The next day Miguel dropped me off at the university offices. This time they were helpful, friendly almost, clearly used to dealing with the hundreds, maybe thousands, of students being sent to non-existent apartments. They soon found me alternative accommodation, space in a shared room on campus.
Despite having to share I was mightily relieved to get anywhere. I’d envisaged spending the next three years of my life chez Miguel, permanently ensconced with Pablo and Trouble.
Miguel made one final journey, dropping me off at the campus building. The building existed, the room existed and I even had the advertised number of room-mates, who introduced himself as Carl.
“Hi, I’m Carl,” he said. “I’m working right now, but I’ll show you round later.”
So saying he turned the music back up and continued to bash away at his keyboard. Miguel helped me carry my cases up the three flights of stairs and left the on the floor by the bed furthest from the window, which I was informed was mine.
Despite my overgenerous fare the previous day I slipped Miguel another note, worth more than I dared think in local value, and wished him and his family well. Before he left he insisted in leaving his mobile phone number. “If you ever need a taxi you call me,” he said. “Direct number, straight to me, no costly agency fee. And I have always a spare room if you need it.”
I took a moment to observe my new home. A basic student room, two beds, two desks, lamps, no TV and a basic music centre, into which Carl had plugged his i-pad. The music playing was blues, real blues, black American circa 1950. Beyond that I had no idea – blues singers all sound the same to me.
I observed that rather than simply writing with the music on in the background, Carl was actually writing about the music. I could tell by the way he turned his ear to a particular sound and would frantically type down his thoughts immediately afterwards.
“Is this your work?” I said, “are you doing a music course too?”
“No, no,” he said, “this is my hobby. I’m a DJ on Independent Radio, the university’s radio station. I’m writing my script.”
This was a revelation I have to admit. DJs have scripts? Does that mean Chris Moyles knew what he was going to say before he said it, and still said it? Or is it just blues DJs that have scripts. Or, more likely, just Carl.
For the next three hours, before I’d unpacked, before I’d even had a cup of tea, we sat and talked music.
Carl told me everything there is to know about the blues, and I listened. I took out my mp3 player and introduced him to my world. The Smiths, the Fall, the Kaiser Chiefs, Flook.
“The thing is,” Carl said, “all the music you like, indie music if you want to call it that, has grown out of black music roots – your rock and roll, your blues. And it’s fine what the white British bands have done with it, the Smiths are perfectly pleasing.”
Perfectly pleasing – I ask you.
“But what’s criminal is that none of the main radio stations or TV channels gives blues music any airtime. All you ever get is middle of the road, sanitised rubbish. The music doesn’t even attempt to tingle your spine, it’s just something to tap your foot to.”
(By the way, this is a recurring oddity of Carl, his preference for the singular over the plural. Most people have more than one foot, but you wouldn’t know that if you were relying on Carl’s garbled sentences for information). Anyway, time for me to get my two-penneth in.
“It’s equally criminal that ‘perfectly pleasing’ bands never get airplay either,” I replied. The Smiths are heard now, but back when they were making music that would change the world the world wasn’t listening. All you hear on national radio is the insipid, watered-down nothingness of cheesy covers, sub-karaoke wittering’s from 3rd rate TV show contestants.”
“The whole thing is a conspiracy against creativity. A society where new wave is king is a society that doesn’t doff it’s cap to the man, doesn’t let met financiers and multi-nationals trample all over it. The X Factor is the real opiate of the masses.
“That’s why Independent Radio is really important,” said Carl. “Okay we don’t have much of an audience, but we have a voice. Kelly’s really keen that the station gives voice to as many different music styles as possible, so that it really reflects the world we live in.”
“My girlfriend.” (My God, Carl has a girlfriend, I hadn’t expected that). “She’s the Deputy Station Manager of the student radio station. That’s where we met. She’s got quite eclectic tastes in music.”
“You speak about her as if she runs the station. What’s the Station Manager like?”
“Fish? Oh god he’s awful. Now he really does play middle of the road dross, his shows are like a ‘worst of Radio 2’ compilation. But he tends not to get too involved in the day to day running of the station, he’s basically in charge because he’s got connections.”
“You should speak to Kelly about doing a show, you really know your stuff and I bet there are students out there that would be interested in indie music.”
“You think so, indie music at Indie University? It’ll be a chance to show the natives what’s what I suppose.”
“I’ll call Kelly and arrange a time for you to drop in, do an interview and audition.”
“I’ll probably meet her anyway won’t I,” I said, trying to delve into the Carl actually having a girlfriend mystery, “her being your girlfriend.”
“I don’t see her every night, unfortunately. She lives on the other side of the university, in George Bush Towers. She has a lecture at 8.00 on Thursday mornings so I never get to see her Wednesday nights.”
I tried to make sense of this. “What, you mean she actually goes to her 8.00 a.m. lectures. EVERY Thursday.”
Carl shrugged. “What can I say? She works hard, but she plays hard. I think you’ll like her.”
Cliché’s. I hate fucking clichés. Works hard and plays hard? That’s a fucking totally misunderstanding of the word play, having fun isn’t a fucking Olympic sport, you don’t get medals for playing. But, for now, I said nothing. I’d save my first argument with my new room-mate for something more pressing than his taste in verbiage.