FFS – The Art School, Glasgow 16 June 2015

It would be an understatement to say I’ve been feeling a bit excited about seeing FFS on the opening night of their tour. Ever since we took our chances in the Ticketmaster ticket scrum and got lucky, the anticipation’s been rising, and in the last week I’ve had a head full of ear worms from playing the FFS album, which came out on 8 June.

Tonight, the stage is set with a backdrop of the album cover, and the joint members of Franz Ferdinand and Sparks walk on stage to the theme tune from Blake’s 7 and the first huge cheer of the night. I can’t imagine how FFS set about writing their songs, but they’ve done a remarkable job of sounding just like a Franz Ferdinand-Sparks mash-up should sound, with songs like ‘Police Encounters’ containing both nods to Franz Ferdinand’s roots in various angular Glasgow indie bands and Russel Mael’s vocal flourishes.

The tongue-in-cheek ‘Collaborations Don’t Work’, one of my ear worms of the last week, is a somewhat theatrically-constructed song in which various insults are traded, and the band seem to have a lot of fun bringing this to life with increasingly faux-hostile body language. Each band member takes a turn at delivering the lines, and Ron Mael gets a cheer that threatens to drown out his voice. I’d noticed beforehand that some Sparks fans online were concerned that tonight’s gig might have been attended only by Art School regulars and FF diehards, this being home territory for Franz Ferdinand, but they needn’t have worried; the first time there’s a gap long enough for the audience to get involved, there is a cry of ‘Russell we love you!’.

As well as songs from the FFS album, the set list includes Franz Ferdinand songs (‘Do You Want To’, ‘Take Me Out’) and Sparks material (‘When Do I Get to Sing ‘My Way’’, ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us’). It’s brilliant to hear these songs being performed by FFS, and they also provide the perfect context for the new material, pointing to the new songs’ dual heritage. Stand-out FFS song ‘Piss Off’ finishes the main set, its lyrics (‘Tell everybody to piss off tonight’, ‘Get to the point and point to the open door’) providing the unlikeliest summer feel-good song ever. In fact, the feel-good factor runs through the whole gig – band members seem to be having a huge amount of fun, the songs are unapologetically joyous and everywhere you look, people are turning round and exchanging grins.

People yell for an encore – of course they do, and they’re yelling ‘FFS’, showing the extent to which the collaboration has already taken hold. After a performance of FFS song ‘So Desu Ne’, there’s just time for two more songs, one each from the Sparks and Franz Ferdinand back catalogues. ‘The Number One Song in Heaven’ just about knocks me off my feet at this point; I’d genuinely lost track of the fact that there were still greater Sparks-related heights to which the show might climb. The FFS treatment works very well, and Ron emerges from behind his keyboards to take centre stage and treat us to some dancing. Franz Ferdinand hit ‘Michael’ has everyone dancing and brings the show to a close on an upbeat, energetic note. In case it isn’t obvious, this has been an absolute triumph of a night, and anyone who has tickets for the FFS tour is in for a treat.

Babes in Toyland – Oran Mor, Glasgow 28 May 2015

2015 is shaping up to be quite a year for tours by bands I last saw live ten or more years ago – Sleater-Kinney, L7 and Mudhoney to name a few. The tour that was most unexpected, though, was Babes in Toyland who, since calling it a day in 2001, seemed to have vanished without all trace. I snapped up tickets for this show as soon as I heard about it, not quite knowing what to expect either in terms of the band or the sort of crowd they’d attract in 2015.

By the time the gig came around, the word was out – there had been features and interviews in The Guardian as well as rave reviews from fans. Stepping into the basement of Oran Mor, it became obvious that these weren’t just reunion shows for the band, but for audience members too – I saw faces I haven’t seen at gigs for a lot of years, and people nearby were picking each other out with gasps of surprise. There was a lot of people-watching going on.

Despite the 14 years since their official split and 18 or so years since they last toured with a stable line-up, Kat Bjelland, Lori Barbero and Maureen Herman sound today like they’ve never been apart and like the last decade and a half didn’t happen. Perhaps it’s because they disappeared as a band that their sound hasn’t softened or changed over the years, although I wouldn’t want to underestimate the effort that’s gone into getting them back here today. It’s remarkable to hear Kat’s vocals sounding just as raw and emotive as they ever did, or the pounding drums and basslines sounding just as urgent and driven.

I didn’t do a lot of listening to Babes in Toyland’s back catalogue before this show, so I have the pleasure of recognising unanticipated songs as they’re played, and it’s a run through the finest moments from their albums – He’s My Thing, Vomit Heart, Handsome and Gretel, Won’t Tell, Dust Cake Boy, Spit to See the Shine and so on. Sweet ’69 sounds like the lost classic it is – in fact, the whole gig sounds like a lost classic – one thing that strikes me is that the whole affair is very moving, partly because there always was a really heart-rending side to Babes in Toyland and partly because it’s like meeting someone you used to know, finding them unchanged and feeling the bitter-sweetness of so many years having passed. I find myself at times hoping that the band members are looking after themselves and enjoying this reunion as much as we are.

With further shows and festivals coming over the next few months, who knows what will happen next in the Babes in Toyland story. For now, though, they’ve given us a most unexpected treat and have returned to claim hearts that were always rightfully theirs.

Annoying Behaviour at Gigs – 2015 Round-up

Back in the 90s, when I was writing a fanzine with my sister, we did a round-up of irksome behaviour at gigs. Looking back, some of the things we described seem decidedly odd nowadays, such as people dancing with lit cigarettes – thankfully, something that no longer happens. However, in recent years a new host of annoying behaviours has arisen, some assisted by technology. Here are my top three gig irritations for 2015.

  1. Incessant use of mobile phones

This one not only irritates me, it annoys the hell out of some bands, with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs having asked people not to spend the entire gig filming, and the Lene Lovich Band having only last week asked people to remember to look up from their phones. I’m not sure quite how great people think their mobile phone footage, filmed from the middle of a crowd, is going to be or why they need to take fuzzy photos during each and every song (most bands look pretty much the same from beginning to the end of the gig), but a sea of phone screens is apparent at most gigs these days.

At the recent Super Furry Animals gig, I was seated behind a man and a young boy – the kid was young enough that it might have been his first gig. This would have been very touching had the man not furnished the boy with a phone and instructed him to film the gig, while the man used a second device to spend the evening on Facebook. The kid spent most of the gig concentrating on holding his phone steady while it recorded, and the two phones created very bright flashpoints to distract us while the band played some of their more mellow songs with lower stage lighting.

  1. Drink-pee-drink-pee-Ooh a Hit!

For some people, the live gig experience is little more than a particularly expensive night out at the pub. During the average set, they manage to sink around 20 pints and go to the toilet 40 times. This is disruptive enough when they need to push through a standing crowd, but achieves a whole other standard of irritation when they’re sitting in the middle of a row at a seated gig, and need the whole row to stand up each time they want in or out of their seats.

The drink-pee-drink-pee pattern is interrupted only when the individual recognises the intro to one of the band’s greatest hits. This type of gig-goer manages to sit patiently through two whole songs in the entire night, and I often wonder what the live experience gives them that a pub with a decent jukebox wouldn’t.

  1. The chatterbox

The chatterbox is another gig-goer with more money than sense. I don’t know about you, but most gigs I go to these days cost around £30 per ticket, and this is more money than I’d want to spend upfront if all I wanted was a catch-up with my mates. I’m not sure if there are more chatterboxes around than there used to be, or if I’m noticing them more for some reason, or if it’s simply that I’m older now and less inclined to push my way down to the front with the die-hard fans – perhaps the back of the gig was always just a place to hang out and talk loudly.

Chatterboxes most recently ruined the second half of a Godspeed You! Black Emperor gig for me, by managing to pitch their chat just at the right level to cut right through what would otherwise have been a lovely, immersive, hypnotic musical experience. At other gigs, I’ve noticed that chatterboxes have an amazing talent for spotting the end of a song and shouting ‘Woooooooo!’, belying the fact that they didn’t actually listen to it or respect anyone else’s right to.

Feel free to comment if you think any others should be on the list!

Hot Chip – Art School, Glasgow 12 May 2015

With a new album, Why Make Sense?, not even released yet, Hot Chip kicked off their tour at a sold-out Art School gig last night. Here is my summary of the night.

The good: Opening song Huarache Lights already sounding like a Hot Chip classic. Band sounding at the peak of its confidence even though it’s night one of the tour. Alexis Taylor’s hat. Over and Over getting the whole room focussed and bouncing. The lights radiating from the glitter ball during Night and Day. The irony of Ready for the Floor sneaking up on lots of people, due to the different intro. The infectious, clubby sounds of Need You Now and Flutes. The surprise encore cover version of Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark. The sheer good-natured industriousness going on on stage.

The less good: The venue, shaped like a shoebox and crammed to the rafters. The skittish, hipster crowd wanting to move in and out of the room en masse depending on which song was being played. Young arty types mowing you down at high speed in their unstoppable quest to reach the bar. Oversized backpacks being worn in a sold-out gig.

The better news: Hot Chip are also playing at Glasgow Barrowland in October, and this gig will almost certainly retain the above-noted good points while losing the less good ones, as it’s a larger venue, designed for such pleasantries as being able to move about and see the stage. Hurrah!

Lene Lovich – Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh 10 May 2015

I was too young to see Lene Lovich in concert when she was enjoying her initial chart success, but I knew all about her. I first saw her perform hit single Lucky Number on Top of the Pops in 1978, and later bought both Lucky Number and Say When on 7-inch vinyl, the first two records I ever bought with my own money, aged 8 or 9. I bought and treasured each of her albums over the years, but somehow the chance never arose to see her perform.

In later years, Lene tended to perform live at one-off events, or at low-key gigs close to her home, and I thought she was going to be the one elusive artist on my wish list that I wouldn’t get to see in concert. However, Lene confounded expectations in 2012 when, with the newly-formed Lene Lovich Band, she started to raise her live profile once more, and suddenly in 2013 she was playing right under my nose in Glasgow.

Tonight’s gig in Edinburgh was my third Lene Lovich gig, and the only Scottish date on her 2015 tour. Watching Lene take the stage in her intricate headdress and plaits, I couldn’t help thinking that there must have been something in the general atmosphere in the late 70s/early 80s – whether a direct result of punk or something to do with political, cultural and social forces at the time – that led to us being blessed with a whole host of fiercely creative, independent, individual female musicians. Lene’s voice, personal style and song writing are all unique and it would be lazy to compare her directly to other bands and singers, but there’s something about her energy that points to a certain period – or perhaps it’s just that it’s difficult to imagine anyone quite that interesting making a chart debut now.

The 2013 tour was the first time I’d heard lots of my favourite songs being played live, and since then the set list has evolved, with the addition of songs including Maria and New Toy, which is a particular highlight, sounding like an angular new wave classic and completely fresh at the same time. Of course, all the old favourites are played too, including Lucky Number, Say When (complete with the same dance routine detailed on the cover of the original single) and Bird Song. The Wicked Witch, from 2005’s Shadows and Dust album, is both theatrical and darkly funny, and Lene proves that she can still do those horror movie screams.

Lene’s band (guitarist Jude, drummer Morgan, bassist Valkyrie and keyboard player Kirsten, a massively talented singer herself who provided the support slot tonight) has gelled over the course of the last few years and there’s a sense of a good-natured playful humour running throughout the gig. One thing you don’t realise until you see Lene Lovich live is that she is a compelling narrator as well as singer, setting eerie, other-worldly scenes to introduce songs like The Freeze. Listening to her, I get the feeling that if she hadn’t chosen to go down a musical path, we could be listening to her telling magical stories at some literary festival instead.

All too quickly, it’s time for the show to end with Home, and Lene’s saying goodnight with her trademark, ‘til the next time’. It’s rare for me to feel so engaged throughout a gig that I’ve lost all sense of time passing, but such is Lene’s energy as a performer that my attention hasn’t dropped for a second.

Details of future shows can be found at http://www.lenelovich.net/main.htm

Super Furry Animals – Academy, Glasgow 5th May 2015

After a six-year absence from touring, much excitement greeted the announcement earlier this year that Super Furry Animals would be playing a handful of gigs in support of the re-issue of Mwng, their Welsh-language album that had been out of print for some time.

I must admit that I like to have a look online before going to see bands these days, to get a feel for the kind of set list to expect, so I knew beforehand that we were in for a two-hour treat with this gig at Glasgow’s Academy. However, seeing the list of songs written down was no preparation for the epic experience that awaited us – it’s a long time since I went to a gig that included quite so many different moods, and there can’t be many bands with the back catalogue to create a show like the SFA retrospective.

The opening section of the gig focused on some of SFA’s poppier moments, including (Drawing) Rings Around the World and the perfect pop choruses of Ice Hockey Hair, before moving on to the more mellow Demons, with the band being joined by a couple of brass players who would feature from time to time throughout the show.

The appearance of the Mwng album cover on the stage backdrop signalled the introduction both of some songs from that album and a complete change in pace for the gig; a run of lower-key material was matched by more subtle stage lighting and a more mellow ambience all round (interrupted for me only by the insistence of the people around me on filming the whole thing using mobile phones, whose bright screens caught my peripheral vision and stopped me from being as immersed in this section as I’d have liked). Run! Christian, Run! was a highlight of this section of the show for me, played against a backdrop of flames and neon crosses.

The pace picked up again with some of the band’s earlier singles, including Hometown Unicorn and God! Show me Magic, with a huge cheer going up as the cover of debut album Fuzzy Logic appeared on the backdrop.

Of course, Super Furry Animals are creative all-rounders who don’t just play a straightforward gig, and this one wasn’t short of theatrical moments. The band spent most of the gig dressed in white overalls, with Gruff Rhys at one point being lit from both sides and the light manipulated to create a strange optical illusion of movement. He also donned his red Power Ranger helmet to perform Slow Life.

The band finished up with a raft of crowd favourites, including my own favourite SFA song, Receptacle for the Respectable, a song which contains several phases itself (Gruff signalled the transition of the song towards its menacing conclusion by munching a bag of crisps as the images on the backdrop grew progressively more sinister). Final song of the evening, The Man Don’t Give a Fuck, received a riotous response and the unfurling of Welsh flags in the audience, and the band appeared dressed in their famous yeti costumes in the final moments of the song, creating the perfect fusion of the political and the surreal to cheer us on in the closing days before the general election.

 

Polari Literary Salon – Aye Write Festival, Thursday 23 April 2015

The Polari literary salon has been running since 2007, based in London (there’s a monthly salon at the Southbank Centre) and more recently on a tour in England. This week, Polari held its first Scottish salon as part of the programme for Glasgow’s Aye Write festival, and with a line up we couldn’t resist : writers V.G. Lee, Patrick Gale and Jackie Kay, and music from Fingersnap featuring David McAlmont.

Author Paul Burston, who founded Polari, played host in the splendid surroundings of the large hall in the ‘old’ side of the Mitchell Library. First up was V.G. Lee, who kicked things off in riotous style with accounts of her attempts at writing lesbian erotica. The droll sense of humour that runs through her writing is made even more hilarious by her impeccable comedy timing, and we learned that if you know V.G. Lee in person and she writes you into one of her stories, you’ve gone down a very wrong path indeed.

Patrick Gale offered a change of pace with readings from his novel, A Place Called Winter, a historical tale of an English man who sets off for the Canadian prairies after his relationship with a male actor is exposed by a blackmailer. The author has an eloquent way of bringing to life a period and place of which I knew nothing, describing the attempts of male settlers to persuade women to join them by issuing pictures of men dancing with other men. A Place Called Winter sounds like a very richly detailed and immersive novel and it’s on my reading list.

Next up was Jackie Kay, who read us a selection of her poetry and lyrics. With the talent of the true poet, she had audience members wiping away tears one moment with a lyrical tribute to her mother (and a reminder never to dismiss people as simply ‘old’) and laughing the next at her accounts of reaching orgasm in middle age (her censorship of parts of the writing due to the presence of her parents just added to the hilarity). Her poetic swipe at UKIP hit the target too.

The show was brought to a close by Fingersnap, a duo featuring David McAlmont and Guy Davies. Having last heard David McAlmont sing at a festival in the 1990s in his McAlmont and Butler incarnation, it was lovely to hear him sing in the stylish setting of the library, which suited the finely-written, vocal-and-keyboard compositions very well. Finishing up with the emotional, soulful live favourite Blackbirds, Fingersnap ended the salon in a very classy way.

 

Things I miss about writing a fanzine

Since I started this blog, I’ve been reminiscing a bit about writing a fanzine many years ago. There were lots of things I enjoyed about working on our fanzine, and I’m not sure whether or not these things relate now to the ‘online blog’ experience, or out there in the real world (I’m sure there are still some people putting out paper fanzines).

Anyway, here are some of my favourite things from the days of our fanzine.

1. People unexpectedly getting in touch. Although our fanzine was sold in shops, and people had to make the effort to write to us using our postal addresses, it did actually happen (something I can’t imagine today). Other zine writers would get in touch with copies of their own fanzines (and we did the same) and one time I got a really nice letter from someone who just wanted to get in touch, and who went on to become a good friend. On another occasion, we’d drawn a cartoon that showed various local ‘pop stars’ getting admitted to gigs on the guest list and us lowly fanzine writers being told we weren’t on the list (this did sometimes happen – we’d get invited to review a gig and then have to squirm for that few moments of hoping our names had actually been put down and we weren’t just about to look like a pair of chancers). A few days after the fanzine was published, I got a postcard from Stephen Pastel, written in his lovely handwriting and saying, ‘I’m not on the guest list’. These random contacts were great – it made us feel that we were actually connecting with people.

2. Getting in touch with local bands. Writing a fanzine opened up the chance for us to meet and interview lots of bands, which I always found a bit nerve-racking. The interviews which were the most fun were probably the ones with new, local bands, because they tended to be the most unguarded and the most likely just to make jokes and say whatever they felt like. Some of them went on to become friends, and we got to know about other bands, gigs and all sorts of local stuff that we’d never have known about otherwise. In my experience, you start a fanzine by writing about bands you like, then people get in touch and suddenly you have many different paths to explore.

3. Interviews with favourite bands. Of course, we wanted to continue writing about the bands we already loved and the ones we’d wanted to write a zine about in the first place. Favourite bands weren’t always on tour, so we made up questionnaires and posted them out to people, and quite a few took the time to send handwritten answers to our questions. Favourites of mine included a set of responses in the handwriting of Jon Langford (Mekons), answers and some lovely photographs from Gina Birch (then in the Hangovers, but best known for the Raincoats) and a postal interview with Rheinallt H. Rowlands, who I’d naively assumed to be an individual and who turned out to be a duo! (Two sets of answers came back instead of one, both Dewi Evans and the late Owain Wright having taken the trouble to reply). Another good memory relates to a pre-gig interview we did in person with Grandaddy at King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut – we concluded the interview and gave them a copy of our fanzine. Shortly after, they actually made their way through the crowd and came looking for us to say thank you for a review in the zine.

4. Freebies. Showing my naivety again, freebies came as a complete surprise to me as a fanzine writer. In the late 1990s, record labels and PR companies paid a lot of attention to fanzines (probably because of the explosion of breakthrough ‘indie’ acts and the labels seeking ‘grass-roots’ type stamps of approval). While I always had mixed feelings about being courted in this way, and always attempted to prioritise things I loved/had sought out anyway, as a music lover there was something undeniably exciting about receiving CDs, tapes and vinyl in the post almost on a daily basis (I benefitted from this far more than Gail did, which I’m sure was due to the PR people paying more attention to my Glasgow location). And some of the free things we got were exceedingly good and made exciting discoveries (the most obvious example that comes to mind is the Beta Band).

5. Fun. If it isn’t obvious already, writing a fanzine was fun. We also made sure we included plenty of silly stuff in each issue – Gail’s cartoons, our observations on all sorts of things, including annoying behaviour at gigs (which I’ll have to update at some point, since new and annoying behaviours have emerged in the years since then), and Mrs Manic’s words of wisdom. Whether these things entertained or irritated our readers, we’ll never know (I remember being criticised in one review for using ‘lots and lots of fonts’ – oh well. It was fun).

Revenge of the Mekons – Review

When I used to write a fanzine in the 1990s, one ‘rule’ I gave myself was always to include something about the Mekons, my favourite band. The film Revenge of the Mekons, directed by Joe Angio, documents the story of the Mekons from 1977 until the present day and, like most Mekons output, it has to be sought out and won’t be showing in a multiplex near you. It was with some excitement that I noticed on the band’s Facebook page that the film was being shown as part of the Glasgow Film Festival this year, in the small cinema in the city’s CCA.

If you’ve seen music documentaries such as Anvil!, you’ll be familiar with the rags-to-riches narrative of the perennial underdog band finally making it big. Revenge of the Mekons doesn’t have this narrative. After a catalogue of near-misses spanning 30-odd years, the band is no closer to the kind of success you can measure in terms of CD sales, venue sizes or YouTube hits. We’re shown recent footage of the Mekons playing in a tiny venue and asking the audience if anyone is going to the gig the following night, only to be told by the audience that the gig has been cancelled (a fact band members proceed to verify on a mobile phone). We’re told that band member Susie Honeyman bought her car for £300 from eBay, and that Sarah Corina gets by with some work on websites, which you can sense is well into low-pay territory.

Anyone who’s a Mekons fan, though, knows that this lack of commercial success has done nothing to dampen the band’s ever-evolving creativity and collective humour. In fact, there are heavy hints throughout the movie that the band’s longevity and closeness is largely due to member’s reactions to their lack of a breakthrough (although it still feels terribly unfair that they haven’t had more of a tangible reward for their brilliance over the years).

For the Mekons fan, there’s a lot of fascinating stuff in the movie, including interviews with current and ex-band members as well as a cast of writers, record label owners and members of other bands who’ve been part of the Mekons story. There are also glimpses into the side projects and other lives of band members, including the artwork of Jon and Rico, Susie’s involvement in the Grey Gallery, Lu’s travels to places like Kazakhstan to work with musicians with limited access to technology, and Sally suspending her sharp humour for a stint as children’s entertainer. There’s even interview footage with notoriously reserved Tom. We see the progression of the band from being punk sidekicks of the Gang of Four in the early days, picking up influences as diverse as English folk music and US country, stopping off to do some sea shanties with Kathy Acker and generally becoming more and more eclectic as the years roll on.

Underneath all the fan-pleasing facts and gems, though, is a story of a group of people managing to maintain friendships, creativity and integrity in the face of year after year of having to do it all against the odds, and for this reason Revenge of the Mekons deserves a wider audience. For all they’re a band with a modest following, the Mekons have a huge strike rate of being the favourite band of those who know about them, and it would be good to see this movie reaching new fans as well as diehards.

Fanzines and manners

Back in the late 1990s, I used to write a fanzine, Botramaid, along with my sister, Gail. It was something we had a lot of fun doing – we reviewed records and gigs, interviewed bands and included a lot of silly stuff too. It ran for five issues and we always meant to do more, and spoke about it over the years, but life filled up with other stuff and we never found our way back to it.

Today, I was idling online in that way you do sometimes on a Saturday afternoon (and on any other day of the week too, let’s be honest) and I googled the name of our fanzine, just to see if anything came up. There were still a couple of mentions of the fanzine in connection with things we’d reviewed, but I also came across a record of us in a book, Fanzines by Teal Triggs. This was intriguing! The website I came across was an upload of the entire book (I’m not sure whether or not it’s there legitimately), so I scrolled through it and found the entry for Botramaid, which was a scan of the cover of our first issue and a few words about us.

My curiosity was well and truly piqued by this time, so I searched for more information on the book, and came across quite a few unhappy fanzine writers blogging about it. It appears that few fanzine writers were contacted about their inclusion in the book, and some were contacted when it was well on its way to being published and it was too late in the day for them to ‘consent’ to the use of their materials.

I had to think about how I felt about our inclusion in the book. We certainly hadn’t been contacted about it either, but then, I don’t know how you’d go about contacting either of us about a fanzine we wrote 18 or so years ago. It’s possible that Teal Triggs could have written to us by post, as we used to include our addresses in the fanzine and one of those addresses is still valid, but I can see that that would have seemed a bit of a long shot. The fanzine was written in the pre-online days, and we’ve never done anything online that’s been overtly connected to the name Botramaid, so I can imagine that contacting us may have seemed less than straightforward.

It was exciting to see our little fanzine included in a book about fanzines, and in pretty illustrious company. The author was complimentary about our zine, even if she did use a scan of the first issue when we were still very rough around the edges and mentioned some awful bands (Shed Seven, anyone?). She also said our fanzine had included ‘cut-out paper dolls’, and I can honestly say I don’t have any recollection of that – if it did then it would have been a one-off piece of silliness.

But anyway – it was nice, and a bit surreal, to see our fanzine featured online, with its mix of Gail’s cartoon work and my handwriting. I don’t mean for a minute to belittle the feelings of fanzine writers who’ve maintained a clear online presence and whose work was reproduced without their permission – clearly they should have been contacted in advance of publication, and many have grievances about inaccuracies in the book, something which could have been avoided by consulting people.

Over the years, I’ve tinkered with various blogs on different topics, but have never done anything that’s been directly related to our fanzine. When I found our entry in the Fanzines book (albeit belatedly, as it was published in 2010!), I had the idea of starting a new blog that would be part reminiscence about writing a fanzine in the 1990s and part new content – reviews and ramblings and whatever else develops.

In the credits of her book, Teal Triggs calls our fanzine, Botramaid: Fanzine with Manners. This wasn’t its name – we came up with a different strapline for each front cover, and Fanzine with Manners only ever appeared on the cover of the first issue. However, I decided to take the ‘manners’ idea for the name of this blog, as it seemed as good a starting place as any.