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Martin White's Stupid Accordion-Playing Face

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THE LADY SLEEPS [03 Nov 2009|01:41pm]
MFMO concert was top fun on Friday night, and I got to curate a lovely evening, with Foster & Gilvan and Bill Drake providing really beautiful sets of their idiosyncratic songs.

Here's me attempting to rock out with the new MFMO song The Lady Sleeps:



And here's another new song, The Taste Of Hair:

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KC [23 Oct 2009|04:29pm]
Another exhausting but well-received Karaoke Circus show last night, thanks to all who came along and special thanks to everyone who braved the stage. These shows get harder and harder to do - there's so many songs to learn, so much to organise, so many acts and guests and musicians to coordinate, string arrangements to write, and then the (very welcome) problem of dealing with the huge demand for tickets. The little downstairs room at the Albany was heaving last night, absolutely rammed with lovely people, all of whom were completely behind the evening, even when things went wrong, and go wrong they did, quite frequently! Not on a technical front, luckily - big shout out to mzdt for his sterling sound work - but rather worrying underrehearsal from us.

I was occasionally able to relax enough to enjoy it, and my highlights were:
- Jessica Hynes's barnstorming Ain't No Way
- the big cheer the string instrumental got during Something Stupid
- Tim E's crowd-pleasing, prize-winning It Must Be Love
- Dave Gorman's now-traditional stage-dive
- Chris Addison belting his way through Common People

And loads more. We had Josie Long singing Nothing Compares 2 U, Jeremy Hardy doing Don't You Want Me, Richard Herring singing Orgasm Addict and Andrew Collins singing Lithium. It was, as they say, a bit different.

Jess Hynes is determined to duet with Tim E at the next one. I for one can't wait to see that. We'll be rocking the Bethnal Green Working Men's Club on December the 3rd. Tickets on sale soon...
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ABSOLUTE [07 Oct 2009|10:57am]
As part of the ongoing series of baffling events I call a life, I have been asked to co-present Dave Gorman's new Sunday morning show on Absolute Radio (what used to be Virgin Radio). It'll be Dave as presenter with me and Danielle Ward as the "posse". I haven't done live radio since my student radio days and I am impossibly excited! I'm going to be contributing musical bits and pieces aswell as some hilarious banter. It starts this Sunday, the 11th, at 10am.

It's on FM radio in London, AM across the country, aswell as DAB and via Freeview and all that. Quite scary.

Meanwhile, plans are afoot for the Mystery Fax Machine Orchestra Halloween Concert taking place not quite on Halloween but on October the 30th at The Luminaire in Kilburn, London. I've asked two of my favourite acts, Foster & Gilvan (i.e. Foz and The Baron from Karaoke Circus) and William D Drake, formerly Bill Drake of Cardiacs, to join in the spooky antics, and we'll all muck in on each other's songs. It will be a great big orchestral spectacle and tickets are £8 in advance from here: http://www.wegottickets.com/event/60163 Do come!
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UNGLORIOUUUUS BARSTEWAAARDS [10 Sep 2009|03:13pm]
As part of this very lazy week I took myself out to the cinema the other evening and saw Tarantino's latest, Inglourious Basterds. I hadn't really read a great deal about it so was going in cold. I really rather enjoyed it for the most part. The biggest annoyances for me were the title characters themselves: a baffling performance from Brad Pitt surrounded by atrocious actors who I assume are mates of Tarantino's, all doing weird hammy "comedy" turns. And I wish Tarantino would actually have a proper score composed for a film, rather than doing a mix-tape of all his favourite movie cues. But apart from that it was a tense and unpredictable adventure, held together by a jaw-droppingly brilliant performance from Christoph Waltz as an SS bigwig. The film's worth watching for him alone. Melanie Laurent, Daniel Bruhl and Michael Fassbender are all terrific too, and there's a nail-bitingly compelling scene in a bar with Fassbender undercover as a German trying not to blow his cover. Pity about all the silly scenes with Brad Pitt and his mates doing silly voices. And unfortunately those "cool" narrative flourishes which Guy Ritchie ripped off Tarantino now look post-Guy-Ritchie rather than the other way round. What's the point in having a narrator who only narrates two tiny bits of the story? Hmph.
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ONE NATION ON A DOG [07 Sep 2009|11:24am]
Robin Ince, ever supportive of my silly orchestral endeavours, was kind enough to have the MFMO on the bill for Pestival's insect-cabaret show at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on Saturday. While it's fun to do shambolic orchestra shows in pubs, it's also nice to get the proper sound treatment, and during our afternoon rehearsal various sound engineers circulated with little microphones to make sure that all the little subtleties of the playing and arrangements were heard. Playing a room with proper decent acoustics helped too, and the orchestra sounded really warm and glowing. Bit of actual real-life reverb really does the job.

I've been told off by someone on Facebook for drawing attention to the poor attendance at the show, which several of the acts on the bill did, as it's not very polite to the people who did buy tickets. The Pestival organisers seemed to have pretty much disowned the show, perhaps as they hadn't heard of any of the acts Robin had invited, and so we did not benefit from the publicity drive afforded other shows in the season. They didn't even come along to watch. While the place probably felt full from the point of view of someone sitting in the stalls, as performers staring out it was hard to ignore the seven hundred empty seats. Reverb is nice when you're doing a gig. An echo, on the other hand, is a bit of a blow to one's confidence.

Still, it was a very enjoyable show. The theme being insects, it was a great excuse to wheel out some of the songs from Master Flea, the weird little operetta I've been writing with reggie_c_king. We played the musical's opening number ("The Flea Tamer") at the top of the show and in the second half we premiered Master Flea's Song About The Wisdom Of Animals (a bittersweet ukulele-led number which I sprinkled with orchestral equivalents of insect noises, including scratchy strings to represent the sound of crickets and a vibraslap cicada) and the musical's closing number The Flea National Anthem which sounded really wonderful in full cod-classical orchestration and was a lot of fun to sing in a silly baritone. Lots of people joined in singing the song's excellent closing motto "One Nation On A Dog" (tip of the hat to RC-K for that fine gag). Elsewhere we played along with a short song of Helen Arney's and closed the show with my OTT orchestral setting of Waen Shepherd's spoof prog epic Day Of The Maggots.

Next up: some kind of mini-MFMO appearance at the Mermaid Theatre on October the 4th as a part of James Randi's Amazing Meeting, and hopefully some kind of Halloween show where I'll wheel out all the Edgar Allen Poe settings I've composed over the years including the fabric-conditioner-based drinking-game version of The Raven. Lots of recording needing doing too as it's been a while since we brought out the EP. Busy times ahead!
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EDINBURGER [01 Sep 2009|01:08pm]
Well thank goodness that's over. The Edinburgh Fringe is usually more highs than lows, but this time it was the other way round. Spent most of the time exhausted, miserable and soaked to the bone, doing several shows a day as usual.

The single high-point was, inevitably, Karaoke Circus, which boasted Simon Amstell, Robin Ince, Richard Herring, Andrew Collins, Lucy Porter and loads more comedians, and we even had Dan and The Baron there for the judging. The show sold out, and we actually took the step of banning the press (well, denying them free tickets which essentially amounts to the same thing - no critic is going to pay to see a show!). Bruce Dessau from the Evening Standard actually came up to me beforehand, hastily introduced himself and then asked for a free ticket - I pointed him towards the box office and when he pleaded I explained our no-press-comps policy. Simon Munnery and Dan Maier looked on in shock while this was going on, as it was a rather bold thing to for me to do, and in retrospect perhaps it seemed a little harsh, but Karaoke Circus is meant to be a party, a chance for comedians to let their hair down without the fear of some smarmy student slagging them off in a free magazine.

The rest of the gigs I did were for the most part fun to do on their own, but there was just too many of them for me to enjoy them properly. I was the house-accordionist in Ali McGregor's variety show every night, which was a nice regular gig to have with nice people, plus it was paid so that helped cover the cost of the trip. The show afforded me the bizarre opportunity to accordion-gimp for Jimmy Carr, doing a frenetic improvised soundtrack to his stream of one-liners. He seems a decent chap and was a lot of fun to be on stage with. Another daily gig was The Hotel, an inspired piece of promenade theatre in an actual hotel - think Masque Of The Red Death at the BAC meets Fawlty Towers and you get the idea - where I was one of the rubbish acts in the cabaret lounge. Then there was Book Club which ran for a week on the Free Fringe and was a chance to do some free-form nonsense, and various one-off shows here and there. The two MFMO gigs were exciting and well-attended (thanks to Amanda Palmer for guesting in the show and plugging it on her Twitter feed), but were too logistically stressful to be fun. And of course my own solo show, which was given such a harsh time in the press that I pretty much lost all confidence in myself as a performer. So it was with zero self-esteem and a heavy heart that I trudged on stage for all the other shows. My usual apologies to all friends who wanted to hang out in Edinburgh - the constant work makes me stressed, distracted and generally bad company.

No rest for the wicked though, I've hit the ground running now that I'm back in Croydon. Back to the day-job again (I've used up all my holiday) and gearing up for the MFMO's appearance at the Queen Elizabeth Hall this coming Saturday, which is exciting and daunting. We'll be doing a medley songs from the musical adaptation of ETA Hoffmann's 'Master Flea' which reggie_c_king and I have been working on for a while, and also backing Gary Le Strange in a live orchestral version of Dawn Of The Maggots. So I'm spending my evenings this week frenetically arranging and orchestrating for that.

Busy busy busy.
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CROAK [11 Aug 2009|01:20pm]
Yesterday was a long day. Arrived to the Assembly Rooms on George Street at 9am for soundcheck with Ben Ickies, Ali Murray (the Gonzo Dog-Do Bar Band drummer who was very kindly helping us out with percussive matters) and Ambitious Orchestra's bassist and horn player. As the orchestra itself wasn't able to be there (and indeed still hadn't been fully recruited), we just had to imagine what everything would sound like. It was like a mimed soundcheck. I'd barely slept with worry as we'd had the usual plague of flakiness scupper our plans and were putting out anxious appeals for musical help. When you advertise a show as featuring an orchestra you don't really want to present the audience with five people.

Luckily some eleventh-hour help arrived just in time for a little preview spot I had booked us in for at Best of the Five Pound Fringe, so we took to the stage with accordion, drums, two violins, a viola and two cellos and played a couple of songs to the usual motley Fringe crowd of children, students and the elderly. It went rather well, and we did some flyering afterwards. Pub lunch, then a trip to a web cafe to print out parts for people who had forgotten them, then back to the flat the New Yorkers had rented for an afternoon and evening of rolling rehearsals with whoever was free to come along, while I frantically followed up leads on other musicians in town. It was a strange and surreal afternoon with strings, brass and woodwinds crowding into the tiny kitchen and overflowing into the hallway and bedroom. Then into cabs to the Assembly Rooms. The show before us overran so we had a hair-raising fifteen minutes to get what finally ended up as an impressive seventeen-piece orchestra onto the stage and miked up.

The show was received well by the decent-sized crowd though I was too exhausted to really enjoy it properly. We had a few walk-outs from middle-aged people who may have been expecting something more sedate (though if you go to a gig called Symphonic Mayhem at half ten at night you're hardly going to get a Bach recital are you?). Now we've got the kinks ironed out though, the second performance of the show on the 17th (10.30pm, only a fiver if you're in Edinburgh) should be a more finely-tuned machine, especially as we'll have the luxury of an hour and a half soundcheck right before the show.

Just got back to Croydon and am back at work, operating on very very little sleep. This evening I embark upon the final preparations for my elaborate conspiracy-theory show Accordions Of The Gods, which starts at the GRV on Guthrie Street on the 16th at 1.20pm.
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LUMINAIRE DEBRIEF [09 Aug 2009|04:41pm]
What a show last night! We only sold two dozen tickets in advance so we were expecting one of those MFMO shows where there's more people in the band than in the audience, but lo and behold the place ended up packed to the rafters! Which I thought was quite good going for two bands no-one's ever heard of. John Bisset and Alex Ward kicked things off in lovely lo-fi country style, then we did the MFMO Latitude set to a warm crowd response, and finally everyone got to rock out to Benjamin Ickies' Brooklyn punk-orchestra epics, including an arrangement of one of Jim Sclavunos's songs, sung by Jim himself. Ickies and I were playing piano for each other, and so I had the pleasure of rocking out on the piano which, with the exception of Karaoke Circus which doesn't really count properly, I never really get to do. It's great to be part of something new and different and exciting even if, judging by the recent slew of baffling hate-mail I have been receiving through various channels regarding my work, it is not everybody's cup of tea. But the Luminaire crowd seemed to like it, and I think we all put on a barnstormer of a show which, if nothing else, at least represented good value for money.

I shall post some videos of the show on Youtube soon, and brace myself for the usual volley of snide, hateful remarks.

Now on the train to Edinburgh - we're doing the MFMO/Ambitious Orchestra double-header at the Assembly Rooms tomorrow night at 10.30pm. If you're in Edinburgh, please do come along, it's only a fiver and you get to see an hour of shambolic orchestral nonsense and harmless fun.
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SCLAVUNOS [04 Aug 2009|10:18am]
In an improbable development, the Mystery Fax Machine Orchestra show at the Luminaire on Saturday night is going to feature an amazing guest drummer: JIM SCLAVUNOS from The Bad Seeds and Grinderman! Yes, MFMO and Grinderman: together at last. He'll be drumming and singing a song by his own band The Vanity Set, arranged by Benjamin Ickies and backed by the MFMO. It will be very, very weird!

Tickets here: http://www.wegottickets.com/event/55316
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NO EXPENSE SPARED [04 Aug 2009|09:34am]



No expense spared. I'm getting the posters printed on coloured A2 paper, none of this glossy nonsense.
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MFMO AT THE LUMINAIRE 8/8/09 [27 Jul 2009|01:57pm]
The next big Mystery Fax Machine Orchestra show is at The Luminaire in Kilburn on Saturday August the 8th! We'll be playing with our bizarro-universe twin band, New York's This Ambitious Orchestra and generally making a lot of noise with our orchestral cabaret pomp-rock. Also on the bill: John Bisset & Alex Ward.

Tickets only a fiver in advance from http://www.theorchestrapit.com/shop

It will be brill!

We made a fair few new fans at Latitude, where our two performances attracted great crowds. The Friday night show was in a tiny tent, which had the benefit of feeling very full very quickly, creating a fun atmosphere. Robyn Hitchcock joined us to do a couple of his songs backed by my orchestral arrangements, and we had a glamourous smattering of comedy celebs in the crowd. A favourite memory of that show was when I asked the crowd "Are we ready to start?", the voice of actor Kevin Eldon was heard from the back saying "No, some twat is still talking." Cue reverential silence.

The weather Gods favoured our Sunday lunchtime spot in the leafy open-air woodland theatre, blessing us with dry weather for the duration of our set - ten minutes after we finished it started to pour with rain.

Our set was:

In The Evil Castle
Bad Joke
The Golden Journey To Samarkand
Maybe
The History Of Europe
Stop All The Clocks
Thank-You For Not Discussing The Outside World
Squeeze Me
I Sleep Amongst The Tall, Tall Flowers

A splendid time was had by all.
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KC5 [09 Jul 2009|11:49am]
Those of you who very kindly came along to see Karaoke Circus V at the 100 Club last night might have some idea of the gargantuan amount of work that went into it. My "free" time for the past month has been occupied by little else. Reverse-engineering ten songs for full orchestra is a fiddly, time-consuming process. There's a dozen different instruments all playing their own tune all the way through, and trying to hear them on old compressed recordings is a bit like unpicking a very tightly knotted shoelace with a pin. It is a strange feeling now, not having to listen to Live And Let Die and Macarthur Park on permanent loop. But it all paid off in a massively cathartic show, where everyone from the open mic volunteers (congrats offensive_mango for winning!), to the celeb guests to the twenty-six players of the Mystery Fax Machine Orchestra did us immensely proud.

Some of the highlights for me:
- John Hegley's scat call-and-response with Steve Pretty on comedy mute trumpet
- Kevin Eldon turning the One Day Like This outro into Hey Jude
- Everyone, band, orchestra and Nick, pulling off Macarthur Park in such barnstorming fashion
- the general sense of euphoria after the show. Everyone left the place with a smile on their face and a spring in their step

Andrew Collins (who sang Way Down In The Hole) has kindly written about the show on his blog: http://www.wherediditallgoright.com/BLOG/2009/07/utterly-brilliaaant.html The article also links to some photos.

I think Dan Maier put it best when he said that the whole thing was like a strange dream: "It was Karaoke Circus, but it was at the 100 Club, and Garry Richardson was singing Daydream Believer..." (Yes, Garry Richardson really did sing Daydream Believer)

We'll be doing a mini Karaoke Circus at the Latitude festival (Cabaret Arena, 7pm on the Sunday night), then we're doing a show in Edinburgh (Pleasance Ace Dome, 23rd August late night or 24th August very early morning, depending on how you see it). After that I guess it's back to the Albany in October and hopefully some kind of Christmas extravaganza in early December.
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KARAOKE CIRCUS [06 Jul 2009|01:34pm]
It's the fifth and biggest manifestation yet of Ward & White's Karaoke Circus on Wednesday at the 100 Club on London's "Oxford Street". Tickets are £9 in advance and £12 on the door, so if you're coming then I would advise getting a ticket online here:

http://www.wegottickets.com/event/49865

The line-up on that page is a bit out of date. The full confirmed list of special guests is:

John Hegley
Kevin Eldon
Isy Suttie
Andrew Collins
Miles Jupp
Bridget Christie
The Penny Dreadfuls

With a couple of secret extra guests as yet unconfirmed.

We rehearsed the orchestra on Saturday and it's going to sound pretty special.
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BOOK CLUB [12 Jun 2009|11:30am]
A nostalgic evening yesterday at the lovely Cross Kings pub on York Way, reviving the old Book Club show which, as ever, overran in a shambolic manner. All the old gang except Johnny Candon was there: Natalie Haynes, Peter Buckley Hill, Josie Long, Chris Neill, Howard Read, and Danielle Ward was there too though she texted me to say she didn't get to do her Chat play because it ran so late, which is a shame. I wheeled out some accordion cover-versions and tried my hand at a bit of stand-up about Prince, which I think went OK, and reminded me of my long-deferred plan to do an hour-long show about the life and work of Prince, who is a veritable goldmine of comedy material. I'm going to try turning rambling half-improvised material from last night into a properly "honed" routine as I reckon there's some mileage in it. Am playing at the Five Pound Fringe launch gig at the Boogaloo on Monday and may try it then, though I should really be doing something from Accordions Of The Gods. Argh, that's creeping up on me too quickly, and there's still the nightmarish logistics of orchestral Karaoke Circus and Latitude to surmount first.

My research into conspiracy theories and the paranormal continues to be very entertaining. I stumbled upon a hilarious recording of abduction nut Whitley Strieber interviewing Rick Strassman on his internet radio show. Strassman is one of very few scientists to have been granted permission to do proper scientific research into the effects of the psychoactive DMT drug and inevitably the paranormal nutjob community has decided that his findings somehow legitimize their zany theories, and to hear him stuck on the end of the phone as a awkwardly polite captive audience while Strieber says things like "I once saw an alien in my bedroom! How do you explain that!" is entertaining indeed. Hopefully all of this stuff will find its way into my show too - I'm keen to cover as many cornerstones of nuttiness as I can.
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MFMO GIG THIS FRIDAY [02 Jun 2009|11:38am]
In an attempt to get our collective swag on with Latitude not far off, my band The Mystery Fax Machine Orchestra will be doing a show at the Smithfield Tavern on Charterhouse Street in Farringdon this coming Friday, June the 5th, on stage at 8.30pm. It is FREE. Please come along, otherwise we'll be playing to the backs of people's heads and that won't be fun. There will be some new MFMO songs and some MFMO songs being dusted down which are so old that they may aswell be new.

See you there!
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TERIYAKI [27 May 2009|04:28pm]
Earlier today.

FOOL: Know what I had for dinner last night?
ME: No.
FOOL: Teriyaki chicken salad.
ME: (grudgingly impressed) That sounds nice.

Later this afternoon.

ME: I fancy a baked potato.
FOOL: I had a baked potato for dinner last night.
ME: I thought you said you had teriyaki chicken salad!
FOOL: I did. I had it on a baked potato.
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WEEKEND [26 May 2009|10:55am]
Lovely weekend at home for my sister's birthday. Went to see Oliver! at Drury Lane, lucky to catch Rowan Atkinson's Fagin on a rare night when he wasn't in hospital for one reason or another. We had the comedy Welsh Oliver and best of all the brilliant Julian Bleach as Mr Sowerberry. And the Julian Glover who played the baddie in Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade played Mr [rich man who turns out to be Oliver's grandfather or something], so it was a fun cast. Then a tasty dinner of sea bass on Saturday night. I do like fish. On Sunday I headed from home to the Brixton Windmill - I have joined Les Carter's whimsical band Uncle Fruity in my usual capacity as obligitary comedy accordionist, and we did a jolly set of songs about tigers, bus drivers and the sea. Imagine an beery indie version of Rod Jane & Freddy and you get the idea.

Got another tax bill last week. I only just paid the last one! I really should start being more sensible about this. I probably pay way more than I should do - I keep good records of what I earn from performing, but I'm hopeless at keeping track of everything I spend. [insert some kind of satires here about MPs' expenses]. So I've a massive slab of dosh to pay to HMRC by the end of July. With this in mind I declare June FRUGAL MONTH. My laziness is expensive: sandwich-buying and gratuitous public transport journeys add up to over a hundred pounds a month, so I am going to live entirely off packed lunches from today until the end of June.

I've got back into bread-baking. It is top fun, and nowhere near as difficult as I remembered from my last dabblings. For about 20p's worth of ingredients I've baked myself a batch of lovely soft bread rolls to have for my packed lunches. So that's 4p a roll. Made a massive batch of lemon shortbread (normal shortbread but with lemon zest mixed in - yum!), and that along with a cheese roll and an apple comes to a 50p packed lunch, so in a week I'll be spending half as much as I usually spend in a day on rubbish from the supermarket. Got to discipline myself and make this work! Am also going to limit myself to taking the bus once a day at most (getting out of bed in time to walk every day is, frankly, not a realistic target), unless it's bucketing down both ways.

This is starting to sound like the kind of thing Richard Herring would do to generate material for an Edinburgh Fringe show.
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UNCLE FRUITY AT THE WINDMILL [21 May 2009|01:19pm]
I play the accordion for Les "Carter USM" Carter's novelty side-project Uncle Fruity. We're appearing at the Brixton Windmill on Sunday night, around 10pm, on a bill with Jim Bob and Tim Ten Yen. Looks like it will be rather good fun! And no school in the morning.
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W&W's KC [18 May 2009|10:10am]
Karaoke Circus is now on the Latitude poster!

http://media.livenation.co.uk/fido//publishing/content/g/s/t/LATO9_web_15-5_bruce.jpg

MFMO isn't, because of some deal with the Britten Sinfonia whereby they are the only orchestra playing at the festival. It's flattering that they consider us a proper orchestra and not just a band with the word "orchestra" in the name. There's a lot of that about - bands who think they're an orchestra just because they have a cellist. MFMO are definitely on though, midnight on Friday in the Literary Salon (not the Book Club tent, another one nearby) and noon on Sunday at the In The Woods stage.
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WEEK [15 May 2009|11:21am]
A productive week of sorts, infuriatingly broken up by having to go to work. I have, as usual, massively overcommitted over the coming months. It's the only way to guarantee being able to look back on a given period of time with any sense of achievement, and if there's one thing I hate, it's looking back and thinking "I did nothing then". One ambition I'm ticking off the list at the moment is composing a feature film score, for a film about, oddly enough, a man who quits his city job to become a comedian. Luckily that has to be finished by the end of this month so at least that will force me to get it out of the way to concentrate on other bits and pieces: I've loads of songs to orchestrate for the epic Karaoke Circus gig in July, I have to rewrite my Edinburgh show (now retitled "Accordions Of The Gods?") and make some movie inserts for that, and I'm getting started on recording a new bunch of MFMO songs - tomorrow will be spent in the studio laying the foundations, click tracks, percussion, all that sort of stuff, and Jeremy Limb is going to pop in to do some smooth piano stylings for a White/Chamberlain-King blues number about working as a stage corpse. Looking forward to finally doing a giganto-scale recording of 'Squeeze Me'! There's also a song Mr O'Hagan and I have written for the film soundtrack, called 'Bad Joke', which is an overblown tragi-comic epic ballad. And a lullabye about fish in space which I'll be doing with some brass players at Robin Ince's astronomy gig thing at the Bloomsbury in June. Busy busy busy.
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