Friday, 15 October 2010

My Favourite Tree, A Pop promo

James Agnew has nostalgia fatigue, he has been slowly working his way through bags of old VHS tapes, but it may have been worth it for the following historical video clip gem. It has been Lovingly transferred from VHS and believe it or not, and think you will believe it, it's the only pop promo we made for mark one Roger's trout Farm.

The first rehearsal in 20 years

The trouble with saying something like, "this is going to be excellent" is that the expectation becomes so heavy it outweighs the possibility of the result. Driving to Steve & Paul's Mum and Dad's house this weekend I caught myself worrying that I have been wrong about these things in the past.

I parked in their drive feeling nervous and had the strangest sensation as I got out of the car to ring the doorbell. I've rang that doorbell before a rehearsal so many times before and practically every week for years when we were giging 20 years ago. I think Fraser called it, "reality vertigo" Its today and an echo in your mind of a world you knew so long ago very unsettling.

From that moment on it was as if someone had lifted us from now and put us back 20 years, business as usual.

When we finally set up the first song we played through was, "Please mend my fridge" we played a few bars to get levels, that unique Roger's trout Farm sound being pulled back through time, it was uncontrollably funny, so we uncontrollably laughed.

It didn't seem that long to get the songs into a gigable state, which surprised us all.

Some songs have aged more than others, in particular singing the lyrics feels awkward, its like holding up your school books and reading aloud, 25 after you left school.

After the rehearsal we drank tea, talked and laughed for hours. In the morning my jaw ached, welcome back Roger's trout Farm

Caught on video here is, "All kinds of fruit" from our first rehearsal in 20 years

James Parsons: Guitar and Vocals

James Agnew has kindly written this piece, so that I don't feel left out:

Tired of playing the drums on my own, I decided to form a band. This was at the start of my final year at Priory school.

I already knew Andy Phillips, who played keyboards, wore only black and listened to mainly Depeche Mode. He suggested we hold an audition for guitarist and bass players, so we did, in the 'social area' of the school. Andy had already said that James Parsons wanted to audition.

I didn't like James, he just looked like the sort of person I wouldn't like, and he'd made that comment about my name. I was hoping he would be a terrible guitarist, and he was.

So I thought that was it, he was too rubbish to join, I wouldn't have to put up with him any longer. But for some reason, everyone at the audition turned up at the next rehearsal, so the band was formed by basically hoping the worst people would just stop turning up.

James always turned up, and we formed a resilient friendship based initially on the shared view that being in a band was the most interesting thing we could possibly do, at least in weston-super-mare, and fortunately james's guitar skills went from none to Johnny Marr in what seemed like a couple of weeks, he even began to look like a pop star (apart from the regrettable ponytail era).

So that was that sorted, after many line-up changes, we eventually had other band members that matched our vision and enthusiasm, and called ourselves Roger's Trout Farm, for some reason.

We would quickly make rock and roll history, even if it was the sort of history you have to dig deep for in places where no-one is looking.

James also started to write songs, which were much better than he thinks they were. These included the groundbreaking 'My favourite Tree', a green issues protest song way ahead of it's time, although when shooting the video for it we drove a fuel-guzzling Volkswagon round and round a tree for a whole afternoon.

I think the real reason James and I developed such a strong friendship back then is that we both took our musical mission entirely seriously, even at it's most ludicrous, which is fortunate, as it got pretty silly.

Fraser McAlpine: Bass and Vocals

Fraser was the final piece of the jigsaw. We met at Weston-super-Mare technical college in 1988/89. He was a drummer turned guitarist who we somehow persuaded to play bass.

He took to the instrument swiftly developing fierce, note abundant, nimble figured bass lines. This mixed with James fluent rolling, bombastic drums; my erratic guitar; Steve and Paul's dueling, intertwining saxophone melodies, lighting the blue touch paper, there was no stopping us.

The most important discovery upon Fraser's arrival was the realisation that we didn't need to look for a singer to fit our mold, because now we had five. That was pivotal because we could stop mucking about and start… well mucking about.

I remember being bowled over by Fraser's ability to stand up with a guitar and just start playing songs, I wanted to be that confident and talented and flipping heck he was funny too. His lyrics were different, confident, clever and interesting. His songs catchy and always popular, Genius!

Paul Morricone: Saxophone, Vocals and later, Guitar

The saxophones were another unique string to our odd shaped bow, not everyone's cup of tea mind, but certainly ours.

However, I do remember Paul complaining that he couldn't really bring a song to the band without writing on the guitar, which he hadn't learnt at the time. He insisted that songs couldn't be written for a band on the saxophone alone and then proved himself wrong when he wrote a song called, 'Wow! that shirt' entirely on saxophone, which remains one of my favourites.

We all wrote songs and could be quite unforgiving about each others work. Thankfully this didn't put Paul off. If anything I think it made him more determined.

The first song Paul's brought to the band, completely of his own writing was called, "Mr Gland". He guided it in to the rehearsal like his first born child and it skidded and scrambled around the floor in it's own urine like a new born giraffe, Paul holding its legs willing it to walk. But that was it, he was off. He bought a guitar, learnt how to play it and in what seemed like no time at all, totally eclipsed our song writing abilities, Both him and Steve churning out great song after song.

Paul has developed the envious skill of being able to place the listener in the song, making them feel connected, like they are being sung to, Genius!

Steve Morricone: Saxophone, Vocals and Later Bass

I met Steve & Paul at a rehearsal with James, their cousin in about 1987. I don't know to this day if he asked them to come over to the rehearsal, or if they asked him, but suddenly they were there, not just watching but waiting expectantly with saxophones.

This rehearsal is where one of our biggest mistakes occurred. Andy Philips, keyboard player pre RTF, was given the task of translating what we were playing to notes on the saxophones… he got it wrong. It meant we had to tune differently, incorrectly for the next five or six years, not an inconvenience we let spoil our fun. Something clicked that night, I said, you should join this band one day. Andy was clearly pissed off that I'd said this but less than a year later, they were in and Andy was gone.

We all spent a great deal of time together, how I loved those endless summers pontificating over the merits of Barry the House vs Roger's trout Farm. On arrival at Steve and Paul's house we'd get a cup of tea and some band related list. New band names, possible venues, new song names, clothes ideas, posters, hairstyles. Steve is a great organizer, songwriter and a born entertainer. I remember seeing, The Scaramanga six, at The Square in Harlow. I was transfixed, he had us in the palm of his hand, teasing us, extending gaps in songs, creating and maintaining an intensity and then making us laugh with his foot operated illuminated "applause" and "shut it" signs. Genius!

James Agnew: Drums, Percussion, Vocals

Literally no one has asked me how we got together, so bowing to popular non pressure this is how I met the rest of the band, chronologically, with the exception of myself who I have just always known.

I met drummer James Agnew when we were at school in the 1980s. The first thing I said to him was, "You've got the same name as me, you bastard!" I later stole his girlfriend, how on earth we remained friends I'm not sure but I do consider him my best friend.

Against his wishes, yes he put up resistance, I somehow joined the band he was in. I could barely play, I was more of a noise maker. Fortunately for me their much better guitarist, Neil, rarely showed up for rehearsals. From this point on we bounced between increasing awful band names and not actually that many gigs becoming really good friends.

I'm lucky enough to have been in at least three really good bands with him in which he has treated me to his unique drum style, which really is a lot like professionally tuned space hoppers. James could also sing and keep up his frantic 'Animal' from the Muppets drumming style, I cannot impress enough how difficult that is, like simultaneously juggling, sprinting and eating.

He wrote one of my favourite Roger's trout Farm songs, 'All kinds of fruit' and coined the phrase, 'drumming is about hitting hard with skill', genius!

its happening, it's really, really, really ruddy well happening!

Five grown men put the words, Rogers trout Farm rehearsal into their diaries this week. It's one thing to talk about it, to write lists of what songs we might play, contemplate which clothes we could wear, shapes we can throw but when I received the email that the caravan sales room was confirmed for a rehearsal that's when I knew It was happening, it's really, really, really ruddy well happening. Fraser (bass) has suggested that we re create an old photo of us, if it snows I fancy this one.

Getting old is great right?

Getting old is great right, oh hold on, no getting old is crap, Oh I can't remember any more. Anyway come March 2011 I hit 40.

I've always had this idea that I would have a Birthday party with live music from some of the bands I've been in.

When I started discussing this with old band mates I wasn't greeted with quite as much horror or resistance as I anticipated. In fact Steven Morricone suggested going further back in "band time" than I had thought could be tolerated.

When we were young and our life's were just an open copy of the NME, we were in a band called, Roger's trout Farm. We soaked up every musical influence like a sponge and created something that at times sounded like five dueling instruments and at other times just wrong.

We simply were not afraid to make music the way we wanted to. Everything went in, no editing, no fear. That's what I love most about those days we weren't trying to storm the charts, or make tonnes of money. We were making music for the sake of making music. It was exciting and enormously educating. Discovering new music, hearing classics for the first time feeling like you discovered it, being inspired to create your own music without the fear of failure or error. Thanks Steve for the suggestion, I hope the reality is as brilliant as the memories the idea has uncovered.

What we looked like

This is one of my favourite photos of Rogers trout Farm. As well as an entertaining picture of us there are further treats to spot in the background such as, the most modern computer in the world, and an olde fashioned reel to reel recording device.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Attempting To Decypher The Heiroglyphs (Part 1)

I mentioned the first demo a while ago. Snips has now scanned in the cover in full, and as you can see, we took an ideosyncratic approach to sleevenotes too (click on the image to see it without breaking your eyes). This was also the era where people put cryptic messages in the run-out grooves of their vinyl releases. Morrissey was a devil for it, and being big Smiths/Moz fans, we wanted to get in on that secretive, fans-only action, and so did the next best thing - writing sleevenotes that even we no longer understand.

Here's as far as we've got in cracking the code.

"thanks and love to all our Robert"
Snips: I'd completely forgotten we'd tried to name RTF fans, "Robert". Can't remember why.

Paul: I have got absolutely no idea why we thanked all of our Robert.

Steve: I seem to remember we had a discussion about what our fans should be known as – I’m sure James, you suggested ‘Robert’. Somehow it seemed a fitting name at the time.

Fraser: The thing that bugs me about the Robert issue is I can't remember how the joke works. I'm sure there was a band or a situation at the time where all of the fans had a collective name, but for the life of me I can't remember what it was, or how that would point us towards calling the people who were good enough to come and see us 'Robert'. I know we were fairly random (as the young people say) but usually these things have a springboard, something to react against.

James A: We probably just had one fan called Robert.

"Thanks to Davans for leading the way in caravanning for 50 years"
Fraser: That's where we rehearsed, of course, but we could never explain that properly like rational people.

"Censored, Sultry, Showbiz, Cheeky and Sweary"  - our middle names
Snips: the five dwarfs, well, at least four of those are still right.

Fraser: We clearly decided to come up with five different words for singing in the credits bit, because we were probably a bit embarrassed of our own voices. This all came from the bickering, where we would mock each other's vocal ideosyncrasies.

James A - bellowing, Paul - mumbling, me - shouting, Snips - whining and lucky Steve got agonised screams.

James A later took a shine to double-tracking his "bellowing" voice, which, being all strident and madly-optimistic, left him sounding at times like a very small - and very strange - demonstration march:

"What do we want? Bright shiny buttons, on the coat of a dog I know!"
"When do we want it? Floppy watch!"

"Very small bits of the lyrics to How I Love You Now taken from a poem of the same name...but he's not getting any money."
Snips: I remember a friend of mine giving me a poem he'd written for a departed friend, I don't remember how much of it I used probably quite a lot, he was into the Smiths so I reckon "oh Mother" was lifted from, 'I Know It's Over'. I do recall arguing like hell with James about how much of the lyrics he'd written at Fraser's place with Fraser acting as the peace maker. Oh happy days

Fraser: I also remember the 'How I Love You Now' row, because it left me with the idea that the song had very special resonance for James A, and that it was his/your friend who had died. Which made it all the more surprising to discover that he/you can't remember it.

James A: It was James P's friend that died. Can't remember the argument, just a guess, but I probably thought we should write all the lyrics ourselves.

"Thanks to Nikki for the moolah"
Snips: Did Nikki (James A's girlfriend) put up some of the money for this demo?

Fraser: I'm fairly sure Nikki didn't put up the money for the demo. There again, I can't remember how we did fund the recording, unless it was T-shirt sales and gig money. James A, was this a more specific thanks from you, to do with her having a job and us not?

James A: Ask Nicola. But remember she works in music accounts, we might get an invoice.

Paul: I think the recordings were paid for by the 'Roger's Trout Fund' which was a load of cash stored in a biscuit jar at my mum and dad's house. We used to get the £50 and any money from demo sales from countless gigs at The Prince of Wales and put it in that jar, writing down the accounts on a piece of paper.

James A: I'm begining to feel like the subject of a time team.

And we're only just getting started...

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Oh God, We're Digitising The Vaults

There now follows a brief conversation between the members of Roger's Trout Farm on the topic of videos.

Paul: I really hope that no-one has a copy of any of the videos we made.

Snips: ha ha ha ha ha (the evil kind). I've got a VHS that is desperate to be put onto a blog.

James A: those videos are surprisingly likeable with the benefit of a bit of distance. perhaps we should keep them to ourselves though?

Snips: I've got: 'I Want To Eat You', 'Permanent Stain', 'Excretion 2000', 'Spineless', but I don't have the Harbingers Of Doom video or the thing we did in Huddersfield high street on the Big Breakfast.

I remember a video of rehearsal that somehow Spearmint saw when we stayed at my Mums after a gig in Bristol, they still take the Mick now, carrot slippers and a pony tail, I can't see their angle. Anyway my mum might have it somewhere! *

Fraser: I remember that rehearsal video in Dayvans too. Isn't there one song that ends with me pretending to collapse? My baseball cap fell off, so I tend to remember the HIDEOUS EMBARRASSMENT of the dreaded "double crown" being on display, rather than, for example, James's carrot slippers.

I'm over it now, but I bet it's the kind of scenario that would give the Edge sleepless nights to this day.

Anyway, with regards to video on the blog, here's what I think. I think the way to do the blog is to be honest. We weren't ever cool. Some of you became cool afterwards, but we weren't at the time. We don't really know what we were thinking when we did the things we did, and frankly we're as bemused as anyone else by any media we happen to unearth. That's the tone I'm going for with blogging so far, a kind of confused archeological dig into our own teenage brains.

There again, I would say that, I'm not in many of the videos. *airpunch*

Steve: I think the approach of the blog is perfect – definitely entertaining and engaging & not bloated/self-important. Do any of you remember that shit folding bike that we used to go bombing around a ‘circuit’ of the awning showroom on, during practices?

James A: I used to have that Big Breakfast thing, but it didn't turn up in the parents attic clearance, so unless someone else has it, it will probably be lost forever.

Up until I went to Australia in 2003, I still had that drum head signed by Keith Chegwin hanging on the wall. It probably got thrown out while I was away, as the Chegwin scrawlings had faded so much it just looked like more old drum debri. it would probably have been worth thousands at auction. I'll have another look at the one box I was allowed to keep in new parent's attic.

Paul: Oh God. So what did we make videos for again? There were a load I did at uni - I really hope those don't turn up!

I'm only pretending to be embarrassed about the videos - I actually can't wait to see them! I really don't care how juvenile and uncool it all is. I'm immensely proud of everything we did and would absolutely love to see it get a good public airing.  Actually the fact that James was at college making these videos probably influenced my career in a way as I wanted to make videos too. And now I am a video director!

So there you have it, it's official. We are unembarrassable. We don't care.

With that in mind. Here's a video. James Agnew made this commercial for the band in 1991 (or thereabouts) as part of his college course. We, the band, have no idea where it was intended to be used, as it was made some 15 years before the invention of YouTube, and we never had the funds to pay for a slot on actual television. Frankly we are just glad it got here at all. And by 'glad' we mean 'hideously embarrassed after all'.

I expect we would charge more for demo tapes now, if any of us had any left.

* Remember I said we used to rehearse in a caravan shop? Well we once filmed a rehearsal, for our own entertainment. There was a (slight) craze in the late '80s/early '90s for slippers made out of foam-stuffed material, and made to look like cute things. They were like putting your foot inside a Care Bear. I had some shaped like Brian the snail from the Magic Roundabout, if memory serves. Anyway, Snips had slippers shaped like carrots, and he wore them for the filming because, well, if there was a camera there, we should make the effort to look, erm...well it's not 'good', is it.
I'm pretty sure some of that will end up on here eventually too. Unless Snips has burned the tape.

Monday, 8 March 2010

The Roger's Trout Farm Live Experience

As I write this, I'm listening to a tape of Roger's Trout Farm playing at the Moles Club in Bath in 1990. The joy in this exercise - beyond listening to myself playing on songs I would happily have sworn to have never heard before today - is in our interesting between-song repartee.

We all had microphones, y'see. And great big flappy smartarse mouths, me especially. And a bit of a moany attitude if our gigs were less than total sellouts, which they all were. And - I can't emphasise this enough - all five of us love to bicker. Yes we do. Yes we do.

I, for example once had a half-hour long row with a man in the music shop in Weston-Super-Mare in which I had a Saturday job, because he claimed Snips wasn't using his wah-wah pedal 'properly' on our demo tape. Ever the loyal bandmate I pointed out there's no such thing as properly in music, and to illustrate this, I offered to hit some drums with a flute. My friend Emma was there at the time. She plays the flute very well and was not impressed at all. A point won, a larger, more sensible point lost.

Transplant that kind of row to a stage in the West Country in the late '80s, and end it with something like "this song is called Shutchaface Mr Chapstick, come on hurry up", and you've captured the very essence of our stagecraft.

That, and playing the already-too-fast songs even faster. Oh and if there were any dynamic starty-stoppy bits, one of us would always jam an extra note or beat in the gap to make the others giggle.

You know how in an earlier post I said we are all confused now about what we thought we were doing then? Yeah.

But for all this, we were also a most diverting live spectacle. Yes, a bit like picking porcupine quills out of your face is diverting, but so what?

Here's proof. A song of James Agnew's called 'Mr and Mrs Harbinger Of Doom', complete with a little chat about a man and his coat, a dig at the audience, a cantankerous ending and added random parps.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Paul Spots A Problem

Email From Paul - 6th March 2010

Hello there everyone!

I look away for a couple of days and suddenly I have 27 emails to sift through with RE: RE: RE: Roger's Trout Farm in the subject title. I can see that this whole adventure is going to be long, painstaking, arduous - and of course lots and lots of fun!

This blog is great. My memory juice is lubricating my thoughts as I write! There are so many brilliantly bizarre facets to what we did and how we managed to do it and the fact that it is all intrinsically linked to the world of caravan sales just makes the story even more of a high-octane ride through memory lane.

My main difficulty in re-learning these songs is going to be that I don't own a soprano or alto sax any more. I've got a bloody big baritone sax instead! I'm going to have to either borrow or steal one. I actually sold my soprano to get the baritone sax about fifteen years ago because I was starting to sound like Kenny G and coupled with the dodgy long curly hair I was venturing into some seriously uncool musical territory.

Before selling the soprano sax we had to get it mended as one of the last Trout Farm gigs in Bristol ended up with a precariously balanced tenor sax falling off a keyboard and nearly splitting it in half. Soprano saxes are supposed to be long and straight and this one resembled a large brass banana after that gig.

I can't wait to hear the rest of our output - it is going to be very interesting to see how we all progressed individually and as a group towards our ultimate demise!


Saturday, 6 March 2010

SpitTreeDogLove - The First Demo

So, it's about time we all had a think about the music. The demo tape known as Spit Tree Dog Love was our first go at professionally recording the stuff we'd been working on in the caravan shop. The idea was we could sell the tapes at gigs, and that is what we did. In fact, before long we all became very good at demanding money without menaces, after gigs, during gigs, before gigs, whenever.

Snips, who is an astonishingly talented artist, drew the cover. We photocopied it onto coloured paper and cut and folded each one lovingly by hand. Mine was blue. We then made T-shirts based on the design, and even ended up making huge polystyrene letters of that beautiful logo. They all broke, of course.

The tape consisted of four songs:

Made Of Spit

My Favourite Tree

Every Dog Has His Day

How I Love You Now

As grown ups who've not really thought much about these songs in nearly 20 years, it's a little shocking to hear them. So I felt a little sorry for Steve and Paul. At least I'd acclimatised myself by digitising them. They had to listen to everything in one big spurt (a very Roger's Trout Farm word, that).

I sent the songs over yesterday, with a warning: "Oh Steve...OH STEVE...what joys await in this little link here. What pleasure, what pain!"

His reply was swift and incredulous: "Ruddy Nora! Did we really play that fast? Were our voices really that squeaky? How, how I say – HOW?"

At this point Snips joined in with a review: "Just listened to the demos in full and louder. SpitTreeDogLove sounds great particularly Every Dog Has His Day. I'd forgotten how lively that sounded.

Made Of Spit too, the accapella bits, great. and there were whole chunks of My Favourite Tree,  in fact the demo in general that I had forgotten. It's in a world of its own, a strange fun world.

That bloody FLANGER has GOT to go though!"
Snipsy had a flanger - it's a guitar effects pedal - which he used quite unlike anyone I've ever heard before or since. He used it to make his guitar wobble and jangle and hiss and swoop. You can hear it most on the barking bits of Every Dog Has His Day, that's how most people use them. But it's used more subtly on other bits. I can't tell you where, it's subtle.
Steve and Paul returned fire soon after.

Steve: "He he – that flanger! You were also pretty partial to the wah-wah pedal by the sounds of it. The production, lack of any discernible subtlety etc were all pretty much of the time and haven’t aged that well. However, it’s a really mind-bending collection of songs and it’s getting better again with every listen as my ears get used to shock. What the hell was going through our adolescent minds?"

Paul: Steve and I listened to Spit Tree Dog Love in the car on the way to a soundcheck earlier and were amazed by the helium-based performances. I think these songs have stood the test of time very well - purely because we didn't seem to be influenced by anything at the time that would date it! James is right about that Flanger though. Why James, why?"

James Agnew was unavailable for comment.

The Sifting Begins

Quote from Steve: "I think this is going to be a pleasurable long-haul flight down memory lane!"

So, having agreed that this is something we all want to do, the tricky task of working out which songs we can collectively bear to re-learn begins, and this requires a sift through a pile of old cassette tapes.

Being a late '80s, early '90s band, all of our work exists in cassette form. Live tapes, home demos, demos we recorded on a 4-track recorder in the caravan shop, and professionally made demo cassettes we used to sell at gigs. There's a LOT of stuff to sift through, and none of it exists in easy-to-process digital form. We've all got the means to encode it onto mp3s, but it's a big job. Steve doesn't actually own any of it any more - it's very Steve that this is the case - Snips is waiting for a new soundcard to arrive in the post and as you'll have seen, James Agnew has promised to do the lot, but it'll take him a year. Agnew is quite the perfectionist, y'see.

So, this morning I spent a very annoying  three hours fighting with my old cassette player and trying to get it to talk to my PC. Something I was SURE was already set up and ready to go. The upshot is we now have digitised versions of our first four demo tapes.

Snips has made his choices of the songs which, in his words "I could think about doing without cringing too much". It's important to note at this point, if you've never heard us, or heard OF us, that this is no false modesty on James's part. We were young, we were foolish, we were smartarses, we were attempting to SAY THINGS without the experience or vocabulary to articulate them well. Plus sometimes we literally wrote songs about whatever we happened to be thinking about or looking at when it was time to put pen to paper.

Maybe a look at Snips's List (a film Spielberg will never make, sadly) will clarify what I am trying to say. Remember, these are songs which James could think about doing WITHOUT cringing.

Made Of Spit
My Favourite Tree
All Kinds Of Fruit (Up Your Bottom)
Please Mend My Fridge
Cyril The Mouldy Piece Of Bread And Butter Pudding
Bobby Gillespie's Legs
It's A Definite Plus To Go By Bus
Excretion 2000*
I Want To Eat You
Dogs Must Be Carried On The Escalator
Crap Plastic Dinosaurs

You would not, it is fair to say, get this kind of thing with Oasis.

 *Come on, that's amazing! If we were still around now, we'd have a song called Illicit Bang, that's for def.

Friday, 5 March 2010

A Handy (Not Handy) Guide To The Sound Of The Trout Farm

Snips: "I'm going to need more help than most, I've got no idea what I was playing, I may have been masquerading as a musician all these years but I'm about to be exposed and not in the trouser department."

No part of the illustrious Roger's Trout Farm back catalogue exists in web-friendly form as yet. I expect we will sort this out over the coming weeks but until we do, if you've no idea what manner of a thing Roger's Trout Farm is, musically speaking, here's a song by Acoustic Ladyland which all five of us agree has a certain air of Trout to it. It's called 'Sport Mode'

James Agnew: "I wouldn't be surprised if that was actually us and it's one of the many things I've forgotten."

Thursday, 4 March 2010

4th March 2010 - An Email from Snips

There now follows a record of the first conversation of the five members of Roger's Trout Farm since Snips's wedding in 2002. As you will see, we look back on our own youth with wonder and awe.

Email sent to James, Steve, Paul and Fraser
Hi, this is a first I am sending the first ever email intended for the whole of Roger's trout Farm.

So I had my 39th birthday this Monday wow! Only one more year of pretending I'm not already over the hill.

It still seems strange that we have all agreed to do a gig for my 40th, its not something that I ever thought would happen.

Listening back to some of the tapes makes me realize again what fun we had, certainly on the tapes the fun is so apparent, its crammed full of energy. I think listening now is the first time I can really appreciate how much was going on and how confusing that must have been for some listeners.

So with a year left before we do this thing, I thought we could write some lists, find out what we can remember and what we'd rather forget! Song suggestions, just originals or covers too, are there any we just can't bear to do, what would be great to play again? and logistically how are we going to rehearse?

Can't wait to hear back from my fellow Trouts

A Reply From Fraser
I'm ridiculously excited to be able to do this. James is right, we were amazing. Sometimes we were properly amazing amazing, sometimes were were painfully amazing, in a bizarre and perhaps not-always-amazing sort of a way. But the drive and turnover of stuff and commitment to every last daft thought is what made it what it is.

I don't know what it is, of course, but I know that's what makes it that.

With that in mind, and bearing in mind that I was the first to leave, can I say that I've no qualms with learning songs you lot did in the transition from RTF to Supersaurus, or even stepping back and letting the four of you handle those songs.

I'd be glad to just be there, with my old friends, playing some music and talking some bollocks.

A Reply From Paul

I'm pretty excited about all of this. It has been an eternity since we all played together and a lot has happened since but I think this will be great fun. The key thing here is that we've got a whole year of notice which we are going to need!

A Reply From James Agnew
We should probably make a documentary about reforming, as the Blur one was quite well received. ours would probably be more like the Ramones rockumentary, have you seen that? Johnny Ramone on not going to Joey's funeral: "well, I didn't like the guy when he was alive." and if he had any respect for Joey at all: "well, I suppose he was in the Ramones" mind you, they were in their first band together for 31 years.

I'm not usually a fan of nostalgia, but I think it would be intriguing to get back together. turns out I have an (I think) comprehensive library of Trout Farm/Supersaurus studio and 4track recordings, sometime over the next er.. year I'll digitise the tracks, and get them off of easily lost/damaged cassettes that no-one can play, as due to our advanced age we are the victims of a redundant format.

We were a lot better than we thought we were, and we had funny high pitched voices.

A Reply From Steve
Hey rest of former band!

Sorry I haven’t been to and from on the old email today – it has been a busy day of much busyness. Still, I am very excited by the prospect of this RTF re-union – many many great memories of formative childhood musical mayhem are starting to flood back.

I actually don’t have any of our material (RTF or Supersaurus) at all – I’m generally not in the habit of keeping stuff and usually more rubbish than most at documenting things. It would be ace to hear it all again – James, if you can digitise some or even all I would love to have a copy.

A Reply From Paul

So the key is to decide what we are going to play early on then brush up individually before we get there. We might have to tune to E as well!

A Reply From Snips
I thought we tuned to F?

A Reply From Paul
Exactly - why on earth did we do that? We may well be advanced enough to re-learn things in the right tuning by now.

A Reply From Fraser
All these years I thought this was standard 'working with saxophones and other wind instruments' practise...

Not that I mind, of course. It's only you and Steve that have to re-learn things. Me and Snips just retune and we're away.

A Reply From Steve
I haven't a clue why we did that re-tuning thing - the blissful ignorance of youth! We'll have to learn everything from scratch anyway, so it shouldn't be a problem.

A Reply From Snips
It all goes back to a rehearsal with, "The Silent Zones" (what a name!) Andy Phillips worked it out.

He got it wrong and to compensate once we became Phobia (eeehh! another terrible name) we tuned to F and we just stuck to it. Strikes me that tuning to E might help reaching some of the higher notes, maybe we should go for D?

And with that, the game is afoot!

A Brief History: Everybody Wants To Kill Roger's Trout Farm

Roger's Trout Farm - L-R: James Agnew, Fraser, Steve, James Parsons (at the front) and Paul
I was the last to join and the first to leave, so my understanding of the full history of the band Roger's Trout Farm is perhaps not the most complete. However, I was there when we came up with the name - another suggestion was Barry The House, in case you're wondering - I was there when we made the first demos, I was there when we got some green plastic fish from the window display of a clothes shop in Weston-Super-Mare and used them as stage dressing, and I was there when we started to do our first ever proper gigs.

I met James Agnew (drums, excellent smirk) in 1988, and he had a friend called James Parsons (guitar, ponytail, hereafter known as 'Snips'. I think it's a vegetable pun). Both of them were in a band that Snips now tells me used to be called the Silent Zones with James A's cousins, Steve (alto sax, curlyquiff) and Paul  (soprano sax, big fluffy cloud of hair) Davies (although they prefer Morricone these days).

After they were the Silent Zones, they then became Phobia. Then some people left. Then I joined. We rehearsed in a caravan shop owned by Steve and Paul's parents. Sometimes we'd run up and down the aisles while playing. We called the band Roger's Trout Farm after the singer from the Who and his fishy endeavours. He later told a friend of a friend that he was pleased about this.

After all this time, I cannot remember what we were thinking in writing the sort of songs we wrote, and performing them in the way that we did. Listening now, it seems that none of us could play anything without making it fiddly, and a smidge too fast. I love that about us.

What I do remember is first acid house and then Madchester and then grunge happening all around us and wondering if we perhaps had failed to capture the prevailing mood of the times. There again, we spent far too long listening to the Cardiacs and the Bonzo Dog Band to pay enough attention to all that other stuff.

Fraser (bass, podgy, balding, me), left in 1991 or thereabouts, for reasons that seemed important at the time. The others kept going, and eventually became Supersaurus, before going their seperate ways and forming other bands (we shall possibly return to this).

Now it's 2010. In a year James Parsons will be 40, and we have decided to get back together for one last gig to commemorate this special occasion, because we all want to do it. None of us know how to play those songs any more, and  believe me, some of them are really hard. But we're going to give it a go, even though we know that the only people who want this to happen, or even understand what is going on, are already in the band.

This blog is an attempt to capture what happens along the way. Just like the band itself, the blog is going to be indulgent, messy, smartarsed and wilfully obscure.

This is simply something we are all going to have to learn to live with.