It's beginning to look a little bit like Christmas

The plan was to write this blog every month, but real life has got in the way...which is a good thing, because it means I'm too busy doing exciting things (touring, writing, teaching, recording) to be sat at a PC writing about myself. I comfortably predict that my next post on here will be in 2019, so we may as well get festive now because it's December next week. 

It's been a frantic couple of months; on a 'normal' level much has changed - I've moved house (in with my lovely girlfriend, which officially makes me a grownup), I've bought a sensible car (a people carrier - which not only means I'm a grownup, it means I am becoming a boring one too) and went on holiday to America (where I got a bit obsessed with Alcatraz and have since bought many books about it...). On a career level, I've got more drum students than ever and many of them are starting to gig now, which is amazing. I've been on tour with Fred's House to promote our third album, Careless - we're packing out huge rooms at the moment and having the best time ever on the road, suddenly feels like this 8 years of hard work is starting to pay off...also, The Complete History of Pop made a successful West End debut and continues to be the show that has never failed me. We're touring it next year, all over the country, before bringing it back to the Edinburgh Fringe. I've never had a show that has lasted 3 years before, but we keep finding new ways to freshen this one up and it's a hit with audiences so I should probably just be grateful. 

Anyway. Christmas. I've written a new book, The Other Side of Christmastime, which is out on 30th November...it's 11 short festive monologues/stories, it took me ages to write so please do buy it (it's available on Amazon) if you're into that sort of thing. I've also got a new comedy show, We Only Meet Up at Christmas, launching in December, which I'm sure will be fine once I've finished writing it. 

Lots happening, with next year looking even busier. More soon, in the meantime I'm amazed that you've read all this, if you have - well done, you.

Back from the fringe

Another year, another Edinburgh Fringe done. This one felt a tad more challenging due to the fact that I attempting more shows than ever this year (4 solo shows a day, plus opening the Cambridge Comedy Collective gig every night) alongside keeping an eye on Little Sparks, the play I wrote, which was also running. To add to the already exhausting schedule, I caught shingles in the first week, which slowed me down a tad. Despite all of this, though, the fringe remains the most exciting month of my year (replacing Christmas, now I'm 37 and slowly growing out of it) and this year was no different; a magical, arty world of great shows, wonderful moments (such as being in the house band for John-Luke Roberts), seeing old friends, meeting new friends, saying hello to people who have been watching my shows for years and years. I performed 97 times over a 22-period and, despite now being totally knackered, had an amazing stay in the beautiful city. The reviews were good and I even got a tasty writing commission out of it...massive thanks to everyone who helped made that happen. 

My three and a bit weeks in Edinburgh were book-ended by band festival gigs, from the superb (Cambridge Rock Festival, Catfest) to the soaking (Camp Bestival - a cracking event but hit by some of the worst storms in Dorset's history...), reminding me that out of my comedy/theatre bubble I am very much a drummer. Our third album (as Fred's House) comes out at the end of October and it's honestly a career highlight. Plenty of shows coming up with them soon, and I'm back to the drum teaching next week. In the meantime, however, I am treating myself to my first three consecutive days off this year...I predict I'll get bored after 2. 

It must be the summer...

The plan was to write a blog post for this page every month, but real life has just got a bit frantic. In a good way. Summer is here, which can only mean one thing: Richards is panicking a bit about the fringe. I'd be lying if I said all of my shows are looking the way I want them to at the moment, but that's what these many previews are for, isn't it? And that's why those previews are either free or very cheap entry...by the time they all head to Edinburgh, though, they'll be sharp and I'll be as comfortable as a professionally awkward man can be. I'm directly involved in seven different Edinburgh Fringe shows this year, five of which I'm also in, the other two I've written. It's going to be a crazy one, but they keep on letting me do my thing and people keep coming to see me so as long as that continues...

Had a lovely time at Barnstaple Theatre Festival in Devon; such a lovely part of the world, such a nice festival and such nice audiences. I ran my Short Plays for Marvellous People there and picked up a bunch of positive reviews in the process, which is cool. Other previews have been...well, they're happened. I'm now also the resident 'comedian' for Folk on the Green, having had a successful first show there recently. 

Band stuff has been great, Fred's House have been gigging a fair bit, two new singles are out and the new album is done, we just need about 6 months or so to sort out the PR for it before going off on tour again. It's honestly the best thing we've ever done, we're very proud. It's a bit dark, this one, but we're proud all the same.

In the meantime, as a drum teacher three of my regular students have now joined bands, having only started playing in January when they started lessons with me - this makes me everso proud! I was a guest teacher at Sidney Sussex College the other day which was great fun; everything is pretty much how it should be at the moment. 

 

 

Award, shows, tours...

After all of the careful planning earlier this year to make 2018 the most productive year of my career, naturally last month - typically the first proper busy four weeks of the year - was a crazy, frantic mess. In a good way, but with so many projects, often in different parts of the country, any scheduled time-off went straight out of the window. April was a brilliant month, though.

Hastily following a shaky private preview around my mate Jo's house, I took my Short Plays for Marvellous show to the Swindon Fringe and had a brilliant time. The audience were onside throughout, the review was great and I won the award for "Best Comedy Performance" at the festival, which was nice.

A few days later I was back on tour with the band in support of our new single. With shows in Bath, Salisbury, Maidenhead, Isle of Wight, Bedford and Milton Keynes, it's been a good fun so far, with many more in the pipeline. 

All of this alongside the continued drum lessons across Cambridgeshire; I'm getting a great deal out of these, I can feel that I'm becoming a better teacher with every session, whilst still making sure the emphasis is on fun and the students actually enjoying being drummers, often for the first time. My schedule is bursting with new pupils every week (across several colleges/schools and 20+ private students) but I can't help but take on more...

In the meantime, Edinburgh Fringe preperations for various shows are going well. Little Sparks, with a full cast, is turning into a beautiful thing and I've got five other productions heading up there this year, too. Okay, 'preperations going well' is probably a bit strong, but we'll be fine, yeah? 

Where exactly did March go, again?

Well, March just flew by in a flurry of teaching (now at 5 different colleges with a growing number of private students...if you're up for drum lessons with this lanky rascal then get in touch ASAP as I'm running out of hours!) and fabulous creative activity. 

I'm getting all excited about my play, Little Sparks, now we've confirmed a 5 night run at the Corpus Christi Playhouse ahead of 3 weeks at the fringe; I'm flattered to have my first-choice team of actors bringing this to life. Rehearsals haven't actually started yet as half the cast are in Cats, but there's a nice schedule in place and it's in good hands. In the meantime, I've been working hard on my If in Doubt, Listen to Joe Jackson show, and even harder in booking in a tour for it - more on that soon! My other active show at the moment, Short Plays for Marvellous People, was on tour throughout the month with shows in Cambridge, Birmingham, London and Southampton, all of which I enjoyed a lot. And, on a final comedy note, the latest edition of Let's Face the Music and Bants (the night I produce for The Plough, Shepreth) was an absolute cracker. That's an evening that didn't work initially, but now we have a dedicated audience who totally get it and the guests are wonderful every time...looking forward to the April one very much indeed.

Musically, we went all theatrical and filmed the promotional video for the new Fred's House single, Never Gonna Love You, which is a big budget, lavish affair. Our somewhat extensive tour starts in April and it'll be great to be back on the road with these guys, we've been so busy in the studio working on the album that we've barely gigged since the China tour. In the meantime, I've been gigging with Gavin Chappell-Bates (including his album launch) and Claudia McKenzie, all of these shows have been really fun.

I've had a rare bit of time off over Easter, so a great chance to actually see friends, family and my girlfriend, but I've also been writing a new musical at the same time...we'll see if that ever sees the light of day. I'm currently involved in 4 different productions that are heading to the fringe in the summer, as well as band touring work and 25-ish hours drum teaching a week so maybe I have enough on at it stands. We'll see!

A month of writing (with a little rock)

I started the last blog post by saying that January is typically the quietest month of the year - for gigs that is. Very true, but February is a very close second. It's very much a month when it feels like the live scene is starting to wake up again after a massive hangover, or something. I've had a few live shows in the second month of the year; there's been a couple from Fred's House (an acoustic folk gig and a wonderful electric one) and a couple of stand-up bits and bobs. It's mostly been a month of writing, though, because let's face it: the rest of the year looks a bit daft already. 

I've got three new shows on the go - alongside Short Plays for Marvellous People which opened in London in January and will be touring a little in March, I've got two rather lovely shows confirmed for the Edinburgh Fringe this year. This year's solo show is called IF IN DOUBT, LISTEN TO JOE JACKSON, and is the show I've wanted to write for years. Anyone who knows me well will know that I'm a massive fan of JJ, and whenever I feel low, insecure or just over joyously happy, whacking a bit of Mr Jackson on my record player is the thing that is very much my safe place. The show went through various different titles, such as 'Lanky Man Lost in China,' and 'The Better World of Paul Richards' before settling on this ambitiously musical theme. I'm hoping to tour record stores with it in the summer, as it's the sort of show that would work well surrounded by the glorious smell of 45s, and then it runs for all three weeks in Edinburgh - I'm back at the Globe Bar, 2.15pm, the same slot/venue I had last year and I'm thrilled to return to one of the friendliest venues ever. 

The other show we have confirmed for Edinburgh is a play called LITTLE SPARKS, which runs in a paid venue (I try to do everything with the Free Fringe but such is the technical requirements of this piece, we've had to go for a theatre space with stage lights). I'm really excited by this one, mostly because I'm not in it; I am purely the writer and producer. It's a play that has developed from a short story I wrote a while back, about bored fire wardens in an office, frustrated by the actual lack of fire. It's essentially a love story, but it's full of petty arson and we're having a great time bringing it to life. It'll be directed by the wonderful Emily Starr and stars Alan Hay and Stephanie Swan. The show is set for a full Edinburgh run at Jury's Inn, 1.05pm. This production is proving to be very expensive to put on, so we have a Crowdfunding page here if you'd like to chip in, in return for some cracking rewards:  https://www.gofundme.com/little-sparks-edinburgh-fringe

There's a couple of other shows I'm trying to get over the line for Edinburgh this year, more on those soon. 

In the meantime, I'm still teaching a lot of great young students; my client list is seemingly growing daily and I get to work with so many kids who are annoyingly talented considering most of their ages aren't even in double figures yet! There's so much talent out there; the next generation of drummers are all jazzy yet rocky, flexible and, if I get my way, smiling a lot. I'm still playing a lot myself - Fred's House are gearing up for the forthcoming tour to promote the new album, and I'm also gigging with Gavin Chappell-Bates, having played on his latest release which is out soon. 

February was a nice month; March just looks a bit crazy, however...

New Year, New Projects


Typically, January has always been the quietest month of the year...a time to work out what I actually want to achieve over the next twelve months, which projects I should be pushing. With that in mind, I was determined to hit the ground running this time around, and made a 'short' list of 19 things I'd like to work on. I mean, a few of them will naturally be put aside, but 2018 has got off to a good start, creatively at least. My new solo show, Short Plays for Marvellous People, opened at the lovely Etcetera Theatre in Camden. It's a work-in-progress, but it feels like good work that has certainly made progress since the initial private readings and the audience were onside throughout. It's a show that will tour in March/April, with a proper theatre run in June and then the Edinburgh Fringe in August. At the moment it feels like a notepad of lovely ideas, rather than the show it could be, but it'll get there.

Talking of the fringe, I've recently nailed the second draft of a play I've written that will be heading north to the biggest arts festival in the world. I'm not in this one, instead preferring to hand it over to a cast of proper actors, all of whom are amazing. It's called Little Sparks and is a dark comedy about fire; the initial read-throughs and cast discussions have been great and we're all keen to take this as far as possible.

In the meantime, the final sessions for the third Fred's House album have been great, with strings and brass added, and we've just had the double A-side masters back. We're off on tour in March and I can't wait to get back on the road with those guys. I've also been working with my old mate Gavin Chappell-Bates, having drummed on his lovely new album (which is out next month, I think), and I'll be playing a few live dates with him.

Alongside all of this, I've been teaching drums to students of all ages and abilities across Cambridgeshire and I'm having a great time doing so, there's a couple gaps left (mostly Monday evenings) if anyone fancies it. I've also launched a new crash course, in which I reckon I can make anybody into a drummer in 6 hours. Up for the challenge? Drop me a line!

December will be magic again

As we say goodbye to 2017, I ended the twelve months in typically manic fashion. Pretty much in keeping with the rest of the year then...in 2017 I performed 239 shows, wrote 3 books, toured China, performed 85 times at the fringe and played on 5 different albums. The plan was for a quiet festive season as I evidently have a very tired face, but where's the fun in that? 

I've really enjoyed December; a music/comedy festival I curated hit Cambridge, and my own comedy shows - a festive special of Let's Face the Music and Bants plus two nights of my Complete History of Christmas Music show were great fun. I also ran next year's new tour show, Short Plays for Marvellous People, a few times privately. 

Musically, there was the Fred's House Christmas gig which was a joyously sweaty sold out show and the We Are Sound offshot, The Roar of Sound, played two cracking shows. Oh yes, and I also played 12 gigs in one day with James Erskine, making a ton of cash for Macmillan Cancer Support in the process...that was quite some day. I've also been teaching drums, with some very talented young students on my books - if you're looking for a drum teacher, let me know! 

My year ended with being a best man for a first time, for my close friend (and regular bandmate, bassist) Edd as he married the lovely Emily. The day was sheer perfection and I didn't drop the rings or anything.

I'm now back at the family home for Christmas, having spent 4 days eating, drinking, catching up with friends and making plans for 2018. It has all the hallmarks of being a good one. Happy New Year!