Fifteen nights in Maenam

SunriseNot sure which way is up after a 25 hour journey back to Berlin,  but more importantly,  the Blueshawk survived being slung  into the holds of three different planes. Plus I had a great time guesting with my partner’s band  in Maenam, Thailand.

Maenam (on Koh Samui) is a very special place, having not succumbed to over-development. It’s more or less owned by two or three wealthy Chinese families, who don’t want to emulate the neighbouring towns (overrun with sterile resort complexes and trashy tourist shops). Fact – Planning permission is denied for anything higher than a local palm tree. Fact two -People smile and greet you because they’re pleased to see you, not just your wallet.

No Indiana Jones style intrepid trips to the jungle-y mountainous interior for this English Rose. Don’t want scratched legs, exhaustion and bites from weird animals, thank you very much  (anyway you can get all that in Berlin).

Bikini pic

No jungle trips for me

Fridge Noir

Fridge Noir

Already in the sweetest spot on the island, when I wasn’t at a show or languishing in the apartment avoiding the heat I was fine with swimming in the ocean (circa 50 metres away) or strolling along the one principal street.  Enough impressions for a life time there.

Koh Samui is doubtless already well-documented by profi travel writers so that’s it from me. Here’s some more pics.

Dog legs

Dog

 

Scooters

Scooters

 

 

Audiences and other random stuff:

More about Kathy Freeman and her songs : Bandcamp   Facebook    Website

Advertisements

Making the scene

For updates on shows and projects: join the mailing list at my website

I never made permanent membership status for any subculture (“broke musician” doesn’t count ) but not for lack of trying. I’d always so wanted to belong to one scene only, with whatever  exclusive music, cars, clothes, hairstyles and unwritten social codes went with it.

It started when my big brother was hanging around with exciting people who smoked, listened to jazz music and only wore black. I dreaded them  spotting me in my school blazer (navy blue.)  Brother’s beatnik pals  hit the road and drifted out of my life, and the  logical next stop was hippie-town. Maybe I’d have lived my whole life out as a late-blooming flower child but  history intervened.

Heading West

Heading West

I was  living in a quasi-commune and even baking wholemeal bread for a while, when  along came punk and blew a big hole in all that Earth Mother rubbish.  I never wore flares again, and  only just missed hacking off my waist length hair and spiking it. I settled for bleaching my  fringe to  near-extinction My  former hippy pals blanked me in the street. So much for love and peace, man.

 

accs live 2

 

I  truly BELONGED  to punk for a while, but the intensity of that  flame dwindled as the eighties arrived along with a sea of synths and whining vocals.  The spirit remained, but my focus had to change.

For a moment  I was into motorbikes.  I earned a few  stripes by riding pillion on a Triumph from London to Liverpool and back. In the snow.  I’d  get a brief acknowledging nod from the bros in the biker pub with my honorary status as “righteous chick”. But that’s as far as it went.  The Biker Chick’s lot was not for me. Deep down I knew I’d always favour a shedload of musical paraphernalia blocking my hallway over a shedload of oily engine parts. And more importantly I couldn’t face a lifetime of never being able to have big hair because of the helmets.

Then there was Psychobilly, which could have been my default landing after Punk’s demise, but wasn’t.  I saw the seminal  Meteors in the Ace, Brixton in 1983, but the penny didn’t drop.  Several years passed before my next encounter,  when Joyryde supported Demented are Go at the Dublin Castle in Camden.  The sight of twenty sweating  fans with full body tattoos and Mohawks  (that was the men) wrecking on the dancefloor wasn’t my lightbulb moment though I liked what I was hearing. More years passed, before a chance meeting led to  playing guitar for the Death Valley Surfers. Once more I had that magic list of who to  hang out with, what to wear and what bands to listen to.

Death Valley Surfers

A cool ride while it lasted, but belonging to  the one tribe was  eventually thwarted; partly  due to  wrong hair (again)  and no tattoos, and largely  by the obstinate part of me that insisted on writing  and performing off-genre songs. My own psychobilly band got stick for not being “pure psychobilly” and I realised yet again, I couldn’t rest in anyones else’s comforting but temporary subcultural space.

Songs about not fitting in: HERE

Loner

 

Rambling about Marshall Stacks again

 

For regular updates and free downloads from Kathy Freeman, join my mailing list

I discarded 90% of my worldly goods when I moved to Berlin  but the Marshall Stack came with me.  Death Valley Surfers  had a New Year’s Eve show there at the end of 2000, and it came along in the van  (along with the other 10% of my worldly goods.)  I’d never envisioned the Stack not being a  part of my life,  but my life changed.  Gig requirements in my new home shifted from “band van” to “small car” or even “take the bus” shows.  My last-century  sound equipment was becoming more decorative than functional. It graced the minimally furnished front room of my first  Berlin flat, but it didn’t get around much.

Marshall Stack and Ms Ruby Freeman

Marshall Stack and Ms Ruby Freeman, Berlin 2003

Eventually  a move to a third floor apartment with no lift overtook all other considerations. Goodbye, Stack.

I was doing mainly salon and bar shows where a  compact and minimal setup was the way to go. After one or two experiments with a Beringer and a custom made Michael Bender (cult Berlin amp inventor),  I went for  a double act of sturdy new generation VOX-es.  They had precious little of the magic  I remember from the AC 30 I played in the seventies (though the little pink one scores  10 for cuteness)

Big Vox and Little Vox

I didn’t give Marshalls much more thought to be honest, until I made a trip to Liverpool with my partner in 2005. We chanced to see a poster in a  guitar shop, advertising none other than Jim Marshall,  signing copies of his new CD that day . The total lack of fanfare was unbelievable. I’ve seen better publicity for a church jumble sale.  Naturally we went in and he signed two posters for us. As can happen with meeting famous people, I could think of buggerall to say.  This was compounded by my guilt  for having ditched his creation the year before . But somehow I did manage  a couple of pleasantries, and will never forget the impression he made – courteous, unassuming and a total gentleman  – I’ll also never forget  my astonishment on hearing his CD  which was a million miles from the rock monster sound he’d created, more like granddad singing in the bath. Bless him.

Gentleman Jim Marshall, Liverpool 2005

Gentleman Jim Marshall, Liverpool 2005

Finally,  a photo  of the Stack on active service – at a  Joyryde recording at  Alaska studios, London in 1993.  I think the corrugated iron was there to make it even louder.  Scientific explanations  welcome.

Marshall Stack at Alaska Studios 1993

 

 

Rambling About Marshall stacks

For regular updates and free downloads from Kathy Freeman, join my mailing list

The wine was flowing at the birthday party, and our covers band was taking a break between sets. We were chatting to a fifty-something guest who’d renewed an old love affair with guitars and was embracing the sound technology  that hadn’t been there the first time round. He waxed lyrical about a Line 6 gizmo, which could be preset to recreate all the classic amps. I found myself agreeing that it must be wonderful to just press a key and sound like a Marshall stack. Probably minus some tedious pre-digital restraints of price, size, and temperamental valves. But something was bugging me. I felt strangely disloyal for smiling and nodding – as if I should be defending some ancient rock code of conduct.

The Birdhouse and the Marshall 1989

The Birdhouse

Would Hendrix have used a Line 6? Or is he turning in his grave?

Later on the way back to Berlin, with our (non-Marshall stack) equipment packed behind my seat I thought it over. If the Line 6 really DID sound identical to a Marshall, who was I to say “It’s not the same….” or “Back in the day…”  or any  other neo-Luddite remark…..? This is as near as I got to an answer…

Take gold. People  steal, they fight, or they give all they possess to acquire it. Rightly or wrongly it’s special. Now, if some 14th century alchemist had figured out how to create gold from horse manure, then it’d still be 100% gold. But no longer special. So it is with my perception of Marshalls. If a bunch of geeks put it to the test and had me listening to a Marshall and a Line 6, maybe I’d be unable to tell the difference. BUT none of these hypothetical geeks would have directly experienced the sheer physical presence and power of Jim Marshall’s sound engineering  masterpiece. None of them would have realised that it was truly in another league at that time. None of them would have put their hard-earned savings across the counter to buy  the damn thing.  The value of it is no longer in the sound but somewhere in my psyche. I’m SO glad I lived with the magnificent Marshall beast before it got reduced to a disposable software option. Even if I did have to lug it up the stairs at 4 a.m.

 

Joyryde and the Marshall 1996

Joyryde

Death Valley Surfers and the Marshall 1999

 The Death Valley Surfers

More to come on Marshalls later this summer –  watch this space……….

The Day after the Night Before – Hamburg in the rain.

 

For regular updates and free downloads from Kathy Freeman, join my mailing list

The Night Before:

1622637_687901011272157_1624766221_nPoster by Arne

I’ll have you know my great grandmother was Irish!!

The Day after the Night Before:

Hotel checkout times aren’t synced to a muso lifestyle. Just forty-five minutes to rise and shine before the 11 a.m. checkout deadline. I luxuriate in the power shower for most of them –  ignoring  relentless, industrial volume hoovering and two  attempts to access my locked room. The  previously silent-as-the-grave phone rings at 10:59 to remind me. Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.

In the empty reception area, I eye the remaining buffet breakfast spread – especially  that massive flask of coffee. Three or four staff are enjoying a smoke in the doorway. The duty guy ambles in, and I ascertain that breakfast is NOT included in my deal. But I could have the last lonely dry roll for free.  No thanks. I have important time to kill. Three hours with a guitar and a  travel trolley in the Hamburg rain.

The Show – I’m the centre of attention. The Day After – I’m in the centre of nowhere

 IMG_1051 - Version 3

 The only encore I’m getting  now is a second cup of fairly average coffee (in a modest bakery one block from the rejected bread roll)  Never been more anonymous in my life. I didn’t bring my I-pad and I don’t possess a smartphone,  which is just fine, because I actually want to experience and explore this alone time.  It feels – surprisingly –  okay.  No urge to call home. No  bored-and-stranded terrors. My inner bitch berates me  for allowing a three hour void  to happen, but I manage to shrug it off.

I’m relaxed. At the show I was focusing ninety nine percent of my entire being on the show. (and one percent on the dodgy cable that might cut my guitar out at any second.)  But the only thing to concentrate on now is leaving an inch of foam in the cup  for an hour to prove that I haven’t officially finished it.  After my fairly-average-coffees  I take the S-Bahn to Hamburg Hauptbahnhof, where I’m  meeting a friend in two hours and heading home to Berlin in three.

The station is unrelentingly hectic  and not a salubrious place to hang around in. Without the trolley I could at  least have a wander. I dither around in a room full of luggage lockers, drunks and tourists. Lack of sleep has caught up with me, and by  the time I’ve figured out the  instructions and realised most lockers are full (and sporting too many dire warnings about what isn’t safe to leave in them) another half hour has passed.  Out on the station concourse there’s a sad line of rain-spattered empty tour buses. YES! Something to do! I could see a large chunk of  wet Hamburg without getting wet myself. Something to validate these weird lost hours. But I find out the trip would take too long, and hell,  I wouldn’t have paid THAT for my own limo.

Then I spy the “Junge” Cafe-Bakerei where I could drink a slow tea with no-one hassling me. Nice people. Spontaneously start to write this   …. scrawling in biro on scrap paper for over an hour. I go to the loo in a basement that has remotely lock-able doors, with ultra-violet lights (all to keep out the junkies, the waiter apologetically explains)  Finally its time to see my friend and slot back into the flow of normal life (whatever that is.) I meet him at the ticket office, then we go back to the “Junge” where my teacup sits reassuringly on the table, exactly where I left it.

 

A month later

my second solo foray to Hamburg. This time, no weird gaps in the schedule and a great time was had by all at the PiPaPo (Stade)

 

20140412_005717 Kathy and Bjorn copy

 

 

 

 

My Black Box

For regular updates and free downloads from Kathy Freeman join my mailing list

The mid nineties. My former band Joyryde had a high-profile, well-paid, socialist festival gig coming up – supporting Tom Robinson and various other worthy acts on Clapham Common in London (being fronted by  women, Joyryde occasionally netted politically correct shows by default)

Joyryde Mayday 1996 - Between Songs

Joyryde Mayday 1996 – Between Songs

We’d recently taken on a singer, recruited via Melody Maker classified ads. Can’t say I was happy about that, but it did relieve me of vocal duties and let me focus 100% on my guitar while she did her leaping-about front-woman thing, shaking her dodgy perm as she went. However Madam not only chose to quit two days before our big show, but also  had her muso boyfriend ring up the organisers saying he’d “heard we had no singer – could his band step in?”  NO WAY!

I had 48 hours to relearn playing-and-singing-at-the-same-time on 15 songs. We  hadn’t rehearsed for over a month and my head was totally in the wrong place. I HATED that woman so-o-o-o  much. I tugged my black box of effects pedals and cables out from under the stairs, and opened it, releasing the beer, tobacco, and who-knows-what-else odours of the last show. Then came another, less-expected stink… a momentary but massive whiff of all the painful experiences, all the rejection letters, all the unreturned calls, all the humping-someone-else’s-gear-upstairs at five am, all that shitty underside of “being in a band”

My box, my box, my precious box – tell me what I did – Why my hands are soaked in blood each time I lift the lid

A defining moment in my love-hate relationship with rock’n’roll, and if nothing else came out of it, I got the germ of “Black Box” which I eventually recorded with Kathy X   Anyway I didn’t close the stinky old box. We went on to do a killer show and I was on a high for days.

You’re everything I wanted, everything I know – Wish I’d never seen you but I’ll never let you go

2014  The “black box” – though now containing substantially fewer pedals –  has somehow outlasted all the people who tried to come between us

Here we Go

Waiting for the Soundcheck,  Cafe Savo, Berlin

Waiting for the Soundcheck, Cafe Savo, Berlin

I’ve been blogging for a while on Tumblr about the songs I write and the life I’ve led…..I’m on a creative journey which may have reached a fork in the road. Thanks to WordPress I can carry on in both directions, and maybe meet new people on the way. Initially I want to see who and what is out there on wordpress….. so feedback is very welcome!

I’ve no idea what the WordPress experience will entail, except for a little smiley saying “no activity yet” ….which is going to change any minute now!

and it just has……time to figure out the options….Ok let’s try fonts. Not much doing there.

Colours…oh…kaaay….

Links! ha, now I can send you off to look at my website, see you later!

Word count 123. Am I talking too much?

Path p. Path p? they didnt have that on tumblr. All in good time.

Image! Quote! Gallery!  I haven’t even had breakfast yet.

Why does it say “The Cat’s Pyjamas” on the preview of this blog?

Publish immediately. I Don’t Think So…..

…………………………………………

 

 

Ok what the hell….