16 August 2011

to the east; part I

I started this blog as somewhere to share and explore my ideas but whilst out here in Thailand it'd only be right to document it in some way. I've decided to write a semi-diary style photo journal type thing. All the photos I post will either have been taken on a Sony DSC-HX1 or Simon's new Casio EX-RZ100, so here goes. By clicking on any photo it should enlarge too.

Thailand is great. It's beautiful, it's mad, it's hot, it's intriguing, it's new, it's strange and it's great. The people have a hugely positive attitude towards life which makes the experience as a visitor that much more rewarding and enjoyable. They don't seem to have the Western thirst for knowledge and constant disposable media either, which means they're all a lot more relaxed and care-free. The scenery within Bangkok is mental and within the countryside spectacular. It's very similar in culture to Sri Lanka (the only east asian country I can compare to at the moment) and the locals optimism for life, their tuk-tuk driving both also leaves safety to be desired.

We spent our first full day on a boat cruise, witnessing how a lot of the locals in Bangkok live in semi-floating wooden structures. The amount of Thai actually in the water on boats selling produce, fishing or just swimming was astounding and showed just how much the people of Thailand do rely on the water as their main source of food.

After dinner at a condom restaurant, Si & Joe went out on the 'toon where Si quite strangely bumped into Andy bloody Barron from Malmesbury. Other side of the world and someone from your school is just chilling, love it.

A day later we flew to Chiang Mai, in the greener north of Thailand, after dinner myself, Joe and Si headed out to visit some local Muay Thai boxing night at the Thaphae Boxing Stadium. We weren't sure what to expect but were keen to try it out, what we arrived to was a 6 man royal rumble event which was made more ridiculous with the addition of blindfolds to the 6 competitors. A few events and the main fight later, we'd even earnt some thai Baht from betting off the local bar owners. Joe then was bet by a small Thai boy to arm wrestle him.

The following day we rode elephants, it's one of those things that you must do when you visit Thailand and it was great fun. Joe and Simon's elephant got scared, it's driver (mahoot) fell off and it went on a bit of a charge through the jungle, so much so it scared all the other elephants into
running off a bit too. Joe even muttered to Simon in the blaze of fear, "are we jumping then?" before the mahoot took control again, a bloody funny moment mind. We then headed through paddy fields to a waterfall as it began to rain (it's monsoon season here in Thailand where rain falls usually every day for an hour or so in the late afternoon/early evening). 

The paddy fields were amazing and the wildlife we spotted was pretty damn unique too on the way to the tribe. The bamboo bridges made crossing all the rivers a fun challenge and eventually once we got to the waterfall it was a relief to dive in off the rocks into the flowing river below.

After the waterfall and a drenched jungle trek back, we headed out back onto the river on bamboo rafts, it was like a cross between a lazy river and some rapids. Good fun and a nice way to relax floating away on bamboo in the sun. We were a little worried about falling off at first until we had a little wrestle and fell off only to realise it was no more than knee deep.

After the waterfall we headed to visit a local community who lived out in the jungle. We found the animals the locals kept at their farm more interesting than the shawls and banana cigars they were trying to sell us so just had fun with the animals instead.

This evening we headed back into town for dinner and a bit of bartering and (potentially) shopping in the local markets. My favourite was the local painters, there was a large section of the underground Night Bazaar reserved specifically for them and for a small sum and a photo they'd paint your photo in amazing oils in just a few hours. I noticed a lot of them as well as painting famous people enjoyed painting the iconic Afghan Girl. If you aren't familiar with the story and rediscovery of the Afghan Girl now's the time to educate yourself; i've always found her fascinating and like many was mesmerised by her eyes the first time I saw the photograph, hence was keen to buy myself an original painting. I managed to get one for a very reasonable price after a little bartering and brown-nosing with the artist himself as well as a different print for my parents apartment.

The following day we visited a temple, I've never been a huge fan of visiting religious buildings as I don't find much of their architecture to be of interest however the gold that covered the temple we visited was in fact pretty damn good. I haven't included a photo of that, but what I have done instead is include one of us waiting in the rain for our lift to arrive and trying to 'battle' a group of small local children who were dancing for money. We choose to compete against our local rivals in the form of a rather simple umbrella rain march. Here is a photo of said dance.

Next we headed to the X-Centre, an establishment set up by a bungee and motor sports enthusiast from the islands of New Zealand. We took out 3 All Terrain Buggys, 1000cc each, through the jungle, creeks and through the local roads for a few hours which was bloody ruddy fun. Joe managed to get our buggy stuck in a cliff once and in some pretty deep mud a second time so myself and the leader had to push it out in the rain but all in all great fun. The buggys had no windshields either so hitting water and mud in 3rd gear did ensure the filth flew up over the dashboard and onto our lovely overalls.

Our last night in Chiang Mai featured another cheeky night of Muay Thai Boxing, this time we convinced Mum, Dad and Katie to come along with myself, Simon and Joe. We arrived just in time for what looked like the Under 14s event, followed by a few teen fights and a women fight and the finale which paired a Thai boxer against Mick from Sweden, we managed to place some bets with the local bartenders for our European representative and he came good. 

Once the rents had retired to the hotel the rest of us went to a few interesting bars and finished the night with a half hour foot massage. Half an hour doesn't seem like a long time when you're watching a football match, sat on facebook or in a park or something but the time ticks away rather slowly as a Thai girl is rubbing gel on, around and in-between each one of your toes. It also wasn't helped by the fact that all 4 of them thought we were very 'Mao' (drunk) and found us brilliantly funny to laugh at for half an hour. Though judging by all of the expressions on the faces in the photo perhaps even the best of us do get a little Mao from time to time.
Just before I post a little musical delight, I realise this diary-esque post is rather different from my usual topic-based blog posts (well, all 3 of them in fact) but as I said, I feel I must mention this wonderful country whilst i'm here. Usual business will return in the near future after one or two more of these diary style blogs. I might even write a topic-based one in the coming few days, we shall see.

Last but not least I leave you with a little note to commemorate the end of Alexisonfire. After a decade of innovative hardcore music it always seemed inevitable that Dallas Green would pursue his undeniable talent and interest in City & Colour (in the same way I hope Liam Cromby of We Are The Ocean does in the near future.. call me..). And yet with this less than amicable (apparently) split comes the formation of an entirely new beast. With the announcement in July that Frank Carter would be leaving Gallows to be replaced by an unknown member, Wade MacNeil (of Alexis') stepped up. 

"I told the band I wasn't going to join if they wanted me to be Frank's replacement. I was us to be even more brutal. I want to build on the legacy this band has. I want to make some music that's just fucking vicious sounding"
- Wade MacNeil

It'll be hugely interesting to see how the new Gallows functions with Wade at the helm (having been a backing singer with Alexis') and even more interesting to see how they're received by the fans and whether they decide to play old songs live or not. He certinaly seems passionate to prove people wrong and good luck to the new-look Gallows. 

Here's one of the songs which made me, and many other teenagers, fall in love with Alexisonfire.

"The king is dead. Long live the king."

Download #5

9 August 2011


I've started and scrapped this blog post about 4 times. At 9pm on Monday evening myself and my brother left Heathrow, London for Bangkok. Little did we know how much scenes would escalate in the capital in the following few hours. It doesn't take a genius to see that 95% of the children and young adults taking part in these riots, are doing it literally for the sheer adrenaline of it, somehow the knowledge that they can now break into shops and steal without consequence is enough of a reason for bored idiots to undertake such acts.

The other problem that's quite clearly evident is that the police as it is, can physically restrain rioters but aside from that, the order hasn't been handed down to start using water hoses, tear-gas, plastic bullets or police force to stop these mobs. Why are these people being given such protection? They've made their choice, send in the army, send a message to them all in one foul swoop. I have nothing against peaceful protesting, if only that was all this was, it's not even realistic to call them rioters anymore as that suggests they actually have something to riot about! If you're not entirely sure what's going on take a read on the Telegraph's website or anywhere else online at the moment in fact.

I believe the conversation between Alfred and Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight sums up the situation perfectly.

                            Alfred: "A long time ago, I was in Burma, my friends and I were working for the local government. They were trying to buy the loyalty of tribal leaders by bribing them with precious stones. But their caravans were being raided in a forest north of Rangoon by a bandit. So we went looking for the stones. But in six months, we never found anyone who traded with him. One day I saw a child playing with a ruby the size of a tangerine. The bandit had been throwing them away"
                            Bruce Wayne: "Then why steal them?"
                            Alfred: "Because he thought it was good sport. Because some men aren't looking for anything logical like money. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn."

I'm not trying to preach any kind of message to the world about this situation. I just don't feel like as a citizen of the UK I can sit and watch all this going on without having anything to say about it. The only positive for us right now, at the moment anyway, is that we're 5,930 miles away. We can only hope the police can handle the situation before people start taking to the streets elsewhere in the country rioting for nothing.

Paula Radcliffe tweeted quite appropriately,

                            "In less than 1 year we welcome the world to London, and right now the world doesn't want to come"

On a slightly more positive note, the hashtag 'londoncleanup' has been trending like mad and the facebook page 'Supporting the Met Police against the London rioters' is rising by some 1,500 'likes' every minute right now. It seems peoples anger towards the scenes and rioters is pushing them into acting for the better such as these two..
In the coming days and weeks I plan on continuing this blog as normal but for now I thought I'd chip in with my opinion on matters, let's all hope this comes to a conclusion sooner rather than later.

Stay safe and be smart.

6 August 2011

the lost art of keeping a secret

When I was 18 I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. When I got home and in a flurry of mid-freshers excitement at Uni I ended up going and getting a very simple black outline of the mountain and it's snow-capped peak on my foot, fitting I thought. It was important to me from a personal achievement point of view and also due to the fact that the famous snow capped peak would be gone within 20 years due to the warming of our planet. It was with this first tattoo that I set the bar for myself quite high, after this there was no chance I was going to head out and get something tattooed on me just because I liked it, it had to mean something to me. Maybe it was for the best, popping my ink cherry at such a height that it would prevent silly impromptu tattoos in the future. I would post a photo of said tattoo but it's really quite ridiculous and literally just two black lines.

A year ago last June my Grandad passed away, without getting too sombre he was a massive reason why I moved to Leeds for University to be closer to him through his last few years of ill health. He was a huge influence through my childhood and a great friend to me whilst in Leeds. He lived in the same house in Wakefield my Mum, Auntie and Uncle all grew up in. A huge weeping willow tree overlooked the house in the front garden that Simon, our cousins and I used to play in and generally the house was full of fantastic memories for us all. Soon after his passing my Uncle decided to buy the house off my Mum and Auntie which obviously delighted the entire family, keeping the house within the family for another generation.

Ever since his passing I had considered getting myself another tattoo, something to signify and honour my Grandad. He smoked a pipe almost every day of his life (since he was 7) until a few years before his passing. The image I remember of him is with a pipe in his mouth talking gruffly out the corner of his mouth and barking in shock when one of us would proclaim we weren't fans of peas or something else on his much prided Sunday Roast.

Around this time I spoke to a friend about my enthusiasm to get something tattooed for him. My experience of other friends getting inked was simply them going to the nearest tattoo studio and getting their own design done fairly simply. But having studied art I was keen for this to be something quite special considering the inspiration. My aforementioned friend frequented tattoo conventions, searching out her favourite artists and getting inked, almost as a collector of unique pieces of art on herself. I told her my idea and she pointed me in the direction of a few artists.

pug life
It wasn't long before I settled on Joe Ellis, an apprentice tattoo artist from Darlington working at Cock-A-Snook studio in Newcastle. Joe turned professional in February of this year and by industry standards is very much a newcomer to the scene. In the last 5 months however Joe has exploded, tattooing almost every day, clients are travelling as far as 7 hours to be inked by Joe. Having been recently asked to tattoo at this years (invite only exclusive) Tattoo Jam in Doncaster, it's sure to be a bright autumn and winter for this young man. Joe has a certain antique elegance to his work and classiness yet with definitive classic art roots that really resonated with me. He has a talent for portraits too - widely believed to be the most difficult tattoo to perfect - so I was confident in his ability. Here are a few examples of my favourite pieces of his work which led me to decide on Joe.

So after following Joe on his Facebook for a month or so and messaging back and forth I decided to take the plunge. I wanted the tattoo on my leg just above my knee, somewhere less visible than say an arm or something, yet being a big fan of shorts it would never be too far away. With my friends' lips sealed to avoid revealing this prematurely to my family, I headed to Newcastle one lazy Saturday afternoon. Having only had a tiny tattoo done in the past I had almost forgotten what it was going to feel like. The outline nearest my knee killed (having barely eaten I wasn't sure if i'd be able to hold out) but luckily just as Joe had said it would, the rest got easier. I then relaxed into it, my adrenaline was going and my first (proper) tattoo was taking shape.

3 hours, 2 and a half albums, lots of blood and snacks later, I had a homage to my Grandad, Gordon Walker. Cliche alert! Words literally can't describe my thoughts towards it - the realism of the smoking pipe, the natural colours of the willow leaves, the subtle shading of the house named banner - it was perfect. A week later I arrived home to Malmesbury from Leeds and told my mum i'd had a tattoo done but that she had to find it. After assessing my arms and a brief peek under my wife-beater she discovered my new piece. A few moments of shock and overriding emotion later, the words "as far as tattoos go, it's lovely" came from her mouth, which is more positive than the "i'm not angry i'm just disappointed" line I was dreading. All in all the entire experience was hugely positive for me. I love my new tattoo and my experience with Joe and Cock-A-Snook was fantastic, I can't recommend the man enough. The bar had been set high by my 18 year old self but G. Walker easily surpassed that bar.

Last but not least, I found out whilst at Cock-A-Snook that Joe used to live in Leeds and perform quite regularly in a metal band he'd be embarrassed if i mentioned. He did however mention that his band supported skate punk-rock outfit The Swellers once upon a time and played me their album whilst he was working on my leg. I've had the album on non-stop since returning home, a lot like A Loss For Words, Wonder Years and Against Me!, it's a perfect summer angst fueled record. Go check them out and grab this single off their fifth album Good For Me.

Download #4

1 August 2011

a second glance

My second post; not so much musically related today although i'll still stick a free download on as have heard a few decent tracks in the last few days, also found out it's a lot more simple than expected to add embedded YouTube clips into posts so rather than crap hyperlinked text you can simply click the play through button below to check out what i'm talking about.

Some of you may or may not be aware that in the last few weeks or so the world's largest comic-related film conference/expo has taken place in San Diego, America. Comic-Con is now a staple for film buffs in the calender and is seen as a major platform for the big players in the industry to preview and test some early film footage to the fans they know will be the most appreciative as well as often most critical.

This year the major talking points (seemingly) have been the reboot of; The Amazing Spider Man, Marvel's jewel in the crown; Avengers and the Spielberg and Jackson motion-capture; Adventures of Tintin.

Firstly I think the Amazing Spider Man looks absolutely great. There is a lot of debate (attached to the youtube clips and trailers anyway) about this reboot due to it being only 4 years since Toby Maguire's Spider Man 3 however I read an interview with the head of the studio releasing this and they essentially said that they felt Spider Man 4 had nowhere to go and so they felt this a good time to reboot the franchise. Personally I'm pretty excited for this, the main reasons being the lead actors. Andrew Garfield (British too) was stunning in last years Facebook/Zuckerberg bio-pic The Social Network and Emma Stone has shown in Easy A she's not just the supporting actor she was pigeonholed into in Superbad and Zombieland. A fresh young cast as well as, hopefully, a believable baddie and I think we could be seeing The Amazing Spider Man and their sequels in cinemas for the next few summers hopefully.

The excitement seems also to be shared by Andrew Garfield himself, check out his amazing heartfelt introduction to TASM' panel at Comic Con.

Next comes the Avengers, a culmination of 10 years of Marvel films including Iron Man 1 & 2, The Incredible Hulk, Thor and the current Captain America. The story itself presents a world crisis that forces S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) to assemble a team of superheroes to save the world. The group happens to consist of Downey Jr.'s Iron Man, Chris Evans' Captain', Chris Hemsworths Thor, Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye, Mark Ruffalo's Hulk, Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow as well as S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Agent Coulson and Cobie Smoulder's (of How I Met Your Mother fame) Agent Hill. There is also a sneak peak of Avengers attached to the end of Marvel's most recent release Captain America so make sure to stay until the end of the credits!

I think this and Spider Man will own in 2012 and can't wait to see how Marvel manage to gel together all these comic-lore universes in the film. Roll on 2012.

The last film that seemed to feature prominently at Comic-Con was Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg's Adventures of Tin-Tin. Now usually this directorial partnership would be enough to make anyone mildly interested in film a little weak at the knees. Early footage suggests however that despite the rich landscapes and visual beauty of this film.. the motion capture of Jamie Bell (of Billy Elliott fame) amongst other characters makes this film feel already a little like Robert Zemeckis' festive, Tom Hanks lead Polar Express, which on all accounts did little more than kill a few hours on Boxing Day in-between Royal Family specials and Coca Cola adverts.

Last but not least here is a musical delight for you all. The track Otis is off the forthcoming album Watch The Throne, a collaborative project by Kanye West & Jay-Z coming in August. The track features Otis Redding and the sample has a great soulful New Orleans 40's jazz feel to it and a great repetitive hook which suits Kanye's flow and style as much as it does Jay-Z's lyrics of grandeur. Look out for more singles dropping off this album in the upcoming weeks in preparation of the album.

Download  #2

22 July 2011

the starting line

So i've started a blog. the reason being i think tumblr is far too disposable and too much reliant on photography and in a way is just a newer shinier version of myspace, facebook's practical but a blogspot allows more space so here i am.

I also feel this can be a place to voice opinion on various things as well as post interesting film news, sport gossip, new music downloads and maybe some just plain funny videos/pictures because who doesn't love that right?

That'll do for the formalities..

I read today that British rapper Skepta's new track Dare To Dream was taken off Youtube without his knowledge. It turned out the record company Interscope complained to Youtube that the song broke their copyright rules and regulations. Interestingly this wasn't entirely truthful, instead somebody at Interscope had heard the song and thought it'd be perfect for Eminem to record so then offered and bought it off Skepta. I find it quite interesting that the sheer size and power of Interscope means that this kind of song poaching can happen essentially for Eminem to take all the credit. Saying that I think with some Marshall' verses and Skylar Grey singing the chorus (ala. I Need A Doctor) that this could be a huge tune for Eminem. I wonder if we'll see a trend in this type of thing happening in the future.

So today UK Hardcore band While She Sleeps released Part II of their wittily titled (20) Days Of Sleeps documentary (complete with borrowed songs and inspired graphics from the title-inspired film).

After watching it I can't help but feeling quite empty, the entire 16 minutes consists of them either drunk or skateboarding cut with maybe 30 seconds (at most) at a time of live performance in various countries and the band generally being daft. Sure it's good fun but the constant Vans close-ups, carefully considered camera focuses and things make me feel like the band, more than others, are selling a lifestyle rather than their music. Ironically their music is in fact very good, but unlike say the Parkway Drive DVD, which mixes live footage in with interviews as well as touring, WSS seem more interested in what they're wearing and drinking than the music they're writing/playing live.

I didn't want this post to sound as negative as it's turned out, that wasn't really the plan. As it is I truly do like the material this band have put out just feel their dvd/documentary style is a little too much style over substance but their debut EP The North Stands For Nothing is however, entirely brilliant and I'd encourage people to go see them on their forthcoming UK tour as they kill it live, dates are as follows..

I'm going to add a link to download one of my favorite tracks from their EP, if the link isn't working/gets taken down message me or comment on this post and i'll sort it out. Enjoy.

Download #1