Tag Archives: ben kritikos

Ten Years Of Shock & Awe

I recently moved house. As you do when moving house, I had a clear out of old boxes. Sifting through the miscellany of my life, I stumbled upon some old notebooks. Leafing through the pages of one from 2002-3, I found a two-column list: one column was bullet points of a political speech; the other began as notes to myself on these points, which, further down the column descended into a panoply of expletives.

In early 2003 I was writing for my college newspaper, The Voice. One of my first assignments was to listen to George W Bush’s State Of The Union address and write an opinion piece in response. It was the first time I ever listened to Bush speak for any length of time. What an eye-opener.

I guess I’d always just unconsciously assumed that politicians were a bunch of lying bastards who did stupid things and made a mess of the countries they were administering to. Bush’s 2003 State Of The Union address made me realise that I knew nothing of politics. The sheer outrageousness of the President’s vague assertions about Saddam Hussein’s secret weapons programme, and the intentions they conveyed, turned my stomach.

Bush’s message was crystal clear. His administration planned to invade an economically crippled, internationally isolated country on the most unlikely pretext imaginable: that Iraq posed a threat to the United States, and that pre-emptive action needed to be taken to protect Americans from harm.

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So Long! Lyrics

It’s been wonderful meeting people on the Gipsy Tour so far. It’s also been really brilliant how many people have asked me about the lyrics from the songs I’ve been singing at the gigs (genuine interest is the sincerest form of flattery for me). Some people have even asked me for print copies of the lyrics from So Long! — so here you are! So Long! lyrics

-Ben

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Cogito Ergo Sum

by Ben Kritikos

Being a musician is a funny thing: it’s one part playing music, one part relentless admin and one part heavy lifting. If you’re anything like me, the first and last of these is not a problem; if you’re anything like me, the middle one is a panic-inducing stress-fest akin to going to the dentist when you know there’s definitely something really wrong in your mouth.

That said, it’s always good to learn new skills. There’s nothing like being thrown in at the deep end to confront those things about yourself that you’d rather relegate to the dark corners of your psyche, where you keep memories of all the kebabs you’ve eaten at 4am while staggering down a rainy, vomit-strewn street. Or that time you walked nearly the whole way across town with your fly undone while wearing those boxers with the broken button, wondering why every passerby seemed to be staring at your crotch. The brain cupboard under the brain stairs, basically.

I hate being a salesman (I once had a telesales job at a carpet cleaners). The only thing I hate more than being a salesman is being a self-salesman. But every musician is a self-salesman: YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO ME PLEASE LISTEN TO ME is the underlying message. A horrible little parasite of a man inside my heart, who feeds on weird black tendrils of self-loathing, frequently confronts me with the question, “Why would anybody want to listen to you?”

So the big, bear-hugging woman in my heart, who looks a lot like Kathy Bates and feeds on tea and lovely cakes made by my friends, takes the tough love line, and says between mouthfuls of Victoria sponge: “Shut up and get on with it”.

Poet, novelist and dreadful misogynist Charles Bukowski famously quipped, “The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.” While this isn’t altogether untrue, it’s not useful.

So many truths are useless. It’s like our Tom says, translating Descartes’ cogito ergo sum: believe in yourself and your dreams will come true. The moral of the story is: BUY CDs AT OUR GIGS. Just kidding. But seriously, do.

 

Ben is currently on tour around the UK. Check out the tour dates here.

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Herons! Gipsy Tour 2013

This January, our Ben is giving up the comforts of home and hitting the road for a solo tour of the country. He’ll be driving all over the UK in his car, which is called Yoko – a dented old Nissan Almera painted like a gypsy caravan (courtesy of the talented art students of Stroud College).

As part of the Herons! Gipsy Tour, Ben will be playing a plethora of venues and pubs across the UK, as well as front room gigs: small concerts in people’s homes.* The aim is to make friends, share Herons!’ music with a new audience, and earn enough to get Ben to the next place. It’s a tour that relies on the kindness of strangers. The tour kicks off on Boxing Day at our favourite watering hole, the Prince Albert in Stroud.

In the meantime, Ben is spending time in Dublin with old friends, and doing a bit of gigging. You can catch him playing guitar with the amazing Aoife Mc on Saturday at No. 63 Merrion Square (home of the Royal Society of Antiquaries), and also doing a small acoustic set at the Monday Echo at the International Bar on … you guessed it — Monday!

The Herons! Gipsy Tour is getting bigger and busier every day, so do check out our gigs listings or like us on Facebook to keep up to date. Bye for now!

*You can help! Would you be up for hosting a gig at your place – whether it’s a house, a flat, a barn or a garage? If you could get about 20 people (give or take) together who like music, then you’ve got a gig! Email heronstheband@gmail.com if you’re interested.

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Herons! featured on Folkroom Anthology

Herons! are pleased to announce that we’ve contributed to the independent London-based label Folkroom’s second anthology, which is released today. Our track “Aliens” features on this compilation, and it’s the first recording we’ve released since our debut So Long! in 2010.

We’ve had the good fortune to work with the Folkroom bunch before, having  played at their regular showcase gig at the Queen’s Head in King’s Cross. We’re really pleased to be contributing to their Anthology Two (which you can download for free here) and we’re dead pleased to be doing another London gig with them on the 15th November, at The Islington — aptly located in Islington.

Check out the Folkroom website for more info about the artists who’ve contributed. Over the next few days, you’ll be able to read some words about each track, written by the artists themselves, on the site. Oh, and for your information — “Aliens” will feature on our forthcoming album Some Things Run Wild, but the version on the Folkroom Anthology is a special recording that is only available as part of the compilation. So go ahead and download it!

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September Tour With Aidan

Hello, lovely people!

With September well behind us and winter on the horizon, I’m still buzzing from the tour I did with Aidan & The Italian Weather Ladies around Belgium, France and Luxembourg.

The tour started with a date in Louvain La Neuve — home of my good friends and master luthiers, De Musica — at a smart little organic café cum venue called Alterez-Vouz. After the show, I got proper pissed on Belgian beer and ended up back at Francois Massau’s house, demonstrating what I believed Sid Vicious would look like playing a six year old’s violin.

We had a proper romp at Why Not? in Dudelange (Luxembourg, for the uninitiated) and even went to an Indian restaurant where the staff lined up to shake our hands on the way in, and on the way out. We made lots of great friends and stayed up until morning playing songs in their flat. I also learned the importance of saying bise instead of baise. (Look it up if you want to know why.)

Some highlights of the tour included my first Boulets Liègeois, which looked to me like a ginger Gonzo from the Muppets…

Encountering French vintners’ puns (analogous to the British real ale tradition — but is he drinking a can of lager?)…

And most delightfully of all, visiting my friends Jeanne & Deni at their vineyard, Le Dessous du Cep at Le Vivier, in Fleurie…

Deni is a poet and wine-magician. He cooked some delicious food, showed us their sensuous and eminently quaffable natural wine called Rock And Roll (so named because it went into the cuve smelling like piss and came out like nectar of the gods), and informed us of the untold horrors of the French wine industry. Jeanne showed us her gorgeously bold and dynamic paintings, and talked about the challenges, frustrations and thrills of raising up a vineyard (and a family) from its bootstraps. We played a very fun gig and I DJd afterwards. I must have done a good job because most of the men in the room had their shirts off before midnight. I also polished off a methuselah of wine in the process.

The next day, Jeanne and Deni were kind enough to treat us to some wine for the road. The bottles were labeled with Jeanne’s designs, and stuck on by hand:

At Le Blogg in Lyon, I found myself apologising on stage for not speaking French, until someone asked me to tell a French joke. I jumped at the opportunity.

“Why does a Frenchman only have one egg for breakfast?”

Silence.

“Because un oeuf is un oeuf.”

The audience grumbled. Someone heigh-ho’d half-heartedly. Another person said something in French; it was probably, “Don’t give up your day job”.

The next morning, I gave myself concussion lying in bed. I turned over too fast and cracked my head against a table leg. The drive from Lyon to Brussels was fun with concussion — I’ve never seen the French countryside reel and rock like a sea before.

Our last date was a house gig in Gent, courtesy of the lovely An and Steven. They joined forces with a collective of musicians from Flanders to perform Bob Dylan’s album Time Out Of Mind. It was amazing! Especially An’s ukulele and vocal cover of “To Make You Feel My Love” — it beat the pants off Adele’s saccharine-glazed version.

Aidan and I spent the days off at the end of the tour working on vocals for the next Herons! record, Some Things Run Wild. We got really pissed (again) and did a vocal take at 2am in his apartment. I let out a blood-curdling scream at the end of one of the takes, which seemed like a good idea. I’m sure Aidan’s neighbours felt the same way.

I look forward to returning to all these places and seeing all these awesome people again. But now it’s back to work here in Stroud — we’ve got a record to finish! Speaking of which, we’ve done a little live video of the band peforming our song “Cain”, which is first song on the upcoming record. You can expect to see it here very soon!

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Remembering 9/11

I am not a patriot. I don’t believe in the inherent value of identifying with one nation over another. A nation, to me, is simply a collective noun to describe a group of people living in a particular place at a particular time, with their own more-or-less consensual geographical identity.

That said, I grew up in the suburbs of New York. And I’m a lot like other people who also grew up there. And when terrible things happen to your neighbours, the news hurts you deeply. The news of horrible things happening to people all over the world hurts too — but this is different. I didn’t feel more deeply for the people caught in the attacks in New York (and elsewhere in the US) on 9/11, but I felt differently for them. It was so close to home; they were my neighbours.

I don’t think 9/11 is necessarily the worst thing that’s happened in recent history — but it’s the worst thing that’s happened to my neighbours. It offends me when ordinarily kind, sympathetic people talk about 9/11 like it’s not worthy of their tears, because the US is such a global bastard. I’m not offended as an American, but as a New Yorker.

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