Beyond the Wings, June 2022

This month, at age 38, with business having been on a low ebb since the Four Peaks Challenge, I visited a careers adviser. Not much has come from that particular consultation, but I have launched a Facebook marketing campaign, which has meant days have been busier than ever with work and passion projects.

Output

Many months after it was scheduled, my first article has appeared in Litro Magazine. It is a review of the novel ‘Solo Dance’ by Li Kotomi, which was translated from Japanese. It begins:

Civil rights campaigns are a long process. There was over a century between The Emancipation Proclamation, which ended slavery in the United States, and the Civil Rights Act, which ended segregation. In the United Kingdom, there was over half a century between women getting the vote and the Equal Pay Act, and it is widely agreed that feminism is still very much needed.

For all its size and diversity, Asia lags far behind the Anglophone world in the rights of same sex couples to marry.

This month’s miscellaneous cover was ‘No Surface, All Feeling’ by The Manic Street Preachers:

I am also still giving free online Mandarin lessons to build awareness.

Activities

The next The Kev album is coming along. I have already been in the recording studio to lay down some rhythm guitar and have been putting together between-song skits to liven things up.

One of the skits is probably the most controversial thing I’ve ever written. Which is damn-well saying something. It may be self-destructive to publish this under my own name, considering how prospective employers like to Google people. But I am not a fan of online anonymity, unless it’s for corporate whistle-blowers or political dissidents, and in most jobs, competence is much more important than respectability. Speaking of prospective employers, check out the Facebook page of my new business.

August 20th at Academy 3, which will be the biggest night of my creative life so far, is shaping up to be a good one. Tickets are available here.

Wider World

In 2020, due to the decidedly ineffectual behaviour of the Labour Party, some people joked that footballer Marcus Rashford was the de facto opposition leader. With rail strikes happening this month, the current darling of the left is trade unionist Mick Lynch.

Political commentator Andrew Marr described Lynch as a silver-tongued champion of the working-class. When asked who his political hero was, Lynch named the Irish socialist James Connolly.

This has got me thinking about the notion of having heroes, and celebrity culture. In one interview, Lynch acknowledged his own status as a mere flavour of the month, pointing out the fact that tabloid journalists were going through his bins looking for things with which to smear him.

Like everyone else who has ever lived, Connolly was deeply flawed. The Irish Independent pointed out that he was a warmonger who preached confrontation. It added: “A champion of the miller, the docker and the assembly-line drone, Connolly went out of his way to dehumanise the soldier and the policeman, as if they were not wage slaves themselves.”

I have decided to set up a Substack in which I discuss these types of issues further. The first piece will be on this subject.

Q & A with Ayanam Udoma

Ayanam, who will take the stage at Academy 3 on August 20th, is a Nigerian singer who grew up in Lagos but now lives in Manchester and considers himself an honorary Mancunian. He describes his musical style as soulful pop with his covers of Pop and R&B classics often accentuated by his raspy vocals.

Catch Ayanam at Academy 3, August 20th

A quarter-finalist on The Voice UK (2019) as a member of Sir Tom Jones’ team, Ayanam continues to hone his craft all over the UK, having performed at notable venues such as The Troubadour (London), Soho House’s The Ned Hotel (London), Matt & Phreds (Manchester), and The Whiskey Jar (Manchester).

His latest release, CBD, is now on Spotify

How long have you been playing?

Outside of school – I think about 10 or so years.

Where can people catch you playing before the gig on August 20th?

Playing as a support act for Joel Gardiner on July 9th at 33 Oldham Street.

Playing at the Whiskey Jar on the 13th of July.

Playing at the Whitworth Locke Hotel on the 26th of June and the 17th of July.

Ayanam’s self-penned song about his hometown

When was the first time you played live?

Not counting school performances – tail-end of 2011/beginning of 2012

What are most listened to songs on your Spotify?

ATM I’ve been listening to “been about it” by Andy Mineo and Lecrae a fair bit!

What can people expect from your performance?

A fairly mellow energy and guilty pleasure covers.

Favourite artists and influences

Paolo Nutini, Chance the Rapper, early 2000s bubble gum pop.

Your first album bought

I want to say it was “I don’t wanna know” by Mario Winnans.

Your hopes and where you see your path in music

Would like to do a proper global tour with a tour bus and all of that.

What was your first gig as an audience member?

I think the first ever proper big concert I went to was a Beyonce/Jay-Z one

What was the last gig you went to?

Hayden Barlow’s EP release

What upcoming gigs have you planned?

Apart from yours, my next ticketed gig is on the 9th of July as a support act for Joel Gardiner

Why people should buy a ticket to your show?

All the covers I do are mellow versions of songs you’ll know and who doesn’t love knowing something?

Most disliked artist/genre and why?

I don’t like artists who act too self-important but genre-wise, I don’t dislike any genre…just some songs click with me on an instinctive, almost animalistic level and some don’t. You just know when you know haha. Also depends on my mood when I hear the song and whether it complements it.

What are your musical ambitions?

To be able to make a comfortable living from touring alone.

You can follow Ayanam on YouTube, Instagram, and of course, check him out at Academy 3 on August 20th

Interview about Music with NRW Socials

Back in March, I gave an interview about my musical journey, and about the August gig at Manchester Academy 3, to Nathan Russel Williams of NRW Socials.

How long have you been playing?

I started learning guitar in 1997, when I was thirteen. My first guitar hero was Noel Gallagher (there’s a reason why children aren’t allowed to vote). I started writing songs the following year.

In the 2008/09 academic year, when I was getting my most immersive experience of China, I started writing songs in the language. Subsequently, I realised a Caucasian singing in Mandarin would never be taken seriously, so I might as well turn a weakness into a strength and embrace my status as a jester.

Where can people catch you playing before the gig?

I’m something of a fixture on Manchester’s open mic scene, including at The Lion’s Den, The Flour and Flagon, and Grand Central. I also host music events on Meetup several times a month.

Favourite song to sing in the shower?

I don’t really sing in the shower, I live in an apartment building with thin walls. But I have a new musical obsession every month. This month it is ‘I’m Always Here’ by Jimi Jamison.

When was the first time you played live?

I’ve been playing live since I was a beginner, but when it comes to my current schtick, self-penned songs with off-the-wall lyrics, I started performing them in China in 2012.

What are most listened to songs on your Spotify?

I don’t use Spotify, but I imagine if such a thing were calculated, the film soundtracks of Ennio Morricone would be up there, as would anything written by Jim Steinman.

What can people expect from your show?

To grin from ear-to-ear, for a multitude of possible reasons.

Favourite artists and influences

Well, although I see myself as a musician first and a humourist a very distant second, my Bachelor’s degree was in English Lit, so I think I draw more influence from Dylan Thomas than from Bob Dylan. My all-time favourite composer is Claude Debussy, my favourite of the past half-century is Morricone. My all-time favourite songwriter, it’s hard to say, but Jim Steinman is certainly up there. When it comes to my particular style, music-based humour, one of the best songwriters still working today is certainly Dillie Keane.

Your first album bought

Queen’s Greatest Hits 1974-1980

Your hopes and where you see your path in music

Continue improving at the craft and build a body of work. I don’t have any ‘ambitions’ when it comes to public recognition, so success will mean being able to work at it for as long as possible, so as long as I don’t lose or break my fingers, become a mute, or get hideously deformed in an acid attack or something similar, I will be delighted to be able to keep writing and performing. 

What was your first gig

Manic Street Preachers at the Manchester Arena, December 1998.

What was the last gig you went to?

Excluding open mics, The Kunts at Satan’s Hollow, December 2021. Since then, I saw George Borowski at The Lion’s Den, but that was more spoken word than music.

What upcoming gigs have you planned?

To go to? Kula Shaker are in town this summer. I think I’ll give them a go.

Why people should buy a ticket to your show?

Because it is inexpensive, and if you don’t like the comedy you’ll still love the music, or vice-versa.

Most disliked artist/genre and why?

I just have individual works of art that I dislike rather than entire artists. I dislike it when Coldplay try to offer social or political insight, because they never actually have any. I generally believe in WB Yeats’ principle that “we have no gift to set a statesman straight”, so don’t care for it when a singer or comedian gets too preachy, unless they happen to be a genuine expert on the subject at hand.

What does it mean to you to be playing at a renowned venue?

Everything. For most of my thirties, I abandoned song-writing for other pursuits. Those things were of great value, including an MBA, a job in a Fortune 500 company, and a book of short stories, but song-writing is what brings it all together for me.  

Beyond the Wings, May 2022

Though I’m still not the world’s greatest outdoorsman, the Four Peaks Challenge loomed large over the middle of this month. My exercise routine is now back to normal, but it left me semi-mobile for several days afterwards.

Output

This month I have uploaded a new Chinese song

And the demo of a new English song,

which will be on my next album.

This month’s miscellaneous cover was ‘By the Sea’ from Suede’s 1996 album ‘Coming Up’

Activities

Alas, being away for the Four Peaks Challenge caused me to lose some business, but I am doing a lot to get it back up, including employing a professional marketing agent and giving free online lessons:

Also, since this year was meant to be a prolific one for writing non-fiction, I wrote this essay about Tom Lehrer and forgot to mention it before.

Wider World

China is not a country that I am always proud to be associated with. Every Westerner I know sometimes complains about their government, but with a free press, we are able to be quite knowledgeable about what type of people our leaders are.

This month the BBC obtained data detailing China’s monstrous treatment of its Uyghur minority. In 2020, China’s ambassador to the UK denied the abuses with Donald Trump levels of immaturity.

The economic miracle has facilitated a rise in Han Chauvinism, and a nationalism which I find positively revolting. When people are so convinced that they are right, they end up behaving in ways that are utterly wrong. I am reminded of a quote from Jacob Bronowski, one of the great intellectuals of the twentieth century:

This is where people were turned into numbers. Into this pond were flushed the ashes of some four million people. And that was not done by gas. It was done by arrogance, it was done by dogma, it was done by ignorance. When people believe that they have absolute knowledge, with no test in reality, this is how they behave. This is what men do when they aspire to the knowledge of gods.

4 Peaks Challenge

In mid-May, in the 48 hours between midday Thursday May 12th and Saturday May 14th, I completed a grand adventure for a great cause. The Lighthouse Charity supports the entire UK construction industry:

Summit of Ben Nevis, Thursday afternoon

Summit of Helvellyn, the small hours of Friday morning

Somewhere on Snowdon, Friday afternoon (at the summit I was in no mood for photographs)

Ferry from Holyhead to Dublin

Bottom of Carrauntoohil, Saturday morning

Summit of Carrauntoohil, Saturday afternoon

Meeting Irish Olympic gold medalists at the awards gala, Saturday night