Tag Archives: UK

Heading to Northern Climes

There is a common misconception about people from the North of England, especially those from Yorkshire…

Glum, dour and particularly tight-fisted with a reluctance to part with their money. Granted, there is rarely a misplaced or dropped coin on a bar or the floor of a pub which doesn’t get lifted moments after it departs the owner’s pocket, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.

Yorkshire folk hate being ripped off and being conned. They especially don’t like the wool being pulled over their eyes. An Artisan filo pastry filled with cured Iberian chorizo and hand-grated Parmesan will set you back near a tenner in the Big Smoke, but a ham and cheese pasty would raise eyebrows if it was over the £3 mark outside the M25.

Notorious for being ludicrously expensive, Norway is one of my favourite places to perform and to visit without the instrument. There is little getting away from paying insane amounts of money in bars and for eating out. This country really tests these Yorkshire roots.

Trondheim

Trondheim city

I start this tour blog half way in Trondheim….

Having performed in Oslo, Klokkarstua, Elverum so far, we perform my favourite city in Norway. A real music city which is laced with moonshine, wide-eyed tourists on a budget and crazy alternative folk. The Svartlamon area is where we perform which is a squatted neighbourhood with an Anarchist bookshop, pub, a couple of shops and what was once Europe’s largest self-built wooden structure, now a living space. The city feels to me like a second home and its people are as welcoming as ever and the show in the bookshop was fun, intimate and rewarding. Later that evening we visit the UFFA, a squat venue which is a large building hosting a benefit show for the Karlsøyafestivalen, our final destination for this tour in Northern Norway. As ever, the UFFA is hosting a show with a number of noise/hardcore/metal bands which are punishingly loud in the small room. The noise was fantastic.

After a small break in Trondheim, we prize ourselves away on a late evening overnight train to Bodø, arriving in around the pleasant enough time of 9:15am. The journey was better than expected but still cramped and tedious but made slightly more comfortable with the offer of blanket, eye mask and self inflating pillow from NSB, the Norwegian rail company. This was only part of the journey to the next show on the remote Lofoten Islands, now within the Arctic Circle. Lofoten is a series of islands linked by roads which jut out into the North Sea 150 miles from the mainland. After a three hour boat journey we had to get two buses lasting around 4 hours in total from the Western part to the Central part of the islands. It took around 18 hours in total to get to this show.

lofoten

Lofoten Islands

The next day would beat that time-wise but it would be way more comfortable. After another couple of bus journeys we meet the Hurtigruten at Svolvær port. Hurtigruten is the boat that serves the jagged coast line of this country. I’m not a fan of long boat journeys, especially overnight ones but this has more of a pleasant and relaxed vibe than ferries with commercial purpose such as Hull-Zeebrugge which comprises of tired and pissed off lorry drivers and pissed up Brits on Lads weekends. This has the feel of a cruise boat for tourists wishing to see Norway with the safety of not getting too close to its changeable weather. As expected the scenery was phenomenal and the storm she navigated through made for good photos. This would be a 24 hour journey to Tromsø.

The festival itself has been promoted along the way with venues stocking posters and word of it has spread as we meet people along the way attending. Another boat awaits to the island which is hosting the festival. Since the late 60s the island has been a haven for a myriad of folk seeking an alternative life and the island seems to be pretty well-known across Norway. There is even a folk song about the island. After putting our tent up which seems to be missing pegs, we source some twigs to hold it down and hope for the best. An announcement was made by one of the people who have been involved with the island and the festival and now with the event in its 50th consecutive year, this is a tremendous achievement for any festival, let alone one so remote. We’re reminded this is an event that is anti-Capitalist, anti-corporate and continues to push for an alternative. One thing that shocked me with this politicised event is the amount of whale meat for sale. This is a culture clash for sure and I am reminding myself that this is a far cry away from Northern England. Also speaking to some of the locals there was more of an anti-EU sentiment than what would be from a young British left, which I gather is to do with fishing regulations and of course, whaling which is banned by the EU.

karlsoy 2

Leaving Karlsøyafestivalen at the ferry port

The festival seemed to run smoothly and as far as I could see, a real DIY ethic was present and everybody seemed to muck out one way or another (weather permitting) and the music was eclectic, exciting and unique. From Sámi pop music to noise bands. Sámi are the last indigenous’ peoples of Europe who span Northern Sweden, Norway and Finland who still have their own cultures and traditions, though now they live in houses and have ‘real’ jobs…definitely not a roaming tribe image that is portrayed by the tourist board. Even road signs in certain areas are in Sámi. Myself and Jørgen, my tour buddy, stood out as the solo performers and I was one of the few who sang in English…I think there was more Sámi than English sung there.

From 7am beach raves and catching the midnight sun on the island’s highest point, Karlsøyafestivalen is a unique festival. The location is enough of a draw regardless of its vibe and musical offerings. If you’re up for a festival that has a DIY ethic and you want something very unique, it’s pretty hard to beat. ’til next time, Norway.

Johnny x

My tour buddy Jørgen Dretvik is well worth checking out. Here are his links:

Music page: www.facebook.com/jorgendretvikmusikk/

Video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ypywt7liJI&t=9s

If you wish to support me, as an independent musician I don’t have financial backing from labels or otherwise, I survive through merch sales and performing. You an be involved by ordering merch or albums here: http://www.johnnycampbell.bandcamp.com

And you can also keep up to date with my tours and more here: http://www.facebook.com/johnnycampbellmusic

What Next for British Culture?

 

Britain was THE great exporter of the world from the Manchester cotton mills which were reputed to plume with smoke and factories that were deafening to work in, Sheffield would lay claim to the steel industry and London, the centre of the Empire, was and still is a bustling hotbed of creativity and innovation.

Being the first industrialised country, Britain was ahead of many of its counterparts and many flocked to the country for work and to be part of this dynamic part of the world, and where the action lie.

dole queue

Dole queue in Northern England

Elected in the late 70s, Thatcher went ahead with her notion of exporting as much of the industry that created Britain’s wealth overseas, or just dismantling it. This time will be noted for posterity by the bands that emerged from this era such as The Smiths, Joy Division, The Pogues and the like. They all painted a picture of a gloomy Britain, one that was oppressed by Thatcherism and council estates ran rife with poverty. You can still see the remnants of this past in many S.Yorkshire areas which still haven’t recovered from the era of the Miner’s Strikes in the mid 80s. The songs and the culture surrounding that decade defined Britain at the time and when I go abroad performing shows and tell them I’m from England, people are still enamoured by the songs and culture of this era.

There were many things that Thatcher wouldn’t dare try to privatise, some of which were the dole (welfare) and the NHS. The bands from this era, up to The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays in the late 80s/early 90s, have all mentioned that they wouldn’t be where they were if it wasn’t for the dole. The dole at that time offered some sort of respite for artists and musicians who were between jobs or even touring as you could sign on at any jobcentre across the country. I’ve even heard personal accounts of organising tours making sure you could sign on in a jobcentre along the way.

In ’97 there was a new wave of optimism in Britain and after nearly two decades of Tory rule, a Labour government rose to power.

noel and blair

I was only 10 at the time and I remember a sense of optimism in the air, briefly. Such things as child tax credit, minimum wages were introduced transforming the lives of everyone. Or everyone who lived on my street. It seems ludicrous to think back that Noel Gallagher entered Downing Street to speak to Tony Blair about launching a new type of benefit which if you were a musician, it enabled you a certain amount of flexibility and freedom whilst getting your benefits. This is the first time a government has accepted that there isn’t such a thing as an apprenticeship into the arts, just hard graft and time. I’ve encountered a couple of people who are 10 years older than me who have benefited from this.

Blair’s government began to export culture as Britain’s new identity. ‘Cool’ Britannia was the new image, where we exported a notion that Britain was where it was ‘happening’, and it was. Where once we made ships and cars for the world we would now flog Britpop and Lara Croft.

I would be one of the last generations of people to make a living out of music by building myself up from the dole, as times were easier 5-10 years ago. I make no bones about this or hide this fact, you need a certain amount of time to create, which a ‘normal’ job wouldn’t allow for a full-time creative project. I wonder where the flourish of British music will come from now as it’s impossible to juggle the benefit system with a music career. Even Arts Council grants are being slashed. I read an article once where in the early 90s around 70% of music in the charts were musicians from working class backgrounds, in the mid noughties, under 40%. There is a definite correlation here. Times aren’t so optimistic as they were in ’97 for creatives.

But perhaps in these times of immense uncertainly under Brexit, the idea that hard times bring great art might be the only silver lining…however, that’s if we choose to make it.

Johnny x

The best way to support an independent musician like myself, is through merch. You can download, get physical copies, t-shirts etc from my site below.

http://www.johnnycampbell.bandcamp.com

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Hook, Line and Sinker release and the ‘Alternative’…

So, here’s another self-obsessed blog post by another DIY musician instafacetwittering for the approval of others while trying to promote their new release with no backing from agents, labels or Arts Council funds. Yes… and no…

Contrary to what is lamented and blown out of proportion in music (auto)biographies where a front-man/singer/songwriter in a band for years craves to release a solo record and finally relishes the opportunity because ”I can put down what I really feel now, man” or some other equally stomach-churning diatribe that serves to build up the ‘Myth of the Man’, it may come as some surprise that I wasn’t necessarily compelled with or struck with an immense creative urgency to release my début solo record.

Songs had been festering for a while I admit, but some riffs (Blue Mountains) lay dormant for years. In fact I must have written the Guitar riff well over seven years ago…but I digress. I started recording in October 2014 with a friend of mine at his home studio. A couple of days to lay down the Guitar and vocals for the songs and working on it from there. A few tweaks in the future with the vocals and doing re-takes…it’s a lengthy enough process.

What I was apprehensive about with releasing a record is simply the way we consume and interact with music these days. On average, people will listen to 15-30 seconds of a track and make a judgement before skipping tracks. Imagine if you did that with Pink Floyd or I Am The Resurrection by The Stone Roses. Yes, as a musician, you want to get your work out there, but with so many outlets to spread your product and the days of listening to a record all the way through (god forbid) are now confined to the dusty box filled with such gems as ”The days when you could leave your door open”. Is there really any point to release another musical interlude into the ether? After all, videos, music and more are being uploaded every second making it a commodity and while the World Wide Web is a true democracy, it is open to a lot of these problems. As everything is expected to be free, it diminishes the countless hours of work put into it, production costs and more…

Rant, rant, rant…come on, get to your point….

It may be tempting to wait in line for the next Bob Dylan release to keep your collection up to date regardless of the quality he puts out (£400 for a box set of every musical brain fart he’s had from 1965-’66 available now!) but if we can tear ourselves away from bolstering Dylan’s lifestyle, supporting localised events and projects, music, theatre etc, must be the way forward right?

edward tubbs

Research on spending by local authorities shows that for every £1 spent with a small or medium-sized business 63p stayed in the local economy, compared to 40p with a larger business. When I put on my own shows, I try my utmost to support the right venue. Bar 122 in Huddersfield was started by ‘Stevo’ who built from the ground up, supports underground artists, national and touring artists and manages to keep his drink/food prices at a competitive and affordable level. This is not a corporate venue and has been a lifeblood of the town for a long time and continues to support the local economy this way. In this past year I put on a show at a corporate venue where drink prices were over £4.50 a pint and because the show didn’t manage to cover itself by ticket sales (booking the room fee, soundman, bartenders) and as soon as I stepped offstage I was handed a bill of £3.20 to the venue. It is little things like this that remind me that personality, familiarity and supporting the right people will hopefully pay off for all of us. Grow your own, support the scene and create communities!

Johnny x

Hook, Line and Sinker will be released Friday 9th October via http://www.johnnycampbell.bandcamp.com

http://www.facebook.com/johnnycampbellmusic / http://www.johnnycampbell.co.uk

UK Tour March 2015…The Aftermath! (Part 2)

Poster in Edinburgh

Poster in Edinburgh

Now that the dust has settled, the guitar has been bent back into place and the hangovers are just a distant memory, it’s time to look back the UK tour…

On my previous blog I mentioned how I’d orchestrated my September 2014 Southern UK tour into segments (take a look for a more detailed account) and I’d decided a similar approach here was going to work. Three long weekends of gigs in different corners of the UK. This time though, the final section was with a car which one of my tour buddies I had for a series of shows was able to drive for.

Section 1:

I’m starting off the way I’d finished the tour in France a couple of weeks before with my tour buddy from then for these gigs up in Scotland. Glasgow and Edinburgh. Pre-booked train tickets were the answer for these shows, £17.50 to Glasgow from Yorkshire and Edinburgh back down for £30. And an obligatory Megabus linking the cities for £1.25. I’d managed to cover myself a bit more with a second Edinburgh gig also. The gigs themselves had managed to pay for my travel between the venues and one venue was kind enough to make a meal for us which really does make a musician feel welcomed into the space. We’d stayed overnight at friends houses.

Section 2:

This section was a bit more relaxed, to start with. A couple of days free in Exeter which I travelled down via Megabus (£20) I managed to recover from the Scottish gigs. And the Fried Pizza in Glasgow. A show up in Somerset which I was driven there and given a meal (welcomed again!) there was no expense spared for that. However, the following day I’d have to make my way from Exeter to Brighton. 180 miles in a car isn’t too bad, but this section was partly public transport. I was driven by a friend who was luckily going to London from Exeter…Twickenham to be precise. The main bulk of the journey was easy enough. Twickenham to Brighton at Friday 5pm rush hour without a pre-booked ticket was enough to take the previous night’s money from the show. In Brighton for a day off with friends and a show the next day was enough to put me back into some profit for the tour. Though the pre-booked train from Brighton to London, the Megabus from London to Manchester’s show and the last train I almost missed back home on Sunday night soon ate into whatever was made on this second section. An 800 mile 4 day tour was never going to be the most fruitful.

Section 3:

I’d arranged to meet my tour buddy in Coventry. Equidistant from where she was coming from and Llangollen, the first show of section three. This is the section where we would be driving. On course to meet her band mate who lives near the Welsh town, we could eat before the venue and stay too which was a massive help. The next show would be in Lancaster, where accommodation wasn’t available by the pub, which we had to book elsewhere. It was one of those rare opportunities you can take on a tour to have a bit of a day of it in the Yorkshire dales before the drive down to Hebden Bridge and then back to my place and Wakefied’s show was done via a local train. There is no doubt that the car made a big difference.

Doing the final totting up of the shows, travel expenses against income, I’d somehow managed to make a profit. Though it didn’t feel like it at all. The bank balance wasn’t bursting at the seams and the pennies in my pocket were once notes. One night out in Edinburgh and a couple of drinks at the Brighton show wasn’t enough to do this damage, it was simply food costs.

I understand that not every venue wants to serve you 10 pints behind the bar and a slap-up meal from the chef in the back..but perhaps there could be a different approach. I’d worked out if I’d have toured every show for a blanket fee of as low as £40, perhaps even £30, I’d have come back in more profit…and the venue could have made more too. You can travel between major cities, distances of 2-300 miles for £5-20. Donations during the show can be generous and even if they aren’t, with a bar throwing in £20-30 and a crate of lager pre-bought for around £7 from a supermarket and creating something like a cheap stew for a performer, the venue wins as the performer will be more than happy to spread the message of the hospitality of the venue. If the show goes well, perhaps the owner can cut other deals along the same lines with the musicians for their next tour. Which hopefully in turn, the punters are more likely to support a venue with this kind of ethos. This financial system is NOT going to work in all cases, E.G. a five piece band bringing equipment, remote venues…it is simply a good approach for solo performers. Musicians more often than not, would put the hospitality of the venue, quality of crowd above £££.

As for the accommodation situation, I think the UK is a long way from having a place to stay for every touring performer. Though quality promoters are often musicians and understand what is needed for a touring performer. As the UK still has a very dominant pub & music culture, if you’re touring pubs, it really isn’t likely. They are not often ‘venues’. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve stayed in band flats at venues before in the UK, and there are a few around, but sadly they are not treated with much respect. Smashed TV’s in the corner, damaged beds from previous bands who sadly are playing up to the Rock ‘n’ Roll myths that have been perpetuated. In a DIY scene, this is simply unacceptable. It is MORE Punk to leave the place tidier than you left it. And always offer to put the kettle on for a brew for your host in the morning.

Johnny Campbell