Thursday, 15 August 2019

Two From The Vault - Drewer....


This is the original 'pitch' for Drewer, originally created for the (long time dead) Comics Corner Ning site. (I think this early look was in part inspired by the stylings of Steve Mason of The Beta Band.) The image was accompanied by a (private) page of A4 that outlined the initial story and developing ideas....


Above is the cover for the never realised second issue - printer problems stalled the first issue and, by the time it limped into the public (comic) consciousness a year late(r), all the creative and drawing momentum was gone - truth be told working in a sharper, realistic style is, in terms of paying attention to continuity and maintaining artistic and character consistency, absolutely EXHAUSTING! Over the proposed 4 issue run of short stories each cover was to have featured a main character's face in a similarly distinctive moody style. Still, for anyone remotely interested in how things might have played out, you can just mush Tom Hardy's Taboo into the Jaoquin Phoenix vehicle You Were Never Really Here and you're pretty much there.... 

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

A Chronicle Of Doom....


Long overdue return visit to IIce Station Zebra for Agent Rob on 'Saturn's day' past, pitching up regular as 'high noon' fer to see a suitably settled Agent Johnny. Indeed, this frankly fine form extends to a sudden increase in productivity - following on from the recent 'fer (Rob/Adam) to draw' 'Cross Of Wax' script, 'Bleeding Black' wiz handed over and countless pages of pencilling, including new strips and spot illustrations, were eye spied 'stacking up'. As if that wasn't enough 'Our Man No Longer In Pester Wails' had an interestin' looking The New Avengers tale roughed out, together with an epic (1/4 underway) Commando-ish comic rough (but kinda ready) titled 'War Against The World'....


It wasn't all about Rob scrambling to perpetually pick his jaw up from the floor at this doubtless display of genius of course, and a silly 'View To A Swill' took our Agents gently downstream as vintage Pink Floyd floated on by. Topics of conversation included 2000AD, Samuel R. Delaney's novel Nova, Kris Kristofferson and (prompted by The DarkSide's article) the film director Michael Reeves. All good things must, as ye'd expect, come to an end/get cancelled and soon enough Rob was drowning his sorrows in the pourin' rain as the return train edged into the station....

Sounds: The Early Years 1967 - 1972 Cre/ation by Pink Floyd....


Pink Floyd - In The Beechwoods (2010 mix) 

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Three From The Vault - Prison Pit


Another 'fanboy favourite' here, from Prison Pit, a piece I titled 'Ryan's The F**kface' - as per nicking the pose from 'Rodin's The Thinker'.... as opposed to the possible interpretation that 'Johnny Ryan is The F**kface' - and which was indeed deemed "f**king awesome" by the great man himself. Obviously I've cribbed a lot of my usual John Miller stylings for this effort, but it's hard to deny that the Prison Pit comic has definite (black and white and distinctly jaggy) shades of Agent Johnny too (as Braw pal Spanky noted when he first fired it my way). Digging through the 'art caddy' at Hope Street Studios only recently I found two more aborted pages, inked but never scanned and given that digital once over. So, (almost but not quite in)complete, with lush new 'path of least resistance' digital backgrounds, I can phone the pair of them in here at last....


Friday, 21 June 2019

Never Mind The Skunk Rock, Here's The Beta Band....

NME 25th July 1998. Photo by Roger Sargent 

"If there's something inside that you wanna say, say it out loud it'll be okay...."

It seems a little unfair (of me to still try) to associate The Beta Band with the 'Skunk Rock' scene as they easily transcended the loose (NME generated) genre - indeed Agent Rob might just be the only person who recalls their ever actually being connected with it in the (quite deserved pole position of) first place - and crossed over into the mainstream (to a certain extent)....

"We're The Beta Band and we're nice and clean...."


The Beta Band - 'Los Amigos Del Beta Bandidos E.P.' (Official Music Videos)

"Well we went to Wales and we fannied around...."

Of course, technically The Beta Band had already put out an album's worth of (quite startling) material before their debut album arrived on the scene, so in a sense they are neck and neck with Lo-Fidelity Allstars as early exponents of the burgeoning 'Skunk Rock' scene (that was effectively stubbed out into ashes before it had even begun proper). And, of course, if you're reading this chances are you know that, as has often been said, had the (collected) 'The Three E.P.'s' been released as an actual debut album 'off the bat', so to speak, then it would easily have been one of the finest first transmission statements of any band ever. Read John Maclean's* 20th anniversary musings on its inspired genesis here....

*easily the coolest most inspirational man operating in music (at that time), y'know, when that sort of thing still really mattered to Rob....

"The songs were so good we didn't give a toss...."

The Beta Band - 'Inner Meet Me' (Official Music Video)

Betas bang upside ya lettabox! Announcing 'The Three E.P.s'....

Rob's sure there's a well-worn quote along the lines of, "if everyone who said they liked The Beta Band actually bought their records, then they'd be the biggest band in the world" which kind of sums up their eventual lot, each record diminishing on their returns leading to an eventual (mental) collapse under a (supposed) £1.2 million-ish record company debt....

The Three E.P.'s

Still, there's no doubt that mainstream contemporaries like Manic Street Preachers absolutely LOVED them. Here, listen for yourselves >> nice! >> presumably they were just bitter hearing music that could be a joyous, colourful, uplifting – even fun – experience, rather than a contrived, grinding, grey, trad-rock wallow....
 
The Beta Band - The Beta Band

But what of their, oft overlooked, debut album proper, a record that celebrates it's 20th birthday today? For starters it's a much more immersive experience than their earlier material, deeper and richer.... and yet somehow darker, inching into the distance, a vague outline*. It really is everything AND the kitchen sink - Rob's sure they play one on there somewhere - a wonderful experience that flows and absorbs you over time (if you have the time and inclination to give!). Not so much half-baked as fully-baked (with extra lashings of icing, hundreds and thousands and them wee crunchy ball things).... 

*Much like The Stone Roses, there's no arguing the toss(ers) as to the sheer shining crystal quality of their timeless debut, but Rob's honestly more likely to reach for the expansive, brooding mess of their very own much anticipated 'folly-up' that is Second Coming.... 


The Beta Band - 'Smiling' (Official Music Video)



Aha, where creativity collides, The Betas and Regular Fries free spirited double-jointed tour lands at 'G2' in Glasgog*! Certainly both bands shared an amiable 'get rich or DIY tryin' ethos, wrapped up with a jolly nod and a knowing wink approach. Say no more! (Except perhaps how this contrasted with the more challenging demeanour that typified both Lo-Fidelity Allstars and Campag Velocet, their being cut from distinctly sharper cloths)....

*In another inter(esting)-(Beta)band twist the video for 'Smiling' here was directed by Mark Szaszy and Corinne Day, who (of course!) were associated with another of Rob's late 90's favourites, the hard rockin' Pusherman. Indeed their guitarist Martin Hoyland contributed guitar and vocals to 'Number 15' off The Beta's debut, as well as taking a starring role (as "Old Bill") alongside Pusherman's bassist Bo Ellery (as "The Chick") in the 'Needles In My Eyes' video, languid 'skunk rock' and bruising 'smack rock' brushing up against one another....

That DIY enough for ya? Announcing 'The Beta Band'....

Rob can clearly recall their cancelled show at The Cathouse in Glasgog. The crowd was in, the stage was set (up) - the all important miscellaneous potted plants were in place - and everything seemed good to go. But, nah, after it being off then on then off again it was agreed Steve Mason's voice(?) was shot and it was announced they'd be rescheduling (at The Arches(?) no less, where pal Ryan Mair chatted to a friendly John Maclean for ages about the (one take) making of 'The Monolith')....

Flower Press Issue One....



flower press issue 2....


I remember the first Barrowlands concert as being absolutely amazing, touring their first album, epic tracks like 'The Hard One' and 'The Cow's Wrong' really hitting an emotional high right where it hurts. The next time around made less of a startling impression, but it's rare to see a band deliver an astounding show (on your own personal level) more than once. Maybe partly due to the fact that, contrary to just about everyone, the band themselves, I really liked their debut album (which seemed to hammer home much more so when realised live)....


NME's quotes of the year....

The Beta Band - 'Round the Bend' (Official Music Video)

Huh! Whassat?! A1. Happiness And Colour B1. The Hut 

Somehow Rob had forgotten that the album number one was originally supposed to be two albums, the second lp comprising a pair of longer, more experimental 'ambientertaining' pieces (he also forgot - thanks again Ryan Mair - that quickly cracked plans were also hatched to record it in four different countries around the globe!). Thanks to The White Noise Revisited blogspot these tracks were finally trickled out online, available to hear in an (un)official capacity. Then someone had the very bright idea of a nice anniversary reissue as originally intended (even if the band felt the extra(long) tracks weren't really up to much first time around)....


Glastonbury warm-up show....

The Garage. The Barrowland Ballroom. Setlist? Eff 'em....


That second Barrowlands show I can remember overhearing on leaving two lads who had been blown away by the frantic 'all hands on drums' climax to the evening's show. These days I can hardly believe the sheer daring of The Betas approach - they'd have turntables, frantic instrument swapping (mid-song), bongo solos, samples, rapping - they really were pushing the idea of what a band could be (and do) to the next level, easily absorbing and spinning influences and happily taking a hot shot at any genre. It's actually quite a privilege to have seen such a group operating right at the forefront several times - there's is simply nothing approaching The Beta Band these days*....


*not to forget their great mixes for The Breezeblock. Again, thanks to Ryan Mair for preserving this classic slice of Old Jock Radio....



The Beta Band - Human Being (Official Music Video)



"How the west was won it's a lie.... but it's made to sound like fun...."

Second album Hot Shots II was an altogether chillier affair, the sparse, skittery beats (a canny appropriation of its time) in lieu of the excess of their debut's shambolic campfire glow – here everything is pared back, fading, leaving the dying embers, exposing Mason's brittle boned multi-tracked vocals, pushing them to the fore, the only source of warmth (in spite of the confused, bemused and lonely lyrics, the singer sounding quite lost on his own (gently haunted) record)....


The Beta Band - 'Eclipse'

That's not to say the album didn't resonate, there being more than a few lyrical gems amid Mason's (slightly less) mumbled musings (this time around) - another of Rob's pals was quick to dismiss their early sound as 'Only Fools and Horses' music for that very reason - as he tried to make (non)sense of the wider world. Rob even filched the lyric from the track 'Eclipse' - “I don't want to be the type of guy who lives alone, reading books, and never eats a pizza pie” - about as cannily complete a summation of his empty life at the time, for his bio at a comic exhibition, thereby ensuring that that line, and his submitted piece 'Superscot', got a nice (if somewhat amused and bemused) mention in the local paper's review....

The Beta Band - 'Assessment' (Official Music Video)


The Beta Band - Rhododendron (Official Music Video)

By their third album the commercial chase (by the band's own somewhat disappointing admission) was well and truly on. Yet, however gamely they rose to the challenge, employing a fuller, tighter (slightly more traditional for The Beta) band sound, 'Heroes to Zeroes' was pretty much exactly that, an EP's worth of great tracks - IMO, of course! But that'll be 'Wonderful', 'Space Beatle', 'Rhododendron' and 'Pure For', if you're at all interested – buried in the middling* somewhere, their (broken) hearts just not seemingly into it....

*Again, having not listened back to the album in years this is proving to be much more of a (familiar) delight now Rob's revisiting it for this blog.... 


The end is nigh....


And so to their farewell show. The ticket says it all, the gig at Glasgow's (then) Carling Academy was an oddly muted affair (surely not helped by the venue's cavernous (lack of) atmosphere) - somehow it didn't get going right until the very end, not until they rolled out 'The House Song' for the encore, turning those frowns upside down with its growing gargantuan techno stomp....



These days, given there's a myriad (more) musical genres (chillwave, glitch, vaporwave, post-rock, darkwave, stoner rock, grime, slowcore, drill, etc, etc, etc) and most artists happily settle (or fall) into one or two, it makes The Beta Band's (successful) experimental bent seem even more as the end of an era. By picking up and easily transcending the colour explosion of Madchester's 'open all ears' policy - of which Happy Mondays were surely the most gleefully sonically stewed of the bunch - and randomly mashing it into ambient and techno (y'know, in the way that everyone seems to think The Stone Roses are supposed to*) with lashings of spaced dub and curvy hip-hop, Steve Mason's gently melancholic lilt the anchor around which the cosmic slop, er, slopped. In fact, bassist Richard Greentree puts it perfectly in their NME interview - "The most important thing," concludes Richard, "is that whatever ideas you have, no matter how mad or fantastic they might seem, you should stick with them. That's all we do." So what are you waiting for, jump right in and get a unique flavour and taste of it all below....

*....and more so too than fellow Scots Primal Scream, who really rely heavily on collaborators and producers-as-conduit to assist in facilitating their countless hopping of genres.... 

The Beta Band - 'Inner Meet Me' (Official Music Video)