Sunday 26 February 2012

Blast From The Past - CARPATHIA - The Unicorn, Camden - 27 January 2012

Working hard at rehearsal...

Can it be that I've now "blogged" 3 weeks in a row? Great googly moogly.

Around this time last year, I went out for a drink with some fine upstanding young gentlefolk with whom I attended university. Thomas "where's me capo?" Sullivan and Tom "how does this all go together again?" Atherton were a couple of years below me in age, but their work ethic was rather more spectacularly advanced than my own. I had once been told I was a lazy academic and would forever be an "underachiever", so I took that wonderfully positive thought and ran with it, blossoming into the high-potential, low-output twonk that many of you have come to know and tolerate (fret not, I have since shirked that limiting belief and become all hippified and self-aware - still a twonk sometimes, though!). No such words could be used to describe these two; both were dedicated, committed and driven to achieve everything they could in music. I nicked Athers to play the drums for me during my last year, and developed a very comfortable musical rapport. Sadly, at the end of my third year of university I went back down south and continued to do, well, very little on the whole, while they stayed in the sunny Midlands and honed their composition, performance and teaching skills.

When I learned that the chaps had moved to Norf Laandan, I was delighted at the opportunity to catch up. I soon found myself, Guinness in hand, merrily catching up with the lads in a pub just by Tufnell Park tube station. I was soon invited to go and stand outside (so Sully could get some fresh smoke in his lungs), and before I could say "they're bad for you, you know?", I'd been asked to join their band, Carpathia, as keyboard player and additional percussion / guitar / whatever-else-needed-doing. I've never been very good at saying "No" to joining bands, so of course I agreed. A year of sporadic rehearsals followed while Sully wrote, recorded and notated, and eventually there was a gig in the book.

Even Ziltoid needs to rehearse...

And so it came to pass that my first gig of 2012 would not be with Hi-On Maiden, as is usually the case. I found myself wandering up Leighton Road with keyboard and stand in tow on a grey January Monday about to embark on a career as a keyboard player.

Readers of my past gig diaries may have noticed a pattern emerging. Just as I'm about to leave, or as I've just left, I will invariably get a telephone call from Adrian "chortle" Swift who's left something behind and needs me to nip to a shop and pick up a replacement. It came as a reassuring surprise, then, to hear my phone chirping away and find it was Sully asking me to bring along a couple of things which had failed to find their way into his gig bag. Textbook.

Sully eyes up some talent in the front row...

Arriving at The Unicorn, I remembered that, on the very night I'd agreed to join this band, I had left the boys in Tufnell Park to walk to this very venue to catch the last of Silent Front's set. Ah, the circle closes (ya da ya da). Taking this as a good sign, and combining it with the fact that I'd missed the load-in and all the gear was onstage, it was a very cheery Harrison that headed straight for the bar and bought everyone a drink and a pack of Monster Munch. I'd decided to be deliberately careful in terms of the "state of refreshment" I would allow myself to get into, and limited myself to one or two before going onstage. I can find my way around a guitar after copious amount of alcohol without too much trouble (providing I can still stand up). However, I had no idea what impact it would have on my keyboard skills, and in the interests of avoiding Les Dawson-esque cringe-worthy foul-ups, I erred on the side of caution. I managed to resist the temptation to drink myself silly while we all waited patiently for our beloved drummer, who was trying his best to put the "HMS Atherton" together from photos he'd taken of it all set up. Hah!

After setting up and soundchecking, we settled back to let the support band do their thing and prepared ourselves for the first gig. The boys have been gigging together for years, but Carpathia hadn't been dusted off for a year or so. With myself joining the ranks, and a brand new guitarist in the shape of Paul "Punning hell" Nazarkardeh, it might as well have been a new band. I would have normally been bricking it at this point - I usually get very shaky and nervous before playing keyboards in front of an audience, as opposed to the confidence I have developed in playing guitar and singing for people. However I had managed to relax myself enough in the company of some fine friends who had made the journey to see us, and in no time at all it was gig o'clock. "Doctor, Doctor" rolled out of the P.A. (by my request - after nearly ten years of gigging with an Iron Maiden tribute band, I can't get ready for a gig without hearing that song), we took a breath and walked onstage.

Peter "onion" Mannion looking eeeee-vil...

The set list

Solitary Red
Tearful, Part II
Fallen Angel (King Crimson cover)
Wherever The Silence Dwells
Finding It Hard To Contain

The nearly hour-long set flew past in a flurry of downtuned guitars, electric piano and wilfully ostentatious rock-keyboardist gurning. I had an absolute blast. There were some humorous moments - particularly memorable was the moment I hit one of my drum pads so hard it fell of the stand! - and our intrepid leader Sullivan had a few issues with his MIDI gear which seemed to have lost it's MIDI-mind, but all in all it was a well-performed and well-received set which was worthy of the work that had been put into it. I wasn't quite ready to stop; in fact, I believe my first words to the lads after the show were along the lines of "When's the next one?"

There's talk of a gig in Coventry next month, and all sorts of other plans in the works for this band. I'm quite excited to be a part of it all.

So, when's the next one?

Until next time,

Christopher "got a new theremin sound!" Harrison

First time I've been onstage without a wig in a while...!

PS: Gig photos courtesy of "Metal" Tom Webster. You can read his review of the gig on Thrash Hits by clicking here.

Monday 20 February 2012

HI-ON PLYMOUTH - 17 / 18 February 2012

How do you eat yours?'s that time...

2012 began where 2011 had ended - The Junction Underground in Plymouth. During 2011, our beloved Junction as we knew it had been taken back by the brewery and the live venue stylings more or less removed. Some of the remaining staff (notably Rich "spandex trousers with matching amp" Pearce) decided to move the venue underneath the Dog & Duck over the road, and the Junction Underground was born. We played there in November (gig diary coming soon...honest!), treating a modest crowd to complete renditions of two Maiden albums - as has become custom for two-night stands - Powerslave and Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. Both were well-received, the band had a great time with the locals, and while we were onsite we arranged the next dates for February. Which came upon us with horrifying speed, and in a flash it was time to learn all the songs from the albums chosen for the delectation of our south-westerly friends.

I hit the rails at 12-ish, heading for the NW6 locale of our newest member, the eminent Mr Steve "Plymouth is just an illusion" Harristopolis. After last week's rehearsals, there were very few nerves about the upcoming shows from my part, although I could easily put myself in the shoes of our Greek newcomer. My own first gig had been at JB's in Dudley, performing as Manic "not Panic" Gers, which had been something of a baptism of fire. While the Underground was considerably smaller than JB's, a room chock full of punters is still a room chock full of punters, and I'm sure 'Arry-opolis was bricking it nevertheless.

At the end of the line (Bakerloo, that is) I came across Nicko "wrong'un" McBrain Jnr, who had arrived a mere few minutes before your humble narrator. Very soon afterwards, Arry's wagon rolled up and we were "on our way", as the song says. (Tenuous?)

'Arry at the wheel.

Never let Hurry program the sat-nav.

The journey was uneventful, apart from it being a bugger to get out of London (no surprise there then) and the last 20 miles or so of M4 moving about as fast as an arthritic snail. Once on the M5 we were free and clear, although Plymouth never seemed to get any closer! Perhaps that had something to do with my grasp of the sat-nav 'Arry had borrowed from a friend for the occasion. Perhaps Plymouth really was just a strange illusion. At any rate, we turned up at the venue an hour late to find all the gear humped in and set up. Worse things happen at sea!

I grabbed myself a quick pint of the black stuff, said hello to Jess "sick to death of Bristol Airport Parkway" Tilley and bounded onstage to check me gear and get going with a lengthy soundcheck. We had the good graces of three engineers, who did their very best to beat the PA into shape for us while finding the perfect monitor levels for Bruce "a prize pillock" Dugginson, who was on fine form indeed as we belted through a few of the night's tunes which hadn't been touched the week before. Adrian "this morning, my arse is mostly made of chocolate blancmange" Swift ran into a spot of bother with the fuse in the back of his amplifier, which did look quite impressively blown (utterly, utterly blackened inside the glass!). Thankfully, our Mister Swift is ever the professional, and carries a box of spare fuses with him. Such a professional, he's got these things even without realising he's brought them with him! The train of thought went something like this: "Ah, they're in my little purple box." -"Ah, I left my little purple box at home." - "What's that sat over there on the stage?" - "Ah, it's my little purple box."

"I've blown a fuse in me head!"

Soundcheck done, Duggers and I had a quick chat about what time to start the imminent Journeymen segment. As with everything else in Hi-On land, we're a bit fired up about The Journeymen at present, and are looking forward to bringing the rest of the band in on the fun while introducing some new songs. We ran two of these new songs just prior to going onstage, and were excited to open the year in a nice relaxed way with some good friends in the crowd. With another pint of Arthur's finest in hand, I joined Duggers onstage at 9:15pm and we set the good ship in motion with a short acoustic set.

Journeymen set-list

Tears of The Dragon
Wasted Years

Infinite Dreams


Received with rapturous applause, and a venue starting to buzz with excitement for the upcoming show, we headed backstage to get ready for the main event. My beloved wig, "Audrey in Spring Honey" had been lovingly washed that very morning, and smelt somewhat less 'orrible than it had previously. Donning my Piece of Mind album cover t-shirt, leather waistcoat and jeans, I stood back and waited for the intro tape to roll. Doctor, Doctor. Tick, tock. Boom. Caught Somewhere In Time. Bang on.

Friday night set-list

Caught Somewhere In Time

The Prisoner
Coming Home
Where Eagles Dare


Flight Of Icarus

Die With Your Boots On

The Trooper

Still Life

Quest For Fire

Sun And Steel

To Tame A Land

22 Acacia Avenue

Phantom Of The Opera

Iron Maiden

Wildest Dreams
Holy Smoke
Running Free

I haven't felt that good on stage in years. The whole gig was absolutely mesmerising; from the dawning realisation of just how good our new bass player was, the roar of the crowd when Duggers introduced me just before my bluesy solo in "Coming Home", and the even more tremendous reception that Piece of Mind got, not to mention realising half-way through performing that album just how much fun it is to play when you get to do the Dave Murray bits!. I laughed my arse off all the way through "Quest For Fire", as it really is Maiden at their cheesy worst and not a song I ever thought I'd be playing in this band. Yet, here we were, learning how dinosaurs and man were around at the same time and having a chuckle while we were at it.

Spotted in the gents...

For my part, I played my socks off all night, only stumbling on the eponymous main set closer. During "Phantom..." I had thought to myself, "I'm playing really well tonight! Wouldn't it be funny if I forgot how to play 'Iron Maiden'". Then, of course, I promptly forgot how to play "Iron Maiden"! We were without Eddie "blood, sweets and beers" the 'Ead this weekend, as he was busy being metal somewhere else. Not to worry though, as we were ably assisted onstage by none other than Plymouth's very own Little Eddie! (I'd include a picture, but I fear if I start putting pictures of young lads on my blog I might find myself on 'List 99' - look for him on the Facebook!). Returning to the stage for the encore, our intrepid frontman and drummer decided amongst themselves to start off "Wildest Dreams" before Swifty had even picked up his guitar, which was highly amusing. I fear "Holy Smoke" baffled the crowd a bit, but it's a 'reet laugh to play, and "Running Free' rounded things off nicely.

We hung around for a bevvy or two with the locals, before realising just how shattered we all were and piled into our transport. "Follow the signs for bed", said 'Arry. He wasn't wrong. Zzz.


Saturday began with Saturday already nearly half-over, having had something of a lazy morning. We took our time performing ablutions and such like, which was nice given the usual rush to get off home or get to the next gig. It's quite handy playing two nights in the same place!

When it was time for some grub, we piled into the 'Arry-mobile and set off. We had been invited to lunch at Nicko Jnr's Mum's place up the road. Or, to put it more truthfully, up lots of roads, round lots of corners, up a few hills, past a few cows, causing a few vans to reverse out of our way and wondering where the bloody hell we were.

"So they plowed through forests and swamps of danger..."

We safely arrived in what could have easily been a postcard photograph. Cornwall is an immensely beautiful bit of our green and pleasant land, and despite the drizzle ("the Cornish summer", as Chef Seb put it) the clean, fresh air and prospect of a relaxing afternoon was just the ticket. As promised spaghetti and meatballs were served up, much to the delight of yours truly who hadn't really enjoyed his breakfast Pringles all that much. Also as promised, it was then time to take a wander over the road to the (very) nearby Carpenter's Arms for a pint or three of our favourite local ale, the marvellous Tribute!

Duggers models the pub...but can you spot Hurry?

After a few delicious ales it was, altogether too soon, time to head back to the venue and run through a few songs which hadn't quite stuck from last week's rehearsals. Rock In Rio is a nice chunky setlist, with some slightly tricky numbers to get your fingers round. There's nothing overtly technical, per se, although there are a few songs which have lots of very similar sound bits played in a funny order, so concentration was needed from all parties. Unfortunately the monitors had taken a waspie since the gig last night, and it was quite some time (and several interrupted songs) before Duggers had got the levels he needed out of them. We got there in the end though, and after the long soundcheck and lovely afternoon I took a short wander through the streets of Plymouth to get some alone time and gather my thoughts. I amazingly stumbled on a guitar shop, which turned out to be not just a very handy short walk from the venue, but the very shop I purchased a Les Paul from a few years ago over t'internet! Always handy to know where these things are when you're playing a gig - we're always looking to buy something Swift has left at home!

Just before returning to the venue I stopped off at the old Junction for a pint, out of curiousity for what had happened to the place. I had been under the impression that it had stopped live music altogether, but this appeared not to be the case. The stage had been moved back to where it was the first time we played there in early 2010, and a band had set up ready to go. Unfortunately there were just about 5 punters sat around a table, and all the atmosphere had been sucked out of the place. What a shame that was - this time last year the place was heaving with Maiden fans. C'est la vie. Back to the venue then, where I ran into Swifty who had just been to the Co-op to stock up on Stella for a late-night Travelodge party! "Not a bad idea," thought I, and promptly bought meself a bottle of vino collapso to share with Duggers on our return to the sleepy place. This I secreted in the venue cellar, where I discovered local lads Sleaze getting ready to go onstage and support us with a set of glam rock à la carte.

Saturday support from Sleaze...

...who Swift was, apparently, about to audition for!

Sleaze powered their way through Crüe, Leppard and Bon Jovi while we watched from the big screens. In a flash it was time to wig up and take on Rock In Rio. I had been looking forward to this for some time; I got into Maiden in 2000, just around the time that "Brave New World" came out, and the "Metal 2000" show at Earls Court (on the day of my GCSE Physics exam!) was a defining moment in my musical trajectory. I adored that night, and every time I saw them since. The setlist, then, held a special place in my heart as it contained some of the very first "new" Maiden songs I'd ever heard and the entire set of my first Maiden gig (plus a cheeky extra!). Arthur's Farewell blared (no, nothing to do with Guinness!) and we were on.

Saturday night set-list

The Wicker Man
Ghost of the Navigator

Brave New World


2 Minutes to Midnight

Blood Brothers

Sign of the Cross

The Mercenary

The Trooper

Dream of Mirrors

The Clansman

The Evil That Men Do

Fear of the Dark

Iron Maiden


The Number Of The Beast
Hallowed Be Thy Name

Run To The Hills

My immediate reaction having come offstage was "Wow, that was a LONG show". It felt like I'd done a marathon in fancy dress while giving a fatter man a piggy back. In terms of song length it should only have been about 10 minutes longer than the night before, but there are so many epics in there it felt a good deal longer than that. I've always wanted to play "Ghost of the Navigator", and enjoyed it immensely. "Blood Brothers" brought legitimate tears to my eyes in the mid-section, and "Sign of the Cross' went down a flippin' storm, much to my surprise. The rest of the set was just as good, and the house seemed even more heaving than the previous evening. Plymouth really knows how to kick botty. Joined again by Little Eddie, we rounded off the show with the blistering encore and said our goodbyes. Packing the gear down and heading off rather sharp-ish was the order of the day, as, in Nicko's words, to say we were tired would be an understatement. However, as is often the way in this band, we stayed around chatting for a short while anyway. Everyone who comes to see us in Plymouth (and indeed the south west in general) is a friendly face by now, and the venue staff are all splendid folk. It's a real pleasure to hang about with this lot.

The late-night Travelodge party didn't really kick off, with Duggers turning in early and myself flagging badly by the end of the first mug of red. To bed it was, and in the morning it was up and off. A similarly uneventful journey home, arriving in time for tea. Luvverly.

Thank you so much Plymouth, can't wait to see you again! Thanks also to Amy, Darryl and Plukie for snapping lots of photos and making us look good, and to the kind chap from Bournemouth Uni who is making a film about us (name to be inserted when I remember what it was!). Special thanks to the newly appointed Hi-On Maiden Street Team (you know who you are) for helping us out with promotion and such - let's make 2012 kick the arse of every other year there ever was!

Until next time, UP THE 'KIN IRONS!

Even when he gets the bed, he still wants the "Manic cushion"...


Dave "I've got wig in my mouth!" Hurry

Wednesday 15 February 2012

HI-ON REHEARSALS - 11 / 12 February 2012

Well well well, here we are again. A strong sense of déjà vu crept upon me as this potentially monumental weekend raced towards us. This time last year we climbed to the giddy heights of, well, Leeds, for a rehearsal at Jam Studios ahead of two album-themed shows in Plymouth.

This year, we climbed the giddy heights of, well, Leeds, for a rehearsal at Jam Studios ahead of two album-themed shows in Plymouth!

While this all sounds very similar, there are two major differences this year. The first of these is that the venue in Plymouth has moved across the road and underground. The second major difference is the bass player! More of that later.

My weekend of travels had actually begun at around 6am on Friday morning. I had found myself in a situation where I had to be in Liverpool for a meeting at 11am, and as such found myself on a train far too early on a Friday morning bearing me North West. Said meeting was a long 'health & safety' type one, and by the end of it I was gagging for a pint and a curry. Thankfully I'd arranged to go and stay with some very dear friends in Wakefield where I was provided with both!

Mr Hurry's idea of health & safety...
Mr Hurry's idea of health & safety...

After a lovely Friday evening / Saturday morning with pals, I parted ways and again found myself going vaguely north-west to meet with our diminutive frontman. Bruce "the dream is true…yes it is!" Dugginson met me at his local train station and, after getting dinner on the go (curry again - luvverly!) we drove to the rehearsal room while doing a bit of last minute revision on some of the Rock In Rio tracks we'd never played before. It's always a pleasure to have some time to catch up with Duggers, who never fails to reduce me to fits of laughter in a matter of seconds.

As you may or may not be aware, our beloved Speed "if it's not on the dots, I'm lost…" Harris has regretfully departed this band to focus on his degree and his family. He will be missed! Last year's stand-in, Mr Steve "How about Drifter?" Haggis, wasn't in it for the long term, and so we needed to find a new bassist. Various names were bandied around, and friends in the Maiden world gave us some suggestions. We were eventually led towards a London-based musician by the name of Gus, and this rehearsal was doubling as an audition for him. As Duggers and I drove we discussed what was coming - meeting and trying out a new band member is always a slightly nerve-wracking experience. As Forrest Gump so aptly put it once upon a time, "life is like a box of chocolates - you never know what you're going to get". We weren't sure whether we were going to be presented with a box of Quality Street, or a hamper of Crunchy Frog!

'Now sir, will you try the Crunchy Frog or the Praline & Parrot?
"If we took the bones out, it wouldn't be crunchy would it?"

As it turned out, our new low-frequency groove inspector was nothing short of a box of Ferrero Rocher! Gus (or as we have come to know him, Steve Harristopolis!) hails from Greece, has lived and worked in London for the past 7 or 8 years and has loved Maiden ever since he can remember. My first impression of Gus was, "Blimey, he's going to make Duggers look even tinier onstage!". He's quite tall you see. And, er, the rest of us aren't! My second impression of Gus was what a nice, unassuming fellow he seemed to be. My third impression was "f***ing hell, what a bass player!". Getting the right notes in the right places is harder than it sounds, but Gus gelled in with us instantly and we could get down to the nitty gritty of perfecting those tricky parts of new songs we hadn't ever done before. We blasted through everything we wanted to blast through, which included a couple of memorable moments. We got about two lines into "Quest For Fire" (arguably the silliest 80s Maiden song…correct me if I'm wrong!) before Duggers had to stop us as he'd collapsed in a fit of laughter at the lyrics. They're a bit special. Also of note was an impromptu "Brighter Than A Thousand Suns", which was particularly stonking. After a very successful rehearsal, we downed tools and set off for Dugginson Heights for some grub.

My memories of that evening are fairly hazy. I know there was some curry. I know there was a lot of wine, and I know that Duggers's mate Tony and I spoke at length about how much we both love Rush. I know there was some more wine. I know that Adrian "got any paracetamol?" Swift smoked a lot. I know there was even more wine. Then Duggers and I spoke at length about how much we love Queen. And, er, Bon Jovi. Then it was 5:30am and time to go to bed….oh, dear!

Even too much wine is not enough.
"Even too much wine is not enough."

Up with the larks (if the larks rose at 10:30am) and with a breakfast bap down me gullet (as it were) we headed back to the rehearsal studios the next morning (late) to have another bash through all these songs and more. After some rearranging of synth parts and completely missing out my solo in "The Clansman" (damn you lot) we were as ready as we'd ever be for next weekend, and packed down. The Two Yorkshiremen went their own way, while Gus drove myself and Nicko "Houston, we have a problem" McBrain Jnr back to foggy Londonium. Gus and I bonded on a love of 70s prog, but then I fell asleep and missed most of the M1. Result!

We're all very excited about this year, with lots of enticing things coming up; album shows, a trip to Guernsey, the Edventure weekend and no doubt even more special things to be announced, it's looking to be a good and positive 2012 for us.

Welcome to the loony bin, Mr Harristopolis!

To the rest of you, see you on the road!

Up the Irons!

Dave "got no paracetamol chap, how about an Immodium?" Hurry