BACK STAGE AT PEPPERMINT IGUANA HQ: Gigs, Festivals, Parties, CDs, Books, Protests, travels, photography and Cardiff City FC

Friday, September 30, 2005

MARK THOMAS AGREES TO PEPPERMINT IGUANA INTERVIEW: What's a Peppermint Iguana when it is at home then?

Mark Thomas has just agreed to partake in an interview for my fanzine PEPPERMINT IGUANA. Better get me self organised then, now where is that Dictaphone?

I have been running this blog for a month now, and have not really mentioned PEPPERMINT IGUANA, which is a bit odd given that it is where the name of the blog came from! It would probably be easiest if I cut and paste something direct from the forthcoming website to explain….

PEPPERMINT IGUANA first sprung into life in 1995 as a 'collective', a gang of mates from the Blackwood area of the South Wales valleys, putting on gigs, publishing a fanzine and running a website. We were motivated by the fact we were fed up with having to travel miles to see most of the bands we liked and there was virtually nowhere to read about the scene that we loved.

Over the next few years the gang put on 20 or so gigs with a mixture of local bands and big names from the 'underground' music scene, from New Model Army and Astralaisa, to the Tofu Love Frogs, Flannel and P.A.I.N. We published 4 fanzines and went through several versions of the website. Not exactly prolific, but we had a laugh and brought a little bit of fun to the valleys.

Life took its toll though, births, deaths, marriages, divorces, new jobs, redundancies, moving houses, going back to college... we had it all within the crew. So here we are, 2005 and Peppermint Iguana is not quite a collective anymore, just a very small band of radical groovers still trying to let the world know that there is a revolution going on and it's got a cracking soundtrack.

At one time, we had a cracking little website on the go, run by our resident cyber punk Alan Iguana, but for various reasons (not least of which was the birth of Al's little girl, the wonderful Jazzmyn Iguana) the site fell into disrepair. I have now taught myself the basics of web design and have started putting together a new site myself that will not be quite as ‘flashy’ and 'clever' as the last one; I cannot dream of competing with Al, who happens to live in cyberspace, but hopefully it will be updated more frequently.

I have always had an interest in radical politics, but over the last couple of years (at the time of life when most people grow out of it) I have become more and more serious about it, so the new website will reflect that and will be a little bit more radical than previous incarnations. For a taster of what I mean you can check out another website I have built from scratch over the last year (one of the reasons this new Iguana site is taking so long).

An interview with activist/comedian Mark Thomas will sit quite nicely with this new radical incarnation of the Iguana. I think I might have to bite the bullet and put a half finished version of the website on line, otherwise the interview will be out of date by the time it is up loaded. At the end of the day, the website will never be finished…. Any website that is ‘finished’ is not worth going back to, the whole point is to have new stuff going on line at regular intervals.

Best I stop blogging for now then and get on with the Iguana site.

The above photograph has been shamelessly lifted from the site of photographer Chris Saunders No doubt after the interview I will have some photos of me own to post.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


I have discovered that Words of Warning records, despite ceasing to release music a few years ago, have an on line shop where you can get your hands on what is left of their back catalogue. They have stuff at ridiculous prices, including CD albums for as little as £2… there should be a law against it; I have just ordered stuff by Autonomex, Bender, Boasti, Oi Polloi, Smak Daddi, Gunshot and ‘Mind Pollution’ the label sampler. Gonna have to find more room again! Check out

Monday, September 26, 2005

LOOK AFTER YOUR CDS, AND YOUR CDS WILL LOOK AFTER YOU: if you don't keep an eye on them they will go walkies

I am sat here making a compilation CD for a friend and have had a flash back from Nick Hornby's High Fidelity. I remember a ‘scene’ in the book where he refers to some general rules for compiling a mixtape. I remember laughing aloud when I first read it, and smiling to myself with the realisation that I am not the only one that spends hours working on mixes in an effort to get them right. I decided to dig out the book and re-read that section but it aint where it should be. B*stard! Obviously loaned out to someone, so long ago I have forgotten who.

Putting a compilation together is often the time when you discover that one of your prize CDs or records is missing, loaned out to some friend so trustworthy you are more than happy to lend them anything but not reliable enough to bring it back before you have forgotten you had even lent it out.

Putting together a compilation is always a good excuse to dig out something old but gold. It is VERY annoying when you go to dig out some classic or other and it aint there. It is like a little bit of your life and your personality has been taken from you; it can bug you for months on end. It could also mean you have lost an opportunity to impress someone.

I recently spotted ‘Colossal Youth’ by Young Marble Giants in a shop in Cardiff. I knew that I already owned a copy and I knew that I had loaned it out a LONG time ago, probably four or five years ago, but for the life of me could not think who to. Now it is not often you see Young Marble Giants CDs, so I decided to bite the bullet and re-buy it. Sods law, the very next week I was around my mate Nipper’s house and he said, “by the way, I have finished with that young Marble Giants CD”. I let him keep it.

About two years ago I redecorated the Iguana HQ and bought some nifty CD cabinets from a certain Scandinavian retail outlet. I was chuffed to bits and eagerly set about filling them with my CDs. Now, filing CDs is not as easy as filing vinyl. All my vinyl is filed alphabetically, if I buy a new rare peice of vinyl by, for instance, the Pale Fountains, I can simply slip it in with the other albums, between Ozric Tentacles and Lee Scratch Perry. Simple! (Actually, where is my CD copy of Pacific Street by the Pale Fountains? Mmmm). But filing CDs is not quite as easy, once the shelf is full, it is full, there is no flexibility in them damn jewel cases. So I have had to arrange my CDs using a less than perfect system, by genre. The problem with this system is that a lot of bands could fall into more than one category. The Propaganda And Information Network (P.A.I.N.) for instance… punk, or ska? You can see my problem.

Anyway, cabinet one is roughly ‘dance’ music. It starts off with festi type stuff, then moves on to Afro-celtic crossover, then on to dub, digi-dub and ska, then drum ‘n bass, chillout, trance, big beat, funk, soul and finishes off with jazz.

Cabinet two is ‘rock’, starting with psychedelic/space rock type stuff, moving on to anarcho-punk, ska-punk, punk-metal, techno-punk and old school punk, then indie and finishing off with old school 60s/70s rock.

As you can see, on occasions new CDs can be difficult to find a home for.

On top of all this, the cabinets were full as soon as I put them up and i dont have room for anyore, so I now have miscellaneous piles growing all over the place while I try to re-shuffle things every now and again, keeping the best stuff in the cabinets and the ‘What was going thru my head when I bought that’ stuff, and the demos that are not worth a second listen, finding their own homes.

Which brings us back to missing CDs. When I put the cabinets up, there were a significant number of vital CDs missing, some were only a phone call away but some just plain ‘missing presumed lost forever’. Very annoying. I have to say though, there were one or two that fell into the category of ‘who the hell did I borrow that off?”

Being of anarchist tendancies, i suppose i should not be so materialistic and take the attitude that 'all property is theft', but there are limits to the sacrifices we should make for the cause...

Funny how you can get distracted, I was gonna write my own rules for compiling CDs, but have managed to get totally side tracked. That will have to wait for another time.

Photograph takaen by me in a dance tent @the Shambala Festival, Devon, August 2005

Sunday, September 25, 2005

BLIAR BLIAR, PANTS ON FIRE: Thoughts on Blair, Neo Labour, and The War Against Terrorism (T.W.A.T)

As I sit reading the Sunday papers I am hit smack between the eyes with the first paragraph of the front-page lead article in the Independent. “Tony Blair will signal this week that Labour should abandon ‘urban intellectuals’ who deserted it over the Iraq war”. This brings two things to my mind; one is Labour’s (or should I say Blair’s) desire for power, no matter what the cost and to hell with ideology; the other is Blair’s own personal war in which, again, he does not seem to care what the country thinks.

Lets look at the issue of ‘Neo Labour’ first. The labour party was set up at the turn of the 19th/20th century to represent thin interests of the working classes. It never really did that, but it was certainly not as bad as the Tories. Fast forward to the 1980s (this is a blog not a bloody essay). The years in the wilderness for the Labour Party led the likes of Kinnock (now a lord for f*ck’s sake!) to come to the conclusion that the only way to win an election was to be more Tory than the Tories. The end result of this train of thought was Tory Bliar and his ‘New Labour’ project, which saw a Labour Party, now purged of Clause 4 and any remains of its ‘socialist’ roots, take on a shiny new persona; a slick, media wise, neo-liberal persona. With this new image, they managed to win a landslide victory in 1987. “This is how to win elections,” they thought to themselves, “to be more Tory than the Tories!” With this success under their belts they went on a rampage, taking on policies of privatisation even the Tories would not have dared to.. cos that’s where the votes are! This eagerness for power saw any sort of principles ditched.

Labour had previously had an image of being the party of the ‘worker’, all ‘cloth cap and whippets’ and ‘beer and sandwiches at number ten with the trade unions.’ Bliar was more interested in winning over the old Tory voter, the ‘Chattering Classes’, ‘Middle England’ and… yes… ‘urban intellectuals’. And win them over he did. Did he win them over because he out Tory’d the Tories, or were they just fed up with the Tories and wanted a change? I think many just wanted a change. Whatever it was that won them over, Bliar was convinced that this was a green light to move even further to the right.

Fast-forward again to 2003, and we come to the second issue. We are off to war again (Bliar has taken us to war more times than any other prime minister in history). This time it is the big one, it is Iraq (again) but this time it is for…. Erm… now this is where it gets confusing. It might have been about the weapons of mass destruction that Bliar knew Saddam did not have; it might have been about UN resolutions, despite the fact that our buttys Israel were in breach of three times as many as Iraq; it might have been about human rights, despite the fact that UN sanctions were the biggest threat to the Iraqi people and despite the fact that many of his neighbours (like our friends the Saudis) have appalling human rights records and despite the fact that when Saddam was really going to town Gassing the Kurds with weapons we gave him we sat back in silence; it might have been about the terrorist attacks on September 11th 2001, despite the fact that there were no links between Iraq and Bin Laden, in fact they hated each other, and despite the fact that all the terrorists involved in September 11th were all Saudis; it might have been about changing the regime, despite the fact that the CIA had put Saddam in power in the first place and the west had supported him in his war against those Koran reading Iranians who dare to worship a different god from Tony and George; it might have been about bringing peace democracy to the country. Or, it might have been about oil.

Three years on I have totally lost the plot and cannot remember why it was we went to war… no matter, Big Toe can’t remember either.

So Bliar lied to parliament, went to several lawyers till he found one that would say that the war was legal (surely the UN lawyers are the ones that should have the final say, it was after all UN law he was quoting, and the UN said it was illegal!), he went against a huge number of back benchers in his own party and massive opinion within the country, and followed his mate George W Bush to war. As a result tens of thousands of innocent lives have been lost, Iraq is in total chaos, the British army are now fighting with the Iraqi Police, the country is now a hot bed of terrorism and we are basically, to all intents and purposes, in a ‘Vietnam Situation’.

So what does Bliar do? Does he try to resolve the situation by admitting his mistakes and plan a withdrawal of troops? Does he do the decent thing and resign? No, he decides now is the time to abandon ‘urban intellectuals’ who deserted him over the war, those very intellectuals who he courted to get to power in the first place. That is the trouble with ‘intellectuals’; they tend to be so damned intelligent.

Photo taken by me on 15th February 2003 in London during the 2,000,000 strong march against the forthcoming war on Iraq

GO FLY A KITE: Thoughts on Stiff Little Fingers and Millwall FC

If ever there was a case of the support band upstaging the headliner it was when Stiff Little Fingers supported the Tom Robinson Band in Cardiff top Rank (1978/9 ish?). From then on, I was up for going to see SLF whenever they played within a reasonable travelling distance (this was before the days when I would travel half way around Europe to watch a band). That first album ‘Inflammable Material’ still rates as one of the top five punk albums of all time.

Last Friday they played Blackwood Miners Institute, a venue within walking distance of my house… was I excited? Did I go? NO! Was I gutted that I did not go? NO!

This is a classic case of never meet your ‘heroes’. A couple of years ago SLF played Blackwood and turned up without a full road crew. They are now to big to lug their own gear about so I got a phone call from the manager of the ‘Stute (at the time I was putting on gigs regularly there so knew the management quite well) asking if I wanted to earn fifty quid and get in for free. Of course I did. So me and Ginger John (this was back in the days before he went grey) trucked on over there and merrily lugged about bits of sound equipment happy in the knowledge that we were doing it for one of the all time great punk bands. Anything to help the cause of punk.

While the support band were on stage (some no hopers from Aberdare that thought they were the next Stereophonics) the road manager called me and the ginger one to one side. “Look”, he said, “when the support comes off stage, get them to go into their dressing room and stay there, then get their gear off stage as quickly as possible.” “OK”, we said, not suspecting anything. As they finished, that was what we did. Then when we had all the gear off the stage he called us into the dressing room with the support band and said.. “look, you have two options. You can stay in here till SLF come on, or you can go in to the auditorium now out of the way, but what ever happens I do not want you mingling with SLF backstage. And if you do accidentally bump into them in the toilet, you are not allowed to mention The Jam" (Bruce Foxton now plays with SLF). This was starting to get a bit weird. After a quick debate we all decided that we would stay in the dressing room and get stoned until the band came on.

When the band eventually came on, the manager came looking for me. “This is the last night of the tour” he told me, “and the band have brought a bottle of champagne with them.” Cool, I thinks to myself….I am going to have champagne with SLF! “At the moment the band only have half pint glasses back stage” he continues “and they refuse to drink out of anything less than proper champagne glasses, can you go and sort it out?” I just look at him blankly trying to take in what I am hearing and thinking, “punk rock my arse” to myself. When I finally realise he is serious I set off in search of champagne glasses, more specifically the ‘classic’ flat ones that you cup in your hand, not the fluted type. Luckily the ‘Stute also do weddings, so we were in luck. Once I found them for him it was, “OK, thanks, no f*uck off out back in the auditorium before the band come back off stage”. No champagne with the band then.

At this point I am starting to think.. “you’re not famous anymore, who the f*uck do you think you are”. I stood and tried to watch the band but all this arrogance spoiled it all for me. As I looked around I could see lots of beer bellies and Phil Collins look-alikes, basically it was a crowd full of people old enough to remember when SLF were a force to be reckoned with, out for an evening of nostalgia. There were no youngsters there. You can’t strut around being self-important relying on an increasingly aging fan base forever.

When we were taking the gear down at the end of the show we started talking to the two ‘roadies’ that have been doing the whole tour with the band. I asked why they were not backstage necking the champagne back and discovered that the band will not even talk to the road crew that travels around with them!

It got worse. I had not really done it for the money, more for the crack, but because of SLF’s attitude the money took on an increasing importance. So when the road manager tells us he cannot give us the full fifty quid each he had agreed I am furious. “It’s the venues fault” he tries to tell us, “they did not sell enough tickets”. “It’s SLF’s fault”, I tell him, “for not being famous anymore! If they cannot pull a crowd anymore they only have themselves to blame. They used to be legends and they have blown it by being crap.” He still refuses to wedge up properly but I have neither the time nor patience to argue. I call back to the club a few days later, the venue manager had ‘redistributed’ the door takings to make sure we got paid. Scott had his faults but he was not a bad stick.

So when I saw in the ‘Stute's latest brochure that SLF were playing again, did I get excited? No. As I sat there, reading that it was £15 a ticket (I can remember paying £2.50 to se them) and reading that they recorded the classic albums ‘Nobody’s Heroes’ (not a bad album, but they had definitely lost their edge) ‘Go For It’ (apart from 'Roots, Radicals, Rockers and Reggae', a pretty forgettable album) and ‘Now Then’ (so forgettable I had forgotten about it), did I get angry that they do not even mention ‘Inflammable Material’ in their publicity? No. Did I sit there thinking to myself that I could not even name any of the albums they have released since 1982? No. I just sat there thinking, “You’re not famous anymore” and “you can go fly a kite”.

Talking of “you’re not famous anymore”, City were away to Millwall yesterday. I was more concerned about missing that than SLF. 20 years ago I would not have missed it, simple as that. I used to travel all over the country to watch Cardiff City, which was a bit odd really; I did not like football and was not really a hooligan, I just liked the idea of being somewhere other than Blackwood on a Saturday afternoon and getting p*ssed with me mates. If there was a band on I wanted to see, I would travel just about anywhere to see them, but if there wasn’t, it was City away.

Anyway… Millwall. Back in the ‘80s, when we went away it would be either on the train or in the back of a transit van, but for some reason we went on an official coach to Millwall. It was a long time ago and I was probably to drunk to remember what happened the week after, but I do remember that there were 13 coaches and 12 of them had their windows put through as we were heading out of London. Can’t, for the life of me, remember why we were on a coach, as I say, we always did our own thing.

Yesterday, if I had gone, I would have had to travel by coach. The game was designated a ‘bubble’, which basically means that you cannot buy a ticket for the game, you have to buy a voucher which covers you for both the bus and game. You get on the bus, the bus has to meet the police at a pre-arranged rendezvous point and the police hand out the tickets and take you straight to the game. It is intended to stop people travelling on their own uncontrolled by the police and getting into ‘dust ups’ with the home fans. It tends to happen for games when there is a high likelihood of agro, and given City’s reputation over the years that is quite often. The arrangements for yesterday was that the coaches had to be at the RV point at 12:30 and the fans would be held in a compound for 2 hours before being marched to the ground.

As I say, 20 years I would not have missed it. 5 years ago I would not have been interested, I had gone right off it, what with being a dad and all that, but the last few years I have got back into the vibe and once again travel away a few times a season.

In the end, it was a choice of going through the hassle of a bubble to go to a ground I have been to twice in the last two seasons or see my kids, who I have not seen much of lately. The kids won. The Metropolitan Police could go fly a kite and stick their bubble up their a*se.

So, I did not go to see SLF and I did not go to Millwall. What did I do? I went flying a kite.. obviously! Took Tara up to Penyfan Pond (as you can see from the photo) and had a great time.

Photo taken by me, today, at Penyfan Pond

Friday, September 23, 2005

WOT? NO STRONGBOW?: My trip to Taunton for an interview

This is what cider is supposed to look like...

I travelled down to Taunton last night, so that I would wake up refreshed and ready for an interview. The interview was for a job I have been trying to land for a few years now, and this was the 6th Interview I have had in the last 18 months. This might sound like I am wasting my time but I have actually done the job on a temporary basis for ten months and know I can do it.

I regularly travel down to the ‘South West’ but some how in all the years I have been going down there I have never been to Taunton. I did the journey in not much over an hour, which was quite good but I was thinking to myself that if I were doing this on a regular basis I would soon loose my licence. I bombed down a reasonably clear ‘post rush hour’ M5 with my new Hayseed Dixie album blasting out and the wind in me hair (actually, that is a bit of poetic licence, I do not have a convertible and I had the windows up, but I did have cold air blowing). Wandering around on the Thursday night it seemed like quite a nice town, although it did seem quite ‘middle class’ and ‘civilised’. It took me ages to find a chip shop, it is mostly restaurants, and all the pubs seemed to be what we in the valleys call ‘posh’. The one thing I did spot on my wander was a half decent looking record shop (Am I showing my age? There were no records to be seen, it was all CDs).

I did call into one pub for a pint, ‘The Moat House’, a cool sophisticated little joint playing cool funky jazzy type stuff and serving rather appetising looking food. The first thing I noticed was that they were selling Dry Blackthorn cider, which I suppose was inevitable in Taunton, given that Blackthorn is made there. It is nice, but Strongbow it aint. They had a selection of the day’s broadsheets (no tabloids) so I sat there and read the Independent from cover to cover. Then I headed back to the B+B early to have a final read up on things that might have come up in the interview.

I was up early and did a bit more reading before going for breakfast. The manager had got some veggie sausage in for me specially, which was good, he also pointed out that I had a puncture on my car, which was bad. At least it happened down there rather than back home with 85 miles to travel in rush hour traffic and me already in me suit. I changed the tyre in record time, I think I should be applying for a job with a Formula One pit crew.

I then strolled the two streets over to the office for the interview (aint the Internet great, I had managed to find a B+B at a decent price near where I was going with very little effort) and got on with it. I thought it went quite well and was quite pleased with my performance.

After the interview I walked down to Martian Records and purchased another Hayseed Dixie Album ‘Let there be Rockgrass’ and the latest Transplants album ‘Haunted Cities’, then headed home.

The journey home was not quite as quick, the traffic was a lot heavier and I had to avoid the usual crashes… why does the M5 have more than its fair share of rubbish drivers?

Eventually at about 7:30pm, I had the phone call telling me I did not get the job. Part of me was totally gutted, but part of me was relieved that I did not have to go through the hassle of moving to Taunton.

I think the bit of me that was gutted was thinking ‘what the hell have I got to do to get this job? Can I actually do any better than I did today?’ The answer of course is a resounding YES. All I have to do is learn from this experience, I will give them a ring next week and get a debrief. Onward and upward! At least i wont have to put up with Dry Blackthorn!!!

Photo taken by me at the Shambala festival, Devon, August 2005

Thursday, September 22, 2005

IT'S MY PARTY AND I WILL GRIN IF I WANT TO: thoughts on Hayseed dixie and cover versions in general.


Well, I managed to refrain from playing my Hayseed Dixie CD till me birfday... which be today.. and it was well worth the wait. I is not normally a big fan of Blue Grass but if you are not familiar with the original versions of the tracks on here this album still stands up quite well on it's own, a real toe tapper. If you are familiar with the original versions by the likes of Black Sabbath, Neil Young, Outkast, Geen Day, Franz Ferdinand and Led Zeppelin, you cant help but grin when you hear the lyrics.

I hate bands that get on stage and just do cover versions with no imagination, trying to replicate the original. Totally pointless as far as i am concerned. Now taking a song, ripping it appart and putting it back together to be something else, something new... well it can be hit and miss and is a risky business, but when it works it can be awesome.

Note worthy reworkings, that add something to the music scene, include.. Purple Haze (Jimi Hendrix) by Johnny Jones and the King Casuals, Shaft (Isaac Hayes) by the Chosen few, Babylons Burning (the Ruts) by Zion Train, Police and Thieves (Junior Murvin) by the Clash, The Ace of Spades (Motorhead) by Pronghorn, Dark Side of the Moon (yes... the WHOLE Pink Floyd album) by The Easy Star All Stars (what a dreadful name for a band!!!) and... well .. almost everything Hayseed Dixie have ever done! There are plenty more but I aint got time to sit here listing them, these are just a few that spring to mind.

Although it is my birthday, i have to get ready to head off to taunton for a job interview tomorrow morning.

Photo, Hayseed Dixie

Monday, September 19, 2005



OK, so she did, many years ago, still a good record though. A few years ago a friend of mine borrowed a CD of another friend.. The Beat: Beats Per Minutes, a two disc t’ing with disc one being a best of The Beat type thang and disc two being a collection of remixes, released in 1996. I have been keeping an eye out for it so I can get a copy myself, but after drawing a blank (me thinks it deleted) I have tracked down the old friend that had it originally and got a copy burned off.

I have been looking out for it off and on for a number of years (probably since '96) but my determination to get hold of it was reinvigorated after seeing a reformed version of the Beat live a while back. I was never really into them when they were first around; I was still very much a punk then and had no interest in the ska/mod/rude boy thing that was happening in the late '70s early ‘80s.

Ah yes, the tribal style wars… those were the days. When I were a lad you were either a punk, a mod, a skin, a rocker/metal head, or a ‘straight (square)’. And you rarely hung out with kids outside your tribe. I remember this mod coming up to me in Cardiff bus station in '79 trying to tell me punk was old fashioned. When I explained to him that mod was almost 20 years out of date, him and about 20 of his mates chased me through the bus station baying for blood.

It wasn’t just other tribes you had to watch out for, back in them days you could get a good shoeing just for being ‘different’ or ‘weird’. These days you would not be shocked if your bank manager had a Mohican, and it is common place for lads to gell their hair up to deliberately look unkempt. Well these youngsters ought to appreciate those of us that died in the style wars for them to be able to do all this. 20 years ago only freaks and poofs used hair gel, and freaks and poofs used to get regular kicking’s.... and as for being able to buy pre-ripped shirts in places like Burtons!!

My personal evolvement came through listening more and more to dub reggae/ska, which had strong links with punk anyway; then I started going to Northern Soul All Nighters, initially to stay up all night and take drugs but I eventually got into the music as well; then I came out and admitted that even when I was a punk I had a secret love for heavy metal. I then started going to festivals and was overcome by a whirlwind of sounds and drugs, space rock, psychedelia, folk (well, the pogues anyway), ‘world’ music, blues, jazz… and all the while all these styles were growing and clashing and merging to form the messed up head f*ck that was rave. After rave exploded and shattered into a million pieces we had a myriad of crazy styles, from the Madchester baggy scene, through drum ‘n bass to afro-celtic-dub-diddly-folk-rave. I lapped it all up, and still do.

I am not sure if the rivalry between music cults is the same as it always has been or if i just dont notice it cos i is older. I certainly get the impression that since the rave scene and the melting of lots of boundaries to form lots of different crossovers (rap-metal, folk-punk, digital-dub etc) things are not as black and white as they once were, which is probably no bad thing.

The only thing I do not like is manufactured commercial cr*p that is constructed just for the purpose of selling units … MUSIC IS AN ART FORM NOT AN INDUSTRY!

Ermm… I have forgotten what I was going to write about now, I only mentioned what was on my CD player and have got carried away… couldn’t have been important!

The picture at the top of this post is anarcho-ska-punk outfit SPANNER from Bristle, taken at an anti-G8 benefit i put on earlier this year in 'The Toucan Club', Cardiff.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

I GOT A CAMERA AND I AM GONNA USE IT: A lazy Sunday wandering around Abersychan with me camera

Two posts in one day, don’t get too used to it I can’t imagine the impetus will be maintained. Especially as I have better things to do than sit here blogging. I should be preparing for the interview I have later in the week or working on the proper Peppermint Iguana website, or doing household chores (and lord knows there’s a few of them going undone!). Apart from the fact that I have better things to do, I don’t really have anything interesting to say… but I am gonna say it anyway, just cos I like writing.

STICK ‘EM UP MOTHER F*CKER, WE’VE COME FOR WHAT’S OURS… Sorry, getting carried away, I am listening to ‘How To operate With A Blown Mind’ by the low Fidelity All Stars and trying to avoid opening my birthday present CD.

Anyway, took the kids back to their mother early, they are off to the annual food festival in their hometown of Abergavenny. I decided to take a scenic route back, well.. not sure that scenic is the word I am looking for, but I found plenty of interest to take photos of.

I bought myself a digital camera a few months ago and never leave home without it now. I like the beauty of digital, you can snap away to your hearts content and if the photos come out crap, just ditch them without the expense of getting them printed. I am comparatively new to all this but just snap away trying to get something resembling art (whatever that might be), taking photos of anything that catches my eye, whether it be a landscape, building, sign, car, animal, or any random object that catches me eye, looking at them all from a variety of angles. And because of the advantages of digital, the law of averages means I am bound to get something decent eventually.

I find that I have started looking at the world differently; even just sat in the office I look and think ‘now there is an interesting stapler’. Everywhere I look I am looking for photo opportunities.

Today photography provided me with something else, a bit of exercise. I stopped at The British, Cwmgarw, which is between Abersychan and Varteg, on the road that leads over to Brynethel (no, I am not making these up). It is a desolate wasteland of a place, an industrial scar on the side of the mountain. There are odd buildings scattered around that hint to days gone by, though no real clue to what they used to be. Only the fact that we are a few miles from Blaenavon, the town that gave birth to the industrial revolution, gives the hint that they were probably connected to the iron industry.

There are also abandoned coal tips, a familiar site through out the valleys. At some point, probably late ‘50s, early ‘60s some attempt was made to hide the tips by covering them with grass seed. I guess at the 50s/60s because since then more thought has been put into reclamation and tips that have been landscaped in the last three decades don’t look quite so obviously to be old tips. But these coal tips are obviously coal tips, with a bit of grass on them. Attempts to disguise them have not been helped by the constant stream of dirt bikes that have taken to riding up and down them over the years. They have been at it for as long as I can remember. As I stood taking photos, I could hear the unmistakable tinny noise of Japanese engines in the distance, and after hanging around for a while, on cue, a scrambler appeared on the tip in front of me.

A little wander revealed some old abandoned buildings that seemed to defy logic. Anywhere else and they would have been knocked down by now, or restored as part of some heritage project, but they were just there, left to nature to reclaim. I can’t imagine it will be too long before they are gone forever and replaced by some soulless collection of brick shoe boxes thrown together by Barrats or some such other money making conglomeration that throws up dwellings with no concept of the word community; although they are probably going to build on all the green fields before they start here.

Oddly, in the middle of this wasteland there is a little row of cottages, probably built when the area was still churning out iron. Every one of them habited and lovingly looked after by the inhabitants. A strange little place to live but I would imagine a strong community spirit in the handful of residents in this little row of cottages surrounded by a moonscape.

Anyway, I will post some of the photos I took later and put a link here. The picture I have posted here is a view from inside an old brick chimney looking up to the sky.

In the mean time, I have better things to do that sit here blogging.

Photo, looking up inside an abandoned chimney of some sort, The British, taken by me today.

HEY HO, LETS GO! Me first propper blog; festivals, football, cinema, cruising and kids with cars

Blogs eh! Had this blog set up for a week or so and not really sure what sort of stuff to write. To make things worse, for some reason I have set up three different blogs. I have tried writing this ‘memoir’, type thing before, and it always falls into ‘disrepair’, now I am going to do it on line for the whole world to see, i must be mad… who knows if I will keep it up. I often think to myself, “well, I will be doing this soon, that would be a good point to start, I will wait” or, “I did this earlier, that would have been a good point to start but missed it so no point now”. There Is no doubt that the best time to start a blog is now, so I am going to start NOW (Although there were one or to major excitements earlier in the year, I might add them soon... or maybe not!).

Not a good start, I have only written one paragraph and already this blog is looking a bit crap.

Lets start again… This weekend started with a bit of a setback. The original plan had been to go to ‘Infinite Daze’, a semi legit festival that was supposed to be happening on at a secret location on Caerphilly Mountain, or more precisely (and slightly less romantically) a farm in Abertridwr. The forces of meanness shut the site down on Friday afternoon before it officially opened, sighting ‘Section 63 of the Criminal Justice and public order Act’. .. which states ‘This section applies to a gathering on land in the open air of 100 or more persons (whether or not trespassers) at which amplified music is played during the night (with or without intermissions) and is such as, by reason of its loudness and duration and the time at which it is played, is likely to cause serious distress to the inhabitants of the locality.

I know a few of the people organising the event, they are no doubt too young to remember the events that led up to the introduction of the dreaded CJA. Back in them days, there used to be free parties, festivals and raves all over the place every weekend during the summer. I can remember the old peace convoy when dozens, and sometimes hundreds, of vehicles would turn up on a site, set up a stage (or two), together with sound systems, cafes, stalls and everything else that goes with a festival and party till they dropped. Sometimes they were a nuisance to the locals; but more often they were miles from anywhere and did not really harm anyone. Basically the law was about outlawing a lifestyle the authorities did not understand and putting a stop to something they had no control over.. cos they like to be in control.

Post CJA, festivals have become sanitised, comoditised and corporatised, destroying the old spirit in the name of making a buck. A subject I will no doubt return to.

Anyway, what did I do instead? I went shopping! Last week was the birthday of Tara Iguana, but I did not see her because she was on holiday in France with ‘she whose name we will not mention’ (her mother), so this week I took her and her big sister, Zoë Iguana, to Cardiff to spend her birthday money. In the process, I gave a lift to my mates Sparky and (the artist formerly known as) Ginger (till his hair went grey) who were off to watch the Legendary Cardiff City FC play Crystal Palace. We trudged around shops with names like ‘Girl Heaven’ and… I can’t bring myself to mention the others, but I think the name of that one shop will give you the idea.

I had promised myself I would not spend any money on me, but I called into one particular shop which sells things at ridiculously low prices to see if they had the new Don Letts movie, ‘Punk: Attitude’, on DVD. They did not have it but I walked out with a DVD of early Pink Floyd footage dating from when Syd Barrett was still in the band; a copy of the book ‘Long Way Round’ By Ewan McGregor and Charley Boreman; and a CD by Hayseed Dixie, ‘A Hot piece of Grass’. I justified this mini consumer fest by telling myself they were all birthday presents to myself.

The Hayseed Dixie had to be bought, it just jumped out at me, ‘cos they were playing Newport last night. I wanted to go but opted to have the girls instead because I had not seen them for a while due to the French thing and me going to Poland last week to watch Wales play football.

Hayseed Dixie, who they? Well, they are a crazy messed up bunch of hill billies that do cover versions of heavy metal songs all in a bluegrass style. Their website sums it up best “From the fertile valley of Deer Lick Holler, deep in the heart of Appalachia, comes a sound that is old yet new. In an area completely isolated from outside cultural and musical influence, this band of acoustic musicians grew up playing the traditional music of their forefathers. Then, as fate would have it, one crisp fall afternoon, a stranger passed through the holler. Well, he almost made it through. Unfortunately for him, but fortunately for appreciators of great music worldwide, the stranger crashed his car into a stately old oak tree at Devil's Elbow Curve. Sadly, the stranger expired, but his legacy lives on. For under the back seat of his car, the boys found some old black vinyl records as they went through his belongings looking for identification. All they had to listen to them on was an old Edison Victrola that only played at 78 R.P.M., but the boys all agreed it was some mighty fine country music. So, in memory of the stranger who had perished the boys set about learning these songs. The records in the car, of course, were by the band AC/DC. And the boys recorded an album of the songs in their own mountain / bluegrass style - with fiddle, mandolin, banjo and such.”

They have moved on from just doing AC/DC covers and this particular album contains covers of ‘Whole Lota Love’, ‘War Pigs’ and ‘Duelling Banjos’. Not listened to it yet, I am trying to keep it for me birthday later this week.

So after this pathetic submission to consumerism, we headed back to Iguana HQ for something to eat. The plan had been for us all to head for the cinema in the evening but Zoë had already seen ‘Charley and the Chocolate Factory’ so she opted to sit in the house surfing the net talking to her mates while Tara and I went to the cinema.

Cinema eh! Well the experience has changed a bit since I were a lad. Once upon a time there were two cinemas in Blackwood, the Capitol and the Maxime. I don’t really remember going to the Capitol, but apparently half my mothers’ family worked there. Projectionist, ticket lady and all sorts of jobs were done by Coombs’, my mother being usherette. In fact, I think my mam and dad met there. I remember the Maxime though, it was open long after the Capitol Shut, I vaguely remember the original with one big screen but I remember it reopening after a major refurbishment and having not one but TWO screens. No cinema in Blackwood now, so Tara and I headed for Nantgarw industrial estate, which has a bowling alley (with a million lanes) a Mc D****lds, a seriously plastic Italian restaurant, a drive through Indian restaurant and a cinema with 12 screens.

The film itself was quite good. In the old days ‘family’ films were really ‘kids’ films, but nowadays they tend to be more like family films because they can keep adults entertained as well. Obviously the film is a remake of ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’ and, unlike many remakes, I think it stands up well against the original.

The timing of everything worked well, because as we were driving home I had a phone call from the lads to say they were just pouring themselves off the train on their way home from watching City beat palace one nil. A quick diversion into Ystrad Mynach picked them up, and then I dropped them off in Blackwood High Street.

Blackwood on Saturday night is something else. None of the pubs are what I would call pubs anymore; they are ‘tarts palaces’, all mirrors and flashing lights. On top of the fact that these are horrible places to drink, people queue to get in them on a weekend and they now all have bouncers on the door! Bouncers in a pub! What’s that all about?

And as I drive through the high street there are loads of people staggering around worse the ware for drink, many of them young girls with next to nothing on; skirts, which are really just wide belts, and tops that would not keep you warm on a tropical island. In the summer you can just about understand it, but they are like this all year round, I have seen them staggering through the snow wearing high heels and ‘crop tops’.

At least they are out on the p*ss. There is another bizarre thing about Blackwood; it attracts loads of people in cars cruising up and down with their stereo blasting. Many of the cars are supped up. Now I can sort of understand someone getting a sporty car and ‘enhancing’ it, but why on earth anyone would want to customize a Vauxhall Nova is beyond me. And the stereos… some of the systems in these motors are worth more than my car! It would not be so bad if they were actually playing decent music out of them, but it is usually really cheesey ‘club’ music. The most amazing thing is that they pick a one horse town like Blackwood to cruise up and down. They come from miles around, as far as Western Super Mare, to drive up and down the high street blasting this sh*tty club music out of their supped up mini metros to impress girls who are shivering because they have come out without a coat or jacket. They have even passed bi-laws to deal with them, preventing them congregating in the car park at the top of town and preventing them from doing U turns at the bottom of town (which is a bit of a pain in the a*se for the rest of us road users actually); another example of the powers that be legislating against things they do not understand and have no control over; the cruisers might be a bunch of sad gits, but thay are only having a laugh and there is no law against that. Anyway, I feel like shouting, “Get out of your bloody mams’ car, get out of Blackwood, go to a proper club and find out what real club music sounds like, take some drugs and put a bloody vest on!” The people that tried to organise ‘Infinite Daze’ may have blown it and got themselves shut down before they started but at least they tried. Who am I to talk though? I spent my Saturday night watching ‘Charley and the Chocolate Factory’.

Anyway, I am not sure if this is what a blog is for, but I have written it now so I am going to post it.

Photo taken by me, old town square, Krakow, Poland; a slightly more civilised place to spend an evening than Blackwood High Street, taken September 2005.

Monday, September 12, 2005

I got a blog but i dont know how to use it.

well, there we go, thats my blog created, now all i need is a reason to post.

I doubt very much if the cyber world in interested in my life, as exciting as it is... and i am not sure i want the world to know TOO much about me, but here it is.

mmmmm. what shall i write about? the mundane goings on in my life? my inner most thoughts on love, life and the universe? my opinions on what is going on around me? mmmmmm.

i'll have to get back to you on this one!

And then there were pictures

Again, this is another meaningless post, just me still fiddling around to work out how this bloody site works, and how to up load images.

If there is a picture above, you know i have sussed it!

Sunday, September 11, 2005

And in the beginning there was a blog

this post is meaningless, i am trying to work out how to use this new fangled programme, so do not bother reading any further.

Of course, you could continue reading if you want to, who am i to be giving out instructions? But i can assure you nothing worth reading is going to appear here.

sooner or later you are going to think to yourself "why i am i still reading this? it is all nonsense!" and you would be right. But then, I did tell you that at the beginning.