tempus really fugits when you’re having fun…


So the past week, I’ve spent booking flights, confirming transfers, procrastinating about hotels, and becoming increasingly frustrated at every ping of my email inbox (which I’ve since turned off). Tour managing a popular band is both rewarding and frustrating in equal measures. Actually, thats complete rhetoric, the two are far from equal.

 I know the grammar and the translation in this diary title is both flawed and incorrect. But I’ll type it anyway.

So the past week, I’ve spent booking flights, confirming transfers, procrastinating about hotels, and becoming increasingly frustrated at every ping of my email inbox (which I’ve since turned off). Tour managing a popular band is both rewarding and frustrating in equal measures. Actually, thats complete rhetoric, the two are far from equal.

But during my mind-melt, it dawned on me that it doesn’t seem like a year since I was doing the same thing for T In The Park, Glastonbury etc… yet a year, it has been…

Which is really rather nuts… This is approximately month 19 of the ‘Puzzle-era’ touring cycle… We’ve got a handful more festivals, another trip to Japan, and then at the end of August, we spend 5 days visiting record stores, where the band are due to perform some acoustic sets in Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham, Brighton (long time no see) and London, for the release of ‘Mountains’.

And then we’re due to have a few months off… the band may write, they may record, or they may take up surfing. Who knows.

Simon has mentioned in interviews that Mountains serves as ‘the full stop to Puzzle’.
I’ll leave it to you to decide whether or not he meant artistically, but from my side of it, it certainly serves that purpose logistically, as upon its release, our 2.74 tonnes of equipment will return to its home on an Ayrshire farm one final time, various lighting and audio equipment will take separate paths home, as will our various and beloved crew members, as they likely go on to bigger, but never better, things… It seems fitting that the final performance on this run, will more than likely be an acoustic set, centered around a new track… Its always been about progression after all.

And Mountains will only serve to bring you more new music…
The b-sides are a bit special for this one…
Robbery and Little Soldiers are both fresh recordings (mr James Johnston at the helm once again, pushing the faders, plugging up the XLRs, and generally looking pensive with headphones and an apple laptop) and are really great… I don’t want to give the game away, but Little Soldiers is really pretty, and the kind of song you’d put on a mixtape for that boy/girl whose eye you caught last week… even if they had an asymmetric fringe and a pair of "wacky" coloured Ray Ban wayfarers – (speaking of which, hands up if you own a pair of these sunglasses… Now, put your hands down if they are black, and you’ve owned them for more than a couple of months… Is your hand still up? Yes? Word of advice: Every fucker at every festival up and down the land has beat you to the punch. Straight up. Your unique vibe is totally fucked. Serious. You’re just going to look like a dick, and have cynical dicks like me talk about it on the internet afterwards… White, Red, bright yellow, blue, it doesn’t matter… at least 5 other people within a 10 metre radius have the same pair. Its like rats in a metropolitan area)


Robbery is great fun. It features the line "baby has a ‘tude" and is a work of lyrical inspiration… I really love this one. 

And Paper Friend is pretty fucking stellar. I think this was considered at one point as a possible stop-gap single. It was recorded during the Puzzle sessions, though was left off the album as it didn’t really fit with the tone of the finished record. Its a bit of a winner though. You get to hear Ben work those 8s on the hi-hat towards the end, which is always a bit of a treat.

I just want to clarify my Ray Ban(t) above… Its just those fucking coloured wayfarers… so achingly hip. As a group of people, we all love Ray Ban, and own several pairs of their lovely sunglasses. My favourite pair have a lens that keeps popping out, yet still I love them so… Simon himself has a great pair of black wayfarers in his collection, of which I’m quite envious, as he got them first, and Ben has a lovely pair of polarised aviators… Anyway, I just wanted to clarify that. Nice one, Ray.

So we did Glastonbury a couple of weeks back, which was a good laugh… We didn’t get to see Jay Z unfortunately, but we did get to see Futureheads, Band of Horses and Crowded House among others… Martin, one of our crew members this summer, went and saw the Raconteurs whilst he had dinner, which he said was very pleasant. 

Did anyone here see the Glastonbury show? Enjoy it? We all thought it was rather tremendous, especially up against Jay Z et al… the tent was properly busy, and though we had a bit of a struggle with sound limits (at various points, the noise police were physically removing our sound engineer’s hands from the mixing console, and turning the master volume down… fucking outrageous), it was a bit of a success we though.
The summer setlist is going down really well, and it has come quite startling at how the Puzzle songs are recieved so significantly. In years past, it would be 57 or Justboy, that would get the cheers, but now the older material seems quite new to most people…
I think the band are really appreciating the opportunity to play to people who may not have seen them before, and don’t have the preconception of what to expect. And fundamentally, to have to really work to win a crowd over. It makes the shows fucking intense though. The show at Hurricane Festival, in Germany, was one such show. Blinder.

I can appreciate those older fans that long for something a bit more ‘dusty’ in the setlist though… Personally speaking, I think their summer setlist should be something along the lines of:

Got Wrong  / Bodies In Flight / Joy. Discovery. Invention / Bonanzoid Deathgrip / With Aplomb / 9/15ths  / Mountains  / Hero Management / Stress On The Sky / Pause It and Turn It Up / Now The Action… …But thats what my iPod is for. I’d also love to see Weezer play a b-sides show, and Ben Folds Five play Whatever And Ever Amen in its entirety. On my birthday. But unfortunately, I’m a realist (as the Cribs said…)

But for just now, the Biff are in a place where they are trying to play fairly skewed rock music to a largely mainstream festival audience, and whilst a handful of those people would love the mindfuck that is Now The Action, most of those people would be left scratching their heads, wondering why a bearded scottish man nearly killed himself screaming at them for the best part of 6 minutes.
Especially considering they spent a good part of 4 years doing just that.  Its all contextual as well…

Compared to some of their older material, Puzzle is a more rounded and cohesive collection of songs, but fucking hell, its hardly paint-by-numbers rock… In a year of Miss Mabels, of Kooks, of Foo Zepplin, in a year when even Rage Against the Machine can sound, dare I say it, unexciting, I think there’s something to be applauded in the achievments of a band like Biffy.  I’m not sure there’s another band with as many faces as the Biff, that could comfortably straddle high profile slots across pretty much any festival, from Metal festivals in Donington, to scenester indie hipster festivals in Spain, to hippie narnia in Somerset, right up to lager-sponsored football crowds in Kinross, all the while playing genuinely exciting and diverse music. 
And then to make their record label wince every single time, by screaming and playing the songs as they intended, instead of reining in the energy to make way for radio-friendly anthems, and songs that sound good on television…

Its not necessarily good business, but as you perhaps know spasm of good sense doesn’t necessarily supercede a spasm of nonsense… Especially when the Biff is concerned.

So on we go to TITP… via Northampton, where we have a warmup show… we decided that doing one show on a weekend wasn’t quite as good as doing two, so we threw a dart at the map, and after deciding cambodia might not be worthwhile, Northampton won. And promptly sold out on the day it was announced, a feat which never fails to impress. Although we obviously would go with a city without a fucking apple store, on the day the 3G iPhone is released… so it’ll be down the Northampton O2 shop at 8am for Simon and I. Grim. They can’t even get a Greggs sausage roll right in England, so it’ll be a miserable wait. 

On that defeatist and grumpy note, I bid you farewell.
neil the tour manager, not Simon Neil the singer / guitarist. 

ps. Did anyone buy the Beggars singles album? If you don’t have the band’s previous three albums, and only own Puzzle, then you really should check out ‘Blackened Sky’, ‘The Vertigo of Bliss’ and ‘Infinity Land’, as they’re really rather spectacular and rewarding records… If you don’t have the patience, and just want a taste, then you might want to check out this new ‘compilation’ that has been released, compiling the singles that were released from those three albums… Its out now in the shops and online… its only about £5 on amazon, which is decent… and for the benefit of regular readers of this blog, my tune has not changed, not in the slightest, I’m just singing the parts loudly in a major key, and softer in the minor key.

And on a seperate note, is anyone else (like me) a fan of the new Mystery Jets album…? Yes? Well, have any of you seen Music and Lyrics, starring Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore…? Well, I could be way off, but Young Love by MJs is awfully similar to the main song in that movie. But nowhere near as shit, obviously. Just a similar melody. Though, I guess there only is 12 notes.