Pedalling Trash

2007 was, for me, a vocational wasteland. My fun little band had collapsed and I had to get a job (the horror!). I was stuck in an office off the Strand, clad in mandatory tie and smart trousers, the recipient of subtle bulling from my passive-aggressive twat of a line manager. What went wrong with music? Why were all these terrible bands (The Kooks, The View, The fucking Others) riding a seemingly endless wave of popularity?

I have always been interested in science, so I decided to run a little experiment…

I reasoned that the success of these bands was not based on the strength their songs, but that they were pushed hard and marketed well. My first task was to connect with the biggest blagger I knew. He was one of the floppy-haired, Doherty-obsessed waifs who hung around Shoreditch at the time. They’d hop from Jaguar Shoes to Catch, friends to everyone – friends to the stars! He took great pride in getting shit for free – it didn’t matter who was paying, as long as it wasn’t him. Name-Dropper Extraordinaire. Professional Ligger.

The older I get, the more I notice charm and integrity are uncommon bedfellows.

The Ligger put the band together. The drummer was a nice, affable chap. However, he was also a stoner (and occasionally pious, the way stoners can be). He wanted to change the world, but couldn’t quite bring himself to get off his ass and switch off Teletubbies in order do anything about it. The bassist was a Spanish male model with a single-figure IQ and an obsession with The Hives. I was on guitar and – it was my only condition – I wrote all the music. The Ligger was to be The Singer, obviously. Fame for fame’s sake.

The Ligger would email me misogynistic, sub-Babyshambles ramblings about his ex-girlfriends and I would fit some music around the words. Unbeknown to my new musical comrades, my writing process was this: Spend 5 minutes – no more, certainly no more – writing the most basic, banal music I could, and, if I couldn’t be arsed to do that, steal Are You Gonna Be My Girl by Jet.

To my delight, during our first rehearsal, The Ligger’s voice was even worse than I could’ve imagined. Permanently sharp. Anxious adolescence still lingering at the back of his throat, knocking the notes off-key. There are people who think they can sing and people who can sing – he was in the former category. This experiment was going to be interesting…

 

So we rehearsed. The Stoner wore ear plugs and The Male Model insisted we “Make these songs more like The Hives, yeah?” The Ligger, as predicted, never had any cash to pay for the studio, but what he did have was the shameless nerve to blag. He really should’ve been a City Trader or a politician.

A month or so later, we had a clutch of songs that would’ve been rejected as Pigeon Detectives b-sides (five of which sounded like Jet, although every seemed to be fine with that). We gigged. “Why don’t you invite your friends, Jack?”

“Oh, y’know…er, I have…they’re…there are a lot of birthdays this time of year, you know?” Fuck. That.

Anyway, with the Ligger on my side, here’s what happened in the next four months:

  • Universal Studios session to record a song for an X-Box game.
  • Commissioned by Roberto Cavalli to write two tracks for a catwalk show.
  • A gig at The Scala.
  • A gig in Milan.

Yeah, somebody actually thought it was a good idea to pay to fly the Worst Band In The World to Italy and put them up in a semi-decent hotel. The show was, of course, dreadful.

And my point was proved: You can peddle any old trash. (I could’ve just waited ’til 50 Shades Of Grey came out to prove that. Oh, for the gift of hindsight!)

The time came to quit the band when, mid-set, The Ligger threw a beer can into the crowd which hit a girl in the face (God’s punishment for bad taste?). He followed this up by vomiting cheese strings over the stage.

My work here is done, I thought, as some gap year student mopped up stringy puke.

My departure was initially resisted. “We’ve really got something here, Jack.”

Yeah, what you’ve got are five songs that sound like fucking Jet.

But, like a scorned ex, I was quickly replaced. Reduced to a footnote in their short history; remembered only through an occasional, dismissive one-liner whenever some pseudo-journalist bent their ear for a fanzine. (“He decided he wanted to be a businessman.”)

They no longer exist and I’m not sure what any of them are up to now, but I learnt a very important lesson – to sell something, you need to put away your timid, artistic side and be shameless. It will feel awful and you’ll need a shower afterwards, but if The Ligger could sell those songs, think what you could do with something that is genuinely fantastic, something you really believe in.

He may be a creative void, but in a way, I envy The Ligger – he’s halfway there.

 

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