Hard out here for a witch

This week I went to the Pierre Huyghe exhibition at the Pompidou which was epically pretentious and wildly disorientating and I mean both as compliments. I also went to see Suede and White Denim, and I will be off to catch La Femme tonight who only slightly let the side down by not being something you wear, unless of course you’re Bryan Adams. On top of all that I’ve also done two vaguely important things this week. On Tuesday I had my first French haircut, which wasn’t as traumatic an experience as I anticipated, and today I released a single. The act of releasing the single hasn’t been at all painful – it’s almost as if I wasn’t there – and actually I kind of wasn’t (the fact I’m in Paris when my “band” – ie Rory – is in London makes it all the more strange). But there it is – on iTunes if you go looking for “White Witches” and other places also. Oh, and here too. Please feel free to peruse and maybe even buy it – you can pay anything you like!

It was on a night shift where we would read the national news hot off the press and condense relevant articles into digestible chunks for mighty conglomerates / nefarious FTSE100 companies that the idea of WHITE WITCHES first emerged. The name came to me in a dream, one where my brother Matt and I were being chased by witches while Roxy Music’s ‘Remake/Remodel’ played in the background. It was like a really cool episode of The Professionals storyboarded by Magritte, and it felt appropriate somehow (White Witches was also a better name than The Sex Tourists – which we’d initially adopted. You don’t half feel icky searching for yourself on Google with a name like that, and that’s an icky enough impulse as it is – searching for yourself – and that’s even before you’ve been splattered by the search engine shower of shit. Better to change the name than fork out for an umbrella.)

When we first made the decision to forge forward with the nicely alliterated WW name there were no others. Now there seem to be three or four WW in the world, and acts with ‘Witch’ or ‘Witches’ in the title are legion; witch is the new crystal. Also, one of our best songs is called ‘Savages’, written before the band Savages. These things happen when you don’t pull your fucking finger out.

So finally, the ‘Secret Club EP’ is now with us, it has four songs each with their own special, individual charm. I’m proud of all of these songs. The track Secret Club even has its own excellent video, made by Bafta award-winning director Aaron Shrimpton, a bon oeuf.

I write about music for a living, which comes quite naturally, but writing about my own music is the hardest thing in the world; nevertheless I’ll have a go as I’m feeling loquacious and I haven’t written a blog for ages. Feel free to jump off now if you’re not into attending a potted history of my musical underachievement.

My first band was called Ralph and the Pants with my best friend at school, Kevin. We came up with the name by amalgamating my stuffed toy dog Ralph with the underpants in his rucksack (he was stopping overnight despite only living up the road; why do kids do that?) and we’d usually record a full album in an afternoon, with just my keyboard and his squawky voice. My brother was meant to be the drummer, but all the drums came from the presets on my Casio – he actually spent most of his time upstairs playing Sonic the Hedgehog and listening to Prince when the hard work was being done downstairs in the “studio”/front room. Some of those songs were amazing, but surprisingly Kev has locked the tapes away and says nobody is allowed to listen to them ever. It’s the world’s loss.

Then came an indie band from St Ives I played drums in called Ephemeral – terrible name, my fault. Then Fat Freddy’s Cat, terrible name, not my fault. This latter position in a bar-room blues outfit served as a kind of apprenticeship – I was on bass so I could get as drunk as I liked. We played regularly at the Riviera in Penzance where I’d have a tab behind the bar. Mostly when I went to pick up my pay I’d end up owing Fred the landlord (who weirdly had the same name as our band and was quite fat now I think about it) money despite the fact I was the one who was supposed to get paid. I used to swear he’d fiddled the figures which he might have done, or it might have been the first signs of a burgeoning drink problem, or both. It was so long ago that we won’t split hairs.

Then came Bright Lights Big City. In London I played in The Evangelistas and we had quite a following in Camden’s darkest pockets for a group who didn’t really have a clue what they were doing. We supported The Fall and Mclusky and The Darkness and thought we were great but in hindsight we were a carcrash boyband with ego problems and other problems beginning with ‘d’ and ‘d’. Piranha Deathray were great but too esoteric, like a heavy Stray Cats giving Spandau Ballet a hot and cold blowjob, and as good as we could be we would also flail around hammered most of the time and especially when we were on stage (we couldn’t play when we were inebriated despite what we told ourselves at the time). Jeremy Deacon, who I played in PDr with, is far too prodigiously talented to be in a pop band anyway. We should have called ourselves The Jeremys; isn’t hindsight a beautiful thing? As a truly undisciplined and bibulous session musician of sporadic activity, I did at least tour the country and get on a couple of other people’s albums, played to 10,000 Germans in an aircraft hangar (I nearly got arrested back at the hotel playing the piano with my feet), laid down some guitar lines on one top 20 single(!) and pressed keys for a big ginger scouser whom I love to death who is a proper songwriter and everything.


Then came White Witches, a group formed with my dear friends David Barnett (Suede biographer who once played with Adam Ant!) and Renu Hossain (a gifted tabla player who’d never hit a drumkit before she joined). And then there was Rory Lewarne, singer with one of my all-time favourite glam bands from Sheffield, Pink Grease! It felt like a coup.

I’d only vaguely met Rory a few times before we were on the night shift together, and because of his wildman onstage persona I assumed he was probably like that in real life too. I saw the blonde hair and cheekbones and assumed he was a drinking, shagging, drug-devouring party animal; he actually turned out to be a deeply intelligent and sometimes irritatingly fastidious (and perfectionist!) beautiful human being who didn’t take any bad fings at all. Rory is like a gremlin you’re not meant to pour water onto, sweet and reserved but put him on stage and he turns into an uncontrollable monster, a demonic, whirling dervish-like beastie with some enviable moves. Weirdly it turned out we both came from Penzance though we never met back in Cornwall.

Through White Witches we formed a friendship for life, and we made/make a smashing noise too (living in Paris brings lots of inspiration but it makes it a bugger to practice). We’d finish the night shift and then go and clatter around in a dingy Shoreditch basement at 8am and make a vile racket. It was fun to begin with, although I guess we started taking it vaguely seriously at some point, and some of us (me) took it a bit too seriously. I managed to drive Renu and David out by being a tyrant but Rory stuck with it to his credit or stupidity. I stopped the bad fings and then we got Charlie Webb and Jack Carr in, and I often wonder what it would have been like being in a band with Jack had I not cleaned up my act at that point. Thankfully death was averted and we managed to record some things down in a Shoreditch basement with JP Buckle, an excellent chap if ever there was one.

And that’s about it really. Watch the video. Buy the songs for whatever you like. To be honest, I’ve hardly raised a guitar in anger for months but this sudden flurry of activity has got me looking at it in the corner quizzically. There’s actually an extra chapter, an album, recorded with Mikey Breyer ex-of Art Brut on drums at Keith TOTP’s Dean Street Studios and finished off at the Video Caves with Mr. Buckle. So that’ll be something else coming soon. I will hopefully return to the UK for touring purposes next year when this comes out, and you never know, we might even play a few gigs here in France. Oh and before I forget, thank you Adam for releasing it through the label and thank you Sean for all the hard work.

And see you next year!

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