Tuesday, 6 December 2016

A Very Lemon Curdmas

Hello! Just a quick update. This weekend, the Lemoncurd Kids hosted a Christmas party gig at the Bassment in Chelmsford to cap off a wonderful year where they released their debut album and won best band at Chelmsford's PANIC Awards.

I was very grateful to be invited to play, and had a great time playing to old friends and some new faces. Since it was a festive party gig, the set was pretty much the Jez Kemp Greatest Pop Smash Hits, but it was nice to also bust out a new song "Liars Will Tell You The World Is Simple".

It's also one of the most fun sets I've played in ages - gigs are always easier and more relaxed when you can have a laugh and joke with your mates in the front row.

The other bands Zen Motel and Creme de Chevre were punk AF and amusingly ridiculous respectively, and it was great to see old time Chelmsfordian Dave Moriaty play a solo set.

It's fair to say that a new city, busy job, doing my masters and starting a new relationship has meant that this year I've done less writing, recording and performing than I'd hoped. But I'm 12 months into this crazy global mega-city now - so familiar and yet always so very very new. So I'm looking forward to being more productive and playing new places with new people in 2017.

And in some respects, the less said about 2016 the better, right?

Hope you're well, friends in UK NZ Aussie and All The Countries, and a very Lemon Curdmas to you all.


Photo by Jemma B

Friday, 22 July 2016

"Attack Winter" A song for #Brexit

I wrote this furious song 4 years ago - forever ago, basically. Before I'd even released my light and bright album "Airfix Democracies" (October 2012), I'd written this bastard of a song, and I knew it was a bastard.

But 4 weeks after Brexit, it has a whole new meaning. (full lyrics below)

It was intended as a snarling, anthemic, guttersnipe opening track to my album "To The Greater Glory Of". And it still will be, whenever I get round to recording that album.

It's inspired not just by the Manic Street Preachers' album "The Holy Bible", but specifically the upbeat and melodic parts of that album: the chorus of "Die In The Summertime", the outro solo of "Archives Of Pain", the whole tracks of "Faster" and "P.C.P.".

And yet here we are, in a Britain drowning - more than ever before - in fear, hate crime, inequality and bastardry.

This scrappy anthem of incoherent rage seems like it was born to express what I've felt the past 4 weeks as our country has "taken back control".

Rage at the 52/48 "victory" being seen by anyone, ANYONE, as a "clear" result and message.
Rage at the "go home" racism and xenophobia which has refused to simply hide in plain sight and now roars in plain sight.
Rage at the political establishment and the media which incite fear and hatred of poor white people for their personal gain without any fear of consequence.

Above all, the strongest connection is the original message of the song - if there was one - "attack winter".

The original idea was that "winter" is the inertia, the depression, the failure, that creeps in from all sides - the black dogs waiting for us, creeping and prowling. In different ways, on different levels, we must all fight our own winter. "Only you can attack win-ta-ta-ta-ta-teeerrrrrr"

But here and now, with the flagrant "go-home" racism, suspicion and paranoia we are coming to expect, "winter" is the shambles and the chaos of a new Britain where austerity is justified in the bright lights to the people it crushes. "Winter" is the onslaught against human rights, and the legislation they rely on, and the burying of inclusive positive values we find it so easy to say and even easier to forget.

Winter has arrived, and only you can attack win-ta-ta-ta-taaaaaggggghhhhhhhhh


They call me Frankenstein, a monster dignified
But I'm no law for all, not even my own kind
Progress is crucified, a nation petrified
This country's motto carved in formaldehyde


Attack winter! Attack winter
Furious outbreak of the night, and watch my people fight
Attack winter! Attack winter
Moral failure of the right, and the left is out of sight

We never needed virgins anyway
With helicopters full of doctors for the rich who'll stitch you up and keep you pure
And all the time, the cold was closing in
And only you can attack win-ta-ta-ta-taaaaaaaaaa

They call it Lebensraum, another empty town
Horizon full of cranes and meaningless construction
Slaves with their plastic crowns, cowards on their way out
The only interesting part is the corruption


Attack winter! Attack winter
Furious outbreak of the night, and watch my people fight
Attack winter! Attack winter
Moral failure of the right, and the left is out of sight

We'll vote for whores and butchers any day
Keep the rank and file infighting, with fake scars of fake lashes on your back
And all the time, the cold was closing in
And only you can attack win-ta-ta-ta-taaaaaaaaaa

H - A - T - E
Turn up the hate, yeah
H - A - T - E
Turn up the hate, yeah
H - A - T - E
Turn up the hate, yeah
H - A - T - E
Turn up the hate, yeah


Attack winter! Attack winter
Furious outbreak of the night, and watch my people fight
Attack winter! Attack winter
Moral failure of the right, and the left is out of sight

Who gives a fuck about your yesterdays?/Deluded posers lost in yesterdays
Pathetic fake plastic nostalgic bullshit vintage vinyl retro cassette cunts
And all the time, that frost was bitching in
And only you, only you, ATTACK ATTACK ATTACK

Monday, 20 June 2016

Vote Remain, for a positive UK future

I'm going to give you a brief, clear and positive run-down of why it's important to get out on Thursday 23rd and vote Remain.

The biggest reason, the most fundamental reason, is the message. What do Vote Leave or Vote Remain results say to ourselves?

We need a strong Vote Remain result to show we are a positive, inclusive country that belongs in Europe and that we reject fear, hate and divison.

Neither official campaigns have been positive. But the Vote Leave campaign has been appalling.

As their arguments have failed on the economy, Vote Leave have relied more and more on their trump card: exploiting fear and hatred of foreigners, refugees and immigrants to justify leaving the EU.

A Vote Leave result would be a result for the foreigner-bashers and the hatemongers who lay all our problems at the door of immigrants, refugees and the EU. They do not represent us. We are better than that.

A lot of the British working class and poor have been sold flat-out lies by people like Farage, Gove, Boris and Patel - far-right Conservatives who are committed to cutting the welfare state, not improving it. "We'll cut the NHS, but Vote Leave for us and we'll save it!" As if. They are opportunists and fear-mongers. We are better than that.

The EU isn't perfect, but it does a lot for us, and we do a lot for it.

The Vote Leave campaign has always been "What's in it for US?!" It is a negative, selfish view.

The Remain campaign has answered that question, showing the huge economic benefits of being in, versus the giant problems and risks of both leaving - and then being out.

But equally important is a better attitude. The EU is a community of countries, and Britain both contributes and benefits from being a member. That's how communities work.

Yes, we can and should be at the forefront of the EU. The EU needs constant pressure to reform so that it remains accountable. But there are other countries in the EU and they also benefit and contribute. They are not better or worse than us. That's what it means to be a community.

It's so important this week to remind ourselves and each other of who we think we are, and what we believe in.

That we're an inclusive country, not a divisive one.

That we want to engage with Europe and fix things co-operatively, instead of turning our back and walking away.

That we choose economic stability and reality, instead of nonsense sold by thieves and opportunists.

That we won't let fearmongers and the politics of hate decide our country's future.

Get out, vote, and vote Remain for a positive UK.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

6 months in London: Exams over, roll on summer

Every time I move to a new country, it takes me 6 months to get my head round it. During that time I'm excited but also very stressed - trying to process so many new things, from new phrases to new maps, new ways to get from A to B.

In New Zealand, it was all mixed up with a) the excitement of being in a new country, and b) the impotence and fury of job hunting and temping.

In Australia, it was freaking out on the dark, giant deserted streets of the "inner North", baffled at how spread out Melbourne is and how everyone is absolutely fine with that.

London has been no different. Despite being born here (6-year-old Jez: "Why does everyone in East Ham support West Ham?"), despite re/acquainting myself in the summer of 2013, it was madness when I moved into a new house + started a new job in the same weekend 6 months ago, and it's been madness since then.

But the madness has eased, a bit, and I'm feeling happier about what's going on. Despite the rent going up and a change of housemate, I'm feeling relatively secure in my house - I can be confident that I'll still be here in 6 months' time, hopefully more. My job at Bureaucracy K is still not secure, despite doing a key role and being extended twice, but I'm less anxious about it than I was.

And finally, the cold has fucked off.

I'm not even kidding. The whole of April I wore my winter coat. I know full well from before leaving the UK that spring isn't warm. March is always bitterly cold. April is usually crap. But it's not usually freezing cold right into May. Finally we've just had a week of warm summery weather, which I'm certainly happy about, but even more excited - I can physically relax - now that the cold of winter has finally fucked the fuck off.

This week I had my uni exams, which went about as well/badly as I'd expect for taking no time off work to revise. Lessons learned for next year hopefully. But I'm now free from what feels like second job, and very excited to have some time again to do creative things I've been putting off - new music, long overdue book edits, website updates, etc.

Also looking forward to things like dates, gigs, rum, parties, weddings, and all the nonsense of summer. Bring it.


Monday, 21 March 2016

The Library Suits are playing their last ever show and I'm not crying honest

This weekend my favourite local band, The Library Suits, are playing their last ever gig at the Bassment in Chelmsford, Saturday 26th March.

I'm massively happy to be supporting them, along with Alex Fox (lad can sing), and it's going to be a cracking night. But it's also very sad to see the end of a era.

Firstly, if you've not heard anything by them, you can hear all 3 of their albums on their Soundcloud profile. But I've embedded some players so you can stay here and carry on reading.

I've played with all 4 of the boys at some point - Paul and Rich in my first band, the amazingly named Liquid Idolator (1999-2002) and Matt and Jon in that band and F451 (2003-2007).

The Library Suits started in the end of F451. We crashed and burned at the end of 2007, feeling burnt out and like we'd failed, despite having achieved a lot.

But another factor was a simple sense of "no", and "can't". The dynamic was very much me telling Matt and Jon what we were going to do; they'd stopped asking if we could do X or play Y, because I'd just say no. Even I could tell they were frustrated, but I was such a dick and so lost, I didn't know how to get out.

So, when The Library Suits burst onto the scene with bright catchy rock songs and epic choruses, it was a breath of fresh air for me, and probably hugely liberating for them. The speed of the project was impressive - rehearsing, writing and recording mini-album "Because It's Somewhere To Be" in a matter of months - and I still remember being blown away at that gig at the Two Brewers in Chelmsford, October 2008.

Since then they recorded 2 more full albums, a Christmas single, several quality videos including the hilarious "You Don't Have To Be A Wizard", played endless gigs, and even appeared on TV (the Hollyoaks Music Show, playing "Jeremy Kyle's Inner Valkyrie").

Sadly I've only seen the full band play a couple of times. After that first gig, I left for New Zealand; by the time I got back for the summer of 2013, The Library Suits had wound down and weren't playing so often. But I remember sitting up with breakfast at home in bed in Wellington, NZ, to watch the album launch for "suffer:recover" on Barhouse venue's live video stream. (Interestingly enough, they were supported that night by Mark Burnside AKA The Lemoncurd Kid; Jon now drums in The Lemoncurd Kids full band, whose album is coming out very soon - check out preview track "Pieces".)

The epic album "Destroy:Discover" is my favourite album by an unsigned band. It's one of my favourite albums full stop. Yes, I'm biased, but I dare you to listen to it and find a fault. As a British indie-rock album, it is loud, melodic and unapologetic, intelligent and playful, furious and wistful, and genuinely, honestly uplifting. The quality of the songwriting and the songs themselves is better than a lot of albums by the big, signed, famous bands they've been influenced by.

Unofficial band members include Neak Menter, an old comrade from the Essex music scene and the producer who brought The Library Suits' recordings to life, and our photographer friend Matt Pawsey who's always been there for the band (even playing Harry Potter in the Wizard video), and who's just always been there for all of us as a friend.

Most bands have a life span. Like any relationship, if you can make something good, and get out alive and still be friends, that's a success in itself. The band has wound down, Matt has now moved up north, and to be honest, 8 years is a good innings.

So there's no grand drama about The Library Suits calling it a day, no gutting sense of loss. What there is, what I feel, is the sadness that a group who have produced excellent work, won't produce excellent work any more. They'll go on to join other groups and make other amazing work (did I mention The Lemoncurd Kids?), but it won't be them.

Even with all the other local bands we've seen and met through 16 years of playing music, it's hard to think who else could write and produce loud, catchy, pop-rock anthems about maths and mathematicians like "Cantor's Infinity" and "Everything For Sale", or emotional pop hits littered with historical references like "Ten Years", or about Russian revolutionary art like "October In The Theatre", or even just the darkly epic "Every Night It's You And I".

Who else will write songs like these?

The other reason I'm sad is for selfish reasons. The roots of The Library Suits were in the dark times of the end of F451; even bearing responsibility for the atmosphere in that band, I was tired and frustrated and burnt out too.

The Library Suits represented to me the optimism of a new project, of breaking out, of making something new and positive and bright and really really good, and just going for it and achieving it.

From that first mini-album, "Long Division" is about insecurity and emotions, yet it sounds bright and upbeat and uplifting. "Modern Life Is A Speeding Bullet" is still as fresh as the day it was made.

I've already made this too much about me. Obviously I can't give any perspective from inside the band. Jon, Paul, Rich or Matt could all write their own account, but it's not their style. I just wanted to write this to tell the internet, "here they were, and they were amazing".

If you can make it to Chelmsford this Saturday 26th March 2016 to watch an amazing band bow out in style, come to the Bassment and sing your heart out.

Optional fancy dress suggestions:
  • Time vampire
  • Philosopher
  • Wizard
  • Jeremy Kyle
  • Jeremy Kyle's inner valkyrie
  • Any character from Hollyoaks circa 2009
  • Russian artist (early 20th century)
  • Noel Fielding/Julian Barratt/both
  • Imelda Marcos
  • Baseball cap & stilettos
  • Hunter S Thompson
  • Reginald Perrin/Jasper Carrott/Julian Barratt (again)
All photos by Matt Pawsey, I think.
Go see a lot more here


...and 2016:

"Ten years from now, will you remember me?"
Yes, and a lot longer.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Trangender, non-binary, pansexual, and more: Quick explanations for people who want to know more

There's an explosion of expression around gender and sexuality, and there's a lot of new or newish words being used to describe things we didn't have words for before.

So, here's some quick definitions and explanations if you need helping out.

I'd call it a "cheat sheet", but cheating implies there's some kind of "test".
The only test is, are you willing to treat people like people? If yes, you've already passed.

Cisgender (cis): You're born in a male/female body, and you're brought up male/female, and you're totally happy being male/female. Generally, most people are cis.
It's not "normal", it's just more common.

Transgender: Generally, one or more things different to the above.

  • Maybe you were born with a female body but feel very sincerely, deep down, that you're a man, or vice versa.
  • Maybe you were born with a male or female body but don't feel 100% male OR female - your gender identity is somewhere inbetween, or neither.
Being transgender doesn't just mean binary, ie. male to female (MtF) or female to male (FtM).

You don't need surgery to be transgender. Gender is different to biological/physical sex. E.g. some trans women born with a penis might be happy having a penis. They are still a woman, because genitals do not define our gender.

Non-binary: Your gender identity is not truly male or female.
Most non-binary people are transgender, because most people are brought up male or female.

Agender: You feel like you have no gender. 

Androgynous: To express (e.g. dress or act) like you have gender. Not the same as agender, asexual or non-binary.
  • Not all agender, asexual or non-binary people dress or act androgynous
  • Not all androgynous people are non-binary, asexual or agender
Genderfluid: You have different genders for different times or situations.
So, maybe you are usually a cis male, but once a month you go out to a bar as a woman - not just dressed as a woman, but actually behaving & feeling you are a woman.

Or, maybe you are usually a woman, but sometimes go out as a non-binary person.

Being genderfluid just means having more than one gender identity. It's totally okay, and it's definitely not just "dressing up".

Genderqueer: Someone who simply identifies differently to the standard binary definition of gender. Often used to specify about gender identity, and not "queer" as a sexual word meaning gay/non-straight.

Bisexual: Being attracted to men and women.

Pansexual: Being attracted to all genders.

What's the difference between bisexual and pansexual?
Bisexual means just being attracted to 2 genders, usually male and female. People can be attracted to men in one way and women in a different way.
Pansexual means being attracted to someone of any gender, including non-binary people.

Asexual: Not feeling sexual attraction at all.

Greysexual: Someone who feels sexual attraction/desire sometimes, but often doesn't. It's a pun on "asexual" but it's still a real thing.

Aromantic: Not feeling romantic attraction/love at all.

Greyromantic: Yep you guessed it, sometimes feeling romantic attraction/love, but often not.

Demiromantic: Someone who rarely feels romantic love or attraction, unless they've built an emotional connection first. It sounds very specific but it's actually very common.

Demisexual: As above, but with sexual attraction/desire.

Intersex: You're born with a body that's not 100% male or female.
This is actually much more common than people think. Parents' first question is often "is it a boy or girl?" and the answer given is usually based on whether then baby has male or female features. So, there's huge pressure on doctors and parents to have a child which is 100% one or the other - often resulting in unnecessary surgery to babies to make them physically "fully" male or female.

Femme: Someone who acts or dresses femininely. This is often used by non-binary people to describe that they lean towards femininity, but can apply to anyone who presents themselves in a feminine way, even men.

Masc: As above but acting or dressing in a masculine way.

Really, the key thing to remember is this: that there aren't just 2 giant boxes marked "male" and "female", and everyone who says something different is just being pretentious and attention-seeking.

Sex and gender are separate things, and can be as varied as human beings are.

Also remember that people experiment and change their gender - maybe it takes some time to work it out, or maybe it changes gradually through their life.

All this is off the top of my head, so if I've got anything wrong or missed anything out, let me know nicely please!