Some stories just write themselves. That sounded quite good but then I wrote it and I think we all know it didn’t write itself so I’m going to start again.
What I maybe mean is that some stories just sort of happen – instead of just running aground, the next episode comes along and things keep rumbling along. They never reach a conclusion and you kind of never want them to.
A good story needs a twisty turny plot, some surreal elements, music and a cool cast. This one involves David Lynch, Gerardo Camacho a coffee farmer from Costa Rica, a cartoon version of me with a soundtrack from Edwyn Collins, Nick Heyward and Roddy Frame. It even got made into a film.
Where did it start? As befits this something this odd, it started with a tweet.
I was the new kid on on the Twitter block and I wasn’t sure what it was for – I kind of had me a broken down MySpace that had fallen into disrepair, a Facebook that had seen better days and I was hearing about this new thing that was taking the world by storm – you could like send a picture of what you were about to eat and people would look at it. Lattes seemed to be high on the list of what people wanted other people to know that they had in front of them.
I had 4,000 people knowing what I was going to say and it was going up each day – I was letting people know about gigs and what the weather was where I was but I thought there should be more to it. But what? That bit I didn’t know. So far, so non story with no characters.
Then came the Tweet:
“Morning tweets x coffee?”
Boom! That was it. It was 7am and people were about to go about their day and a hundred people reacted.
“Yes please mate, send us one to Preston, got a ceiling to plaster and am running late”
“Konnichiwa from Tokyo Timcka, cappuccino for me”
That kind of thing – I wasn’t sure what it was but it sure was something.
A few people asked about music and gigs but it was the coffee Tweet each morning that would get a big reaction. The numbers grew and it became surreally unreally real – each morning there’d be a song, the breakfast banger – from The Fall to Two Fingers to Jim O Rourke – songs that people knew, songs that they didn’t.
It was kind of like an inverse version of The Emperor’s New Clothes – nobody pointed out there was no actual caffeine and nobody burst the bubble. It was metaphysical and metaphorical and it was a daily routine.
It needed a name. Tim Peaks was born. We got a logo. We made some mugs – all 48 snapped up in an hour. We made some more. They went too. This carried on until we’d sold over 500. £5,000 – all for charity. Kind of made me scratch my head and wonder what was going on.
We started listening parties for all The Charlatans’ albums – hundreds of people in dozens of countries pressing play/ dropping the needle on an album, all the same time. From Argentina to Kyoto via a bloke in his car in his garage in Kettering as he only had Some Friendly on cassette and no tape player in the house.
The numbers went over 8,000 and BBC 6Music rang – they asked me to do shows on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve with an hour being done from Tim Peaks. It was becoming more real but we still didn’t know what it really was.
Tim Peaks on Twitter was taking up to an hour each morning – the jukebox was real enough. 18,000 people getting the chosen records in their feed by the end of last year.
The shutters came down on the tweety Tim Peaks with plans being plotted – the time I’d saved each morning was now invested in making the whole thing from the metaphysical to the physical and the metaphorical to the, er, phorical.
I’d played at a brilliant festival called Kendal Calling in The Lake District and they called offering us the most perfect log cabin that for three days this summer became Tim Peaks for real. Real jukebox, real diner booths, real everything. Even down to our own blend of coffee. I was summoned to Glasgow by a coffee roaster and questions were asked, thoughts were shared, beans were ground and blended and after a day of slurping and some spitting out we’d made it. Tim Peaks Coffee was real and it was fantastic.
We got us a gang together and invited some friends together. Over the three days we served over 1,000 cups of Tim Peaks Coffee, 800 cups of Yorkshire Tea – they sent their tea van Little Urn with a present of freebie tea bags and love. Cherry Pie? Check. Hot Vimto? Check. Afternoon tea? Check. Our very own Kellogg’s breakfast cereal. Er, yeah, like, check.
In amongst the Tweets there was one that had a bigger impact that the others. I’d been out in Manchester and heard some hipster kid use the newspeak phrase ‘Totes Amazeballs’ – it sounded like something Willy Wonka would come out with. The sugariest sweet confection you could ever imagine. So I staked a claim for the name. I Tweeted that I’d invented a breakfast cereal with that name. That it was fantastic and that Kellogg’s had been in touch and they were interested in making it.
Except, of course, they weren’t. But then, of course they were – a box was designed and a recipe was come up with and especially for the festival Totes Amazeballs would be served. 400 bowls of them.The story of the cereal seemed to take over the world for one day back in February. Like a disaster movie where you see the impending doom reported on a TV in lots of different languages, we had bemused phone calls from Japan and India – radio shows in Australia and Canada. Features in Rolling Stone, The Metro, The Daily Mail and on TV stations in Spain and France were calling to ask about the cereal. Surreal indeed. I was kind of getting used to what Twitter could do.
So, we couldn’t just give this stuff away, for fear of being Lynched – no pun intended – by the stall holders who shell out hard earned cash to sell their goodies at festivals. Nope, but we definitely couldn’t keep it. The story was so nuts and so pure that we had to think of a suitable place to benefit.
It didn’t take more than a minute to decide. We’d kind of borrowed the name from David Lynch and I’d done some work for his foundation and the story was as far fetched as some of his own. The log cabin at Kendal Calling could have come straight out of Twin Peaks. So this was writing itself. Except, you know that I just wrote that.
At the festival we had the Wurlitzer jukebox loaded up with the songs we’d be playing on twitter and some of the original Tim Peaks customers came and drank the coffee for real. DJ Yoda, Maximo Park, James and Th Inspiral Carpets stopped by for a cuppa. We said we’d close at 10pm each night but things were still swinging at 3am the next morning.
Kyle from The View did an hour of cover versions, Nick Heyward was a revelation – we only knew him from Twitter – and he brought about an amazing singalong that 250 people crammed into a log cabin will never forget. Did I do a set? Well I could hardly not – Edwyn Collins and Roddy Frame had both showed up and Aztec Camera and Orange Juice classics were keeping everyone going. I did a half hour of stripped down Charlatans’ set and then Roddy, Edwyn and me finished the whole thing off with a rendition of A Girl Like You.
When the weekend was over, we knew it couldn’t be over. It was like Pandora’s box, but the box was full of good things – like rainbows or something. Anyway, it was open.
We had our own coffee. It was the most amazing Fairtrade blend. We got messages from the farms and farmers who were supplying the beans – this unreal reality had now hit Ethiopia, Uganda and Costa Rica.
We sent Tim Peaks Coffee to some friends and twitter lit up with rave reviews from superstar DJ Erol Alkan, crime writer Ian Rankin, BBC 6 Music’s Lauren Laverne, Sunday Brunch’s Tim Lovejoy, footballer Gary Neville and Coronation Street’s Antony Cotton. The first time all those people have featured on one list, surely
News travelled fast about Tim Peaks at Kendal Calling. Like, they so obviously asked us to do it again and we so agreed. Earlier that Summer I’d done a book reading – yeah, I’ve got a book out, I just don’t go on about it. Telling Stories. Penguin 15 quid – anyway, I’d been reading from my best selling autobiography that Q Magazine had said was ‘like the best parts of all the best rock memoirs rolled into one’.
The point is that I was reading it at The Isle of Wight Festival in their Last Chance Saloon venue, a cross between a victorian ballroom, a hall of mirrors and a Wall of Death at a fairground. This is getting confusing but you’ve kind of guessed it anyway. Yep, they offered us The Last Chance Saloon at The Isle of Wight to have as Tim Peaks in 2013. And there’s more. Festival Number 6, the most psychedelic mediterranean fishing village, film set of a festival invited us too for 2013. Naturally we accepted these invitations and we might just see you there next year.
The Tweets carry on and there’s 45,000 people now – I’m reading this in Richard Dreyfuss’s voice, like at the end of Stand by Me. Or maybe Morgan Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption. I was never good at impressions and I can’t tell who it sounds like. Maybe Ronnie Corbett
Can you go to Tim Peaks now you say?
Why, sure you can.