Becca McGee Interview

Becca is the latest addition to the Bobby McGee’s and is described by Jimmy as a combination of, “my looks and Eleanor’s ukulele ability.” Not content with that description, I grilled Becca for some more details.

How did you come to join the Bobby McGee’s?

I saw Jim and El play in my Fresher’s week, and then met them through a mutual friend; before I knew it we were sharing a flat and they were badgering me about playing saxophone with them. For a long time I refused, but when they told me they were playing on BBC 6 Music, I realised that my secret ambition had always been to play with them.

You’ve added ukulele to the long list of instruments you play. How does it compare?

I definitely love the uke a lot. It has a style and tone all of its own, and it’s been inspiring to listen to some older ukulele stuff, and realise there’s a long tradition of music which goes all the way back to its home in Hawaii. I like that the uke is still rooted in this particular tradition; it lends itself to a different sort of music than a lot of instruments. That said, all the instruments I play do different things, and while I enjoy playing some more than others, the rest of the band seem to like the overall result.

How on earth do you get a tune out of a saw? It seems like the hardest instrument to learn.

I think it’s a lot like bass, easy to be not very good at (like me!) and very hard to play well (see the Hot Potato Syncopators for example). The basics are not really that tricky: you start by putting the saw between your legs, with the teeth facing in; then you just have to bend the saw into an S shape and find the harmonics with some sort of bow, and then shake parts of your body to make the vibrato sound. If that makes it all sound a bit pervy, it’s because it kind of is!

Which three songs does everyone need to hear?

Since seeing them at Glastonbury I’ve been singing Art Brut non-stop; they were so good. My current favourite is ‘Slapdash for no cash’ about how over-produced music is a waste of time; the whole new record is great but I’d recommend having a look on you-tube for it too, cos Eddie Argos always seems to tell different little stories in the middle. Also everyone needs to hear Eleanor’s song ‘Mary Kate and Ashley’, she hates playing it because it’s really dark and disturbing, but I think it’s an important critique of body culture and commodity fetishism! Sadly it’s not on the new album but hopefully next time. And Graves by The Stars Down to Earth, they’re one of the best Brighton bands I’ve heard for ages, oh apart from the Tulips, who are also great. Argh! Three isn’t enough!

How do you put up with Jimmy? And why?

He really hates it when you pinch him on the bottom of his arms (the triceps is it?); it seems to get him to do what I want most of the time. But most of the time he’s okay actually, I think when he puts the make-up on he becomes more evil! Also I like playing music that’s a bit different; that encourages the audience to take part, have a dance, and hopefully go away and write their own songs. And Jimmy’s very into that, which is great.

The Bobby McGee’s – Forever and a Day

Bobby McGee’s – When Father Died Ferrets Licked Away the Tears (Tab)

Another Bobby McGee’s song with two titles. The longer, less obvious one comes from a headline in The Brighton Argus. What the story was about, I have no idea.

Jimmy’s take on the more obvious title and the song itself: “FOREVER & A DAY: was a phrase whose first “recorded” utterance was in the Shakespere play “As You Like It” (or possibly “Taming Of The Shrew”)…..queue many bad Shakespere jokes during the live performance….The solo…well, you really have to see it performed live to appreciate it…I used to ALWAYS get a cheer when I managed to get to the end without screwing it up!….El said it was more to do with the look on my face than the technical virtuosity of the piece.”

The song got picked up by Film 4 for an ad. Resulting in enough royalties to keep them in face paint and retro dresses for a long time to come.

Buy on iTunes

The Bobby McGee’s – Goodbye Blue Monday

Bobby McGee’s – Goodbye Blue Monday

Probably my favourite bit of uke playing on the album. You can see most of what’s going on in the video with Eleanor’s fingerpicking and Jimmy’s much loved triplet strums. I tabbed up the bit Eleanor plays in the video as it’s a bit fancier than the part on the album.

Buy The Bobby McGee’s’s latest album on Cherryade Records.

Learn Ukulele With The Bobby McGee’s

Jimmy has upload a bunch of ukulele advice videos teaching you how to be a Bobby McGee’s style ukulele hero in the way that only he can. Here’s a selection and you can watch them all on his YouTube Channel. Read the rest of this entry »

The Bobby McGee’s – Uh Oh (Certum Est Quia Possible)

A quick tab of the intro riff to this one:

ukulele tab

The chords are B – A – C – B in the verse. And you have G, D and C in the chorus in typical lightning fast Bobby McGee’s style. You can get the full explanation in this video.

Buy it on Cherryade Records.

The Bobby McGee’s – Go, Tiger, Go (We Never Sleep)

The best ukulele bit of this song is impossible to hear on the album version, but Jimmy fills us on it in this video. So here’s the tab:

gotigergo

If you can’t handle the fancy stuff, you can play C and G in the chorus.

You can find this one on L’Appropriation Bourgoisie de la Bobby McGee’s (and you get a free sweetie when you buy it).

The Bobby McGee’s – Billy & Tracey (Kill Yourself)

The Bobby McGee’s – Billy & Tracey (Tab and Chords)

A fairly good representation of The Bobby McGee’s ukulele style with Jimmy dishing out some rapid strumming and Eleanor with the single note runs.

One interesting thing is that the two parts seem to be in conflict with each other. In the A chord Jimmy’s playing a major third (C#) and Eleanor is playing the minor third (C). When I asked Jimmy about it he said, “The major over a minor third was something I first heard in the work of Shostakovich…or was it Buddy Holly????” And he also notes that the A chord is played with a rock and roll hammer-on from A7 to A.

The Billy and Tracey of the title are Billy Childish & Tracey Emin.

Buy The Bobby McGee’s’s latest album on Cherryade Records.

The Bobby McGee’s Week – Interview

This week sees the long await release of The Bobby McGee’s debut album L’Appropriation Bourgoisie de la Bobby McGee’s. And what better way to celebrate than with a week packed with McGee-goodness. Starting with a interview with Jimmy.

The Bobby McGee’s have been together for about 7 years. How come you’ve only just got round to releasing an album?

A few reasons, firstly, I was never going to pay to have an album recorded or put one out myself. I reckoned if someone else wouldn’t put out our music it was because it wasn’t good enough to be released. I also wanted to work with good people infact I would rather work with good people than make money from working with dodgy people (though some money would be nice!). Secondly we built our own studio, or rather Graeme our bass player did! Converted an old garage, built floors, walls & roofs, equipped it & set it all up…like all building projects it took longer than first thought!

What can we expect from the album?

Some beautiful songs, some wise words, some mad rants and the best use of a ukulele since George Formby invented the split stroke!

Go listen to the bassline in Go Tiger Go!

It seems like everyone loves the Bobby McGee’s. Are you the first twee band to receive plaudits from Kerrang?

I think so, that was ace…

“Pure Fucking Genius!” was the phrase they used.

I was standing in the middle of a video shoot when I heard about it, I was a biker extra in a porn remake of “From Dusk Till Dawn” (don’t ask…but Dawn was a lovely girl!) I had a naked dancer in front of me, a man with a snake in his arms on my left and a bottle of jack Daniels in my hand when I got a text from my friend Jon, “Congratulations on the Kerrang review!”…for 15min I was Axl Rose!

You and Eleanor have very different styles of uke playing. How do you get them to gel together?

L.O.V.E! Girls do seem to just play differently from boys…Boys are all GEORGE FORMBY, fast strums and flashy technique…Girls are more HAWAII, beautiful mellody & gentle picking…but to make something truly great you need a wee bit of both.

Our songs have always been a mixture of my songs, Eleanor’s songs and songs we write together. I like them all!

My technique, I struggle with a rhythm or technique for hours, storm off in a huff shouting “I can’t do this…it’s stupid!”..Eleanor works it out in 2min and teaches me….then Graeme shouts at me until I can play it in time.

You’ve been active on the ukulele scene for quite a while. What’s your view of the ukulele scene at the moment?

If I walked onstage at a comedy club and did a Billy Connolly routine I’d be laughed out the place…That sums it up perfectly I think!

You’re a big advocate of people writing their own music. What advice can you give those who, like me, have no songwriting ability whatsoever?

Book yourself a gig today…or find an open mic’and go play…some real good songs came to me on the way to gigs! Rip interesting sentences from books or newspapers, play G then C then D…add the words…bingo, a song! It’s a start. Writing and performing your own songs is a totally different skill from playing covers and I’m still not sure about the crossover…I had it described best by a man I know only as J Boy Shine he talked about Artists & Artisans and the importance of both…I have a video I made about my 21 tips for songwriting and performance.

What can we expect from the Bobby McGee’s in the future?

Well, I have 2 solo albums recorded: 68 Love Songs(& a poem about shagging) & LOVE SONG 101…(thats a total of 170 new songs! I gave a copy of the 1st album to Billy Childish…I said to him “69 songs Mr Childish, but if I’m honest, only 67 of them are brilliant.” He laughed, but he hasn’t gotten back yet!).

I have ideas for another dozen, some recorded with no lyrics and some drunkenly hummed into my phone. I want to hear dance remixes of my songs…I’d love that! I saw the Japanese band MELT BANANA about a month ago and was hugely inspired, I’ve been experimenting with effects pedals ever since! My playings getting technically better which actually makes it harder to write songs as I always want to throw in a triplet, a split stroke or a 13th Chord instead of just writing a song!

L’Appropriation Bourgoisie de la Bobby McGee’s is released today on Cherryade Records.

John King – Larry O’Gaff (Tab)

John King – Larry O’Gaff (Tab)

I’ve spent hours and hours examining John King’s arrangements (particularly his Classical Ukulele book) and working out he decided to play things a certain way. I’ll always regret not emailing him and asking him a for an interview (although I’ve recently discovered that emailing your heroes can be a bit disappointing).

I had lengthy discussions with Ken Middleton about the opening run of this tune. I couldn’t believe that John King would play two consective notes on the same string. The only other time he does it in this piece is on the lower reaches of the C string where he doesn’t have a choice. But it is very difficult to get the phrase fluent any other way (and it’s still tricky the way it’s played).

And it’s not the only tricky passage. One part I had big trouble with is bar 28/29. So I play it like this in my version of the tune:

larry o gaff john king tab

Buy John King’s The Classical Ukulele (And you really should – it’s the best ukulele tab book around)

Katzenjammer, Ukulelezo: Saturday UkeTube

Every week as I’m putting this post together I’m amazed how much talent there is around. And it’s almost always better than the dreck that ends up on the TV and radio. Certainly they are more individual and heartfelt.

This week includes another song from Clare Costa. Last week she was singing in French, this week Italian. She’s obviously pitching for a mention on Ukulele & Languages. Katzenjammer’s ukulele song finally shows up (although the sound quality leaves a bit to be desired). And if Zoe doesn’t win Seeso’s Hip Hop doohicky I’m calling shenanigans. Read the rest of this entry »

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