Sunday, August 26, 2012

Reader Spotlight: Rob Powell

Sometimes you happen upon someone who, out of no interest of his own, picks up a cause and speaks on behalf of those who in need of voice; the only interest fulfilled is a desire to help others. Someone like this is a champion, an up-stander and a spotlight-shiner of epic selflessness, who recognize that a little well-spent energy can go a million miles to assist someone else. Rob Powell is one of these people – a champion.  e uses his voice and his web presence to call attention to independent musicians and authors, to showcase them and introduce their works to the world. Rob is tireless in his efforts, and sincere in his efforts.

I know this for a fact.

He’s done it for me.

Rob lives in Northampton, England, and he was the first vocal supporter of Joe on the other side of the world. We connected through another author, as mutual followers on Twitter, and Rob just ran wild with spreading the word. He does the same for independent bands and musicians, culling the coolest of the cool and transmitting their groovy sounds into the ‘netmosphere via podcasts his blog, bandofbanjoplayingbadgers.blogspot.co.uk. The name alone calls for t-shirts and bumper stickers, right? I’ve heard Rob’s casts for myself; he’s a natural-born disc jockey – or pod jockey, I guess, as modern terminology might dictate.  Call it what you will.

I call the guy awesome, myself.

He was kind enough to throw up an incredible review of JOE VAMPIRE on his blog, and I was duly overwhelmed by all the kind things he had to say. In keeping with Rob’s example, I wanted to turn the megaphone of my blog over to him and introduce him to all the crazy JoeFolk in the house.

So, no lolly-gagging here. Let’s find out more about Rob.     

*****

The Life and Times of Rob Powell: the Movie, includes these highlights: If I’m honest I think a movie of my life would be a direct to DVD B-movie affair (probably even more like Z-movie). I doubt it would make Blu-Ray and may even be relegated to VHS cassette.

So let’s see what we can do here. A while back, I dreamt I travelled back in time on a big old tired looking brown sofa. I was accompanied by a wise cracking grey-skinned alien not unlike Roger from American Dad (there may be licensing issues). Upon waking, I hailed this as a partial success at time travelling. There I was sitting on this sofa in the hospital watching my baby self being cradled in my mother’s arms. So perhaps that would be a way to start the movie. Then watch as the aliens abduct me, implanting some supersonic superhero super powers that won’t manifest until triggered by a fatal inter-dimensional threat to the Multiverse, which sees me cross parallel worlds. On my return I get stuck as a South Park cartoon version of me (again, further licensing issues) before being rescued by a rather unimpressed Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) who hauls me back to my life with a stern telling off which he ends with a cheeky smile. I get to ride in the TARDIS so it’s all okay. Something like that.


Indie music podcast DJ…explain yourself: I first started to develop a credible taste in music when I was about 17 thanks to two very good friends of mine. They got me listening to the likes of The Doors, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan and Led Zeppelin to name just a few. It has pretty much grown from there over the years and now covers a lot of really great emerging indie talent.

As I enjoy writing, this year I started what must be about my 6th blog by now but this time with the intention of actually posting on a regular basis. Starting with writing up reviews of the gig-a-month mission I set myself in 2011, I also started writing blogs on a range of topics for a UK Graduates website. Having joined Twitter a few months before that, I started getting a little overwhelmed by all the new music coming my way.  I was going to write an article about it but then thought why not produce my own podcast, putting together a playlist of this new music and use my blog to host it? I’ll admit as a child I’d often pretend to be a radio show host and play dusty old cassettes (yes, cassettes, shock, horror - it was the 80s) while talking in between songs to an imaginary audience (while having to change the tape). Only vast sums of money will get me to even hint at the terrible music I would play back then.

Band of Badgers Presents has since been picked up by the new international internet radio station Acoustic Spectrum, being played weekly each Thursday at 19:00 (BST) (shameless plug I know). I publish new episodes on the blog, with I guess what amounts to a little music column where I write about some of the featured artists as well as other music news and information.

My main aim is to bring new independent music to people in the hope I can also help, albeit in a small way, with the promotion for those who feature. I won’t lie, I want what I’m doing to get me somewhere with regards a career but everyone has to start somewhere and although I may be somewhat late at starting out with this, I seem to be doing pretty well and will keep at it! I’ll happily take up paid work as a music columnist if anyone is offering, by the way?

I’ve recently had several bands contact me directly, offering to send me their music and asking for my opinion. In addition I’ve received an incredible amount of support from so many of those who have agreed to let me play their music for which I am eternally grateful.

Rob describes his perfect day: Wake at about 07:30 to a full English breakfast (bad I know) with very strong tea (I’m yet to be able to recreate my Grandfather’s morning tea strength but I will endeavor to do so – perhaps it’s an old man granddad thing and something I won’t manage until I hit at least 65?).

I’d then catch up with a few chapters of the current book I’m reading (currently A Clash of Kings). Mid morning it would be nice to catch up with the niece and newborn nephew, perhaps a walk in the park (well okay a push in the park for the newborn), followed by lunch in town with my partner where I’d later find a coffee shop in which to settle for an hour or two. I’d drink lots of coffee, catch up with another chapter or two of the book and scribble notes as I people watch/listen to conversations for writing inspiration.

The afternoon would be spent in the garden writing and /or reading with some good tunes while swinging on a canopied hammock. Evening would involve taking in a gig somewhere, be it an old favourite or some of the new indie stuff. Having somewhere like The Hotel Café in LA which has such a fantastic ethos, would be pretty awesome.


Five desert island discs…and, GO!  Notorious for not being able to make decisions I do pretty well choosing the tracks to play on the podcast. This is going to be difficult, however. In fact I would not be able to do it. I’d rather leave most other vital things behind and take extra CDs (and books while we’re at it). I’d definitely opt for more CDs instead of clothes, it’s a desert right? Not much need for the winter warmers is there? Except at night, I guess.

  1. BBC Sessions – Led Zeppelin
  2. The Doors – The Best Of The Doors
  3. Levelling the Land - The Levellers
  4. Legend - Bob Marley & The Wailers
  5. Bob Dylan – Totally breaking the rules here as I’d need all four of these Dylan albums due to their quality and how long they’ve been a part of my musical journey:
    • Desire
    • Highway 61 Revisited
    • Blonde on Blonde
    • Blood on the Tracks
  6. Tom at Tuts (Live) - Tom McRae
  7. Rook – Shearwater
  8. Sigh No More - Mumford & Sons 
  9. Ágætis byrjun – Sigur Ros
You see, I’d sink the island with heavy trunk after trunk packed with CDs and a portable solar powered stereo system with quality speakers as tall as the palm trees.


Your happiest childhood memory:  Aged 6 playing out the movie Labyrinth in the back garden with my brother and cousin after watching it one weekend. Then we topped the day off with us performing a concert of Steeleye Span (a UK folk band), Jackson 5 and Michael Jackson songs (cassette tapes make their second appearance) using a piece of bedroom furniture as the stage. Oh such carefree days, where did thee go?

You have the opportunity to meet one human being from any period in history – including the future.  Who, when and why?  Decisions, decisions. Can I meet all of them from everywhen please?

Okay, I’d say one at the top of my list would be Professor JRR Tolkien. I was a fan of Lord of the Rings long before the movies were made and when people talk to me about LOTR I realize the full extent of my geekary as I begin explaining the histories in full depth.  I’ve read most of the published works on Middle Earth that his son, Christopher published posthumously as well as a book containing some of his numerous letters.

When? May I use my time travel points card? Any point of his adult life really as I’d have so much to talk about with him and endless questions to ask. Although he’d probably not approve on the basis he had so little time to work on what he’d prefer to have done due to professional and familial commitments. I can imagine the letter he’d write to Christopher about my endless bothersome questions.

He worked on his Middle-earth writing all his life, from the time he wrote the first draft of The Battle of Gondolin while serving in the First World War right up to near his death when he was still revising the huge body of work to which that story belongs. The more popular Hobbit and LOTR were actually by-products although it would be amazing to meet him during the writing of LOTR of course.

Why? – To get a first hand understanding of what it must have been like to have such a rich and intricately designed world developing ceaselessly inside such an intelligent and sharp mind. To have a discussion about the true origins of Tom Bombadil and also, to learn the Elven languages from their creator. I care not these would be ‘dead’ languages. The beauty of them is like a perfect piece of music.

You’re granted the opportunity to “write your own ticket”, allowing your secret ambition to come true.  You choose to become _____________________:  I did want to become a Quantum Physicist at one point as a teenager but admittedly I had the fancy of building a time machine like Sam Beckett from Quantum Leap as opposed to working on the mysteries of quantum mechanics and dark matter (as much as these do still intrigue me).

A high profile music journalist with a weekly radio show hosting the best from emerging local but also international indie talent. Running a seasonal TV show like Later with Jools Holland in conjunction with the radio show. Oh and be the owner of a groovy music club like The Hotel Café, showcasing great live music. A bit like P3 was for Piper in the TV Show Charmed (if you know of that?) although without the witch powers and demon apocalypses. Although I’m sure being a superhero would be cool too. The spandex, not so much. Or a best-selling author of a fantasy saga. Or an academic philosopher. You see, indecisive is my middle name and boy do I ramble on. That comes from studying philosophy.

Any social issues or charitable causes you support or feel strongly about?  Several.

  • Help for Heroes because these are guys and girls who put their lives on the line and who deserve to be treated so much better than they are. I have huge respect for all members of the Forces. Understanding how little support there is for them when they return wounded, the career they’ve known over, is both shocking and heartbreaking. In my opinion you don’t have to be a supporter of war or your Government’s aims to acknowledge the sacrifice these people make. In the end if a threat akin to World War Two ever did present itself, they are the ones who would defend us in the first instance. www.helpforheroes.org.uk

  • Pips929 - I admit I’d not heard of Pips itself before exchanging messages with Aidan Logan, a singer-songwriter from Belfast who featured in the podcast #5. Set up by families bereaved by suicide in the wake of a high number of incidents among 18-25 year olds. The message is clear: You don’t have to be of an elder generation to become so depressed you may take your own life if you lose all hope. There needs to be more substantial support for depression and suicide that doesn’t involve Doctors seeking a quick fix in dishing out unnecessary medications. www.pips929.com

  • ISF – I think it is fantastic when celebrities are able to use their fame in such a constructive and heartfelt way like The Vampire Diaries’ Ian Somerhalder has done with the foundation he set up. Their mission statement is, ‘to empower, educate and collaborate with people and projects to positively impact the planet and its creatures.’ The fundamental viewpoint is looking at the environment as an interconnected organism of which we are all a part of. This is the kind of deal that will serve to protect endangered species, habitats and hopefully aid in reducing the catastrophic affects us humans are inflicting upon nature. www.isfoundation.com


A nickname is chosen for you based on your overriding personality trait.  The name is what, and how large is the first order for t-shirts bearing the name?  I’m a bit of a hoarder I must admit although seeing some of the TV shows that look at such people who can’t actually move in their houses due to their ‘problem’, I don’t think I need to worry too much. In addition to this, while I love my home comforts, my food and good ale I’m also partial to a good adventure now and then.

I got given the nickname Baggins about fifteen years ago and it has stuck with me ever since. You’ll remember the mention of my Tolkien/Middle-Earth geekary and given certain personality traits I have that are almost identical to the famous Baggins’ I’d order up enough T-shirts I could sell on ebay and make a huge profit to fund my next adventure.

Spin the globe, take a trip – all expenses paid and time is not a consideration.  Where do you end up and what do you do while there?  If Middle Earth, Westeros or Oz are out of the question then…

I would actually be so greedy with such an opportunity and head out on a world trip taking in as much as I possibly could across all continents probably not even excluding Antarctica.

As a huge fan of Jack Kerouac’s writing however, it would be a dream come true to be able to set out On The Road from Massachusetts and embark upon a road trip from east coast USA to west, taking in places like Boston, New York, Chicago, Indianapolis, Denver, Nashville, Detroit, Kansas City, Phoenix, Portland, Seattle, stopping by Frisco before finishing up in LA. Taking in all the live gigs I possibly could, covering a wide range of music. I’d also love to trek through Montanna and the Dakotas too. Hell, let’s make it a continent deal and I’ll trek through the Rockies as well, going west coast to east through Canada. There is so much wild beautiful landscape and wildlife to enjoy, providing I don’t get eaten by something large.


Anything else you want to add – advertisements, birthday messages to friends, endorsements, etc?  The blog is yours.  Go wild.  Conveniently I’ve recently published the 6th episode of my Band of Badgers Presents podcast with what I hope is another fine playlist of some inspiring and great emerging talent. Particularly worthy of mentions are US singer-songwriter Nate Jones & UK singer-songwriter Perry Hood. Go check them and the podcast out >> http://bandofbanjoplayingbadgers.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/band-of-badgers-presents-6.html and be sure to sample the previous five as there may well be something you’ll love therein.

I guess I’d like to advertise my blog too. There are a number of album reviews and I’m hoping to increase the output in the coming months to include lots more.

My review writing services are available to any interested parties (especially for pay of course). I also make an appeal to potential companies who would like to maybe offer a VW campervan in which I can travel the UK (even the world) attending gigs and festivals non-stop while writing about music and reading books. This is a dream but dreams are good. Sometimes if one works hard enough at them, they can come true.

Gosh this actually feels in danger of turning into one of those ridiculously overlong award acceptance speeches. And there’s not even any award. I’d like to thank my family, my cat Poppy for letting me remain alive to hug her so much even though she hates it, the pesky snail who repeatedly manages to find his way into my makeshift greenhouse and slither up the side of the plant pots (which must appear as mountains to him so you know, fair play kind of especially carrying a motorhome on his back) to nibble on the low leaves of my tomato plants….

A big thank you to Steven for asking me to do this and being such a big support with my blog and music endeavors. There are so many other people I’d like to thank and mention but if I start I fear I won’t stop and you’ll still be reading this at Christmas. I am grateful for the opportunities Twitter has opened up for me since I joined. It is like one gigantic world community chat room.

*****

How’s THAT for awesome, kids?

Baggins and his banjo-playing badgers, indeed.

Let this interview be the flash point for you learning more about Rob by following up on his blog and hitting him up on his podcasts, right now. And follow him on Twitter at @roberto_baggins to find out when new casts are ready, and just to hear what he has to say. 

With true gratitude, Rob: thank you for all you’ve done, for me and for Joe, and for indies the world ‘round.

You champion, you.

4 comments:

  1. Woohoo!!! Great interview!!! I have had some great talks with Rob on Twitter since you introduced us and I'm so happy to see more about him here! *hugs* to you both! :-)

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  2. This is great! Thanks so much Steven. I'm working on podcast #7 which should be online tomorrow so I will link this in there as well as putting in a link on podcast #6. :)

    And thanks Stephanie, I've really enjoyed our Twitter exchanges so far and look forward to many more. :)

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  3. I've downloaded some awesome music after being introduced to bands on your podcast that I never would have known of otherwise. Keep it up Rob :)

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  4. I want to get to know more about Rob, thanks for sharing , it is great, i like it
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