Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bio-phobia

There are many approaches to writing a band bio. Almost all of them are awful. This awareness makes facing this task myself very difficult. It's a complicating factor to the already appalling general prospect of writing vaguely self-aggrandising stuff about oneself. I deeply fear CV writing. I'd rather spend an extra day subsisting on Cruskits and watered down English Marmite than have to describe my transferable skills. It is a personality flaw.

Here is a bio for a band called Flow. This minor masterpiece combines touching personal details and an interesting present-tense approach, combined with imperative credibility-by-association details which may allow an unestablished act to break through into the pantheon of mainstream acceptability and radio play on the Edge, were it not for the crucial undermining detail – the setting – Pukekohe. A rural service town 50 km south of Auckland, it has a population of 24500. Wikipedia informs me: Up until 2007, the V8 Supercars raced at Pukekohe Park Raceway, it has since moved to Hamilton. Also: The Pukekohe long keeper onion is well known internationally.

Enough tantalising details about the Paris of the South Pacific. Here's Flow on Flow:
So we’re living in London and, the day before our first ever Flow gig, four bombs go off killing 56 people. That rattles the hell out of everyone.

We push on with the show though. And when 150 happy-to-be-alive punters join us, and the venue (The Luminaire in Kilburn) is named Time Out magazine’s ‘Live Venue of the Year’ not long after, doors open.

We play in the UK with betchadupa, Kate Nash (who later has a UK no.1 album), Nathan King and at a festival with Breaks Co-Op. We get flown out to perform on the Greek Island of Mykonos too. But after a while the Kiwis in the band want to head home. London is cold and busy and our mums live in Pukekohe. There are tears, tough-guy mate’s tears, as the Kiwi and British bits of the band part.

With new recruits on board back in New Zealand, we make our debut at the Pohutukawa Festival with Pluto and Goldenhorse in late 2006. Over 300 people are at our first Pukekohe gig a few months later. We go on to have Jason Kerrison, Jayson Norris, Luke Thompson and Jonny Love out to perform with us in Pukekohe, we support Jordan Luck at Mangawhai Tavern, we tour with Fuser and Faster She Said, and we appear on the telly (Nightline and The Verona Sessions) and the radio (where Caley gives Nathan King a hiding on Pop! Goes The Weasel).

The band’s musical roots broaden in NZ with Todd (vocals/guitar) running Acoustic Edge, which is perhaps the leading singer/songwriter night in South Auckland, and Caley (guitar) putting on shows, for the likes of Greg Johnson and Goldenhorse, through his company My New Favourite.

But Flow is where the real energy is driven. And with our first professional recordings in the bag, it’s time to see what the world makes of them.


So, it's all good for Flow down in Deep South Auckland, and it would be churlish and nasty to bitch, but this is definitely not an approach I can ape with the dreaded Lawrence Arabia bio. Perhaps I could dredge up the time I gave Andrew Fagan an ass-whuppin' on Pop! Goes The Weasel...?


Greg Johnson is a household name in his home country of New Zealand, where he has had multiple Gold and Platinum selling albums on the EMI/Capitol Label. When not touring he lives in Los Angeles where he writes, records and produces for himself and others.

A prolific and gifted songwriter with eight studio albums to date he has won numerous New Zealand music awards including the prestigious APRA (Australasian ASCAP) Silver Scroll for songwriting. Johnson moves with ease between the piano, trumpet and guitar and his concerts are heavily influenced by his early musical days as a nightclub singer and raconteur. Filling everything from Opera Houses and Theatres to intimate clubs when he tours down-under he also performs select smaller venues in the USA, Australia, Ireland and UK .

His music has been featured in a variety of Television and film including “The Hills”, “Highschool Reunion”, “Road Rules”, “Outrageous Fortune”, “Mysterious Ways”, “Beautiful People” and the Movies "Last Chance Harvey" (2009) starring Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson, “50 Pills” (2007) and “Entry Level” (2008).

Greg has performed all over with the likes of The Wallflowers, The Corrs, Bic Runga, Natalie Merchant, Dave Dobbyn and Paul Kelly. In 2005 Greg and The Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra performed classical arrangements of his best known hits in front of 2000 fans at the Aotea Concert Hall in his hometown Auckland in 2008 Greg's Cocktail Club Shows sold out dates around NZ.


Greg's bio is the "Big Man" bio. It is almost impossible to write these about yourself unless you're a real cock/cocaine addict/deeply delusional/all of the above. As New Zealanders in our tiny, pseudo-related isolation are terminally in a glasshouse and thus cannot throw such potentially career crippling stones as label/libelling Greg Johnson a deeply delusional cocaine addict and cock, I will assume that this bio was written by his label/management. This makes the bio more acceptable, because they are obviously are very proud of him, and also have a 15-20% stake riding on people thinking he's doing better than he actually is.


*****
Update! I've let this blog entry sit for almost two months, during which time I finished my bio, had my publicist Charlotte Ryan format it appropriately, and then sent it out to many so called influential people, who are currently having an influence on my career thanks to the information that was contained in the aforementioned bio.


Here's the finished product.
When James Milne, AKA Lawrence Arabia, left Auckland for London in November 2006, little did he realise- in fact not at all did he realise - that one hour later he would be adrift, alone in the Pacific Ocean, just south of the Kermadec Islands... This totally surprising occurrence happened due to a plane crash which has been made up to allow this extended metaphor to take place, tarting- or "zhoozhing-" up what would otherwise have been a tedious press release about Lawrence Arabia's new album "Chant Darling."

Chant Darling was recorded between November 2007 and January 2009, in Stockholm, London, Auckland, Wellington and Port Chalmers. It was produced by Lawrence Arabia, and features the musical contributions of James Dansey and Daniel Ward (The Sneaks), Matt Eccles (Betchadupa/Das Pop), Liam Finn, Luke Buda and Sam Scott (The Phoenix Foundation), Tom Watson (Cassette), Andy Watts (Hot Grits), John White (Mestar) and various other friends.

Anyway, plane goes down, Lawrence is adrift, you know the story, but get this - the only thing keeping him afloat is a single half-written song. These few couplets and melodies would scarcely stay buoyant for more than a few hours he surmised, so he began writing songs. Songwriting for survival!

The songs for the album were penned half and half between New Zealand and London, where Lawrence has been based for the past two years. The subject matter varies from the New Zealand space programme, naughty liaisons on Quay Street, laziness, drinking problems amongst the shy, to sexually frustrated hipsters, drug-induced death visions, lust for teacher and a theme-in-waiting for the National Government's soon to be announced war on drugs.

The next few months were, as I'm sure you can imagine, very very boring. With only snapper and his own swiftly deteriorating urine to keep him company, James, or Lawrence as he bewilderingly prefers to be known, began creating a fantasy world through songs. Drifting in and out of consciousness, eating the majestic, obliging snapper, and drinking wees, Lawrence wrote a whole album worth of songs to take his mind off the fact that he was to die alone in the Pacific like some hapless, under-equipped sailor without a locator beacon. An unromantic fate you will grant.

Lawrence Arabia is the pseudonym of James Milne, born 1981 in Christchurch, also singer-songwriter of The Reduction Agents and former member of the Brunettes and the Ruby Suns. James has produced music for television, film and theatre and his songs appeared in Taika Waititi's film "Eagle vs Shark." In the past year Lawrence has toured extensively around Europe and the UK with Feist and Okkervil River, appeared at the Royal Albert Hall, and been featured and reviewed in UK publications including the Sunday Times, NME, Uncut, Q, Independent, and Dazed and Confused.

So, when Lawrence Arabia's absurdly lanky frame popped up in Lake Pupuke via a volcanic tube, it was a surprise to everyone, including himself. However, a kindly Takapuna family, the Wilberforces, took him in...

Lawrence Arabia - Chant Darling out Monday March 9 on Honorary Bedouin Records

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