Skint & Demoralised – Love And Other Catastrophes

The shrill awakening from the telephone in the hotel room was quickly becoming the norm. As I squint in the light and take my first glance around the room, an empty crate of lager and a half-empty bottle of vodka are quick to remind me of last night’s endeavours, and the familiar throbbing in my forehead doesn’t waste any time in backing them up.

Somehow I manage to drag myself out of bed before slowly shifting into the shower, where I proceed to stand still for a full five minutes before actually washing myself. I don’t know if it was something to do with the fact that it was my first ever visit to Oxford – prompting pre-show nerves with regards to the size of the audience – or just the fact that I was starting to settle into the tour.

Either way, I was absolutely hammered last night. I now find myself on a drive to Birmingham where I have three tasks; giving a lecture to Music and Media students at the University on what it’s like obtaining and then maintaining a record deal, performing a semi-spontaneous session at Kerrang! Radio and then, of course, the gig at the Bar Academy. Should be fun!

So what’s it like being on tour with Skint & Demoralised? It’s certainly unorthodox in many aspects but enjoyable and entertaining nevertheless. There’s one part of the set in particular that seems to really enforce my connection with the audience.

Ditching the microphone and mounting either a large amp or some kind of platform around the front of the stage, I then deliver one of my spoken word poems to everyone in the room. The poem is called ‘BNP: Nazis on the Doorstep’. It’s a short-but-sweet summary of the archetypal British life-style that ridicules their racist propaganda.

Poetry and politics both appear to be dirty words amongst my peers nowadays, so when I interrupt a live band to combine the two, I can imagine quite a few eyes rolling. But when I perform this poem, people really seem to listen and understand where I’m coming from.

It’s a message that’s very important to me, and an issue that’s continually growing in size and strength. So much so that a Premier League fixture between Everton and Stoke City scheduled for Saturday 14th March has been postponed by twenty-four hours due to a mass BNP rally taking place in Liverpool city centre on that day.

The fact that a BNP rally is so big that a Premier League club is forced to postpone a fixture, causing them to both lose revenue and infuriate fans, is quite alarming. Love Music Hate Racism is a great organisation that genuinely makes a difference and I’ll continue to support them throughout my career.

As the world is being crippled by the credit crunch and Britain is looming in a recession, extremist parties such as the BNP will manipulate the situation and capitalise on the anger and frustration of the public. Resentment towards the Government grows and people begin to turn elsewhere.

It’s not a pretty situation, but it’s one that we can’t shy away from. Hopefully people will start to take notice. Another thing that’s increasingly important in dark days such as these is escapism, which brings me back to Skint & Demoralised. In my humble opinion, music is the greatest form of escapism and one of the most powerful things on our planet.

Come home from a hard day’s work, sigh when you kick your shoes off, stick the kettle on and then head over to the CD player to stick your favourite record on. Works a treat every time! That’s one of the main aims with our album. It’s called ‘Love, And Other Catastrophes…’ and is effectively the diary of a love-struck Northern teenager.

The lyrics were mainly written in my dining room in Wakefield, and the music was mainly written in MiNI dOG’s 6 x 7 studio in Sheffield. For some reason the album was recorded in New York and London. I suppose I’d better tell you a story about New York before you start to lose interest!

It’s important to add that I only discovered about my trip to New York ten days before I actually boarded the flight in Manchester. I was nineteen years old, my major record deal was still in its infancy and I was being flown to one of the most famous cities in the world to record my debut album with one of the most famous soul session bands in the world.

This was the reason for our stateside visit; we were recording with The Dap Kings at their studio in Brooklyn. You’ve heard their work recently on Amy Winehouse’s ‘Back to Black’ album and Mark Ronson’s ‘Version’. Quite overwhelming as you can probably imagine.

It was late in the evening and late in June as we drifted through the streets of Manhattan and soaked-in our surroundings. Not the easiest surroundings to try and soak-in at once!

So, where was this story going to become interesting by introducing some sort of crisis? It was Room 501 at the Hotel le Bleu in Brooklyn, just off Fourth Avenue. MiNI dOG had suffered from occasional bouts of insomnia for the past eight years at this stage, and it was triggered by three main factors: being away from home in a new and strange environment, being under pressure or stress and being separated from a loved one.

So when all three factors occur at once after an eight-hour flight, the chances are that you aren’t going to sleep that night. He didn’t. Nor did he sleep on the next night. I think he had something like sixteen hours in five days, which understandably prompted something resembling a nervous breakdown.

All this and we’re supposed to be recording our debut album with The Dap-Kings. Remember when I told you that ‘major highs, manic lows’ managed to describe Skint & Demoralised in four words? There’s a taster. Until next time…

Skint & Demoralised Tour Diary – Part 1