Top secret clown business: Meeting Sid Haig at HorrorConUK, 13 May 2017

Me with Sid Haig at HorrorConUK, 13 May 2017Last Saturday I trundled up to Sheffield to attend the third annual HorrorConUK, a convention for lovers of all things bowel-loosening, held at the Magna Science Adventure Centre. One of the guests was Sid Haig – aka Captain Spaulding, the serial-killing clown from House Of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects – and as a big admirer of the latter film especially, I thought I’d go and say hello, as well as nab a signed 8×10 for my slowly growing collection of cast signatures.

Normally when I attend this event, I journey up from London on the Friday and stay overnight in a hotel. But this time I decided to travel there and back the same day, catching a 5.45am train, on the back of a 2am alarm call. In theory, this meant I could go to bed early and get a few hours’ shut-eye. In practice, it meant I got no sleep at all. By the time I got home at 10.45pm, I’d been awake for nearly 40 hours – and for medical reasons I hadn’t consumed any caffeine, either. So look out for me in the 2018 Guinness Book Of Records.

Just doin’ it: Tommy Hale on touring, performing, friendship and the future

Nick Beere, John O'Sullivan and Tommy Hale, live at The Star Inn, Guildford, 18 April 2017It’s 7pm on a balmy spring evening, and I’m wandering up Orsman Road in Hoxton, towards The Stag’s Head. I have no idea why I expect to find a tranquil beer garden on a Friday night in London’s East End, but my awakening is far from rude. As I enter the pub I’m immediately greeted by Tommy Hale, who’s standing just inside the doorway nursing a large wooden spoon bearing the number five.

The singer, songwriter and sometime guitarist from Dallas, Texas, is in the UK for an eight-date tour, which has already taken him and his band from Exmouth to Hastings, via Swindon, Bristol and Guildford. I saw the latter show three nights ago, and this evening I’m looking forward to questioning Tommy about some of its finer details – hopefully, for the benefit of the tape, in a nice quiet spot.

But first, there’s that wooden spoon to take care of.

Director’s cut: John Carpenter live in London and Brighton, Oct/Nov 2016

Cody Carpenter and John Carpenter live at the Troxy, London, 1 November 2016“Please be aware no food, drink or chewing gum is allowed in the venue. Thank you.”

The printed sign, one of a handful dotted around the entrance and foyer area of the Troxy, is trying its polite best to look after the venue’s interests, but it doesn’t seem to have caught the attention of tonight’s performer, John Carpenter, who’s happily chewing away.

It’s hard not to think of Roddy Piper in They Live: “I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass. And I’m all out of bubblegum.” Carpenter’s supply seems plentiful, but asses – or rather arses, as we’re in London – still get a good shoeing.

The filmmaker/composer is in the capital to finish up his nine-date tour of the UK and Ireland, and I’m feeling a bit emotional. With my legs planted firmly on a prime piece of real estate – ie, down the front by the barrier, about 15 feet away from the man himself – I’m trying to soak up every last drop of what’s happening on stage. It’s my third and final show of the tour. Once this is over, that’s it – certainly for a while, but maybe forever.

The Gates of ‘Hello’! Meeting Fabio Frizzi and Catriona MacColl

Me with Fabio Frizzi and Catriona MaColl at Union Chapel, 29 October 2016Here’s one for fans of ’70s and ’80s Italian exploitation films. From left to right we have composer Fabio Frizzi, some interloping no-mark and actress Catriona MacColl.

Last night Fabio and his six-piece band played a wonderful gig at Union Chapel in Islington, performing suites of music from throughout Fabio’s career as a composer for film and television.

It was his third London show since 2013, and he’d reworked his set since his last visit to the UK two years ago, though of course all of his ‘hits’ from Lucio Fulci’s gothic horrors – the likes of Zombie Flesh Eaters, The Beyond and City Of The Living Dead (or The Gates Of Hell, as it was titled in the US) – were present and correct.

Signal to noise: A review of Transmissions From Oblivion by Last Great Dreamers

Transmissions From Oblivion by Last Great DreamersIt’s been a busy couple of years for Last Great Dreamers. From a nostalgic comeback in 2014 – a reunion after nearly two decades of retirement – they steadily rebuilt their empire with singles, videos, tours and festival appearances, before announcing that they were recording an album, to be funded via their fans through PledgeMusic: a confident move, which appears to have paid off.

The finished record is called Transmissions From Oblivion. It’s a title that put in an early bid and fought long and hard to win its crown. But listening to the album, I’m struck by a fitting alternative, and that’s simply Last Great Dreamers.

If any of the band’s three long-players deserve an eponymous billing, it’s this one. At times, I’ve wondered whether there’s a case to be made for it being a concept album of sorts – about growing up, music, the business and the connection between these things. Not all the tracks fit, but there’s a strong sense that this is quite a personal record for its songwriters – a cleansing, in some ways.