I wasn’t planning on performing at Tramlines this year (or anywhere this summer – I’m busy working on a project at the moment that I’m hoping to be able to share with you soon!), but when I was asked to play a short set on the Water Wheel Stage at Shepherd Wheel, I changed my mind.
It’s a spot I’m fond of anyway, but it’s a great idea for a stage, with music, drama, poetry and local history. For the music element they have chosen artists who are particularly inspired by nature and landscapes.
Gideon Coe’s Sheffield special on BBC 6 Music the other night featured three helpings of me – two Nat Johnson & the Figureheads session tracks from 2010 (Book Club and Wasted) plus Sheffield Shanty II. You can listen back to the whole show over here.
One of those Figureheads tracks, Book Club, was given away as a free download back in 2009 – you can still get it here.
If you want something else fun to listen to, my friend Johny Row over in Australia is keeping up his great little show over there. Here’s his recent covers show.
Ten years ago tomorrow, on 27 February 2006, Monkey Swallows the Universe released our first album, The Bright Carvings, through cult local label Thee Sheffield Phonographic Corporation.
We organised a launch party at what was then the Halcyon, now the Old House. I’d made some little invitations that we’d wrapped up like scrolls and tied with red ribbon and scattered about town as flyers.
We charged a quid in and it was rammed. So rammed that the tiny PA was not much help to us and our rather delicate sound, so unless you were standing right in front of us you probably couldn’t hear anything and as such everyone else was talking. We just got on with it anyway, played a really fun set and then got drunk whilst Chris Stride from Offbeat and the Long Blondes DJed. I think I was the last to leave the building, after I was politely asked to stop dancing.
I remember dancing particularly enthusiastically to this, after asking the Long Blondes to put it on, for obvious Sheffield Shanty related reasons:
Sheffield Shanty remains the most well-known song from that album. I remember writing it, I remember the first time we played it and I remember playing it on specific occasions and how people reacted. I remember a roomful of people in Leeds singing the whole thing along with us once. I started playing it again a few years ago and wished I could make a recording of it that I was happier with, which has been on my mind for a while now. We did everything back then in such a rush! When the opportunity came a couple of years ago to work on a version of the song with Damian Wileman and Cornerstone Brass Band for the Women of Steel concert, I knew that this was the version that I had to record.
So, eventually, that’s what we’ve done. I’ve slowed it down to a thirty-something person’s speed rather than a twenty-something’s, and you can hear how brilliant Damian’s brass arrangement is for yourself. Kev’s back on slide guitar and glockenspiel, and you can hear Damian on tuba, Adrian Wileman on cornets (three of em), Chris Allchin on tenor horn and Joshua Chapman on baritone horn. It was produced of course by that super man Dave Sanderson. And thus Sheffield Shanty II (aye aye!) is at last shipshape in my ears. As for the eyes…
Presenting the video, starring Kevin Gori as Paul Simon, and me as Chevy Chase:
Huge thanks to Joe Binks who produced the video. Also to Florence Blanchard and Ed Bradbury from B&B Gallery, Cat Powell (location scout), Hannah Cartledge (props), Meriel & Pete Murray (more props) and Chris Loftus (fixer). Hope you enjoy it.
Now download the single! You can get it from Bandcamp, iTunes and other digital stores. The B-side is Kev’s ‘Groucho’, an update of the secret song from the first album.