A while ago I started a side project to turn some ideas I had for songs from the world of science into musical form. This saw the light of day as Professor Karmadillo, and resulted in the album Giant Leaps. I have now decided to turn this into a more full time project, which sees the light of day as Singing Science, together with its first fully fledged show Genomics! The Musical!
This takes on board some of the feedback from audiences (videos for all songs when performing live, a theme to the show rather than just disparate science songs) and performance spaces (sadly one of these being that to perform in academic institutions it is easier to do with backing tracks rather than bring real instruments into play).
Once again, congratulations to Rosey REPEAT for another superbly organised Love Music/Hate Racism stage at this years Strawberry Fair! Kudos to you for all the work you do for the cause in Cambridge. It is always an honour to play to support the work.
It was also great to see so a stage given to so many young performers, and watching Saltfen (who I had supported the week before) in action left me awestruck once again. These guys are really amazing. As featured on the You Flexi Thing Volume 2 by Repeat Records. And a shoutout the to Baby Seals for a great headline set.
The Oxjam Cambridge 2016 gig happened on Saturday. A mass takeover of 10 Cambridge venues, to raise money for Oxfam.
I played two sets – one at 2468 and other other at The Snug Bar in Cambridge. The former I’d last been into when it was the vaults, the latter I’d not been into since trying to catch up with Paul Richards after a CB2 gig. Though pre-gig I was trying to reminisce with Aidy about the dimensions of when the venue was the old Boat Race. I must have been playing on where the old stage was – it was by the entrance to the toilets! – but I couldn’t quite place the location of the door and the sound desk. And then when I put the bar in place it mentally seemed smaller than it used to be, though maybe it was larger in my memory than in reality.
I did get soaked going between the two venues – a rain storm just fell between the two sets. When I checked the weather in the morning I had been promised dryness. I left the Portland (where I went after performing) early because of this and had a migraine the next day. But nothing compared to what the people for whom these funds were intended go through. Still, got to see The Abstracts perform a really cool set, and bumped into the checkout lady at Waitrose who’d recognised me as Karmadillo the day before when shopping. Fame!
Lots of acts contributed, but special mention must go to the organising crew – especially Sandy Mills – and the sound people for the efforts they put in to making this happen.
The song I was most nervous about showing my fellow band members was Rent Boy, a song about house prices in the UK. It has a lot of changing sections, and the outro was a parody of a song I first heard performed in the early 80s by a chap called Shakin’ Stevens. He was served up as a 60s rocker (I believe the phrase was Teddy Boy) and the song – This Ole House – it turns out was a cover version.
The song being a cover version is something I’d been aware of for a while. What I hadn’t been aware of, until reading this interview on the BBC website, was that this song was actually a clever metaphor for death, and inspired by the songwriter (“singing cowboy” Stuart Hamblen) finding a dead body lying in a deserted shack! The lyrics play with the gospel concept of the mortal body being a “house” for your soul, that gets left behind when you go to “meet the saints”. Not something I’d ever appreciated before.
Ironically I am writing this at 5.30am as the house I am currently renting is next to the A14 and I find myself being awoken by passing heavy goods traffic going along at 60mph every day. Come on guys – if only 300,000 of you purchase Karmadillo albums I’ll be able to buy a decent place of my own!
It’s just as well that Otway is so good because support act Karmadillo was a hard one to follow. He plays a charango, which is a small guitar originally designed to be made out of an armadillo, although his one is made out of mere wood: ‘Anything hairier than my legs shouldn’t be a musical instrument’. He performs witty, often tender songs, of a kind that would go down well as an interlude in a Radio 4 chat show.
Also deserving of a mention is support act Rishi, aka Karmadillo who performed songs on topics ranging from zombies to ageing porn stars on a mini guitar called a charango traditionally made from an armadillo shell. His gentile eccentricity and sense of humour made him the perfect warmup for Otway’s comedy rock and roll show.
You can watch the video for the Karmadillo contribution. The compilation has a foreword from Peter Tatchell, artwork by Luis Drayton and features music from: Ste McCabe, Ten Tigers, The Lovely Eggs, The Get, Das Wanderlust (last ever recording), Bearsuit, Tumbledryer Babies, Death of the Elephant, Dragchrist, Salty Lips, Pocket Gods, Mary Cigarettes, Karmadillo, Art Gruppe, Stella Zine, Zorras, Lost Harbours and my favourite named artist of the bunch, Toska Wilde.