Indieterria meets Andrew Marston

Dear readers!

We always have fun speaking to bands, singers, songwriters and artists. Discovering new music is what we love to do and we will never miss the opportunity to ask few questions and direct your attention towards a good tune or an album that is worth listening to. From time to time, however we have a special guest at our blog and today’s entry will be dedicated to a man we all know but whom nobody interviewed yet (we know it is a shocker!)

It is with the biggest of pleasures, we are able to announce that Indieterria has interviewed the man who not only came up with the name for Worcestershire music scene but who has been tirelessly working behind the stages of biggest local radio programmes, festivals and concerts – Andrew Marston of BBC Hereford and Worcester and BBC Introducing! We sat down with Andrew to discuss the impact the BBC Introducing has on the UK musical map, the best songs he has ever received through the Introducing Uploader and his brand new exciting show.

Think globally, do locally  – Andrew Marston Interview

The right person for the job!

Official press release: A BBC programme, dedicated to supporting up-and-coming musicians, is to launch a second show this weekend.

 BBC Music Introducing in Hereford & Worcester, which broadcasts every Saturday from 8pm, is to double its airtime in its new timeslot on Sundays from 6pm. Since its launch in 2005, the team has been overwhelmed with the amount of musical talent coming out of Herefordshire & Worcestershire with more than 15,000 demos sent in, during the last decade, from the local area.

 Presenter Andrew Marston says: “We have such an incredible music scene right here on our doorstep – and I looked down the pile of music that I’d earmarked for broadcast and realised, if I never received a song again, I still had enough to carry me through the next decade without repeating a single track!

 “The picture, nationally, is also very similar – with 170,000 artists now registered and 500,000 songs submitted. It would take 3 years to listen to every song currently on the Uploader and the number of musicians registered now exceeds the number of people who went to Glastonbury last year.”

 Originally broadcast as the Friday Session, the programme has gone on to discover acts such as Ellie Goulding, Becky Hill and Peace. John Peel’s former manager, Clive Selwood, said: “John would have loved the programme – it would have pleased him enormously.”

 As well as the superb quality of music the programme showcases, there’s a weekly gig guide, local music news, interviews with movers and shakers, a Musicians’ Masterclass, a local history of great gigs and musical legends, coverage of our local festivals plus live sessions on the show every week.

The team has also been responsible, in recent years, for sending Leominster’s AKA George to Glastonbury, Hay-on-Wye’s Cherryshoes to T in the Park, Sœur to Reading + Leeds and flew Bromyard’s Remi Harris to perform at the Montreal Jazz Festival. Other successes include Sam Isaac at Glastonbury and the BBC Electric Proms, Pencil Toes, Luke Leighfield, The Anomalies and Pegasus Bridge at BBC Maida Vale (and Radio 1’s Big Weekend), while securing the brother/sister duo Muchuu a support slot with Florence & The Machine and the Temper Trap alongside a spot on the BBC Radio 1 playlist. Other Radio 1 opportunities include Riscas and Lauren Wright, while FREnchfire, Georgina Upton, Kamos & Tripbuk and Scarlette Says ending up on the BBC 1Xtra playlist. Andrew also landed The Roving Crows a place on tour with Jamie Cullum, AKA George two spots on the Radio 1 playlist, as well as a place on stage at Glastonbury and Radio 2’s Live In Hyde Park.

 Andrew continues, “Every month, we record our sessions at a variety of festivals – including Hay, Wychwood, Nozstock, Lakefest, Worcester Music Festival, SXSW, T In The Park, Montreal Jazz Festival, The Great Escape, Radio 1’s Big Weekend, The Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Glastonbury, Reading & Leeds.

“When artists upload their music for airplay, they often don’t realise they’re being considered for these incredible opportunities.

 “With such a diverse range of music, the new show makes it really easy to plan – and sharpens the focus for our audience: ‘Is this more of a Saturday night track?’ or ‘is this more of a Sunday night track?’”

You can listen to the new show on Sunday from 6pm on 94.7FM in Hereford, 104FM in Worcester, 104.4FM in Redditch, 104.6FM in the Wyre Forest, 738AM across Worcestershire, 1584AM in Tenbury Wells, on DAB Digital Radio, Freeview channel 720 and online at bbc.co.uk/introhw. The programme will also be available via the BBC iPlayer Radio App for free download for 30 days.

***

Andrew Marston at the mixing console

You are very well known in the West Midlands, but in case somebody spent the last decade on the other side of the world, please introduce yourself to the readers of Indieterria. Who is Andrew Marston and how did you get involved with BBC Hereford & Worcester?

Andrew Marston: Hi, I’m Andrew, a 36-year-old radio presenter from Hereford who’s now spent more than half a lifetime behind the record decks and well over a decade at the helm of BBC Music Introducing. In fact, I’ve always been surrounded by music having had keyboard and piano lessons since the age of 6 and have wanted to work in radio since discovering my first cassette recorder as a toddler. Somehow I’ve managed to combine both passions in a way that I’ve not played piano in public for 2 decades and haven’t played a cassette since I was at Hereford Sixth Form College!!

In fact, I was gigging regularly at Whitecross High School (mine – I didn’t just break in!), also touring the country with my brothers’ band – but I was being asked more and more to DJ between sets; something that ended in me landing my first residency at the Jailhouse Nightclub aged 14! Slowly, but surely, my gigging time was filled with playing CDs rather than keys – and I eventually tried to claw back some of what I’d “lost” by organising weekly band nights at the Imperial in Hereford. At the same time, I was presenting a non-music show (!!) on Hereford Hospital Radio, focussing very much on bringing news to life. I finished college on the Friday, had the worries of ‘what to do next’ for two days and went into the BBC’s Hereford office for work experience to be greeted with the words “how would you feel if we’re to train you up as a Broadcast Assistant?” I still haven’t had my training…

Outside of Dj’ing and music production, you are heavily involved in the BBC Music Introducing programme, looking for new talents. Tell us more about it.

Andrew Marston: I spent from 1999-2005 working behind-the-scenes at the BBC, including several stints on BBC Online. Back then, we were writing album reviews and gig features – very much like Vanadian Avenue and Slap Mag, but we kept saying to the boss “let’s stop talking about music – and let’s play it”. 12 months later, the boss came to us and said “I’ve got a great idea! Let’s stop talking about music – and let’s play it!” and the Friday Session was born. It made a lot of people very nervous thinking there wouldn’t be enough music to sustain a 2-hour programme every week and “is local radio the right place to be breaking new acts”. In fact, the bosses of Radio 1 came down to see how this was impacting on their audiences and some of the people in charge of local radio. I think they weren’t keen on the idea, before they arrived, but within 6 months the BBC Introducing brand was launched nationally!

In 2017 BBC Music Introducing celebrated 10 years since its conception. If you look at the official stats, nearly 130,000 bands submitted more than half a million songs. That’s nearly 3 years’ worth of music if one would like to listen to them all. How is BBC Introducing in Hereford & Worcester looking compared to other local shows? Do you know how many bands submitted their songs and how many played a live session for you?

Andrew Marston: Since we launched the uploader seven years ago, more than 10,000 songs have been uploaded from Herefordshire & Worcestershire alone. We’ve also just finished ripping all of the CDs sent into us 2005-2010 and that’s another 4,000. But – in those early days, tracks that didn’t get a spin after a couple of years were deleted from the uploader to save on server space – so I’m guessing that figure is much, much higher. In fact – I’m going to keep my eye on that! In terms of live sessions, we’ve now had more than 1,000 acts perform live on the show leading to countless opportunities. Last week, the whole Introducing family (that’s what we call it) got together at Broadcasting House in London before heading down to Maida Vale for our annual get-together. Everywhere in Britain is powering forwards, but it’s interesting to see how the poor folk in London are swamped by acts claiming to be from London when they’re not. Geographically, you have more chance of “making it” if you’re from a rural area than somewhere that’s overrun with musicians (who’ll also play for free. I lived in London for a couple of years and, despite playing 137 gigs in one year, struggled to find any paid opportunities in the capital as everyone would do it for nothing).

Andrew Marston preparing to go live

You were one of the first DJs to play Ellie Goulding, The Voice UK alumna Becky Hill, Peace and the alternative outfit This Wicked Tongue. Do you remember the artist or a band that made the biggest impression on you as part of the BBC Introducing?

Andrew Marston: Muchuu made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. Sadly they’re no more, but their music was haunting, full of space and left you wanting more. Somehow it drew you in and I still go back and listen to those tracks when I want to reflect. They were one of the first acts to use the Uploader and I instantly passed it onto Huw Stephens at Radio 1, who claimed there was “something in the water” with so many artists going national from our neck of the woods. They’d go on to support Florence + The Machine and the Temper Trap at the BBC Introducing staff Christmas party (those were the days!) and turned down a slot at Glastonbury because they were going on holiday – I know, right??!

Worcester music scene is going through a real cultural renaissance at this moment. Many local acts receive fantastic reviews from the critics and you are credited with coining the name for it – “WorcesterWave”.  Do you think Worcester is going to be the next musical hotspot after Manchester, Cardiff and London?

Andrew Marston: I think we actually have a greater music scene than all of those cities. Having lived in London, everybody that claims to be from there comes from somewhere else. Sadly, these big cities are so swamped with bands (from across the region) they’re embracing the “pay to play” culture, meaning you’ve either got to sell tickets for your show or actually pay the promoter for stage time. It’s a very sad state of affairs, especially when musicians have learned their craft since a young age having music lessons at £20 per hour.  I also lived in Manchester for a while and everybody tours there, but Manchester bands rarely get the chance to play their own city because of the competitive nature. Every city has its own music scene – but often it’s cut-throat. The thing with Manchester is if you’re 15-years-old and you get bored, you go out. But if you’re 15 and living in Clifton-upon-Teme, you form a band. And when there’s nowhere to play, you organised your own gigs. This whole cottage industry, where everybody supports everybody else, is what’s getting this city noticed.

You have an eye to spot future stars. Many artists championed by you frequently receive national coverage. The list is very impressive: The Americas performed on Georgie Tonight, a prime-time show across the whole of BBC Local Radio, Soeur recorded live session at the legendary Maida Vale studios, Nuns of the Tundra reached second place in nationwide “Battle of the Bands” competition sponsored by Firestone, Tazmin Barnes’ EP “Powerful” debuted at number 11 at iTunes Pop charts, nth cave and Thousand Mountain were played by Steve Lamacq while Population:7 and Chavy Chase Stole My Wife were noticed by Tom Robinson. What qualities are the most important for future success? Song writing, catchy melodies or stage presence?

BBC Introducing

Andrew Marston: The song is always key. It doesn’t matter how good your biog is, who you’ve toured with, where you’ve played and how good you are at playing guitar, the 3-minute song is the thing that will get you everywhere. In fact, it’s your best advert. In commercial radio, a 30 second commercial could cost you £150. A 3-minute song is effectively £900 worth of airtime. If you were recording speech – you’d tell people to download your music, advertise your shows, sell some merch and ask them to friend you on Facebook. So make sure your demo isn’t a demo – it’s the polished product.

As a presenter, if you get too involved with a band, it definitely impacts your decision making. I’ve seen many bands who’ve blown me away, jumping all over the stage, but I’ve listened back on iPlayer and they’ve failed to jump out of the speakers. I will score every track based on the first listen – as that’s exactly how the audience will hear it. There’s no such thing as a “grower” unfortunately – that’s a phrase coined for bands that have had so much money invested in them, they’ve got no choice but to champion that track. First impressions count.

Rumour has it that there is a brand new Sunday radio show being prepared? Can you please tell us more?

Andrew Marston: Exactly that! We have so much music coming in that we want to play, 2 hours a week just isn’t enough. In fact, it’s a really simple thing to do – the gig guide still exists, we still want to cover the same number of festivals, enjoy live sessions – but the canvas is now twice as big. The thing we’re accused of, most of all, is using a too-bigger paint brush. At one end of the spectrum, there’s tonnes of classical musicians and folk artists in the Malvern Hills; at the other end of the spectrum, Kidderminster produces the heaviest of death/screamo metal and Bromsgrove unearths a lot of dubstep and drum ‘n’ bass. The balancing act is to aim to the programme at everyone – otherwise you risk broadcasting the X-Factor to only the people who queued up to be on the X-Factor! Being blunt, musicians provide the raw material for the show – it’s my job to then expose it to as wider audience as possible, so I have to be careful not to make the show sound like a fanzine. That job just got a little simpler; I can now ask “is this more Saturday night or more Sunday night”. So Saturdays will be a lot louder, a lot more raucous with a real edge. Whereas Sundays will be a lot more accessible, focussing a lot more on those acoustic/soulful/folk/jazz/blues/country styles with “candlelit” stripped-back studio sessions. I’m hoping there’ll be a fair bit of crossover, meaning audiences will feed between both programmes – but the idea is you’ll definitely have your favourite, all, of course, available for 30 days to download and listen via the BBC iPlayer Radio app!

What advice would you give to the kids who are just starting out and would like to send their music to BBC Music Introducing for consideration?

BBC Hereford and Worcester: Guitars and great tunes!

Andrew Marston: Here’s my top three…

  1. Always disappoint your audience!! Keep your music short. Your favourite song will never be long enough; loop play is the greatest compliment. If they hear it on the radio and want to hear more, they’ll have to go out and buy it! If you play a gig, don’t give them an encore. If they want more, they’ll have to come to another show! Take pictures of every gig – especially the audience having fun – and host them online afterwards. People will be disappointed they missed out and will come to your next show. If you’re on the door, don’t let every Tom, Dick and Harry in! An exclusive audience will grow punters; letting in those who don’t particularly care will distract your die-hards. Remember that time you couldn’t get into your favourite nightclub because your mate was wearing trainers? You didn’t particularly want to go in – but the moment the bouncer said no, you were desperate to be in there!
  2. Properly release your music. Set a release date. My best music I’ll save for a “rainy day”. I’m hoping it’ll never rain. But that means I might not play it for 5 years! Setting a release date ensures everyone is across your track on that particular date. Nobody likes to back the last horse in the race, so if everyone else is championing your music on that date – others will follow. Make big events even bigger. I remember booking Remi Harris for the Montreal Jazz Festival a couple of years ago and just as I was ending the phone-call, he said “oh – did you hear I have a new album?” If I didn’t know, nor would any of his potential audience. I told him to stop being a fool and to release it at the festival! Forevermore you can say “I launched my debut album at the biggest gig of my life”. The festival will be happy you saved such a special moment for their event – and, with any luck, will also do your promo for you! Whenever Remi rings up a venue, he can now say “and here’s a copy of my album I officially released at the Montreal Jazz Festival”.
  3. Write music you believe in. You’ll be amazed how many people I interview who write rock music who go out every Friday and Saturday night and listen to dance/RnB then wonder why nobody comes to their gigs. Take a look around and see what people are genuinely listening to. If you’re really into electronica, you’ll probably write better electronica than trying to form a band with people who don’t really share your passion. The most common reason bands split is because of “musical differences”. If you wouldn’t be happy to drive around town with your windows wound down and your track blaring out, you’re possibly not being true to yourself – and if you’re not 100% behind what you’re writing, what chance does anyone else have?

But most importantly – have fun! If you’re not enjoying what you’re doing, you’ve probably forgotten the reason you got into music in the first place. If you become the best at what you do, the money will somehow find its way to you. But just remember it’s not always this cartoon version of “write a song, get signed, achieve #1 then headline Wembley”. There’s money to made in writing theme tunes, being a session musician, writing for video games, weddings, playing the piano in hotel receptions, writing for other people and one of the most lucrative “revenue streams” is writing lift music! But that’s just page one of an ocean of opportunity. Remember, I learned piano and I now host a show on the BBC. So music can open all sorts of opportunities – just make sure you grab them with both hands and never let go!

BBC Introducing:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p001d72q
https://twitter.com/bbcintroducing
https://en-gb.facebook.com/bbcintrohw/

Andrew Marston is very active on social media and you can find him on many different platforms:
http://www.djandrewmarston.com/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Marston
https://twitter.com/DJAndrewMarston
https://www.facebook.com/djandrewmarston
https://www.mixcloud.com/djandrewmarston/
https://www.youtube.com/user/DJAndrewMarston
https://itunes.apple.com/gb/artist/dj-andrew-marston/id983733498

Vanadian Avenue would like to thank you to Andrew and the crew of BBC Inroducing in Hereford and Worcester for their time, hard work and answering the questions.

Keep on doing the good job!

Please come back soon as Indieterria is meeting a really cool band next week and we will be back shortly with another interview for your enjoyment!

Bye for now,
Rita and Malicia Dabrowicz

Indieterria meets Nic Evennett

Nic Evennett – A Song to a Siren

 

Nic is also a skilled photographer doing all her publicity shots herself.

Welcome to the new chapter of Indieterria, where we profile artists on the unsigned/independent circuit that bring something new to the audiences. We want to introduce you to incredible artist, poet, photographer and composer based in Kent – Nic Evennett.

Nic not only records and mixes her own compositions, staying true to DIY ethics of the genre. She also built quite an impressive profile as a studio based artist. She is not touring, not playing the popularity games on social media. And yet appears on national radio and enjoys a wide network of collaborators. She is passionate and driven. Talking to her was a privilege. Please read on.

***

You have the most unconventional biography we have ever seen. It reads: “I bash the piano and stuff”. We were expecting few home-made demos but found a whole catalogue of songs, an established artist who have been on national radio and comparisons to Kate Bush. Not exactly just piano bashing! Would you like to introduce yourself to the readers of Indieterria?

Nic Evennett: Well, firstly, thank you so much for interviewing me! I’m all flustery and excited! It’s a real honour, and it’s my very first proper interview.

I remember Tom Robinson saying something about the “I bash the piano and stuff”, commenting that is was self-deprecating, and I think self-deprecation sums me up quite well! Your question is one that always makes me (pauses) clam up, somewhat. I find talking about me incredibly hard. I doubt that’s uncommon. It’s much easier for me to just quote what somebody else has said about me. But I’ll have a go here: I am Nic, a singer-songwriter from Kent, United Kingdom. I’ve been bashing the piano since I was 7, studied music for a while, had a long break, and then really only turned to song-writing about five years ago, or so. I also love photography, being out in nature, listening to Buddhist talks,  meditations, and eating cake, in no particular order. There. I did it. (laughs)

Nic Evennett through her own lens

Your song “Outside” debuted in January 2017 on BBC Introducing Kent  to very favourable reviews.  Listeners described it as “outstanding” and “mesmerising”, while BBC staff was also visibly impressed. Not a bad start of the year. Did you expect such reactions?

Nic Evennett: No, not at all, and certainly not for that particular song. It was a lovely surprise, and I am so grateful to Abbie McCarthy at BBC Introducing Kent for including me in that show. It’s funny. Many of my songs are kind of dredged up from some depths – something that needs exploration, then gets twisted and turned into music and poetry, trying to find some resolution, and then splattered out into song. And I come out the other side thinking, whooof, I needed to get that stuff out of my head. “Outside” didn’t work that way, which is very rare for me. I just liked the riff! And I think it was the riff that got me a foot in the door. I think my music generally tends to be more meandering, more spacious, and that doesn’t always lend itself well to radio play. But this one is a bit livelier. And yet, I reckon it’s probably in my own bottom three! Funny how it works.

“Outside” also found itself on the rotation at the Channel Radio and Strange Fruit Radio. Your next offering – “Hurry” – went even further and was voted “Song of the Week” at the Strange Fruit at the recommendations from listeners.  We know it was a digital release but we will still call it a beautifully crafted ballad. Any inspiration behind that song?

Nic Evennett: “Hurry” is much, much more from the heart. Like all my songs, well, bar “Outside”, they really are little windows into my heart and mind. And as somebody who loves words, loves playing with and manipulating language, and somebody who in many ways is quite private, my lyrics tend to be deliberately ambiguous. I suppose it’s a little safety net for me in some ways – only those who truly, truly listen can see through the windows. But also I love the idea that the songs can be whatever you want them to be about. Once they are out in the world, I really don’t see them as my songs any more. They just float about for people to borrow and use and sink into when they need to. So some people have questioned the lyrics to “Hurry” – mainly asking what in the world does it all mean. Which is a good question that I’m not sure I have the answer to! I think it’s about somebody reaching a point where they want somebody else to intervene; take away bad memories, tough stories. “Hurry” has a funny time signature too, which is meant to depict waves rolling in and out. The sea features quite a lot in my songs. Or rather, nature does. Sea, rivers, the moon, the seasons, the sky, trees. I can’t think of a song that doesn’t mention nature, actually.

Collages created by Nic often include poetry or lines from her lyrics.

You have been featured several times on national radio BBC 6 Music (singles “Somehow” and “Where We Are The Forest”) and by Tom Robinson himself. Now this is not just mere luck. It is quite hard to get through all the vetting for the “MixTape Show”. You did it more than once.

Nic Evennett:  I think that Tom is just blimming lovely and kind! In fact, that was a lovely surprise too because neither “Somehow” nor “Where We Are The Forest” got short-listed! It was picked by a few people, but not enough, and I felt thoroughly deflated. But I think Tom ultimately decides what he wants to broadcast and added me both times, which was so lovely of him. It’s people like him that truly help the likes of me. I think there are two strong divisions in music – those who will push hard at the self-publicity bit and have a lot of confidence in what they do, and then folk like me, where none of that comes naturally or comfortably at all. I worry that the folk in the latter never get heard, never get found. There is a difference between being confident and wanting to be heard. An artistic voice can be so, so important for people who lack confidence, self-esteem, or who just struggle generally. So having a platform where you can submit songs and they are judged in their own right, without the need for self-promotion or long-winded bios, is essential. And wonderful. The Fresh Net team do a superb job. Love ’em.

You have about sixteen songs on your Bandcamp and Soundcloud profiles and they are produced and recorded to highest quality. Moreover, we see that certain songs are mixed by other artists. Are they really home recordings or have you invested in professional studio?

Nic Evennett:  Well, that made me beam! Know why? Mixing is the bane of my life! I never feel I get it right. Or I think I have got it right, and find it’s completely wrong. My ‘studio’ is the spare bedroom and I share it with drying laundry, stuff that should be in other rooms that I haven’t got round to putting away, and the dog. In most recordings you can hear the birds in the tree outside. Most songs have had a few dozen takes after bikes decide to whiz up and down the road, or somebody has slammed a front door, or somebody has yelled at somebody else, and then there is much quiet swearing from me and we go again. I tell myself that there is something…lovely and organic in home recordings, which in truth I think there is, but that only seems to apply to everybody else but me. I really love listening to songs with other sounds going on in the background. I love listening to songs where the mix isn’t perfect and there is a rawness to it. But if a bird has tweeted out of place, or I have made a vocal tick somewhere, I am very hard on myself about it all. So to hear that is wonderful. I shall try not to give myself such a hard time from now on.

Besides your solo compositions, you are involved many collaborations, two main projects being Return To Mountain (with Steve Gleason) and Silent Reasons (with Frank Cable).  Would you like to tell us more about them?

Nic Evennett:  Ah, I love working with Steve and Frank. I suppose they are two I work more regularly with and I feel a deep musical connection with. They are both gorgeous souls all round, and that is important to me. I have done work with quite a few folk, though. Robert Pabst, from Cinematic Dance Music, is a genius and did a super Bond-style remix of my song “Hold On”. We have done other projects together that I have loved working on. And I also work with a chap called UNJAY, who is big on his Future Bass – a genre so far from what I do and yet I find so interesting to do the vocals for. Not to mention other fabulous musicians I have been honoured to work with. I am very lucky to have these folk encouraging me and inspiring me.

Your back catalogue is available on US based streaming platform Pandora. The service describes you to their subscribers as “delicate mystery, warm and lustrous, yet fragile and crystalline – a bewitching blend of Kate Bush and Linda Perhacs, surrounded by dolorous, reverb-drenched piano and woven into broken-hearted balladry”.  This is the very first time we have seen an indie artist being compared to Kate Bush and we have to wholeheartedly agree. Are you able to  tell us how well are you received on Pandora?

Nic Evennett: Being compared to Kate Bush is just crazy, isn’t it? I can’t get my head around that one. Kate is in a league of one. She truly is an astounding musician, poet, artist, woman. So my name in the same sentence as hers makes me feel both thrilled and baffled. And maybe even a bit scared. And Andee Conners from Pandora, was the very first person to write a review on me and for that I love him to bits. What an amazing first review. It’s something I read when I am feeling anxious about my music…so I read it a lot. I’m so grateful to Andee for that. As for how I am received, I have no idea! We can’t get Pandora in the UK and nor can I access any listening figures or anything. Actually, I quite like it that way. It is a little mystery. I have no idea when or if my music is being played.

It is quite hard to describe your music. There are piano based ballads, but also loops, possible samples, elements that remind us of trip -hop. If you were to give yourself a label, what genre would you subscribe to?

Nic Evennett:  It is hard, isn’t it?! I never know where to stick myself, category-wise. Something might jump out at you as trip-hop in style, and then a choir will burst into life (well, just me really, layered up a hundred times) and throw you off the scent. It throws me too! The term ‘alternative’ gets used a lot by folk who have no real home and who travel between genres, so I tend to opt for that one. ‘Odd’ is another one. Or ‘a bit mixed up’. Any of those could apply to me (laughs).

Recently you spoke about limitations imposed on artists due to health reasons. You said: “Folk with chronic conditions need to be heard in more ways than one. I often feel sidelined for not being able to give a gig list or tour dates. I can’t be alone.”  We would like you to elaborate a bit more on the topic, because we think there are still many people in the music industry who do not know how to handle artists with chronic conditions or disabilities.

Nic Evennett:  This is a BIG one for me. Personally I have two main conditions that sort of take over my world quite a lot. One is PMDD, which is a devastating condition that few have heard about. Basically, think PMS multiplied infinitely! The second is Fibromyalgia. And other than that, bipolar and other mental health stuff. What a combo! All ‘invisible’ conditions, so like many out there, you’d never know it if you met me. But these things, and mental illnesses like depression or  anxiety are so isolating for many. You may not feel able to leave the house, you may not be even able to get out of bed. So musically, just standing up and recording is an issue for me. My voice is temperamental and reflects how bad things are. Gigging and touring is certainly out the window. I have no doubt I am one of a vast amount of people who love making music, love singing, love playing but hate performing! I am not a performer. And I think in this day and age we shouldn’t need to be. I think it can silence people with, say, mental health illnesses who think that in order to be successful they must be a certain way. They must be the ‘whole package’. Well, personally, this package is dented! It’s rattling around with smashed pieces inside and the paper is all torn! But I still want a voice. I still want to share my songs. I still want to connect to people through music. And I really want others to feel the same, because it just so happens that some of the most beautiful, most moving, truest music I have heard has come from people who struggle in this way; people who have hardly any followers on Soundcloud, say, or few listens. How they use their experiences to create is astounding. We need so, so much more of that out in the world.

The last question is traditionally reserved for future plans. What can we expect from Nic Evennett in the coming months?

Nic Evennett:  Ooo, like any question about the future, I say ‘who knows?’! I have some plans of eventually getting a little EP together, but money is tight, obviously, so I need to find ways of doing this on a budget. Certainly more songs, and I’ve thrown my music into various competitions out there. I would LOVE to have a song used in TV or film. I think music and drama can be such a magical partnership, so I am trying to find ways of doing that at the moment. If anybody out there knows how, please come chat to me! But I am very much a ‘in the moment’ person, so I just live hour by hour, day by day. That way magical things can happen that you just weren’t expecting!

Through her own lens #2

 

Nic Evennett can be found online at:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nicevennettmusic/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/NicEvennett
Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/wingless-night
Bandcamp: https://nicevennett.bandcamp.com/
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCiCT_99Cy3p1w0RMCuv1SBA

Return to Mountain ( collaboration with Steve Gleason)

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/returntomountain
Soundclick: http://www.soundclick.com/bands/default.cfm?bandID=540680 (Steve`s page)

Silent Reasons (collaboration with Frank Cable)

https://soundcloud.com/silentreasons
https://soundcloud.com/orionstarband (Frank`s page)

We would like to thank Tom Robinson of 6 Music for introducing us to Nic`s music.  And big kudos to Nic who was patient with us for publishing this interview.  We are hoping to make quite a few updates to this interview in the coming months.

Until the next time.

Mal+Rita

*** Update 01/02/2018***

We are following up our awesome (and highly popular!) interview with Nic! After we wrapped the talk, we still had some questions. We wanted to know what the artists will release this year. And boy, we were lucky. After a bit of nagging, Nic  revealed that her new digital single will be called “Ribbons” and you can listen to it online!

Nic Evennett: There are two versions of this track – this one includes the birds outside Nic’s house.

During our post interview exchange, we also learned that Nic is an advocate for mental health and well-being.  In September 2016,  she released an experimental EP “Three” from which half of proceeds go to charity Mind. The EP includes seven compositions, all recoded during the same week. It was basically a challenge: one song a day while stepping outside comfort zone and using  instruments and arrangements that Nic not used before.

Nic Evennett:  The EP is free to download on Bandcamp, though people can give money if they like and 50% goes to the charity Mind. Might be worth a mention. In fact all my music is free to download, in truth, but we won’t mention that! (giggle)

Three EP cover

You can access the EP from the link below:

https://nicevennett.bandcamp.com/album/three

Nic you are the very definition of awesomeness and a proper legend!

Mal+Rita

*** Update 03/02/2018***

Bone and Thirst EP cover

We knew there was something in the air, when we followed up our interview with Nic. She mentioned EPs and singles. We should have seen it coming really! The hard life of a music writer – you try to nail everything, have the artist in a box, fully explained and  leaving no mystery uncovered. And then this happens – a brand new EP! Dropped in the middle of the night! Ah!

Artists are such incredible beings – they constantly reinvent themselves, they are masters of creativity and no matter how hard you try to figure them out, they are two steps ahead of you. And we love them for it, to be honest.  They keep us on our toes.

We can picture Nic Evennett smiling like mythical Sphinx when she dropped her new EP – “Bone and Thirst” at 4:00 am yesterday.

But we will admit -we are very lucky. We got our interview just at the right time. We won`t complain.

So what can you expect from “Bone and Thirst”? Three songs:  the title track, lead single “Ribbon” and a brand new composition – “Jagged Boy”, incredible poetic lyrics and  two digital photographs.  Nice package.

“Bone and Thirst” is the most experimental of the tree tracks – it blend trip hop and electronica with  mesmerizing vocals, it is full of loops, samples and strange noises in the background that create quite a dark and nervous atmosphere. Nic is shining in this track, her voice just flows and overwhelms you. This composition reminds us a bit of Sarah McLachlan or Paula Cole – it is very cinematic, neurotic and mysterious.

Ribbon digital single cover

On the other hand – “Ribbon” is completely opposite. Nic sings nearly a-cappella accompanied just by a piano and chirping birds. You read it right. There are birds singing in the background though out the track and this is used like accompanying instrument to the piano. What a strangely beautiful duet! Vocals are stripped but in the lead, providing a focal point of the composition. We`d think “Bone and Thirst” would make the lead single, with all the production that went into the track, but choosing  “Ribbon” Nic Evennett proved to be very brave, experimental and adventurous artist.

“Jagged Boy” continues with the acoustic feeling. But there is something gospel about it. It feels almost religious, like it was recorded in a cathedral instead of a studio. Nic`s voice is at times multiplied, creating a choir effect. The lyrics is unsettling and mysterious, a lamentation even. If this song won’t give you goose-bumps, please consult a GP. You may be deaf. In both ears.

The EP can be bought from Nic’s Bandcamp page and half of the proceeds will go to Mind charity.

https://nicevennett.bandcamp.com/album/bone-and-thirst

You know what to do, dear readers. Go and get yourself a copy of the EP.

A comment from Tom Robinson!

Also, thank you Tom Robinson for your feedback. We are blushing. It is a great honour as we consider ourselves fans of your music and we have always held your lyrics and writings in high esteem. Much power to you too Sir!

Mal+Rita

The times we met the Doctor – and so did you (part one)

Dear Blog Readers,

What you are about to read below is not your usual blog post. It was designed as a panel for a convention. And it will not be any panel but a special panel about Doctor Who. Something that combines our knowledge of the series, the meetings on the Who fan circuit and all those crazy happenings that make us feel like we have been characters on the show itself. It has a lot of anecdotes and should be treated in a tongue in cheek manner. We did this panel to inspire other fans to share their own stories. We had to separate it into two instalments, because the text is so long – we were afraid you will be bored to eternal sleep. In this instalment we will cover three sections: who are Whovians, what can happen if you encounter people with strange names, and we will tell you about the music with Who references. Our encounters with the Doctor (in his 12th and 7th reincarnation) and the monster stories will be added at a later stage.

We hope this will make you giggle a couple of times.

***

The times we met the Doctor – and so did you.

We had this panel idea for a very long time. Actually, we have decided to hold it off for a year, just to write down all weird moments and observations. As aloof as it may sond – we will here argue that Doctor Who universe is very real, and The Whovians are not just fans – they are a noble race of fearless and unstoppable time travellers in their own right.

We don’t know a person that wouldn’t want to jump in a time machine to see other worlds. Compared to the Doctor’s, our lives seem routine and boring. But perhaps we are already on our biggest adventure; we just haven’t been paying attention to the signs. Maybe the Time Lord is not the only one blessed with privilege of travelling though time and space and living out various reincarnations. What if our paths have crossed and we have already met the Doctor and his allies and enemies? We want you to decide if this is possible, but before we lay out our evidence, let us pen few paragraphs about the Whovians.

***

Whovians – impossible time travellers.

For fifty years, one TV series raised generations of nerds, geeks and sci-fi fans. It became a cultural phenomenon, instantly recognized and immersed in national consciousness just like tea-time, tabloid press and Buckingham Palace. Hiding behind a sofa when Daleks appear on screen is an experience that binds entire generations. All it took to win minds and hearts of millions of people on Earth was one Doctor, sonic screwdriver and a police box.

Fans of Doctor Who series – known as Whovians – are peculiar. They are dedicated to the point of obsession and follow all plots and nooks of the saga with great interest. Even the most obscure characters on the show will have their fans and detailed biography. People often refer to different reincarnations of the main protagonist as “their Doctor”. If you don’t believe us how dedicated Whovians are – let us tell you this. David Tennant (10th Doctor) and Peter Capaldi (12th Doctor) became actors because they were following the show since early childhood. Legend says, both had replicas of TARDIS in their bedroom. Peter Capladi sent regular letters to Doctor Who Magazine and made fanarts. Steven Moffat (writer/producer) used to write Doctor Who fan-fiction. Another writer on the show Russel T. Davies kept a Doctor Who diary where he noted reviews of the episodes.

How do we know all those things? Didn’t we mention that we are Whovians? We have it all memorized! You can even ask us for co-ordinates to Gallifrey and how to pilot a time machine. No problem. 🙂

Being around devoted fans is an experience in itself. Whovians don’t act like your regular fandom. They read a lot of unusual books: encyclopaedias, scientific papers on quantum physics, pulp novels from the 30s, fairytales…They often discuss odd topics like paradoxes, monsters and parallel universes during mundane activities (morning bus ride to work suits perfectly) and have an interesting way of putting things. If they don’t like you – they will call you a “little Dalek”, if they find a subway carriage overcrowded, they will complain loudly that it is not bigger on the inside. Their dress code is out-worldly: scarves that are half a mile long, combat shoes or converse shoes worn with a suit, hats, trench coats with cat emblems, entire wardrobe that seems to be transported from Victorian era (and who said it isn’t?). Whovians tend to be wary of their surroundings – for some strange reasons they will stare at statues of angels or keep out of shadows if in a library.

Whovians are restless dreamers that yearn for travels and adventure. They are curious like kittens, open minded and they expect the unexpected. They throw themselves head first into action, maybe that is why they find themselves in situations that sound like scripted by Steven Moffat (or David Lynch). If you are a fellow fan, you will know what we are talking about. There are days when you turn around because you are sure you hear the sound of oncoming TARDIS or your instincts tell you that the Doctor himself just passed you by in the crowd. Or you are certain that something is manipulating the time votex and things are just not right. Whatever this may be, each Whovian has multiple anecdotes of this sort that range from bizarre to blood chilling.

These are ours stories; we hope that they will entertain you.

***
Nomen Omen – it’s all in the name

On his adventures, Doctor meets all sorts of unusual characters. They represent all possible races, social classes and occupations, some of the characters also come up with extraordinary names. Fellow traveller and a Time Lady – Romana`s full name is Romanadvoratrelundar. Vile and infantile breed of Slitheen (also known as Raxacoricofallapatorians) have a proud history of having absurdly long surnames such as “Blon Fel Fotch Pasameer-Day” or “Glune Fex Fize Sharlaveer-Slam”. To know somebody’s name is a true power. It can give you a hint of the bearer’s origins or intentions and perhaps that is why Doctor never reveals his own name even to the closest allies.

We have crossed paths with several individuals with truly exotic names. An unsuspected observer would think that it was a case of having eccentric parents but we are Whovians and we can read between the lines. One time at work we dealt with a customer named “Asterios”. Pretty poetic unless you know Greek – then you would know this means “Ruler of The Stars” or “Of The Stars”. Not only it was a clear indication that the person was an alien but also showed he held a high status in the Outer Space. Rulers of the Stars – how many races would fit the description? Only the powerful Time Lords themselves. If we wanted to dig deeper, Asterios was known to be a god of rivers to the ancient inhabitants of Earth. River, a Time Lord – you know where this is going 😉

On another occasion we ran into a whole family waiting for an appointment to a GP. The kids were named Andromeda, Medea, Cassandra and Iason. The mother was Helena (and she was suspiciously beautiful). We weren’t sure if the family was on their way to Hogwarts or Camp Half Blood, but knowing the Greek mythology (and the turbulent history of the original characters) we decided to keep our distance. You can never be too careful when meeting strangers with strange names, especially if they could have come from another fandom (apologies to Rick Riodan and JK Rowling).

Situation looks a bit different if you are the one with an unusual name. So, if you have been named “Attilla”, “Achilles” or “Cleopatra” then it is possible that you are an echo of your former self from a different time line or you have jumped into somebody’s life stream and there are million copies of you throughout the universe.
But don’t panic, you are not the only one. Something similar happened to Doctor’s own companion Clara Oswald when she tried to save the Time Lord from evil Great Intelligence. Having multiple versions of yourself has advantages – no matter the space and time, you are guaranteed to always meet a familiar face.

***

“You are not alone” – meeting other Whovians

One observation rings true when you travel – nothing stands out in the crowd like the things that remind you of home. You may find yourself in the busiest street in a foreign land and once somebody starts speaking your own language, you will hear it. Don’t ask us how – but this is how it works.

Many people meet their neighbours or even relatives in the most unlikely places – when on holidays far away from home or during delegations abroad. Or they strike a conversation with a complete stranger only to discover they have mutual acquaintances. Then they joke the world is small. However truth is quite opposite – the universe is infinite and it is constantly expanding. And yet something brings us all together.

We are not sure if even the Doctor could explain this mystery. But to be honest – isn’t it wonderful to meet souls that are alike? How terrifying and lonely it would be if we were truly alone in the universe? Doctor knows this pain very well – he had spent three reincarnations believing he was the last of the Time Lords until The Face of Boe revealed that to be a misconception.

For Whovians, it is relatively easy to meet their own. In the age of merchandise, conventions and fandom – you have a good chance to run into a fellow fan almost every day. We have lost count how many times we’ve seen people wearing Doctor Who tees on the streets. We have attended sold out premiere of “Deep Breath” (first episode of series 8) with thousands of other fans and managed to meet up with Steven Moffat face to face twice. Nothing out of ordinary.

And yet, we had some encounters with other fans that were so unique and unexpected that they could be a part of Doctor Who episode.

The other day Mal nearly fainted after she went out to pay her Internet bill. High blood pressure ain`t no fun. She would be laying face first in the mud outside Marks & Spencer if not an elderly gentleman who grabbed her and took back into the Internet shop. First thing he did was to sit her down and take her pulse. The conversation was something along those lines:

Mal: Call the ambulance.

The man: No need, I’m a doctor.

Mal (cynical): But not the one I was expecting.

The man (with a laugh): Judging from your age, your doctor is called Smith.
Mal: No, Tennant.

The man: Mine was Pertwee, such a gentleman, all reason, no whining. But he passed away many years ago…Who is now in regency?

Mal: Doctor Capaldi.

The man: Ah yes, should be all right. You need to drink more, you are dehydrated. And go and see a GP.

He went away after a while. When Mal was able to stand on her feet, the shop girl asked her where she could find Doctor Capladi. Mal told her he was only taking the best before she continued on her way home.

Again, if you are the fan of the series, this conversation makes perfect sense, but a word of explanation to those who are not familiar with the Who saga. When the man introduced himself as a medical practitioner, Mal responded in a witty way that he was not the doctor she was expecting. This was a direct reference to the words of Ninth Doctor (Paul McGann) from the episode “The night of the Doctor”. Matt Smith (Eleventh Doctor), David Tenant (Tenth Doctor) and Peter Capladi (Twelfth Doctor) are actors who portray the Time Lord for the younger generations. Jon Pertwee was Third Doctor and was mostly known by the older audience. Mr Pertwee sadly passed away in 1996. There is also ongoing gag in the series that Doctor takes only the best as his travel companions.

Sometimes, you meet fellow Whovians by sheer accident. But on occasion they appear by themselves, like it was scripted. On October 19, 2013 Rita attended Doctor Who 50th Anniversary celebrations in Hereford, UK. One of the guests was an amazing artist Mike Collins. Rita had a long discussion with Mike and bought one of his prints for a common friend – writer – Helen Stringer. On November 30th, 2014 – a whole year later – Mike Collins found himself visiting Malta for Malta ComiCon. Guess who showed up at his table, all looking mysterious and smiling like a sphinx. Yes, Malicia. Mike just returned from a quick brunch and was hard at work sketching for people. But from time to time he would look at Mal (who was silently standing in a corner) with a strange glare. When he was finally done with all the sketches, he gave Mal a nod to which she replied: “Do you remember me?” It took him about few seconds to proclaim “Ah, we’ve met in Hereford! Your friend Helen was a science fiction writer”. But then he looked at Mal again, smiled to himself and corrected his statement – “No, I have met your sister. You darling are the evil clone”. Mal had a good laugh but was quite impressed that Mike was able to tell us apart (consider the fact that our own mother can’t tell which is which when we are on the phone). The whole scene gathered quite a crowd who were equally amused with a story of comic artist meeting twins in two different countries in a span of a year. But then the crazy thing happened. Mobile phone rang and it was Rita on the line. Before Mal knew it – Mike Collins was reaching for the phone to say hi to the other twin. The crowd was roaring with laughter while Malicia’s ears were crimson red. Rita was confused while Mike had a highlight of the day.

That morning Mike Collins sketched a small drawing of Peter Capaldi (as 12th Doctor) and it was one of the few remaining items on his stand. Malicia grabbed the sketch before anyone noticed and it now forms our collection of Doctor Who memorabilia.

The Hereford encounter with Mike Colling can be found here:

https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/11/18/doctor-who-50-years-celebration-in-hereford/

***

Listen! – The music of Who

Main theme from the series is one of the most easily recognized pieces of music in the history of television. It is also one of the very first pieces of electronic music ever created. It was composed by Ron Grainer and arranged by Delia Derbyshire in 1963 at the legendary BBC Radiophonic Workshop in Delaware Road, London. Just imagine – it’s been in use for five decades. Since the Doctor Who series revival in 2005, the soundtrack duties fall on Murray Gold. Each Reincarnation and each Companion (and some monsters) in the show have their own individual theme and the soundtrack albums are released regularly. Three Doctor Who themed orchestra concerts have taken place as part of The Proms festival at the Royal Albert Hall in London (2008, 2010 and 2013 respectively).

Doctor himself is extremely fond of music. Second Reincarnation (played by Patrick Troughton) carried around a flute, while Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) composed a whole symphony in an episode “Music of the Spheres”. During a visit to the Rings of Akhaten, Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) met and helped young girl named Merry Gejelh (Emilia Jones) to defeat a memory parasite. The song performed by Merry is recognized as a highlight of seventh series.

Doctor seems to have a lasting influence on many professional musicians as well. Ambient duo Orbital released a mix of Who main theme in 1996 hoping it would be used in the planned series with Eight Doctor (Paul McGann). In 2010 Orbital performed this song alongside with Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) at Glastonbury Festival:

Members of scandalous KLF also mixed the main theme and went on to chart with the single “Doctorin` the Tardis”. For the occasion they renamed themselves as “The Time Lords”. The video to the song is just an eye candy with a Dalek and a car that was introduced as “Ford Time Lord”.

British rock band Supergrass paid their tribute to the series and the Doctor in their 1997 song “Sun hits the sky”. The chorus incorporates famous introduction line: “I am a Doctor” and there is a cartoon of a medial person on the single cover.

If you consider yourself a Whovian, you must have blasted those songs on a regular basis, or they cheered you up when you heard them in public while going about your business. We have to admit, we haven’t found the reference to the series in Supergrass song until very recently (we must have been drunk back in the 90s) and once we got it – it was on a public bus. We have been on our way from the office and had a very fascinating conversation about what to have for dinner, when this song came on the radio. The bus driver must have been a big fan of the band, because he pulled the volume to 11. So here we were deciding between a potato salad or fish and chips when the line “I am a Doctor” hit us. We just went silent for a minute, looked at each other and other passengers thinking “Did we just hear Supergrass singing about a Time Lord?” Obviously since we are both very much in the spirit of John Peel, we had to consult Wikipedia and YouTube at home to double check. We were right; there was a direct reference in the song. Dinner could wait.

Another time we had this strange feeling like being on a set of Doctor Who, complete with a soundtrack, was when shopping at a local supermarket. It is a very cinematic feeling, when you enter a shop and hear a song called “Exterminate”. You never know from which aisle a Dalek will pop up and the invasion will begin. The song in question is a single by Snap! with the vocals of one and only Niki Harris. We love Niki and follow her since the late 80s when she was touring with Madonna (you can see her in video to “Vogue”). Niki issued two singles with Snap! between 1992-1993: “Exterminate” and “Do you see the light (looking for)”. Check her video below and tell us if she doesn’t look like an Empress of the Daleks?

Let us remain with Snap! for a minute longer. In 1995 they teamed up with vocalist Paula “Summer” Brown to record their third album “Welcome to tomorrow”. Second single from that album was named “The first, the last eternity (till the end)”. Set in New York in the 30s, it shows Summer as a comic femme fatale travelling between pages like she is travelling between parallel dimensions, calling out to people to follow her into the eternity. She rocks a beautiful red dress and her hairdo is immaculate. Now if you ever seen Professor River Song (Alex Kingstone) on the Doctor Who series, then you will be having déjà vu when watching the video. Remember the video was filmed fifteen years before character of River Song was even created. Strange coincidence or perhaps Paula Brown reincarnated into Alex Kingstone at some point in the last decade? 😉

You may argue that a song called “Exterminate” is rather easy reference to the Doctor and we will agree with you. But sometimes a song you have heard millions of times will catch you off guard. Both Rita and I are dedicated listeners of Absolute Radio and been so for over a decade. When we say dedicated, we really mean it – we are listening to it from Malta, despite the fact that their international broadcast was cut off two years ago (guys, please reconsider your policy regarding international online listeners!). One day at work, Mal was listening to Absolute and Dionne Warwick “Whisper in the dark” came on. This is one stunning love ballad off the album “Friends” released in 1985. Now imagine sitting in an office with your headphones on and singing along, only to realize the lyrics go “Travel with me through time and space”. Just like this, a simple song turns into something completely different. An invitation into the TARDIS? You look at your colleagues and they seem completely oblivious to what just have happened. You may brush it off as mere accident, but can you truly rule out the possibility that you have just received a message from the Doctor?

***

This makes the end of the first installment of the panel.

Should you have any comments or perhaps your own stories to share, let us know! We will gladly add and expand this panel with stories of ours or other fans.

Please come back as the second part will be posted quite soon. Until then, keep cool and have your eyes opened. This is a strange world we live in.

Mal+Rita

The Reading Hour – 10 (un)easy questions for Alisa Stern

Hello Stonehenge!

We don’t say it often but having a blog is a fascinating thing. It truly changes the way you look at things, people and the whole world around you. You are no longer going somewhere just to have fun, meeting your friends or simply hanging around. Now you are on a mission. Wherever you go, you carefully observe the entire place looking for hidden clues, things that you have not seen before. You read every street sign and commemorative plague, you study the faces of passer-by’s. You are becoming a hunter for something new, something interesting, something worth sharing with others and worth writing about. You turn into an artist, a journalist, a social commentator, a political expert or even a fashion critic.

Doctor Puppet - The Adventure in Time and Space

Doctor Puppet – The Adventure in Time and Space

Doctor Puppet by Alisa stern

Doctor Puppet by Alisa Stern

There are millions of personal blogs online, millions of opinions, million voices waiting to be heard. When we started Vanadian Avenue, nearly 4 years ago, we have never thought that we would talk to rock legends, published authors, translators, Star Wars comics writers and our childhood heroes. We never dreamt of 30 .000 readers and subscribers. It was just our small project that grew more and more. New columns were added as time went on and before we knew it – our small project grew into something significant.

A similar thing happened to our today’s guest – a talented animator Alisa Stern, the creator of mega popular “Doctor Puppet” show. From humble beginnings as a simple picture blog to international sensation that has been featured in press, radio and TV around the globe. Alisa is a life-long nerd and fan of cartoons. Her hobbies including walking around NYC, hiking, jewelry making, and eating falafel. A graduate of Pratt Institute in (BFA with honors in Traditional Animation), she lives in Brooklyn with a black cat named Beryl.

Peter Capaldi as the 12th Doctor Puppet

Peter Capaldi as the 12th Doctor Puppet

And Matt Smith as 11th Doctor Puppet

And Matt Smith as 11th Doctor Puppet

In recent months we have extensively covered a lot of Doctor Who related events. We have written about Steven Moffat’s visit to Hay on Wye Festival, Doctor Who Season 8th premiere in Cardiff and reviewed our visit to Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff. When one of our readers contacted us with an idea to speak to Alisa about Doctor Puppet, we didn’t hesitate for a single second. It was a true pleasure to chat to her about the show, the ongoing IndieGoGo crowd-funding campaign and her plans for the future. Ladies and gents – please welcome Alisa to Vanadian Avenue!

——————————————————————–

                              Interview with Alisa Stern – the creator of Doctor Puppet

Alis and Peter Capaldi Puppet

Alisa and Peter Capaldi Puppet

Vanadian Avenue: Doctor Puppet is taking the World Wide Web by storm. Can you introduce us to the team behind the newest Internet sensation?

Alisa Stern: Doctor Puppet is truly a team effort. We’re all professional artists and musicians outside of Doctor Puppet. Rachel has done a lot of stop motion, but also contributed props, sets, and background paints. Erin has also done a lot of stop motion as well as storyboards. Shelby is the engineer and figures out how to build the technical stuff, like the TARDIS and sonic screwdriver. Amanda sews the costumes and somehow finds a way to squeeze all the detail into them. Isam paints backgrounds. Scott composes the music, narrates, and is the resident Doctor Who expert. Phil orchestrates the score for live instruments. Then there’s a whole group of extremely talented musicians in England who bring the music to life. I make the puppets and write most of the scripts and make tea for the others. Of course everyone contributed to the stories and adds their ideas.

The 12th Doctor Puppet visiting the Cardiff Rift during  Doctor Puppet World Tour 2014

The 12th Doctor Puppet visiting the Cardiff Rift during Doctor Puppet World Tour 2014

Clara and The Doctor  during their visit to the Tower, please understand the UNIT didn't allow any more pictures.

Clara and The Doctor during their visit to the Tower, please understand the UNIT didn’t allow any more pictures

Clara,the 12th Doctor and The Tardis stopping to greet the fans

Clara,the 12th Doctor and The Tardis stopping to greet the fans

Vanadian Avenue: Where the idea for an animated Doctor Who series came from? Do you have any professional experience in animation or puppet making?

Alisa Stern: Doctor Puppet cme about whilst I was teaching a stop motion animation class actually. I needed to make an example puppet for my students, and I though Matt Smith’s Doctor was already so puppet-like, that he seemed like a good choice. I began posting pictures of the puppet on Tumblr, and everyone really like it, so that eventually became the series on YouTube. I’ve been a professional animator and puppet maker for about 7 years. My background is mainly in stop motion TV commercials and preschool TV. Actually, I met Erin while we were working on a Nick Jr. show called “The Wonder Pets.”

Vanadian Avenue: Your videos are receiving rave reviews not only from fans of the TV series but also from mainstream media such as Huffington Post, BBC UK and BBC America. What equipment is being used during the production and how long does the post production take to make a single episode?

Alisa Stern: We used a Canon Rebel T1i camera and Dragonframe software to capture the stop motion frames. It’s all composited in After Effects with backgrounds make in Photoshop. An episode takes 2 – 4 months to produce. Pre-production (storyboarding, sets, props) takes about a month, or more if the set is complicated. Stop motion animation itself takes about a month. Post-production (compositing, music, sound) takes a few weeks. Every episode has gotten progressively more complicated to make.

Clara and the Doctor re-visit a location featured in "Rose" - the first episode of the reneved Doctor Who series. We are sure  Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper where somewhere close

Clara and the Doctor re-visit a location featured in “Rose” – the first episode of the renewed Doctor Who series. We are sure Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper where somewhere close

The Doctor Puppet wants you to Listen. thank you for your attention

The Doctor Puppet wants you to Listen. Thank you for your attention

Clara and the Mini TARDIS

Clara and the Mini TARDIS

Vanadian Avenue: There are six main episodes available online at the moment and we have to admit the story is very intriguing. The mysterious door in “The Sign of Four”, disappearing previous reincarnations and the sinister laugh. Can you tell us who is responsible for the script? Was the inspiration drawn from any particular sources outside of The Doctor Who Universe? Favorite books or movies maybe?

Alisa Stern: When I wrote the first episode, I also I wrote an outline of the whole story, from beginning to end. I’m so glad that you’re intrigued by it! As we’ve make the episodes, the story has changed a bit, mainly because the others have given their input. I always brought the scripts to Scott because he knows Doctor Who better than anyone I know. So he adds many of the Doctor Who references, and also makes sure that the script isn’t too American. He’s caught some of my Americanisms, especially in Episode 5, which was set in London in the 80s. I don’t think there’s a particular influence outside of Doctor Who – it’s influenced by all kinds of stories I love, specially serialized stories.

Vanadian Avenue: “Doctor Who” series is owned by The BBC. Did you have any contact with them? If so, what was their reaction to “Doctor Puppet”?

Alisa Stern: Yes, I’ve had some really nice interactions with the BBC. They enjoy what we do, and have given us some nice press. We’ve been included in the BBC America blog a number of times, and had episode clips air on BBC America. Also, I was interviewed for a documentary about Doctor Who fans. The documentary crew was able to record Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman, and so Erin got to animate the puppets speaking with the real voices! She did an incredible job. The documentary is called “Earth Conquest” and will be included on the Series 8 DVD, so be sire to watch it!

Mauve alert - the universally recognised colour for danger. The 11th and the 4th Doctors are having some bad luck!

Mauve alert – the universally recognized color for danger. The 11th and the 4th Doctors are having some bad luck!

The danger is averted - but we have lost all jelly babies!

The danger is averted – but we have lost all jelly babies!

5th and 6th Doctors are shopping for sweets in the 80's. Piece of cake  if you have a time machine.

5th and 6th Doctors are shopping for sweets in the 80’s. Piece of cake if you have a time machine.

Vanadian Avenue: Let’s talk about the puppets. You have created Clara, all previous incarnations of the Doctor and even some of the most famous monsters like Zygons. Do you have a favourite puppet? Any new creations in the works? The Ponds, Sarah Jane or River? We have to say we love the 80’s version of Clara! She’s looking very New wave-y.

Alisa Stern: I love Eleven because he was the first I made. My favorite at the moment is probably Four though. I’m so pleased with how he came out I have a few more puppets planned. (Not saying who!) 80s Clara was especially fun because we could do anything we wanted to with her.

Vanadian Avenue: We have mentioned the New Wave so let’s focus on the music for a moment. The soundtrack is one of the strongest points of the series. You even had an entire choir singing carols in “Time Lord Christmas”. Do you have a professional composer working for you?

Alisa Stern: Yes, I do! Scott Ampleford has composed everything you’d heard in Doctor Puppet. He’s written all the original music and the songs, plus the lyrics. Also, he sings the songs. And he narrates. He’s a bit prolific. I love how he’s created a unique musical style for nearly every episode. The first few episodes are pretty standard orchestra, but Episode 4 is all synth. Episode 5 and 6 both have scores that sound like the music from those Doctor Who eras. He did an especially fantastic job capturing Dudley Simpson’s 70s era music for Episode 6.

The Fourth Doctor on the set - Anybody wants a jelly baby?

The Fourth Doctor on the set – Anybody wants a jelly baby?

The Third Doctor is ready for some action!

The Third Doctor is ready for some action!

Clara and The Doctor are learning their parts. So much to remember!

Clara and The Doctor are learning their parts. So much to remember!

Vanadian Avenue: You are currently using IndieGoGo, a popular crowd-funding website to collect funds to make a Christmas Special. What can fans expect for backing up your cause?

Alisa Stern: There are a lot of cool perks being offered, including an exclusive thank-you video, behind-the-scenes updates, music, your name in the credits, and chances to meet the crew and puppets.

Vanadian Avenue: 2013 and 2014 were highly successful years for Doctor Puppet. Next year, what can we expect from you guys? Where will the Doctor go in 2015?

Alisa Stern: In 2015, we hope to wrap up the series. There are 2 episodes left in the Eleventh Doctor’s story. After that… I’m not sure. We want to do more Doctor Puppet, as well other projects.

The Eight Doctor looking very romantic

The Eight Doctor looking very romantic

10th and 11th reading the scripts

10th and 11th reading the scripts

The 9th Doctor went for a walk  - after whole day of shooting it's nice to stretch your legs

The 9th Doctor went for a walk – after whole day of shooting it’s nice to stretch your legs

Vanadian Avenue: What are your plans for the future outside of Doctor Puppet? Are you involved in any other projects?

Alisa Stern: We all have other things going on, and I hope we can do more projects together outside of Doctor Puppet. We’re a great team and I hope we can stick together for a while!

Vanadian Avenue: Thank you for your time Alisa. It has been a real pleasure.

Alisa Stern: Thank you!

If you’d like to learn more about the Doctor Puppet please use the links below.

Doctor Puppet links:
http://www.youtube.com/user/HelloDoctorPuppet
http://doctorpuppet.tumblr.com/
https://www.facebook.com/TheDoctorPuppet
https://twitter.com/TheDoctorPuppet

Alisa’s website:
http://www.mon-alisa.com/
https://www.facebook.com/alisasternart

Please help The 12th Doctor and his team to create the best Christmas Special yet.

Please help The 12th Doctor and his team to create the best Christmas Special yet.

IndieGoGo campaign:
https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-doctor-puppet-stop-motion-christmas-special

After the interview was conducted, we have received a note from Alisa with excellent news: An exclusive animated Doctor Puppet clip using the real voices of Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman was featured in “Doctor Who: Earth Conquest”. The 45-minute documentary about the 2014 Doctor Who World Tour was broadcast on Canadian SPACE channel. “Earth Conquest” will also be available on the Series 8 DVD!

An exclusive promo picture has also been released! Congratulations to the entire team!

Doctor and Clara in the Madison Square Park

Doctor and Clara in the Madison Square Park

Official SPACE channel website: http://www.space.ca/
You can pre-order 8th Season DVD here: http://www.bbcshop.com/science-fiction/doctor-who-series-8-dvd/invt/bbcdvd3935

Please do not forget to help Alisa and her friends to collect enough funds to produce the awaited Christmas special! If you cannot donate, please spread the word. It is worth it!

Have a fantastic Day and thank you Alisa! You are the best!

Geronimoooooo!
xxx
Rita and Malicia Dabrowicz

Doctor Who Season 8 premiere in Cardiff – part one

Hello sweeties!

What a day! What a crowd! What an experience! Doctor Who Series 8 World Premiere in Cardiff has been a huge success! We have just returned from the capitol of Wales and we have to update you straight away. Please excuse this short review but we are barely alive. It’s been 12 hour marathon for us, but we will remember this day for many years to come.

This was our first ever red carpet event. We set up very early, at 7:30 in the morning and we arrived at Saint David’s Car park around 9:30. Saint David is not only a cinema/theatre – it is a huge shopping centre with multiple shops, restaurants and a car park that looks like a futuristic abandoned industrial complex. Going to level four on foot in a spiral staircase is enough to give you a major vertigo. Now try that in a car  – Rita felt like on a roller-coaster. A great idea is to dedicate a whole level to blue badge holders – somebody who thought about that should receive a pay raise. The car park was perfect for such a big event. There was nearly 1000 free spaces available when we arrived and you didn’t have to fight for a spot to park your vehicle. The spots are also bigger than normal and we could  fit our large car without any issues. The only downside is the price. 6 hours will cost you 18 pounds. Ouch!

The Hayes closed off to normal pedestrian traffic

The Hayes closed off to normal pedestrian traffic

St David’s Hall was located only 5 minutes away so we had a leisurely walk into town. We were very lucky with the weather. Previous days have been cold and rainy but we had a true summer sunshine and clear, TARDIS blue skies. The whole street leading to the theatre has been barricaded off as announced the day before on the organizer’s website. People were already taking places along the red carpet and a large crowd was packed near the entrance to the building. The TARDIS was parked in the middle of the street, but sadly it has been placed behind barriers and fans had to stay at least 2 meters away from it. We had no problems with the security measures but kids were devastated. It would have been better if there was a staff member near the blue box keeping an eye on it instead of a 3 feet metal barricade. One teary 4 year old was asking why somebody has put the TARDIS in jail and his poor mom had no answers to offer. Talking about security, the even has been protected by regular police officers, private security companies (we have seen at least three different uniforms and badges), BBC security staff and St David’s Hall guards. There were no incidents or any aggressive behaviour – Whovians showed up in peace and everybody had fun. Whole families arrived to celebrates. We have seen hordes of teenagers, young adults, newly born babies dressed as the 10th Doctor, two year old girl wearing Cyberman mask (she didn’t want to be photographed) and fans well into their 70’s eating ice-creams and waving American flags. The love for Doctor Who has no boundaries. Your age, nationality, country of origin, religion  – nothing matters. Fans came from Jamaica, Canada, USA, Iraq, Maldives, Japan, China and all over Europe (Poland, Germany, France, Italy, Bulgaria, Holland and Norway). We are sure even more countries were represented in Cardiff, but we only had the pleasure to speak to fans from the mentioned places. Can you imagine a conversation regarding Doctor Who Experience between Iraqi couple, two German tourists, yours truly, an American, a Canadian mother and a Chinese student? We have used several kinds of English (American English, British English and Engrish), a mix of our native languages, gestures, body and sign language and we all understood what the other person meant. Fantastic!

TARDIS ha been arrested

TARDIS ha been arrested

To fully cover the event, Mal and Rita decided to split up and each of us covered the other end of the show. Mal was located by the main entrance and kept an eye on everything/everybody going into and out of the building. Rita moved about a lot – she first walked up and down the street talking to people and taking pictures of cosplayers. Later, she found a comfortable spot by the journalists stand and witnessed the arrival of Peter Capaldi, Steven Moffat and Jenna Coleman at 11:15. To learn more about what has been happening on the red carpet before and after the stars arrival, you will have to wait till tomorrow. Right now, we would like to show you some of the best Whovian costumes. Forget the haute couture fantasy fashion shows at Comicon last month. Doctor Who addicts rule and we have lots of pictures to prove it. Take a look at some of the best costumes in time and space!

1. Monica and Bill

Monica and Bill came all the way from the lovely state of Iowa. They haven’t slept much. They flew from Iowa to Chicago, then to Ireland and finally to Cardiff. We have spoken to them around 10:00 am and they were on their last legs but excited and happy! This American couple is married and had Doctor Who inspired reception. Monica has two rings in TARDIS blue: her engagement ring and her wedding band.

They will spend their honeymoon in Cardiff and they started off with Doctor Who premiere! Monica is also a big  Sherlokian fan. Her mobile phone is SHERLOCKED (fans of the TV series will understand). Congratulations to the happy couple and may your journey together be a good one!

Monica and Bill showing off pictures from their Doctor Who inspired wedding

Monica and Bill showing off pictures from their Doctor Who inspired wedding

2. Nadine

Nadine is probably the most professional cosplayer we have ever seen. Not only she was dressed in the exact replica of Amy Pond’s policewoman kissogram costume from “The eleventh hour”, but she gave us her business card where her profession is stated simply as “Whovian”. Pretty neat! We cannot give out her email address but it contains references to both 10th and 11th Doctor and simply rocks. If you’d like to send some fan mail to this red haired Irish beauty, please direct them to us at rdabrowicz@yahoo.com and we will pass them on!

Nadine was picked from the audience and had a chance to ask the cast a question after the premiere of “Deep breath” episode. She also encouraged Peter Capaldi to  say “Judoon Platoon on the Moon” (David Tennant’s favorite quote from “Smith and Jones” episode). the audience gave both a standing ovation!

You can follow Nadine on Twitter: https://twitter.com/SheldineCooper

Nadine posing as Amelia Pond

Nadine posing as Amelia Pond

Amy Pond and UNIT officer

Amy Pond and UNIT officer

3. UNIT officer

We don’t know the name of the UNIT officer pictured below but his costume is probably far better than the original UNIT uniforms used in the show. The soldier was accompanying Nadine and together they created a lot of buzz! Thank you kindly for allowing us to take the picture, sir!

UNIT officer

UNIT officer

4. Fan in a red shirt

Not many people feel comfortable giving out their names to a stranger with a camera phone in hand. We can understand this but it’s a bit of a shame not being able to tell you who those fans are and what they do. An old red t-shirt that says “Trust me I’m a Doctor” was truly unique among hundreds of other Doctor Who related shirts. (Luckily, it was a Doctor Who premiere and not a Star Trek one. Otherwise the red shirt would be somewhat unlucky – Mal)

Trust me I'm the Doctor

Trust me I’m the Doctor

5. The 11th doctor

We have met this 11th Doctor twice. First time he was on his own, posing for pictures and pointing his sonic screwdriver at other fans. The second time we saw him, he was with a group of friends that included Amy Pond and Clara. Unknowingly, we asked him to pose for us at both occasions. You deserve a cookie for your patience!

First encounter

First encounter

And second meeting

And second meeting

6. Boys in fezzes

No, this is not a name for a Whovian boy band (although it is an cool idea) but a nick name we have given to two teenage fans that arrived to the premiere with their fathers. They introduce themselves to us, but we have lost a piece of paper with their names written down.  Sorry about that guys. Please look at their arms – those brave boys have faced a whole army of Silence on their own!

Fezzes are cool

Fezzes are cool

Fighting the Silence

Fighting the Silence

7. The 5th Doctor

Dressing up is not only for the kids. Anybody can look good in Doctor’s clothes, especially if the costume is adorned with a fresh celery stalk from nearby grocery store! The Doctor can regenerate into any age: from incredibly young 11th Doctor, middle to late 30’s (9th Doctor, 10th  Doctor) to an older incarnation (the present 12th Doctor). Age is just a number and the gentleman on our picture had been working on the costume himself and greatly enjoyed the experience.

Peter Davison would be proud

Peter Davison would be proud

8. Lake Silencio Amy Pond

This version of Amy Pond has been a companion to 11th Doctor from picture number 5. She is dressed in a costume from Lake Silencio saga as shown in  two first episodes of the 6th season – “The Impossible Astronaut” and “The Day of the Moon”. Amy’s arms are covered with pen marks (number of Silence she encountered) and she has been frantically looking for her daughter. We wish we could tell you her real name as the lady was very kind and even re-created Karen Gillian’s famous “running” pose for us.

Lake Silencio Amy

Lake Silencio Amy and the Doctor

Amy smiling at the camera

Amy smiling at the camera

9. Anna

Anna came to Cardiff with her mom who was kind to allow us to take a picture of her daughter. Looking like small version of River Song (or rather Melody Pond before she regenerated for the first time), Anna was wearing Doctor Who cardigan, Cyberman t-shirt and held a big TARDIS notebook in her hands.  She also helped us look for interesting costumes by pointing out two Doctors standing at the other side of the street. Thank you Anna!

Anna  and her TARDIS diary

Anna and her TARDIS diary

10. The Two Doctors

Spotted by Anna, The 9th Doctor and 11th Doctor were very happy to pose for a picture. They arrived to the premiere in hopes of seeing Peter Capaldi and wanted to wish him good luck in the role of beloved time traveling Time Lord. Their wish soon became a reality as Peter stopped next to them and even complimented the leather jacket!

Best friends and Two Doctors

Best friends and Two Doctors

11. The New Doctor

After arriving in Cardiff, we quickly noticed that nobody has been dressed as the 12th Doctor! We have seen at least dozen of 11th Doctors, several 10th and 9th Doctors. Many girls were dressed as companions (the beloved ginger Amelia Pond was a fans favorite) or TARDIS in Idris form (from “The Doctor’s Wife” episode). However, nobody seemed to dress as Peter Capaldi! We were really thrilled when this young man passed us by wearing  a 100% Rebel Time Lord T-shirt. We still cannot believe he was the only one! Come on people, we want to see more suits and Dr Marten’s next time!

100% rebel Time Lord

100% rebel Time Lord

12. TARDIS is a lady

The 11th Doctor used to called his precious time machine sexy when they were all alone.  Many female cosplayers chose to dress as the blue box in her female form, but this young lady was very original. Her TARDIS dress was in fact three piece costume that consisted of white undershirt with a collar, blue dress with a belt and Time co-ordinates pattern and matching cardigan. We have met her in a queue for an autograph from Jenna Coleman.

TARDIS Dress

TARDIS Dress

13. The fabulous 10th Doctor

The last but not least! Our lucky number 13  belongs to 10th Doctor. We have met this gentleman inside St David’s Hall right after the premiere. He gladly posed for a picture, regretting that he left his long coat and his sonic screw driver in the cloakroom. Oh well, you cannot have everything, but we have to tell you that he looked really well. And his hairdo was exactly like David Tennant’s. This is  something that cannot be easily copied. Much respect to you Doctor!

Look at the fabulous hair - it's the10th Doctor!

Look at the fabulous hair – it’s the10th Doctor!

All right Whovians, the bed is calling us! It’s been a manic day and we barely can look at the computer screen.
Please be back quickly as we have some fantastic news for you!

Hang in there and have sweet dreams!

XXX
Tired but very happy
Rita and Malicia Dabrowicz