It’s 9:30 a.m. in London and it’s 4:30 a.m. in Manhattan. I am in London sitting in a cafe called Manhattan. They have a two-faced clock that cleverly displays the present times in both cities. It manages to depress me quite effectively. I came in here for a bagel and a black coffee and also because the seven or so girls behind the counter are all stunning. My heart has been broken so many times since I arrived here a week ago; I don’t think I can take it anymore. But maybe one last time. This is my last stop before I hop a train back to Manchester, retrieve my belongings and get my return flight for the states the next day.
Simon, my friend, and one third of the management team that has recently been working with The Comas, met me here a week ago to introduce me to labels and publicity companies that we will possibly be working with in the United Kingdom. I had some leisure time as well. All very professional.
Track 1: The Show
7:30 p.m.–I step out of Waterloo Station, which is located three minutes from the Royal Festival Hall where my friend and fellow Coma, Mog White, is playing violin in the band Sparklehorse. They are opening a show for David Gilmore (who apparently played guitar in a really big English band back in the day). After a minor hassle with the guest list and three pints of bitter, I was nestled comfortably in the front row of a fairly massive theatre designed, presumably, by the same folks who did the Brady Bunch set. Sparklehorse was cool. Gilmore’s crew graciously allowed them to occupy about a 10th of the stage, so the sound was a little wonky. As The Comas have almost exactly the same set-up (distorted mics and too many instruments altogether) I was selfishly relieved to see a band on that level experience similar sound problems. Fuck ’em. However, they ended their set with a cover of “Smothered in Hugs,” by Guided by Voices, which brought the house down. Without going into too much detail, that Gilmore fellow was unfucking real.
Track 2: Backstage Party
Some lady with a camera kept passing me Vodka and Cokes until I managed to insult the wife of Colin from Radiohead by making fun of her thick British accent, which I felt compelled to do upon learning that she’d moved to London from Philly less than three years ago. Next, I very earnestly asked David Gilmore’s daughter to marry me. She is 17. She said no. Then I insisted that Salman Rushdie wait in one spot while I staggered around the room looking for pen and paper for five minutes. I got it. At 3:30 a.m., I headed for the tube station, which had closed three-and-a-half hours earlier. I forget exactly how I made it back to my bed. I do, however have an extremely vivid recollection of an unintentional swim in a pond full of gorgeous, white geese along the way. At 6:45 a.m. I was dripping wet and cheerfully zigging and zagging my way through the lobby of what was, thankfully, my hotel.
Track 3: Publicity
Finally, the meetings. This is what I’m here for: I am important new talent, and this needs to be discussed. We are meeting with the publicity company that handles The Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev and Ash, among others. I’m thinking, “OK, cool.” It was a total joke. Poor, jaded bastards. The two guys I did like had never even listened to the record. I did, however, receive a delicious free lunch of Thai Red Snapper and a shitload of new promotional CDs. Whatever: The meeting served some purpose, I suppose. And I always like to hear people ramble in British accents.
Track 4: Play it Again Sam Records
Here we meet Carly, the A&R guy from Play It Again Sam Records, who immediately begins telling us about some wretched gangster rap group that he just signed that “isn’t his cup of tea really, but apparently is going to be a huge hit.” Carly: a white-pants-wearin’, wispy-blonde-headed weak-ass jerk of an A&R guy; he starts to talk about things like “gut feelings” and “what his friends thought about the Comas’ record” and admits that “certain puzzle pieces weren’t coming together for him.” He then offered, lamely, “Some songs seem to soar, don’t they? And then others, not as much, right?” After spending 30 seconds with this dickhead, I was ready to leave, but Simon prolonged the meeting by playing some new demos of mine. This piqued Carly’s interest considerably, but by then I had already gone into the toilet of his office and pissed everywhere.
Track 5: XL Records
The next day we found ourselves in the lovely Notting Hill district at the offices of XL Records (home to The Prodigy, Badly Drawn Boy, Basement Jaxx, The Strokes etc.). Matt, an A&R guy who flew to New York to see our show a few weeks earlier and whom I’d never had a chance to meet, greeted us at the door: Cool guy. I instantly formed a male crush (which was also probably fueled by the triple-shot Americano I was nearly at the bottom of). I was also delighted to hear my first mediocre live review of The Strokes, one of the most derivative bands I’ve ever heard in my life, whom I couldn’t seem to escape since I stepped off the plane. Matt had gone to see them the night before and said that they had trouble getting off the ground or connecting with the audience at all. That was it; I was in love. Then Richard, the owner of XL, arrived. We sat down in their spacious office to more coffee and bullshit. I decide that I love them, love them, love them. They immediately started talking from a position of, “OK, let’s do this record, but how?” I was amazed. They really loved the record and wanted to work with us. The meeting did get a little murky about, y’know, details like “You guys have never even released a 7-inch single over here?” and “We have never just signed a band out of nowhere.” And they were right. But then they started talking about releasing a 7-inch single with no logo on it and afterward “signing us” based on the strength of that mysterious 7-inch. I liked that idea: Not only were these guys clever and deceptive, they had millions of dollars, and they liked my band. We played them one new track of mine, and before the uncomfortable silence that usually ensues when a musician plays you his or her music, I thrust my fists in the air and yelled, “Yeeah!” They chuckled and we talked about possible support tours in Europe and whatnot. At this point, the coffee buzz had leaked out my eyes and ears and down my face and the meeting was over, not exactly on a crystal clear note of fabulous promise, but then I didn’t feel like pissing all over their walls, either.
Track 6: Simon & Andy do London!
Simon is Londoner, born and raised, so for the next three days he showed me the “proper” places (and means) to debase myself. It was mussels and Belgian beer at Belgo, sushi and sake in Covent Garden, artichoke and brie risotto at some Italian place, cocaine in Chelsea, beer, beer and beer–even a museum, I think. Devastatingly beautiful girls were absolutely everywhere. Letting true love pass me by constantly, I wandered Covent Garden a blissful zombie by day. And at night, I was a blind terror. Bloody Hell.
Track 7: The End
Now I’m on the train heading back (and backward due to the position of my seat) and I feel, well, not quite sad yet, but it’s coming. I’m still surrounded by sexy accents, drifting through the countryside of a foreign land. I feel fucking great, actually. I don’t really know what just happened, especially with that music business business. I’m starting to get the impression that that is the way these things go. Yet no matter what happens with all of that, if I die, I will feel a little less bad about it.