Butterfly Drive-By

“What do you mean, it’s not grime?!”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I’d worked hard to get a foot in the door at a record label. I’d got loads of play on pirate radio stations. Shows sold out everywhere.

Now this guy in a suit was telling me that the music I played wasn’t grime. Joker.

He shook his head. “Sorry, it just isn’t.”

Suits.

I screwed up my face. “What’s wrong with it?”

He signed and typed something on his computer. The whole office was ridiculously sleek. It was all glass, clean lines and plastic; the computer was no different. I worried about sitting down, in case I slid off the chair.

In fact, when I first came in I was worried about sitting down, in case I slid off the chair.

He swung the monitor round to face me. He had the Wikipedia page open for ‘Grime (music genre)‘. He pointed out a line near the top of the screen.

“Rapping is also a significant element of the style, and lyrics often revolve around gritty depictions of urban life.” His quoting voice was patronising in the extreme.

“So?!” I said. “I rap!”

“Yeah, no, sorry – I was pointing at this bit.” He tapped the part of the line about gritty depictions of urban life.

My heart sank. I knew what was coming next.

“See, that’s your issue. I mean, look at this bit here,” He tapped a verse in my lyrics notebook. The one I’d helpfully brought along with me so the suit could keep up with my blazin’ rhymes. He looked up after giving it another quick read. “What does half of this even mean?”

“Oh, Lamby Double Whammy?” I said, as if naming the song would help him. “That’s about lambing season. It’s lovely, it is. I know a guy – Martin – Lives on the next farm over, one of his sheep had twins.”

For the first time in a long while, I’m painfully aware of the West Country “oo-arr” tones in my voice. I sound like one of the Hobbits. I tell myself to stop it.

The suit sneered a lop-sided smile while giving me a vaguely dismissive nod. “Uh-huh. It’s not exactly ‘gritty and urban’ though, is it? You see, grime’s getting a lot of attention nowadays. It’s blowing up. But I don’t think the world is quite ready for subgenres like… What did you call it-”

“- Rural riddims.” I finished for him, perhaps a bit too eagerly. I was proud of it.

“Yes. And then there’s your image.”

I look down at my wellies, tweed trousers and body warmer. I’ll die before I call it a gilet.

Perhaps he had a point there. I had just come from the farm.

But I wasn’t going to give up.

“I’m huge on Radio Devon and some of the pirate stations.”

“Like?”

“Well, the sea’s not far from my ‘ends’, so some of them really are pirates. They’re ignoring EU fishing quotas. Those guys are hardcore as, bruv.”

“Keith, please don’t say ‘bruv’. I know you’re in London, but you’re a sixty-odd year old dairy farmer. It just sounds weird.”

I looked at the floor.

It wasn’t much of a dream, but it had been snatched away from me in record time. Literally. I’d started playing Butterfly Drive-By, the EP I recorded on the farm, when I came in. As the last few bars faded out, it seemed it had taken the suit all of four tracks – if that – to make his decision.

I stayed looking at the floor. Nobody said anything for a while. I waited for a final ‘no’, or for security to just turn up and escort me out.

Then the suit made a hmmm-ing noise.

“You’re a sixty-odd year old farmer… It sounds weird… It’s not urban… It sounds like a joke act.” I look up, ready to give him a mouthful. “Everyone loves a novelty act. I’m thinking you could be Christmas number one. Everyone loves quirky, fun numbers. Something unusual. You could be a major one-hit-wonder.”

I kiss my teeth. “Is you f’real, fam? S***’s f***in’ peak. Rude boy gon’ get smoked.”

“Stop it, Keith.”

“Sorry. But novelty act? Don’t say that to someone’s face!”

“You have to admit, I have a point.”

He did. But I didn’t have to like it. Hadn’t he seen the price of milk lately? What’s a farmer meant to do? Farming wasn’t paying bills. We had to diversify. Hustle.

And I lived in the countryside. There wasn’t anything else to do except make noise.

F*** ‘im.

I grabbed my stuff, said a miraculously non-sweary goodbye and left the suit alone in his sterile bubble.

It was back to the pirate stations, packed village hall gigs and the farm for me. Maybe I could come up with some more lyrics when I ploughed the

I headed towards the train station, making a mental note of the chores I’d have to try and squeeze in before dark when I got home. Maybe I could come up with some more lyrics about this whole experience when I headed up to see the herd on the far field later.

All being well, I’ll be able to record by this time next week.

Then it hit me.

Record.

I’ll turn part of the farm into a recording studio. A proper one. A place where all the other farmers could start to put a voice to their plight through music. The folk-grime fusion could take off.

Not to mention all those kids’ garage bands in town. The council called their noise a ‘blight’. Suits. Those bands were just trying to express themselves, too.

We all just needed somewhere to practice, play and record. Somewhere we could make as much noise as we wanted, well away from suits telling us what to do. And it would give the pirates somewhere to go when they came ashore.

And it might just bring the farm enough income to make ends meet.

I grinned and start making some calls on the train.

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