‘The Life and Times of an Imaginary Rock Star’ is the latest album from musician and artist Ruben Vine. This eclectic collection fuses punk, rock and metal with the trappings of concept album. It also boasts linking narration by the great Michael Jayston, who Whovians know better as the sinister Valeyard.
Ruben Vine is a Sussex-based alternative rock musician and artist. As well as being a prolific musician, Vine runs ‘Articles of Faith’ – an online store selling lightboxes, t-shirts, posters and other paraphernalia featuring his artwork. Vine provides the main vocals on ‘Imaginary Rock Star’ as well as playing bass and the title role.
Michael Jayston played the Valeyard throughout season 23 of Doctor Who, ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’. His character torments the Sixth Doctor, acting as a prosecutor with his own motives in mind. The Valeyard was one of the better aspects of a lacklustre final TV outing for Colin Baker’s era. So it’s no surprise that Jayston has reprised the role in several Big Finish productions. Without giving away the twist in a thirty-year-old story, there’s a reason the Valeyard works as an adversary to the Doctor.
This is most definitely a concept album, drawing inspiration from the likes of ‘Ziggy Stardust’ or ‘War of the Worlds’ – the latter being directly quoted. While each song can stand alone, they’re only scenes in one 45-minute story. On first listen, it’s definitely best to hear the whole thing in one sitting before you pick out favourite scenes.
With such a variety of styles, which songs you enjoy the most will definitely depend on taste. For me, the earlier tracks definitely stand out as the strongest including ‘Nuketown’. ‘Gossips’ is also an earworm, with a refrain that got stuck in my head for days after only one listen.
While the narration and songs merge more later on, Jayston’s links in the first half come in separate tracks with a backing score. It goes without saying that Jayston is a master of his craft and does a fine job. But what surprised me is just how well his hard-edged voice is suited to the tone of the album. Even lines that seem too bizarre for him to deliver straight are given the utmost conviction. The man was born to narrate surreal sci-fi concept albums, it seems.
The Rule of the Mob
The absolute high point for me is ‘Oh My Days’ and the narration that precedes it from Michael Jayston. Not only does this mark the protagonist’s turning point, it shifts the album’s tone towards more heavy metal songs. But it’s tempered with elements of folk music, with plenty of violins and snare drums, to add a surreal edge. Though perhaps not as catchy as the earlier songs, the change definitely emphasises the album as a journey.
“A lavish package released for Record Store Day (Saturday 22nd April 2017), on double vinyl LP, CD, or download, accompanied by a 28 page comic illustrated by Francisco Maldonado and Oscar Blanco. The album features the apparently unlikely pairing of underground musician Ruben Vine and well-known actor Michael Jayston, known for his role in Shakespeare productions, historical dramas, soaps, sitcoms and Doctor Who.
What we have here is a sort of allegorical punk rock opera, with Ruben Vine’s heavy-hitting music punctuated by scene-setting narrations from Michael Jayston. The music draws largely from punk, metal, classic rock, and hard-edged alternative rock, whilst taking on board ideas from beyond the rock sphere and also combining rock subgenres in a creative manner. Swallowed by the Mainstream blends lazy, hazy psych-rock with choppy post-punk riffage. Gossips employs strings and piano for a sophisticated artistic touch. The Journey is another string-led piece, most akin to chamber pop, featuring a catchy chorus alongside a pro-underground, pro-free thought manifesto narrated by Michael Jayston. Modern Lament sets punky vocals to an inventive orchestrated arrangement.
The theme of the album and its accompanying artwork celebrates underground creativity over mainstream blandness. The story is set in a dystopian world populated by ‘junkie consumers’ who blindly follow the messages pumped out by the cathode ray tubes that double as their own heads. It is the job of the underground heroes, led by Ruben Vine himself, to combat the morass of banality, violence, prejudice, greed and environmental destruction that is the norm among these people. Ruben Vine urges creative people to take control of their own destiny by embracing the DIY philosophy, as an antidote to the corporate music industry dictating people’s tastes.”
Many thanks to Punk Online for a fantastic review
“In a collaboration between Ruben Vine and the renowned British actor Michael Jayston and accompanied by a twenty-eight page full colour comic, a unique release particularly in it’s physical form.
Ruben Vine is an underground alternative musician and artist who currently resides somewhere in East Sussex. He is the main protagonist in this production and the purveyor of words. He appears as the Imaginary Rock Star, sings, plays bass and other instrumentation. Michael Jayston is a well renowned actor and lover of cricket who resides in Hove, Sussex. He has enjoyed acclaimed and critical success in theatre, television, films, and radio, Doctor Who and as a voiceover artist and narrator since 1962. He continues to perform. In this production he appears as the narrator.
Ruben produces a punk rock sound that reminds me of The Apostles in that it’s raw and melodic at the same time and the narration from Jayston is sublime. There is a documentary narration and DIY punk rock accompaniment – the concept album sounds too strange to be true but it absolutely works and it works really well. It’s one of my favourite albums for some time. Nuketown appears with narration and then as a punk track with female vocals before Vine brings in his vocal snarl – it’s in your face and angry.
The story of the life and times of the imaginary rock star builds throughout the double album with Jayston’s beautiful narration backed by keyboards, strings as well as the regular guitar, bass and drums. Vine’s songs alternate with those narrated tracks and he varies his approach with Gossips exploring the gypsy punk genre and bringing his own version of it.
I have no idea whether Vine and Jayston intend to perform the album as a play/musical but it would lend itself well to the stage. It is an extraordinary approach to punk rock with DIY and professionalism production values colliding, punk with acting – The Great Liberator echoing The Men They Couldn’t Hang. There is punk, folk, jazz all wrapped up in a single package. I found the entire package simply brilliant!”
Time Passes, Life Happened and the New Album…
Greetings. Well I know from just checking when my last blog post that it was 2 years ago! It’s also 4 years since my last album, the planned time period between albums is always 2 years as I have found it’s a realistic time frame when you are doing 90% of the recording, work, production, artwork, promotion etc. But without my musical cohorts providing guitar, drums, violin and backing vocals it would never fully realise my expectations and vision for the songs. I believe in two constant elements in all projects I undertake D.I.Y and artistic collaboration as they have served me well for many years, in fact most of my life and since my introduction to punk and such bands as CRASS.
Allow me to presentTales from the Engine Room…
Well it is here at long last, the accompanying album to Slave Manifesto (2012) entitled Slave Love, because they live together as one creative piece of work. Slave Love, is officially released today, Friday 18.03.16. It was planned to be released 12 months after Slave Manifesto but you can never truly plan for life and what it tests you with and throws in your direction. There is one early review in already…
So what occurred? Basically 18 months of near constant pain if I sat, stood or did anything for more than a few minutes. This left me unable to mix or to enjoy the simplicities and beauty of life we can all take for granted. As much as I believe in the National Health Service on this occasion despite seeing three consultants and having endless tests no answers or solutions were forthcoming. They said it was CPPS (Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome), a trapped nerve, a blood clot but all seemed like guesses to me. My gut feeling said different. So being the proactive person I am, I sort answers, solutions and remedies from alternative sources. In the end a passing comment from one doctor stuck out in my mind, as all other possibilities had been explored with no benefit, and that was that he thought there maybe a lymphatic blockage in my pelvic region. I researched this and discovered rebounding after reading articles about alternative methods used dealing with cancer and how NASA have used it since the seventies in helping astronauts recover fitness, bone and muscle density after extended periods in Space.
I purchased my first rebounder with springs to see if it had any benefit, and slowly and surely it did, so this was replaced by a more high end rebounder with bungees instead of springs. This was even better and a light and day experience as the bungees cushioned the impact, further protected my joints and cut down on noise as I live in a flat, and I’m sure my neighbours wondered what the rhythmic impact noises were. Rebounding boosts lymphatic drainage and immune function, helps improve digestion, more than twice as effective as running without the extra stress on the ankles and knees, circulates oxygen throughout the body to increase energy, improves muscle tone throughout the body, improves balance by stimulating the vestibule in the middle ear and to top it all, its fun! This slowly but surely got me back on track, I started recording a fourth album and returned the the third album (Slave Love
So life continues onwards, well until our race is run and we leave this reality. I do hope you enjoy Slave Love it is considered by my close and critical friends to be the best thing I have done production wise in capturing the sound and style I strive for in all it’s intended glory. This rise in standards of production will aid me on my next very exciting project which is virtually complete musically and just requiring my lead vocals and female/male backing vocals which I’m about to start the recording sessions for. If you put my sound together with influences like Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, Star Wars, a famous and renowned British actor, two Spanish artists and my musical cohorts, you have an album I have already been told will be crowning glory. A bold claim I know, but its not mine, and this will be something that’s never emerged from an underground artist before.
Remember as long as we do the best we can, nothing more can be asked of us…
Check out the links in red and the banners as the live ones offer interesting tangents. Until the next time…
with love and faith
Tales from the Engine Room No.10: Albums are heading closer to extinction so I hear…It’s been a very long time but here is the next installment of Tales from the Engine Room, life sometimes distracts us from our intended path but if your heart is true you will find your way again.
I love the album format, because like so many I was reared on the album format, vinyl albums in particular. I vividly remember the much awaited crusade on a Saturday from the depths of the country on one of the few daily buses that passed down my road en-route to my nearest town, Eastbourne. Max records was my destination, hours flicking through racks of records, listening on headphones at the listening post before finally deciding on my purchase and heading round the corner to the Grosvenor Cafe to meet up and discuss my purchase and life happenings with all my local punk friends. This was a time when albums ruled the world. Max Records no longer exists, neither does the Grosvenor Cafe and the countryside I lived in is now buried under a bypass with my local village now a town, proving life is all about change. But not everything has to change, its good to keep the best bits.
All songs have their own context but I generally have always written mine as part of an album and each song is one element of a larger expression. It’s a journey, this is even more the case with my 4th album which is shaping up to be a fantastic release and journey for the listener on many levels, but also for the time being it will be my last album release for quite sometime. This is not because I am following the current trend for releasing EPs or single tracks and spurning the album format I so much love but simply because I wish to free some of my ‘life’ time up. As I do 90% of all the work involved in each release from the writing, recording, producing and mixing right through to the artwork, promotion, type-setting and where and how it is released I am left with so little time for other things in life, it is in effect a full time job. Each album takes up nearly two years of my life and before I’m finished I have already started writing and recording the next. I have still to finish my third album ‘Slave Love’ as illness and real life got in the way but its nearly there, a couple of vocals and a final mix away plus the creative urge and feeling to do so.
The albums format allows me as an artist to share a collection of songs that complement each other, live together and in turn showcase my creative vision and message through music. I feel as an artist I would like the listener to understand and appreciate my music as a whole and explore far beyond a single streamed track because I understand from the way I engage with music and artists that appreciation creates loyalty, and in turn loyalty is vital to a long ‘career’. With this current trend for non-album formats and streaming a long musical ‘career’ or life is far less likely for the modern artist and performer. I don’t see myself being a world wide smash, I realise and recognise I’m an underground artist but as I know from experience you don’t have to be mainstream to make a modest living from something your good at and that brings you genuine heart-felt joy and a real sense of achievement. There are endless underground artists who make a living, achieve cult status and manage to make an impact on the wider more mainstream music scene.
It is impossible to deny the massive decline in album sales in the last few years, although vinyl sales have been on the increase. The album is attracting less attention than previously, and buyers prefer to invest selectively and purchase individual tracks by different artists via such mediums as iTunes or not even buy them and just stream them via various streaming websites and apps. The fact is, there are fewer record labels who are prepared to risk making physical copies of an album, or willing to fund studio time in advance for an artist, hence I spend every spare penny of self pressing and releasing my music. This is actual no different from what the underground (punk) bands did (and still do) when I was discovering music and part of the scene, the difference is what most people seem to want, which is not the physical release you create and put out into the world.
If you believe what the digital music distributors are saying, it seems that digital singles and EPs will only become more established, tightening their stranglehold on the album. I have adapted to this by creating limited edition versions of the albums that embrace their physical form and that extend far beyond the music and include a wider and greater creative vision and package. I like the physical, the smell, the touch and the whole experience of having a piece of something I connect with but it appears I’m a dying kind of music listener. This concept of something more than just the album/music will be fully embraced and expanded upon with my fourth and last album release. After that I will release EPs only, not as I have said because I no longer believe in the album format but simply because I want more time to explore what life has to offer me…
Check the links as usual they lead you to some interesting videos, documentary’s and articles.
Until the next time…
with love and faith