I was so honoured when Fanni said she would design me a T Shirt as a thank you for being her 1200th liker on her innovative and inspiring brand “Thinkover”‘s Facebook page! Fanni worked with INFL last year as an intern and I was fascinated by her brand. I loved the concept of having a T Shirt uniquely aligned with a person’s identity, kind of like a tattoo. I’ve never really had a tattoo, unless you count the small musical note my friend and old promoter partner Andy Clydesdale scrawled on my heel in Indian Ink and I think there’s a few reasons for that, mainly;
A – I couldn’t justify the cost involved in getting one I like
and B – I know as soon as I’d get it done I’d hate it and wish I’d had another design. When I was 17 I wanted a massive dragon with a mohawk playing a guitar and smoking a reefer and I identify this memory as a good reason not to go with every idea I have. On my stag night the aforementioned Andy suggested we all get tattoos of my name on their bottoms which sounded good to me, all I needed was all of their names on mine which made both the deal and my arse much less attractive so the suggestion was cheerfully declined. Anyway, I liked that I could give a few ideas to Fanni and she would interpret it into a hand drawn one off T Shirt for me.
I thought it would be fun to get a T Shirt that represented a big part of the journey, friends and influences that lead to me naming my company “I’m Not From London”.
It’s INFL’s 12th year now and the name always gets a chuckle whether in Nottingham, abroad and even when we go to London which ironically enough we are doing more and more of now as the business expands.
There are a few reasons why “I’m Not From London” is called so. One is due to when I moved up from Watford to Mansfield (before moving to Notts) my southern twang was a lot heavier than it is now so people assumed I was a Londoner. Watford in Hertfordshire is one of the very last towns you go through really before hitting London boroughs and accent is kind of the same due to lots of people being rehoused there after WW2 bombs etc. I got asked if I was from London and my response was, well you can guess can’t you.
When I started putting on INFL gigs in Notts in 2005, it was apparent how much musical talent and energy the city had but the scene was very disparate and nowhere near as collaborative as it is today. People would moan about the scene but not want to do anything about it and the bands that got really good felt like they needed to leave Notts to live in London to succeed which now of course is not the case.
The third reason and perhaps the biggest was it was a line from my favourite film, Withnail and I!
The cult film by Bruce Robinson was about two out of work actors played by Paul McGann and Richard E Grant who lived in London and left to get away from the horrid squalor of their filthy apartment to holiday in the wilds of Cumbria. Believing all northerners to hate Londoners (God knows where they get that assumption from) they pepper many of their initial conversations to the locals with the words “I’m (and) We’re Not From London”.
It wasn’t until much later that I discovered the character Withnail was actually based on a man from Nottingham, Vivian McKerrell which in my mind made the company name so much more serendipidous!
Vivian was good friends with a man I have since become very good friends with since, “Roxy” Rob, the debonair former tailor who used to own Nottingham fashion label Roxy Threads. Rob has featured in a few of INFL’s music videos. His Blues Borthers inspired part in Ryan Farmer’s “Elstree Drive” went on to feature as a flash image in Sleaford Mods’ Tiswas video and he was also referenced in the first track of SM’s “Austerity Dogs”. A popular and gregarious fellow, Rob can be regularly seen tearing up the dancefloor in a Notts music venue near you!
In the first seven years of me being in Nottingham, I’d lived in various similar squats to the house “Withnail & I” lived in. One in particular on Forest Road, five floors high and packed with misfits, bartenders, musicians, poets, film runners, wasters and thieves where we would have many INFL after parties and where a lot of lifelong friendships and occasional lasting hatreds were born! We had a tree growing through the window and prostitutes making love in our garden. One time when my housemate Anna Griffin was part of the “Bronson” film crew that was being filmed in Notts the actor Matt King who played Superhands came round for a party and my friend Tristan threw up on him. I demonstrated my unconventional “speed” weight lifting routine to the actor Tom Hardy, it looked like it worked too! We would destroy the washing up save washing it, I think only three or four people out of the 20 or so who had lived there in 5 years actually paid any regular form of rent there, preferring to hide from the landlord. Towards the end we had two un-copiable keys between 6 people, no bannister, half a toilet door but an abundance of socks, tracksuits and football boots courtesy of my good friend and flatmate and the at the time 2nd assistant film director Anna Griffin and the film “Goal Three”. I also met one of my best friends of that time, a kindred spirit named Nate Rood or “Nut Dog” a we sometimes called him. Nate was an artist who drew mosaics and abstract paintings that I felt reflected the pain and chaos that was his life. He designed a lot of the INFL gig posters for me too. We’d watch and (I’d) quote the film Withnail and I a lot too and I drew a lot of parallels between the house and friendship in the film and my own. Vivian used to drink in The Peacock where Nate worked one of his jobs when not working admin for customs and excise. I was very happy at this time as I’d found a great bunch of friends and felt a strong sense of identity, belonging in the city and the group. I’d also left Mansfield and I had realised what I wanted to do in life (I’m Not From London) which at the time was not really paying any bills as such and I had lots of various part time jobs and sidelines going on at the time but the main thing was I knew I wanted to work in some form with music. I put aside as much money as I could save from work & gigs into getting a website and logo designed. I paid for some label contracts written up and invested in the early releases of some of my most promising friend’s bands, signing them to the newly created I’m Not From London Records!Nate was going through a bit of a painful breakup with his ex girlfriend at the time, they both had previously bought a flat together and were still living with each other while they waited for it to sell. They were split up and she was seeing someone new so it was very hard on him. He’d have to sleep on the couch and consequently being indoors was not his favourite place. He’s stay at our house and be out with me at lots of the Nottingham pubs and clubs til early hours. He even had his ex’s name tattooed across his breastplate inside a black heart with eagle wings, eventually he got the heart completely blacked out. We had some great times, and I saw and loved him like a brother, sometimes even like an extension of me, we were that close. We did a cold turkey for a month and towards the end got so bored he had his knob pierced. Our birthdays even fell on the same day though I was a year older than him. One day Andy Clydesdale and I organised a massive festival “Audio Montage” down Mansfield Road with gigs in each pub. The gig culminated in a mexican wrestling match and gig at The Maze that we’d got the ropes and side cushions from someone we new who had a ring then my flat mates used the mattresses from the squat on Forest Road to put underneath the canvas. We knew some girls studying fashion at Notts trent and as part of their dissertation they created catsuits for us both. I wore a yellow bee catsuit with a bee mask that Gaz from The Maze lent me and some flashing antennae that I’d bought from Goosefair. I was Will Power and Nate was The Fury! Nate at some point and some of the others had said the day before that it wouldn’t happen and would look shit but I remember feeling with absolute certainty that it would be alright on the night as was the power of conviction and friendship! It was very funny and I’m still very good friends with most who attended.
I wore the outfit again when we hired a London bus to drive around the city on Halloween which coincidentally Nate ended up coming back for.
The London bus became a big part of INFL’s iconography along and events with a lot of traditional London objects such as phoneboxes and the London backdrop Those gigs kind of created a lot of the INFL folklore and camaraderie that is still present today. Nate eventually sold the flat and needed to get out of Notts. He was depressed and needed change. He did a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course and travelled Asia teaching, first in Korea and now in China and he seems much much more positive and dare I say it happy! . He became the first non Korean to have an art exhibition in their biggest art gallery.
My life in Notts was really just getting cemented though I made plans to join him and was about to start a TEFL course to teach abroad when I met THE girl (Naomi XXX) who very quickly became the love of my life and supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, now the girl’s me wife!! Year’s later I sent Nate my first I’m Not From London T shirt, a zombie like bloody slash on a white background and he sent me a photo of him in Korea wearing it along with a characature of my face which he dispayed in his Korean exhibition. I always liked punk music and culture. More New York 70’s garage punk really more than the UK stuff. Iggy, Patti Smith The Ramones, CBGB’s etc and when I moved to Mansfield it was the band Punish The Atom that started making me think about starting a band, at the same time I fell into organising gigs and that kind of took off but I did once manage to write and play this raw song at the home studio that INFL’s first soundmen and this song’s producers Phil Booth, Danny Clarke and Mat Thomas lived at. That was before they moved into Captain Dangerous’ rehearsal studio – JT Soar. JT Soar became the powewhouse recording studio and gig venue it is today and later Miles from Captain Dangerous later joined Pat Cannon as partners/directors in INFL Ltd. This song was a bit of an nostalgic audio documenting memorabilic gift of the origins of INFL and my personal badly played ode to youth and my friendship with Nate.
Fanni’s T Shirt is now the accompanying physical representation of it all and it was one amazing Christmas present to receive. Thank you Fanni and Thinkover.
It’s certainly helped me think over how much has happened since those days! My thumbs have gone weird.