Floor show: Last Great Dreamers launch their new album at the Asylum 2, Birmingham, 7 April 2018

Denley Slade, Marc Valentine and Steve Fielding of Last Great Dreamers at The Asylum 2, Birmingham, 7 April 2018“On the 13th floor, she wanna know more…”
– Ashtray Eyes by Last Great Dreamers

“This is where we do nine new songs, so if you all want to go to the bar…”

It’s Saturday night at the Asylum 2, a cosy first-floor venue just outside Birmingham’s shopping district, and Slyder, Last Great Dreamers’ lead guitarist and vocal co-pilot, is warming up the crowd.

The event is a launch party for the band’s new album, 13th Floor Renegades, whose official release is still six days away. However, as tonight’s audience are here with the intention of sampling some fresh tunes, there’s a good chance the barman might actually get to put his feet up for the next half an hour.

Ghost to coast: Ginger Wildheart takes Brighton, 6 March 2018

Ginger Wildheart at The Prince Albert, Brighton, 6 March 2018“There’s a ghost in the Tanglewood that offered light in the black separation.”
– Phantom Memories by Ginger Wildheart

“Get a move on, Stockford!”

Yes – tonight, Matthew, I am that guy, the bloke who spends an age at the front of a queue, holding everyone up. I don’t mean to be, but the prize now that I’ve reached pole position is a chat with Ginger Wildheart – someone I’ve not spoken to, in person, for… ooh, it must be about 16 years.

Back then, my wife Tara and I ran his website SilverGinger.com, as well as the discussion group The Wildhearts Mailing List. It was the days before Facebook, Twitter and YouTube – heck, even MySpace was a glint in its daddy’s eye – and a lot has happened since. I’ve gone bald, for starters.

Speed of sound: In the recording studio with Marc and Slyder from Last Great Dreamers, Dec 2017

Marc and Slyder of Last Great Dreamers at Henwood Studios, 12 December 2017“I think if you stick one back on, we’ll know.”

Record producer Pete Brown is guiding Last Great Dreamers’ frontman, Marc Valentine, towards a perfect vocal take. He advises him to listen to just one side of his headphones – to “take an ear off”.

“I’ve got all three off at the moment,” says Marc, before lead guitarist Slyder chimes in with an idea of his own.

“How about putting them over his eyes?”

It’s Monday the 11th of December and I’m at Henwood Studios in Oxfordshire, where the Dreamers’ fourth long-player, the follow-up to 2016’s Transmissions From Oblivion, is nearing completion. The album has been in production since early November, though the sessions have so far been split into three chunks, so no one has gone stir crazy yet.

No, really – they’re always like this.

Zealot through the looking glass: Gary Davidson on his Wildhearts book, writing and depression

Gary Davidson, author of Zealot In Wonderland, with some Wildhearts press cuttings“In another moment down went Alice after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again.”
–  Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

“I’ve been loved by the sweetest and hated by heroes.”
– Geordie In Wonderland by The Wildhearts

The first time that Gary Davidson met The Wildhearts’ frontman, Ginger, things did not go well. It was April 1998, and Gary was at a Backyard Babies gig in London, when he spied his hero in the bar area. After tapping him on the shoulder and declaring “I’ve waited ages to meet you!” he went in for a handshake, only to send Ginger’s drink flying – a cue for the off-duty musician to storm off.

“What a fucking first meeting,” says Gary, as I remind him of the incident from his book, Zealot In Wonderland.

Dimensions in rhyme: Russell T Davies and James Goss promote their book of ‘Time Lord verse’

Me with Russell T Davies at Foyles, Charing Cross Road, 13 September 2017Here’s me at Foyles on London’s Charing Cross Road last night with one of my favourite human beings, the always-delightful Russell T Davies.

Russell was in town, along with the also-very-lovely James Goss, to talk about Now We Are Six Hundred: A Collection Of Time Lord Verse, which James wrote and Russell illustrated, and which looks like a lot of fun.

The evening began with some readings and an amusing hour-long talk, which was broadcast live on the official Doctor Who Facebook page, and at the time of writing is still there, should you fancy a look. This was followed by a signing, photos and posh chocolates – James’s posh chocolates, which he kindly donated to the patiently waiting queue, to aid their sustenance.

King of the ringers: A review of the 18-inch Kong figure from Lanard

Kong figure by LanardDespite loving the heck out of Kong: Skull Island, and hoovering up as much official merchandise as I could (the Blu-ray, the soundtrack CD, the novel, the ‘Art and Making of’ book, the comic book, the Pop Vinyl figure), I somehow managed to leave an 18-inch high and rather handsome-looking Kong toy on the shelf for the past five months.

How did this happen? Allow me to explain.

I clocked the figure – sorry, Mega-Figure – back in March, around the time of the film’s release, but it wasn’t stocked by Toys R Us, Argos, The Entertainer or any other high-street shop that I was aware of. As far as I could tell, it was only available from eBay traders and Amazon Marketplace sellers, which led me to briefly wonder whether it was an import.

Zealous guy: Author takes a fan’s-eye view of The Wildhearts in new book Zealot In Wonderland

Zealot In Wonderland by Gary DavidsonThe first time I met Gary Davidson, at a Silver Ginger 5 gig in December 2000, he was a pain in the arse. All these years later, this sorry tale (“whoops and sorry,” in fact) is recounted in Gary’s first book, Zealot In Wonderland.

This 350-page confessional, written over 10 years, details the ups, downs and inside-outs of his Wildhearts fandom – from his discovery of the band in 1992, to frontman Ginger’s game-changing PledgeMusic campaign, which kicked off in 2011.

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.