On Friday 12th September, I will be playing my last ever show with Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. After 10 years, Sam Duckworth is calling this project a day.
And boy oh boy, what a ride it has been.
I first met Sam back in 2002. I was 17, playing trumpet in a Southend ska band called Cisco in the Aquarium. The Southend music scene was incredibly healthy back then, with bands like The Filaments, The Big and my band Cisco leading the charge for ska punk, and bands like Engerica, Resin and Smother putting Southend rock and hardcore on the map.
It was inevitable that mine and Sam’s paths would cross. Sam was a fresh faced 16 year old playing in a band called Silverskin (it’s hard to find Silverskin online, but in Sam’s own words: they ripped off Rival Schools. Lots).
Even at this age, I knew there was more to this kid that met the eye. He had an infectious passion for hardcore/emo/rock that was hard to match. Here was someone that not only believed in his own band, but believed in the scene that they were contributing to.
He would regularly put on shows at Southend Chinnerys under his ‘Emotion is Dead’ promotion. Unlike other promoters, who would put on shows just to make a quick buck, Sam’s nights always brought brilliant acts from across the country, then giving local talent a credible platform alongside these artists. The bands and the venue would always get paid, even if it was at a loss to him.
Silverskin eventually called it a day, and in 2004, I got a call out of the blue from Sam, saying he wanted some trumpet on a track for his ‘random acoustic project’. Happy to oblige, I went round to his bedroom studio set up and recorded brass for what would be the fifth track on his self titled debut EP.
He invited me to play a couple of shows too under his ‘Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly’ moniker. It certainly got people talking. Sam used all his networking contacts he’d gained from his Silverskin days to get his acoustic one man band set up onto hardcore shows around the country. It was fresh and exciting. At this stage, no one had done this. Let alone get away with it.
The brass was going down very well at live shows, so Sam continued to get me on more tracks, and play more live shows. Sam had been offered a place at uni, but decided to give Get Cape a crack for at least a year (thanks to the support of Kevin from Big Scary Monsters, who picked up Sam early on, beating pretty much every label who would go on to show interest).
Sam went on to gig everywhere. Just him, his guitar, his laptop, his rucksack, and every now and then I would also tag along. We were always skint, but hell we were always happy. We met and toured with the most amazing people in those early days. Going around the country with the likes of SecondSmile, Frank Turner and TANAOU, we were all in the same boat.
Sam was more than just a good friend though. Sam was only 19 years old, but he was the one who introduced me to Fairtrade products. Back in 2005, Fairtrade was not in the mainstream as much as it is today. Our riders would always be Fairtrade, our T-shirts would always be Fairtrade. At the time, it blew my mind that farmers were getting a bad cut of the produce they were providing, or that there was a scheme in place that could help them.
Even at this young age, Sam was someone who fought for what he believed in. He’d try and influence and educate people around him.
My band Cisco broke up in 2005, and I’d just graduated from The British Academy of New Music. I was at a crossroads in my life. I knew I had to do music for a living, but how I could do this seemed incredibly daunting. I didn’t know what else I could do. I just wasn’t wired for your usual 9-5.
Regardless, I carried on playing with Sam. And the shows started getting bigger. The fan base started growing. This culminated in getting picked to be on the bill for Taste of Chaos at Brixton Academy, sharing the stage with Funeral For A Friend, The Used and Killswitch Engage. We played 3 songs bundled to the right side of the stage, but you still couldn’t take that away from us.
I was 20 years old, and I’d just played to 5,000 people at Brixton Academy. What a rush!
The momentum started to build, and major labels started to show legitimate interest in Sam’s creation. Until one day early in 2006, Sam called me to say he was signing with Atlantic Records, and wondered if I’d like to do this full time.
Get paid to make music for a living? Obviously I snapped his beak off!
What followed was 8 years of some of the most incredible experiences of my life to date. One by one I started ticking achievements off my bucket list at an alarming rate. Headlining The Astoria, Playing the Main Stage at Reading Festival and Glastonbury, Radio 1 Live Lounge, a silver disc on my wall, appearing in TV shows, supporting The Flaming Lips and Billy Bragg, it was mental.
The bigger platform meant that Sam could dedicate lots of time to organisations like Love Music Hate Racism, as well as doing countless work for Oxfam and other worthy charities.
He helped integrate Fairtrade into everyday lifestyle trends, and was one of the unsung heroes in getting this into the mainstream. Soon people like Kate Nash were copying Sam’s Fairtrade merchandise ideology.
The whole thing was (and still is) inspiring to be part of.
Playing at the highest level also improved my skill as a professional session player at a fast rate too. To this day, I still get lots of session work. I’ve done session work for The Walkmen, Tubelord and I currently play with the mighty Youth Club. All these things would not have been possible had it not been for the incredible opportunity that my friend Sam presented to me 8 years ago. It’s also given me the opportunity to make money through back line tech work and tour merchandise vending. The networking contacts I’ve personally gained have been invaluable to being able to stay part of the music industry.
This is of course not the end for Sam Duckworth. Having headlined the Leftfield Tent at Glastonbury with Sam last year, his new solo stuff is a fantastic experience, and I will still be active with that whenever I can. But for Sam, it is time to end this chapter of this life. And for me, it really is the end of an era.
I’ve met the most fantastic people from around the UK on this journey, people who I will call best friends for life. I’ve seen the entire UK, lots of Europe, and had the most incredible adventures throughout these crazy 10 years.
I am incredibly lucky and privileged to have lived such a crazy lifestyle with Sam and the rest of the band: Andy Theakstone, Gavin Fitzjohn, Jamie Allen, Tom Pinder, Jay Malhotra, Ben Watson, Toby Hayes, Pete Fraser, Chris Bradshaw and Tim Oliver. What a joy it has been to be able to play with such fantastic musicians day in and day out. I learnt so much from all of them.
Also massive big ups to all the fantastic crew who have always supported us, most notably, Adam Mencykowski, James Clayton, Ed Warren, Dennis Brown, John ‘Twofold’ Hayler, Adam Carr, Dave Swallow and Alex Oakley. There are so many more on top of that too. The great labels we’ve worked with, the unbelievable bands and artists we’ve had the honour to work with. If I listed them all, I’d be typing for days and days.
I can honestly say that being in Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly has single handedly defined who I am today. It brought me out of my shell, and gave me the confidence to believe in myself, my ability and my convictions. Personally I cannot thank Sam enough for being responsible for completely changing my life for the better.
Sam Duckworth ladies and gentlemen. The best boss in the world. My best friend. Come and see us play for the very final time at Kentish Town Forum on 12th September. It really will be one the most emotional gigs I will ever be part of! Kleenex at the ready!
“I’ll be just fine, so here’s to moving forward”.
Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. 2004-2014. Keep singing out, keep singing loud! x