Thursday, 16 December 2010

Take That Took This

You may recall that earlier this year we released our Great Men: Springsteen VS Stallone t-shirt (stock left in all sizes!):

Take That may have returned to their original lineup, but unfortunately Robbie Walliams hasn't also brought some original merchandising ideas along with him; imagine R-Man's surprise whilst browsing in Tesco today when he spotted the new garment from Gary Barlow's boys:

Rumours that Take That's 2011 tour will be entirely instrumental have yet to be denied.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Fighting in the Streets (part 2)

Poor journalists may call this a rebuttal but that suggests a polarity of opinion on a subject which is more grey than popular press may give it credit for. So for what it's worth, here's what springs to my mind regarding the recent tuition fee increases and protests/riots. If you haven't already absorbed R-Man's ever-eloquent take on the subject, do have a read of that as well.

The common argument against these tuition fee increases is that it prices the poor out of going to university. I simply fail to see this point of view: students are given loans for the money, which they only have to pay back when they can afford it. I really can't think of a simpler way of putting it: it doesn't matter if you're poor now, you can have the money and give it back when you're no longer poor. If you stay poor then no worries, you'll never have to pay it back. Also, maybe it's just luck, but every protester I've seen interviewed seems to have been dropped off from their home counties mansion in their mother's Range Rover, failing to give credence to the arguments spilling from their lips.

In addition to the widespread misunderstanding of the basic tenet of the student loan, my blood boiled at the recurring cries of "Education should be free!". I agree - and what's more, education IS free. Go to a library. Go outside and look around. Talk to people. Get on the internet. Don't whine because the government won't pay for your bin of death anymore. I don't like to let too long go by without a reference to Frank Zappa, so here you go:

“If you want to get laid, go to college. If you want an education, go to the library.” - FZ

We're already lucky in this country to get a good quality of free education well into our teens. Nothing is free, and if we can't pay for universities with tuition fees then it will all have to come from taxation. I'm sure the moment another tax increase is suggested, or the relocation of funds from healthcare or schools is posited, the very same angry mob will rear its head again. As a people we have still learned nothing from the recession and cannot curb our greed and feeling of unearned entitlement.

On the subject of angry mobs, I find this sort of protest to be cowardly: it's brawn over brains. Any idiot with an ill-thought-out opinion and poor grasp of the facts can join a baying mob. If you want to make an intelligent difference then play your part in the democratic process. Write to your MP. Register to vote. Run for office. I wonder how many of the student protesters made it to their polling station back in April.

Affordability aside, I do recognise an issue with the underlying assumption that getting a degree increases your chances of earning a good salary. Going back some years this was a reasonable assumption, as a degree represented a high level academic achievement that only a minority of the populace could achieve. However since the Blair mandate to have 50% of people going to university, this has been watered down and a "degree" could be in anything from Mathematics at Oxford to Hairdressing at Wigston Magna Polytechnic. In fact there are many young people going to university now who would simply be better off getting a job or learning a trade; every year of school leavers has a handful of people who shun further education and are earning substantial sums by the time their peers don the cap and gown.

I think this leads us nicely to where R-man and I meet on our opinions: that the root cause of this issue is the "pile it high, sell it cheap" approach taken by the previous government. Now we need to realise that all we've poured money into a worthless investment, and need to return to paying the right price for the right fundamentals. Ring any bells?

Fighting in the Streets (part 1)

GM HQ has been reverberating to the sound of well spoken demonstration and anger this week as we've been watching the student demonstrations with a mix of amusement, anger and jealousy (they have so much hair and free time!).

Having been chatting about the why's and where-fores, its become apparent that this issue has caused a minor split in Camp Chrome - a split that highlights the subtle differences between C-Bomb and I. While we are united on drum machines, a decent pint and girls that aren't afraid of their brains - we do not always speak with one voice. Personally I'm a little french in my opinions on the relationship between violence and democracy...

C-Bomb will be loading up his thoughts shortly - in the meantime here's why I think the whole mess happened and what we can do to ensure further education that is both free and worthy.

Blair’s penchant for the double triplet was never more famously illustrated than in the run up to the 1997 general election he promised that his "government's passion" would be "education, education and education. Then, now and in the future."

This was followed by huge investment in infrastructure teachers and most fundamentally what higher education meant in the UK. Vowing that half of all young people should receive a University education, the number of universities and degree courses exploded and I feel created the circumstances that lead to thousands of current and future students pursuing the democratic process directly to every branch of government (including the future head of state).

The effort to bring much needed egalitarianism to the academic world seems to me to be have been confused. Its legacy has been the dilution in the quality of courses and inevitably that of graduates, as well as a grossly over weight system which we can no longer afford.

The increase of the numbers of people who can (with hopeful embarrassment) place a BA or BSc after their name has not been reflected in an increase of graduate jobs or in the lowering of standards and requirements in the world’s best businesses, research centres and academics.

The net result of this experiment is that we now have the most qualified and indebted (if sadly not most educated) call centre operators in the world…

It has created a situation akin to the evil machinations of Buddy Syndrome in The Incredibles – “If everyone’s super then no-one can be.”

I find the word everyone to be interesting in the context of further education and perhaps offers a solution to the funding issues that have created the need for fees.

Even the most hardened of left leaning ideologues must realise that there are differences between people, their backgrounds and potential contributions to society. The efforts in the 20th Century to treat people as equal homogenous units failed and lead to the almost unimaginable horrors of modern totalitarianism. The challenge for those that wish society to be fairer is now in creating equality of access and opportunity. In simple terms University should be available for anyone not just provided to everyone.

Piling higher education high and selling it on cheap credit solved neither the funding issues that universities had nor created any meaningful equality. The cost of the increased fees as well as living expenses while not working will simply put off many from attending. Their decision to go to university will not be based on ability or ambition but on grubby economics.

I understand that the loans will not need to be repaid until they are earning a “reasonable” amount at a time later in their lives. This will be the time when they will be hoping to start a family and buying their first all-too-expensive house. The prospect of a debt, second only to a future life-long commitment to bricks and mortar will be too much for the children of many ordinary families – who often will not have an older sibling or relative who has already been to university and whose parents may never have finished school. We have reaped the whirl wind of an economy based on debt – what will the provision of knowledge and understanding based on debt bring?

The personal result for those ordinary children that are still brave or smart or ambitious enough to go to university will be to push them into choosing “practical” courses with well defined and reliable earning potential. Thus securing the most regarded but more esoteric subjects in arts, philosophy and sciences, as well as the joy of learning for its own sake, to the elite where they are already over subscribed.

An alternative would seem to be to focus the funds available on quality not quantity. Understand how many good standard courses and graduates we actually need and provide them for free to all.

There are cultural barriers to having equal access to higher education and I have no idea what we can do to alleviate these. I think we can however start by removing the economic barriers and make the joy and benefit of higher education available to anyone who has the chops to take advantage of it.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Springsteen vs Stallone: The T-Shirt

Remember that time when we talked about the American dream as exemplified and mirrored in the careers of Bruce Springsteen and Sylvester Stallone? Well we realised that the next logical step for any successful essay is to merchandise it. Also you may recall that we're a band, and bands have t-shirts. Also we're not much to look at. All these facts combined into one obvious course of events: press-gang people we know who can do Photoshop and that sort of thing into designing us a sweet Great Men: Springsteen vs Stallone t-shirt.
Then, on a roll with the exploitation of our friends, we remembered that one of them was handy with a camera and that another one, instead of being a beardy ogre like us, was in fact a pretty girl, so we decided to take some photos of said t-shirts in action. This has the double bonus that maybe a promoter will see one of these photos and think we're a band with a pretty girl that sings, hence book us on the kind of sweet gig from which instrumental beardy ogres are usually precluded, not finding out the truth until it's too late...

As you can imagine we get a lot of fan mail here at GMHQ, so I thought I'd share some completely at random...
Well Little Jeffy, thanks for your continued support over the years, and thanks for asking about the t-shirts. You can buy them now for only £8 over at and I'll tell you what, because it is very nearly the season to be jolly, if you order before the end of 2010 we'll do you a free personalized CD of Great Men demos and stuff to enjoy when the radio isn't playing The Pogues or Phil Spector. If any of our extensive international readership are interested in a t-shirt, do drop us a line and I'm sure we can figure something out - we've already sent one to New Zealand (hi Enthusiastic Tom!).

Finally on a sad but celebratory note, RIP Leslie Nielsen and Irvin Kirshner. True facts: I did my English A-Level coursework based on the linguistic humour exemplified by Nielsen in Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker projects such as Airplane and Police Squad. And I wrote said coursework whilst nestling in the intestines of a Tauntaun.

One of those facts was not true.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Harry Potter and the Newfound Respect For R-Man

Last Saturday I was once again invited to play bass with Ginkinta, supporting The Peacocks at Camden Underworld. I pulled out pretty much all the stops: learned which key the songs were in, put some new strings on my bass, and drew a picture of Peregrine the Easter Bunny on it (I'd recently bought a new 4-pack of Sharpies). I kind of think of playing bass as a bit of a holiday from my usual guitar+machine duties, however I didn't anticipated the amount of ache and pain my hands would be suffering by the end of the set. For this I hold a newfound respect for Regan and all the bass players out there. I will now be endeavouring to practise more bass, or I'll never be Bootsy.

I mentioned the other week that we had a new track underway that was bigger than U2. Well it's still underway and we've now got another one as well which sounds like a cross between Lalo Schifrin's soundtrack to Dirty Harry, and John Carpenter's soundtrack to Halloween. It's tentatively titled Magnum Myers.

Maybe because I've spent too much of my life watching films with cool soundtracks, or maybe because I'm a grown up, I've not read the actual book that the new Harry Potter film is based on. For others of you that may also be contemplating tackling the marathon experience of this film with a similar lack of preparation, here's what to expect:

Scene 1: Voldemort says he needs a new wand.
Scene 2 - Scene 986: Harry and his pals dick about looking for the plot.
Scene 987: Voldemort gets a new wand.

In hindsight it's a mash-up of Cash In The Attic and a Hollyoaks omnibus, set entirely at night.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Sounds of the road

I just emptied a pile of CDs out of my car, and since blogs exist for nothing if not self-indulgent sharing of mundanities, I thought I'd tell you what they were, maybe you'll glean some incredible insight into my life. Or maybe you'll find something new to listen to. Or maybe you'll just kill a minute.

Manic Street Preachers - Journal For Plague Lovers
Les Claypool's Frog Brigade - Live Frogs Set 1
Sisters of Mercy - Vision Thing
Neil Young - Living With War
Manic Street Preachers - Generation Terrorists
Soundgarden - Superunknown
Rush - 2112
Gonerfest 2
The Who - Live at Leeds
Big Black - The Rich Man's Eight Track Tape
King Crimson - Three of a Perfect Pair
Idlewild - Captain
A.R.E. Weapons - Free in the Streets
Queen - On Fire Live At The Bowl
David Bowie - Stage
XTC - Nonsuch
Funkadelic - Ultimate Funkadelic
Built to Spill - Ancient Melodies of the Future

Monday, 8 November 2010

Chocolate Trousers

We started writing a new song last week. It's so massive it may not fit in conventional venues. The good news is that U2 can retire now.

Then this weekend was jam-packed full of awesome. We cruised down on Friday night to check out Ulterior's single launch at Electrowerkz in Islington. There was lots of leather, beer and a hilariously decrepit pool table (true to form, R-man hustled and I was terrible).

After another satisfying fry-up at Delichio's, R-Man headed off for the train with Benn's Brother while H-Town and I went to check out the Zappa happenings (or Zappanings, if you won't) at the Roundhouse. Although we didn't actually have tickets for any of the events, it was awesome just hanging out in the venue - non-stop Frank on the speakers, blown-up album covers everywhere, and some fun interactive stuff to do. Here's me with one of my favourites (the L├Ąther album would have been rock's first quadruple album if the record company had had the udders to release it back in the 70s).

Then we caught Stewart Lee doing some new material for his next TV show. If you know Stewart Lee then you know I can't do justice to repeating any lines here. If you don't know him then you should check him out, an accomplished technical comedian - rivalling classic Harry Hill but with anger instead of silliness.

What's next for Great Men? Other than writing this new material, getting the album mixed and maybe sneaking out a cheeky live EP, we're off for a pint. See you at the Crown in 15.

PS - I apologise to all the regular readers who were looking forward to another photo of us eating in a London cafe.

PPS - Regan shared his Snickers with me in the car but I dropped a bit and it melted on my trousers.

PPPS - That wasn't a euphemism.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

The Lords of Rocktober: Return of the Rock

Another early morning back at The Swamp for me, programming the drum machine in my pyjamas. How it got in my pyjamas I'll never know. An hour and a half and a glass of OJ later, our complete repertoire was in there and chromed to the hilt.

I think it's fair to say that Another Evening With Great Men was a success. The venue was once again full to capacity, and we enjoyed a documentary / night-vision chav horror mash-up from the Turrells, and a smoke-vision leather chrome-up from Ulterior.

I enjoyed our set a lot. I bled all over my Telecaster and sweated all over everything else. My beer poured itself all over the new drum machine and a monitor (fortunately nowhere near any of my wayward fluids) set on fire.

Thanks in no particular order to: Ulterior; Nick 'the long-suffering tour manager' Gough; John and Tom Turrell; H-Town and T-Fran for collecting money, selling t-shirts, and keeping the peace with wayward Portugese visitors; Nick and Simon at the Chameleon; DJ Howie Mac for rescuing the spillage; and Shawshank Poxon, future documentarian extraodinaire!

My apologies to the surprised attendees who had been told that Great Men were a folk duo...

The Lords of Rocktober: The Two Rockers

After getting up to play Parking Meter Chess with the brave soldiers of the Camden Traffic Warden Militia, R-Man and my good friend Steve popped off to Delichio's (my current favourite cafe in That London) to collect some bacon sandwiches whilst I holed up in The Fabulous H-Town's kitchen with my headphones on, overhauling the beats from the night before and adding Spectators to the repertoire.

We then piled into the car and got stuck into the central London traffic jam that stood between us and the Shazam Live Lounge. Steve livened up the journey by dropping the [largely fictional] bombshell that I was a massive Whoopi Goldberg fan, then commando rolling out of the car door clutching his compass, muttering something about "running errands for the Lockpicker", never to be seen again. Speaking of Whoopi, if we were to have a "Great Women" t-shirt, who would replace Springsteen and Stallone on the artwork?

Arriving at Shazam an hour and a half late, the Live Lounge was ready for our session and we laid down Lady Cakes, Messerschmitt and Spectators At An Execution in quick succession, the latter two making their Great Men recording debuts. The sound on playback was immense, so get ready for the final mix! Thanks so much to Hazel and Dan at Shazam for making it happen, running a slick operation, and forgiving our tardiness. Check out their Youtube page for ours and all their other sessions as they are edited.

Having had an awesome time recording our session, we followed it up in the sort of rock and roll fashion that only Great Men can: we went to the Science Museum! Regan got giddy over steam engines whilst I put my hands inside some astronaut's gloves. Spaceships and machines on display for free: you really can't complain.

After a quarter roast chicken and chips in a Hammersmith cafe, and a pint in The Hop Poles (getting homesick for Beeston and its fine pubs) with my rock brethren Robin and Edd, we put A.R.E. Weapons on the stereo and headed north for Nottingham...

The Lords of Rocktober: The Fellowship of the Rock

After the drum dramas of the night before, R-Man phoned every music shop, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse and doghouse from Nottingham to London and none of them, regardless of what their websites claimed, had an Alesis SR-16 in stock. So we ended up buying an SR-18 on our way down to Camden. With an hour to spare between arriving at the venue and soundchecking, I set about learning how to use it and programming our set for that night:

The gig went fairly smoothly considering, Messerschmitt received its world debut, and we got some good feedback after, including this gem:

"so rocking they hurt my spine and made me miss a call from my mum"

Sorry about that Mrs Tolliday.

I later made a guest appearance playing bass with Ginkinta (very nearly playing all the right notes), which was good fun and something of a holiday without all the machines to operate as well! Then it was like a trip down memory lane watching Robin rock the drums for Monsters in the Attic. The highlight of the night though was catching up with lots of old (and new) compadres who'd come down to see us. Thanks everybody!

Tune in next time to find out what happened on Friday...

Thursday, 21 October 2010

RIP: Great Man #3

It is with great sadness that I must announce the death of a band member. At the start of practice tonight, on the eve of our 3 day rock extravaganza, our drummer could not perform a single beat, instead spouting gibberish and Chinese. Finally, as R-Man and I tried futilely to revive him, he spouted a cryptic pi symbol and faded away.

A faithful beat keeper and comrade for the past 2 years, we'd like to remember him the way he was in his glory days, as I'm sure would you. Here's a photo from the pinnacle of his performing career, An Evening With Great Men in March 2010 (pictured on the right):

Of course our immediate priority is not to disappoint the good folks who've put us on in London and all you good people who'll be coming to see us, so straight away we've been tracking down a replacement. For tonight's rehearsal we graciously accepted the help of my old friend Boss DR-550, necessitating a complete re-write of the London set-list. However we're hoping en route to the gig to pick up another Alesis SR-16 instead. Being Great Men we have a comprehensive range of options:

Plan A: Get a new Alesis, and I'll have to program it from scratch in the venue before we play, then do the gig hoping I've got it right!

Plan B: Use the Boss and deliver a ramshackle but serviceable set.

Plan C: Enlist one of the fine drummers on hand (they don't know it yet) to lay down a groove.

If anyone else was at that Metallica gig at Download festival a few years ago where Lars couldn't play and they got guest drummers, it'll probably be exactly like that. Which was awesome by the way.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Rock Week!

This is the week we've all been waiting for! Here's the lowdown:

Monday 18th October

We kicked off the week with a loud rehearsal deep under the streets of Nottingham. Big In Japan came along for the ride and captured this moment as proof of the rock in the room:

Tuesday 19th October

Craig David taking us for a drink.

Wednesday 20th October

More practising!

Thursday 21st October - Tommy Flynn's, Camden

We're on early - 7:30 - so get down early for our first ever London gig. Although strictly speaking to most of the London crowd all our songs are new, we will be giving Messerschmitt its live premiere, the first time anywhere in the universe! Later in the night I will be guesting on bass in all-girl punk band Ginkinta. Bring one of these flyers for cheap entry, and tell them Great Men sent you!

Friday 22nd October

We're off to the Shazam Live Lounge to do a session, probably some new material that's not on the album! Check out the awesome Foxy Shazam video, in whose footsteps we will be following. Later on we'll be Oystering round London like a couple of tourists.

Saturday 23rd October - Chameleon, Nottingham

We're hosting our second Evening With Great Men, again featuring the films of The Turrell Brothers to open the show, and this time we're the support band, with our pals Ulterior headlining. Chameleon is just off Market Square, near The Bell - it's above Clinton Cards (physically and socially). Get down for 8pm and let the good times roll!

Sunday 24th October

We're dividing to conquer: R-Man will be checking out our hombres The Cupid Stunt at Nottingham's Hockley Hustle, and I recommend you do too. I would if not for the fact that I'm off to see one of my all-time favourite guitarists, Adrian Belew. Thela hun ginjeet!

Hopefully see y'all at one or more of the gigs!

Monday, 11 October 2010

We are the goon squad and we're coming to town...

Firstly, bonjour to our French readership! Apparently those guys love Springsteen and Stallone. I once made a French-language evil techno mini-album under my secret super-villain identity The Green Trouser, have a listen if you like.

Well, Rocktober is upon us but rather than get all the excitement into one blog post I'll try and stagger it! So this time let me introduce you to our new t-shirts:

As you can see, available in all sizes from "small, as worn by pretty girl", through "medium as worn by grown up man", to "large, as worn by cuddly idiot". "But at what cost?!" I hear you cry. Only 8 of your English pounds. I'm too naive to know how to set up a way of slickly ordering online, so please drop us a message on Facebook or Myspace or something. I'll be your best friend.

Expect to hear from me soon about our London gig on October 21st and Nottingham gig on October 23rd...

Monday, 20 September 2010

Waiting For Rocktober

It's all action at GMHQ as preparations for possibly the rockingest month ever continue! After a couple of months of writing new material at semi-respectable suburban Beeston volume levels, we decided it was time to crank it up to a near-Tufnel 2 (I have an extremely loud amp - Fender Dual Showman 100w head for the geeks out there). Our good friends and accomplished hat-wearers the Saboteurs have kindly let us take up a temporary residence in their practice room deep beneath Nottingham's darkest backstreets.

The haziness of this photo might be due to the high density of rock in the air. Or it may be because my phone camera lens was very dirty. We won't know for sure until the results come back from the lab.

We've also begun to think about the setlists we'll be putting together for our coming engagements. Committed fans can rest assured that every show will be different. Here's a sneak preview of what we expect our setlist on October 23rd (Chameleon, Nottingham) to look like:

Also coming soon in Great Men land: new t-shirts! Watch this space. In the meantime if you haven't been paying attention, here is the lowdown on our major UK tour:

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Mountain Goats and the perfect Scotch Egg

Hello there!

Here's a few things that happened to me this week. This is what blogs are for right?

I saw The Mountain Goats for the first time ever, which is awesome because they're one of my favourite bands. They played at Koko in Camden and glancing at Youtube it looks like a few people have done some cheeky videos so here's one that in no way proves I was there but does indeed prove the gig happened. Why would I lie? The high point of the set for me was my all-time favourite Mountain Goats track, Hast Thou Considered The Tetrapod? I totally recommend the album The Sunset Tree, it's one of my top albums.

The next cool thing to happen was that the Turrell Brothers agreed to open An Evening With Great Men vs Ulterior with another film set. Everyone who packed out the last Evening With Great Men will agree that their last 30 minutes of film was a masterclass that made us laugh, cry, think and shut up. That's on 23rd October 2010 at Chameleon in Nottingham - if you're on the Facebook here's the event.

There's not enough space on the internet to list everything I did, but Cooking With Great Men fans will be delighted to hear that this week I made Scotch Eggs for the very first time. I've always thought Scotch Eggs were a delicious but perplexing foodstuff: how did the egg get in there, and how exactly did someone come up with the idea anyway?! Anyway turns out it's pretty straightforward to make them:

As you know, Great Men Smash Laws! Hence my next question to myself, to you dear reader, and to the universe is: What would be the ultimate scotch egg?

Some things to consider would be:
  • Type of meat (or meat alternative)
  • Type of egg
  • Type of bread from which to get the breadcrumbs
  • Replacing the egg with something else
  • Getting cheese involved in some way (guaranteed way to improve anything)
Let me know. If I get a good enough suggestion I will make some for both me and the inventor to enjoy. If you live a long way away I will post it or get a strong person to throw it. If the universe comes up with the best idea, I guess the only way to share it would be to divide it by zero.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Rocktober and the Twitdome

Guten Tag!

I am totally psyched about next month so wanted to make sure all twelve of our fans are clued up on the following rocking events:

Great Men's First Ever London Gig!

That's right, you heard right! The Fabulous H-Town Savage strikes again as we'll be playing not only with her band Ginkinta, but with our mutual friend and my rock brother Robin's band Monsters in the Attic.

Hear some of our new tunes for the very first time at Tommy Flynn's in Camden on Thursday October 21st!

Another Evening With Great Men: vs Ulterior!

After the jam-packed success of our last Evening With Great Men, we return to Chameleon in Nottingham on Saturday October 23rd with our good friends Ulterior on the eve of their Sex War Sex Cars Sex single launch. Expect chrome.

Hopefully we'll also have some cool new t-shirts available for these gigs, anyone fancy a Springsteen Stallone design to accompany our American Dream essay?

One last thing - we've just lurched forward on our quest to embrace nearly-archaic technology and signed up for Twitter. I haven't got much of a clue what it does or how to work it so if you're down with that then tweet us up and welcome us into the Twitdome.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Musings on Roses

...because if I can't vomit my opinions onto the internet then why do blogs exist?

My all-time favourite band is Queen. This blog isn't about them.

My all-time second favourite band is Guns N Roses. I bet they think this blog is about them. It is.

I was first introduced to GNR around the age of 7 or 8 and Slash more than anyone else inspired me to pick up the guitar - probably by how cool he was as much as anything musical. Having just seen Axl's "GNR" for the second time I thought I'd spout some of my current thoughts and opinions. Feel free to throw me some of your own.

The legacy

I celebrate the entire [original] Guns N Roses catalogue, with the exception of one song: My World. It is completely out of place and pretty log. This is why I am angered by Sweet Child O' Mine being pretty much the only track you ever hear out, and the only one that non-fans know. I also put it to you that Estranged is not only the song November Rain could have been, but has the greatest music video of all time.

The new albums

I never cared much for Velvet Revolver: perfectly serviceable but not a patch on GNR.

Chinese Democracy is an incredible album. Worth the wait and worth the money. My only issue is that it shouldn't say Guns N Roses on the front; it's an Axl & Friends album and there's no shame in that. I've also been a Buckethead fan since before he ever became involved with Axl and I love spotting his guitar parts on this - Shackler's Revenge is pure Buckethead.

Slash's album isn't really an album. There's some cool stuff on there and some fun collaborations but it just isn't cohesive and I'm sorry Slash but Axl writes way better songs.

The live shows

I saw Slash's Sideboob at Download this year. They were excellent. Pure rock and roll: no gimmicks, just heart and soul. And Slash reminding everyone why he's arguably the definitive guitar hero.

I saw Axl's "Guns N Roses" a few years ago at Nottingham and again at Leeds festival this week. His voice is on the way back to greatness and he's still the greatest living frontman (number 2 of all-time after Freddie Mercury of course). His band are unfortunately no more than a very talented tribute band, and substitute the reality of Slash and co. with pyrotechnics. I also object to the hiring of a guitarist to look a bit like Slash to fool idiots:

In conclusion then, Slash has the heart and Axl has the show.

It's 2 years until Appetite For Destruction celebrates its 25th birthday... imagine if the reunion happened and brought the rock and roll back together...

Monday, 23 August 2010

Hot Meat, Live Chrome and the all new Bass Machine

Greetings Chrome fans, much to tell from the land of Great Men. C-Bomb promised that we would place electricity back in its rightful place at the centre of the noise universe and we haven’t disappointed. Reminding us of the rumble of a WW2 fighter-bomber we’ve tentatively called the new tune Messerschmitt.

Few kinks and curls to iron out but we reckon it will be ready for our next outing on 23rd October where we will be joined by dear friends and favourites Ulterior. This will be a VERY special night so dust down your leathers, perfect that snare punch and get ready for a joyous noise.

R-Man may well be able to raise the curtain on his new Bass Machine (if the US company he bought the bits from can workout the difference between right and left and send the correct bits). Here’s a rare photo of him doing something like manual labour and substance abuse.

Here's a sneak preview of the creature in question.

Mental Benn has now mixed another gem for the album and Great Men cannot stop grinning everytime we hear it. Ridley Scott will have to make a new Director’s Cut of Bladerunner just so this can be on the soundtrack, honestly.

Quick shout to The Cupid Stunt who played last night and were immense fun – the boys have added a touch of bizarre performance to proceedings. Imagine Marty Feldman and Cousin It mixing it up with Matchbox 80. Luvverly.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Cyborg Pterodactyl

A number of cool things have happened in Great Men town this week. Firstly we got the first mixed track from our album back from Mental Benn. It is so awesome that I couldn't express it purely in words, so I've drawn a picture:

Then at the weekend we stepped way out of our comfort zones to play an acoustic set. R-man and I take slightly different levels of enjoyment and comfort from acoustic sets - see if you can tell the difference from the following photographs:

As if that wasn't enough excitement for one week, our good friends Ulterior were asked to support Sisters of Mercy again! So off we went for a rocking double bill in Leamington Spa, undisputed rock capital of the Coventry area.

Fear not Great Men fans, the acoustics have been stashed away in their cases and the electrics came out last night - another new tune is well on its way and we can't wait to premier Staymaker and Spectators at an Execution on the concert stage!

Tonight we're off to see our old compadres The Cupid Stunt, let the rock continue!

Monday, 26 July 2010

Keep it Greasy

Yes things have been quiet on the Great Men front - we've even been playing some acoustic guitars! But don't worry, we'll be back on the feedback wagon very soon, with another new track on its way. In the meantime, I'm going to bring you up to speed on my travels and some great men I have encountered along the way, via the medium of photograph.

A Goddamn sexual tyrannosaur!

The King!

Dr King

but my favourite of all, playing the wonderful music of his father ...

The Dweez!

And as a special bonus, here's me keeping it greasy in Memphis:

Great Men will return!

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

World Cupdate

As you're no doubt aware, over the past few decades Christianity has finally been overthrown as the primary religion of England. In fact traditional religion as our grandparents knew it has been sidelined altogether, and in its place we have an uprising of cults vying for attention. Pick up your nearest paper and you'll doubtless see evidence of the 2 largest: Pointless Celebrity and Sport. The proletariat line up and pick sides. Followers of the former are generally identified by their Heat magazine and hen night screeches, while the latter fly the flag of their favourite Roman soldier for reasons they do not understand.

And what of the non-believers? Keen to assimilate every last semblance of free thought, the cults hold regular recruitment drives. The Cult Of Pointless Celebrity attacks on 2 fronts: packing naive young women into theatres where they are brainwashed by the masterful acting talents of Sarah Jessica Parker, then picking up the stragglers in their homes via 24 hour footage of idiots in a living room, effectively creating a mirror feedback loop.

The Cult of Sport on the other hand hold regular tournaments in which their leaders demonstrate their prowess for spitting, shorts-wearing, and burning money. Every 4 years one particular such event comes along called The Soccerball World Cup. The wise retreat to their Anderson shelters and enter a 6 week long hibernation. Unfortunately being only a couple of years old, my house is not equipped with such 1940s luxuries. Instead I have been holed up in my studio. When the Footyball Game comes on I ensure it doesn't penetrate my cranium by creating a protective wall of drums, guitars and composition. I hope that, having survived so far myself, I can help the future generations avoid a Robert Neville fate by sharing these tools of defense with you.

By following this link you can hear the very latest Widdleman VS The World Cup weapons: Germany 0 1 Spain and Uruguay 2 3 Netherlands. You can also pick up the recent England 0 0 Algeria (soon to be a Great Men track called Spectators At An Execution) as well as dipping into old favourites including a Rugger World Cup track featuring Tom Hanks on guest vocals.

Essential provisions for surviving the cults.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

American Dream: Springsteen VS Stallone

Great Men are great fans of America. I took a less than cannonball run speed coast to coast road trip a few years ago and C-Bomb spent some of his formative years in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Presumably he was baptised and learned to swim in the warm brown waters of the Mississippi, the Old Miss, the Old Man…

The American Dream is a simple one – that anyone no matter their background can through their own ingenuity, hard work and strength of will – become somebody. This creates a dichotomy of equality and aspiration, all men might be born equal but that don’t necessarily mean that they die equal. This contradiction seems to me to inform the lurches and crises of confidence that have typified post civil rights America. 2 men also seem to illustrate the choices and dilemmas that have faced the recent generations of Americans who were the first not guaranteed to enjoy a better standard of living than their parents. 2 men whose work have scratched at the neuroses of an entire nation and illustrate that nation and its people at their best and worst. A nation that schizophrenically holds both Charlton Heston and Woody Guthrie as heroes.

Monday, 21 June 2010

The Shape of World Cups to Come

Anelka - Mardy French
Bloke and R-Man Hair Hero

C-Bomb has Transmogrified into Piddleman and is now locked Renton style in a warm dark space with only tins of soup, paper pornography and suppositories to sustain his new musical express train –We wait expectant.

Pretty accurate - though Regan forgot to mention the 6 foot stack of amps and pile of drum machines. - CBomb.

R-Man however is enjoying the sunshine, beer gardens and the world cup. England’s performances have been um, well, pretty nasty. So nasty the Bishop of Croydon has been (divinely?) compelled to write a new prayer for the team. It consists of 2 only words…"OH GOD".

Sympathy does not abound for the serial adulterer/rapist/millionaires and nor should it. Love the game – just wish the players were the genuine heroes the soft drink adverts claim.

The early games seemed to re-inforce national stereotypes – Germany were the model of efficiency, Italy were noisy and demonstrative but got little done and France were well a bit mardy. BUT WAIT! Missed Teutonic penalty? Sombre functional Brazilians? Looks like the pundits will have to find some new verbal dexterity rather than falling on hackneyed phrases.

Thankfully the Aussies have kept to form and proven to somehow be even worse losers than they are winners. Any Australian sporting team is perhaps the only one (s?) that I hope draw every game. Miserable & Taciturn in defeat can be quickly followed by Crowing, Boastful Swagger in victory. Not cool – but they probably used the whole country’s cool quota on Nick Cave (with a bit left over for Confide in Me era Kylie).

Musically this has been a varied and enjoyable world cup – All the countries theme tunes are a bit camp and jolly apart from the genuinely pretty Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika perhaps the best fusion of the disparate cultures in South Africa – well apart from Bunny Chow that is. I’m most interested in the Vevuloza which are roundly hated but sound to me like the sort of noise that Kevin Shields has in his head and been spending the last 25 years trying to get out. Just think how different the world would be if his divine grace Ornette Coleman had bought one instead of a plastic saxophone…

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Download 2010

Yes, just like thousands of other blogs this week I'm going to give you my lowdown of this year's Download festival at Donington Park.

Armed with R-Man's army boots, my GNR denim (style reference: Bill Murray in Caddyshack meets Don Dokken) and a crate of beers, I rocked up on Friday afternoon with my rock brothers Robin and Edd. I was pretty smug because Jen had already arrived and set up a tent for me: a lovely number with pink flowers on it. It wasn't long before we met an Australian girl who could write our names in Elvish (obviously it was only one particular form of Elvish but unfortunately I'm not educated in these ways).

Then some Norwegians turned up and told us they were worried that AC/DC weren't playing because they weren't on the list for the main stage. Upon arriving at the arena it became clear that this was because the main stage was too tiny for them and they'd brought their own. Needless to say what ensued was 2 hours of full blown awesomeness. For Christmas I would like an elevating platform on which I intend to play all future solos please. Thanks.

After a cold night (my first festival camping experience would you believe!) we had a solid day of boozing before getting to the arena for Megadeth. As soon as I saw the Rust In Peace themed backdrop and drum skins, I knew we were in for another Mustaine treat. Sure enough amongst others they played all my essential tracks: Holy Wars, Hangar 18, Tornado of Souls, Symphony of Destruction, Sweating Bullets and Peace Sells. The only way I could possibly follow that was with half a roast chicken and chips. Unfortunately the chicken stall had a 20 minute wait on chicken! IT'S ALL THEY SELL!! To be fair it's not like many people go to festivals, I can see why they were surprised by the rush. Incidentally, Rush would have been a surprise, but true to the schedule next up was Deftones followed by Rage Against The Machine.

I've not listened to Rage since I was a youth in baggy jeans. Now I'm a 26 year-old in baggy jeans, but within seconds of them starting I felt 12 years younger. I lost my homeys instantly but fortunately Edd had upped the style ante earlier in the day and purchased a sweet hat which enabled me to pick him out of a crowd at 20 paces. Who owned the show more, Rage or Edd's hat? Too close to call.
After an evening of gourmet festival food and a sexy party in our tent, with special guest appearance from Jack 2D4, Sunday rolled round with probably my most highly anticipated lineup. First off though, it was time for half a roast chicken and chips. Unfortunately the chicken stall had a 30 minute wait on chicken! IT'S ALL THEY SELL!! Their loss, I had my second giant Yorkshire pudding of the weekend and it did not disappoint. Some people will tell you it's like eating the plate. It's not. But it is delicious.

Since I was about 7 years old Slash has been a hero of mine,; there's no doubt that his Les Pauls fascinated me enough to get into playing guitar. And finally here he was! The years may have had some impact on his body (nobody needed to see Slash's sideboob) but he was still every bit the hero. Myles Kennedy wailed the hell out of several of his solo tracks as well as 4 whole cuts from Appetite, and a hoped-for cameo from Lemmy was everything I dreamed of. I couldn't speak for about an hour afterwards.

Which incidentally is when the heavens opened. (Sweet segue there hey?) Billy Idol was the first act to have to compete with the weather, but fortunately he pulled it out of the bag with every classic song and arguably (yes Robin you can argue anything) the best working of the crowd all weekend. White Wedding, Flesh For Fantasy, Eyes Without A Face, Rebel Yell - all present and correct.

After being pleasantly surprised by both Porcupine Tree and Steel Panther on the second stage, we dragged our sorry wet cold asses back to the main stage for Stone Temple Pilots, who were really cool, and then of course Aerosmith. Nothing really needs to be said about Aerosmith. Apart from: you may recall reading a few weeks ago about my feedback den. I'm not saying Joe Perry is copping my style but you can decide for yourselves:

And then like elderly cripples we walked blistered and enthused back to the car.

SEMI-OBLIGATORY GREAT MEN PLUG: Mental Benn is still plotting our metamorphosis into the next Kylie Minogue, but until then go ahead and have a listen to our demo of Staymaker.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Widdleman VS The World Cup

Here's 2 things you may or may not know about me:

1) I'm not interested in football.
2) I am a superhero. (You guys will keep my identity secret right?)

Every once in a while, the world of sports conspires against me and takes all my friends away for a month. Instead of wandering the streets lonely and confused, in the 2006 World Cup I decided to use the time taken up by each game (or "match" as they say) to write and record a new song. I've reuploaded my efforts from that World Cup, as well as one from the rugby one in 2008 onto my Myspace page (yep, I'm only decades behind the rest of the world). Have a listen. Great Men fans will recognise Paraguay Zero in my original recording.

This summer I intend to do the same thing, so I've just been sorting out my "World Cup Studio". It's tricky to say what will happen until it happens but look out for some gnarly riffs, slap bass, and maybe even some stadium trumpet. (Yeah I play trumpet through a distortion pedal and a 6 foot high guitar stack, deal with it). I'll be sure and keep y'all updated with my progress.

PS - If anyone out there shares my sentiment and would like to offer themselves up as a special guest star, give me a holler!


Saturday, 5 June 2010

Three Shades Of Gimp

Shade 1: Guitars

From time to time as expenses, eBay, and wild ideas permit, I will share with you some of the guitar gimpery that Great Men get up to. Recently we've undertaken 2 projects:

The Bennecaster
As a gift to our good friend Benn for recording our album, we got him a guitar. As it happens this one needed no real electronic work doing on it so I just went to town with some black spray paint and some permanent markers.

On Saturday R-Man and I travelled down to London in the Prickmobile to watch Ulterior's triumphant London return. We spent the afternoon in the Hunterian museum at the Royal College of Surgeons, which was engrossing and horrifying. We recommend it. Then in the evening we watched the boys pull a great show out of the bag; the highlight for me was when Benn strapped on the Bennecaster for the first time. Like what I imagine a proud parent to feel like, a tear welled up in my eye.

White Hondo Les Paul
I also recently acquired another late 70s Les Paul Custom copy from the Japanese Hondo company. It needed some TLC so I busted out a cloth and got R-Man's steady hands involved in fitting some chrome Hot Slag pickups, and wiring a coil tap to each. Have a look at our Facebook page for a fuller photo commentary.

Shade 2: Politics

I've been a fan of Nick Palmer MP since he invited constituents to a public Q&A on the expenses scandal. Ever since I've been an avid reader of his email newsletter and found him to be a rarity: an honest, intelligent and open politician. We were all saddened when he was narrowly defeated in the recent general election, so when word came through that he was holding a drinks party in a Beeston pub, naturally Strike Team mobilised. I personally hope we've not seen the last of his kind, and as ever remind you kidz to get interested in politics: it's about how you live.

Shade 3: Middle Earth

This weekend I'm looking forward to a back-to-back marathon of all the Lord of the Rings films - extended editions of course. I expect to receive respect and disdane in equal portions: letters of opinion to the usual address please. R-Man is playing it cool and insisting that he doesn't like LOTR (as we call it in the biz). I might make a crude costume. I definitely won't.