Monday, 28 April 2014

Infuences #4: Higgz

As the store’s singles buyer at Our Price, one of the things I used to do was review a few of the week’s new releases and pin them up on the info board. These reviews caught the eye of a guy who would become another big influence on me – Richard Higgins, a.k.a. Higgz. Higgz approached me in the store one day and told me how he liked the way I wrote and would I consider doing some work with him on a fanzine project he was planning. Thus began my interest in critical music writing.

Higgz (circled): naked, arse & all.
Click to enlarge
I didn’t know who Higgz was, but Steve did. Higgz had been part of the North Devon music ‘scene’ for years, managing the Cult Maniax being his most prominent role. He can be seen – naked – lurking in the background on the sleeve of the Cult Maniax single ‘The Amazing Adventures Of Johnny The Duck And The Bath Time Blues’. When I met him, he was managing Sweet Thangs, a band featuring former Cult Maniax frontman Big Al and drummer Mildu. Everyone, it seemed, had a Higgz story and over the next few years I acquired a few of my own.

Higgz was often hilarious, sometimes serious and occasionally rather morose. For this reason, there were those who never quite knew how to take him. True, he could come across as if he was completely stoned out of his box when the truth was he probably hadn’t so much as seen a spliff all day. Other times he could be off his head and you’d get more sense from him than at any other time in his life. Most people however loved Higgz, he was rarely less than entertaining.  

We had a lot of fun working on the fanzine, which we dubbed ‘The Vibrant Alternative’. We did a preview of the 1993 Glastonbury Festival which involved visiting Worthy Farm and drinking tea with none other than Michael Eavis himself in his kitchen. Look – that’s us with the great man in the pic below! An enormous privilege and a life’s highlight for me, it has to be said. We also interviewed Back to the Planet, Blaggers ITA and Chumbwamba. The fanzine didn’t make it to print alas, (our budget lost to gigs, cider and other *ahem* expenses), but the work we both put into it inspired a desire in me to really give a shit, to express my passion and enthusiasm for music and to strive to get myself heard.

The Vibrant Alternative invades Worthy Farm, 1993
l-r: The Robster, Stevie Irie (artist & reggae correspondent),
Michael Eavis & Higgz

I became involved in the local North Devon music ‘scene’ through Higgz who introduced me to Torrington’s three biggest bands – the Sweet Thangs, Naked i (formerly Jive Turkey) and Electric Orange. From there I subsequently forged a route into journalism. Higgz had helped me to discover a talent I never realised I had. On the strength of the work I did for ‘The Vibrant Alternative’, I managed to land the role as writer of the local paper’s music pages (full story of that venture to follow). With my qualifications (or lack of them) there is no way I could have even dreamt of getting that opportunity without Higgz’s belief in me.

Higgz also introduced me to a lot of really good music. He had stacks of old punk singles which I used to educate myself. With his connections in ‘the biz’, people were always sending him records or tapes too so he frequently had something different to listen to. So bands like Dub War, Blaggers ITA and the Rhythmites I heard first via Higgz.

Higgz, like Steve Beardsley, reckoned I reminded him a lot of himself when he was younger. Compliment or otherwise, I’m still more than OK with the comparison.


1 comment:

  1. You my friend are much cooler than I even thought!!!! That picture is amazing!!! You can die happy now!! I've never been to Glastonbury but I did try a few years back. I bought tickets (of which I still have) booked flights etc. Then to be told Ohhh no, you need to be on a certain bus at a certain time on a certain day!! PS, don't turn up if you can't get on the bus!!! My flights were already booked at this stage. I was quite upset and just booked myself into a nice hotel and had a nice weekend in Bristol. It lashed anyway!! It turned me off ever wanting to go again.