Dear FishHeads, fans, Freaks and The Company,
Sorry I've been a bit quiet lately but the arrangements for the US tour have been taking precedent and creating a lot of stress.
The tour was close to going down in the last two weeks as we couldn't find a petitioner.
The petitioner has to be a company involved with the tour and basically guarantees that I pay any taxes and stands as a kind of bail bond should anything go wrong. Without a petitioner we couldn't get work visas. As you are probably aware, the US has a great deal of "ambulance chasing" lawyers and to put it in perspective when the tragedy occurred in Rhode Island with a band foolishly letting off pyros inside a low ceiling, sold out club which had all the exit doors chained and resulted in close to a hundred people dying, even the radio station who advertised the show were successfully sued. It's a wee bit scary. Everyone was walking away.
My US agent couldn't sign as petitioner, the label distributing my catalogue over there wouldn't and EMI publishing was in a quandary. Luckily at the last moment the Nearfest promoters stepped up to the plate and signed off which means we can now go for the visas. Believe me Yatta and I were on the edge of cancelling the shows as we were fast approaching the deadline for visa applications.
The bureaucracy of setting up this tour is a nightmare but bit by bit the Yattmeister has whittled away at the mountain and we are moving apace.
Mark Wilkinson is putting together merchandise ideas for the tour based around the American flag with the 13 stars and other similar ideas.
These shirts and other items will be made available in May and, as most shirts will have the tour dates on, hopefully they will help advertise the tour in advance through fans wearing them. It also helps our books as well as, at the moment, the tour is just breaking even on ticket income and with all the attendant legal and tax issues the merchandise side is my only safety net.
I am well aware that venues in North America take huge commissions on sales and so I am examining the possibility of arranging "meet and greets" in pubs close to the venue where we can sell merchandise directly and more cheaply to fans in return for bringing in a large amount of beer drinking clientele!
I have to discuss this with my agent as some of the venues may be sympathetic but I am not expecting a great deal of understanding.
I have to be a bit radical in my approach to make this tour work.
Once I get a better idea of where this is at I will let you know and we can open up ideas on the forum and if possible nominate individuals to contact the respective drinking establishments! 8-)
I'd be interested to know what you think.
I have since changed my distributors in the US and will be now going through Koch who will be releasing "Return to Childhood" on both CD and DVD and "Bouillabaisse" in the first week of July as well as "Communion" and of course "13th Star". They are powerful players and will give me a good chance of making a bit more impact in the stores than I have had in the past.
Although it's been a quiet month with the disappointment of the cancellation of the 'Classics in Rock' show at the Ahoy, behind the scenes it's been frantic with the US organisation and the forwarding plans for the album.
"Zoe 25" will be the next single and Calum Malcolm has made another immaculate edit to bring it in at 3.56 minutes and maintain the soul and integrity of the song. I have meetings in London this weekend to discuss the promotion and the video which we plan to shoot at the end of May for a release when I come back from the US in July. If all goes to plan the video will be shot by Mike Cockayne who filmed the "Return to Childhood" DVD and will hopefully feature Zoe herself.
This will obviously be of huge interest to the Sun newspaper and if all works according to plan we hope to enlist their support and more on the release.
I was obviously highly disappointed with the lack of success with "Arc of the Curve" but we discovered that we had been "weighted" and nearly all of the downloads from my site were omitted. It appears that only one download per post code is allowed and International orders were ignored. We will be making sure that on the release of "Zoe 25" we won't fall foul to these restrictions and will be spreading the availability of download sites accordingly.
It is frustrating when you can't benefit from downloads from your own web site even though the information on buyers is relatively transparent.
The next single will probably have the video and live material from Amsterdam and with a bit more profile generated up front radio might prove to be more accessible this time and with that retail may get on our side especially if The Sun gets behind it!
I am also working on the vinyl double gatefold album which I hope to have out in late May. Obviously, time restrictions on the vinyl version mean that three sides will be "13th Star" and the fourth side will be made up of live material from the Rome and Amsterdam shows.
There is a resurgence of interest in vinyl and, after talking with Rob Ayling, I have decided to look at releasing the back catalogue in double gatefold format in the coming months.
"13th Star" will be a 2500 limited edition and the others will be 2000. The pressings will be on 180 gram vinyl!
The live album and the DVD from "13th Star" will be recorded in the latter part of the year at a designated venue on the European tour. We are still booking dates right through until December and have a number of destinations we will be hitting for the first ever time.
Should the North America tour go well and if we develop significant interest there is a possibility we may return for another leg. I just wish we had managed to fill May with a series of shows as it is frustrating being here at the Farm waiting on the bus with an album buzzing out there! :-)
At least I can get out in the garden and a recent visit last weekend to Amsterdam involved a trip to the flower market and the purchase of around 12 kilos of bulbs. Due to the cancelled gig I had the weekend free and as my girlfriend had already bought her flight tickets to come to the show I decided to fly over and make a break of it as well as meet my Dutch promoter and record company. I got tickets for the Black Crows who were playing the Heineken Music Hall on Friday night where we met and discussed future plans.
The gig was really good but not great in my opinion. It was like stepping back into the '70s as the band reminded me of so many other greats such as The Band, Lynrd Skynyrd, The Stones and Little Feat in places. The venue was fantastic and a sold out crowd of around 7000 had gathered, thirsty for beer and rock and roll. It was tough for my girlfriend as she struggled to see over the heads of the tallest audience I had ever been in. That and the endless parade of Heineken swillers jostling their way through the crowd made it a bit of a trial and as we got in late we ended up close to the bar at the side. Beer monsters abounded and I thought that the gig was going to be a lot more rowdy than it was. The Crows didn't engage the crowd and to me they didn't have a killing edge which wasn't helped by a straggly set that failed to ignite after so much promise.
If I'd played that set to that reaction I would have been highly disappointed and I was wishing I was up there as the place wanted to catch fire. I genuinely like the band but seeing them for the first time was a let down. They seemed to play for themselves and not the crowd.
Outside the gig I bumped into Knut from Radio 24 in Oslo and we shared our reviews. He had seen them the previous night in Brixton Academy and told me it was even less energetic there.
We taxied into the centre and spent a few beers at the Rock Cafe close to Dam Square chewing the fat and exchanging "war stories".
Later back at the Hotel American, one of my favourite places in the world, we bumped into Alan Parsons in the bar. I hadn't seen him for years. The rest of the evening was spent reminiscing and gossiping about old days at EMI and other musos we had both met on our trails.
The barmen were the same that had held court there for well over 20 years and obviously knew us both well. :-)
We still have our pictures hanging in the bar from previous dawn patrols. It's a privilege to be framed alongside the greats like Springsteen, Willie Nelson, Paul Weller, Bryan Adams, ZZ Top and the like, all of whom graced a bar stool at one point in time. If any of you ever go to Amdam don't miss out on one of the most famous rock and roll bars in the world. It's straight out of "Clutching at Straws" and, in retrospect, we should have shot the cover there! :-)
Saturday I met up with Maurice and Wim from the Company Holland. It's always difficult meeting people backstage and so the opportunity to have a decent talk and plan future moves was welcome. Lunch at the American and then down to the flower market where my girlfriend, who happens to be a flower expert, took control. Tuberose (I couldn't turn that down ;-)), Amaryllis, black feathered tulips, Belladonna and Cyclamen were dutifully bought and the 4 of us struggled back towards the hotel weighed down with carrier bags of bulbs. Purchase of the day had to be the floating hippo head that is now in the fish pond frightening the next door neighbour's kids and scaring off the herons!
Before the hotel we stopped for a refreshment break at Leidsplein in the square. Sitting outside, no one had taken heed of the pigeons in the trees above us until one of them decided to grace Maurice and Wim with an almighty exploding dump and a half! We were on the floor at the sight of the two Dutch boys covered in pigeon crap when suddenly another major shit explosion occurred on the seat next to my girlfriend and in the bulb bags while yet another smashed into the table top. Above us was an Alfred Hitchcock movie. Not in any other tree mind you, just the one above our table. We were today's target practice! First instinct of the Dutch guys was to cover their beer glasses! :-D
We understandably retired inside, stinking of pigeon shit!
We got back to Edinburgh on Sunday night after an afternoon boating round the canals knowing that gardening was now high on the agenda. With May practically empty (compared to recent months) I can get out and get the green fingers working again. It's been far too long since I was out there and had practically ignored it since last August. I was inspired again. Summer promises to be a very colourful one ;-)
I got a message on Monday from Trevor White, my producer at Planet Rock, to tell me I had been put up for "Broadcaster of the year" in the Sony Radio Awards. At first it didn't sink in and then I phoned him and realised I had been put forward by the station and that Sony had put me on the short list of 5. It was a tremendous honour to be on a list of radio broadcasters all of whom have years of professional experience. Particularly Paul Gambacini who I have met a number of times throughout my career and whose knowledge of music across the board is second to none. I am a huge fan of his work and just to be up there in those ranks made me feel particularly proud.
The reality started to hit and I was blown away.
It all came completely out the blue and was extremely exciting. It more than made up for the lost opportunities to raise profile on the album with the lack of touring and it couldn't have come at a better time.
The only downer is that the only show I do have in May is on the same night as the awards at Grosvener house. I would have loved to have been there if only to meet up with old friends and just the chance that I might get lucky and pick the award out of severely left field.
The other great news is that Planet Rock is up with another for digital station of the year. It would be terrific if we picked up that especially as the station is still looking for an investor/buyer.
It's been a tough few months for all concerned but everyone is hopeful that we have a future.
The two nominations should provide healthy profile and show that the station is a valid, going concern that has a great audience and plays an important part in delivering rock music in the UK and beyond.
We can all but hope! Personally I am just honoured to be in the frame!
Since the tour (which I have still to write up :-!) I attended Will Smith's wedding in London which, as was to be expected, delivered the funniest speeches I have ever heard. Will was truly on form and I was in stitches. His wife Anne looked stunning and her father matched the stand ups for laughs. I recognised one of the other guests from movies but couldn't for the life of me place his face. The Victorian handlebar moustache and side burns confused me and it wasn't till later when Ollie, Will's brother, best man and wine connoisseur from the Saturday morning food and drink programme, introduced us that it clicked. It turned out that their second cousin from Australia was none other than Hugo Weaving of 'Lord of the Rings' and 'Matrix' fame. He was a highly interesting guy and we spent a few vinos nattering about movies and the film industry. It all ended far too soon. A great weekend.
Spring is definitely here. The soil is warming up and after two days my girlfriend and I have managed to clear the beds and prepare for seeding and planting out. This weekend is the London meetings and hopefully I'll be back up on Sunday with a nest of cunning plans.
Next week is more gardening interspersed with furious emailing as I set up a German radio promotion around "Arc" and get involved with more interviews for various countries as we move into the next phase.
My lady is back up North for the following weekend as I get to grips with my impending birthday.
I was going to make a parachute jump but it's been cancelled as my jump buddy is away on duties. It's still something I want to do this year! :-)
My star is still burning brightly and I feel my future is even brighter! :-)
lots of love
Onkel Fish xx
PS. I will be singing 3 or 4 songs with Chris Thomson's Norwegian backing band in Bergen, Norway on May 2nd and 3rd and playing a gig with the SAS band in Sweden on July 5th. I have no more details as yet but will let you know more in the next email.
May 1st is either a couple of songs as a guest artist with a band in Edinburgh or playing 3 songs with my outfit to 500,000 people in a square in Rome, live on national TV. I am hopefully going to hear which gig it's going to be this weekend.