Aspiring rock god Martin Starr finds that working in HMV gets in the way of his own musical career


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The Independent Online

The best time to inspect Martin Starr (a pseudonym – his real name is Higginbottom) is between the hours of 9am and 6pm, Mondays to Thursdays, at the local branch of HMV.

A tall, gangling, 29-year-old with abnormally pale skin and jet hair crimped up into a kind of cone, he is distinguished by an immensely tatty leather jacket, worn in all weathers, a cartridge belt, and the sardonic expression that passes over his face whenever a customer purchases a CD of which he disapproves on grounds of taste. There are, needless to say, quite a lot of these.

It is not that Martin dislikes working behind the HMV counter – a nice change from stacking shelves at Costcutter – merely that the vast majority of punters shelling out for their Pink Floyd box sets and Ed Sheeran concert DVDs don't know good music from bad. Also, it gets in the way of his own musical career and the protracted rehearsal-room stakeouts that will, any day now he is sure, launch Chutney Butler, the ensemble for which he plays a "smoking" bass, on their route to stardom.

Chutney Butler have been in existence for a year. They sound slightly like the Ramones. Before that, Martin was in Pluto Mindwarp, who sounded slightly like Oasis, Supergrass, Sleeper and other Britpop bands from the mid-1990s whose records his older brother owned. Before that, he was in the Orgasmics, a synth duo who sounded extremely like the Pet Shop Boys. When Mark Radcliffe played a track from the Orgasmics' self-financed EP "Nietzsche Said" on BBC Radio 6 Music, Martin drank half a bottle of Southern Comfort and retired to bed to await the A&R men's call. Alas, the phone stayed mute.

There are plenty of other Martins here in the provincial town to which he returned after completing his fine art degree, and they can sometimes be seen drinking coffee together and attending concerts with the aim of disparaging the performers ("If you're going to play a Rickenbacker, you might as well keep it tuned… I heard Parlophone were throwing them off the label.") On the other hand, natural wastage, settled relationships and the lure of "proper" jobs have begun to deplete their number. Privately, Martin deplores this lack of commitment. Secure in the knowledge that the Crawley Advertiser has promised to review the Butler's next gig, he is still, albeit precariously, content.