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CMU Info
Top Stories
Sue-the-fans good business for lawyers and web spies
Steve Albini on the future of music, funny cats and the death of fashion
In The Pop Courts
Six months probation for N-Dubz drummer
Lil Wayne placed in solitary confinement
Awards & Contests
Don Black: BMI icon
Charts, Stats & Polls
Gaga and Bieber racing for a billion YouTube plays
Release News
Kanye West announces album title
The Bug to release infected EP
Hervé announces Cheap Thrills Vol 2
Gigs & Tours News
Amy Winehouse performs surprise gig
Rival Schools announce London show and new single
Soap&Skin announces Union Chapel show
The Digital Business
Ad recession made 2009 a tricky year for We7
Sony US launch classical download store
Twitter co-founder on why he's stepping down from CEO role
The Media Business
Absolute losses up
And finally...
Online campaign aims to shut up Weezer
John Mayer says Twitter zaps your artistic soul
Smiths too serious for Harry Hill

Formed in 1989, punk-influenced indie-rockers Superchunk released their debut single, 'Slack Motherfucker', the same year, via Merge Records, a label founded by frontman Mac McCaughan and bassist Laura Ballance (and subsequently home, of course, to the likes of Arcade Fire and The Magnetic Fields). They went on to release three albums through Matador, before moving back to Merge in 1994. The band released their eighth album, 'Here's To Shutting Up', in 2001, and then followed their own advice for nine years, well and truly shutting up. But now they've got round to making a follow-up, 'Majesty Shredding', which is out this week in the UK via One Four Seven Records. We spoke to McCaughan to ask the Same Six.

Q1 How did you start out making music?
My little sister had an acoustic guitar she was supposedly taking lessons on; she never played it but I did. I wanted to be Angus Young. This was 1980. Then I was in kind of new wave bands in high school (doing covers of bands like Athletico Spizz 80, Echo And The Bunnymen, etc - basically anyone on the 'Urgh! A Music War' soundtrack!) and then more punky things later on, more hardcore bands, until those things morphed into early Merge stuff, pre-Superchunk bands like Wwax and The Slushpuppies... then Chunk.

Q2 What inspired your latest album?
I think the same things that have inspired all our records, only now with more things since it's nine years since the last one! Punk rock, art, being in a band, kids, North Carolina, nostalgia, anti-nostalgia, my family, travel, time, all kinds of stuff!

Q3 What process do you go through in creating a track?
For this record, the process was different from our last few records, wherein we would start with nothing and the four of us would play for hours, just jamming really, and create songs that way. Then I'd add the vocals/lyrics on top.

No one wants to work that way anymore, nor has the time to, so I approached it more like the early records, only now armed with 20 years knowledge of how the four of us play together. I wrote songs and recorded demos at home and sent them around to everyone via email. Then we got together a couple days before recording and learned the songs quickly and then tracked them in a couple days. We were sort of on the verge of really knowing the songs, which I think lends some extra energy and urgency to the performances.

We did the basics to tape with Scott Solter producing, then dumped them into the computer and I worked on them at home for awhile, then sent them on to Scott to mix. We went back and forth on mixes via email and I think the stuff came out great. Punky but with a bigger sound than many of our records.

Q4 Which artists influence your work?
Wow, too many to mention, because I think probably everything you listen to is doing that in some way, right? I listen to a lot of jazz but I can't play jazz; still, listening to Andrew Hill or Bill Evans or Jimmy Giuffre or Ornette Coleman, you ingest a certain way that musicians leave space where it's necessary, or play the intentionally awkward 'wrong' thing in a way that wakes you up and is beautiful. Painters like Philip Guston do the same thing, awkwardness and energy that's funny and sad and all these things.

Soul music is often playing in our house, sometimes when I'm working on a song and it's just getting a bit unnecessarily complicated or roundabout, I'll put on a song by Joe Simon or James Carr or someone, and try to keep the power of that simplicity and classic melody in mind. But musically I don't think it's terribly hard to tell what the roots of what we're doing is - punk rock. And it still informs Superchunk, perhaps more on the new record than the last couple, though not in a completely doctrinaire kind of way.

Q5 What would you say to someone experiencing your music for the first time?
Don't judge us because we're beautiful.

Q6 What are your ambitions for your latest album, and for the future?
Not having put out a record in nine years, one goal with this one was to have the pace be pretty relentless from start to finish. The kind of record where you get to the end and want to start it over again. I find that as I've gotten older, and so much music is available now, I don't often have those records that I had when was nineteen or 20, where I would leave an album on the turntable - The Fall's 'Wonderful And Frightening World Of The Fall', 'Life's Rich Pageant' by REM, Big Star's 'Third', Hüsker Dü's 'Zen Arcade' - for weeks at a time, just playing it over and over. A goal with all our records is to make a record like that.

MORE>> superchunk.com
Having started their world tour in Montreal on Sunday, with arena dates scheduled for the British Isles next month, Gorillaz yesterday announced that they will release a brand new track, recorded just a few weeks ago, on 22 Nov. Entitled 'Doncamatic (All Played Out)', and featuring some great vocals from upcoming British singer Daley, you can hear the track now via the YouTube link below.

And for anyone worried about the upcoming live shows, after the band's patchy Glastonbury performance, Damon Albarn says he's learned his lesson. He told Q: "That is probably up there with my greatest follies of all time. Oh, gawd. You know, in a way I'm proud of us for making such a fuck-up of that moment. It wasn't meant to be but, come on... that was fucking funny. I knew there'd be a lot of pissed off people. Mark E Smith is... Well, he's not Bono, is he?"


According to The Guardian, when file-sharers settle with a legal company like ACS:Law after being accused of copyright infringement, as little as 20% will actually go to the rights holder.

ACS:Law is the shambolic London-based legal outfit that has been leading the way of late in the world of sue-the-fans file-sharing litigation, albeit working more for porn magnates than music companies. The company's work in this area has been under the spotlight for some time, but more so than ever since it accidentally published private information about thousands of accused file-sharers, and a load of its own private emails, after its server was attacked by pro-filesharing groups last month.

The Guardian has been investigating what happens to the £300 that many file-sharers pay when sent a letter by ACS in order to avoid being taken to court. The paper says the law firm will keep up to £240, of which half will go to the techie firm that spotted the file-sharer in the first place and to the ISP that revealed the identity of the accused, leaving £120 for the legal dudes. The content owner gets £60-£90.

Some have accused ACS of basically turning sue-the-fans litigation into a business. The lawsuits are not designed to provide a deterrent that will discourage others from file-sharing (as the Recording Industry Association Of American hoped they would), but are in themselves a revenue stream, though one that benefits tedious lawyers rather more than creative companies (pornographic or otherwise).

Although ACS:Law does not represent any big music clients, some of the letters sent out by the legal firm demanding three hundred quid related to the Cascada song 'Evacuate The Dancefloor', owned by German label Zooland Records. And, of course, parallels are being made between the activities of ACS and those of Gallant Macmillan, which is representing Ministry Of Sound on its file-sharing litigation.

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Last month, Shellac made an ultra-rare festival appearance at the Jim Jarmusch-curated All Tomorrow's Parties festival in New York, and GQ caught up with the band's frontman, Steve Albini. If awards were given out to interviewees, Albini would win one for this.

In the interview, the musician and studio engineer discusses why Shellac hate playing festivals so much, why Sonic Youth "cheapened music quite a bit" when they signed to a major label "in order to become a modestly successful mainstream band - as opposed to being a quite successful independent band", why now is "a terrific time to be in a band", funny cat videos on YouTube, the future of radio, the power of the internet for musicians, John Peel's work ethic, and more. Basically, he said quite a lot.

But GQ is a fashion magazine, so eventually talk turned to that subject. Though it turns out Albini isn't much of a fan of either fashion or GQ.

He told the magazine: "I think fashion is repulsive. The whole idea that someone else can make clothing that is supposed to be in style and make other people look good is ridiculous. It sickens me to think that there is an industry that plays to the low self-esteem of the general public. I would like the fashion industry to collapse. I think it plays to the most superficial, most insecure parts of human nature. I hope GQ as a magazine fails. I hope that all of these people who make a living by looking pretty are eventually made destitute or forced to do something of substance. At least pornography has a function".

Read the whole interview in full at www.gq.com/blogs/the-q/2010/09/steve-albini.html

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Former N-Dubz live drummer Aaron Fagan has been sentenced to six months probation after being convicted of sexual assault earlier this year.

As previously reported, in August Fagan was found guilty of sexually assaulting two students at Strathclyde University in Glasgow, where the group had held an aftershow party following the MOBO Awards ceremony in the city in October last year. Although Fagan disputed their version of events (on the grounds that Glasgow is "hardly a haven for models"), the judge sided with the two students, who said that the drummer had invited them to join the party and then groped them.

Following the ruling at Glasgow Sheriff Court, Fagan was placed on the sex offenders register for six months and sacked from N-Dubz's touring band. He returned to court this week to receive his sentence.

In court, Fagan's defence advocate Paul McBride said that as a direct result the court case, the drummer was now struggling to survive, telling the judge: "As a result of the conviction he's no longer with the band that he had been with for a long period of time. He has also had great difficulty obtaining any work as a drummer as a result of the conviction. He was earning up to £3,000 a week but that has now come to an abrupt end and he's now applying for state benefits".

McBridge added that his client "fully withdraws" earlier claims that he was convicted purely because he is black.

Handing down the sentence, Sheriff Joanna Johnston told the musician: "Your behaviour that night towards these girls was wholly unacceptable. You clearly shocked and upset those young women. However, I have taken into account the fact that you did not persist when they asked you to stop and your actions fall to the lower end of this sort of offending".

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Lil Wayne will spend the rest of his prison sentence is solitary confinement, according to reports.

As previously reported, the rapper was locked up in March after pleading guilty to charges of gun possession, and is due to be released on 4 Nov. The month-long stay in solitary confinement is due to him being found with an MP3 player and headphones back in May. He will spend 23 hours a day in his cell under "punitive segregation", with a stroll around the recreation yard all on his own for an hour each day.

A spokesperson for the New York City Department Of Correction told MTV News: "It doesn't change his projected release date. It's a serous infraction because it's contraband, but it's not a weapon, and by comparison to a more violent infraction of the rules, like assaulting another inmate or an officer, [it's not as serious]".

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If you're not familiar with the career of lyricist, and one time artist manager and music plugger, Don Black, just take it from me, it's pretty darn impressive. Bond themes, Oscars, West End and Broadway hits, the only Michael Jackson song my mum likes and that eternal classic 'Born Free' - it's quite impressive for a man who originally intended to be a stand up comedian.

"I realised comedy was in my soul, but not my act", he joked to the audience at the BMI London Awards bash last night as he collected the BMI Icon trophy. "I wrote my first song during a stand up gig in Darlington, while I was waiting for a laugh".

The US collecting society's Icon Award is an exclusive prize previously given to the likes of Donovan, Peter Gabriel and Ray Davies. Black is the first winner to be a jobbing songwriter who doesn't perform his own work, meaning he will be less well known to the man on the street, even though his songs are legendary. Though, after a lengthy introduction to his career from BMI boss Del Bryant at last night's awards show, Black quipped "at least you won't need to Google me now".

Black's career obviously continues to this day. One of his more recent collaborators, Bond theme creator David Arnold took part in the tribute by leading an a capella version of Michael Jackson's 'Ben'. My mum would have been pleased.

Elsewhere at the London awards, the collecting society dished out a stack of gongs to UK and European songwriters it represents whose work received muchos airplay on American radio in 2009, a lot of it Euro-penned tracks performed by US R&B stars.

Prizes were also given to older songs that have recently reached airplay landmarks, such as Ray Davies' 'Lola', which has just passed the three million performances point, to the aforementioned 'Born Free' by Black and John Barry, that has now had five million plays, up to Sting's Police track 'Every Breath You Take', which has had a very massive and rather impressive ten million plays (though I suspect that includes plays of Diddy's 'I'll Be Missing You', though don't quote me on that, I forgot to ask).

At the start of the night Bryant reported that 2009 had been a good year for BMI, given the state of the music industry and wider economy, with a slight growth in profits. Though, he said, these were still tricky times. Alluding to recent US court rulings that have limited efforts by BMI and rival American collecting society ASCAP to expand the definition of performing rights in the digital domain, he said "It's been tough defending our member's rights this year, but no expense will be spared in ensuring our songwriters get what they are due [from new digital services]".

Black was more philosophical about the challenges of the digital era. "It's no surprise internet companies struggle to put a price on our music", he mused. "When you get it right, a song is priceless".

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It seems Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber are always trying to beat each other to a million somethings on the internet, now they've stepped it up by both edging ever closer to a billion total plays each for all their videos on YouTube.

According to Billboard, Lady Gaga is currently receiving 1.8 million plays per day, and set to pass the billion plays milestone on 20 Oct, while Bieber looks set to reach it on 1 Nov, but scored 3.7 million views per day last month.

I think these stats only relate to videos on the stars' official accounts, so you can watch this video safe in the knowledge that you're not upping Bieber's tally: youtu.be/0e50vqY7Szo

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Kanye West has announced that his forthcoming new album will be called 'My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy'. What's more, he totally fooled us by making us initially think it was going to be called 'Good Ass Job'. Which is a silly title. Not like the awesome real title.

West tweeted yesterday: "The official album title is and always was... 'My Beautiful Bark Twisted Fantasy'".

He added that some of the tracks on the new album have been among those already released for free as part of his label's GOOD Fridays programme, and that a recent leak of an unfinished version of one of his new songs, 'All Of The Lights', would not impact on the final record's tracklist.

In West's own words: "Yes, some of the 'GOOD Fridays' will be on the album ... I ain't letting no leaks have any affect on my song choices... 'All Of The Lights' is the next single but wait till y'all hear the final [version]!"

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Dubstep producer The Bug has announced a new EP entitled 'Infected'. Due to be released by Ninja Tune on 15 Nov, it will be released on two twelve-inches and feature reworked versions of two tracks from his 2008 album, 'London Zoo'.

The first rework sees King Midas Sound vocalist Hitomi add new vocals to 'Skeng', renaming it 'Catch A Fire' and turning it into something far less obviously confrontational, though at the same time losing none of the dark analysis of London that filled the original track, and 'London Zoo' as a whole. Next, Roots Manuva lends his vocals to a new version of 'Poison Dart', renamed 'Tune In', again changing the feel of the track totally from the original.

Following that, on the second twelve-inch, the original versions of both tracks get the remix treatment, the former from Autechre and the latter from Scratch DVA.

Watch the video for 'Catch A Fire' here: youtu.be/b-sSqMsckgM

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Hervé has announced the second compilation from his Cheap Thrills label, featuring a collection of singles released this year by some of dance music's hottest producers, including Jack Beats, Fake Blood, and Hervé himself.

The two disc set will be released on 7 Nov. The full tracklist is as follows:

Disc 1: Unmixed
Jack Beats - Revolution
Lone - Pineapple Crush (Manchester Warehouse VIP)
Reset! - Bouncy Train
Donovans - Housequake
Voodoo Chilli - Love Songs
Fake Blood - I Think I Like It
Rufio - Hot Rod
Hervé - Zombies
Speakerjunk - We Can Be
Jack Beats - Out Of Body (VIP)
Herve - Blaze It (Reset! Remix)
Trevor Loveys - Fussin
Baxta - Mr Sinister
Detboi - Voices In Heaven
Baxta - Neon Lights
CRST - Keep Holding On

Disc 2: Mixed By Hervé
Jack Beats - Revolution
Franzy Scanner - Twister
Detboi - I Am
Donovans - Housequake
Rufio - Hot Rod
Voodoo Chilli - Love Songs
Fake Blood - I Think I Like It
Reset! - We're Dead
Hervé - Blaze It (Reset! Remix)
Trevor Loveys - Fussin
Hervé - Together
Speaker Junk - We Can Be
Baxta - Mr Sinister
Speaker Junk - We Can Be (Baxta Remix)
Detboi - Voices In Heaven
Baxta - Neon Nights

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Amy Winehouse performed live for the first time (I think) since 2008 on Monday night, when she put in a surprise appearance at Camden pub The Hawley Arms' monthly charity gig. She played a six song set, which included some new tracks possibly taken from her long-in-production new album.

The night's organiser Izzy Lawrence told the BBC: "Amy just whispered to me, 'I know I'm not on the line-up but do you mind if I play?' Obviously I wasn't going to say no and she got up and played and it was amazing. [The new material is] quite upbeat, quite funky, very soulful. I think this is going to be massive. If those songs are going to be on the new album, it's going to be huge".

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Currently finishing work on their second album, 'Pedals', the follow-up to their 2001 debut 'United By Fate', Rival Schools have announced that they will release a new single and play a one-off London show in November.

The single, 'Shot After Shot', will be released by Warner/Atlantic/Photo Finish on 14 Nov, and you can then catch them playing live at the Hoxton Bar & Kitchen in London on 16 Nov.

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Austrian solo artist Soap&Skin, aka Anja Plaschg, has announced that she will play another one-off show at London's Union Chapel on 18 Oct. Plaschg last played a show at the venue, her first with a full chamber ensemble, in February

Tickets are available now, more info from www.soapandskin.com.

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Music Ally has been having a nosey at the Companies House financial filings of UK-based digital music service We7. The digital music website reports that, although 2009 saw a big growth in profile and user-base for We7, the flat advertising market meant the company made a loss after tax of £3.66 million on a turnover of £361,081. The firm's backers pumped another £2.6 million into the venture in January and April.

A note in the company report observes: "The market conditions, the collapse of the banking sector and the on-going nervousness of the music industry made the advertising sector particularly susceptible to reductions of budgets and ordering through 'safe havens'. The net result of that meant that building sales pipelines and closing revenue was a particular challenge during the year... The overall sales delivery was not as strong during 2009 as We7 would have liked".

But the report concludes that things are looking up, and 2010 saw an early uplift in ad revenues. Of course, the business models, licensing deals and financial performance of most digital music services are shrouded in secrecy, though We7 CEO Steve Purdham has generally been more candid than most, and has openly admitted that making streaming services pay - whether through advertising or subscriptions - is no easy task.

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Those crazy guys and lovely girls over at Sony Music have only gone and launched a classical music download store, who'd have thought it possible?

Called Ariama, the new US-based service will sell classical tracks from the Sony catalogue, as well as a number of other major and independent record labels, though not Universal. Tracks will be available as high quality MP3s or in the FLAC format, and the site will also have editorial content from, among other sources, Gramophone and the BBC Music Magazine. Despite the British editorial feeds, there are no details as yet on international roll out plans for the new download store, which is currently limited to American users.

Says Sony's tip top digital dude, Tommy Hesse: "We are thrilled to announce the beta launch of Ariama.com. We think classical consumers are an important under-served segment of the music buying population, and we have designed Ariama as the answer for fans experiencing an increasingly difficult time finding compelling retail options for classical CDs and downloads. As a company that is home to one of the world's richest classical music libraries, Sony Music understands the unique requirements of the classical music consumer, and we have tailored Ariama to meet them".

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Twitter co-founder Evan Williams has commented on his decision to step down as the social networking firm's CEO. He announced earlier this week he'll take a new product development role at the company, leaving COO Dick Costolo, brought in to help with business development last year, to take on the CEO job. The move has been seen by some as a sign priorities at the micro-blogging giant have now fully shifted from building user base to generating revenue.

Writing on his blog earlier this week, Williams said: "Growing big is no success, in itself. Success to us means meeting our potential as a profitable company that can retain its culture and user focus while having a positive impact on the world. This is no small task. I frequently reflect on the type of focus that is required from everyone at Twitter to get us there".

He added: "I am most satisfied while pushing product direction. Building things is my passion, and I've never been more excited or optimistic about what we have to build. During his year at Twitter, [Costolo] has been a critical leader in devising and executing our revenue efforts, while simultaneously and effectively making the trains run on time in the office".

As previously reported, Twitter is slowly introducing advertising elements to its service in order to generate sustainable revenue streams, but how successful that proves to be long term remains to be seen. Some reckon Costolo will actually be as involved in making Twitter ready for a big sale, or possibly a flotation, as he will in actually launching new revenue streams, though arguably those are one and the same thing.

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Losses were up at UK rock radio network Absolute in 2009, as revenues sank, though bosses at the radio firm say they are optimistic about the future. The ongoing advertising recession coupled with a decline in RAJAR listening figures impacted on Absolute's ad income, with revenues falling £7.2 million resulting in £4.3 million in losses, up from £2.65 million in 2008.

But, two years on from the former Virgin Radio changing hands and name, Absolute bosses insist the future is looking rosey. CEO Donnach O'Driscoll: "The heavy lifting is now behind us. We look forward to building on the strong growth shown in the most recent audience figures and we are optimistic about 2011". He added that ad revenues for last month were up 20% year on year.

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A guy from Seattle has set up an online campaign to raise $10 million which, he reckons, will be enough to convince Weezer to never make another record ever again.

James Burns admits that he's never had much time for the American indie band, but says that he has lots of friend who are fans but who, he claims, are consistently disappointed with each new Weezer release, none of which ever live up to the band's seminal 1996 album 'Pinkerton'.

He writes on the money raising site: "I have never been a fan of this band. I think that they are pretty much horrible, and always have been. But this isn't about me. This is about the Weezer fans. They are our brothers and sisters, our friends, our lovers. Every year, Rivers Cuomo swears that he's changed, and that their new album is the best thing that he's done since 'Pinkerton', and what happens? Another pile of crap like 'Beverly Hills' or 'I'm Your Daddy'".

He continues: "This is an abusive relationship, and it needs to stop now. I am tired of my friends being disappointed year after year. I am tired of endless whimsical cutesy album covers and music videos. I'm sick of hearing about whatever this terrible (and yes, even if you like the early stuff, you should be able to admit that they are wretched now) excuse for a band is up to these days. If all 852,000 of you (really?) who bought 'Pinkerton' pitch in $12, we will meet our goal. I beg you, Weezer. Take our money and disappear".

While I think it's pretty uncontroversial to say Weezer aren't quite the band they were fifteen years ago, it seems few actually want Cuomo and co to bugger off completely. Despite mounting media coverage for his campaign, Burns is still $9,999,840 off from achieving his target. Though that's possibly because even if he did, who's to say the Weezer boys would be willing to take early retirement even for ten mill?

But if you do want to pledge your support for the shut up Weezer campaign, here's the link:

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John Mayer has told his fans that he's shut down his Twitter account - closing a direct link to some 3.7 million fans - because he's decided the micro-blogging platform is just one big distraction stopping him, and others, from pursuing their art... maaaaaaaaan.

Mayer writes: "Since the invocation of Twitter, nobody who has participated in it has created any lasting art. And yes! Yours truly is included in that round-up as well. No artwork created by someone with a healthy grasp of social media thus far has proven to be anything other than disposable. I'm not knocking Twitter for those who are trying to make a name for themselves... but for those who have already established themselves it's a slow erosion of the artistic notion".

In fact, the American guitar man reckons the whole social media phenomenon is bad news for the art of music. He continues: "You want to know the best way a musician can start making shit music? If they start referring to themselves as a 'brand'. Jif peanut butter is a brand. A singer is a soul. When you convert your art into the art of real-time brand management, I suddenly have no more interest in it... I'm not a brand, and I don't refer to myself in the third person. I'm a dude who plays guitar and writes songs. When I'm done writing and recording them I will market them".

He's probably got a good point there, you know (though I'm not sure enough time has yet passed to say that no one who uses the site has created any lasting art). But given he recently admitted to starting many a day by logging on to some online porn - "There have probably been days when I saw 300 vaginas before I got out of bed" - it's possibly not Twitter that's distracting him from all that music making.

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According to The Sun, Johnny Marr has blocked Harry Hill from releasing a medley of Smiths songs on his forthcoming comedy album. The tabloid reports that Hill had recorded excerpts of a number of the band's hits in a George Formby style.

The blow comes after Island Records reportedly refused to allow Hill to call his album either 'Sgt Pepper's Volume 2' or 'Bright Side Of The Moon'.

A source of some sort said: "He's already on his third choice of album title and now Johnny's had a sense of humour bypass".

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Business Editor &
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