Sunday, 30 November 2008

Ask Tom #8

Did I dream it, or were you once on Buzzcocks when you were but a fresh-faced lad? Ever been invited back?

Yes, back in 1578, shortly after I returned bloodied but unbowed from the battle of Al Kasr al Kebir, fluent in Portuguese but with my ego dented by the military might of the Moors - I was invited to appear on the tv show, Nevermind The Buzzcocks. I'm pretty sure it was my my second and final appearance on BBC television, having appeared years earlier on Later with Jools. I was younger then, and indeed fresh of face. Ah, there's nothing like misguided belief in your future to keep you looking young. These days I just stare at the red phone on my desk, which rings whenever a representative of the media world wishes to contact me and request an interview, or tv appearance, or wants to review a a gig. To my knowledge it hasn't rung since July 2004 when someone claiming to be my Mother asked if I was feeding myself properly and was I interested in a job that had just come up at the Post Office. I stare and stare, and stare.

P.S This is a quick picture I took of the battle, with my new .00005 MP Canon Crap Shot, which was brand new that year. That's me, on the far left. As always. Before you email, it was on timer. Obviously. It wasn't the dark ages.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Got Milk?

The list of things I have been brought in diners, having originally asked for a glass of water, was extended dramatically this week, by the arrival at my table of a telephone book. Seriously. To date, I have been brought a bottle of milk,a loaf of bread and now this. Awesome. A-W-E-S-O-M-E! I shall continue to help spread English as the main language here, but I fear it may be a lost cause. For the first few years I thought "Huh?" was a formal greeting, not just the slack-jawed response of the morons in Rite Aid. The name just says it all. Ah well, London isn't any better. Maybe it's me, maybe I mumble, maybe I'm old and long for an era of politeness that is either long-gone or exists only in the imagination. Explain then, why the building I live in is populated by the loveliest, most polite, endearing and interesting old people I have ever had the privilege to meet. Perhaps because I'm edging closer to being one of them. They break my heart every time we share an elevator conversation. We talk about the weather, grandchildren of course, and the morons in Rite Aid. So it's not just me.

Tom's Film Round Up

Place your bets now for Sean Penn to win best actor and Josh Brolin for best-supporting, for "Milk", the biopic of gay San Francisco activist, Harvey Milk.I cried. I cry at everything. As for "Synecdoche, New York", I had to watch the dumb "Role Models" immediately after, just to recover. And I can't actually remember the new James Bond, although I'm sure I saw it, and despite being a Jack White fan, it has to be the worst theme tune ever. Apart from Madonna. Obviously. "Madagascar 2" has the best talking hippo scene... now if "Synecdoche" could just have crowbarred some singing animals into the movie, it might have lifted the mood slightly. Sometimes a movie can be so bereft of hope, so repetitive, so remorselessly dark, so bleak in it's eventual outcome, in short, so much like my actual life - that I may as well have stayed home and stared in the mirror for three hours. I've got that pencilled in for tomorrow. It's a Sunday after all. I hate Sundays.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

In preparation for my Thanksgiving dinner, I have been watching Top Chef, presented by Padma Lakshmi on Bravo. Some people close to me have interpreted this as lassitude, brought on by last night's combination of me, Jim Bianco and a bottle of bourbon. That person is wrong, however, I am not hungover, I am doing research. After 3 hours of the show I feel fully equipped to cook a big meal... or at least eat one. If anyone has any last minute recipe ideas, then post them here, I have to impress my guests - right, back to chasing that turkey round the room.

P.S Here's a picture of me and Padma earlier. Let's face it, Salman never stood a chance.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Dan Smith Will Teach You Guitar

I realise blogging on tour would have made more sense, but I get swept up in events (i.e tired and drunk), so I shall attempt to make up for this failing by subjecting you to increasingly desperate and random observations from my kicking around New York City looking for distraction and inspiration.

Dan Smith will teach you guitar. I know this because his black and white flyers, stuck wherever possible (and some where it is possible but surely inadvisable) tell me so. Over the years his face has become more familiar to me than my own. Being Dan Smith must be like walking forever through a hall of mirrors. I have no idea for how long he has been teaching guitar, or even if he is still alive. In the picture he looks late twenties, maybe early thirties – it’s a difficult age to pin down – he may even be dead by now, his poor family and friends forever haunted by his visage in every corner store and deli window. Dan Smith must have put heroic effort into flyering all these years. That or he has a battalion of supporters, each taking an armful of posters and ensuring his face is permanently staring out at you, offering to teach you to master the guitar. I admire Dan. He has taken steps to ensure that for guitar lessons in NYC, he is the ‘go to’ guy. I wonder if he goes further, and tears down the posters of other potential teachers. Does he garrotte them with a bronze-wound G string, or wait in darkened alleys for them, only to leap out and slash at them with a sharpened silver plectrum, which he keeps dangling from his neck at all times for just such a purpose. Does he cradle their heads in his lap as the blood drains slowly from them, whispering: “it’s okay to let go, I’ll take your students from now on”? … before taking their posters and tossing them casually in a dumpster, or more likely burning them so the wind cannot accidentally carry out his rivals’ work for them? Is Dan the grey squirrel of the guitar teacher world? Does he quash his rivals, steal their nuts? I have no idea. I doubt it. He probably just teaches guitar.

But here’s my point: “You have no upcoming shows in the system” is the most depressing thing revealed by my MySpace page, other than my songs of course. It leaves my mind time to wander, detaches my sanity from the part of my brain that looks both ways for traffic – and leaves me prey to such flights of fancy as wondering if Dan Smith is a serial-killer/guitar teacher. For instance, I wandered in to Best Buy today, to escape the cold, and ending up watching kids playing guitar hero for hours. Hours!

I wonder if there is a Guitar Hero Dan Smith Edition? But of course there isn’t, if there were Dan Smith would have made damn sure I know about it.

I am hiring Dan Smith to do the publicity for my next album.

Right, I am now off to shop for food for Thanksgiving... I will be roasting a pilgrim, handing out smallpox covered blankets to people, and generally giving thanks that I am not remotely interested in the game known as "football". Stepping outside to "toss a little pig skin" means something entirely different if you grew up in Suffolk.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Ask Tom #7 - Duende

At the Seattle show this last week, you started talking about a Spanish concept or term that dealt with the understanding of death and how it affected living. I was hoping to find out the Spanish word for it that you mentioned.

Hello, did I really start talking about that? Put a quarter in the slot and watch me go! I was probably referring to Duende, so for a more comprehensive answer you should probably just google it.. but I'll have a go. Duende is a 'darkness' at the core of existence, for everyone - but especially for the artist who deals in melancholy and the sadness of the soul, wrestling with the inevitability of death set against the beauty of life. Or something like that. Nick Cave is more eloquent on the subject than I am. But read up about it, because it made a lot of sense to me, and I discovered some great Spanish poetry along the way. Or it's just the day after Tuesday if you've got a cold. One of these is probably close.


P.S This is a picture of Lorca. He knew all about it.

Two Free Punches With Every Car Wash

"Two free punches with every car wash"... now that's just too good an offer to pass up. I can pretty much get at least one free punch anywhere I go just by opening my mouth, but TWO! just for getting my car washed, well that's a bargain. Who knows what this Car Wash en route to Vancouver was trying to say, but maybe they were having a bad day, or maybe some sort of fruit-based party beverage was what they had in mind. Anyway, made me laugh, thank you Mr Kleen. A great run of shows on the West Coast has drawn to a close, who knew there would be so many of you - at what amounted to my first headlining shows in San Francisco, and Seattle? And I finally made it to Vancouver, which has been on my wish list for many years. Now I just have to figure out how to come back sooner rather than later. Now I'm back in New York City, 21 floors up in Chelsea, staring out over the slate grey (gray, if you must) Hudson and looking forward to Thanksgiving, and Christmas. I'll find some things to write about when my soul has caught up with my body, and my body has forgiven me for truck stop food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. That may take a while.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Ask Tom #6

I saw, in your profile that you listen to "the good kind" of music. So I'd like to know, what is, according to you, the "good kind" of music ?
I mean, I have been taught, and I am deeply convince (is that word correct in english ?) that there is no good or bad music, there is only music you like or dislike. The matter isn't what you listen to but what you feel when you are listening to the music.
Thanks for paying attention to my question and sorry for the mistakes I must have done : my english is not as good as my french mother tongue.

Your English is great, have no fear. Hmmmm, I suppose Kierkegaard in his Philosophical Fragments argued that truth can only be subjective, which is essentially what we're talking about here; the absence of absolute truth (a generic good music) as opposed to a sincerely held personal belief that whatever you like is whatever you like, and it is therefore subjectively valued as good. This would seem to be the rational answer to your question. However, Kierkegaard was a lying bastard seeking only worldly fame, capable of saying anything if he thought it would make a headline. The philosophical equivalent of Madonna. He is also wrong. There is bad music, bad art of all forms, and the world would be a better place if I could personally choose what was made available to be consumed by the public, rather than putting our faith in the free market to allow the cream to rise to the top and the shit to sink to the bottom.

In pre-Glasnost Soviet Union, you could only buy the classics of Russian Literature. Not a Da Vinci Code to be found anywhere. And those classics sold in large numbers, because people wanted to read, and this was what was available. Now in the countries of the former Soviet Union it is possible to buy pretty much whatever old toss you want to read... Grisham? They got 'em. Chick lit? Coming out the wazoo. But strangely the total sales of books remains the same. Proving that if you give a human a choice, he or she will inevitably make the wrong decision. Human beings are lazy, 75 per cent water we take the route of least resistance, and it always leads down hill. So, to sum up.... is there a good music or a bad music? Nah, not really. Long as you listen, dance, laugh, cry, it could be Abba or Zappa. Just give Madonna a miss.



Cheering. Cigar smokers on the stoop. NYU students chanting. Strangers smiling at strangers. Drunken singing in the bars on Bleecker and MacDougal. Blue outnumbering red, and who gives a fuck about Montana? (although it’s good fishing country, so I am magnanimous in victory). What a night. For the day after, cynics had to try a little harder to look cool. So I gave up and joined in. Finally New York has something in common with the rest of the country, a President Elect it voted for. And yes, today the world does feel a little different. Although a California that can vote for farm animals having bigger enclosures but against gay marriage, still proves there is work to be done. America, a work in progress as they say.

The New York shows are over now, my home from home - The Living Room – has become a very special venue for me over the years, with a very special audience who make me feel so welcome, that two shows seem barely enough. Thanks to all of you who have come to the gigs and for bringing that unique energy into the room, making all of them memorable for me. Thanks to Karen for putting posters up, Tim for pausing his recording when asked! and the loyal band of friends who turn up come rain or shine. Over the years the list of musicians who join me has grown too, so thanks also to Jason Hart and Clare Burson, piano and fiddle, combining with the ever amazing Oli Kraus to make me feel like we’re changing the show each time. Next year drums?

Time to head west, back to LA, San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver and Portland, maybe see you there.