Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Local Commercial Radio, in tune with nothing.

It is phenomenal! 

My new releases, 'kuJenga Society' and it's single 'It's Christmas Time! (Oh, yeah, NaNaNa') are available globally, the CD versions are stocked by Amazon and the MP3's are available through every major download vendor, they can can be streamed via Spotify and soon through YouTube Music Key. It's Christmas Time! (Oh, yeah, NaNaNa) is being played across the world via internet radio, and the hits are beginning to rack up on it's humble little   YouTube video (see below).

And yet there is virtually no chance of a single play on our local commercial radio station. That is because the thing that is local about it, are the targeted ads, traffic reports and the people they get ringing in for some facile quiz, or to give an opinion on some subject of the day, by the DJ of the moment. Not the music.


The lure to this honey pot, is a playlist reflecting the strangle hold the music industry has on your ears, that is, a series of current pop hits, played over and over again which reflect, not the nation's taste, but the success of a particular plugger from a particular major record label (of which I believe there are something like only 4 around now) National radio is dire, then local radio follows it, as it is a business model that is determining this and not the chance to offer something that is connected to the community it serves (or should be serving).

It sounds like common sense (forgive me for using myself as an example here, this is not a revelation to me as I have been here before, more on this later, but I think it is my experience that adds best to my point).

Yes, It sounds like perfect common sense to all of us, that a really catchy single, recently released by a local musician would be supported and played by his local radio station and, as it is a Christmas single, would be playlisted along with all their other Christmas fare broadcasted to the local community.

But that is the last thing that will ever happen. Because there is no opportunity to reflect the our community through it's music. It's not playlisted nationally, therefore it is not a part of the business model, therefore it does not exist! It will add no income to shareholders and the station is there to tap an existing market not try to influence it with local content. It is trying to provide just enough local connection,to lure a local audience to sell the national playlist and then to capitalise and monetise it.

That leaves me, and other local bands and musicians out in the cold. This cultural isolation is compounded by local commercial radio refusing to carry any information about what is on at the Square, a local music venue, that practically defines our musical and cultural community here in Harlow. For thirty or more years, it has been influencing generations of the town's young people, to be involved, through the venue, to be creative and to be inspired. That experience, encourages them to grow as adults and to be community minded. And this legacy has continued to the present day via the hard work of a small group of people, who saved the venue from the dereliction that the building next to it, the YWCA, has been allowed to suffer, and by doing that, to keep music local and live year on year. It has been a real struggle for them, and local commercial radio has played little part, support or encouragement.

It is no wonder then, that people are turning to streaming services to personalise their music consumption, to what they want to hear, and not what the 
music industry want them to hear. You see someone play live or get recommended a band or musician through social media, and then you go and stream their album, who needs DJ's? (that's a real shame because DJ's can be great if they are allowed the freedom to turn you on to something they think is great).

I have been here before, in the Eighties, the Newtown Neurotics released a song called 'Never Thought', it was a bright, catchy (commercial even), thoughtful song (I have provided a link to it below, take a listen and see what you think). It was a perfectly radio friendly tune unlike most of the Neurotics usual material (Kick Out The Tories being an obvious example) but I could not get it played on local commercial radio, not at all, not once.

And after all these years nothing has changed, sadly. Yet is is infuriating to know that 'It's Christmas Time! (Oh, yeah, NaNaNa)' has a story within it that the listeners to commercial radio would identify with and enjoy, especially because of the nature of this fast approaching holiday period.

If only they could get to hear it.

Fighting to be heard,  is something we all struggle with at times and we all know what it feels like to be ignored.




                 Here is the song that failed to get any airplay from commercial radio in the                              Eighties




And here is the song It's Christmas Time! (Oh yeah, NaNaNa) that will suffer the same fate in 2014


                            

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

“For safety reasons can I ask you what is inside the parcel” Post mortem


Don’t get me going about the post office!  Have you noticed that since privatisation we are subjected to de-privatisation, a word I just made up which here means that you lose your privacy because everyone in the queue knows what you are sending through the post, because they make you declare it? 

I take in some packets each containing a CD,

“For safety reasons can I ask you what is inside the parcel”

“A CD”

“and that one?”

“A CD”

If this is meant to improve safety, then surely the humble postal clerk would need to know everything in the world? For example…

“For safety reasons can I ask you what is inside the parcel”

“A five port switch”

“Hmmm, network or HDMI?”

No, no, the reality is…

“For safety reasons can I ask you what is inside the parcel”

“A five port switch”

“Sorry?”

“A five port switch”

“Does it have batteries in it?”

“No”,

“Corrosive liquid?”

“No”

“Poison”,

“Explosives?”

“No”,

“A small person?”

“No”

“Ok, first or second class?”

But worse, is hearing other people declare what is in their parcels.

“For safety reasons can I ask you what is inside the parcel”

“Sexy underwear” or

“Incontinent pads” or

“Syringes” or

“Marijuana” or

“A small person” or 

I don’t know what people might say but once upon a time that was between you and the recipient. 

Anyway, at least they have put a stop to people posting themselves to nice places.

So then the woman says, oh, you haven’t left much room for the stamp!

“Well”, I replied, “I had no idea you were going to try to put on a stamp designed specifically for postal workers with visual disabilities”
.
A great whopping huge square of a stamp that was easily a quarter of the size of my CD mailer. She had plenty of ordinary stamps but didn’t try to use any of them.
It’s not even that these mega stamps have an interesting design on them like most stamps. They took the most boring British stamp there was, the one with our bored monarch on it and then blew it up until you can wrap your parcel in the stamp alone!

Incidentally, I got a DVD recently in a card for my 60th and it contained the highlights of the year I was born. It seemed that 1954 was filled mostly with the Queen and various hangers on visiting places and pointing.
I was much relieved that I didn’t miss much being so young that year.
I would have hated to be lying in a cot watching a mobile spin round whilst the Beatles were changing the world for example. That would have been unbearable.


Really pleased with the reviews that have been placed on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk for my new kuJenga Society album. I include them here to show you that it’s not all been hard work and grind for me with this release. Sometimes there are moments of pure pleasure.

Great Solo Album from the Newtown Neurotics front man.
By Kyle Giarratano on November 15, 2014

Format: MP3 Music Verified Purchase

As a huge fan of The Newtown Neurotics I've been very excited for the release of Steve Drewett's KuJenga Society.

While musically it shares few similarities with The Newtown Neurotics sound, its spirit and message are very much rooted in the righteous indignation of punk music.

If you enjoy acoustic music, protest music, or the works of Billy Bragg then give Steve Drewett's KuJenga Society a shot, you won't be let down.

Sharp intelligent songwriting, hard melody and majestic guitar playing make this a truly brilliant LP; you wont be disappointed
By timothy james voss on 17 Nov 2014
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Ku Jenga Society by Steve Drewett.

Ku Jenga Society by Steve Drewett.

After perhaps too many years of cover Steve Drewett broke back out into the open firstly with a renewed Newtown Neurotics, proving the longevity of their songs combined with energy of their live shows is still very very relevant today and now with his first solo LP Ku Jenga Society.

Ku Jenga Society hits all of the buttons that are lacking in so much music today. Steve Drewett crafts his songs with true passion and care, carefully picking words and phrases that set the mood or hit nail with bloody savagery when its needed. Stripped down to largely vocals and acoustic guitar Steve’s energy and emotion creeps through into the songs as the guitar holds both rhythm and melody.

The song ‘Jenga Society’ kicks the LP off, A lone guitar weaving both delicacy and power as lyrically it deals with society that is built upon nothing but tills ringing ‘I shop therefore I am’ which like a Jenga tower will eventually fall.

‘Inch Away’, ‘Mindless Violence’ and ‘If Only’ are former Newtown Neurotics songs reworked acoustically, whether you’re new to them or you loved them as Neurotics songs you will understand their timeless quality here. Mindless Violence holds its anthemic status with stripped down clarity.

The ‘Killing Of You’ is story of death in a relationship leaving the survivor living with a crippling guilt; it pulls the pace back with a beautifully picked guitar that shows SD’s skills off to their full.

‘Sweet Jesus’ is driven by a simple pacey strummed guitar that has echoes of Woody Guthrie. The chorus a simple refrain asking ‘sweet Jesus are you listening to me’, as the litany of wrongs committed by the government is told through the ballad of a striking miner who sees his friends break the picket lines and his community ripped part by the after effects.

The other songs on the LP examine relationships, racking through their fragility and how strength comes from experience, bitter, loving and otherwise, ‘if this is love where are the violins?’ asks Steve on You Break My Heart.
Steve Drewett’s songwriting references sex, love, money, being a father observing the everyday strains and joys of family life, and makes sense of these observations in the narrative of the song.

Drewett’s turn of phrase in ‘Around Love’ is sometimes bitter, ’broken hearts like broken glass can cut you to the bone’ sometimes full of optimism, ‘your young and your beautiful wide eyed and na├»ve’ but the unfolding of the brilliantly catchy melody subtly backed with a band not so much leads as carries you on the shoulders through the song.

Its Christmas Time, the LP’s closing song, sports a ridiculously catchy earworm of a chorus which, if there is any justice will hit the Christmas number one spot and piss all over the X-Factor-Britains-not-got-Talent singles.

With wry observations, wit, intelligence and damn fine melody driven songs Steve Drewett delivers an LP that fills the holes that are missing in so much of todays music.

If you like The Neurotics, Tooth and Nail era Billy Bragg, Woody Guthrie or just good music that has something to say then buy this CD, give 2 fingers to the re hash of Band-Aid and say Its Christmas Time! (Oh Yeah, NaNaNa).

PS this a 4.5 star LP. (5 stars is reserved for revolver, bollocks, setting sons, repurcussions and his and hers).



Friday, 14 November 2014

The Winds of Change

It’s so nice to not be in such a frantic state, I was intensely focused on the album for five solid months and now, although I still have work to do, it is not so much and not so stress filled. I feel like I have turned a corner and things are slowly coming back to normal. In that five months I wrote a lot of the songs, recorded them, got them mastered, designed the single sleeve, designed the album sleeve with a bit of help from Lyn Nimtz in Brazil, sorted out digital and physical distribution, designed and created a new website steve-drewett.com, created a record company, come up with the Cruel Binary name and then designed a logo for it. Then there was sending our review copies, arranging publicity, and Social Media. This blog too of-course and dealing with real life completes this busy picture.

During those five months, I have had more things go wrong in the creation of one album than I have never known; I have had a death in the family and organising a 60th birthday party all to deal with, all to stay on top of.

It was all too much.

The ‘new’ release date for kuJenga Society is 24th Nov by which time I hope only to be dealing with posting out orders and tweeking steve-drewett.com and revamping the Newtown Neurotics website.

The Winds of Change (Is Your Washroom Breeding Bolsheviks)

This was written about how the radicalism of the sixties had dissipated into the middle age spread of jadedness and pessimism of the left, leaving the field wide open for the right.
Of-course political movements must renew themselves from the ground up, with younger people getting involved to challenge the status quo but the disillusionment of older former activists is not a very edifying sight and not setting an example to inspire the next generation. 
I am saying in this song, carry on the fight, you may have to do it differently, as the world is always changing, but carry on and get active again, if not nationally then locally, but encourage and inspire others with youth and vigour on their side to take up the cause and continue.

Keep the Faith!



Monday, 10 November 2014

Pop industry carrion and meat for the grinder

My single “It’s Christmas Time! (Oh yeah, NaNaNa) is an attempt to offer a new song about Christmas that people will enjoy, and hopefully identify with, but I must say that the majority of what is supposed to be Christmas records is always just damn depressing.

This year is no exception, the ‘TV buy in’ releases of Children in Need or the Band Aid 30th anniversary is not what I consider as Christmas records, these are charity projects that latch on to Christmas to maximise profits for their respective campaigns. As worthy as they may be, the music is just tired no matter how much they dress it up.
The worst thing though, is the age of the songs, they were big in the day but now here comes the ‘pop industry carrion’ pecking and tearing at the leftover meat of a feast long ago consumed, whilst still insisting on all the trimmings. God only knows but do you know it’s Christmas time at all?  Yeah, will they let us forget it? 
My song is about redemption, it’s about turning your life around, it is good for any time of year but it makes just that little bit more sense within the season it describes.

Chance of a new Christmas song getting some attention?

Don’t hold your breath! I am facing Goliath without a single stone in reach.





You Must Be Mad (From ‘Is Your Washroom Breeding Bolsheviks’)

This song is about young people, experiencing subsistence level wages or worse, as in long term or under unemployment, find joining the armed forces to earn money and to travel and see the world, an exciting and promising thing to do. The catch is, your life is the deposit in this bank of human resources and like all deposits, it can quite easily be lost.

The worst thing of all is how the human race cannot help getting involved in major acts of barbarity and that there is always a large pool of impoverished people that will willingly be meat for the military grinder.

‘You Must Be Mad’ is as fitting for the beginning of the First World War, the Second World and then on to Afganistan, Iraq etc etc etc. but these lyrics referred to the utterly pointless and costly Falkland War.

Things are worse now, more so than at any other time, western forces have become an extension of global business, no longer around to protect the nation, but around to protect the profits of the mega corporations and the military industrial machine.
Worse of all, young men and women lose their lives on orders to rob other people of their resources.

People often say how relevant the Neurotics lyrics are all these years later.

It’ll be a cold day in hell when these ones aren’t




Saturday, 8 November 2014

The effect of unemployment on our lives


Things have come down a peg or two on the stress level today, most of the work needed to get the ‘kujenga Society’ album out is now behind me and two things occupy me the most at this moment. One is getting review copies out and the other is the feedback from people on the album. After the months of work, it’s only now that I begin to find out how it is going to be received.

I am aware that people who love the punk material I wrote and still love playing, have been aching for a new Neurotics album for years and now they get something at long last from Steve Drewett, it is acoustic/acoustically driven and is a long cry from ‘Kick Out The Tories’. On that basis, I have to build into the expectation that some people will loath it. So far the response has been fantastic, but it is early days and I am expecting a backlash of sorts.

I think that “It’s Christmas Time! (Oh yeah, (NaNaNa)” will be seen as a betrayal by many of my fans but that is a silly reaction.
As a songwriter, I feel I need to stretch myself, to do something different, just like I did with the Indestructible Beat. I made an album with this outfit which never really came out and I am so proud of it, even though I have barely sold a copy (it was available briefly as a download, but I intent to release it again at some point).

The Indestructible Beat was, to me, a creative and critical success and yet it failed in success and sales, which has a lot to me pulling the plug on it after three years because of the amount of work it took to keep a big band running.
Maybe some people think that writing for acoustic guitar will stop me from writing more raucous stuff with the Neurotics, that is not so, it may actually be my first step back into the world of writing new material, which may in turn lead me back to writing for the Neurotics again, who knows?

Anyway, other news is that I hope to have the CD’s available to buy via Amazon by next week, we shall see.

Angela (Is Your Washroom Breeding Bolsheviks)

Struggling to make a living over the years through cycles of recession and austerity of one sort or another, made me acutely aware of all my friends who were unemployed and how that impacted on the way they led their lives.

Angela was an attempt to touch on the difficulties that unemployment brought to peoples relationships when one of the couple is employed and the other not. Love is not always enough to win through; sometimes cold hard economics can wreck what could have been a perfect relationship if only the hand of global economics had not strangled their lives.

All these years on, the theme is touched on again in my new single “it’s Christmas Time! (Oh yeah, NaNaNa)

“Times are hard and so cruel, they changed the father that you once knew, when I was at home, happiness left the room and now you, don’t want me around, no you don’t want me around. But it’s Christmas time.”

Thursday, 6 November 2014

It's Christmas Time! Well not quite but it won't be long! Yikes!

Well, I spent all day yesterday, from 8am to 8pm exclusively sitting at my PC putting the finishing touches to my new website, which on top of everything else I have done in a week. Strange experience selling myself but I am now long in the tooth, and as a previously (and still very much) shy person, I have put that aside to be shameless for once in my life, please allow me that indulgence and forgive.

The new website can be found at steve-drewett.com (if you have visited this address before you will need to refresh the page to see the new site) and pulls all the strings together of my creativity over the years. The website as it stands now is the first draft, and I intend to develop it in the future adding more content and more music available to buy of both the Neurotics and Indestructible Beat.

On the site you are able to buy downloads of the Jenga Society album which contains the new single of mine ‘It’s Christmas Time! (Oh, yeah, NaNaNa)’ too, and if the single is the only thing you like or want, then that can be downloaded separately.

Also on the site is the YouTube video to go with It’s Christmas Time! (Oh, yeah, NaNaNa)’

This single is an attempt to talk about the stress that austerity has on relationships and how, if you ignore the religious and commercialisation of Christmas, it still an important time to take stock of your life and forgive and make up. The song has to do this and still be uplifting and catchy. Not an easy job but take a look at it below and see if you think I have achieved it or not.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Keep The Faith and get up and fight

At long last, I finally have my consignment of both my Christmas single “It’s Christmas Time! (Oh yeah, NaNaNa)” and my album kuJenga Society, only six days late.
Now I have to open shop and start selling them, not to mention sending out review copies and trying to get some publicity generally.
There will be a YouTube video going up very soon too.
After the relaxing time of the launch/sixtieth birthday bash I am now working flat out again, as today I must finish my website and remember to eat at some point. My PC is wearing out and my hard drives are busting at the seams.

Keep The Faith

This song was a designed to lift the listener and refresh their will to carry on the fight. It is saying it is always better to fight together than to fight alone and music has always played an important part in stirring the imagination and reinforcing the convictions that, through weariness, sometimes we can lose track of. 

It can be a bleak world but the future is there to be seized, and it should be done so for the good of all. If we do not shape our future someone will do it for us. 
The song was originally written with the fight against Apartheid as the backdrop and the collapse of that ideology was a definite win for us all. Remember that!

Today, there are other challenges, particularly as democracy is in threat and could end up as just a word used as a fig leaf by capital and corporations as they control our lives.
Check out this George Monbiot article (link here) to see how close we are to losing everything, it is truly unbelievable and proves that some of our nightmares unfold during the day.
Get up and fight, and before you do, listen to ‘Keep The Faith’ for a bit of encouragement.

Now there’s a plan.


Tuesday, 4 November 2014

An Inch away from kuJenga Society

2 days 14 hours 0 mins is how late the delivery of my Jenga Society album is.

Still waiting, do they actually exist?

I continue to work on the new website so there is still plenty to do in the meantime (great word that, very appropriate for me at the moment, meantime hmmm, apart from Saturday night of course!).
Just dying to get the website launched, upload the video to YouTube and get the thing on sale.

Inch Away

This song is very current now because although the Neurotics originally did it on the ‘Is Your Bathroom Breeding Bolsheviks’ album, I have recorded an acoustic version which can be found on the long lost' kuJenga Society' solo album that I am supposed to have possession of at this moment.

The new album has a couple of Neurotic songs on there, because they adapted well to an acoustic arrangement and I felt that they didn't get a fair shout on the original album.
The song is quite grim though as it deals with domestic violence but I believe that the melody has a quality that lifts it away from despair, because the woman and children whose lives we are following are on the cusp of changing their lives for the better. 

Follow this link to Inch Away played live for the first time acoustically

Monday, 3 November 2014

My big party!

I had a fantastic 60th party/Jenga Society launch, on Saturday night, it was perfect, I couldn't have wished anything more from it and it was good for me to be able to relax. I don’t think I have relaxed for three months solid and my trials and tribulations went on right up to the sound check for the gig. Earlier, I was on the phone, enraged and despairing as I was told that the CD’s of my new album, that were meant to be delivered on Thursday still hadn't arrived and were presumably lost somewhere in Poland.

They weren't going to make it, I was not going to have them for the launch night of the album. The CD manufacturers scrabbled around to soften the blow by duplicating 90 labelled copies in clear plastic pouches, which helped on the night but are hardly the same thing.
So some people are now enjoying the album even though I have not received the real things yet.

I was so wound up and angry, that I thought it had permanently ruined my mood for the evening, Luckily, that wasn't the case and I had an absolute ball.

Especially because Paul Howard and Sod’s frontman Kevin Jones, did a fantastic version of Mindless Violence. I was very proud to hear Kevin, from the very band that inspired me to form the Neurotics, singing one of the songs we first started out with.
After that Howard and Clack did the most awe inspiring version of ‘No Respect’, I will repeat what I wrote on Facebook because I cannot sum it up better re-writing it.

 Then Paul did a version of No Respect and it was so beautiful that it made me cry, I could not believe that I had written that song, he made it something else, and i have no words to adequately describe what it did to me. To hear myself reflected back from a great artist like Paul was like being given the most priceless birthday present ever, a glittering jewel of a moment. Thanks Paul and thanks for great performances from Murray Attila, ‘Sumishta and Keith’ aka 13 Frightened Girls and everyone else who shared last night with me, I love you all.

So… while I wait for long awaited delivery of my album, ho hum, I now have to get on with designing a new website for me and the release, so that I can get it ready to go live once I have the physical discs.

On we go!

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Today is the day! The release of kuJenga Society my first solo album!

8 hours and 5mins

Today is the day I have been planning for, every day for three solid months. It was meant to be the release date of my new album and single but just to add to all the ups and downs I have had with this venture, I didn’t get the CD’s yesterday as I was supposed to, because they were stuck in Poland.
The update on this is that they are meant to be in Dagenham this morning and the guy from the CD manufacturing firm is going to collect them and get them to me by 2pm this afternoon. Hmmm, we shall see.
Anyway looking forward to a big party tonight, gotta go and prepare.

Later…