Friday, 14 December 2012

The Waterboarders - Surfbeats'n'Deadbeats

One of the things about playing instrumental music is that you get to meet and hang out with other people who play instrumental music and people who like listening to it. And here's the thing; they are genuinely nicer folk than people who like and play other kinds of music. It's a fact!

Since forming Deads Man's Curve in 1995 I've had the huge good fortune to meet, perform alongside and talk to poeple form Spain, Italy, The USA, Gemany, Denmark, Croatia, Canada and... Devon, quite a few of whom have stayed at my house.

One such is Darren Miles of the Waterboarders, a fine and lively surf instrumental trio from Plymouth (that's Plymouth, Devon, UK, not Plymouth Massachusets, USA, by the way), whose debut, Surbeats'n'Deadbeats is now available from Amazon. It features some splendid originals (we particularly like Moon Over Milford and Bermuda Triangle Shorts) and versions of Secret Agent Man and Squad Car. It's nice to see a British surfing wave, The Cribbar, get a namecheck too as the title of the second track.

We really must get these guys to come and play in Brighton some day.

What to buy the surf fan in your life for Christmas?

A Guitar
Fender Stratocasters, Jaguars and Jazzmasters will always go down well and all can now be bought at a variety of price points, so why not splash out and buy your surf-loving friend some six-string loveliness. For the more adventurous, you could try looking for a Mosrite, if you can find a real one, or one of the many clones now on the market.

A Reverb Unit
On this side of the Atlantic, at least, an original vintage Fender reverb tank is very difficult to track down, but the reissues are ok and easier to lay your hands on. As a cheaper alternative, there's the Boss FRV-1, which is well liked in many quarters, while the new Supernatural from Hardwire sounds really promising. Here's a quick demo:

A Crate of Beer
Negra Modelo from Mexico is our current favourite tipple, "complex Vienna-style lager with caramel and chocolate flavours from the malt," apparently, but we just think it's delicious.

A Book About Surf Music
Surf Beat by Kent Crowley makes a very interesting read, despite being a little repetetive at times, relying rather too much on reminding the reader of Frank Zappa's part in surf music and falling rather too readily for some marketing nonsense from Fender (it seems that 1962 was the year they made all their very best guitars, but it might just be that they were flogging a range of American Vintage 1962 Re-Issue guitars at the time!).

An Eddie and the Showmen CD
As a tribute to the great man who died earlier this year. Squad Car is rather expensive in the UK at the moment, but really worth the cost. This YouTube video shows Eddie chatting in 2007 and includes some good stories about Leo Fender, The Bel-Airs and why roundwound strings are superior to flatwounds, which some would dispute:

A Trip to the Surfer Joe Summer Festival 2013
The Surfer Joe Summer Festival 2013 will take place in Livorno Italy from June 20th - 23rd. Organiser and all round nice guy Lorenzo Valdambrini has promised that this will be the best line-up yet, although he also said that he would anounce who was playing back in September. We're still waiting Lorenzo! However, a good time is always guaranteed at what is probably the foremost festival of surf music in the world, so book early. We hope to see you all there.

A CD Box Set
Only one contender here: Surf-Age Nuggets. This is a mammoth undertaking; 97 original 1960's surf and trash instrumentals, plus some radio and cinema trailers, adverts and jingles, spread over four CDs and handsomely packaged in a rather beautiul booklet. Compiled by James Austin, who collaborated with John Blair on the Cowabunga box set, issued in 1996. Surf-Age Nuggets is apparently intended as a companion to that earlier set and tends to feature far more obscure material. Dick Dale does put in an appearance, with second single Jungle Fever, while Bobby Fuller's Stringer alos features. For the most part, though, the other bands were unfamilar to me (although quite a number of these tracks can evidently be found on other compilations) and some of the tracks are covers of tunes made famous by other acts (Miserlou, Moment of Truth, Slaughter on 10th Avenue, Ali Baba...). Most of the playing is extremely raw and some of the recordings defiantly lo-fi, but this is a tremendous collection, which will repay the consdierable time it will take you to absorb all the material. There are introductions by Mike Campbell from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Chris Isaak and Austin himself, while extensive notes on the tracks are provided by Alan Taylor and Dave Burke of Pipeline Instrumental Review, although they do acknowledge their considerable debt to John Blair's epic tome The Illustrated Discography of Surf Music.

If you know someone who loves surf music buy them Surf-Age Nuggets for Christmas, while stocks last. If the Cowabunga box set is anything to go by, it will be changing hands for rather higher prices in the not too distant future.

Another Book About Surf Music
The aforementioned Illustrated Discography of Surf Music, by John Blair, now in its fourth edition.

Some Guitar Strings
Although you could be opening a whole can of worms here. Medium, heavy, very heavy or Dick Dale-heavy gauge? Roundwound or flatwound? Fender, Ernie Ball or D'Addario? Maybe just get a voucher to spend in your local guitar emporium.

A New House
To keep all the guitars in!

Monday, 3 December 2012

Endless Christmas at The Prince Albert

Clive Lung and I started promoting Endless Summer's surf nights at The Prince Albert, Brighton's most rock'n'roll pub, around 18 months ago, when we brought our good friends The Razorblades from Wiesbaden in Germany, to play with Clive's band, The Surfin' Lungs and my band, Los Fantasticos. Since then we have also promoted shows featuring Surfer Joe and his Boss Combo, from Livorno in Italy, Ottowa's very splendid The Reverb Syndicate and local instrumentalists The Space Agency and The Squadron Leaders.

For the last show (the launch for Los Fantasticos' fourth album, The Devil Went Down to George Street, in September 2012) we were pretty thrilled to add local comedian Joe McCarthy to the Endless Summer Team, as our really quite excellent compere and since then we've brought Garry Robson, the brains behind Radio Reverb's Dusty Groove Jukebox Show onboard to add his dj'ing and visual trickery to the equation.

What we've always wanted to do, though, was to put on an Endless Summer night that featured not only the harmonising of the Lungs, but the the full trio of Brighton instrumental surf bands, Los Fantasticos, The Space Agency and The Squadron Leaders, and last Saturday we finally achieved that, with the first edition of what we hope will become an annual event; Endless Christmas!

Shoehorning four bands into a little over three hours, not to mention fitting all their gear onto the Albert's stage, presented something of a logistical challenge, but somehow we managed it and, at. 8:15 on the dot, Joe hollered the evening into life and The Squadron Leaders took to the stage. By a little after 11:30 a packed crowd had been treated to a great night's entertainment as the Lungs closed the night.

Of course, for some, three instrumental bands in a row is pretty hard to take (while for others it's nowhere near enough), but these three are all pretty different, as you may know. In the case of The Squadron Leaders, Paul anchors the rhythm section, drumming along to pre-recorded bass parts, while the spotlight is split pretty evenly between Kerry's honking sax and Steve's guitar, while the liberal use of sampled voices, both between and during songs always adds to the enjoyment. Oh, and I forgot to mention the comedy moustaches! Paul even managed to keep his on for the whole set.

I'm a big fan of The Space Agency and the way that Hiromi's bass and Simon's guitar intertwine so fluidly can be quite spell-binding at times and their set at Endless Summer was filled with those moments. Apparently they wanted to play a somewhat different set then they've been playing of late and Simon's electric sitar on opener Bombay Potatoes had us guitarists in the audience drooling. Made me pretty hungry too.

What people often seem to like about Los Fantasticos is the contrast in styles between my guitar playing and Tim's, while one punter commented to me that he hadn't seen a drummer enjoying himself as much as Abe for a long time. I must remember to turn around and watch him more. On top of all this, we made a lot fewer mistakes than is sometimes the case, so that was nice.

It's difficult to know what to say about The Surfin' Lungs that's not already been said. They've been playing this stuff, positioned, as someone once said, at the exact midpoint between The Beach Boys and The Ramones, for over thirty years now and, while I'm sure they look older than they once did, they still sound great and Chris, Clive, Steve and Ray had the crowd dancing with gay abandon as they brought a great night to its close.

I can hardly wait for next December!