Saturday, 23 January 2016

Octoverdict - An Audiophile Review of the new Pheromoans LP

Pheromoans New Album: The Octoverdict

It wasn't easy getting the old Octomitts on this bad boy but we got there in the end. After a month-long campaign of voicemail threats and internet smear, Alter Records head honcho Luc Yong finally relented to a meet-up and exchange of goods. I could tell he was as nervous as all hell when he set the location: aspirational Clapton's  Yoga Centre & Supermache Palm 2. Perhaps he was merely seeking the comforting glow of seeded loaves and imported ales, but if he thought a trip to this gentrification hub would scare me off, he was sorely mistaken.
"You're a clown, Yong," I snarled, seeing him cowered in the doorway with his bodyguard-come-style guru Harry Webb, the pair of them spooning from the same pot of Greek youghurt.
Yong affected a smile, sweat guttering the pinstripes of his Armani knock off.
"No harm done, Mad Headed One," the pencil-pushing pleb squeaked. "I said I'd come through for you, didn't I?"
"Huh," I grunted, snatching the box of freshly packed vinyl from his underarm. "And my Momma told me Santa was the real deal but I ain't hanging stockings anytime but wash day."
Yong's droog tittered like a Disney squirrel.
"Let us take a photo, Octy?" Webb implored impishly.
"Photograph this," I snapped, lifting the middle digit to the sky and turning tail.
"They say he sees beyond the veil of our so called reality," I heard Yong explain, his voice a gushing whisper. "I can readily believe it."
"Breath deep, Yong," I called as I strode away, hitching the hem of my duffle coat and delivering a Bronx cheer.

So here I was, the first damn Pheromoan to feel the fat wax between my fingers. Skipping into my boho palace I put some java on the hob and let the needle drop. Techies will be pleased to know that I road tested our latest batch of hits on Bang & Olufson's Diamond Shard record player, fitted with a Sirius 12 laser stylus. Amplification came by way of a 1940s Dynatron valve amp. The speakers I used were from Tesco and apparently are 'blu tooth ready'.

What first struck me when listening to the tracks is that I was instantly reminded of the time of their recording. I was astounded! What the technobods at Alter HQ have done is taken the recordings that we sent them and pressed them onto a record. Since I was present for the album's recording, I instantly remembered the act of recording them, the sounds emanating from my sound system being the direct result of that process. This is known as the 'memory effect', and I think it was very smart of Alter to opt for a release format that takes full advantage of this curious neurological feature.

It's also worth noting that this album has been released in 'stereo', a sound reproduction system which results in almost double the volume of sound per decimal as traditional methods. This was particularly clear on the louder parts of the record which, when turned up, I would describe as 'considerably loud' as opposed to merely 'quite loud'.

Bass response is strong on this record, particularly at the lower end. Treble, conversely, seems to have been reserved solely for the higher end of the sound spectrum, rendering the more treble-oriented sound-waves a tad 'toppy' but this is clearly a creative decision on the part of Pheromoans head honcho The Plague. The mid-waves, it should be said, are exactly as they should be, sitting in the sound field roughly halfway between these two extremes. (Tip: bass heads may wish to utilise a 'sub whoofer' to really bring out those deep resonances. Floppy-wristed treble fopps, kit yourself out with a high quality 'tweeter' to enhance your listening experience.)

Of the songs themselves, what can I say? If you like your genre conventions defied, your rulebook rewritten and your dick hardened, then look no further. Tub-thumper Scott Reeve's hand remains steady as ever, Tranmer remains the eternal blue-eyed soul boy, Alex G couldn't play a bum note if he tried, Dan Bolger seems hell bent on piloting his vessel into hyperspace, and vox boss R Walker's sultry singalongs continue to enthrall. And me? Weeell, let's just say I held my weight, listeners... 

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Feel like an Octofan? Dress like an Octofan! Think you can't?


...with my spiffing new range of official Mad Headed Octogram t-shirts. Impress your friends! Make granny chuckle! Invite disbelieving double-takes with the slogans and quips that have made Mad Headed Octogram not just a household name, but a national treasure. These striking designs can be yours for a mere $50. Limited edition.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Air Blading: Tale of a Dripping Tail

From Steve Hawthorne of St Albans

The narrative I am about to report is a new but not uncommon one. In the course of my adventures I have found to my great relief that I am no lone deviant existing within some erotic vacuum, but one of a rapidly growing subculture: in Gatwick, Heathrow, Luton; the whole world. The burgeoning community to which I have gravitated is one that perhaps you are not yet aware of: Allow me then to introduce myself. I am an Airblader.
Well I remember the first time I laid eyes on the Dyson Airblade. It was September, 2007 and I was returning from a conference in Zurich. The plane had been filled to capacity and, anticipating a long wait for my luggage, I popped into the gentlemen’s room to relieve myself. I washed my hands after the fact and turned with wry trepidation to the all-too-familiar gerbil’s guff of a hand dryer we have all, all of us, suffered to endure. Imagine, then, what delight and awe struck me as I gazed down upon Gatwick’s first Airblade. Recall, if you can, the first time you lowered your own dripping digits into the mouth of this benevolent creature, felt the cool, sudden gust as your fingers passed the invisible barrier of its windstream; marvelled as your skin spread mutinously from its penetrating force, as though some microscopic Moses had raised his arms to part the ocean of your damp flesh. Recall, if you dare, the jarring sense of disbelief as you lifted your hands again, dry as Tutankhamun’s bones. Remember? I don’t think I shall ever forget.
I’d admired Dyson’s products in the past. Who hadn’t? I’d gone so far as to pin an advert for their DC14 Vacuum Cleaner to my bedroom wall, but so far I’d stopped short of developing an actual loving relationship with a Dyson product, or inserting myself into one for my own pleasure. These, nonetheless, were precisely the notions that filled my mind as I paced, dazed and dry-handed, toward Baggage Reclaim that day. Modesty prevents me from detailing the exact destination of my suddenly pulsing bloodstream but from that day to this, I was changed.
Consummation of my new heart’s desire came not easily, nor swiftly. I became a man torn between two worlds, two lives with nary a notion of how to align them; I shunned close friends, socialised no more with the public house hopheads and urchins with whom I seemed to share nothing in common anymore. Instead my evenings were filled with self-revulsion, guilt and bitter recrimination as I pored over tradesmen’s catalogues the long night through. At last I convinced myself that it was mere curiosity that had struck me, that if I fulfilled my nascent desire but once I would be quenched and could return again to the land of men. How deeply I believed such fancies I cannot say; perhaps only enough to comfort myself into melancholic sleep. I took to booking cheap flights, late at night, when the airport toilets would be at their least frequented. I developed a name for myself with work colleagues as a globetrotter. People joked about me keeping a woman in every country. If they only knew.
I blush to think of those early, abortive adventures; long evenings sat in a cubicle, waiting for silence, and when silence came, waiting for some imagined signal to convince me that it would remain long enough for the Airblade and I to be as one, my resolve slowly hardening. I purchased a long coat the better to conceal the act should I be interrupted: I had become the proverbial Dirty Old Man. And yet, the longer I spent within those tiled walls the more I resented the notion. Why dirty? Why wrong? If love such as this was a crime then who was the victim? Surely only my own dignity and that, after all, was my own to dispense with as I saw fit.
I managed at last, of course. It was City Airport. I’d visited daily for weeks and had become familiar with the cleaners’ routine, the ebb and flow of public toilet traffic, and had observed a grace period between the last flight in from Aberdeen and the airbus to Milan Malpensa, around half one in the morning. I eyed the last of the toilet users over the brow of the cubicle wall, jealously cursing his lingering use of the airblade; my airblade. Finally he left and I scurried over, opened my trousers, dangled my potatoes, and wept. The Milan flight had one empty seat that day.
With what spiralling risk I embraced my new lifestyle from that point! I dispensed with the mack along with any sense of shame. For how could this be wrong, when it felt so right? I found my feet, took to experimentation, sometimes sitting atop the airblade and bobbing away like a seagull on the ocean, or else standing atop the contraption, legs apart and slowly lowering myself deliciously into the blade.
That there were others like me I did not consider for some time, consumed as I was with my own jolly. As the months passed however, it could not escape my notice that there were certain regular customers to my various favoured water closets. I would sometimes meet their eyes, and in them perceive a certain furtiveness, a nervous air coupled with a peculiar sense that I had somehow infringed on territory that was theirs. Well I recognised such feelings, for they had flowed through my own being on those occasions when I was interrupted in my sport.
It seems odd, now, that I did not ‘walk in’ on a fellow Airblader sooner than I did: A testament perhaps to the lengths our kind must go to in order to conceal our lifestyle. It was Leeds City Airport; off my usual beat. I was in the mood for a ‘bit of strange’ and bought the ticket on impulse. The man was a seasoned Airbladder, I could tell. He wore a long beige coat much like the one I’d purchased at the outset of my journey, but little good it did him. He had mounted the Dyson as though it were a pony, and was bobbing about in such frenzy that he didn’t notice my presence until I obliged him with a polite cough.  The man fell silent. He appraised me gravely. I said nothing, instead passing into a cubicle to allow the man to finish. When I heard the familiar creak of plastic I returned. He made to dash from the scene but I cut him off at the door.
“How’s the air pressure?”
He eyed me with furious fear, but nodded finally.
“She’s got a bite to her.” He told me at last, and was gone.
Perhaps it was merely that the incident opened my eyes to the wider picture, but it seemed that from that moment Airbladers of every description came out of the woodwork. The stiff walks across the terminal floor. Glances exchanged. Endless cubicle vigils. Some are more social than others. It takes all sorts. There are those that let you know that they prefer to ‘go it alone', other more affable types that will compare observations like car enthusiasts, even challenging one to a race. There are those who treat their Dyson with cold, functional detachment, others who develop favourites and scrawl besotted sonnets on cubicle doors. Monogamy is at least as common as faithlessness in our world. There are women among our kind too, though my relations with them are limited, divided as we are by public taste policy-makers. We are a people, a race, and every tint and hue of humanity is represented among us. And we are known, now: Tolerated by the airlines, for we fill their planes with paid empty seats; treated with contempt by airport security and cleaning staff though why, I know not. Many is the time I have been cast heartlessly onto the coach pick-up, my pleas to ‘just finish off’ cruelly ignored.
But I will no longer be made to feel shame. I will not kowtow to intolerance, ignorance, or hate. I’m a Dyson-hugger. An airport apple-bobber. You may call me a Gatwick Dip-wick, a member of the ground-zero club, whatsoever you choose. I am an Airblader, and I am proud.
If you, or anyone close to you has been affected by the issues discussed in this article, please contact me on 0800-0CT0-GRAM

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Vortex in a Thimble: Perspectives on My Birth From a Haunted Wok


I first met Mad Headed Octogram at Farnborough Farmers Festival in sweet ’97. He was on his way out of the Poetry Tent as I went in and he gave me a wink as I took the stage.
Be gentle with ‘em.” He intoned, indicating the audience. “I’ve just dealt them a truth sandwich and the sauce was pretty spicy.” When I looked out upon the crowd I saw tears, heard hysterical wails. Couples were consoling one another while others simply vomited on the grass.
This guy had just laid down some serious verse.
I turned back, but the Octogram was already retreating: he’d thumbed a ride with a passing tractor and was speeding off into the dusk. And you know what? The son-of-a-gun was popping me the middle one as he rolled away.
Our paths crossed a few more times that summer. He was prevalent on the Cider Circuit, on the festival scene, in the Turkish Men’s Clubs. If a dance troupe or drama workshop was passing through my strip of town you could bet your arse he was at the middle of it all, casting dispersions, turning the world on its head with his intricate word-strudels, his gestures and sighs. As autumn drew in I’d see him on the streets of Coventry, busking outside Oxfam Books or straddling Lady Godiva’s horse and reading Karl Marx in a dandyish manner. I was doing some two-bit journalism course at the time and used it as a pretext to get close to this alarming young man who had already become known around town as ‘the Fascinator’.
Mind if I ask you a few questions?” I asked, biro and notepad in hand. I froze, realizing only then that the Octogram had a towel tucked into the back of his top, like a cloak.
 “Hai-yah!” he screamed, leaping and spinning toward me with a high kick. He sliced the air with his hand until it was within millimetres of my face, and he cackled, ruffling my hair as though I were nil but a barrow-boy.
You can relax now, you fuck.” He told me. “If I wanted you dead, you’d be maggot food already. Stay sharp!”
He threw a fist my way, again stopping just before my face.
Douch! Dust in the wind! You get me, Spider-dick?
Sort of.” I told him.
And so began my tenure in the Mad Headed Octogram Soul Collective. It was a time of wild, euphoric highs and crushing lows; a delirious dally with the higher truth and a terrifying journey into the dark recesses of a beautiful soul; a time of intolerable cruelty, petulance, daily psychological abuse, domination and habitual public humiliation. It was also a time of great art. Yes, I was putty in the master’s hand and I was happy to be, for a while.
The good ship Octogram spent much of the nineties on the periphery of London’s music and arts scenes: Too extreme in our avant garde tendencies, too uncompromising in our artistic vision to be embraced by mainstream society, yet too real, too honest and too damn catchy to be dismissed. His one-man stage show El Octogrammus – Notes From a Bohemian Body Bag caused a sensation in Dalston Kingsland Shopping Centre, and its follow up, Scrawlings of a Dunderhead Stooge, performed in Burger King Charring Cross, prompted raised eyebrows all the way up to Westminster. Meanwhile a slew of EPs, singles and albums on various indie labels (most notably the now-defunct Blumis King) and a run of consistently beguiling live performances ensured that the Mad Headed One was achieving cult-like status. Earnest fanatics, the Octogramarians, became a common sight on the streets of London, in the clubs and supermarkets. Society was changing.

Mainstream success, though, was never on the Octogram’s agenda, and when his version of ‘Insane in the Membrane’ became an MTV favourite (it had featured in an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Camp Octogram entered one of its periodic phases of reinvention. We disappeared from sight, convalescing in the studio to hammer out another vision of majesty and madness, of prophecy and profit margins; a colour-by-numbers holocaust pie chart for the masses to gorge upon. They were heady times. Mad Headed Octogram has always had a revolving door policy, few people able to exist in his light and petulance for more than a month at a time, but now the Righteous Educator was firing saplings every which way: All change. No excuses. No compromises. This was Octogeddon.
What really happened during those months of torment? Readers, I cannot say. I know only that the album we were working on at that time was our finest. All the Octogram’s major themes came into focus. The man was spitting out melodies like olive pits. We all felt it in the studio. This was the one. This was the record that would bring his vision to the masses. That slab of vinyl damn near killed us. I remember only shards of that time, so altered was my perception of reality; so deeply had the Octogram’s demands crushed my ability to reason. But it was completed. That LP? Wild Eyes of the Octogram. The critics adored it, but amid the chaos of regime change, the bitter tears and lawsuits, the record sank without a trace. The album that was set to propel us to stardom, the Octogram’s Opus Magnifica was, it transpired, the swansong for the classic line-up. Baron Greenback and myself, Octogram veterans both, were given our marching orders by fax the morning after the launch party.
I busked around on the scene for a while, without direction or identity before scoring a gig with anti-noise band The Pheromoans. This was a pretty sweet job; the newly formed Pheromoans were already ruffling feathers in the Gatwick slumming community. They were the talk of the festivals that year, whispers flying from tent to tent about these new sonic assault troubadours. Sure enough, like planets orbiting the same star, Mad Headed Octogram was drafted in on percussion within the month. I kept my distance, rarely daring to inquire about his creative pursuits and I am proud to say that to this day we are able to tolerate one another’s company for short periods. The Mad Headed One continues to dazzle with his poetry readings, rock concerts and situationist happenings. Last year’s Sass Appeal EP, and the tape-only release The Unmistakable Fire are among his finest work. The rejection of his Olympics single Mavis (an impersonation of the beloved Coronation Street character reciting her famous catchphrase ‘I don’t really know!’ to the tune of Chariots of Fire) remains a travesty and a blight upon the cursed international games franchise. Does it bother him? Does it bollocks! He’s still out there, Mad Headed Octogram. Always converting, always spreading his message: Be real! Be true! Be me! Be gone! Tonight performing in a boho fleapit with an Apache flautist and a wailing flower child: Tomorrow, perhaps in an old people’s home with a string quartet of dissonant yummy mummies. The next week he’ll be rocking up a storm in the Mean Fiddler with a bunch of teenage stoners.
Me? I’m just grateful to have hung onto his coattails as long as I did. Go check him out.
Mad Headed Octogram appears intermittently at guerilla art happenings around the south east of England, and plays regularly with The Pheromoans. His extensive discography is largely out of print, though releases are sometimes made available by his friends at Savoury Days Records.

Monday, 30 December 2013

Mad Headed Octogram's 100 Favourite Songs of 2013

Yes, one hundred, and every last fucking song is genius.

Last year was sensational for music. Here, reacclimatise yourself. As was 2011. (Here.) This year is shaping up to be the most awesome yet. Such an embarrassment of riches. I can’t even hope to shoehorn it all in, so here… here is just a taster. (And don’t forget the one inviolate rule – one song per band.) I’ve listed them by the month to help give a little context. To try and keep the list under 100, I’ve avoided including reissues. Both June and July were helluva months, it seems. August too. And the rest of ‘em.
This is burst-open milk cartons. This is I-can-get-satisfaction. This is abrasion and challenge and the knowledge that the jerk in the back seat of the bus will remain a jerk in the backseat of the bus even when he gets off the bus. It’s the knowledge that the best forms of friendship are virtual and transient, that moles never stayed whacked for long. It’s garage doors that never close, it’s the joyous fear that repeating a riff too many times can bring. It says nothing to me about my life that I didn’t know already but why should that bother me, for that statement is clearly a lie. Here’s the link to the single.
Consider my tiny mind blown. Three videos I played, trying to get a fix on noon:30 – three (two?) sisters from DC, so I’m told – and each time, they threw up something entirely different. The first one is totally eviscerating, brutal. The guitar keeps distorting, the mood builds, the voice keeps chiding until… whoa! PUNK ROCK!
This song bubbles and froths and has such a wonderful buoyancy, lightness of touch, playfulness, the brass and the vocals and melodies and guitars all colluding to make the most delirious delicious pop music. This is the only Francolin song I’ve heard to date – first tipped off by the redoubtable Jake Cleland – and I’m torn between kind of never wanting to hear any more because the anticipation of discovering yet Another Great Pop Crush is so overwhelming I want it to last forever, and spoiling that anticipation and gouging every last melted chocolate from the bottom of the Quality Street tin.
Zebra Hunt is the name of this delightful pop confection, and their Bandcamp describes them as rock garage pop psych Seattle, which makes me think there might still be room for the occasional music critic. It’s like the mid-80s indiepop backlash never happened. At the Bandcamp, you can download their 5-track EP for free, and why the fuck not? It’s like having your own personal Bats, your own personal Clean, your own personal Jesus in your living room.
It ain’t in your face, it’s laden down with those sweet strings you know you just love to have this shit laden down by, it never quite escapes its parameters but that’s fine because that’s where it’s existing, it’s a little bit too upbeat in its praise of being alive for my liking (shit, why be grateful, why do every rapper have to have their own ‘It Was A Good Day’?) but … wait, Nina B was born in the Bronx and raise in Brookyln? She ain’t a rapper, she’s a living comic book character. This song has grace, and charm, and a piano. If only everything had this much grace, and charm, and a piano.
Just fuck man. I was going to write, just fuck man and enjoy yourselves and get wasted and listen to sweet, sweet music all life long because this fucking sweet, sweet music is going to last you all life long.
And that is the WORD.
It’s The Darkness rolled into the JAMMS isn’t it? But slicker and more disposable (not an insult).
(continues overleaf)

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Something About An Otter: The Events As I Recall Them

It’s the story that won’t fade. All of Dalston are talking, and now even the heads down on Stoke Newington Church Street are curious. But nobody’s spoken up about what really happened that night at Dalston’s esteemed folk hub Cafe Otter, so your very own Octogram is stepping forward. I intend to throw light and, perhaps, a dash of cold water on the whole sorry affair.

The evening caught me in good spirits, and throughout I adopted the role of jolly prankster, a veritable Robin Goodfellow prancing hither and thither and seeing merriment in all. My good friend and shadowdancer Dan Melchior was in town to cook up some blues riffs and outré extrapolations at the Otter, and had enlisted head Moan and thought-eater Russell Walker to lay down some sarcy vocals. I made it my business to attend.

I’d not been to the Otter since Jeffrey Archer’s beat happening in 2003 but the scene was much as I remembered it. A sign over the cider pump claimed ‘This Machine Kills Fascists’. An orderly queue was forming behind the walnut cake. Copies of The Wire magazine were hungrily snapped up and slipped into hemp Tesco totes. I caught up with Messrs Melchior and Walker shortly after their performance. Though the set had been well received, I grasped instantly that the pair were in foul form.

“Howdy.” Melchior growled from beneath his Stetson. Walker didn’t utter a word, glowering acidly at the disseminating crowd.
I got the lowdown over pints of apple ferment, care of the Octogram expense account. Melchior’s latest LP, 31 Farts in June had been selling in reasonable quantities but Terry Christian had reviewed it smarmily on his lifestyle blog The Mancunian Idyll.

“Three stars out of a possible five.” Dan snarled, brandishing a printout and quoting bitterly. “‘Our kid Melchior wants to cut down on his releases, like.’”
The musician fell mute at these words, and I watched with admiration as he whipped out his Motorola, thumbs flying.

Russell, I learned, was in a stink after hitting a bum note near the end of Blue Yodel No. 2. His trademark falsetto had soared over a 16 bar break before straining into B flat territory. A muttered excuse about ‘city smog’ was only met with raised eyebrows from the deck chairs.

I let my friends’ woes dangle in the scented air, regarding the sorry pair in the half-light of a lava lamp as I fashioned origami pigs from the Hackney Gazette. Finally I took a coin from my pocket, tossed it in the air and caught it in the palm of my hand.

“Heads I win,” I asserted, deadpanning for all the world and his brother, “tails you lose.”

My compadres’ faces instantly cracked into fits of giggles, their wide eyes expressing at once joy and awe. While they were wiping their eyes I back-flipped from my chair, produced a tin whistle and the three of us led the Otter’s stunned customers in an impromptu conga over the hay-strewn floor.
It was into these frivolities that the troubadour made his entrance: Ambient Ken, the best damn picker in Totteridge and Whetstone and tonight’s headline act. He stood, filling the doorway, a dainty lute clutched in his folky claw. The wind blew the troubadour inside, dishevelling the fringes as the man took to the stage. The audience eagerly took to their seats.

Audiophiles all, our unholy trinity shuffled to the back of the crowd, the better to enjoy the microfluctuations in tone afforded by the venue’s dusty corners. It was at this moment, friends, that I confess my judgement erred. In my excitement, I noisily unwrapped a polo mint and, without a thought for the wider ramifications, placed the crunchable upon my tongue. I might just as well have thrown a grenade at the frigging stage. Ambient Ken scowled, his concentration broken, and he stumbled over a D-minor triad. The proprietor intervened, and your heroes were promptly-and quite rightly-delivered to the cold Dalston pavement.


It falls to the outcasts of this messed up, zany world to muster their own jollies. So it was with the three of us: a bohemian triptych at large on the Dalston street, fire in our eyes and cloudy cider in our bellies, vivaciously re-enacting scenes from Blackadder to an uncomprehending world. Melchior was sprawled on his back, performing comic death throes, his legs twitching in the air, Walker and I leaping from behind a Grundon bin to deliver a gleeful “Don’t drink the wine!” when Cafe Otter’s volunteer storm troopers caught my eye. I’d seen this dapper young pair at work before. Their righteous threads and commune ethics were deceptive: They were hardnuts, pure and simple. They glared, goon-like through each of the Otter’s glass doors, fingers thrust viciously to their lips and eyes spitting daggers through the carbon footprint-chomping single pane. I blew the pair a kiss and furnished them with a spirited “You have a woman’s hands, me lord!

This was too rich a caveat for this little duo of do-gooders: The doors flew open and the pair marched upon us.

“Silence!” the first of them commanded; a teenage boy with scarf flowing and blond mop delicately tousled.

“Desist in your activities immediately!” the other agreed, a severe young women in a black felt cat suit.

“Chill dudes.” I responded, draping an arm over each of them. “Room for two more. Here Blondie, you be Baldrick. Young lady you can have a bash at Nursie if you like.”

“I do not ‘like’, Octogram, impertinent fool.” she shot back. “Consider yourself barred from this general area. Cafe Otter permits no sound on the Dalston streets during live performances. Look, see!”

She indicated the Otter’s thin glass front. In the darkness beyond, the clientele glowered our way. Over their heads Ambient Ken strummed desperately, trying to recapture the crowd’s attention.

Blondie came forth now, clapping his hands in my face.
“May I congratulate you, Signor Octogram.” he smarmed. “The floor is yours. You have our undivided attention, which after all is precisely what you came here for.”
“Liar!” Walked screamed, brotherhood fogging his senses. The home counties poet launched himself upon the teen, grabbing the ends of his scarf and attempting to choke the boy.

“Steady now.” I chimed in my friend’s ear, easing his fists from the soft fabric of the boy’s neckerchief. To the Otterites I declared,

“You have exceeded yourselves. The double doors behind you demark the edge of your folk kingdom. We very holiest of fools are beyond your jurisdiction. We shall tarry at our leisure.

Blondie gasped in revulsion.

“You dare to quibble over legality? In the presence of a folk saint?”

“Your saint,” Walker countered, stepping forward, “might want to invest in some sort of amplification, lest the whole of London choose not to lie silent for his benefit.”

Cat Suit bit her knuckle at the very suggestion.

“I’d like to hear you say that to his face.” Blondie chuckled smugly.

Walker shrugged and raised his voice.

“Here Ken! Why don’t you get yourself an amp!”

“No!” the two protested, urgently waving their hands in the air, blocking off the doorway as though to prevent the sound waves reaching Ambient Ken’s delicate ears.

“Have you no shame at all?” Cat Suit begged, her mouth twisting with contempt.

“Not really.” Walker chuckled. “This is the biggest crock since Pete Seeger swung his axe at Newport.”

“Ugh!” the pair groaned reflexively at Walker’s invocation of the hallowed fest. Unable to contend with the sacrilege, the beatnik bouncers retreated to the nurturing safety of the Otter’s glass walls.

Octogram and Walker eyeballed one another, mirroring wry smiles.

“You mad, crazy bastard, Octogram.” my old sparring partner opined.

“Right back at ya, asshole.” I assured him.

“Well that was all fine sport.” Melchior’s voice rang out. We looked instantly about us. Here he was, stepping out from the concealment of a lamppost. “But now muggings here has got to go back in and rescue Deidre.”

“Deidre?” I quizzed.

Melchior nodded dolefully.

“My axe.” he said.
We couldn’t let our man go in on his own: We just don’t play that way. Fortunately, Dan was wearing the full length leather raincoat that had become something of a trademark for him and, after some rearrangements, we contrived to enter as one singular body, Walker and myself concealed beneath his wings. Secreted in this fashion I was astounded to inspect, by torchlight, an array of pockets within the lining of the Melchior Mac; each one containing an audio cassette of as-yet unreleased material. I swooned as I read the hand-scrawled titles in this library of treasures: Teapot Dilemma in D, The Adventure That is Yeast, Sebastian Populace, The Mike Patton Sessions and more. Forgetting for a moment our predicament I unboxed Groin Strain Caviar and slipped it into my walkman.

“Snap out of it!” Walker scolded, yanking the headphones from my head. “The shit’s going down.”

Blinking back to the hear-and-now I cupped my ear to the leather wall.

“Give him his electric monstrosity,” Ambient Ken was pontificating, “And eject this blues heretic from the building.”

“What about my money?” Dan objected.

“It’s being donated,” Ambient Ken stated, “to the Folk Fund.”

“This is bullshit!” Walker fumed, and in a flash of leather we burst from our hiding place.

“Give him his fucking money Ken,” I screamed, “you fucking finger picking finger fucker.”

“Here, try saying that after a few sherberts.” Russell chortled, snatching the pretty green from Ken’s hand.

The proprietor minced toward us at that point, his tone suddenly desperate. I am speculating, but it appears likely he realised at this moment that he was dealing with actual members of the rock band Pheromoans.

“I beg you!” he wailed. “This can all be ironed out. Just give me a minute of your time.”

“Forget about it, chum.” I told him. “I’m talking to the boys from the council about this one. Your ass is going down.”

“On what grounds?” the man squealed indignantly.
“The fact is,” I sighed, “Cafe Otter just ain’t folk.”

And there we have it, Octopeeps. A few jujitsu moves for good measure and we were back on Highway 61, bruised but unbeaten. Our song will go on, untarnished though unheeded by the plebs and clowns that cross our hobo path. But if you happen to hear old Ambient Ken plugging in anytime soon, do the poor chap a favour: don’t tell anyone you know the hows and the whys and the where-to-fores.

Your brother-father-wisdom-keeper,
Mad Headed Octogram

El Octogrammus, the Mad Headed One.