Guest appearance on Johnny Campbell's new album 'True North'
05 Feb 2024
I am delighted to give a shout out to my good friend Johnny Campbell on the release of 'True North', an album of field recorded traditional songs of each respective Northern English county, recorded on, or around the highest point of each country.
I am honoured to have duetted with Johnny on one of the tracks but he put me through one hell of a tough experience in order to achieve my contribution, so I think it only fair that I tell the tale of how it came about...
Some time ago, Johnny and me embarked together on a unique mission to scale Mickle Fell, the highest mountain in my home county of Durham, as part of Johnny's latest recording project 'True North', Johnny had invited me to guest with him on the song he had chosen to represent County Durham, a version of 'The Oakey Strike Evictions', written just over a hundred years ago by the late great Tommy Armstrong, a.k.a. "The Pitman Poet" or "The Bard of the Northern Coalfield". I was familiar with the song, having recorded it back in the dim and distant past for The Whisky Priests debut album 'Nee Gud Luck' in 1989.
With instruments and recording equipment strapped to our backs we set off on foot from the nearby public car park, following the footpath in a winding yet fascinating route towards the foot of the mountain. 
The River Tees flows along the foot of Mickle Fell and public access to Mickle Fell is limited, so when we reached the river, we were forced to take a right-angled turn for what seemed to me a brutal walk of endless miles around the mountain to get to the nearest footbridge in order to cross. Once we'd crossed the river, we were finally able to ascend. 
The climb was steep, whilst the ground was rugged and boggy, and with our backs laden with gear, it was quite a challenge. Johnny, a seasoned rambler and around 20 years my junior, found the going a lot easier than yours truly, and as he effortlessly and tirelessly forged ahead like a mountain goat on speed, I did my best to power on, aching and breathless, in a vain attempt to keep up, all the while looking daggers into his back and cursing him for putting me through this punishing regime!!
So, it was with great relief on my part when we finally reached the summit and I was able to enjoy a few minutes wandering around, taking in the glorious view and reflecting on our achievement thus far. There were one or two other adventurous souls around who'd scaled the summit and were likewise taking in the views around them. They looked at us with mild curiosity but nothing more, who knows what they most have thought of us?
It wasn't long, however, before we began setting up to record. After such a long and drawn-out effort to reach the summit, once we got there everything happened very quickly. After three rapid-fire takes of 'Oakey's Strike', with Johnny on guitar, me on mandolin, and the pair of us on vocals, Johnny decided he had what he needed and we were done, no fuss, no bother. I'd done my best to stay focussed, trying not to collapse from exhaustion, as I fumbled my way through each take. We repacked all the equipment and without further ado headed back down. All at once, I was feeling drained, relieved, bewildered and light-headed and as my physical body blundered its way to the bottom, my mind seemed to float down.
As we neared the car park, Johnny had one last surprise for me and it was a true delight. He'd managed to spot a beautiful tiny blue flower, the Spring Gentian, an extremely rare flower in Britain that grows exclusively in Upper Teasdale and is the floral emblem of County Durham. It was quite a thrill.
By the time we got back to the car, it was evening time and we had hiked a colossal, to me at least, distance of somewhere between 22-26 miles (I can't recall the exact distance, Johnny could probably tell you better than me but it was definitely in that ballpark), almost the length of a full marathon. In our battle to conquer Mickle Fell and make musical history in the process (surely we are the first, the only, and quite possibly the last people to embark on such a musical journey - come on, prove me wrong!), we had won, but unlike poor old Pheidippides, we had survived to fight another day.
This was without a doubt, the most unique and challenging recording session of my musical career to date, and an experience I will never forget. So thanks Johnny for the opportunity to add another hard-won stitch to the tapestry of my life. Was it worth it? Definitely. Would I do it again? No f***ing way!!!!

To order 'True North', click the image of the album cover (above) or CLICK HERE.

Mad Martins 'Four Bare Walls/Escape' Animated Promotional Music Video
02 Feb 2024
Having put my 'Mad Martins' project on the back-burner for some time, I am excited to be bringing it back with a bang through this trans-Atlantic collaboration between myself, Durham-based illustrator Helen Temperley, Brooklyn-based animator Michael Sciortino at MShortToons and Connecticut-based film producer Stephanie Stender at Doorstop Productions.
This is our debut project together, which has been created via email and fortnightly Google Meet sessions over the last couple of years, in-between normal life and individual work/projects. The four of us have built up a great working partnership, which has grown into a strong friendship, allowing us all to express our most creative ideas to each other no matter how seemingly off-the-wall, mad or random. This has given us the freedom and opportunity to finally bring to fruition various dream projects we've been keeping to ourselves up until now. Future projects are already in the production and development stages and our list of further ideas grows longer by the week.
We hope you enjoy this initial offering and can't wait to bring you more animated shenanigans as time goes on!

Mad Martins Animation Teaser #3
01 Feb 2024
It's almost time! Here's the final Teaser for the new animation dropping tomorrow at 1pm GMT. I'm so excited about this trans-Atlantic collaboration with illustrator Helen Temperley, animator Michael Sciortino at MShortToons and film producer Stephanie Stender at Doorstop Productions. Get ready!... 

Mad Martins Animation Teaser #2
30 Jan 2024
It's getting close to the release of a wonderful new animation of a couple of Gary's 'Mad Martins' songs by illustrator Helen Temperley, animator Michael Sciortino at MShortToons and film producer Stephanie Stender at Doorstop Productions. The clock is ticking as the countdown continues!... 

Mad Martins Animation Teaser #1
25 Jan 2024
Someone is coming... He's mad, he's bad, he's dangerous, and he's riding on a donkey!... What can it mean?
It's been a long time in the making, but I'm delighted to finally present the first teaser for something exciting we've been working on behind the scenes.
Look out for further teasers leading up to the final launch date of February 2nd.

"A phoenix from the ashes that smoulder in my eyes"
19 Jan 2024
I am currently excited to be breathing new life into my beloved 'Mad Martins' project in collaboration with some wonderful new creative partners.
Connecticut-based Emmy-nominated film-maker Stephanie Stender at Doorstop Productions and Brooklyn-based animator Michael Sciortino at MShortToons, along with Durham-based illustrator Helen Temperley  have put an incredible new spin on some of the Mad Martins material, which has blown my mind and I can't wait to share it with you all.
Not wanting to give too much away at the moment, the magical date of February 2nd 2024 is looming. Look out for updates on social media and I'll keep you informed on here as things develop over the coming weeks.
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