Tips from the other side of the mic

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There’s a deluge of advice for performers and would-be-performers – do little humming warm up exercises, breath slowly and deeply,  be cool, be relaxed, don’t look at the floor…….. and engage in a open and non-threatening manner with those drunken psychos who happen to be there on your big night. And so on.

But there’s not much advice for that vital other half of the performance situation – the Audience. So I  scrawled out a few tips on beermats during the soundcheck, and here goes:

The stage – even if it’s one metre square between the bar and the fag-machine – is a sacred space.  Not a short cut to the toilets.

Great to see you dancing to the songs!  but don’t lunge into the mic-stand and break my teeth, thanks.

Occasionally I’ll have a crack at covering songs I only half-know. But if I’ve never heard of your request, sorry – no amount of pleading or even offers of hard cash will grant me the magic powers to play it

Please don’t ask me questions while I’m playing guitar. 

and double-don’t  while I’m playing guitar AND singing. (Some sweet but birdbrained young ladies actually did that recently. Although I could take it as a supreme compliment. They BELIEVE I can play, sing, listen and speak at the same time.)

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“When I record somebody else’s song, I have to make it my own or it doesn’t feel right. I’ll say to myself, I wrote this and he doesn’t know it!” – Johnny Cash

There’s a big risk of crossing the line between performer and performing seal with cover versions. And as for playing in a “note for note” tribute band, I’d rather be an accountant.

However without  covers I’d  have fewer shows for sure. I’d have missed out on  a shedload of guitar tricks and picked up fewer songwriting skills. I wouldn’t be able to break the ice with audiences who don’t “get” the full-on personal songs the first time round. So I play covers – with a couple of ground rules: no songs I don’t like, and I follow the advice of the Man in Black (see above)

Audience participation in cover songs is a double edged sword. It can lift the mood a whole level. But the regular drunk’s off-key renditions take it close to the edge. And backing audience members  can be a magical mystery tour.  In the break during a cover-band show,  a couple of teenage girl singers perused our setlist.  Delighted to see “Sunshine” listed as an encore, they asked to join in – it was their favourite party turn. What followed 40 minutes later was a bizarre mashup of our “Walking on Sunshine” and their “Ain’t no Sunshine when she’s gone” – Just about got away with it…..

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My Blog and Chocolate Santas

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While wondering what to do with those leftover chocolate Santas, a memory came to me – how I made lists of what I’d do better or differently  in the new year. If I’d only listened to that former, more optimistic self I’d probably have a team of interns taking care of this blog….but what the hell.  I’ve kept it going for a year so far and it keeps me out of trouble, so here’s to the next!

This month’s theme: Ready For Anything. Which is the title song of a CD which my psychobilly band Kathy X made in 2004. After all the curves life’s thrown me in the 10 years that followed “Be ready” is one resolution I WILL try to follow

 Have a good year!

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Ready For Anything – Behind the Lines

I was well and truly out of love with love. The deeper you go the longer it takes to get out when the walls cave in.  I wrote Ready for Anything in 2001 when I first moved to Berlin, damaged but ready to rock…..

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Deep and meaningless – Baby be mine – Let’s take it easy – Let’s waste some time

Not an invitation to walk up the aisle…. except for whatever kind of aisle you  might find in a  darkened room where nobody gives a damn and the alcohol has already started to  blunt your judgement

Let’s taste the bitter end  before we even start – C’mon baby break my spine – you can’t break my heart

I dont need to be a fortune teller to know that this sordid little encounter is going precisely nowhere

I’m ready for anything that you’re thinking of – I’m ready for anything – Don’t call it love

because that’s the one place I do not want to go to in a hurry

 No coming back for more – No second time – I’m gonna rip out all the wires that go from your world into mine – Been stabbed in the back so many times you can see right through to my bones Don’t expect no sympathy – no happy home

i already gave my happy home to someone who trashed it

One of 13 songs from the album (also titled “Ready for Anything”) – which my band Kathy X recorded back in 2004 – it took us 4 days, in the depths of winter in Northern Poland. Yeah, typical of our rockstar lifestyle. For monthly updates on my recordings, shows, and tiny adventures join my MAILING LIST

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