Nordeney by the sea
Norderney after a wonderfully intimate show in the Brauhaus. If this island was good enough for relaxing Kaisers, it’s good enough for me! The whole place reminds me of a bygone era. If it were not for the slightly garish modern shop fronts one could imagine bumping into Goethe sucking on an ice lolly, or Wagner walking past in intense thought. Such a long coast of undulating mirrors must be an inspiration to everyone unless they are deaf, blind and without emotion. In our 21st century lives, it’s so difficult to encounter an environment that is truly peaceful. Norderney is such a place.
I always have to live somewhere close to the sea, so regardless of how many people crowd around me there is still distance and headspace over the salty waters. The good thing about an island is that the climate and the weather are always changing so the mood and the landscape are changing all the time. It’s taken me many years to realise that I have to try and schedule in real relaxation time in between my normal mode of manic activity. At the weekend I move south again via a Fischer-Z solo show near Dortmund to meet up with the band and do two more Belgian festivals. I look forward to the weekend. I’m really enjoying this place. Bring on the fish!!
Fischer-Z Members Club Update.Dear Friends,First of all thank you for signing up to our mailing list! From now on we want to have more direct and frequent contact with our friends and fans.This year we have been engaged in plans for the re-invention of Fischer-Z, which has involved a lengthy process of pulling together all the music and films from different company deals from the last 35 years! This has delayed the official release of the new ' This Is My Universe' album.In the next few weeks we will be in touch with all of you, to keep you updated on upcoming membership and club offers. There will also be some very special boutique individual items offered to the Fischer-Z Members Club only.This year, purchasing a special boutique item will automatically entitle the buyer to a lifetime membership of the Fischer-Z Club...Exciting stuff!
May Paris Impressions
Passing the 'Wild Love' store on Boulevard Magenta I brush against a black Rasta man with a pearl studded cap. A waft of Gaelic ganja smiling against a hip-hop background.
There's rampant sea of green taxi lights, screeching scooters in a cacophony of colourful chaos. American voices standout from indigenous linguistic beauty. What is it about the French language that makes it sound so glorious from the mouths of every class and colour at any volume?
A beautifully suited bow-tied business man smokes with real finesse, while German tourists sport shorts and rucksacks and iPhone sixes. The characteristic motorcycles with two front wheels set off against the Algerians with just two front teeth. The street art seems to be more like art, transcending simple graffiti. Goodness me, this place is so hot even in May and it's not easing up even as we move south towards the river.
There is still Charlie graffitti. There are a lazy plane trees that you only see in Paris, with slower moving leaves than any other capital city in Europe - and more designer! It is however genuinely difficult to breathe here with its parked car fumes, part awe and wonder, part a distinct lack of oxygen.
I run the gauntlet of the pedestrian crossing and catch my trainers on a pair of black discarded lacy knickers. Beggars and vultures abound, but at this time of the day they are perched high in the shadows, way above lunchtime in Le Chatelet. What could be better?! Essence, says the sign. Excuse my French, but this seems appropriate... Then there's classy massage in the rue de Saintonge, on the way to 'La Philosophe' for lunch.
And now the cafes in the Marais... Bohemian and baccarat, bustling and boastful, bestial and bacterial. Now I am replete and also familiar in this place. Lunch with Norwegian ladies of the same school year as mine. A kind of coming home abroad. My word have I benefited from not working!
And finally to the Eurostar terminal. Do you know this station is probably one of the most attractive in the world? It's still embodies some the of the romance of travel. The main difference between now and 30 years ago is the number of Oriental travellers. This over globalised world is indeed a virtually smaller place...
Before doing the show tonight, we walked through town to go to a very classy Italian restaurant. Nifty food, great company and very stylish waitresses... However, on the way back to the venue I spotted this shopfront. What a dog's breakfast!
Here we go. We are three major gigs into the tour. We've done huge distances in the van. We are on the way to Berlin and have just escaped from a major traffic jam - a 'Stau'. The sausage truck in front of us, provides at least a little visual entertainment. tonight we play a beautiful church venue - Passionskirche Berlin.
The road to Bavaria
Oh joy oh joy oh joy! Less than 200 km to go to Munich. The 'stau' in the opposite direction is horrendous. The Dutch boys are in charge in the front and the management are processing film and photographs. We have lazy hip-hop on the system. All we need is an anti-tank gun for the caravans!
Rock & Roll Antidote
Sometimes it's necessary to show the other side of rock and roll... It's not all black jackets and Jack Daniels, Marshall amps & Flying V guitars!
True or False
In this room it's impossible to say bad things or good things. Something is either true or false. The man with the hand in this photo is spouting falsehoods...
Sunset through Sunglasses
A fortuitous angle of sunset through my bifocals, making Western Road in Hove that little bit more glamorous. Are we really a more polluted city than London?! Yesterday evening didn't feel like it. I was told by a taxi driver today that 20 mph speed limits are very bad for the enviroment. Some of the traffic policy instigated by the greens seems to be environmentally counter productive. Bring back the horses I say!
Sometimes I see
Sometimes I see a Lowry picture by the sea/ Sometimes I see the whole world in front of me/Sometimes I see a group of walking dogs/Sometimes I feel in the presence of a God...
It's amazing... Wherever you are in the Brighton & Hove area, it's always possible to hear people speaking in a large variety of languages. It's not only up and down Western Road and in the centre of town. I was relaxing on the beach after the poisonous smog had cleared in the glorious afternoon sunshine, when I spotted this happy group of beachgoers enjoying the same environment as me. We exchanged a few words on the subject of barbecued lamb! All we need is dialogue – and love of course...
Tour Report (sort of)
Just a brief report on the tour so far. I mostly hate musicians blogs about their shows because they are as boring as wallpaper. In an era when even news is mainly fallacious entertainment, there is absolutely no excuse for dull writing. Our shows started in the NL, mainly in the provinces. We've added Tony's guitar to our live set up and as I refuse to rehearse enough, it all took a little time to settle down. As well as being a fine musician and experienced professional, Tony's affable 'geordie' nature enabled him to deal with my flouncing impatience!
The tour has been building momentum show by show - Well… I would say that wouldn't I?! But it happens to be true. Most pleasing for me is the fact that there have been so many young people in the audience. WE ARE NOT AN OLDIES BAND! There are so many miserable, cynical old sods out there pedalling nostalgia in second gear. I'm an optimistic old git who wants to spread the love to everyone, young or old. There you go, that last sentence has made my tour manager Gerrit happy. (Somebody has to keep an eye on the things I write.)
Germany has always been friendly to me… I don't know why. I reckon it must be because I put a 'c' in Fischer.
BUY THE VINYL SUPER SINGLE! BUY THE T-SHIRTS! COME AND SEE US PLAY!
(Was that OK Gerrit?)
Special congratulations for Eric, our artistic/technical wizard, for his birthday on tour.
He doesn't drink and fortunately he didn't notice the acid we put in his vegan salad.
Abbruzzo - A break
Down here in Italy there is a remarkable contrast between hot days in the fields and a view which includes snow on the mountains. I have been resting down here for a while with a friend who is on a mission to prune his 54 olive trees. It would be extremely useful if I could speak Italian. I'm looking forward to returning recharged to finish the build up to the tour.
My Heart's Too Big For My Body - Single
Hope you like the new video! As we’re gearing up to the spring tour I’ll be blogging much more and so it’ll appear back in a prominent place here on the front page of the website.
Who hung these heavy weights on me?Which joker fuelled me leaden free?I've been spiked with Angel dust and heroin and acid,But nothing in that repertoire could make me half so passive.Computer screen sucked out my eyesI'm not surprised I'm compromisedThe pavement quakes beneath my feetI'm just a psychic refugeeThere's precious little left of meThat's not a bloodshot effigySuspended from society.
Ants to a gleaming maggot - Poem
At last the sunlight claims cold victory
Under foot dryness waves two fingers at the jet stream
People rush out like ants to a gleaming maggot
Bogus laughter replaces wet whinging ways.The TV weather sensationalists will be disappointedDismal Oxbridge wader-wearing scumMarvel at the tenacity of public incapacityThe myth of climate change become the art of things to come.So gently rolls the seaAs immune as we are from death and life and HolocaustOur rubbery backs will feel the brunt of sticks and stonesfrom many fronts to come.And so... Warm wonder belies the day when all devolve to dust.
What? … No Piggies?!
In all the years I've passed these chimneys on the train, I've never seen it quite so colourful. "What? … No Piggies?!" is the phrase that comes to mind. "What? … No cucumbers?! is probably the 21st Century architectural equivalent. Anyway, an image to sooth the troubled soul.
Word Salad (1979)
After having a fine cup of tea and some tasty chocolate cake with my 'big brother' Steve Skolnik at a particularly classy cafe in Soho, I was amazed to be confronted by this impressive object in the gentlemen's lavatory. I was assured by one of the waitresses that it was donated to the cafe by the West Indies cricket team... I'm not sure I believe her.
(I was very careful to make sure I was the only one in the room when I took this picture.)
There are stones in the cafe instead of on the beach.
The seagulls are working hard to fly backwards.
I've seen a man with a long white beard and a pair of zebras.
I've also seen a happy drunk making love to his rucksack in a brightly lit Railway station, that looked like a supermarket.
That's just a normal day out the office in Southern England.
Blowin' up a storm.
There is one hell of a wind out there. Sash windows are making a sound like a kick drum. The tree outside the front of the building is trying to hold its own.
All those years ago when the hurricane came, I always believed it could never happen here. Well it did!
And who's to say it's not going to happen again.
The worst storm is predicted for tomorrow night.
It seems to have come early.
Is this climate change?
It's certainly rough.
It could look a bit like this.
Maybe my world could look something like this! It's always difficult to put the rights tabs on your own work. Billy B is easy to define, Nick C's intentions are clear. But me... well let's see!
Eric and I are on the case... So...Watch this space.
Live in the Dreaming
Though sheets of rain pounded my dirty sash window, I am cocooned in warm cotton. I don't usually remember dreams, but today my mind is still full of iridescent blue 'Matisse' images. Not only visual traces remain, I can still smell the warm skin of relaxation .
An impossibly steep hill prevented the coach from reaching its final destination; the pathway too narrow and the terrain to steep. However, the miles and smiles of intuition were still deep enough to dive into.
As I breathe myself to health, in a hotel in Cologne
I'm for giving up the fight, in this corner on my own
I'm still standing in the ring and waiting for my chance
But here's the really crazy thing, I'd surrender... but I can't.
Much more than
Just a heart... but
I am your protector so
Ignore me at your peril.
Adore with me
But never forget
I am your protector too
(As well as life itself)
Adam Green at Dingwalls
It was all about ‘the look’, ‘the movement’ and raw talent. Pretty cool to exhume the ghost of Lou Reed as a smiling Leonard Cohen and infuse the muse that libertine Peter Docherty used, abused and then lost. On top of his game, the smiling Lothario came – Both court jester, poet song & dance man and crucial crooner. Green ‘high-fived’ his way onto the Dingwalls stage in Military cap and buccaneer shirt and was quite simply charm personified from the very first moment. He minced magnificently, a lovechild of the hippy music hall; all floaty arms and legs interspersed with superbly unnecessary bunny jumps and whoops.
And how we all loved the Largactyl limbs. Most of the audience, equally uninhibited, bathed in his affection and glorious whimsy. It was unusual to see a man so at home onstage, in love with his craft and on the top of his game – Effortless!
My Old (Renaissance) Man
My Dad was never rank and file
His first reaction was to smile
He never lost his sense of style
A real Renaissance man.
Accomplished singer, storyteller
Sharp as mustard, funny fella
Player, Mayor, safe pair of hands
He was a real Renaissance man.
My mother's love, my sister’s rock
The source of my creative stock
He always knew just what was what
My Old Renaissance Man.
Gotta drink a bottle or two
Tonight it was necessary to concoct this potion to drive away the 'cough devil'. It contains some rather fine whisky, manuka honey, chopped ginger, freshly squeezed lemon and a small proportion of my bodily fluid. (A teardrop) I have been watching the biography of Lionel Bart for at least the third time...
In this drink
One fing counts
Alcohol in large amounts
Rub with their knees
Gotta drink a bottle or two.
So... Here I am this lunchtime, in my universe - Office/cafe! I was just reflecting on a radio show I heard a few days ago that described not only the size of our universe, but also how many other ones (billions?!) also exist. This leads me to believe that there is obviously a parallel you and me doing exactly what we're doing somewhere else right now! Also there is monkey out there somewhere driving a 10 year old Mercedes, just like mine, listening to The Velvet Underground and eating a tube of cheese & onion Pringles! Go on Richard Dawkins.. Prove me wrong!
My New Notebook
Yep... I still use an 'old school' notebook, one end for business and one end for 'Arty' bits. I even put a date on it to remember when I started it.
Tonight I made a few notes in here... I've been trying to remember who did what on the record, the storyboard for the 'Just Like Justice' video, the list of boutique luxury items we hope to make for the projects this year, some notes on extra pictures for the LP artwork and a few other things.
At the other end of the book, I've been noting down companies that can maybe help us with the World Go Round Events.
I'm really pleased with the photograph that I took for the album cover. You'll see it pretty soon!
Last Day of Mixing.
Hard evidence of the last day in the studio, doing some mix tweaks with Nick Brine at Rockfield. (These are the notes for the session.) It's amazing that he managed to fit this few hours in his very busy schedule. As usual,we had a lot of fun and came out with some great results quickly. I also got to use my ridiculous mono synthesiser on one of the single tracks - so analogue!
We had a short visitation by a spirit in the control room and all the desk settings changed without being touched. The hair on the back of my neck stood up on end and Kenny Dogleish barked an acknowledgement of the presence of someone otherworldly.
It was a totally inspiring end to the current sessions. I took two hours to relax afterwards and despite the freezing cold Welsh wintery night I was still buzzing beyond 4am in the morning!
New Format Website!
As you can see we now have a new look website! Thanks to Eric beavering away in Amsterdam. (Instead of filling in his tax returns.) I've discovered a few things recently which have effected the way I communicate with the world. This column of the website will from now on will be my blog. For me anything goes in this section.
The Official Facebook page will tend to be the musical updates that you would expect from a musician/band.
My Twitter page will be the more flippant fun things and no longer connected to Facebook. It has become clear to me that people are not interested in all aspects of my artwork. This way I get to have even more fun than I do already!
Despite having lived a charmed existence for the whole of my adult life, (which I never fail to appreciate) I've reached a point where I need to take stock of exactly what I'm doing. In the conventional sense I'm radically overworking.
I'm not talking about the travelling, the song writing, the concerts, the artwork, the telephone calls to interesting people, the continuous working with many creatively talented individuals, the taking of photos, the updating of websites, or even being Mr.Enthusiasm to most of my business partners in different areas of my career.
I just am 'the wrong man for the job' with respect to most of the management and agency activities. Quite honestly I'm considering stopping all the jobs that are making me unhappy by Christmas at the latest - whatever the consequences.
Today I've ridden over here to the place I call Bike Beach and I'm going to spend the rest of the afternoon cycling. breathing in this glorious world and stretching my body in front of a 'romcom' on my television!
Later I'm going over to have Sunday dinner with my family, which is always one of the highlights of my week. I hope all of you reading this are at least half as blessed as I am!
Full Page Article in Parool Newspaper
- full page spread in Dutch newspaper 'Het Parool', by Peter van Brummelen, 25 September 2013:
John Watts Singer of Fischer-Z is in Amsterdam with the multimedia performance 'The Last Picasso'
'I've got so much more to say'
In the late seventies he was the singer of the new-wave band Fischer -Z .
Tomorrow John Watts (58) performs at De Kleine Komedie. With music ánd a radio play.
A few weeks ago he had to perform at the Fringe festival in Edinburgh. One time during the day he sang some songs on the street, right next to a record store. As soon as he'd opened his mouth, he had the attention of a small group of Dutch tourists. "After a few songs one of them approached me: 'Sir, your voice sound so familiar, is it possible that we have heard you somewhere before?' And when I started to play The worker they said, 'But you're John Watts!' "
It often happens to Watts that people recognize him by his voice alone. A voice that has hardly changed since the late seventies, early eighties, when he was the lead singer of the band Fischer -Z. In his appearance you can see that he is now 58 years old, but when he sings he sounds almost like he did back in the days: sharp, high, energetic. How do you keep a voice like that in good shape? "Simple: by not smoking and leaving spirits alone. I only drink red wine."
New Wave, a reggae rhythm here and there, political lyrics. That was what Fischer-Z stood for. Back home in England, the band never got past cult status, but in continental Europe, particularly in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, the band was really big. Some hits of that time: The Worker, So Long, Marliese. "It went very quickly. In one year we were playing in large halls. On my 26th I had sold two million records. In England almost no one knew who we were. Because of that strange name Fischer -Z they thought we were Germans."
In 1981 Watts quit the band Fischer -Z (whose name was incidentally derived from a term from statistics) and began a solo career. "I was quite erratic during that time. I didn't occupy myself with something like a career. Ideals came before earning top money . The record company promised me a fortune if I'd continue in the band, but I said no. I did not want to make the kind of records that they expected from me. Now that I'm older and wiser, I think I should have taken that money. And then simply still do the kind of record that wanted to make. That record company was part of a multinational, so I wouldn't have had to feel guilty about anything."
Reminiscing: "I could have had my own house, and to never have financial worries." Is he off so much worse, in that respect? "It's not exactly a money tree, but the important thing is : I can do exactly what I want. And if it does go wrong: I have five grown children. I could always sleep with someone in the garage, of course." He laughs out loud when he says it.
When he ended Fischer -Z it also had to do with what he calls the limitations of rock music. "Don't get me wrong, I absolutely do not look down on rock, and I will never claim that I now make high art, but at the time, however, I felt limited in my possibilities. It was: "Oh, you're John Watts of Fischer-Z, the guy who always sings about cruise missiles." But I had so much more to say. And in so many different ways."
John Watts has been making music since (and later even adapting the moniker Fischer-Z again), but he also draws and paints. He photographs, he published a collection of poems and he does theater. For his performance tomorrow in De Kleine Komedie, before the break there's the multimedia performance The last Picasso. "It's a play in the form of a radio play. I'm the only actor on the stage, the other characters you only see on video."
And it's about Picasso? "Yes, but also about myself and about death. From a very early age I was fascinated by Picasso. On my boys room I had two pictures on my wall: one of the football player George Best, and Picasso. A great artist, but not a very pleasant man. That part I'm trying to make up for in The last Picasso. He returns to earth and visits a writer, who has cancer, on his deathbed. I play that writer."
He sighs deeply, swallows once. "The irony is that my father has cancer and is dying. During this tour I go back to England every two or three days, because it can be over just like that. How weird is that: I'm playing a man who is dying of cancer, while my own father, to whom I carry a big resemblance, is going through the same thing."
The music he plays after the break is done with local musicians.. "This is the way I do it everywhere during this tour. I send them the music we play in advance: six new songs and six old songs, Fischer-Z classics, but they are allowed to give it a unique twist. Here in Amsterdam I have the time to rehearse with them, but usually it happens that I just meet the musicians a few hours in advance."
And that always turns out well? "There are some nights that are truly magical. You don't always get to this level, but it never goes wrong. The best part is the variety. In Wales, I was on stage with 17-year-old punks, but in Paris I played with Moroccan musicians with instruments that I do not even know the names of."
"Amsterdam is going to be something special. Amongst the regular instruments we have a tuba and saxophone, but it also includes a mandoloncello and a musical saw."
John Watts, De Kleine Komedie,
tomorrow, starting at 20.15.
Poem For Gilles
You generous man,
This shows how precious life can be,
I often wondered why you'd worked,
At such a pace to high acclaim.
For some achievement goes unseen,
But your writing and your voice remain.
photo by yves Tennevin - http://www.flickr.com/photos/styeb/
How a Familiar Song Can Be So Different at the Same Time...
Live from Don Beni
Getting Ready For The Freiburg Performance
We're getting excited about tomorrow's show in Freiburg.
Come join us if you can!
The Edingburgh FRINGE Festival (On A Ladder?)
Hello Fischer-Heads ;)
Even though we first take The Last Picasso to Freiburg, Germany this coming week, the preparations for the Edinburgh FRINGE festival are in full swing! It's a great challenge to work within the limitations of the location (with only 10 minutes to set up the stage!!) and with the projections being way overhead.
Since the projections are not just a visual aid in this show but also the other actors in the play, we have to figure out a way to get us all onto the same level. This is a page from my notebook where I'm toying with the idea of getting myself up a ladder to be on the same level as the screen! Wouldn't you all like to see me fall off? ;)
Hope to see you there!
I'm very much enjoying playing around with my new iPad, it took me long enough to get one! I especially like exploring the new writing and drawing functions of this digital paper machine. Here's a small preview of what's to come in the near future.