Life is Sweeeeeeet, dude...
Yes, events are now conspiring to inform me in no uncertain terms that, you're proper famous, you are. I mean, I was out on Friday night with some mates, and we headed into the Variety. I head to the bar to get a round in, and as I'm standing there, I feel a tap on the shoulder and hear a voice saying, you're Hal Duncan, aren't you? I, of course, do my befuddled meerkat impression -- um, yeah? -- so he then tells me he's read the book, and asks when the next one's coming out, and, well, you know, all the stuff you really really want a complete stranger to come up to you in a cool bar in your home town and say but you don't actually ever expect, being just a poxy writer and not actually a rock star or anything like that. Yes, OK, so I'm easily pleased, but fuck it. This was in the fuckin Variety. I know that's completely meaningless to non-Weegees, but the Variety is probably one of Glasgow's coolest pubs, and in a non-trendy, indie, muso, alternative-but-no-fuckin-posers, unused-set-from-Trainspotting sorta way; it's where you go to drink when Nice and Sleazy has too many kiddies in it and you're damned if you'll go to a pub that doesn't play the fuckin highest quality sounds. The Variety is to Glasgow pubs as the Barralands is to gig venues, far as I'm concerned. Hmmm, that probably doesn't help either, does it? Ah, fuck it; it was neat as fuck; that's all I'll say.
Karmic balance did reassert itself the next morning when I came down with a stinking man-flu, missed a party on Saturday night, and spent the weekend basically curled up and whimpering, hoping that it would clear up by last night, which it thankfully did. Why last night? Well, last night -- as part of the Celtic Connections festival -- was the launch gig for the Ballads of the Book album, and Aereogramme were frickin playing our frickin track live so there was no fucking chance I was going to miss that. I mean, there was other stuff on the line-up as well, other artists, each of them doing their album track and a few of their own songs, but most important of all (as far as this sad egomaniac is concerned, that is) was the fact that Aereogramme were FRICKIN PLAYING OUR FRICKIN TRACK LIVE!
I would say the night started out good, but fuck it, the day started out good. See, I crawled out of bed feeling pretty much recovered from the man-flu, checked me email and found an invite to come down to the sound-check at the Royal Concert Hall where the gig was to take place. Seems a Newsnight Scotland crew were floating about and looking to interview some of the performers and/or contributors. Needless to say, hell or high water or the fading remnants of the stinking man-flu were not going to keep me -- media-slut that I am -- from a possible appearance on, like, BBC2's, fuckin big-ass news programme. We're talking, Jeremy Paxman, man! OK, so it's the Scottish segment which doesn't actually have Paxman, but it's still the fuckin Beeb! And, hey, BBC2 Scotland is still national television, far as I'm concerned. So there's a little matter of not actually being independent; I don't care. Scotland's a nation. La la la. I can't hear you.
Anyhoo, so I crawled out of me sick-bed, fortified meself with Crunchy Nut Cornflakes (with the highest fat milk available, natch -- none of that watered down shit for me, mate, no, I'm poorly) and headed down to the sound-check, arriving just as Aereogramme were finishing up and so catching just a little snippet of the sound of the song on a big stage. Like, a few-piano-chords-size little snippet. It was still easily enough to make me rather Tiggerish, it must be said. Ooh! Ooh! That's my song! Ahem, yes, sorry, our song. Ooh! Ooh! He played the intro again!
Said hi to me mates Mags, Claire and Julie who were there filming for the expanded version of the documentary they're doing on the whole project, and hung around at the back of the hall for a bit amongst a bunch of people also hanging around at the back of the hall. Apparently sound-checks for big gigs like this involve lots of people hanging around at the back of the hall. Said hi also to a few of the guys from Aereogramme after they'd finished up, but wasn't actually sure of who was there from Chemikal Underground or what they look like, so I was basically floating around and looking glaikit until Mags pointed out the Newsnight crew, and the nice interviewer man figured out who I was. I would probably still have been floating around in the background otherwise. Hey, I said I'm a media slut; I didn't say I was good at it. Anyway, we did a wee interview, and the interviewer seemed happy, but I went away with the pessimistic assumption that anything I said would probably end up on the cutting room floor. Just cause... well... expecting disappointment just makes the childlike glee better if it works out.
After heading back home for a quick bite, I jumped the subway back to the concert hall and met up with Andy, Olly and Dougie, and (as we grabbed our seats) Mike Gallagher from the GSFWC. We all settled down, beer in hand, of course, and the show started with Mags, Claire & Julie's documentary, which they were showing on a big screen at the back of the stage. (They were filming the gig to cut in to a longer version, ye see; the shorter one airs properly next week, I think.) The doc looked really cool, although the hall was a bit noisy with the crowd still shuffling in, so I'll have to tape it when it goes out on ITV to watch it properly. Though it is, of course, deeply flawed by the absence of ME. I mean, just because they had literary giants like Edwin Morgan and Alasdair Gray to interview, or Roddy Woomble who just happened to come up with the idea in the first place... I mean... just cause it was only half an hour and there wasn't actually time to give every single contributor air time... just cause it was Mags who told me about the project in the first place, and got me in touch with the guys at Chemikal Underground... I mean, still! They couldn't find space in their documentary to fit in their good friend, their buddy, their pal, their amigo... harrumph! Best they could manage was a shot of the back of me head as I wander into the Chem 19 recording studio! The back of me fuckin head! Oh, and a still photo in a sodding montage! They'll never hear the back of it, ye know. I shall wind them up mercilessly with mock dischuffedness until they hang their heads in shame. (Actually, it was quite funny the other week when Mags so meekly told me that, uh, see, there's only really space to cover three of the songs, and well, STV definitely want this person and that one, and I'm so sorry, don't hate me! It's like, dude, you got me onto the project in the first place; enough with the crazy talk. Don't tell her I said that though; I reckon there's a good few beers to be guilt-tripped out of her Catholic upbringing. Bwah hah hah!)
Anyhoo, the gig proper kicked off with an acoustic set from Idlewild, whose album track lyrics were from Edwin Morgan. I'd only really heard the band rocking out on their albums, so this was well cool to hear. Mike Heron of the Incredible String Band followed with his set, including the track with words by John Burnside (which featured Heron's daughter accompanying with a stonking Spanish/North African beat on the doumbek which I was rather envious of). Then we had James Yorkston, with his track lyricked by Bill Duncan. After the intermission, Alasdair Roberts, who worked with Robin Robertson for their album track, kicked off the second half, his set including a different version of a sea shanty I've got on the Depp/Gorbinsky pirate album and therefore recognised (which was neat). Karine Polwart gave us her set, including her collaboration with Edwin Morgan, which I have to say was the highlight of the gig... barring Aereogramme, that is, which I'm obviously rather prejudiced about.
Last on the bill was Aereogramme, who opened their set with our track and made it sound fucking immense. Since the studio, I'd only heard it through me laptop's dodgy speakers, so to hear it played live was just fucking awesome. Being a bear of very little brain but very big ego, I might have been disappointed that they didn't finish with it (cause, you know, this is all about ME!), except that they finished with a cover of a Slayer song called "God Hates Us All", played in their own inimitable "odd-rock" style... and how can you not love that. Celtic Connections folk festival. Every other band on the bill playing acoustic. Aereogramme say, fuck it, we're finishing with a Slayer cover. And it was frickin great too.
I even got to go backstage after the gig, chat with the guys for a bit over a beer, before heading down with me mates to the aftershow party at the Holiday Inn, where Mags introduced us to Alan Bissett and Rodge Glass, two of the other contributors on the album, and Rodge's mate, Ross. We talked lots, both of them being well cool guys, and not at all averse to a bit of weird-ass fantasy (Alan qute happily talking up Clive Barker, for example, while Rodge is working on a biography of Alasdair Gray). I forgot to mention to them that when I was checking out the other contributors on the record I noticed that they'd both read in the KGB bar in New York as part of some Scottish festival -- which seemed like a neat wee synchronicity -- but it was mainly because we were busy talking about other stuff. Hell, we were still talking at chucking out time, in fact, whereupon Rodge and Ross headed home, while meself, Alan and a few other reprobates all adjourned back to mine. Turned out that Alan stays just round the corner... which was rather handy for the 2:00 am drinks run round to his flat for whisky and wine. We all sat up chinwagging and listening to a promo copy of the CD (and, yes, we pretty much played it over and over again, but it wasn't just me insisting on hearing my song again, honest) till the wee hours of the morning became not so very wee at all.
Having exchanged the man-flu for a hangover, then, I managed to haul meself out of bed this afternoon to pop down to Neil Williamson's; and fuck me if I'm not walking to his flat when the sodding interviewer from Newsnight Scotland comes down the street towards me. I shit you not. I mean, Glasgow is not that small a city, so it was a fuckin bizarre coincidence. First words he says after "hi" are, "I've just been watching you on the telly"! I couldn't help but ask, of course, if they'd done the editing on the item (not that I was fishing to find out if they were using my interview, no, no, not at all, honest, guv), so when he told me he was just heading off to do the editing then, I was still half-convinced my piece would be cut (yeah, OK, so I was fishing; sue me).
Bless his little cotton socks, though. They actually used it. In terms of musicians, they had Roddy Woomble, natch, James Yorkston and Craig from Aereogramme. In terms of writers, they had Edwin Morgan and me. On Newsnight Scotland. How fuckin cool is that?
So, yeah, in the space of four/five days, I've been recognised by a stranger in one of Glasgow's coolest pubs, seen my collaboration with Aereogramme played live to a packed house, gone back-stage with me "Artist" pass in the Royal Concert Hall to have a beer with the band, got pissed with some new Glasgow writer mates, and appeared on the BBC.
I don't know whose life I've got, but I'm fucked if I'm giving it back.