It’s going to be OK. The Fear has passed and I can see our goal clearly again. It must be normal to have moments of self-doubt and panic in situations like these, but the intensity has been rather disconcerting. Now the clouds have lifted and our way is lit once again by the helpful glow of anticipation. I’m no longer waking worried that I’ll stall at the side of the stage shaking my head and trying to bolt in the opposite direction. That would not have been the expected or desired outcome to all these months of planning.
In part, the defeat of The Fear has been down to my stage-wear dropping through the letter box and reminding me that I have armour to protect me during battle. Looking at the reflection of myself dressed to face the wrong way at a gig again has been very helpful. When the individual elements are put together the sum total is far greater than expected. It was always this way. A friend tells me that I managed successfully to slide about Ipswich under the radar in my baggy t-shirts and ripped jeans, impossible to associate with the photos that appeared in the music press. That was the idea. Eyes down, walk quickly and only lift the peacock-feather tail when playing the part of the singer.
My 11 year old son announced the other day that, though he still likes Ed Sheeran and appreciates some song lyrics, he generally finds them distracting and prefers the beats and rhythms of dubstep. This makes me feel rather old. When I was 11 I was discovering punk and beginning to realise that music could be a fearful force, not just an entertaining distraction. In 1978 my uncle John gave me a copy of Public Image Limited’s first 7”, Public Image, and I was totally blown away by the anger and otherness of its discordant assertions. I remember standing in front of a mirror whilst playing it at full volume, expecting to somehow look different just because I’d been exposed to this life-altering cacophony. Did my hair stand on end? Did I suddenly look threatening and dangerous following my infection with this shameful sickness? No; my hair remained an unravelled mess and my face small and uncertain. But my mind was moving in rapid cycles and thinking ahead to possibilities hitherto unknown.
What is it about music that makes us feel such a shift in reality? What causes us to identify with a particular tribe and dress in a certain way, to obsess and collect, to have our emotions lifted or smashed? I know that not everyone feels this passionately about music – or perhaps about anything – as I guess that some of us are just way more highly strung than others, but most of us get tingles at some point, don’t we? When I’m being the singer I’m not playing a part, I’m still me. But I belong to the music, it takes control and it takes responsibility. I merely act as a conduit; cognition ceases and I am carried along as a mayfly might ride the surface tension of a stream.
I suppose that’s what has helped drive The Fear away; the music. As a band we are obsessive in our attention to detail and are even programming tracks to be played between bands when we gig. It’s bound to sound like a mash-up of every house party you’ve been to in the last 25 years, but what’s wrong with that? It’ll be fun. I’m sure my contributions (LCD Soundsystem, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Fat White Family and Shamir, amongst others) will put a smile on a few faces and will cause our audience to wonder what we’re about to do.
If the excitement we feel right now translates on stage we’ll have a great time. Neil is currently in the air, fingers twitching as he dreams about the soaring guitars in Trip and Slide as he flys halfway round the world. On Friday Nick will be there to try out amps and pedals. On Saturday Steve will join them to run through the songs and moan about the singer that moved Up North for a quiet life. I’m pleased to say that quiet was never my style…