Archive for July, 2010

a strange dinner with Julian Assange of @WikiLeaks

Friday, July 30th, 2010

Reading all the furore about WikiLeaks and its mysterious frontman Julian Assange, I feel compelled to tell this story about a recent dinner conversation I had with with him.

It was at a private ‘do’ at a restaurant in Oxford right after TEDGlobal earlier this month. Julian slipped in to the party uninvited, plonked himself down opposite me and ordered some fish. Just that morning he’d given a candid interview to Chris Anderson on the TED stage in which he’d quite convincingly defended Wikileaks and its right/obligation to publish leaked military secrets that, some could argue, put lives and reputations in unnecessary peril. A cloak of secrecy surrounded his visit to the conference and even the TED production team had been kept in the dark about the identity of our surprise final day guest.

Julian Assange is a slender 6′ Australian with a flock of white hair. He cuts a striking figure in a white dress shirt, sneakers and jeans. It struck me that this charismatic guy who’s Public Enemy #1 in the eyes of several large and deadly organisations — not least the CIA — might do better to dye his hair brown and wears specs and an anorak. Sitting across the table from him, I half expected to see a tiny red laser dot dancing across his white shirt. In fact, if you’re going to stick around overnight in a city where you just made a controversial public appearance that was instantly tweeted all over the blogosphere, why not just paint a big red target on your back?

I asked him if he fears for his life. “All the time,” he said, “but if it comes I hope it comes quickly”. (I’m recalling this as accurately as I can.) “Just today after my interview at the Playhouse Theatre, I walked down the street to my hotel, tightly surrounded by a crowd of people wanting to congratulate me, or heckle me or whatever. I got to the concierge desk. As I was waiting to pick up my bag I felt a strange itch on the back of my neck. I felt for it and shit! it was a Band-Aid I’d never seen before. Christ, I thought, this is not good, this could be the bloody end right here, and I looked around for someone scurrying off into the shadows. Did I feel okay? yes, but…. then I realised. It was the sticky tape from the wireless headset microphone I’d just worn for the TED interview.”

Julian Assange left our post-TED party and reportedly gatecrashed another, leaving that one early by the emergency exit, setting off the alarm, choosing a dark back alley to make his escape in preference to the brightly lit Oxford main road. He says WikiLeaks is underfunded. I only hope the company has room in its budget for a little Kevlar in its CEO’s wardrobe.

Just saw an awesome @AnnieLennox soundcheck

Monday, July 12th, 2010

I’m at TEDGlobal 2011 in Oxford which starts tomorrow. I just witnessed an awesome Annie Lennox soundcheck in the intimacy of the Playhouse Theatre, where she will be performing solo with piano tomorrow afternoon. She ripped through a selection of recent material as well as a few classic hits. For my part I’ll be playing the ‘Amerikana’ EP in its entirety, joined by pretty much the same band as played at Maverick last week, with the substitution of Rachelle Garniez in place of BJ Cole.

The theatre where TED is held is right across the road from the Ashmolean Museum where my father had his office for most of my childhood when he wasn’t traveling. So it feels a bit like a homecoming to play here. How strange then to songs about crime and suicide in the wild western USA, and halucinogenic reptiles in the Welsh mountains!

BTW if you haven’t already seen it, here’s a series of cool video clips that went up on YouTube today of me on the Nutmeg dissecting the first of the EP tracks ‘Road To Reno.’


Thursday, July 8th, 2010

I was invited to take part in an MSNBC panel show entitled PlayItForward, where pundits and futurists get on their soapboxes about various current issues relating to technology, music etc. and the audience gets to vote on who they agree with. Shockingly, my views are not nearly as popular as those of a sexy 26 yr old national tech TV show hostess! The only possibly reason I can think of is that she has enlisted the help of her fan community to jack up her votes. So if you’ve got a moment (and if you agree with what I’m saying, of course) please visit one of these URLs and vote for me!

Maverick Music Festival report

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

I had a fantastic time at last weekend’s Maverick Music Festival in Suffolk, UK. The band and I spent all Saturday shooting a jolly but low-budget video for ‘Toad Lickers’ in an old milking barn, with noted video director Paul D. accompanied by two wonderful burlesque artistes and a group of volunteer line dancers. Several were from the Flat Earth Society, as well as from the Maverick crowd at large. FES members also helped out with moving gear and hay bails, travel, and production assistance.

It was quite a shift to go straight from the video shoot to the live stage in another barn, with no sound check. My band consisted of Justin Hildreth (drums), Matthew Seligman (bass), Kevin Armstrong (guitar), Aaron Jonah Lewis (fiddle and banjo), BJ Cole (pedal steel and Dobro) and Barbara Ann Spencer (backing vocals) as well as the aformentioned burlesque pair Sophie St Villier and Millie Dollar. The audience was terrific, and very open-minded considering my style is somewhat broader and more ironic than many of the old time country and folk acts on the bill. We played the three songs from my current Amerikana EP ‘Toad Lickers’, ‘Road To Reno’ and ’17 Hills’, as well as Cajun-tinged oldies ‘Silk Pyjamas’ and ‘I Love You Goodbye.’ It felt pretty good to give the new songs an airing for the first time, and we’ll be performing them again at next week’s TEDGlobal Conference in Oxford.

I’ll be posting links to some more of NKGuy’s great photos in the next couple of days, but here’s one for starters: