Nick Harper - Harperspace
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Nick Harper - Harperspace
Nick Harper - Harperspace

NEWS ARCHIVE:

WELCOME to RAIDERS of the lost ARCHIVE 2005

 

THE GANG GET BEAUTIFULLY DAZED

Sleeper Cell Live: Manchester Academy 16 August 2005/Bristol Fleece 17 August 2005/Aldershot West End Centre 18 August 2005/Beautiful Days Festival 19 August 2005.

Nick Harper: Guitar/Vocals - Moose: Bass/Vocals - Dan Tozer: Drums

Yes indeed folks a meeting of the mindsless was convened and Sleeper Cell was born to protest against the Iraq War lies. Their brief: to detonate sonic bombs in public places across the UK just like Harper acoustic only much louder and much more thirsty..

Sonic terrorists with previous were recruited from the Pants movement to further our aims. First and foremost was a commitment to make the highest sacrifice..and even worse - to descend into cock rock if need be. Sleeper Cell - where every guitar sound issues a fat wah (pedal).

Brother Moose of legendary work in front of, behind and all across the bar in the Lamb, Marlborough, who also had temporary work for 10 years or so playing bass with New Model Army and the Damned was the first of the recruits. Known throughout the land as 'Moose', Moose was soon to become, 'That bloke playing bass with Nick'...

Brother Dan - brilliant drummer with proper punk bands the Lurkers, the Vibrators et al also took pity and with (absolutely) no thought to his own career, decided to ignore the pleas of ,'Don't do it Dan' and 'Anyone, but that Harper bloke' because he agreed so much with Sleeper Cell's raison d'etre. (particularly the thirsty bit).

We then withdrew the ad in the Evening Adver for a brass section/synth player and mime artist/balloon manipulator and went straight into rehearsal... a few weeks later.

All this jollity was made possible by the philanthropic benefaction (and shallow thought) of the kindly Levellers machine whose wheels rumbled and beneath the weight a rather large fee was squeezed out of their pensions to enable me to put my team together. (The really frightening thing is that noone seems to be driving that thing, but hey, it's a hell of a ride..) We were offered a prestigious slot at the Levellers own Beautiful Days festival - it was a call to Arms..and the Red Lion..and the Dragon..in short - the mini mayhem tour was on..

Of course to make all this happen smoothly we needed someone who could coordinate. A people person with joined-up people person skills. Also someone we could trust with cases of beer and fees from the venues. We needed a professional Tour Manager music biz veteran who knew the ropes. There was only one man for the job, but we got my old mate Tank instead. A legend in his own lunchtime (10am til 2) Landscape Gardener, Builder of Studios, Ex-Army Officer, Driver of the Stars, Multi-Linguist (Standard English/Wiltshire/Finnish and Chelsea) and all round the best known and most loved Rogue Trader in the county... The H Team was complete.

We rehearsed in the Barn in that farmyard in Calstone (off the A4, think Right Outta Compton Bassett) which is actually a superb little Studio run by Steve who books it out occasionally, but mostly likes to spend his time sampling the world (ever heard one electron bouncing off the bonnet of a 1962 Austin A30 then amplified, stretched, reversed and slipped seamlessly into a Drum 'n' Bass loop for a cover of a Brian Heddon and the Heddonists song?). That is of course when he isn't listening to, quoting from or praying for/to sixties psychedelic god, yes you guessed it - Brian Heddon.. Anyway we frightened away all the B&B guests, terrified two old mares and killed a few sacred cows with our not so Limp Bizkit versions of 'Building Our Own Temple' etc.

So we were rehearsed down to the finest detail of each sinew of every note of every chord of every song with a set list and a mission. Unfortunately our crib sheets were eaten by the band as part of a cost-cutting measure by Tank which left us half way up M6 creek without a padlock and three sets of 'Trumpeter's Lips' before... Dum dah dum dum Daaaah! THE FIRST GIG!!

So it came to pass that Dan and Moose phoned their relatives on what might be their glorious martyrdom and began to wonder what the hell they'd let themselves in for (tales of 72 virgins waiting in heaven and limitless cases of cider waiting back stage didn't seem so alluring anymore). Nevertheless a deal's a deal (as Tank kept telling them) and we took to the stage at Manchester Academy3 and rocked the f*@k out of everything we could remember. Somehow the place had really filled up (this was August) and it was hot and sticky and rock 'n' roll just like in all the old NME mags and that - BRILLIANT! we even stayed at the legendary Brittania Hotel in town to complete the cliche. They've all stayed there you know.. in fact I remember being there after a gig by some bloke called Roy Harper when a bloke from his entourage called Nick performed an improv song on the house piano called 'Mons Pubis' for a wedding reception party who were also staying. Soda-siphon spray ensued and the penguins got wet - some Damned blokes called Moose and Rat Scabies who were also present were said to have been 'amused'. Rat allegedly turned to Roy and said in his light, lyrical voice, "You must be so proud!" Needless to say we were a little older and wiser this time and didn't hardly get really drunk at all...

Next night was the Fleece in Bristol. This one was hastily arranged to fill the gap - hats off to the peeps at the Fleece for letting us do the gig with only two days to promote the show. We realised too late the all the hotel budget would be spent in the first night and this one was a callous stop-off on the way home. A few stalkers and ever faithful core (and Moose's Mum and Dad) turned up, but the vibe was not quite the same as the night before.. On the up side Moose was hilarious with his inter-song banter/repartee which left me with very little to do apart from nominal duties and a couple of half-hour guitar solos. Hey this band lark is a doddle - what's all the fuss about?

Next night was Aldershot. Sold out! This was much more like the night before last..lahvely! It was a steamer - everyone crammed in - it was reminiscent of a popular music concert. So much so that one young lady fainted and had to be led from the arena overcome with rather more than a touch of the vapours. Several older members of the audience also left, probably after wetting themselves because of the excitement...that their systems had experienced over the last 100 years or so. By this, the 3rd gig our powers of telepathy were ..( ask Dan what I was going to type here)..no he wouldn't have a clue either. Suffice to say that when I forgot some lyrics we all seemlessly carried on playing, and segued into three different songs (at the same time) for a couple of minutes until the all clear sounded and we resumed anti-hostilities.

Then it was orf down to Debben for the festival. Now the Beautiful Days is the best festival around these days. Just like what a festival should be. just the right amount of chaos and fun (lots) and just the right amount of corporate advertising and merchandise (none) (unless you count The Levellers bibs at their shop). The line up was original and top quality too.. Michael Franti and Spearhead were fantastic - really full of humanity, very uplifting, moving and what's more they played some great music - not bad eh? I remember a hilarious camp glam new york round-the-back-of-the-sex-shop band, Jill Sobule she was a laugh and The Levs of course, with a rousing Billy Bragg/Clash tribute moment.The staging of the story of Freeborn John (who incidentally appears on the cover of Treasure Island) - the leader of the 17th Century Levellers dramatised by Rev Hammer, various Levs, Justin Sullivan et al with muskets, cannons and the odd can of lager. Also appearing was Glenn Tilbrook and the Fluffers. Most of you will know of my association with Glenn and probably know his back catalogue of pop classics, but you may not know that I reckon the band he plays with are well worth the ticket alone. The geezah on the keys is a phenomenonal player and the bass player is always locked in tight (particularly with the keyboard player). Glenn of course is electricity personified and very exciting to watch (although I prefer the bassist). And then there's Wacko Simon on the drums who makes everything more exciting on and off stage - but the real highlight of their show is the slow-motion post deconstruction smash-up-the-gear finale. Is This Art? Probably, but also effing funny.

Sleeper Cell kicked off the festival because we started at 5.59 (billed to start at 6), but unfortunately due to 'computer says no' or somesuch - the Levellers were playing at the same time in the next field! Haha guess what? The big gig of the run was played to Tank and er some bloke from Marlborough. How does that quote go? "Never in the course of human anti-conflict has so much been payed to so few for so little". The sun powered on however and we built up a hell of a thirst, so it was off to the bar for refreshingmentationals etc. I managed to focus sporadically after that long enough to offend the landlord (can't remember how) with the upshot being I'll probably have to don a disguise and buy a ticket to get in this year, but so be it. This one is better than Glastonbury which isn't on anyway so my advice is to beat the refugees from Worthy Farm and get yer tickets early for this one.

 


9 AUG 20055

9 AUG 2005

Aha! almost forgot - next week sees the awakening of the band. It's been far too long since I was in a gang and I'm very excited about the gigs.

I decided to call the band 'Sleeper Cell' a few months ago because of the songs I'd been writing about our disastrous invasion of various countries in the Middle East where they keep the oil and was trying to say that our actions would probably lead to reprisals. When the mass murder happened in London I didn't have a shred of doubt that I'd chosen the right name. My co-conspirators are my old mates Moose of Pants fame who also played bass in New Model Army and The Damned and Dan skin basher with the excellent band Pants who also played with Vibrators ... sorry The Vibrators and 999 and The Lurkers - get the picture?

We also juggle and tell jokes and play old music hall songs from antique albums of mine from the 20th century so it won't be non-stop anger, but as they say in the trade, "We rock." Be there or be square.

 


8 AUG 2005

Found the Amarone, drank it and forgot all about the tour diary.

Hello - how have you been? Where have I been? Hither thither yonder and back and fro and to too. Back from the highlands and Islands jolly - best tour ever? Not far off if it weren't. I was chauffered by me old mucker Pablo X with the gear stripped down from the lugfest of yesteryear to a sleek mini rig of tomorrow and with entertainment provided by that Glaswegian ne'er do well Tam Balloch we were travelling light (hearted).

Arran was its usual beautiful self but because of some wierd entertainments licence kerfuffle I was playing down at the Corrie enormo-dome rather than the Chapel I usually play. It all turned out nice again though as it was packed and a good time was had by all I reckon. It'll be good to get back to Castlekirk sometime soon though. Tried an Arran Blonde (that's the beer) - I think I'll try another was what I thought when I'd finished the first.

Islay (pronounced without the 'y' you Home Counties types) (as in St. Clair you older Home Counties types) was weird and wonderful. The whole experience seemed to be pervaded by an artist who is now working on the big canvas in the sky called Sean Casey who for his keep had painted some incredible scenes on walls of various establishments across the island. One in particular on the wall of the Bowmore Inn seemed to sum up the whole tour - slightly impish drinkers in the bar that it was hanging in based apparently on locals that were there at the time (1950s?). It had an other worldly edge provided by some Dionysian demons egging the revellers on, but the scene was so familiar at the same time..Think Royston Vasey on mild hallucinogens.

Next night we pitched up in another version of paradise on Skye. After a good few hours drive through the most dramatic scenery in Britain we tumbled in to the Carbost Inn. It's a great little place run by a couple of lunatics - Spencer and Angus who gave us a right royal welcome and tried desperately to sabotage the gig which was the next night. We somehow made it through to 3-ish when it struck me we were doing a very good rendition of the painting in Bowmore - inspirational!

The gig there was great - all 30 of us had a cracking night - the wonderful Paula who runs the website that actually lives and breathes (www.houseofharper.co.uk) was there, but it was mainly a great bunch of Danes, Dutch and Germans who were all vying for man of the match and the after gig sport fest proved what a universally popular game darts is and should definitely be made an Olympic event for 2012.

The next morning there was no sign of Spencer or Angus which was no surprise considering their distinctly dodgy demeanour at Farquhar's demon fiddle display in the bar at 5-ish. The B&B guests dutifully formed an orderly queue for breakfast however at 8, with no knowledge of their hosts condition just a few hours previous. They waited. For about an hour.And a half. Some left. Some didn't. After a swashbuckling display of speed washing up some of them even managed to get served a cracking breakfast .... eventually. Pablo X and I took an easier option and decided to venture forth and mercilessly hunt down our own food in the slow boat out on to the Loch.We chased a herd of mackerel around for a couple of years finally returning to shore with much pride in our haul of 1 (one) fish which we headed,gutted,tailed,skilleted and scoffed in about 2 minutes flat.

Well, we took our long haired livers to Ullapool next and gave them a good wash and flush and rested after a post Skye gig at the Ceilidh Place. I remember there was a picture of a tractor behind me as I played (agriculturally).

Then it was on to Dunnethead - the most northerly point on the mainland for a gig at the edge of the world. The lighthouse is there to warn unsuspecting vessels from getting blown off course permanently by one of Long Bong Sutherlands incredible feats of jiggery tokery. He's a great cook and served up a beauty of a feast for us, but it's no wonder because everything's on a higher level including the artistry of the munchies fiend. The people came from all over and the room was pretty full for the gig, but the whole affair was peppered with laughter, music, weird stories and other mind stangenesses. Been there Dunnet me head in.

Invershin. Lovely place. Lovely people. Going back,probably in November. Gonna film it. Surround sound. Special event. Book early.

Inverness - more madness courtesy of Jeep Solid on the bill who's not just leftfield, but has actually left the field. Fatigue and cabin fever had set in by this point which only added to the wysteria, but if you'd have seen us after you'd have run a mile - we must have looked scary.. We decided to get a few hours south after the gig to get home earlier, but every motel was full and by the time we got to Carlisle, Pablo the hero had had too much caffeine and nine hours after the gig we turned up at home (sunny Wiltshire) not a little frazzled, but still laughing - probably mania.

So there's the Highlands and Islands case all wrapped up in a nice neat bundle - the good guys win again!


Nick Harper - Harperspace