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.