Tuesday, December 23, 2014

News update

Volume 1 of the Filmmaker's Reference Kit is now due out on 1 January 2015. Volume 2 is mooted for March 2015. Both will be available through the Free Music Archive.

The Kesh zine Beware! is up and running again, this time as a zine-blog or web-comic. Daily posts with characters old and new, continuing the well-meaning left-leaning tradition, are viewable here and we'd appreciate your presence and comments. Or you can join us on the Beware! Facecrap page here.

Bob Art Models continues at rapid pace with his attempts to draw every celebrity in human history - you can purchase greetings cards and the like from eBay here. For those in northern England, keep updated on his market shows via the Twitter feed.

Grand old Keshcologist Gaffa Mondo has a palaeo-art blog - Pteroformer - of interest to any dino-fans out there or just the mildly curious - it's well-written. You can get T-shirts of his designs, too.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The economics of releasing music as a physical product in 2014

In preparation for recent releases, I did some extended research into different forms of physical production. This may sound dumb to today's kids, but we grew up in another time, before digital distribution became the norm. What we wanted was to see our name on a compact disc, on an audio cassette, on the centre of a piece of vinyl. We wanted to have a collection of our own stuff, and maybe even to be able to go into a shop and see that stuff there, alongside the stuff that artistes we like have put out. However, we don't want masses of unsold copies gathering dust bunnies. We're not rich, and there's too much wasted excess product in the world, and particularly too much wasted excess product in our flats. It would be nice to have a reasonably small amount of units that could actually be sold this century to like-minded folks.

So, what is it like getting music manufactured in 2014? And why can't you buy our home-made catalogue in high street stores? Let's go through the various options, and I'll explain what I found:


Since 2000, our music has been available on CD-Rs, which are home-made. If you take your home-recorded CD-R into an indie store (let's say, ooh, Rough Trade), they will probably say "we don't take CD-Rs" - irrespective of the quality or that you've personally verified each copy. So be aware of that. If you want to get over that hurdle, you have to get your CDs pressed up by someone else. The big surprise for me was the massive disparity in cost. There are two similar-sounding processes offered by CD copying businesses, and one is no good for your purpose. CD duplication is essentially what you'd do with a CD burner, but on a larger scale, and while it's cheap, to e.g. Rough Trade, it's indistinguishable from a home CD-R. So you don't need CD duplication if you want to get into shops. In order to get them pressed up like the professionals, you need your CDs not duplicated, but replicated. This involves the making of a scary-sounding glass master, and is generally only available in high runs of over 300 or so. It also costs a lot. I've done some homework for you, searching for "cd replication uk prices" on Google. The cost of replicating 500 CDs is, at time of asking (December 2014), for disc only:

Prices quoted are for cheapest option shown on website, and are inclusive of VAT - you may just find something cheaper
Replication Centre - £270 
Max Duplication - £270
Mobineko - £282
Demomaster - £300
Testa Rossa - £312
Cyclone Music - £324
Key Production - £348
Pure Music - £480

Is it possible to get a professionally replicated, economical short run of CDs - a Keshco size run? It seems not. However, in researching this, I found one place, Mobineko, which offers glass-mastered short runs starting at 100 units for £198 - yes, considerably cheaper.

But in CD manufacture, really there are no half measures. And in our case, it's all about half measures - Accountants By Day may have over 100,000 free downloads, but audiences are quite passive and only a handful will actually part with any money for music in these times, or even tell you the bits they enjoyed or what they'd like to hear more of. Blank empty space, until you actually corner people and coax opinions from them. For "Now That's What I Call Keshco", 160 minutes of highly creative and carefully recorded re-imaginings requiring our lengthy writing, practising, recording, mixing and mastering time, our pre-orders were a mighty two (that's two), and as it was a two-disc release, that would have entailed doubling the costs above. Also, your typical squeezed indie shop can be picky even with professionally-pressed content, as they only have so much floor space. So, the likelihood with getting 500 CDs replicated is that 480-odd will remain unsold, turning your house into a warehouse, unless you have hard-headed business contacts or want to spend your entire time playing the industry game (in which case, this whole article is a bit irrelevant to you).

Mini CDs (3-inch)

Don't. People don't understand the format, many players won't accept them, and the one mean review we received suggested that perhaps we'd bought these awful-sized discs because they're cheaper. They're more expensive! Result: we have a lot of mini CDs sitting around.


Who buys a cassette in 2014? Strangely, despite having been left for dead many years back by the mainstream industry, tape sales are (albeit slightly) on the rise once more, as increasing amounts of creative types are reminded of how useful and economical they are. There is a horrendous Hoxton hipster crowd, for sure, but also collectors who fetishise the medium of their youth, just as others do with vinyl. There are a quiet few who never gave up cassettes (very Keshco, that); and those who just want some pleasantly-designed physical memento of their favourite artistes. Anyway, having assumed for years that CDs were the only game in town, we've recently broadened our focus. The tape is back.

It was a nice surprise to find that cassette duplication is considerably cheaper than vinyl, and as there is no need for glass masters, shorter runs are possible. For our Cassette Store Day releases, we used Tapeline (http://tapeline.info), who offered a very reasonable and personable service. 100 copies of our Bleak House "Music From The Middle Room" and 25 copies of "Freaks At A Wake", plus the cases and shipping, for £169.74. We sorted the artwork ourselves and it doesn't let the side down.

Your dilemma, though, is where to sell the cassettes. Most record stores won't take the things, or if they do, there will be extremely limited shelf space. With Cassette Store Day, we paid to be on the official stock list, which led to orders from shops who surely wouldn't have noticed us otherwise.


So, what about the old favourite? The never-bettered black seven-inch frisbee? The curious desire to have one's noises on vinyl goes back more than a century towards the beginnings of the recording industry. Again, sales are on the rise after a nadir in the early 2000s, but the flavour-of-the-month vinyl stock in somewhere like Fopp/HMV is way more expensive than most of the equivalent CDs, as if the industry is trying to claw back the costs of its loss-leading discounted CDs by fleecing vinyl collectors. For the independent band, your vinyl release (as opposed to your CD release) is more likely to be a desirable product, even amongst those who don't own a record player. Manufacture is fairly expensive, as you might expect. Here I've searched, non-comprehensively, for "vinyl pressing uk prices".

Again, prices quoted are the cheapest that were clearly available on the relevant website, and inclusive of VAT

100 7" singles (white label)
Unit 8 Recording Studios - £360
JTS Studios - £384
Mobineko - £420

300 7" singles (white label)
Unit 8 Recording Studios - £480 
Mobineko - £486
JTS Studios - £517.20
Cyclone Music - £546
Key Production - £564

With vinyl, almost all music shops will take them, there's more shelf space than for tapes, but of course an unsold box is very heavy.

One more thought. Supply and demand is an important factor. There's a lot of music. The marketplace is saturated. Then again, there's a lot of picky people saying "oh there's no good new music any more". If people can at least get to hear your music in the first place, and they love it, there's a chance they'll be coming to you asking how they can buy it (as I've done with bands I like). We make ourselves very contactable. It's a lot easier choosing the physical format of your release if you can stoke up some demand first.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Johnny Cocktail: The Novella - extract

An awfully long time ago, I started writing bits for a Johnny Cocktail novella, to be an expanded version of his struggle against the phoney bearded guru Angale R Bruin. As this is unlikely to get further - it's currently 18th on the Kesh project list, which is at least Top 20 status but seriously it'll never be high enough - I thought you might appreciate a little extract. Feel free to say hello.


Balls in the air. Juggle juggle juggle.
     These people, these places, these projects. Each has its own mass, its own weighting. Subtle variance of spin and velocity.
     Arcing back over each other, in and out of turn.
     The light and the air and the grease and the gumption.
     One thing you could say about being a lifestyle guru/private investigator – it's a test of your co-ordination.

August had already intervened with flash floods that dismantled a long-term house makeover. Bloody Boscastle. One ball down. Another had gained mass with reports of animal skeletons turning up in the Highlands.
     It was with research in mind that Johnny visited his local corner shop to buy his Sport, Mail, Independent, Murder Casebook and Crochet partwork.
     It was animal butchery he was pondering as he sauntered around Lidl grabbing all the bargains, virtually on autopilot.
     It was corruption in sport that tested him during his tour of Victoria Park, zig-zagging around virtually on autopilot.
     It was malfunctioning software that bored him to sleep.

August 20th. Two things of note happened to Johnny that dark, muggy day. Firstly, he chanced upon a wrongly-placed book in the Humour Dept. Secondly, an unexpected visitor rang his doorbell.
     The misplaced volume was Secrets of Core Pulse Tone Love, by Bruin.
     The unexpected visitor was a man in a karate suit.
     Gaunt, sweating disgustingly, glasses slipping down his bony nose, he propped himself up against the alcove as Johnny cautiously pulled the door back.
     A painful intake of breath. Two words: “Help me.”
     Johnny's features softened into a fatherly smile.
     Five words: “Help me kick his arse.”
     An eyebrow duly raised.

The volume had regained Johnny's glance as, having skimmed around the section, he found himself trying to make out what the hell that title meant. Picking it off the shelf, he scanned the blurb and was none the wiser. It was clearly a double-espresso read, if not triple. The pages thick with gobbledygook. Back on the shelf it went.

The man gulped back his second hi-ball of water while Johnny took notes.
     When the words came they were thick and fast and garbled. There were slogans and retreats and deadlines and mocking laughter. And for Johnny, there was a lightbulb switching on in his head as he connected the man now dampening his cheapest armchair with something that had happened back in May.
     It had been a light, tantalising early Summer day and JC was in SoHo amassing material for a show about alternative lifestyles. The kind of thing they lap up on Blighty. He was filming a bunch of Koreans wrapped in dayglo bulbous cartoon costumes, when his attention snapped onto a hubbub nearby in Leicester Square. A group of men in light karate outfits performed stunts and poses for an appreciative female audience. One chap was handing out broken bits of slate together with calling cards. Intrigued, Johnny took one and frowned at its message:
     “You seek the truth through all these things. You call 0898 800 1800. Zen Zen UK UK”.
     He found a payphone and dialled the number, ignoring the stale urine stench.
     “Hello? I was wondering if Zen was around … I've got lots of questions about the meaning of life and I've heard that Zen has all the answers … Hello? I want to talk to Zen!”
     That day Johnny had been forced to give up, the card left to languish in a jacket pocket stuffed with sandwich receipts and ladies' scrawled addresses. He had never found out who this Zen was, or why he wrote his own name twice.
     Now he understood.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Five Doctor Who stories that have inspired us

It's fair to say Doctor Who is the Keshcologist's time-travel anthology show of choice. Yes, yes, we remember Crime Traveller (which, I'm guessing, came about once the Beeb realised the 1996 TV pilot with Paul McGann wasn't being taken forward); we long for a DVD release of Ken Campbell as Erasmus Microman (which, I'm guessing, came about after he nearly got chosen as the Seventh Doctor, and decided to do his own take on it anyway for ITV); we have undimmed fondness for The Magician's House (which was based on a series of children's books but, I'm guessing, was taken forward by the promise of Ian Richardson being uncannily Doctor-ish on a Sunday teatime). But it's the longevity and endless elasticity of Who that weaved itself into the mindcloth of our woolly little heads. Here are a few stories you may wish to check up on, for context.

The Mind Robber (1969)
The Doctor's time-machine, the TARDIS makes a sudden emergency detour and gets sucked into an alternative universe, the Land of Fiction. The hastily cobbled-together first episode takes place in a white void, and ends with a spooky and iconic shot of the Police Box exploding, and (the very saucy) Wendy Padbury clinging onto the central console as it spins off into darkness. The costumes and props were mainly made up of whatever was available from other shows, and daft plot points included Patrick Troughton having to put Frazer Hines's face back together - he does so wrongly, and a different actor plays Jamie for the next episode!
Further listening: I Almost Died

The Daemons (1971)
Swishy style icon Jon Pertwee arrives in a stuffy English village where the vicar, a Reverend Magister, is revealed to be his arch-nemesis the Master, attempting to summon up evil hairy god Azal from the dawn of time. Maypoles, morris men, sacrifices, "chap with wings - five rounds rapid", it's ludicrous and archetypal and a rollicking good yarn in the Hammer vein.
Further listening: Village of Death

Enlightenment (1983)
Sailing ships in space, can you imagine? A race around the solar system, the crews plucked out of Earth history to traverse the solar winds and compete for the ultimate prize - enlightenment. Delightful whimsical concept well executed with neat model shots of the racing vessels. Plus - it's deliciously camp; I direct you to Turlough's troubles in the lower decks, and the fearsome space pirate played by... Nurse Gladys Emanuelle?!
Further listening: Enlightenment

Vengeance On Varos (1985)
The clown-coated Doctor arrives in a seedy world of trial by television, live executions, gunrunners, drugs... oh and there are evil interplanetary commodity traders who are talking molluscs. It pushes the concept of how dark you can make kids' entertainment, and lo and behold a couple of weeks later Michael Grade announced the show was being put on hiatus.
Further listening: Weapons Expo

The Happiness Patrol (1988)
An anti-Thatcher fable with forced jollity the way of life - the TARDIS gets painted pink so as not to depress the people - but don't worry, the trickster-like Doctor will defy the system. (Script editor Andrew Cartmel's job interview: "What would you most like to achieve during your time on Doctor Who?" "I'd like to overthrow the government.") Features a hilarious executioner who looked like Bertie Bassett, and who killed people by drowning them in hot sweets. This is one a lot of people our age seem to remember.
Further listening: Climate Dance

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Copyright extension

When I worked at a medical school a few years back, I occasionally attended business meetings where a pair of accountants, who had usually flown straight in from Hong Kong, would intone humourlessly about Libor rates and the yoyo-ing performance of speculative investments, without any serious questioning from the medical school representatives as to their rationale or any ethical concerns, before jetting straight out again. They had no interest in medical research, in what the money was going to be spent on, in the implications of a sudden loss, or in using that money for the greater good. They'd flown in business class, and would be flying straight back to continue their monitoring of vast sums of money. It was all about the money, almost as an abstract. Amoral. We could as easily have been Lockheed Martin or the Newmont Mining Corporation, except that we'd have been able to offer them posher nibbles and bigger bonuses.

From them to us, reluctantly
The muted release in recent years of voluminous amounts of unreleased studio material by aged moneyspinners like Bob Dylan, the Beatles and the Beach Boys is to satisfy the terms of the EU's copyright extension on sound recordings, from 50 years to 70 years, specifically the proviso that in order to get this extended period, a recording simply has to be released in any form. A single copy release at £1000 available for one minute by a single vendor in Hong Kong would satisfy the rules. The people who negotiated this copyright extension, the people who put out these comprehensive releases in cynically obscure form just to stop them falling into the public domain and prevent people everywhere enjoying and learning from them, the people who run these companies and are responsible for their policies, are of a type with the humourless accountants above. They have no interest in the creative side of music making, the counterproductive implications of this kind of behaviour. They're certainly interested in money (and they retain the posh nibbles and big bonuses), but allied to that is a mean-spirited, rather obsessive-compulsive determination to lock down any last asset that could possibly be exploited, even if they have no idea what to do with it. The diametric opposite of the Creative Commons and Free Music Archive movement. I am reminded of fossil fuel executives, ceaselessly pushing their outdated products through a seeming obsessive-compulsive determination to extract every last bit of energy from the ground and burn it, even to the point where more energy is expended extracting the stuff in the first place; and even when they must know they will have to change to renewable energy in the long-term.

Amusingly, despite this seeming desire to get the copyright stamp onto every last asset, in the case of the Beatles plenty of known recordings were left off of the mopping-up collection. As such, a glut of their recordings from 1963 are now public domain, and you could legitimately sell these tomorrow as your own release. Fab Beatles blog WogBlog lists some of the recordings which the Beatles' compilers left off the 1963 collection, and which are now public domain.

We release most of our music for free, for the fun of getting positive feedback and finding out the daft uses to which it's been put. Shares and comments are our currency. They give us the energy to continue. You like to share and comment, surely.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Political slot: Air quality

When I was growing up in the flatness of 1980s East Anglia, on foggy walks to hated school my dad would tell me of the air conditions he put up with living in London in the 1950s. Thick yellowy fog dense enough to reduce visibility to about arm's-length. In the Great Smog of 1952, 62 years ago today, at least 4,000 Londoners died. But those were the bad old days, pre-central heating, when most people had coal smoke pumping out of their chimneys, and those days were ended by the Clean Air acts - at least we thought so. Air pollution to my 1980s self meant industrial accidents, grim editions of First Tuesday featuring asbestos timebombs and iron lungs; something you could easily fathom. We were clean, we had a gas fire and nice warm radiators. Through the 1990s, the move to unleaded petrol and widespread adoption of catalytic converters gave the surface impression that we had improved things further; though near busy roads on still days there remained that persistent slight burning sensation in the eyes and the back of the throat.

The problem is, even though we can't see the pollution (well, not like the residents of Beijing can anyway), the air we breathe particularly in cities is nowhere near as clean as it should be - in busier London streets the pollution average is over twice the World Health Organisation's legal limits. Current estimates for yearly deaths attributable to nitrogen dioxide and particulate pollution are around 7,500 in London and 55,000 across the UK (with ozone possibly responsible for at least 5,000 further deaths per year). Yes, that's 7,500 deaths a year, or roughly 20 people a day in London whose deaths are down to air pollution. Bad old days? Did they ever stop, or did we just find a way of hiding the problem?

Pressure group Clean Air in London should be applauded for its tireless work dragging these facts into the public arena. It's only in recent months that newspapers have picked up on what is a major public health scandal of our time. It seems worse because it sounds a relatively easy thing to improve on - hang on, surely you've had clear figures for a while now, and you know it'll be a vote-winner to improve the air quality. So a fleet of new buses, hybrid technology, great, but what - they run on diesel? Isn't that responsible for far higher nitrogen dioxide and particle exhaust emissions than petrol? Who signed off on that?

You can monitor current street-by-street readings for air pollution, here: http://www.londonair.org.uk/LondonAir/Default.aspx

Monday, December 08, 2014

Now, still, a free download

Our 30-track tribute to the original Now That's What I Call Music compilation, rewritten/recorded in 2013, is now available for free - it was already available free, but now perhaps easier to find? - at archive.org:


Do grab it - there are many original moments within, the styles are all different, we've found ways to make them our own, and really it's shocking that (say) Freaks at a Wake has had over 10,000 downloads while this has been heard by a few dozen.

And now a haiku:

Mouse click on a link
Music burst across the globe
Sleeping eye and mind

Here's a haiku triptych, about Ali Dia:

Blyth Spartans reserves
A manager's telephone
Southampton first team 
Your moment has come
Chase the ball and chase the game
Your moment has gone 
Empty hotel room
Coach on the motorway north

Friday, December 05, 2014

Strategies for success

[Irony alert] Over the many decades of Keshco, Bleak House, Guivarsh, Stinky and the Peepholes, and sundry other side-projects, it's fair to say we've been enormously successful at bringing freshness, excitement and strangeness to the firmament of rock, and building a tightly-knit audience comprised of kindred spirits. It's a massive responsibility knowing that people hang on our every utterance. In the spirit of fraternity, it's only well and good we share some of our strategies that made Deforestation of Dak a top-10 album in Vanuatu, and Got Lot Of Stuff the title music for Dutch cuisine series "Bossche Bol".

STRATEGY No. 13: Snarled-up tape can be a beautiful thing.
STRATEGY No. 12: Make your own luck and then sit hard on it.
STRATEGY No. 11: Diversions are essential palliatives.
STRATEGY No. 10: Let all your hairs hang loose.
STRATEGY No. 9: By all means rhyme, but not all the time.
STRATEGY No. 8: Never repeat yourself even if nobody heard it the first time.
STRATEGY No. 7: There are some other nice musicians out there, but only the ones who aren't trying to make it.
STRATEGY No. 6: Never hustle.
STRATEGY No. 5: The most tuneful bits should come at the end of songs, after the interlopers have turned off.
STRATEGY No. 4: 4/4 is over-rated.
STRATEGY No. 3: Christopher Chope is the enemy.
STRATEGY No. 2: If Rough Trade are involved, it's not alternative.
STRATEGY No. 1: Do things back-to-front.

So, we'd like to throw it open to you. What are your strategies for success? What methods have you used to drive women wild, make money fast, wrest control of the zeitgeist, catch the red dot? Let's get some comments going!

PS: Anxiously awaiting your response. (That's our top post to date.)

PPS: You can get nice Bossche bollen from Albert Heijn. Best served cold with slagroom.

PPPS: TTIP. Just say no. Learn about the self-organised European citizens' initiative against TTIP and CETA here.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Beware! Vision Update

If you've not yet caught the 23rd November home concert, you can watch it here (the incredibly catchy ident runs until 5:20):


You're allowed to share it with friends too, you know. Comments are also permitted!

It went OK for a comeback run-through, and we were happy that the live Skype link-up worked at all, especially seeing as integration with Skype isn't allowed on uStream's free account, necessitating the multi-laptop workaround. When improvising with long latency and so-so sound quality, some types of expression are limited, so you have to find avenues of creativity within a tight boundary. More programmes to follow in mid-December, and your requests are again sought. Remember, watching on a mobile device there are no adverts. Thanks for watching, and do get in touch with any comments on our TV endeavours. If you sign up with uStream they can notify you of any future broadcasts - I believe this is done without excess unwanted mailings.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Political slot

Some thoughts. Many in politics and the media would seek to highlight our differences and capitalise on some of our lowest instincts, in order to deflect attention from inequity caused by those at the top. "Look at those people, they get a couple of pounds more in benefits than you get in your minimum wage job! It's so unfair!" The demand is to strip people, who are also down the bottom end, of their benefits, instead of forcing the bosses to pay a higher wage. If it's not people on benefits causing ire, it's fellow workers. "Look at those immigrants, coming over here, sweeping our streets, making our sandwiches...". If people in the UK don't want to do jobs like sandwich-making for pittance pay, and people from Hungary are happy to do those jobs because the pay is relatively good for them, perhaps the government should step in and cajole business owners into making working conditions better so that they can attract local workers? Ah, but they don't want to do that, because of the free market orthodoxy. Well if British firms like Greencore can't provide living wage jobs making sandwiches, come up with some other areas where decent jobs can be created. Like the medical profession. "I can't see my GP because of all these foreigners". Not quite - you can't see your GP because infrastructure in your area is lacking, and/or doctors don't want to practice in your area. Can you force people to train as doctors, and then to use that training in your local area? I didn't want to be on the medical front line, these are hard jobs requiring a good analytical brain and faith in one's decision-making abilities. Of course there aren't enough doctors. There aren't enough of most good things. "I can't get a council house because of all these foreigners". No - there are more single-person households nowadays, more luxury flats aimed at the wealthy (while these companies have no incentive to create affordable housing, because of the free market orthodoxy), and less council house stock across the country because the Tories encouraged people to buy their council houses, and many councils don't want to look after their remaining stock. Pointless to blame the people trying to get a house. Blame the people who ensured there wouldn't be enough houses left to go around.

It seems so obvious that the sensible answer to most people's concerns is to devolve more decisions to the local level, acting on concerns of infrastructure, overcrowding, encouraging the building of enough GP surgeries, hospitals, schools, council houses, fire stations, all the things we consider necessary for a well-functioning society. Not focusing on pulling up the drawbridge. Ensuring that locally there are enough nurses, enough consultants, enough teachers, enough police, enough social workers. Encouraging interest in medicine, advocacy, ethical jobs from a young age; making it attractive to join these professions.

You want more UK-based jobs to replace all the factory ones that have been outsourced? Stop importing energy. Put more money into British renewable energy, kick-start the economy and ensure energy security at the same time. Our governments seem determined to erode energy security, and to make anything that's nationalised pay over the odds.

A Labour politician on Channel 4 News recently tried to justify the Labour-encouraged glut of PFI contracts that led to hospitals and schools being saddled with far higher long-term bills than if they'd just paid for the work upfront themselves. (The private partners walk away with all of the profits and none of the risk.) His comeback? "Well, you ask those patients who've been treated in PFI hospitals whether they're happy those hospitals exist". And nothing more. For crying out loud - if not for PFI, many more hospitals would exist, would be in good shape, well-equipped without crippling debts, and the only losers would have been the private companies.

Most people who claim to be for a free market don't actually believe in it. What they want is a rigged market, ensuring public loses out to private, the risks are cushioned by those at the bottom, and the profits stay at the top. This is profoundly unfair. I don't believe in the free market either; but I'd love to see a fair market.

Friday, November 21, 2014

It was twenty years ago today

Wednesday 21st November 1994 saw the birth of Keshco, in a grubby music room in a windy East Anglian town. Here's Robert:

"Never afraid to try things out. Never a dull moment involving tiny synths, lettuce sandwiches, radio sessions, busking by the Thames, sweetcorn, jamming fast on behalf of Scope at the Virgin London Triathlon 2013, exceedingly daft costumes, bad venues, bad head colds, far too much glitter, 2 near death experiences, and a very short tour by Megabus! "Was it all worth?" Bloody hell.. "Yes, It was a worthwhile experience!" Like the FB page today! We've most definitely paid our taxes!"
It's fair to say at the time it started, we had no idea we'd still be cavorting about under the same name in 2014, partially because if we had we'd have chosen something a little less obtuse and easily mistyped. (Bargain Bag was, I think, an alternative.) Also at that time, we had no idea about the vending machine repair, the life skills coaching, the tractor parts, the Irish connection, or even the fitness gear. It certainly is a very open-ended name. But it looks nice when drawn, so that helps; also when hollered with the emphasis on "Cohhhhh".

Official Bob Art Models logo for the 20th anniversary

A very happy anniversary to Keshcologists one and all. Firecracker gumdrops all round. Come and join us via your screen of choice, on our Ustream channel this Sunday night, from 9pm UK-time: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/beware-vision

Meanwhile, our next project is Volume 1 of our instrumental Film-maker's Reference Kit, providing time-starved and cash-poor editors the world over with fresh beats, tunes, idents, and backing pads; and also soundtracks to your own personal movies. Filthy. It's midway through trimming now, so expect that out in good time for Christmas.

Other things you can buy for Christmas: autobiographies by Stephen Fry (which Amazon reviews have dissuaded me from hunting down just yet), John Cleese (which Amazon reviews have cooled me from immediately pursuing), Paul Merton (which in the US is called "The Long And Short Of It" - "Only When I Laugh" doesn't resonate there?); diaries by Michael Palin (I'm looking for a replacement travel bag in the Palin style, ideally one that won't chafe my tender neck, though that might as much be a fault of over-packing my current threadbare Kickers bag, as bad design); musings by Dave Gorman (feeding OCD for over a decade); the first series of Bridget Christie Minds The Gap (just say no to patriarchal snacks).

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Live from London, to your screen of choice

Concert-watchers may be interested to hear that the next Keshco performance is on Sunday 23rd November, from 9pm UK-time, to be streamed via our Ustream channel:

I have noticed a quirk of Ustream, in that laptop/desktop viewers will have their streams periodically interrupted by annoying adverts. However, if you tune in using your mobile, you can watch ad-free. The same is true if you use the app on your Smart TV, e.g. one of the Panasonic Viera range.

If you have any requests for favourite tunes, let us know in the comments.

Meanwhile, deserving of further mention is this clip on Vimeo of the HK protests, backed by "Like Home":

Umbrella HK @Causeway Bay 1.Oct.2014 from Laurence Tong on Vimeo.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Bob Art Models in Todmorden

Come and see one of Keshco's left-handers exhibiting his artwork in Yorkshire:

John Cooper Clarke and Tommy Cooper.

Bob Art Models
October 13th - November 9th 2014
Admission: Free
Kava Kafe, 53 Halifax Rd, Todmorden, OL14 5BB


Mick Fleetwood.
Many of Bob's images are portraits of comedic, musical and cultural icons such as Kenneth Williams, Mick Fleetwood, Tony Benn and Mary Berry (follow the Amazon links to learn about them, and potentially we could earn pennies! Who needs to sell music?).

Meanwhile, here's a haiku:

Cold digital pain
Antisocial media
Zip across the brain

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Cassettes on Bandcamp

Our two CSD releases are now available for you to buy, via our Bandcamp page:



And... here's a haiku:

Playback is engaged
Out flood waves of mind comfort
Sonic spine capsule

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Silly Spooling

So, did you get to a music store on Saturday, and perhaps spot one or other of our releases for Cassette Store Day? I imagine that's the last year we'll be able to be involved - total orders from the US list were a mighty one, the UK/EU list faring better with four open-minded stores taking our tapes. Looking at the list of releases, you can see why - several biggish-name labels and bands had got on the bandwagon this time and naturally most of the promo had gone to them. If Rough Trade and Domino are involved, it's no longer alternative. Amusingly, our local record shop flat refused to stock our music ("we've already bought our stock for CSD" - yes but we're walking-distance and offering it sale or return for flip's sake) - and what were they selling instead? Several NME-approved releases much pricier than our own. If the NME are involved, it's no longer alternative.

Some of us never stopped using cassettes, so please don't count us amongst hipsters. It's hard enough to get anybody to purchase any physical product these days, especially if you avoid traditional label/management/promotion structures and strictures; and it is cheaper to produce a run of cassettes than a run of CDs. (Don't even mention vinyl - massively overpriced.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Cassette Store Day

These two are on sale from this Saturday, 27th September, as part of the second international Cassette Store Day:

Keshcology releases for Cassette Store Day 2014

These releases (on the Keshcology label) are available from several retail outlets including Pebble Records (Eastbourne, England), The Inkwell (York, England), VOD Music (Mold, Wales), Insula Music (Copenhagen, Denmark), Burger Records (Fullerton, US). Why not ask Rough Trade if they're getting any independent music in?

Friday, September 19, 2014

The dream shall never die

Well that was frustrating news to wake up to. So close. All over Scotland, more than 4 out of 10 wanted independence - if this was a jury, it'd necessitate a re-trial.

Despite the high (for apathetic UK anyway) voting turnout of 84%, I suspect that, as with so many campaigns, too many yes supporters couldn't be bothered enough to vote, leading to the eventual 55%/45% split. Voter registration was 97%, so that's 13% who didn't get it together to have their say. Much better than the baffling failure of the AV referendum, but remember - Tories will always turn out to vote, so you can't leave anything to chance.

Still, it was a pretty close result and by no means could Westminster be satisfied with the margin. The no vote was generally in spite of Westminster, more a vote of fear of the unknown. You note how this morning Cameron slipped into his speech "settled for a generation, perhaps for a lifetime" - really? Really? Presuming there's another vote in another 15-odd years time, the younger yes will surely outstrip the older no.

A good summing-up of the new challenge was made by Phillip Blond from ResPublica (some kind of think-tank). The two options on offer - an increase in Scottish devolution and the ruddy West Lothian question - are contradictory impulses - MPs are kept in line by party whips, so banning the Scots ones from English issues and vice versa merely serves to tighten the grip of Westminster. Better just to devolve everywhere, and energise the whole nation - the Cornish, the Welsh, the North-East, Manchester, Liverpool, the Midlands et al; even the sodden Fens; and in the process the West Lothian nonsense will dissolve because we'll all take more responsibility at a local level.

On the night, it was fun to see McGlashan again, caricature though he is. Catch up with his previous adventures in the cackle-tastic and surprisingly sprightly Absolutely Everything DVD box set (via Amazon UK or Amazon US).

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Tape update

With Cassette Store Day coming up on September 27th in several countries around the world, I'm amused to tell you that we've already taken more orders for our two cassette releases than we have for the Now CD project, presumably because the tapes were professionally duplicated and our releases are included on the official cassette store stock list. If you want a copy of "Freaks At A Wake", in particular, you'd best be quick. "Music From The Middle Room" is a larger run, so you can be quick for a longer period. After the day, any unsold stock will go up on our Bandcamp site.

Happily, I've printed the sleeves/labels myself too and they don't let the side down.

A haiku:

Incremental shift
Ruins half a page by stealth
Sodding tape labels

The Avery template for cassette labels (7655) does not work properly on Word 2010 (there is an irremovable blank area at the top of the first row), so I had to make my own.


Magnetic music
Signals spun and strung twixt spools
Polarised domains

Yes, tapes are nice, but not a kigo in sight. And have a haiku couplet:

I like haiku, more than it likes me. It's a fine length for ADD.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Five bands who have influenced us

The question of influences is particularly thorny in this band, particularly for those listeners who (believe they) like their bands to stick to the same style. We tend to confuse the majority. If Depeche Mode are on our list, then you can be sure the DM fan will hear a folk song and switch off. If Billy Bragg is on our list, then by God the first song had better be a solo electric guitar and bald lyrics about the miners, or they'll switch off. If the Bonzos are on our list, the Doo-Dah fan will find two songs in a row that aren't humorous, and then switch off. Et cetera. It's like the ZX Spectrum tunnel-visioners who follow our Twitter feed when we mention the computer, only to run away as soon as we mention anything not computer-related. I like to think of this process as sifting through the general mass of people to find only the really free and open ones (and congratulations on your excessively eclectic taste if you do consider yourself a fan of ours), but how can you tell when people are so quiet? And which influences really are the most important?

Over the years, our conception of who we want to sound like, and who we actually sound like, has mutated constantly. I'm going to list five of the bands who I think make good lines of fit across the scatterplot of Kesh.

The Cure
Here's a band who started off down a particular lo-fi path and, as their tastes and ability broadened, so the music went through a series of Wild Mood Swings, not only the happysad that encompasses the rushing highs and crushing lows, but a teetering between sunny anthropomorphic fantasy and harsh hooded-wept reality, and a gamut of instrumental styles, about the only unifying features being heavy use of chorus/delay pedals, and Robert Smith's vocals, which themselves skitter between anguished howls and playful hoop-las. They were a big influence on our live goth-pop sound circa 2000. It seems since around that time they've reined in and settled into a downbeat rockier mode. I get a little sad at the contempt Robert Smith seems to have for some of his own pop tunes, as if he feels he has to write stupid in order to get a chart hit - whilst many bands know that feeling, it doesn't make the songs pointless - you have to just try and get better at making what you want to play and say become irresistible to the masses. Of course if someone sings an upbeat song with contempt, what are the audience supposed to feel? We've felt this on stage when performing certain songs that have lost their lustre for us - better to sing a sad song with relish than an obligatory happy number.

Super chamber-pop duo Russell Mael (the one with the mass of curly hair) and Ron Mael (the one with the moustache) have spent 40 years searing through styles (glam, disco, indie dance) and often left their fans trailing behind, a major upswing in their fortunes coinciding with 2002's Li'l Beethoven, which instead of beats features masses of vocals keeping up the rhythm. Their live setup with its sampled beats and comedy moments was inspiring to us when looking for ways of performing 2-man gigs around 2004/5. Their waspish wit and effervescent melodies are always something to aspire towards.

Stereo Total
The live inspiration around that time also came from Stereo Total (e.g. the Musique Automatique album), although whilst Sparks are precise, Stereo Total value the happy accidents of scuffed chords, malfunctioning electronics and strained vocal leaps. The duo of Francoise Cactus and Brezel Goring play high-tempo garage-electro-rockabilly-chanson-punk with playful lyrics in several languages, which lead to their own happy lyrical accidents. Watching the obvious fun they were having reminded us that music made fast can have a great compulsive energy.

Os Mutantes
This choice perhaps says more about where we are headed; but the free and easy collaged sounds of Os Mutantes (the Brazilian Beatles?) have excited and subliminally influenced us for many years, their homemade guitar pedals distinctly pushing us towards the circuit-bent route, and I note how they keep their scathing satires uptempo and fun, with those fresh bossa nova chords and infectious melodies. Make 'em dance, make 'em think, make 'em resist. I can only imagine how much better it might sound if I understood Portuguese rather than relying on translations.

Duran Duran
Seriously, work with me on this. Four or five immensely fashionable young men with a line in innovative electronics, sci-fi dystopian lyrics, great rhythms... catalogue model good looks, champagne lifestyle... vocals that crack during important gigs... a couple of people leave and we get our own Nile Rodgers super-counter-melodist to compensate... a name taken from Barbarella (now you're just making it up. Ed). Oh have it your own way.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Symbols of identity

Along the information superhighway we trundle. Today I have some favicons for you. Favicons are the little icons you see at the top of your web program, in the tab next to the title. Here's our new www.keshco.co.uk favicon:

On the old version of the Kesh site, it was this:

Which do you prefer? Is it wrong to focus on the trolley symbol; will it further confuse music seekers?

With luck you can see the one at the top of this blog, which makes our purpose a bit clearer:

Would you like to design us an alternative one for Sunday best? (We'll pay in muesli.) Or, would you like us to design one for you? Yes, your site can have one too, perhaps created at www.favicon.cc.

The new Bleak House site - www.bleakhouse.eu - has a favicon, too:

What are your favourite favicons? To me they bring back the fun of the Shoot-Em-Up Construction Kit (where the resulting game was pretty fixed and samey, but the great excitement came in the sprite design), or before that the Character Generator program on Horizons, the ZX Spectrum introductory cassette. Small is beautiful, working within restriction to create an impression of something with the minimum of signifiers.

Talking of small, beautiful things creating an impression of something, let's take a radical left turn, with a guest poet. Old Keshcologist Andrew Walton from Clydebank has two neat collections of poetry: Little Red Poetry and, most recently, Little Green Poetry. He recorded an episode of Poetry Hallway for our uStream channel in Autumn 2013. Here is one of his current political verses, which I like a lot.

Little Scotland

The Celtic knot, a twin S.
Adorned Ravenscraig’s gate.
Long empty, the husk. Silent, brooding,
Still casts a shadow.

Where there was industry,
Let us bring job seekers’ allowance.
Where there was militancy,
Let us bring sad resignation.

Steel-town of rusted girders,
Work transplanted wholesale.
Puerile promise of prosperity,

Like the last dregs
In a once-proud steel can,
Our other national drink
Now lies crumpled

Beside  a torn up
Slip. A frustrated bet
On a winded nag which failed to
Deliver. A ballot

Thrown on the ground
To the skirl of pipes.
A cross beside “YES”,
A faded pencil saltire.

A broken outpost, aside from the battle
Where Sheridan tours,
Denounces the rule of capital
In stentorian tones.

Words echo around halls from
Alloa to Inverness.
They cannot carry
To far-off Northamptonshire.

Notes: Tens of thousands of workers from Scotland came to Corby, Northamptonshire in the 1930s and 1960s, on the promise of jobs in the steel industry. Thatcher destroyed much of the manufacturing industry in Britain, and British Steel was privatised – the jobs have long-gone. The town recently had a mock-referendum on Scottish Independence during the town’s Highland Gathering. Unlike the Yes campaign in Scotland, which is gathering momentum, the town voted No. Might this reflect a general mood of bitterness, anger and resignation to fate?

Friday, August 29, 2014

State of the art in 2014

Thanks for coming by! Our next releases are two cassettes - yes, audio cassettes - for Cassette Store Day, which is taking place on September 27 in the UK, US and several other nations. These releases are 100 copies of "Music From The Middle Room", under our other moniker of Bleak House...

Bleak House - Music From The Middle Room cassette

...and 25 copies of "Freaks At A Wake", backed with its squalling tumbling Monotron remix on the reverse.

These will be available from your cassette retailer of choice (including Burger Records in the USA, Pebble Records in England and VOD Music in Wales) from September 27th, and if we have any left we'll sell them too, on our wildly successful Bandcamp page, afterwards.

There's a lot of interesting-looking material coming out for this event, doubtless a few releases from hipsters, but much of it from obscure home-recording types who need all the support they can get. Of course, you may find you now need something to play all these new cassettes on, like I did recently when my trusty Sony HCD-RXD5 finally became unresponsive on both tape decks, after 14 years of service. Ruddy electronics - for years, the CD play button has triggered the FM radio. Or perhaps the belt's simultaneously gone on both sides. It was originally bought, along with a MiniDisc recorder, as part of an earlier attempt to upgrade my audio facilities and get some relatively clean recording/copying equipment (compared to cheap-bottom Alba stereos and the Spinney Tronic).

Now then, dear Kesh-chum. We relish the freedom of working outside label/management structures, allowing us to follow whatever whims we like and put the results out directly to you, dear reader. However, we don't make money from it. Now, one of our most-visited net presences is at the Free Music Archive, where we have a page...

Keshco at the Free Music Archive

From there you can see that our recent EPs have been downloaded many thousands of times - Accountants By Day alone is now over 100,000 downloads. It's great that so many people have shared in our music, which is shared under Creative Commons licensing.

On the top right hand corner of the page at the FMA, there's a box with a dollar ($) symbol, saying "Tip The Artist". We're still looking for ways of making this free music idea work financially, and micropayments seem a good way to go. You can click on the tip box (here's our FMA link again), and then via Paypal, donate anything you wish, as little as $0.01 if you feel like it, towards our past and future music-making. Yes, $0.01. That's not an insulting amount and you shouldn't be deterred - it's a valued micropayment. If we get enough little tips, we can put the money towards something useful, like monitor speakers or better mics, or just towards the rent. It also gives us that warm, fuzzy feeling that people appreciate what we've put out.

Imagine if footballers made their cash in micropayments.

Of our other net presences, Reverbnation recently bit the dust. Poor Reverbnation. It was a pointless exercise really. All those tools to gather listener data and nobody listening. Like having a flashy shopfront in a no-go area of town. You could reach the top 10 for your area just by a couple of people clicking onto the page.

All the best now x

PS: If you, like us, are skint, you may appreciate the wise words of Alvin Hall, in Your Money or Your Life: A Practical Guide to Getting - and Staying - on Top of Your Finances which has been recently updated (Amazon UK and Amazon US affiliate links - oh go on, every little helps). It's a useful book, particularly for those who are perennially close-to-the-wire but can't work out why because they obviously aren't wasting money or overbuying... think again. Think everything over again, keep your receipts, and write it all down.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Now that's what I call some physical copies

So, with the supply chain now functioning and everything under control, please consider getting a copy of our Nowkesh CDs from our Bandcamp page. (Or you can still download the whole thing for free.) Here's the track listing again:

Track name and original artiste
1 You Can't Hurry Love Phil Collins   
2 Is There Something I Should Know Duran Duran   
3 Red Red Wine UB40   
4 Only For Love Limahl   
5 Temptation Heaven 17   
6 Give It Up KC And The Sunshine Band   
7 Double Dutch Malcolm McLaren   
8 Total Eclipse Of The Heart Bonnie Tyler   
9 Karma Chameleon Culture Club   
10 The Safety Dance Men Without Hats   
11 Too Shy Kajagoogoo   
12 Moonlight Shadow Mike Oldfield   
13 Down Under Men At Work   
14 (Hey You) The Rock Steady Crew  Rock Steady Crew  
15 Baby Jane Rod Stewart  
16 Wherever I Lay My Hat (That's My Home) Paul Young   
17 Candy Girl New Edition  
18 Big Apple Kajagoogoo   
19 Let's Stay Together Tina Turner   
20 (Keep Feeling) Fascination The Human League  
21 New Song Howard Jones 
22 Please Don't Make Me Cry UB40   
23 Tonight, I Celebrate My Love Peabo Bryson & Roberta Flack   
24 They Don't Know Tracey Ullman   
25 Kissing With Confidence Will Powers  
26 That's All Genesis   
27 The Love Cats The Cure  
28 Waterfront Simple Minds   
29 The Sun And The Rain Madness   
30 Victims Culture Club

...and here's what the whole thing looks like:

Or, you may prefer the 1983 version (ours is a snip in comparison!)

George Weah's cousin

Our World of Football 14 EP (a free download on Bandcamp, though you can donate some pennies if you like) features a track about that great 90s footballer, Ali Dia. Here is the entry from Brewer's Rogues, Villains and Eccentrics that informed the lyrics (it's full of inaccuracies, but we get the gist from it - I would advise reading the Wiki and other pages, like this on The Football Supernova, for context):

Dia, Ali (1968- ), footballer and impostor. Dia was an enthusiastic, but unskilful, part-time footballer whom Barry Jackson, the manager of Blyth Spartan - a club in the lower leagues - was happy to release after a few games. Some months later Jackson was surprised to see Dia playing in a Premiership game televised on Match of the Day. Ali Dia's moment of glory came after Graeme Souness, the manager of Southampton Football Club, apparently received a telephone call from George Weah, the Liberian international and former Footballer of the Year. Souness would be well advised, said Weah, to take a look at Dia, whom he described as a Senegalese international of outstanding talent, now living in England. The phone call was followed by one apparently from the French international, David Ginola, who seconded this advice. Weah and Ginola were not people to disregard, so Souness engaged Dia without a trial and played him against Manchester United. He missed an open goal and was otherwise careful not to get too involved, so Souness substituted him after 20 minutes. At the end of the season Souness let him go. Dia then joined Gravesend, another club in the lower leagues, turning out twice in the reserves before being released again. It was then discovered that he was a mature student taking a course in business studies at Newcastle University, but he continued to deny that he had impersonated Weah and Ginola on the telephone to Graeme Souness.
  'At least he played in the Premiership,' said his former manager at Blyth Spartan, 'which is more than I ever did.'

(Note: Ali Dia ended up not at Gravesend but Gateshead, as this article explains)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Freaks At A Wake: liner notes

In 2012/13, Keshco released a soundtrack EP entitled "Freaks At A Wake". Twice. Why?

Let's duck back a couple of years, because that's where the trail starts. In September 2010, we still had a Farfisa organ upstairs. This was before an ill-advised attempt to correct its one-tone dip, which resulted in the thing going pop (instead of producing pop), and being dismantled. But all that is for another painful release. "Freaks At A Wake" is the only complete Keshco piece to feature the thing. It's an improvised 26-minute piece which started with Robert behind both organ and another keyboard, and me balancing a guillotine on a snare drum, with a toy steering wheel and Dynamike at close quarters. The various sections overflow with hummable chordal melodies mainly thanks to Robert's neat fingerwork. The thing then sat on my multitracker for over a year, before the augmenting began - Robert's full drum kit for energetic fills and general beefing-up; Luke adding more layers of keys, flute and some fizzy-crackly lapsteel; and finally my careful doubling up of the various melody lines on acoustic guitar. That part took an awful lot of rewinding and cueing up.

A few sections on Freaks are almost pop (yes, in the chart sense), and indeed the middle section, "Tyre Dirt", has been singled out for video treatment. Really though, we'd like to film the whole thing, and we have an idea but not the time. So it'll have to wait. One film-maker, Dania Hany, has used the opening section for an inventive little piece: https://vimeo.com/91093694

Some of our sonic experiments are beyond the tastes of most mortals. That's understandable. We thought we'd test you by releasing one. Bob bought a Korg Monotron (fabulous little piece of kit) and discovered how much fun could be had routing a song into the Monotron via the microphone connection, and mixing the results through the little keyboard. Freaks seemed the perfect vehicle for a long-form exploration of this. The results are very crunchy, with a lot of harsh blips and squeaks, and most defiantly not easy listening. That said, if you stop listening after the first three minutes, you are most definitely a puny specimen and would never cope with something by, say, Signorina Alos (one of our new label-mates). Sit through the whole of Freaks and earn your stripes before moving onto harder fare.

Download and consume both of the Freaks, here:

A limited release of both versions on tape (UK £5) for Cassette Store Day 2014 is forthcoming.

Or, you may prefer some other Freaks (of the 1932 variety, and yes that is an affiliate link, meaning you can help us earn money by visiting Amazon via it - could this be our tip to the top at last?).

Sunday, June 08, 2014