Friday, 7 December 2012

The Clive Continuum

(see also: "Demos" "Respect" "Side Projects"  "Lyrics" & "Touring")

This may be the first sentence of this piece of generous advice but I am going to deviate slightly and say that positivity is massively important in our business. Getting up on that stage is akin to sticking your head above the parapet of a castle under siege by hungry Frenchmen. If you can do that with a smile on your face and a song in your heart, and if you can then squeeze said song out through your ventricles, ozmosify it through to your lungs then operate the lungs as they were designed - meaning to breathe - and expel that song out through the aforementioned smile then you are part of a metaphor that perfectly illustrates the point I am making. Which is that positivity is massively important in our business. As I just said.

The evil twin of positivity, the 'opposite' if you will, is cynicism. Strictly speaking, it is negativity, but nod and go with it. A cynical mind questions too much. A cynical mind is not an instinctive one. I believe in the goodness of human beings. Well, I believe in the goodness of most human beings. Some are scum. But we need to ignore these Negative-Nigels and concentrate on ourselves. You will often find that the people with all the money and power in the world are the negative ones. Any positive, non-cynical person will tell you that. It's all back to front.

I bring this up as I almost found myself heading down a road to cynicism a few months back. My last album was very nearly called Super Summer Party Time and it was going to contain a selection of festival friendly anthems. Because that stuff’s easy isn't it? La la la, its super summer party time, dar dar dar, let's all have a lovely time etc.

I do struggle with getting festival bookings in these corporate heavy times. The suits just don't get my sound. Never have. I always presumed it was because as straights, they simply couldn't dig my vibes. But of late it struck me it was a lot simpler. I'd made the mistake of thinking that these types even listen to the music. I'd made the mistake of giving them too much credit. I realised they just go by the titles. And here I was, with a whole sweep of song titles that were also events, ready to release.

I mean, seriously, is it a coincidence that Dancing Deez wrote a song called Constellations? And Alike Trains have one called Beacons and - oh! - there's a festival just down the road with the same name. Even dull three chord non-wonders The Velvet Underground (always a great signpost of a rubbish band, someone wearing their t-shirt or citing them as an influence) wrote one called All Tomorrow's Parties, though as far as I know they are yet to play it.

And it works in reverse. I wouldn't have known but Rhubarb Bomb's own Long Division was clearly named as an attempt to book Fugazi - a typically unambitious goal for the zine. Why not call the festival Rebel Yell or Paperplane or Summer of '69 and really aim for the stars?

I stopped short on the album because I realised it wasn't the Clive Smith way. Doing the obvious, easy thing is not what I am known for. It's not the Clive Smith brand. Also, who'd have thought you could copyright a made up word like 'Primevera'?

Even back in the day, before the money men called the shots, festivals were never my thing. Playing to big crowds is just another way to sell out. I'd much rather play to a half empty room of hardcore fans - or anyone - than a big field at Glastonbury. I really would. I don't need to go to Glastonbury to know I don’t like it. It's obvious from the TV coverage. I sit at home and watch and just shake my head. It's not for me.

Playing in pubs is better because once people have paid their £2, they are there for the duration. Even if they aren't into you, they are gonna be sticking around for the fish supper and the meat raffle. That's how you win people over in this business. Remember that. How can people be forced to listen to you against their will? In this crazy mixed up modern world travelling at highly illegal speeds towards an invisible digital oblivion, how else will you grab their attention?

It was this thought that led me to creating my own festival, one that avoided the unfair scheduling of having other bands on at the same time as you, on different stages. If people can wonder off, it's not a gig for me. So Clivestock took place at Wooley Edge Services, next to the KFC counter. I chose a Saturday afternoon on a Bank Holiday, when people would be hungry and the most staff would be working. The response was amazing. The staff were especially appreciative, constantly giving us buckets of this that and the other. We had to stop playing to eat of course, but who could resist!

It was a great day partially tarnished by my buddy Alan getting fired. He was the manager of the services at the time. I'd always been slightly jealous of him, especially the one time I got to go in his office and discovered it was actually situated in that bridge bit, over the motorway itself. When I'd suggested the idea, he did seem concerned about the legalities of it. In the end, it was complaints about the appaling quality of the actual music that cost him his job. He told me this in a rage. He later admitted that it definitely wasn't the music and he'd made it up as a way to try and upset me. Thankfully, it was obvious it wasn't true and I had laughed in his face whilst he wiped his tears with his P45. I hung that up in the practice room for a bit, as a reminder that art should never lower itself to the petty concerns of the men in the suits.

Clive Smith

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