Archive for the ‘ramblings’ Category

Oxjam - a great event, not a euphemism for Bovril.

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

Remember the heady days of August, when you couldn’t wait to whip out those mighty charity cojones by bravely emptying a small tub of icy water over yourself to support, er… (Was it ALS? Hang on, weren’t they the boy band with the guy that did back flips? I think they’ve got Ebola or something.)

As we head into autumn and the evenings turn dark and cool, suddenly the icy water seems less invitingly refreshing - you’d still like to feel that you were doing your bit but perhaps with your nipples less prominent?

Good news, good people, you can discharge your charitable duties and still have a great time in October by just rounding up some friends and getting out into Cheltenham later this month. Reasons to be cheering - 1,2,3…

One, you’ll be supporting Oxfam, fighting worldwide poverty from emergency response to campaigning to improve the lives of the poorest people on Earth, working towards sustainable change. You can read about it from the Oxjam perspective here, or in a bit more detail on the Oxfam website.

Two, you’ll be supporting local musicians. You may be under the impression that the bands that you love are simply created by media impresarios or, in the case of Justin Bieber, extruded by a giant, cybernetic sphincter but no, those bands that have changed the face of music all started out slogging around the live circuit. The one thing that live music needs to flourish is an appreciative audience. There will be hundreds of musicians, sound engineers, managers and volunteers giving up their time on the 18th for a great cause. Show them some love.

Three, and least self-sacrificingly, it’s going to be a fantastic day of live music. There are some brilliant acts (and The Layers) playing from three in the afternoon until closing time. It’s not like a TV talent show. There’s no autotune, just people who can really sing. There’s no manufactured, faux-tragic back-story, just musicians giving up paid gigs to raise money for people who are truly suffering. There’s no telephone vote, instead, if you like an artist, you can go up and actually talk to them.

So what do you say? It’s not like going out selfishly - you’re doing your bit for charity. Get a baby sitter, put on your dancing trousers and get out there. Obviously, we’d love you to make a beeline for the Frog and Fiddle to see The Layers (10pm!) but there are great acts on in all the venues. The important thing is that we get as many people out there as possible so please, share this with your friends, round up your posse, homies or massive; be prepared to grease up your intimate circle (by which we mean bribe your friends if they don’t want to come out. Minds out of the gutters, people), and grab a fistful of tickets (http://www.wegottickets.com/oxjam/event/281545).

You know it makes sense. See you there.

Unlimited love from The Layers. x

Two Layers beneath the surface of the Earth…

Sunday, August 10th, 2014

Being a Layer is a tricky and demanding business, and not just for Caleb’s sandwich wrangler. A rigorous training programme is in place to cover every eventuality and, in preparation for our shady sponsors demanding that we obtain a long-hidden relic from an abandoned tomb (you’d be amazed how often this happens. Damn sponsors…) Paul and Neil spent a cheerful Saturday exploring the limestone mines that honeycomb the area below Wiltshire’s picturesque Box.

We quickly attached cheap head torches to builders’ hard hats and then, preparations about as half-arsed as was possible, we met up with a few of the local underground community.

Box Freestone Mines  was a source of limestone from Roman times until the 1970s, when mining finally ceased for good. Freely accessible until recently, the entrances have been gated off for safety and preservation of what is now designated a site of Special Scientific Interest.

A brief stroll through sunny woods brought us to a barred entrance in a hollow; even yards from the entrance, the change in the air temperature was palpable, bringing a chill to the summer morning.

Ducking down to scramble through the entrance we were confronted with a small chamber full of tumbled rocks, with litter and graffiti evidencing the incursions of local youths. The graffiti is a shame, as in places in the mines it obscures the writings of miners from hundreds of years ago - some official mine business, some in the same vein of its modern counterparts and some hauntingly poetic.

The survey maps of the mines, laminated A3 sheets, show the incredible extent of the tunnels. The maps have almost biological look, dendriform, resembling old biology textbook drawings, dead ends and short passages branching off longer passages that join sections of the mine. Once inside it is tremendously difficult to match the map to what you see - below ground your sense of direction is thrown off; one part of the mine looks much like another and falls have changed the layout over the years.

The ceilings are pitted with pick marks, corners indented with grooves cut by the ropes that hauled stone. There are pockets in the walls where scaffold planks were inserted and others, soot-stained, that held lamps and candles. The hardship of working down here must have been incredible.

Making your way about the passages is a demanding business - even the uncollapsed passages are uneven and damp underfoot and, in a helmet and head torch, just strolling these easy corridors needs concentration. Some parts of the mine are flanked with piles of stone too small or uneven to be worth removal, representing a hazard as they are prone to easy collapse.

Navigating the falls gives an insight into the dangers that must have accompanied the mine workers. Huge stones have fallen from the ceiling, leaving gaps to be traversed with great care. Some rock with weight on them and the noise they make brings a thrill of primal fear - an almost subsonic, percussive grinding as much felt as heard  - it is easy to imagine that sound and cracks opening in the ceiling, the panic of men trying to clear the area.

Scrambling, climbing and sliding, we travelled through the mines, stopping off to see stations where stone saws were sharpened, crane points and wells. Again, we marvelled at the physical demands placed upon the miners. After photographing some of the better-preserved mine workings, the party split, some of the more experienced cavers taking the youngsters in the group out while a small group of us tried to find the way towards a section of the tunnels pressed into military use.

At once, the incredible difficulty of navigating was apparent. There are few unambiguous reference points and it is difficult to whether the marking on the map is the tunnel in front of you without making a brief exploration. This makes progress incredibly slow.

On your own, the little cone of light in front of you is all you can see. The absolute dark is always in the periphery of your vision, as you move, it seems to follow you, as if chasing you along. It’s really quite disconcerting.

Finally, after one wrong turn too many, we abandoned the attempt to see the military tunnels for another time. After a brief stop off at The Cathedral, a huge cavern where daylight streams in through a hole in the roof, we made our way to the Back Door, crawling on our bellies to a tiny grate that released us into another little wooded dip.

As an introduction to caving, we couldn’t have been better looked after. Our guides were confident, friendly and incredibly knowledgeable. We were a little disappointed by the absence of Doug Maclure, rubber monsters and Morlocks but I assume that our guides were saving those for a subsequent expedition.

Our attempts at taking pictures were disappointing but others have made far less of a hash of it, so in lieu of our blurry efforts, take a look at http://www.mineexplorer.org.uk/boxmine.htm

The extent of the mines beneath the hill at Box is astonishing. They are a wealth of historic and scientific interest and if you’re offered the chance to visit, we would highly recommend it. If we get a chance to shoot a video down there and you fancy starring as a cannibalistic troglodyte, drop us a line…

Layers out (safe and sound!)

This blog entry sponsored by Ex-Lax.

Friday, July 11th, 2014

One of the best things about The Layers fan club - not as, you might surmise, a combined personal ventilation and cudgelling apparatus* but a largely fictitious group of people based loosely on the real-life people that appreciate the band’s ham-fisted attempts to work their way from the anus to the annals of rock history - is that they’re a forgiving bunch when it comes to blog frequency. Let’s hope so, anyway, as recent entries appear to have been scheduled along the lines of a West country bus timetable.

Anyway, if your last copy of our newsletter has been traded for snout long ago and you’ve managed to avoid being shanked in the showers, here’s a quick update. In line with Mr Cameron’s new surveillance laws, we’d like to remind our deeply religious fans that today’s encryption scheme is #julyjihad and the supplies are in a gravel bin outside Oswestry.

In last month’s**  instalment we alluded to the gradual de-abstraction of Layers HQ and regular readers will be pleased to hear that there’s now a genuine physical structure somewhere in a top-secret location that will soon become the hub of our dread machinations. In line with our ‘no drummer, no drama’ policy, the construction of said retreat has proved no less stressful that the construction of the Bridge over the River Kwai but, following the ritual execution of the odd inadequate contractor, plans are back on track.

Infrastructural difficulties haven’t been enough to keep us from our core mission, however and there’s good news for those of you who’ve been waiting for new material as we debut two new offerings at this year’s boutique festival of choice for the discerning musical connoisseur, the Tetbury Fiesta: ‘Spin the B’ and ‘Dumb, Dumb Revolution’ will be revealed to the world with all the subtlety and poise of a meth-crazed stripper at Charlie Sheen’s ‘out of rehab’ party, along with the entirely re-worked version of ‘Is that Wrong?’. There’s more new material in development too so watch this space. Hopefully, not for another six months (ahem).

Anyway, should you decide to sing along to the new material, here’s one set of lyrics by way of sneak preview. Hope to see you all on Sunday.

Dumb, dumb revolution.

Seeking out some grand conspiracy of the information age

Illuminiati, Masons, lizard people: targets for your rage

Confounded in profundity, mocked by the empty page

Gold of your false economy just a gilded cage

Well I don’t like what they feed me

Want me to believe

Selling off our freedom

Wring us while we bleed

Pretty things on television screens, watch them bump and grind

If it’s not your flesh and blood, no pause to rewind

Labour in banality, fumbling of the blind

Captive of your fallacies, resigning of the times

Don’t like what they feed me…

Papers’ vapid Austentation, all porn and prejudice

The golden age you represent; remiss and reminisce…

Sense declining reputation: failed to learn your history

Now facing stern examination, how did it come to this?

I don’t like what they feed me…

__

*On the other hand, if you’d like such a device, embossed with our Lego likenesses, we’re quite happy to go into the commemorative instruments of mayhem market if there’s a couple of bob to be made…

**On the assumption that most of our fans have been in a medically induced torpor since January

New Year, new gigs, same crap old jokes. You love it.

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

If you’re a fan of The Layers (and on behalf of the band, I’d just like to extend our sympathy. It can’t be easy) then this is probably that time of the year when, your New Year’s resolutions having been consigned to the waste receptacle of futile ambitions (collected by your local council the third Wednesday after Michaelmas and fortnightly thereafter) you take advantage of the brief festive disruption to your medication regime and resume plans to slip your restraints, concoct a disguise from janitorial supplies and make a break for freedom. If that is your intent, we’ll do our best not to tip off the orderlies and hope to see you at the Queen’s Head in Box on 31st January where we’ll ignore the fact that you’re wearing a mop-head wig and earrings made from urinal cakes. It being Wiltshire, there’s the small comfort that you shouldn’t stand out from the crowd too badly.

Yes, we’ve been invited to play Schtumm, the Queens’ Head’s flagship for original music in Box, previously graced by Ron Sexsmith, the Dub Souls and other luminaries. It’s a welcome invitation, as we’re aware that our profile has been a little low of late. Between hectic work schedules, various house moves and the usual distractions of midwinter, it may seem that the Layers have been just about keeping pace with the pitch drop experiment but fear not, gentle fans; new songs are being wrought from the raw firmament of creativity, hammered into shape, heated, cooled, given a once over with wet and dry and lavishly coated with dark chocolate. No, we don’t understand the process fully either. In addition, Layers HQ is gradually starting to metamorphose from metaphor to more physical as the boys start to tremble in dread anticipation of actually having to pick up a shovel and do something useful. Caleb’s sandwich chef has been in training for what promises to be a particularly demanding time.

So, come sing along on Friday 31st January and if you happen to have a couple of tonnes of ready-mix concrete kicking about, for a change, consider not hiding a body in it and drop us an e-mail. Alternatively, if you don’t have concrete but do need a body disposing of, also drop us an e-mail, our rates are very reasonable.

Happy New Year

Layers out.

He who lives by the rubber sword…

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

“Oh  no, he’s like so sad…he, like, goes to the woods an’ dresses up like a wizard or something, with a load of other losers at the weekend…”

Thus quoth the Bristolian Sasquatch walking in front of me with her friend who was like a mermaid. And by mermaid, I mean one of the manatees that sailors deprived of female company for three years would mistake for such.

For a second, I will confess, I pictured a minibus full of social rejects in dressing gowns and Hobbit slippers feeling queasy en route to the Forest of Dean and had to suppress a little smirk of assumed superiority. Then a treacherous part of my brain asked me what’s the difference between running around the woods dressed as a wizard and pretending to be a rock star? Especially if it’s Roy Wood and Wizard.

Because let’s face it, je ne suis pas un rock star.

Even touring Europe, we weren’t rock stars, we were just pretending. We may have got a rock star reception here and there but we weren’t rock stars.

Or were we? What’s the difference? Money? We’ve been paid. Popularity? We have fans. Drugs? I just took a couple of ibuprofen. Is it a sliding scale?

I strongly suspect that any reasonably grounded person that walks out onto the stage in front of fifty thousand people for the first time probably feels like they’re pretending to be a rock star. I bet they know someone who should be there instead of them. The illusion is only complete when those fifty thousand people go along with the joke.

Of course, if you’re not reasonably grounded, then you can start to believe it and before you know it you’re booking into the Betty Ford and everyone thinks you’re a dick. You get about the same respect as the bloke in the rubber ears hiding in a bush outside Ross-on-Wye.

So I guess we’re lucky. Thanks to everyone who’s colluded with us for just long enough that we could feel like rock stars and then let us gently back down to Earth before one of us changed our name to a Sanskrit graffito and bought a trilby made from crocodile scrota.

So whether your hobby is pretending to be a wizard, a rock star, a footballer or someone whose opinions are worth more than fuck all on the Internet, enjoy it and don’t give funny looks to people whose hobby is a bit different. As I said to Eric Pickles after his pole dancing class.

They’re back…

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

‘Tempus fugit’, as the phrase goes - if nothing else, a fine advert for the relevance of Latin, as a simple misunderstanding recently led to The Layers mistaking ‘time flies*’ as an instruction and chasing drosophila around with stopwatches. Well, it’s as good an excuse as any for not keeping the blog up to date although the genuine reason is more prosaically (or non-prosaically, given the dearth of such in recent times) related to lazy-arsehood.

In truth, given the work that’s gone into the completion and launching of our bouncing baby album, ‘Skinful of inc.’, we’ve had little to write about other than ‘Rehearsed. Sweaty. Tired’. Not the most inspiring stuff.

Yesterday, however, we finally swung our metaphorical legs back over the creative saddle and, although last night’s canter was definitely down memory lane it looks as if the perspective of fleeing time has shed a very new light on an old song**. It’s been a while since we’ve had the buzz that creating some music brings and it was a welcome return. Along with a new slant on an old favourite there were some new riffs to work on, renewed interest in a more disciplined approach to our craft and Neil’s been scratching away with his horse-feather quill in pursuit of a fresh batch of incomprehensible, angry lyrics… incomprehensibile, if you will.

Post album launch has been a period of reflection for us all and amidst the nob-gags, casual insults and outright bollocks that passes for conversation most of the time there has been some uncharacteristically deep soul-searching amongst the movers and shakers at Layers High Command. How do four busy professionals (inverted commas implied) balance work, family, friends, substance abuse and increasing decrepitude with the physically and emotionally demanding business of making original music? Especially in a world where it seems that music is less valued than ever before?

The answer was evident last night: it’s about passion for the music that we love, that shaped us and influenced us; it’s about a friendship that has grown over the last seven years and, perhaps most crucially, it’s about the lack of anything worth watching on telly on a Tuesday evening.

So it’s heads down for a new collection of songs, eyes up as we look to build on Roo’s burgeoning new career as a photographer and film maker by having a go at a few videos*** and hands out as we think about finding a manager, perhaps a video director and possibly even a fifth Layer. And if you know anyone who might like a role at Layers HQ, please drop us a line. Our HR team are ready for your call. Well, between making sandwiches for Caleb, naturally.

Layers out.


* For the pedants and hair-splitters amongst you°,  this is of course, a mistranslation, ‘time flees’ (fugit is the root of fugitive) is more correct and would have worked just as well in the contrived gag but for the spelling (see nested pedantry references)

ºActually, what’s the difference between pedantry and hair splittingºº?

ººIs this meta-pedantry or tautology?

** As you can see, the creativity has extended to our knack for ghastly mixed metaphors.

*** All in the best possible taste…

The perils of getting paid…

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

It’s been an uncommonly busy period for a band that normally gigs so occasionally that our typical performing schedule could be plotted on a chart of geological time (probably showing fossil remains of Plaedagigghan Noephuccasaurus). In an unprecedented burst of activity, we’ve actually gigged every week for the last month (the strain being so much for Paul that he had to take a holiday…) and, in an even more unusual turn of events, we’ve even been paid. Twice.

Really, I think that there may have been a distant roll of thunder as I typed that.

I’ve been examining my thoughts on the issue of payment for musicians - fans and regular readers of this blog will be no strangers to regular examinations of their heads - prompted by the coincidental appearance of stray groats in the Layers coffers and this meme that’s popped up recently on Facebook (and probably lots of other wordless social media streams used by scoffing touchscreen technorati that think blogging is so last century)

http://imgur.com/gallery/O1ZsK

I feel able to comment on this particular comparison because in both the fields of plumbing and music I’m a barely competent amateur but willing to have a bash for free if it makes my friends happy. I’m going to examine both sides of the argument.

Firstly, I don’t think that it’s a terribly fair comparison. For one thing, calling out plumbers after 6pm is overtime. I know a few plumbers, sparkies and other allied tradespersons and most of them get up at the crack of dawn and work their arses off. Secondly, playing music is fun. That’s why you do it. I’ve done a few minor plumbing jobs and, although I like helping out friends and manual labour makes a nice change of pace from my everyday life, I couldn’t describe it as fun. I had to call out an emergency drain guy a few weeks ago for a backed up sewer and I have to say, that looked a very long way from fun. You see a guy playing guitar in a wedding band and can bet he’s not thinking “I wish I was up to my elbows in other people’s shit.” Thirdly, if you think a plumber’s too expensive, you can’t replace him with an iPod and have half the people at your party not notice the difference. Finally, a plumber doesn’t expect to be applauded, told he’s great and to have the pick of the single women at the, er… drain blockage.

OK, time to stick up for the musicians.

I’ve written before about the issues around being paid for music, as have others who are actually professional musicians. I wouldn’t for a second denigrate the efforts of the people that I know who make wonderful music and take it seriously enough to dedicate their professional lives to it. I went to see my friends The Black Feathers put on a show a couple of nights ago and there’s no way that they should be that good and stony broke from it. Go and see them, they’re heart-stoppingly wonderful.

The thing is, a wedding band is the thing that you have to do as a musician to pay for the music that you love to make. The people who moan about the cost of a wedding band are, like the musicians, victims of a screwed up system of values. We live in a world that’s been tricked, bullied and manipulated into thinking that it’s stuff that matters: shiny gadgets, logos, brand names - that the only stuff worth paying for comes from some shiny Hollywood-high-tech dream factory. Somehow, walking around the corner and putting a few quid in a hat to see wonderful local musicians is a waste of a couple of quid but staying in and paying a premium rate phone line to vote for a warbling, melodyned twat or a dancing dog on the TV is value. Or as my friend Brigid observes, 99c for an iPhone app that makes fart noises is value but 99c for a well-crafted song is a rip off.

We’ll put our hard earned gig money into recording our new album. We’re lucky, though, that we’re able to make music purely for fun. We have jobs that we’re good at and we get reasonable recompense for them. The music’s a hobby - any of us in The Layers would be amongst the first to admit that when you listen to us, you’re listening to amateurs. If we were plumbers, when we finished a job at your house you’d flush the crapper and water would probably come out of the light sockets. We could only expect to get paid for that if you were planning an avant-garde dinner party and in need of a conversation piece and we’d have to gracefully accept whatever payment we might be offered. That’s about how we market the music. If you’re a crap plumber, you don’t expect to become minted for fixing a Khan’s khazi or a billionaire’s bidet. If you’re a crap wedding band then you’re ripping people off by gouging them for a couple of grand on the most expensive day of their lives.

Professionals who do a good job deserve to be paid a fair rate for what they do. We choose a trade, we choose how much work and practice we put into it and we have to accept that demand for our services may vary. There should always be a chance for a good plumber or a good musician to earn a living wage but that won’t happen in a society with such a messed up set of values as ours. We can help, though. Next time that you go to a bar and see a great band for free, offer an extra quid for the CD or offer to pass around a hat for the musicians. Every pound in the hat is a pound less in Simon Cowell’s pocket, for a start. If we all work together, we might bankrupt the smarmy wanker and he’ll have to become a plumber. There’s no one I’d rather see groping around in a U bend.

Tales from the recording studio soon - we hope the new album will be available for Christmas. It’s six thousand quid a copy. What’s wrong with that?

Neil out.

Sects, Doug and rock and roll.

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

If you go down in the woods today… you’ll probably attract the attention of that nice man from the Forestry Commission. So stop all that sordid, bosky fellatio and go looking for good, wholesome family entertainment instead. Not a term often used in connection with The Layers, it has to be said, unless preceded by a phrase like ‘the very antithesis of…”

However, this summer we were offered the chance to play a mellow, family friendly set at Treefest, Westonbirt Arboretum’s celebration of all things, er… tree related, by the lovely people at the 4014 project.

Friday night’s gig was for the benefit of campers, stall holders and others there for the weekend. We rolled up to a big top, a big stage and a friendly crew. The weather meant that the sides were on the big top and that produced an incredible reverberation effect every time Roo’s famously quiet and understated snare drum was hit. We’d started wishing that we were playing on a sunny, late summer evening but as the crowd started filtering in to the preceding act, a ukulele duo from Bristol, we realised that conditions were playing into our hands and the damp was granting us a captive audience.

And what a great audience they were. We’d picked the gentlest numbers, left Neil’s amp at home and hastily substituted any offensive words in the set with something equally meaningful but less controversial. We had some worries that the gentle set might lack impact but the reception from the crowd started cordial and got warmer by the song. As children wrestled like mating frogs in front of the stage, we worked our way through the most melodic parts of our repertoire. The audience were responsive, up for a chat and by the time the set was coming to its end, we decided that it was time to get out the banner and teach the world to sing Surf Trip… and sing they did. There’s something magical about hearing strangers sing your own song back at you and it made for a terrific climax to the set.

One of the audience members who wasn’t a stranger was Doug, ‘Dusty’ Jopling, who alert fans, medication depending, may remember joined The Layers for a short stint in the big apple a few years back. It was great to have 125% of the band in one place again and Doug enjoyed himself so much that he decided to come back to see us again the following week for the noisier, swearier set at The Vaults.

Apart from decibels and coarse language, the other chief difference at this gig was the size of the audience; thanks so much to the family and friends that turned out to support us but wow, there must have been something amazing on telly that evening.

Despite the dearth of spectators and eyeball-melting Czech moonshine that we’d been drinking, courtesy of our Pardubice-based promoter friend Viktor (you’ll have to backtrack to 2008 to cath up on those tales) we managed to get through brand new songs ‘Sapphire’ and ‘Tear You Down’ with enough panache and conviction to convince us that they’re worth recording on one of those new-fangled compact discs we’ve been reading about so next month, we’re off to the studio - more on that in a subsequent blog.

As an added bonus, Doug made a brief guest appearance on ‘Shadowpictures’ and ‘Belly Full of Sunshine’, giving Roo the opportunity to appreciate the band from the audience perspective. He’s become a big fan.

Next it’s off to the Zeitgeist Media Festival in Hampshire - okay, they’re nothing like a sect, it just made for a good title. If you don’t know anything about Zeitgeist, it’s a sort of apolitical political movement aiming to bring about the kind of world that favours people over money, fairness over greed and peace over war. Ridiculous, when you think about it, but a gig’s a gig and then we can get back to running our sweatshops and slave trading rings and generally trampling on the poor. If you’re not too busy selling crack to schoolchildren on 15th September, why not come down and check it out?

That will be it, gig-wise, for a little while (unless Lady Gaga comes begging for a support act again…) until we hope to be playing an album release party just in time for Christmas. More on that as the recording sessions go ahead.

Until then, thanks to everyone that’s come out to support us over the last couple of months; we love you all.

Layers out.

Ain’t no one gonna rain on my parade…

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

…my Fiesta may not escape so lightly. Indeed, as England, or ‘New Atlantis’ as it seems likely to be called next year, seems determined to soak everyone’s wick this July - a month supposedly named for a Roman emperor but lately more evocative of King Cnut - certainly when some daft… promoter tries to organise an outdoor music event in what for want of a better term we’ll call the ‘British Summertime’.

Never let it be said, though, that The Layers are willing to have our spirits dampened; no indeed, we drink them neat, as nature intended. It’s perhaps that haze of drink that makes us able to get out there and expose our amplifiers and tender white skin to the elements at rainy outdoor gigs.

Yes, gentle readers; it was Tetbury Fiesta time again. You may have missed the extensive publicity if you have a habit of skipping the adverts on your Sky box or if your court mandated therapist has suspended TV privileges.

Of course, one fly in our ointment would have been lonely, so to keep the weather company, a certain tennis player had gone from being miserably Scottish to being as British as strawberries and cream by reaching a Wimbledon final*. The dial on our audience size estimation device was going down faster than the value of a Barclay’s pension fund as we trudged onto the recreation ground.

As usual, the Fiesta, with its unique blend of Rock n’ Roll and Splat t’ Rat, had attracted a varied group of artists. The programme started with some terrific acoustic acts and then, as the Layers assembled at full strength, moved on to the plugged-in noisemeisters. The first of these was the very embodiment of what middle-aged rockers such as ourselves fear becoming. As the old saying goes: if you can’t be a good example, at least be a terrible warning. Well, certainly a score there.

Fortunately, from there, the only way was up and the standard gradually improved as the afternoon wore on and, as if encouraged, the clouds parted and the sun came out. All we needed was for one of the tennis players to suffer a catastrophe and we were in with the chance of an audience. Lo and behold, the rain that we’d been expecting decided to fall mainly over Wimbledon and while the roof was erected (clearly modelled on a 1967 Triumph Herald, it takes half an hour) a few extra people shambled, blinking, out of the bar. We had an audience. Sort of.

It was only a half hour set and sometimes it can take a while to get warmed up but on this occasion, barring a few tuning issues with Caleb’s guitar, we were into it like Jude Law into an unattended au pair. Wasted and Fallen Kings, perennial favourites, a quick downshift to the gentler strains of Bratislava and My Father and then time to debut ‘Whiskey’. Sometimes a new number can be hesitant but this one felt like a natural part of the set from the first moment. The backing vocals worked a treat and we could see the audience, small but perfectly formed though it was, looking up, taking an interest and even nodding along in time. A rocked-out Shadowpictures and then for the first time in a long time, Surf Trip with the right, laid-back groove. The last a capella strains were still fading as some of the audience came up to the stage. There’s always at least one nutter on the bus type who’ll come up to a band after of a performance and tell you that you’re the best thing since sliced bread, nice to hear but not worth getting excited about, but on this occasion we were blessed with two really encouraging pieces of praise. The first was from the lead singer of the day’s headline act, Whole Lotta Led, who not only went out of his way to tell us how much he liked the tunes and the harmonies but even bought a CD. The second was from our sound engineer. He’d already given us a great sound on and off stage but he too took a CD and told us how much he liked the music. High praise indeed from a man who works with Peter Gabriel.

It’s turning into a good year for The Layers; we have some great new tunes ready to introduce, an album’s worth of songs ready for the studio and what could be a great gig at Westonbirt later this summer - either in the woods or underwater, depending on the weather. There will be a gig at The Vaults soon to blood some new songs - dates will be announced soon so that our many secure unit-based fans can effect a timely break and come along and wave arms. Anyone’s arms, we don’t care.

We’ve got permission to invite fans along to the exclusive Friday night performance at Westonbirt, featuring us and some other great bands, so if you’d like to come along, drop us a line.

Layers out.

*Don’t worry, he’s back to being as Scottish as Tennent’s Super and cold chips…

You thought that it would never happen but…

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

Yep, it’s a serious Layers blog. Anyone who had five and a half years in the sweepstake - that eighty seven pence is yours.

It’s really a response to a response to a response to an article. This isn’t looking much like a serious blog, is it? I’ll hurry to the point. A few musicians have been writing about this article by Emily White in which she confesses to music piracy, not caring about liner notes and bestiality.  Or not. Read it for yourself and get the facts, don’t make up your mind on the basis of someone else’s reading of the article. What are you, the Daily Mail?

David Lowery, on the Trichordist, a community blog supporting artist’s rights on an ‘ethical Internet’ (I think that’s one where the dolphins have signed consent forms) composed this thoughtful reply, which was reposted by the talented and lovely Dan Beames and then referenced by the talented and even lovelier Brigid Kaelin.

Both Dan and Brigid make their living in the music business. Both are fantastically talented musicians, performers and song writers, so give their opinions on this issue the consideration that they deserve. I don’t disagree; I have observations and questions: grist for the mill, I hope.

On one hand, we (The Layers) could be held up as an argument that artists can support themselves by other means. I don’t like that, even though that argument - that the arts are the fruits of civilisation and should be shared equally is valid: if every member of that civilisation gets an equal crack at being fed, clothed and housed. We don’t, though. Actually, we live in a dog-eat-dog capitalist dystopia and the only way for artists like Brigid and Dan to eat is to try to take some token fiscal advantage of their talents, just as say, a banker profits from a good head for figures and a total disregard for the wellbeing of his fellow man or the English upper classes profit from a talent for having ancestors that killed people, sold slaves and oppressed the poor.

I’m not saying that anyone should make as much money as, say, Bono, just from being in U2. I am saying, though, that a good musician should have the same chance to make a living from talent, hard work and practice as, say, a good plumber.

Let’s be fair. There are plenty of would-be rock stars that beggar that argument by not practising, putting on crappy gigs and thinking that it’s all about wearing shades indoors, taking drugs and sleeping with impressionable models. Pete Doherty, take a bow. Sorry, take a blow. To the cranium. I’m not suggesting that everyone that tries should make a living from it. I know a lot of wonderfully talented musicians, though, that put their hearts and souls into making wonderful music. They should at least get the chance to spend a few years perfecting their craft and to give it a go.

You see, Emily White, in the article, describes herself as a ‘music lover’. But is she?

To me, love nurtures and supports. If you love someone, you want them to grow, to become stronger, better, happier. If you analogise music with a person, I don’t think that Emily really loves music; I think that she thinks he’s cool but she’s taking advantage of him without really thinking about whether he’s going to be OK in the long run. She’s fine when he gives her stuff but she’s not really interested in doing anything to support him. She’s just bleeding him dry and assuming he’ll be OK. When music complains, she just bitches about how he could be better for her, not really thinking about the reciprocal side of that arrangement.

If you like an artist, you should be willing to pay the going rate for their music. You should show a bit of interest in turning up to a gig.

Here at Layers HQ, we took the decision to make music our hobby, not our living. You want the record? All we ask is that you consider making a donation as to what you think it’s worth. As Brigid points out, people are willing to pay for an app that makes their iPhone make fart noises but bitch about paying 9p for an MP3. So consumers have to decide what music is worth to them. More or less than a lightsaber for your smartphone? (sigh). It’s not just the cash. I’d like to think that the music that we write is worth more to a listener than a voicemail  recorded by Chris Moyles. Unless someone’s started doing snuff versions…

The industry, though, has a part to play, too. Because for years they’ve pimped out innocent boys to girls like Emily. All of those boys (remember, easily offended people, that this is still an analogy - boys are music, OK?) are carefully selected for cosmetic appeal, to be unchallenging, easily palatable and then flooded on to the market so that there’s no exposure and little chance for the unconventional, thoughtful boys to get a look in. And those ‘different’ boys that do get through are picked up and promoted until they’re exhausted. And when Emily’s had a couple of dates with a boy and the time comes for her to pay for dinner or introduce him to her friends… why bother? There’ll be an equally pretty boy along in a minute.

Emily: if you love music, you ought to be willing to do something for it. You can listen to a few tracks - flirting is free - but if you date, you should at least be willing to go Dutch.

Brigid, Dan and every other musician out there - perhaps we just love too much. Perhaps we do need to experiment with new ways to make a living from our passion. As long as we don’t feel that our rights are being violated and we can find partners who will go the distance.

I’m going to stop, because it’s getting smutty. Here’s the dirty little secret, though. Music is communication. There’s a real relationship between artist and listener and if either side of that relationship loses respect for the other and starts to take advantage, then we’re heading for a bitter end. Don’t let it happen. Let’s share a little love.

Layers out.