Tuesday, 25 December 2012

DOCTOR WHO: THE SNOWMEN


Well, that was bloody marvellous. The 2012 Doctor Who Christmas special, The Snowmen, has been the icing on a most wonderful Christmas day.

The script was a delight, as was the introduction of new companion Clara, played by the very energetic Jenna Louise Coleman. Speaking of which, I saw her in Pantomime once, and she was superb making everyone laugh, so I have high hopes for her in the greatest TV programme ever.

I absolutely love the new TARDIS interior, the new titles and them, as well as the Doctor's new costume and his new edge. Oh, and I love the fact he's aged rather a lot too ;)

What a perfectly seasonal and exciting story. Richard E Grant was chilling (no pun intended), and the voice of Ian McKellan was such a wonderful touch. Watch it again over at the BBC iPlayer site!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

KATE MIDDELTON PREGNANT: THE WORLD FORGETS EVERYTHING ELSE

Quick, it's the perfect time for political parties, media types, celebrities, religious folk or pretty much anyone else to get away with saying and doing pretty much anything.

You see, Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, aka “The Royal It's Ok To Like As She Seems Pretty Normal... So far”, is having a baby.

That in itself is lovely news, as many stories about people expecting children tend to be. As a father myself now, I can appreciate the excitement and the wonder at what is to come (prior to being so tired you are able to hear colours and often have lurid fantasies about half-hour naps), but what I can't appreciate is the blanket mediagasm which is happening around the announcement of the pregnancy and Kate's morning sickness and stuff.

Ok, she's one of the most famous women in the universe right now (and any news about Kate Middleton means there is less space to write about that talentless, vapid little trollop Tulisa), but would it be so much to ask that we give her a bit of privacy right now?

Endless speculation as to what the baby will be (I'm guessing small and pink for a while), what it's name will be (Gemima Terence Gruntlethwack Bingle – you read it here first!), the birth, the fact that the child will be third in line for the monarchy, it's all going to be filling every media outlet for months now. Ah well, who needs real news anyway? At least it makes a change from everyone talking about the bloody X-factor.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

THE NEXT BIG THING: A Writer Meme


Meme time! I was tagged in a blog post by local writer Adrian Reynolds to take part in a writer-based series of questions about where I'm at with stuff, and then pass on the torch to other hacks out there. Here's my own entry. I hope it gives you a bit of an insight into my fevered brain and the stuff I'm up to.

What is the working title of your book? 

Which one?! There are a number of titles very nearly ready to unleash upon the public. My next non-fiction book is VHS ATE MY BRAIN, an affectionate and hugely geeky book about the rare breed of nerd that I am, namely a VHS horror collector.

My next fiction releases will be I AM THE DARK, the third and final book in THE OTHERSIDE TRILOGY, following on from DEAD THING and FOR THE FALLEN.

Next year there will be some special 'Double' releases from me, featuring two stories per volume, as well as a bunch of new non-fiction titles (and yes, in answer to a lot of questions, there will indeed be a sort-of sequel to BAGGED AND BOARDED: LIFE ON PLANET GEEK).

Where did the idea come from for your book? 

The Otherside books are an amalgam of horror movie brain pollution, comics and too much sci-fi TV. My shorter fiction inhabits a strange Clive Barker/Neil Gaiman/Isaac Asimov/Frederik Pohl headspace.

My non-fiction material is largely geek-centric and told with lashings of humour and delicious sarcasm.

Where do my ideas come from? All over the place. Oh, and if ideas don't come, I will just start writing, and the ideas will shape themselves.

What genre does your book fall under? 

My books thus far fall under the following genres:

ACROSS THE SEAS OF MIND – Science Fiction collection
ACCESS NO AREAS – Journalism collection
DEAD THING – Horror/Fantasy
FOR THE FALLEN – Horror/Fantasy
DIARY OF A GENRE ADDICT VOLUME ONE – Cult film critique
BAGGED AND BOARDED: LIFE ON PLANET GEEK – Non-fiction/humour

Next titles:

I AM THE DARK – Horror/Fantasy
VHS ATE MY BRAIN – Cult films/non-fiction
Doubles titles – Science fiction/fantasy

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? 

Focus on cast members from the modern era of Doctor Who and I'd be happy.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? 

I AM THE DARK; The epic and horrific conclusion to THE OTHERSIDE TRILOGY, in which the Paranormal Division must face a brutal otherwordly darkness on an unimaginable scale.

VHS ATE MY BRAIN: The rantings of a geek obsessed with ancient cheap horror movies on a long-dead format, including interviews with other likeminded freaks around the world.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? 

My books are currently published in print and digitally via my Dreamrider Media imprint. The short fiction I had picked up for US distribution was published by Positronic Creations. My music journalism is published nationally in Powerplay. Next year I'll have some more pro stuff out too.

How long did it take to write the first draft of your manuscript? 

Each takes me around three months from initial draft to finished product. These two have taken me a while longer due to becoming a father this year and having no sleep, let alone enough time to write anything other than my regular national freelancing.

What other books would you compare your story to in this genre? 

Hmm. I'd say THE OTHERSIDE TRILOGY would appeal to mature readers who love darker Doctor Who, Torchwood and brutal horror stories with a genre film feel to them. Perhaps Ray Bradbury's darker moments.

Who or What inspired you to write this book? 

Horror movies, comics, anime, metal, novels by people like Clive Barker, Tess Gerritsen and Shaun Hutson, Doctor Who, the X-Files and much more.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? 

The cover to DEAD THING (the first book in The Otherside Trilogy) has an absolutely stunning cover by an incredible artist. I'm hoping that the final book can have just as amazing a cover.

As for stuff like BAGGED AND BOARDED and VHS ATE MY BRAIN, there are very specific audiences who I know want titles like them very much. All I'm doing is writing about stuff I love which I know others can relate to.

Right, that's me. Here are the people I'm tagging for next week's players... Thanks for reading!

CLAIRE LOUISA THOMAS - Author, journalist, humourist, genius and mother.

HARRY PATERSON - Political writer, music journalist and famous Grump.

JUSTIN MACUMBER - Author, podcaster, editor. Also known as a Dead Robot...

ANGELA GRANT - Geek. Rush obsessive.

DIE BOOTH - Writer. Enigma.

S.ROIT - Author of the Paris Immortal novels.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

EVIL DEAD REMAKE - THE FIRST POSTER

So here's the first poster for the unnecessary remake of The Evil Dead. It's, well, boring, but I'm trying to keep an open mind this time. I despise remakes, but this one does have a definite visual style of its own, even though there appears to be none of the humour of the original. And with no Bruce Campbell, it automatically loses major points there.

I'm hoping it's at least a kick ass horror movie, as those seem to have been thin on the ground of late. I hope something original will come along soon.

And as for the tagline... that's yet to be seen.



Wednesday, 14 November 2012

SKARLETT RIOT VIDEO UPDATE


In my professional opinion as a rock journalist, Skarlett Riot are one of the most promising young bands currently on the scene. After slots at Download and Bloodstock, plus their own 'God Damn Reckless' tour, Skarlett Riot have gathered a lot of new fans this year.

The video below is a new update from the band on their recent adventures. This is one band that I truly believe has what it takes - both in the studio and onstage - to become a very big deal.

Fronted by the powerhosue vocals of Skarlett, they offer a young audience a kindred spirit while offering every generation some damn fine rock music. Check them out, and get ready to hear a lot more from them in the coming year.

Need more proof? Check out their 'Villain' video:

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

BUY ANY OF MY BOOKS VIA AMAZON THIS MONTH AND ALL PROFITS GO TO CANCER RESEARCH

Just as the title says: Buy any of my books (in either print or Kindle formats) from Amazon during November, and I will donate 100% of the royalties to Cancer Research. On a light-hearted note, I can't grow a moustache very well so I can't tale part in Movember, and on a serious note, Cancer Research is a charity I have a lot of respect for.

Cancer can affect the lives of anyone, regardless of background, race, sex or whatever. Let's try and help the search for new treatments and an eventual cure get a step closer.

This applies to all of my own books currently on release (the SF anthology ACROSS THE SEAS OF MIND, the blog collection ACCESS NO AREAS, the horror novellas DEAD THING and FOR THE FALLEN, the film book DIARY OF A GENRE ADDICT VOLUME ONE and my comic-shop chronicle BAGGED AND BOARDED: LIFE ON PLANET GEEK), but does not include the 'Explorers' anthology, as I didn't publish that one and thus I don't see when the sales come in.

Click here to find my titles on Amazon.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

FIREFEST 2012: STILL BURNING FOR YOU


It's been a couple of weeks now, and still I'm riding the high from going to my third Firefest visit. Firefest 2012, once again at Rock City here in Nottingham, surpassed the previous two I'd covered for the magazine in every way. The lineup over the three days was second to none, the crew absolutely professional in every conceivable way, the audience once again a joy to be a part of, and the atmosphere totally unique and utterly intoxicating.

Firefest Friday was a delight from start to finish, blowing the cobwebs away perfectly with wonderful sets from Lionville, Dante Fox, Ten and Tyketto, and was exactly what I needed. I've been having a majorly tough few months with one thing and another, and being back with MY people and MY perfect musical tastes was such a tonic.


There is something about the Firefest atmosphere which is totally different to every other live show around. The bands walk freely around the crowd, the crowd makes friends with pretty much everyone they see, random conversations begin between people from separate continents at the drop of a hat, and so on and so forth.

The only real drawbacks to the entire event relate to the venue itself, as in absolutely nowhere for the audience to sit down between sets (not that they really would have, considering it's also a nightclub) and the vile condition of the toilet facilities (a river of piss and floating turds isn't what people want to see when they've travelled from the other side of the world for it, I'd imagine...).


Those two issues are the only downer on what was another epic weekend of melodic rock music (including headline sets from Tyketto, Gotthard and Danger Danger, and outstanding sets from Lionville, Work Of Art, Robin Beck, Royal Hunt, Stage Dolls and the rest), good times with a sea of people who are a delight to spend time around, approachable and friendly crew, jovial door staff and even bar staff who didn't take the piss out of the bands for once.

I even got to see a little of the backstage mayhem while interviewing the superb Dante Fox on the Friday afternoon, and everyone involved was professional to an almost godlike degree. Special mention must go out to a lady on the crew named Jo, who broke her arm on the Friday, went to get it sorted and was back working at Firefest that night! Now that's dedication.



While the reviews from the four-strong Powerplay team that attended (myself, Rob Evans, Harry Paterson and Steve Swift) will hit the shelves at the end of this month (along with my Dante Fox interview), I just wanted to give the Firefest crew and all of the bands who put on such amazing sets a shout out and a great big and sincere thank-you.

I hope you all know what the festival means to the fans who go. In fact, I do know you understand that, as you're even bigger fans of this stuff than we are. My utmost respect for another glorious weekend of music, which a lot of other shows could learn a massive amount from. Two weeks on and I'm still in awe.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

FREE HALLOWEEN HORROR STORY - GRIM HOUSE

Hey all! Here's my annual free Halloween horror short story! This year it's GRIM HOUSE. I hope you enjoy it. If you do, then please do share it with your likeminded friends!

WARNING: Due to extreme violence and adult language, "GRIM HOUSE" is not suitable for young readers.


GRIM HOUSE by Andrew Hawnt

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

STAR WARS EPISODE 7 COMING IN 2015 AS DISNEY ACQUIRES LUCASFILM


According to a breaking story at Comingsoon.net, Disney are in the process of acquiring Lucasfilm in its entirety, including rights to the Star Wars universe, Industrial Light and Magic, LucasArts, the works. This is a very interesting move with many aspects to consider, but the main one right now is the fact that Disney/LucasFilm will be releasing STAR WARS EPISODE 7 in 2015, with an unknown number of further Star Wars films to come.

This could go either way, really. While Disney's recent forays into Science Fantasy (Star Wars ain't Science Fiction, folks), namely stuff like the terribly marketed and cumbersome JOHN CARTER, have flopped spectacularly, the pull of the Star Wars universe, even tarnished by the trilogy of risible prequels, is still strong.

A new set of films would help to introduce a new generation to one of the most important cinematic franchises in history, while giving long-term fans a whole new slew of merchandise and whatnot to collect and enjoy. With classics now becoming ever more distant into the past, a new, fresh take on Star Wars could be good.

At least it's not going to be a bloody remake.

I'm guessing these films will take a direction of their own, thus completely invalidating decades of Star Wars Expanded Universe material. Or would they? Who knows? This story is still developing, so keep 'em peeled.

It could all turn out to be an even bigger train wreck than nonsense like ATTACK OF THE CLONES, so let's hope that the possible STAR WARS EPISODE 7 has more going for it than a Death Star shaped like Mickey Mouse.

READ DISNEY'S OFFICIAL STATEMENT BY CLICKING HERE!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

FIREFEST 2012 - THIS WEEKEND! - SOLD OUT!

This weekend is going to rock. Lots. I'll be there as part of the POWERPLAY ROCK AND METAL MAGAZINE team. I hope to see you there!


Social Media Scores Can Get You A Job (Infographic)

An interesting infographic I was passed by Onlineclasses.org. What's your opinion? Social Score Infographic

Thursday, 4 October 2012

RED DWARF X – WELCOME BACK, DWARFERS!


Well, that was lovely. We just watched “Trojan”, the first episode of the new RED DWARF series, aka RED DWARF X, and it was splendid. As many old Smeg Heads did, I feared the worst after the poorly received 'BACK TO EARTH' miniseries which served as the 9th season, but this episode had everything that made Red Dwarf great in the first place.

The script was lovely, the episode low-key and very much in keeping with the spirit of the classic episodes which are so much loved by so many people. Yeah, the sets have been updated along with the effects, but the mix of old-school comedy and pitch-perfect characters with updated production values was a delight.

The fact is, it didn't try to be something that it isn't. It hasn't been supercharged with sex, endless swearing or elaborate effects, hasn't becoming knowing and self-referential and aside from it feeling weird to have an ad break in a Red Dwarf episode, it was like welcoming back old friends.

The format has returned to the direction the show was doing so well before series 8 ruined it in previous years, and after a long and tiring day, I am most grateful that Red Dwarf X has begun with such a beautifully old-fashioned, very funny and thoroughly entertaining episode.

Yes, the cast are all looking a bit older, but they were back to their best in this and it was like they'd never been away. What a pleasure to watch. Welcome back, Red Dwarf. We've missed you. Seriously, we really have.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

NIGHTWISH: ANNETTE OLZON OUT, FLOOR JANSEN IN (FOR NOW)

Nightwish with now ex-vocalist Annette Olzon
Anyone who knows me is aware that I am a huge fan of Nightwish, and I don't care one bit if people want to mock me for it. Nightwish are an incredible band, and while their latest album, “Imaginaereum” didn't grab me as much as its predecessors, they remain a band which I hold very dear. The news of Annette Olzon's departure from the band (Five years on from the ousting of original vocalist Tarja Turunen) came as something as a shock, so what the hell happened?

The story is all over the internet if you want the full details, but in brief, a few days ago Annette was hospitalized with a selection of horrible health issues. She was unable to play a Nightwish show due to recuperating, but the band went ahead with the gig by calling in Kamelot's two backing singers to fill in. The show was played, with the band and audience taking equal turns to perform, be it full songs with the ladies or as giant karaoke sessions.

Annette wasn't pleased about this, and posted some words to that end on her blog (which has been a great look at a working musician's life for a long time now, incidentally). She played the next show with Nightwish and did her best after recovering from being ill, but then the very next day there came the press release stating Annette and Nightwish had parted company.

...and a replacement (albeit temporary) was already in place.

Floor Jansen, vocalist of ReVamp and formerly of After Forever.

Floor Jansen - the new Nightwish vocalist (for this tour, anyway).
WOW.  This is IMMENSE.

The internet went mad with both pieces of news. There seem to be three ways the fans are taking this: Some love Annette, some are STILL going on about how the band should bring Tarja back, and a huge number (me included) think that Floor should stay on permanently.

First let's deal with Annette and the breakup – Annette never had an easy ride of things as a part of Nightwish, thanks to her voice being a very straightforward (but very good) rock/pop voice and not the classically trained soprano voice of Tarja. Her two albums with the band, “Dark Passion Play” and the recent “Imaginaerum” are both great albums, if not utterly classic, and she really didn't deserve all the hate that people piled on her. The split is a good thing for both sides. For Nightwish, the band can now claw back some ground lost over the past few years (venues have shrunk quite noticeably since the heady days of their “Once” tour), and Annette will be able to move onto other things.

Nightwish circa 2004, with original vocalist Tarja Turunen

Second: Should Nightwish try and bring back Tarja Turunen? No. Never. The band should not get back together with Tarja, as I believe it would be the end of the band altogether. An album and tour would come, but I believe that it would tear them apart. Too much time has passed and too much has happened for both parties now, and that era should be left perfect and beautiful as a part of their collective histories.

Third: Floor Jansen. To be quite frank, getting her in to do the rest of the tour is a BRILLIANT, WONDERFUL and PERFECT idea. Floor has one of the greatest voices in music, not just metal, as well as a huge personality, a great stage presence and boundless charisma. Will she become the permanent new Nightwish singer? I kinda doubt it, but I would absolutely LOVE it to happen.

I've seen Floor play live (with ReVamp, and then duetting with Epica vocalist Simone Simons on the same night!) and she is utterly captivating as a performer. What's more, she's a really sweet person, as I discovered when meeting her that night (see awful phone photo that accompanies this piece). She fits PERFECTLY. There are a few YouTube clips of her first Nightwish show up, and they're stunning (even in low-res) – the band is on fire.

Myself (I'm glad I've lost weight since then!) with Floor Jansen herself
(ReVamp/Epica tour 2011, Nottingham show)
So for the rest of this world tour at least, Nightwish have a vocalist who can perfectly perform Tarja era tracks as well as those from the Annette albums. Where they go next is up to mastermind Tuomas Holopanien.

I for one, as a long-term fan of the band and admirer of Floor's work, would like to see Floor Jansen join Nightwish permanently, as the band would finally be able to prove to the naysayers that the band can prosper without Tarja at the microphone. Long live Nightwish. If Floor stays on as singer, then the world won't know what hit it. Floor Jansen joining Nightwish is literally a dream come true for many fans of this particular genre.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

On My Hatred Of MUSE

I hate MUSE. I hate them so much, and yet, millions of people all over the world love the whiny bastards to bits. Each to their own and all, but I can't stand them, their lumpen dirge or their apparent status as the Second Coming. I can't bloody stand them.

This all stems from seeing them live back in 1999, opening up for LIVE (Remember them? They were shit as well), at a gig that was so very awful it has echoed down the years as a symbol of how to get music wrong.

That night, back in the mists of time, was an agonizing chore to get through. Their set was so hideously bland and painful to watch that I wanted to pull the top of my skull off and rummage around in my brain for the 'Off' switch.

Here and now they are worshipped as geniuses, but all I hear is a shiny production and songs which any old indie pub band could do. The 'scale' and 'progishness' that people speak endlessly of in regards to their banal drivel are both products of hiring a good producer.

Would I have a different opinion if I hadn't suffered that terrible support slot set years ago? No. They're shite, and they'll always be shite. Millions may love them, but all I see and hear from them is a very highly polished turd.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Dear Dimension Films, Can I Please Write The Next Hellraiser?


Hi everyone at Dimension Films. I'd like to make a request if I may. Could I please write the next Hellraiser film? As a long-time fan of the films, the mythos and the concept created by Clive Barker, I would seriously like to write you a script for a new Hellraiser film which would be low on budget but high on tension and hopefully be enjoyed by the Hellraiser dieheards whilst still bringing new fans on board.

I realise that Hellraiser: Revelations was a film made very quickly and under a great deal of pressure, with a tiny budget, and that film was almost universally panned by fans and critics alike.

I would like to have a stab at providing a script for a chilling and claustrophobic horror thriller which fits the Hellraiser mythos perfectly while not costing a great deal to produce.

Why? Because I want to see the Hellraiser series continue, and get back some of the love which has been lost along the way. The remake's coming eventually, I know, but while the series continues to live on DVD, as a fan I'd love to bring other fans something they would enjoy. I'll write it for free. Please do get in touch.

(Well, it's worth a try, eh?)

Sunday, 9 September 2012

DREDD: This is more like it

It pleases me greatly that the new Judge Dredd film, aka DREDD or DREDD 3D, is going down well right now. I'm yet to see it, but will be going this week in order to join in the fun. The 1995 judge Dredd movie with Sylvester Stallone had its moments, but it was a woeful missed opportunity. Now we have a dark, gritty, violent take on the character, much more in keeping with his 2000AD roots, the world is finally getting a proper taste of what that comic has to offer the world in terms of movie potential.

I really am excited about this movie, and that's not happened about  new release all that much in years. I hope that 2000AD sees a sharp increase in sales too, as it is literally the only decent british comic being published now. Karl Urban looks and sounds just like Judge Dredd should, and while there will undoubtedly be things that are different, it seems that we finally have the definitive screen Dredd at last. It's been a long time coming.

Full review to follow, probably over at Diary of a Genre Addict.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

What is the appeal of Nicki Minaj?


I realise I am about as far away from her target demographic as it gets, but seriously, what is the appeal of Nicki Minaj? Beyond raunchy videos and a bit of oh-so-naughty foul language, there seems to me to be nothing to her but rapid-fire gibberish.

Rap isn't my thing, nor R n' B (although the real definition of the term, i.e. Rhythm and Blues, is fine by me), but even with those dire excuses for music I can see the appeal to fans who do like them. Nicki Minaj is different though, like a hip-hop Lady Gaga, but without a voice or any musical talent whatsoever.

Her main contribution to that single 'Pound the Alarm', or whatever it is, appears to be jiggling her boobs at the camera in order to take attention away from the fact that the vocals sound nothing like her voice (find live footage of her – she can't hit a single note beyond the spoken range, and most of her chorus lines are prerecorded).

So, is Nicki Minaj nothing more than some clever marketing and some soft porn music videos? Seriously, in all honesty I don't see what the fuss is about. Mind you, she got a reaction out of me, so she must be doing something right. Possibly 'Employing Bright Marketers'. Personally I'd like to see her fired out of a large cannon into some form of spacial anomaly. (awaits being flamed by people who can't get 'your' and 'you're' right)

Sunday, 2 September 2012

My next book... VHS ATE MY BRAIN

So following on from the geek antics of BAGGED AND BOARDED: LIFE ON PLANET GEEK, my next adventure in all things cult and obscure is entitled VHS ATE MY BRAIN. 

A chronicle of life as a video addict, bad film connoisseur and now collector of weird films on this beautiful dead format, it will be told with my typical breed of humour, affection and foaming at the mouth. Geek ahoy :) Coming in October from Dreamrider Media.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Book Review: IT'S ONLY A MOVIE by MARK KERMODE

I want Mark Kermode's hair. Hell, ANY hair would be preferable to the gleaming dome I have been cursed with since my early twenties. That aside, I've had a blast reading his 2010 memoir of life as a film obsessive, and while I disagree with him on a bunch of stuff (which is healthy), I can't help but love the book to bits.

Of course, as a devout horror fan, the bits I found most thrilling were his encounters with Sam Raimi, Wes Craven and Linda Blair, but the whole book is more than worth a read for any serious film fan, or indeed genre addicts such as myself, and possibly you.

Told with a wry wit and the tendency to meander off on odd tangents, Kermode's loving chronicle of his many misadventures as a film critic is a delight from start to finish. Yeah, he can come across as a bit of a cock now and again, but that's part of being a film fan, isn't it? I know I can certainly come across as a bit of a cock, but Mark at least does it with style.

His lengthy account of a trip through Russia with his mate Nige and tour guide/keeper Yolena to visit the location shoot of the underground chiller Dark Waters is both hilarious and excruciating, and you really need to read the whole thing in order to help Mark deal with the horrors of putting up with “Mister Nyet” on a terrifying car journey.

Then there's the thing about Werner Herzog's trousers exploding. What more do you need to sell this to you? Buy it, read it, and bask in the knowledge that you're not the only awkward, babbling movie-addicted sad case out there. Cheers Mark, I needed that!

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Powerplay - my 50th issue is almost here!



My fiftieth issue as a writer for POWERPLAY ROCK AND METAL MAGAZINE is almost here, and I'm really excited for you all to check out the two feature interviews I have in there. Both are with icons of rock and metal, and both musicians have played a big part in my life.

Interviews with DON DOKKEN (DOKKEN legend) and VINNIE PAUL (HELLYEAH/PANTERA/DAMAGEPLAN) were conducted recently and were absolutely wonderful. Both Don and Vinnie were absolute gentlemen, and getting the chance to talk to two people who have been a mainstay of my love for music since my love for music began was an absolute honour.

The new HELLYEAH album, "Band Of Brothers" is OUT NOW and is a rip-roaring piece of metal the likes of which could only be created by a band whose members have such a formidable pedigree.

The new DOKKEN album, "Broken Bones" is still being mixed, but the four rough tracks I heard are excellent, showcasing both the classic Dokken sound and the more mature side of the band and the man himself.

Two more ambitions to cross off the list!

My time with Powerplay has been brilliant since day one, and I must say a HUGE THANK YOU to our readers and my colleagues for making it so much fun to do. You rock, one and all.


Sunday, 29 July 2012

KOBRA AND THE LOTUS - "FOREVER ONE"

It pleases me music like this continues to be made, and continues to improve. This song's great. Solid band.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Review: HAYWIRE by Justin R. Macumber

Like action? Like sci-fi? Like fully realized characters in a well-constructed universe? Here's a treat for you. The debut full length novel from podcaster and acclaimed author Justin R. Macumber is a fabulous piece of genre entertainment where all he bases are covered. Excitement? Check. Intrigue? Check. Characterization? Check.

When a breed of super-soldiers once sent out to protect humanity from an alien invasion return to our planet infected with a virus which has turned them against their own world, the fate of everything falls into the hands of a small group of heroes-in-waiting. “Haywire” is certainly the work of an author who is familiar with not only genre fiction, but adventure fiction however it comes.

The writing style evokes David Weber, Larry Niven and a more to-the-point Peter F. Hamilton, and the focus is very much on telling a rip-roaring adventure, without skimping on the characters and settings.

Haywire is not a book for everyone, but it is certainly a superb book for fans of gung-ho science fiction excitement which harkens back to the days when space opera was at the forefront of the genre.

That's not to say it's an old fashioned book - quite the opposite - it's fresh and new and contemporary, but it holds within its pages all the elements which made Star Wars, Farscape, Stargate and so many more franchises strike such a chord with fans. Buy it and enjoy.

HAYWIRE on Amazon UK  (Paperback and Kindle)
HAYWIRE on Amazon US (Paperback/audiobook) Kindle Edition

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Review: THE DRAGON MASTERS by JACK VANCE

A story which has been released in several forms over the years, as part of anthologies or as a book in its own right, Jack Vance's novella was originally published in Galaxy magazine in 1962. I've just read it for the first time, in a copy of The Hugo Winners 1963-1967, and absolutely loved it.

The mixture of science fiction and fantasy tropes (an alien invasion, quarrelling natives, a group of new-age thinkers, dragons, massive battles and terrifying weapons alongside much more) was melded together into one of the most coherent novellas I've ever read.

Joaz Banbeck and Ervis Carcolo are two wonderfully formed characters, completely at loggerheads for the duration of the story, while the hippy-ish, naked Sacerdotes watch on as the world around them tears itself to pieces with internal conflict as well as external invasion from the chilling, strange race known as the Basics.

Social commentary seems to be a powerful motivation with the story, and the reader is invited to draw their own conclusions as to which party is in the right.

While the language and the format of the story has indeed dated a little, the power that it carries has not. The Dragon Masters is an extremely entertaining science fiction/fantasy novella, which I cannot recommend highly enough to lovers of genre fiction.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

EXPLORERS: BEYOND THE HORIZON – OUT NOW!!!


Explorers: Beyond The Horizon, the Science Fiction/Fantasy anthology featuring my story “Beneath An Orange Sky” is out NOW! I am most proud to be part of a book with such talented writers and editors, and I hope that everyone who checks it out enjoys it.

Featuring a wealth of original stories in which the main character is/has been forever changed by far-off and thrilling new places, it's a unique and exciting book which will make you think, gasp, weep and applaud.

It's available NOW in paperback and a huge range of ebook formats. What's more, if you order the paperback version, you can get the ebook in the format of your choice for FREE!!!

Details on how to do that, and a full rundown of the authors involved in this new book from Positronic Creations can be found at the Dead Robots' Society podcast's page for Explorers: Beyond The Horizon. So please do check it out and help to support the future of genre fiction! 

Some of the fine places you can find the book:

Explorers: Beyond The Horizon paperback and Kindle edition on Amazon UK 


Explorers: Beyond The Horizon paperback edition on Createspace US 


Explorers: Beyond The Horizon paperback and Kindle edition on Amazon US 

(More links and formats available on the above link to the Dead Robots' Society!) 

More new short fiction will surface from me very soon, and I am actively looking for new outlets to help me share some of the odd things that go on in my head...

Monday, 25 June 2012

WHERE NEXT FOR STORYTELLING?


Books are wonderful, wonderful things. Stories short and long permeate everything we are as a people, no matter our heritage, our histories are awash with stories rich in imagination, allegory and wisdom, but now there seems to be something of an impasse. It seems the time is coming when a new kind of storytelling will be ushered in.

From word of mouth and cave paintings to the printed word, digital media and beyond, stories both true and imaginary have been the very glue which holds any society together.

So what next? The publishing industry is in flux, the tastes of the public even moreso, and yet stories still have their power over us. What will that new way of storytelling be? It will most likely be like nothing that we have thus far come up with, a new way of absorbing stories and information.

Cerebral implants? Immersive holograms? Sensory illusions? No matter what the next step in the evolution of storytellers and storytelling turns out to be, there will always be the need for stories. So gather them. Share them. Tell them. Write them.

Stories are the foundation of everything that exists. Now that's something spectacular to contribute to. Get writing, drawing, creating any way you can.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Could have/could of... AAARRGGGHHH!!!

Dear world: It's COULD HAVE, not COULD OF. The 'could of' comes from people misinterpreting 'could've', which is 'could' and 'have' stuck together. Please learn this, or I will be forced to detonate the planet's core AND IT WILL ALL BE YOUR FAULT.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

SKARLETT RIOT - 'VILLAIN'

I'm seriously impressed by the new EP from this young band who recently played the Pepsi Max stage at Download 2012. They have a great sound and a great work ethic (they are BUSY), and I see big things in their future. A full review of their EP is forthcoming. Until then, here's the video for the track 'Villain'.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Alice Cooper back in the UK in October!

Oh Hell yes. Alice Cooper will be bringing his show back to the UK this October, and his band for the tour will still include new guitar hero Orianthi Panagiris amongst its ranks. This is a MUST SEE TOUR.


Monday, 11 June 2012

The State of Play

It's a busy time, folks. There are a lot of new projects being worked on for you right now, and it's been difficult to fit blogging in alongside those projects and my new responsibilities as the father of a beautiful baby boy. My son has become my world, but my creative endeavours continue! Here I a run-down of some of the projects which will have my awesome surname (come on, it's a pretty cool name) on them soon.

I AM THE DARK
The third book in THE OTHERSIDE TRILOGY, following on from DEAD THING and FOR THE FALLEN, will arrive in August! This final novella sees Lisa Lambert and the Paranormal Division face off against the greatest threat ever...

NEW SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL 
I am in the early stages of writing a full-length science fiction novel. There are three things behind this book: A great story, a love for SF and the need for a new challenge. 

NEW SHORT FICTION
New stories are being written and submitted to a variety of outlets :)

NEW SHORT STORY COLLECTION
A new collection of SF, fantasy and horror stories will be arriving on the Kindle in the autumn. This will include my popular Halloween story “Undead and Buried” alongside a slew of brand new stories both short and not-so-short!

AND... 
As usual, you can find regular new material from me in Powerplay Rock and Metal Magazine, Horrornews.net and Lost In The Multiplex. A huge number of other projects are also underway, but those listed above will be the first to arrive. Other words to keep in mind include: Podcast, comic, column and script. I am not sleeping much, lately.

OH, BY THE WAY...
I am currently brainstorming ideas for a possible second BAGGED AND BOARDED book. That book has proved to be my most popular title yet, and people seem to be hungry for more in a similar vein. What form this will take will come to light soon!

Arthur C. Clarke...

‎"We have to abandon the idea that schooling is something restricted to youth. How can it be, in a world where half the things a man knows at 20 are no longer true at 40 - and half the things he knows at 40 hadn't been discovered when he was 20?" - Arthur C. Clarke.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

An Evening With Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie

ALAN MOORE: “WHO BOTCHES THE WATCHMEN?” 


“I'm assuming that parts of this will end up on the internet,” Alan Moore told a packed crowd at the Nottingham Contemporary Art Gallery last night when asked his thoughts on the Watchmen prequel comics, BEFORE WATCHMEN, which have no involvement whatsoever from Moore or artist Dave Gibbons. “So, I'll give this to you. You can have this. What comes to mind is 'Who botches the Watchmen?'”

Moore and his wife and creative collaborator Melinda Gebbie were at the Contemporary to discuss the relationship between art and politics, and during two and a quarter hours of discussion also covered comics, sexuality, pornography, magic, gender, personal identity, writing, and much more. It was an absolutely fascinating evening, and both Moore and Gebbie held the attention throughout the duration of the talk.

Chaired by Professor Matt Green from Nottingham University, the discussion was another great free event held at the Nottingham Contemporary, a place which I really should visit more often. Moore and Gebbie were engaging throughout, and Moore's demeanour was a long way from the dour manner in which he is usually painted by people, even when faced with questions about Watchmen, which he must be so very tired of hearing by now.

There was a collective “Uh-oh...” when someone asked him about the aforementioned Before Watchmen project (which is, in my opinion, a misguided, needless cash-in which I will certainly not be flicking through, let alone buying). The discussions regarding their “Lost Girls” book were very interesting, as were the motivations behind the creation of the piece (“Reclaiming pornography from the likes of Nuts and Zoo”, redefining the term itself and dealing with the sense of shame people have about their bodies were interesting related topics), and the accompanying projected frames from the book and associated works were a fine addition to a wonderful evening.

Moore's dry self deprication (“Sorry, was I booming again? Was I using my Outdoor Voice?” - when Gebbie motioned for him to move back from the mic as his sonorous baritone was thundering from the speakers) and jovial manner with the audience, coupled with the insightful contributions from Gebbie made for a night which was at once entertaining, educational, rousing and informal. A fantastic way to spend an evening, and a very nice way to get into the minds of such talented and opinionated people.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Amazing words from Neil Gaiman

There's a great quote from Neil Gaiman going around right now, taken from his speech at the University of Arts n Philadelphia, where he was given an honorary doctorate.

“Remember, whatever discipline you’re in, whether you’re a musician or a photographer, a fine artist or a cartoonist, a writer, a dancer, a singer, a designer — whatever you do, you have one thing that’s unique: You have the ability to make art. And for me, and for so many of the people I’ve known, that’s been a lifesaver, the ultimate lifesaver. It gets you through good times, and it gets you through … the other ones. Sometimes life is hard. Things go wrong — in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do: Make good art. I’m serious. Husband runs off with a politician? Make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by mutated boa constrictor? Make good art. IRS on your trail? Make good art. Cat exploded? Make good art. Someone on the Internet thinks what you’re doing is stupid or evil or it’s all been done before? Make good art. Probably things will work out somehow, eventually time will take the sting away, and that doesn’t even matter. Do what only you can do best: Make good art. Make it on the bad days, make it on the good days, too.”


Brilliant. The full speech this is taken from can be viewed at ComicBookResources.

Friday, 11 May 2012

H.E.A.T. - "Address The Nation" Review


H.E.A.T. 
“Address The Nation” 
Genre: Melodic Rock 
earMUSIC 

Album number three from the Swedish sensations is here at last, finally bringing the incarnation of the band that live audiences have enjoyed since 2010 to an official recording. So how does the first full album to feature former Swedish Idol winner Erik Gronwell fair?

Dear, cherished readers, this is bloody spectacular. Taking its cues from Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Winger, Bonfire, Journey, Dokken and all of the other greats of the AOR/melodic rock heyday, “Address The Nation” offers ten anthems which stand up brilliantly next to the legends the band adores.

However, it's clear from the start with future classic “Breaking The Silence” that the band aren't just playing a bunch of 80s covers. This is melodic rock for here and now, polished, chunky and absolutely effervescent. “Living On The Run”, the first video track, follows that with a sound like Journey with heavier guitars, while “Falling Down” shares a similar atmosphere to Eclipse, or indeed W.E.T. in terms of style.

While some people did balk at the idea of a reality TV star as the new H.E.A.T. vocalist, Erik Gronwell puts in a performance that can only serve to silence any naysayers – this guy is the real deal, offering vocals that bring to mind a cross between Steve Perry and Sebastian Bach's melodic moments. “The One And Only” is a ballad worthy of Bad English, and as the album progresses you discover that the band has taken everything that makes this genre of rock n' roll so wonderful and given it a punchy, modern sheen. 

Yes, it'll come across as unashamedly retro to some people, but that would be missing the point. It's a classic sound, but played with the passion of a vibrant young band who are only just starting to show us what they're made of.

As good as the first two albums from them were, “Address the Nation” redefines the band in grand style and pushes everything to the maximum. The songwriting, musicianship and vocals are all of a ridiculously high standard. Check out the Journey flavoured “Better Off Alone” or the perfect-movie-soundtrack that is “In And Out of Trouble” (featuring a gloriously audacious guitar/saxophone solo trade-off) as great examples of how this genre can sound current without just plundering the past.

Punch those fists in the air. The real thing is back. Now it's time to play your part. Get hold of this album and play it loud and proud.

(My interview with H.E.A.T. is OUT NOW in the current issue of POWERPLAY ROCK AND METAL MAGAZINE)



Tuesday, 1 May 2012

HALESTORM - "Love Bites (And So Do I)"

This is some of the finest rock music around right now. Halestorm are one of the greatest live bands of this era, and have finally delivered an album which does their incendiary live power justice (the glorious "The Strange Case of..." album, OUT NOW!).

This is the first single, and it kicks more ass than most bands do in whole careers. Lzzy Hale is one of the best vocalists in the business.

Monday, 23 April 2012

SIDEWAYS: A film I can always trust


I was introduced to the movie SIDEWAYS by my old housemate, Chris, a graphic designer with far more conventional taste in films than my own. I don't usually go in for comedy-dramas such as this, but something about it really struck a chord, and continues to do so. Chris kept telling me how much like Paul Giamatti's character (Miles) I was, and he had a point.

 Miles is a struggling writer with a catalogue of personal issues and neuroses, with a skewed sense of his own worth and a hobby which is more of an obsession (in Miles' case it's wine. I guess mine would be vintage VHS horror movies or ancient SF pulps).

The film has taken a place alongside High Fidelity, Clerks 2 and The Breakfast Club as one of the films I can always trust to be there when I need something to relate to or find some solace in. I guess I'll always see myself as a bit of a loser, a bit of an oddball outsider, but where's the problem with that? I'm me. It's just my life seems a bit more sideways than a lot of other people. Cheers Chris, I needed that, mate.


TRIXTER - "Tattoos & Misery" video

It's always good to hear a classic band come back from out of nowhere with something this strong. Melodic rock is alive and well, thanks to bands new and old.

ZX Spectrum turns 30


Wow... the ZX Spectrum has hit 30 years old. Man, I feel ancient now. Like many other people in their thirties and beyond, I had a ZX Spectrum back in the day, and at the time it seemed like the absolute apex of computing technology. Who can forget the sound of a game loading up, or those undulating coloured bars? Those classic blocky graphics and limited beep-boop noises? Ah, nostalgia. You help us forget how clunky the past was. Heh.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

New Release! BAGGED AND BOARDED: LIFE ON PLANET GEEK - out now for Kindle!



My sixth book, BAGGED AND BOARDED: LIFE ON PLANET GEEK is out now for the Kindle and Kindle Apps! A funny, moving, chaotic chronicle of my nine years spent working in a busy comic shop, it's a book a lot of people have asked me to write for several years.

Think of it as both a Time Capsule and an Exorcism. That place meant so much to me, but it also sent me ever so slightly insane.

This book, including all of the ridiculous things that happened to myself and my colleagues during nine years of geeing out, is intended as a love letter to that time as well as a look at how mad life can be when you work in retail.

It does have a comics and film geek bias, but anyone who has ever worked in a shop will find stuff here they can relate to.

Click on the cover or the text below to purchase and download your copy!

BAGGED AND BOARDED: LIFE ON PLANET GEEK by Andrew Hawnt

Thursday, 29 March 2012

TORPEDOHEAD - 'Cadillac Beach"

I never get sick of this band, and it's easy to understand why. To the point, fun and memorable. What more do you need?

Monday, 19 March 2012

TEENAGE... *ALIEN* NINJA TURTLES? SERIOUSLY?

Michael Bay, the guy who made three Transformers movies which felt about as much like Transformers films as the Twilight films do, is to be bringing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to the big screen in 2013, but he's now revealed that he's changing their origins.

Can't this guy leave stuff alone? After suffering global outcries following the Transformers films for their liberal screwing-up of the franchise's major elements, he's at it again with another much-loved childhood hit.

So after Transformers and its TINO nickname (Transformers In name Only), will fans around the world dub this TMNTINO? The 2007 CG movie of TMT was pretty damn close to the source material (by which I mean the Eastman and Laird comics, which came before the cartoon), but the knowledge that Bay is attached to this new version of the franchise just sets alarm bells ringing for many people.

For me, it make me despair for an age where Hollywood could come up with something new once in a while, rather than ruining everything that has ever existed with remakes, re-imaginings and re-releases. 

Come on Bay, either give the Turtles their proper origin, or don't make it at all. Making them aliens just gives him an excuse for epic battles, which is a mistake. The turtles are supposed to be in the sewers, the streets, alleyways and dark places.

If only someone could make a faithful live action film of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, with practical effects and a simple story. If only. Oh, wait, yup – we already have one. Shut up, Hollywood – go and sit in the naughty corner.



Saturday, 10 March 2012

FIVE CLASSIC THRASH METAL VIDEOS

Time for some classic thrash. That kinda night, really.

 SACRED REICH - "THE AMERICAN WAY"

 NUCLEAR ASSAULT - "CRITICAL MASS"

SEPULTURA - "INNER SELF"

ANTHRAX - "IN MY WORLD"

ANNIHILATOR - "STONEWALL"

....aaaahh. That's better.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

The wisdom of Asimov

"The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom." - Isaac Asimov

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

AVENGERS ASSEMBLE - NEW UK TITLE, NEW TRAILER

Despite the pointless change to the title for the UK (do you really think audiences who see it will mistake it for the overrated old TV series of the same name? *sigh*), this makes me very, very happy indeed. I AM RIDICULOUSLY EXCITED ABOUT THIS FILM. It's like a dozen childhood dreams coming true at once.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

METAL ESSENTIALS: IRON MAIDEN - “SEVENTH SON OF A SEVENTH SON”


Iron Maiden' seventh album was, to these ears, heavy metal's “Dark Side of the Moon.” A luxurious, complicated and multi-faceted piece of musical ingenuity which retains every bit of its power, even now. At the time of its release, there seemed to be some division amongst fans of the band as “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son” featured heavy usage of keyboards on many songs.

There were those who maintained that keyboards had no place in the Iron Maiden sound, that they watered down the basic foundation of what made Maiden who they were and continue to be. Nonsense.

The album was a very bold move for the band, but it was a move that needed to be taken lest they remain static in one creative space. Yes, it featured all of the guitar harmonies, galloping basslines and enough Bruce Dickinson howls to satisfy the diehards, but the added sense of scale those additional elements brought to the music worked really well. Those sounds have dated a little now, but not enough to reduce the impact of each song.


The hit single “Can I Play With Madness” is a perfect example – it's one of the greatest songs Iron Maiden have ever produced, yet it features the keyboards heavily throughout it, as well as a hugely melodic quality thanks to the legendary chorus.

Everything about the album seems to work with everything else, from the songwriting itself to the cover art, the production and the ad campaign which went with it.

The title track is a perfect example of how Iron Maiden can take the listener on a lengthy musical journey without it becoming stale or too contrived, and the whole album is an essential piece of the Iron Maiden story, and a key point in their evolution. Incidentally, a brilliant live album and video followed it in the shape of “Maiden England”, which features some amazing live renditions of tracks from this album. 

Highlights: “Infinite Dreams”, “Can I Play With Madness”, “The Evil That Men Do”, “Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son”, “The Clairvoyant”
Year: 1988
Produced by: Martin Birch
Label: EMI

And here is the "Maiden England" live version of the title track in all its glory...


Tuesday, 21 February 2012

DELAIN – Why Won't Warners Release Their New Album?


Dutch symphonic metallers Delain are having issues with getting their new album released. The highly anticipated “We Are The Others” album has been shelved by Warners (it was supposed to be out in 2011) and thus the band and their growing legion of fans are without a new product to promote or enjoy. The album is done. The promo campaign had started. The songs were being teased online via a popular video. The cover was out. The band were stoked.

Then... nothing.

Why? Delain's label, the rock and metal powerhouse Roadrunner Records, was taken over by WMG and since that change the label is reluctant to put the new album out. No clear reason has been given. It seems, from what I can find, that there are staff at Roadrunner working to get the album out, but WMG are yet to understand the genre that they have bought into by acquiring Roadrunner.


The new Delain album sounds much heavier than the first two, so maybe that's an issue WMG are having. Things have changed since the early days of Roadrunner being a niche interest label. Many Roadrunner acts are huge, and have become so under their own steam without pandering to trends or major label dilution.

It's great that WMG has got hold of Roadrunner in one respect, as that means the label has a chance to grow and to nurture new talent to a greater level, but it also means that people who don't understand the genre and how its audience works may be sticking their noses in a bit too much.

Are they wanting vocalist Charlotte to go solo? Do they want the heaviness of the new album to be toned down to ensure commercial appeal? Whatever the case, the album is done and ready, the audience wants to buy it and the band wants to promote it. Dear WMG – please put the new Delain album out. We want to hear it, and keeping it under wraps is a waste of time, effort and a missed opportunity for revenue.

You can join the campaign to get the album released at the Petition for Warner Music to release Delain - We Are The Others Facebook page.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

COMING SOON – BAGGED AND BOARDED: LIFE ON PLANET GEEK

I'm currently finishing up a new book which will be released soon via DREAMRIDER MEDIA. Entitled BAGGED AND BOARDED: LIFE ON PLANET GEEK, it has been written following literally hundreds of requests that I do so from friends and former colleagues.

In case you don't know, I used to work in a comic shop, which was a dream job for me for the nine years I spent doing it. This book is all about working in a comic shop, working in retail and the geek lifestyle, mixed with recollections of the day to day life that comic shop employees lead. To protect my sanity and that of others, I have renamed the place I worked at as Planet Geek for this book. I want to share with you people the real-life experience of life on planet geek, and all of the laughs that went with it. It's funny, it's serious, it's geeky and it's honest. It's coming soon to the Kindle and iBooks and will have a limited print run too! More details very soon.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

The First Time Daddy

Did you know I'm going to be a daddy? Well, now you do, and I am maintaining a blog about the experience and my thoughts, fears and hopes for the future. Please do visit The First Time Daddy.

I can't wait for him to arrive :)

Sunday, 29 January 2012

FIREFEST 2012 LINEUP ANNOUNCED

Firefest 2012 has been announced in full by Kieran Dargan on the Steve Price Rock Show on ARFM, and it's absolutely spectacular. 18 brilliant melodic rock acts over three days (October 19-21 at Nottingham Rock City). The full details are available at The Firefest website, but here to whet your appetite are the bands playing, which have been revealed tonight by mainman Kieran!

If you like your rock melodic and have a taste for some names that stir up an entire era, then feast your eyes on these:

FRIDAY: 
LIONVILLE, DANTE FOX, TEN, TYKETTO 


SATURDAY: 
JOHNNY LIMA, WORK OF ART, ROBIN BECK, SANTERS, XYZ, MITCH MALLOY, GOTTHARD 


SUNDAY: 
FARCRY, FIONA, ROYAL HUNT, BRIGHTON ROCK, LILLIAN AXE, STAGE DOLLS, DANGER DANGER 

Now THAT is a rock festival bill. Time to start getting excited again!!! For me as a music fan, and particularly a melodic rock fan, this bill sees a LOT of dreams come true. Brilliant, one and all!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Underworld Awakening: "Heavy Prey" featuring Lacey Sturm of Flyleaf

I went to see UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING on Monday (my review is over at Diary of a Genre Addict), and now I can't get this song from the soundtrack out of my head. It's the perfect sort of song to go with the movie. Looking forward to picking up the soundtrack CD once it's out over here!

THE CROW REMAKE – NEW WRITER, NEW DIRECTOR, SAME BAD IDEA


The Crow remake has yet another writer and director attached to it. Look, Hollywood, put the remake down and walk away from it. We know you can't stop messing about with things that are already fine and dandy as they are, but seriously, this remake of The Crow that you seem to be obsessed with making, no matter how many people quit the project and how many people deride it and cry out against it. I think you're all mad.

I can understand the interest in remaking it – there is money to be had thanks to brand familiarity from the wider audience and a diehard core audience who love the original so much, but seriously, this is one film you should leave alone.

Yes, there were sequels and a TV series, and while they were largely awful, they did nothing to diminish the power of the original movie. Plus, the original film carries such poignancy due to the sad circumstances of its production and completion following the death of star Brandon Lee on set.

It stands as a bittersweet and beautifully realized legacy for him, very much an icon of the era that the film was released into, and no amount of slick CGI and slow-motion shots in the rain are going to change that fact, no matter how much money you throw at it.

Just leave The Crow alone. It is what it is, and it does not need to be sullied further by a remake with none of the heart, pathos or impact of the original. Bad Hollywood. Naughty Hollywood. No biscuit for you.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Tips For Bands On Creating Your Bio Sheet


I'm currently finishing up my reviews batch for an upcoming issue of the magazine, and something has been bugging me. There are a lot of new bands out there who are trying their hardest to get some recognition, which is admirable in the current musical and financial climate, but who are going about one key aspect all wrong.

The bio sheet, or Press Release, depending on how seriously you take yourself, is an integral part of any promotional package that is sent out to magazines (and thus journos such as myself), and it's easy to get carried away with what you put onto it.

I, like many other rock journalists, really don't need most of the stuff that a lot of bands like to include in their press material, and thus here is a brief guide to a professional – and useful – bio sheet.

What we need:
Information presented in a clear and uncluttered manner, so we can help YOU get to where you want to be.

What we DON'T need:
Background images behind the text, fancy fonts, several pages of what your mates think, lots of photos. Flashy doesn't equal good.

The length: 
One sheet is preferred, but two sheets is acceptable if it is completely necessary (which it usually isn't). Using one sheet of A4 minimises waste, maximises the content you're showing us and helps to keep your postage costs low. Printing on both sides of the sheet is a good idea too, if you need the extra space.

The essentials: 
The following things MUST be on there (and don't scoff at some which seem basic – people DO miss them off...):

Band name 
Band members 
Contact details (email, phone, postal, management, website, twitter etc) 
Title of the release being promoted 
Release date 
Record label (or listing as 'Independent Release' for unsigned acts) 
Song titles 

The rest:
Then there are additional things which come in very handy for people reviewing the material too:

Brief biography (100 words or so – include where the band was formed, influences and history) 
Relevant quotes 
Discography 
A picture of the band 

It is very possible for all of this information to be included on one piece of A4 without too much of a squeeze, making it easier for you to get your point across and easier for us to write accurate reviews of your music.

Oh, and a rule for coming across as a professional prospect: MAKE SURE YOUR SHEET CONTAINS NO SPELLING MISTAKES OR GRAMMATICAL ERRORS. While this last part is not absolutely essential (especially when bands are from other countries), it does help to present yourselves and your material in a good light. Good luck, you talented guys and girls.

The world is out there for the taking. Just make sure you do it right.

Your humble busy rock writer,
Andrew

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Watching... 'Watching The Detectives'

I've had this 2007 film on my radar for a while. The premise appeals to the film geek in me, and I can always use something to fill the void left by there only being one High Fidelity and one Clerks 2 in the world. Cillian Murphy plays the owner of a video store (remember those?

I certainly do, and I miss them lots) who lives his life through the films he watches (this is kinda too close to home, really). Then Violet (Lucy Liu) walks into his life and starts making him live life for real through a series of pranks and very endearing exchanges.

It's drawing me in, and making me yearn for the days of having a local video store nearby. There's something about it that brings to mind the films of Kevin Smith and John Hughes without directly copying them. The High Fidelity aspect of it is of course the film nerds, and that's the part I relate to far too much. That aside, I do recommend you watch Watching The Detectives sometime, if only to keep the spirit of video shops alive, even a little bit.

Sigh. Being a nerd can be bittersweet.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

SISTER SIN - "SOUND OF THE UNDERGROUND"

I've had this song stuck in my head for almost a week now. Sister Sin are a superb band with no bullshit to their sound - just raw, mean and melodic hard rock with a metal edge. This is from the album 'True Sound of the Underground', which rocks just as hard as this the whole way through. Buy it.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Simon Pegg: Speaking to the nerd in all of us

I'm currently reading Simon Pegg's awesome autobiography (awesomography?), Nerd Do Well, and am kicking myself for not reading it sooner. I've been having a bit of a geek-life crisis of late, after being unable to indulge my inner nerd much lately due to free time and money issues (i.e. not much of either), but now the chaos of the Christmas period has been reduced to flickering embers (like those you see in the background of any post-apocalyptic SF film), I can feel the nerd rising once again.

This is nice, as I've been pining for my days working in a comic shop lately. Not the job in itself, but more the people I used to work with and the customers we would enjoy and endure in equal measures. In fact, I'm writing a book about my nine years in a comic shop, which I'll tell you more about soon. What I have been missing the most is that sense of camaraderie, that sense of being comfortable with making jokes about the way Rob Liefeld would draw legs without being stared at as though I'm a lunatic.

Simon's honesty and enthusiasm in Nerd Do Well is a joy to behold, and remarkably life-affirming where many autobiographies seem to depress or frustrate. Mr Pegg comes across genuinely as one of us, and that's one of the many reasons I enjoy his work so much. I mean, as well as putting out some excellent performances, he's clearly having a blast ticking off every boyhood dream possible. I mean, come on, he's been a Starfleet officer, a zombie killer, a badass super cop, a Doctor Who villain and a bunch of other things the big kid in all of us wishes to try out sometime.

During my years behind a comic shop counter, I was frequently compared to his Spaced character, Tim Bisley, thanks to my dress sense, questionable facial hair, love for 2000AD characters and my hatred of Jar-Jar Binks. It was a comparison I had no issues with, as it was all true. Granted, in the comic shop I worked at I didn't get to work with Bill Bailey or fight with a Bat'leth, but I did get to rant about back issues, put rows of graphic novels into chronological order and draw comic characters on signs. I even tried to be a comic artist at one point (which made a resurgence last year when the Galleries of Justice Museum commissioned me to draw the comic images of Robin Hood and the gang for an exhibition which is still running now).

I'm finding this book very reassuring and very inspirational, and after a few months of feeling rather lost and blank, I have reconnected with the things that have given me so much pleasure for the past 21 years since I properly discovered the world of geek at the age of 12. I'm halfway through the book right now, and already am feeling the geek reawaken in me.

With some very geeky projects coming up this year (including the birth of my son in a few months and his subsequent indoctrination into early geekdom via the medium of subconsciously humming the Doctor Who theme to him and suchlike), I am most pleased to be back where I belong- with my head full of spaceships and four-colour heroes. Cheers Simon!

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Endeavour: A suitably subdued origin for Morse


I'm a big fan of the Morse novels by Colin Dexter, and of course the iconic TV version starring John Thaw in the lead role as our Wagner-loving, ale-supping hero, and thus it was with a little trepidation that I approached watching Endeavour the other night on ITV1.

Prequels are rarely much good, no matter how wonderful the source material is, but while this initial story for the young Morse felt a little slow in places, it did seem to capture a young Morse quite well in his formative years. The little nods towards the man he would become in later life were a delight (such as the start of his love for pubs and driving Jaguars), and Shaun Evans put in a valiant performance as the young Endeavour Morse.

He got a lot of John Thaw's mannerisms down perfectly, but seemed a little too physically slight and vocally gentle to really capture Morse's spirit. He did well, but perhaps it's a case of a part being so ingrained in popular consciousness as being played by a certain person that no matter how good he is in the part, he will never escape being compared to the original. That's to be expected, but it's also a shame as he's a fine actor who takes the material here and puts in a strong showing.

At first I did feel like I was watching a mash-up of Sherlock and Heartbeat, but that subsided once the story did hit its stride. The main issues I had with this one-off special (which is surely being seen as a pilot for a series) lay in the pacing of the story and the script itself, which seemed a little stretched in the feature-length format.

There did seem to be a little padding here and there, but nothing that really spoiled it. The plot was classic Morse, especially once he started finding his feet with the officers he was assigned to work with and once he started picking out clues that literally everyone else missed.

Special mention must go to the character of Fred Thursday, played by Roger Allam. He's the perfect archetypal hard-boiled copper, complete with hat at a jaunty angel and a fine line in telling Morse to leave the room while he 'extracts' answers from potential villains. Allam clearly had a blast with the role, and Thursday's influence on the way Morse works in later life is clearly apparent.

It can't have been an easy production to write or make, considering how loved both the novels and the TV version of Morse are, but thanks to a largely strong script by Russell Lewis, it was a most watchable drama. I do hope it becomes a series and we get to see more of the cases that shaped the icon Morse would become.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

SHERLOCK – Series 2 is here... TV is great again!


On New Year's Day, the BBC gave us a late Christmas present with the first episode of Sherlock's second series of three feature-length stories. “A Scandal In Belgravia”, the episode in question, was a joy to behold on every level for myself and my lady, not to mention millions of other people. It warms the heart that such an intelligent, sumptuously made piece of television drama is able to draw such attention to itself via its quality alone.

Thanks to the teams of Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss (two of my Doctor Who heroes) behind the scenes and Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman on the screen, this particular incarnation of the Sherlock Homes mythos is sure to be seen as one of the best ever.

This first new episode had everything that made the first series so spectacularly good in it, along with a new-found confidence and swagger that in lesser hands could possibly come across as showing-off. With Sherlock, it's not a case of 'look how amazingly clever we are', it's more a case of 'Isn't this fun?' Sherlock himself is as eccentric and maddeningly difficult as ever, Watson is once again our window into Sherlock's mad world, and the mythos of this version of the sleuth is having more layers added with each passing minute.

I loved the addition of The Woman in this new episode, and while there have been complaints about her nudity at the pre-watershed time it was shown, it wasn't gratuitous and fitted with the character. There's a difference between treating a person like a piece of meat on screen and an actor playing a character who is a dastardly, massively intelligent person who likes to play psychological games with her foil.

I am not that well-versed in the lore of the original Homes stories, but my lady is, and was most pleased to witness many nods to the original tales mixed in with this new episode. That's one of the many joys of this new vision of Sherlock Holmes – it is very respectful of the source material while taking a brave step towards modernizing the elements surrounding them.

At its core, the show is a very faithful adaptation of the characters and their dynamic, even if they are using mobile phones, the internet and suchlike. It is very clearly a labour of love for the cast and crew, and thanks to beautiful additional performances from a wonderful cast (including Mark Gatiss himself as the beautifully enigmatic Mycroft Holmes) it is a genuine treat to watch.

“A Scandal In Belgravia”, while being an extremely good piece of television in its own right, hints at the delights and horrors that are yet to come this series, and also reaffirms faith in audiences that TV can be witty, intelligent, engrossing and exciting all at once. It's like those Moffat and Gatiss blokes have done this gripping TV thing before with some other show. Oh wait, they have. Long may these people continue to be so utterly wonderful.