Monday 6 September 2004
Alex James: Down at The Depot, where there's a proper tealady
The house sold, we bid farewell and left Covent Garden for the last time at midnight. It's a midnight kind of place. One of the chorus of Jerry Springer - The Opera was leaning out of a dressing room window as we packed the contents of the fridge and various other overlooked whatsits into the car. "Where you goin nen?" he asked. "We're gonna miss you."
I wondered if this was because there were no curtains on the arched part of our bedroom windows, meaning the dressing rooms on the upper floors of the Cambridge Theatre could see just what we were up to in the bedroom. There were no curtains on the dressing rooms either.
"Oxfordshire," I said.
She'd had us down for Provence but I'm not ready for that yet; we were off down the A40 - after a quick detour to The Depot. If Top of the Pops and CDUK are the shit-eating grin of showbiz, then The Depot in Brewery Road, London N1, is rock's tradesman's entrance. It's a huge, grimy, grey warehouse where you can stage anything from a band practice to a full production rehearsal or even a TV series. It's like a Hollywood lot. When you book The Depot, you get everything that you don't see on the telly and nothing that you do. It's the bare bones. Instead of Cat Deeley, there's a proper faggy tea lady. I love The Depot. There are a lot of men with Maglites and hangovers, a lot of stairways and goods lifts. Who knows what it was originally, or who it belongs to, but there are as I write probably more famous people in The Depot than there are in the Wolseley.
If you ran a live feed from Studio 2 you'd have a sort of reality celebrity music programme. Could be good. A lot of bands store all their gear at The Depot. Flight cases, amplifiers, weird guitars and effects boxes. Music's ephemera are all there. I wanted to poke around Blur's cage to see if there was anything I could throw on the removal lorry. There was a flute I'd bought in Seattle and completely forgotten about, a weird member of the bass family made mainly out of pigskin - can't remember what it's called - various unfashionable guitars, and most importantly, Lovetone Meatball, which I thought was lost. They don't make these guitar effects pedals any more.
Ah, the music warehouse. It's like a Santa's Grotto. We went upstairs to listen to Mel C's new band rehearsing through the wall, and passed cages belonging to The Darkness and Primal Scream - I spotted two Meatballs in their storage area.
All that gear. I often find myself bewildered by my lack of knowledge about it, but actually, all you need to make music is confidence - that's about 90 per cent of it, unless you've got a good haircut, in which case you don't need so much confidence.
At the other end of the A40, in 200 acres of sheep, are new vastnesses of bewilderment. When I bought the farm I had been a vegetarian for 20 years. But I realised I would need to learn about getting rid of death-watch beetle, woodworm, rooks, rabbits, rodents, ragwort, dock and thistle: you name it, I controlled it. It's going to take a little while.
Land management amounts to a benign dictatorship; Old Testament God striking down with great force on the enemy species. In London, pigeons are a real nuisance. Here too, they prevail, but they're not too much of a bother. I found myself taking imaginary aim at a couple in the garden only to discover they are an endangered species of dove.
To get what you want out of the land, you have to affect the flow of nature and to do that without guilt, you have to believe that the human race is the greatest thing in the universe. I think my vegetarianism may have had something to do with having a downer on mankind, slightly.
I'm such a townie, but I'm told it's new farmers serving niche markets that are doing the best business. Posh potato anyone?
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