ‘I am wasted all the time, I must be right, but I’ve hated all my life’. And I love the hook ‘blah, blah, blah!’ – it reminds me of reading a Noel Gallagher interview in the late 1990s when he said that he wrote ‘D’You Know What I Mean’ (or maybe some other famous Oasis number one hit, I’m not an avid fan, soz!) where he said where he’d written a brilliant first line for a chorus and then went to the pub and the rest was just the usual rubbish. Or occasions when Morrissey is saying something onstage that is really profound and then he just goes ‘and then blah, blah, blah, blah’. Here I think I have managed to make a wonderful 5-minute pop song, say some stuff about religion, which is mainly an extension of Freedom of the City but kind of reading between the lines and including my own references to 1990s indie pop (with a half decent bass line). And if the kids aren’t singing it by this time next year then I will eat my hat*.
*I don’t have a hat, as I ate it last time I proclaimed that.
‘We said, that we are, that they are, that we are, that they said, that blah, blah, blah.’
Birthday in Berlin
This was a strange experience to write. I started out just trying to keep up my ‘cities’ theme for the album, which you may have noticed had gone by the wayside. It was originally called ‘Alexanderplatz’ and I wanted to write about the 20 th century communist architecture there and the feelings amongst that community when all of that stuff was being built. However most of my knowledge of that comes from a barman I was talking to when I should have been celebrating my beloved’s 21 st birthday in Berlin 10 years ago. He’d gone to bed, having just ventured into the far West and had a horrible meal and then we went to a gay bar that was empty and when we ordered a drink the people there just laughed in our faces, so we left. I still fancied a drink and to explore so I found myself not far from the hotel, talking to the man who was serving me drinks, as he was friendly and I wasn’t going to try to talk to anyone else. I was trying to talk to him in German – as I think it’s polite to at least try, when visiting a country where English is not the first language to learn the words for ‘Please’, ‘Thank You’, ‘Yes’, ‘No’ and/or ‘Sorry/Excuse me’ but in this case I had some GCSE German and I had been able to run to some rather impressive sentences. I reckoned I was making an OK job of it until I’d had about 4 or 5 drinks and he said, ‘OK, how about we talk in English now?’ Fair enough. I asked him about the Wall and if he was there when it came down. He told me that all of his family and friends were on the East side of the wall and so he didn’t really mind. This was a revelation to me, as I was brought up to think that everyone hated it. He then went on to say that, when the wall came down, it was awful because all of the twats from the west started chucking their money about and being awful about the fact that they had money to spend and that he and his friends and family had not so much. Having just been there ourselves, I think I kind of thought that he might have a point. I was wishing my partner was there to hear this at this point.
This is before 24 hour licences happened in the UK, and the rule in Germany at the time was, if there are no people in the pub, you can close – however if there are people in the pub, you must stay open! I commented that it was really quiet in his pub – he said that because it was a week day, there would not be many people out; ‘German people tend to work hard and then play hard, rather than you Brits who just want to play hard and maybe try doing some work in-between’.
He said that he’d show me a place, as he was allowed to knock off now as it was only me in the pub… He put his coat on… and then a group of people came into the pub. He sighed and said ‘I guess I can’t go now’. After 5 minutes or so, he came back and said his boss was going to let him finish for the night. He took me down the road and around the corner to another bar, he pushed open the big black door and inside was a brilliant colourful array of a party in a pub! I perched myself on a bar stool and proceeded to talk in German, English, mime and via pointing to all of the people in there. There must have only been about … no more than 20 people there… and it was FULL! It was a tiny pub. It was brilliant! I thought everybody was being really friendly towards me, in particular, a young man (he was young at the time, as was I being 22 at the time but my photographic memory pictures him as a ‘young man’) who could not understand anything I said whether it be in German or English, who was initially trying to take the piss out of me but when I stole his cap and chucked it down the stairs, everyone applauded. He seemed to enjoy that attention and so came back and was nicer to me after that. Then after a long time of merriment in this tiny pub of happiness, a bell rang. A big bell… ‘dng ding’ like that (he says in case you don’t know what a bell sounds like) and everyone in the pub disappeared through a black curtain which was covering a doorway just beside the bar. The barman I had befriended tugged my arm to go through as well but I wasn’t pleased that the party had so suddenly ended so preferred to stay behind and finish my drink. I went and did a wee and thought to myself, ‘wonder what is through there?’ So did I have a look at what was behind the curtain?
Did I go through the curtain?
Of course I freakin’ did.
So I went through the curtain and it was very dark apart from some very low red lighting. Oh it’s a ‘dark room!’ – I’d heard about these but it really wasn’t my thing. It was about 5 times the size of the pub and it was awful! It was a bit like Lazer Quest but with less people running around and more blokes sucking each other off. I went back to my pint, after a short while my barman friend returned with big red rosy cheeks and a smile on his face. ‘Have you had a fun night, Martin?!’ he exclaimed. I replied ‘hier ist Ihre Jacke’. He said, ‘Danke, gut nacht’. And left. I think I got the whole story into the song, but missed out the bit where at 7am I was walking back to the hotel with hundreds of Berlin commuters heading right for me and me having to vomit into a bin (and mainly missing the bin) right in front of all of them.
My partner was rightly annoyed when I reappeared at the hotel at 7am and I had to sleep until lunchtime, when we really should have been celebrating his birthday. But I think he should have come with me all along but he’s not quite the night owl that I am, and so this song ended up being my public apology to him for that night. He’s unlikely to read this or hear the song, so it will fall upon your own ears and opinions as to who was right or wrong.
Hit Him While He’s Down
This is an old song. I wrote it in 2001, when I was 19 and I was in a bit of a bad place at the time. I think I had decided that I had no friends anymore and I can only vaguely remember writing it, my arm was in a sling due to me breaking some bones in a fight (mainly with myself and some furniture). I wrote a lot of songs that week after having spent a good 4 or 5 days solidly in bed - they have nearly all appeared on my albums in the past now (I think, in case you were wondering or care at all!) I wanted to re-record this particular song as I had tried playing it live since 2010 and I don’t think I did it justice back then so thought I could do it again from scratch.
I had just ended up moving back in with my parents after a dramatic 9 months of attempting to not live there - and I think this is the first one I wrote without anger but with more acceptance that I might be culpable for my own welfare. It comes from around the same time that I was first diagnosed with depression and began to get some really good help for it too and get back in touch with reality. The refrain ‘I have to build a time machine’ was a genuine alternative to carrying on with life for the Martin of 2001. When I re-recorded it last year, I just thought it’s a brilliant ‘Marty McFly 2015 reference’.
The verse lyrics are about genuine real thoughts that were running through my head at the time. I sing about my grey skin – I was looking at my own hands, they were all cut to pieces and my hands looked all grey, I remember writing that lyric. I sang about ‘wounds so deep, they scar my relationships’…
… One man made me go out with him, with me and my sling, in Durham. We went to Klute which is a nightclub for people who liked basics. I had a brilliant night and when I was pouring out my heart and soul to him, some knobbers started shouting out homophobic abuse at us from the bridge above. I lost my cool and shouted back, it was the first time ever I had stood up for anything in my entire small 19 year existence. He grabbed my face and kissed me. My adrenaline must have been so high at that moment that I asked him "shall we get back together then?!" And he said "no". The next day (no Bowie references, please, Martin!), the following day, I wrote the end bit ‘nothing more to do, nothing more to go through, can’t stop thinking of you’… it was all of the words I wanted to sing and it made me feel better.
And getting that song into the album made me feel better about the album as now it felt like the music had more depth then that I could not write about now. I am simply not so pained anymore to write songs with such emotional worth. Also – it has a brilliant ‘kick ass outro’!
I Was Lonely
I wrote this song around 10 years ago. I felt that the album needed a bit of a ‘song’ song – like an acoustic no frills song at this point. I tried to write something that might fit but it wasn’t working, so looked again into my old books.
I was lonely. It is about Newcastle’s gay scene.
I used to get picked up and thrown down the stairs repeatedly by bouncers. It used to annoy me. Not being able to take a hint, I went back, only to be thrown down the stairs again. So I went back and I got thrown down the stairs again. In-between being chucked down flights of stairs, I managed to form some brilliant relationships with some awesome people. So to be fair, I was ‘picked up’ more often than I was ‘thrown down the stairs’. I started to survey the people who I managed to wake up with the following day; Fighter Pilot, Doctor and Estate Agent were among my favourites. I liked ‘Estate Agents’ best as you could go and look at houses! I met so many people down there, a few of whom are still good friends today – I met hundreds of wonderful people there and made some great friends but in the end… I was getting tired of being chucked down the stairs (the last time, they really hurt me) and the constant drinking was getting to me. Perhaps I was becoming a bit of an idiot. Fair doos… but I was Lonely and the music there was rubbish! Then I got chucked down the stairs.
All We Are
I think this song pretty much sums up the ‘me of now’. It was the last song I wrote for the album just 4 months ago. If you remember This Time from my 2011 album, and my insistence at gigs that when playing that song live, that ‘this time is mine!’ Nobody will remember that as a)nobody comes to my gigs and b)I only imagined that in my head and never actually said it out loud. Anyway… it’s that!
It’s difficult to know now whether I should punch up or down with my lyrics so I just decided to take the piss out of myself, musically and lyrically with this and hope that everyone else might join in.
Friday Night Sing-Along
This is a true story which for many reasons I don’t want to … blah, blah, blah.
So if all of that hasn’t put you off, then nothing will! My apologies, if you got this far. I was expecting to do a quick wee blog about my new album and then every track became a blog in itself. I am really proud of this album and you can get the new album here: (a variety of links will appear, in time – for like Spotify & iTunes and Whatever you like – thing… One thing I do ask if you have read this far, could you spend either £4 for a download or £5 for a CD at http://meiosis.bandcamp.com? as I’m a tiny bit put out by the UK government making me pay £46 import tax on the 100 CDs I ordered and had printed in the US – that’s about 28% of my profit and my profit from each CD sold is roughly £2.10 (which is really high, if you are signed to a label but because I do everything myself I get back all of the 0% I sell thus making my £2.10 share worthless).
Just thought it is worth bringing up, because if the British government want to charge me x of duty tax on my CDS being imported (they don’t appear to do that with steel) and then presumably they want to charge VAT on my albums sales regardless of where in the world they are sold, I paid VAT on every service I used for recording, writing and publishing. I paid VAT on the venues I hire to play live and I pay VAT tax on the rehearsal rooms I wish to use. I pay VAT on the programs I download to make sounds, and I pay monthly VAT on all of the subscriptions I pay monthly to keep my stuff available for free. That’s fine. I feel, I can now afford it. I make a wage, which I pay income tax on, National Insurance on and which I save up to give a big chunk of, not only to live but to pay off loans and debt, that also are taxed, which is fine. I smoke about 20 a day – there’s another 8 quid a day and I drink loads, another huge amount of tax I pay. I have to run a car that I love but it all needs to be taxed, insured, taxed, filled up with tax, and then my house that I live in is mortgaged, which is taxed. As I say… I don’t mind. I would happily pay MORE tax. But when I see all of the public services around me being cut and not just libraries and swimming baths closing down but people actually dying – then a government who is led by a Prime Minister who has a net worth of £millions and all of his crony horrible mates in his cabinet who are collecting my tax turn out to be avoiding tax? Surely this would be the moment that I… I would really start to whinge and rant about them?
No. I say ‘no’- because, as I set out at the start of this blog many hours ago, I only want to write about positive things and because I am an ‘impartial’ man which respect to the British media, and to those with influence, I would now like to write at length about the great, the awesome, Jeremy Corby…
Oh I am sorry… we seem to have run out of space on the website. I guess we’ll have to pay more money (and VAT) to be able to get the blogs a bit longer in future.
I will leave you with the video I made for Freedom of the City.
Martin is available on other formats: