MJ Hibbett & The Validators have performed live on Radio One, had a Record Of The Year in Rolling Stone, an Album Of The Day on 6Music, released one of the first ever viral videos, toured the UK and Europe, featured in an Edinburgh Fringe Festival show, and recorded a science fiction rock opera, all while maintaining their complete independence from outside record labels. They've had a bloody good time doing it too.
The band were formed in 1999 when MJ Hibbett recruited Tim Pattison from indie rock legends Prolapse on drums and Frankie Machine on bass to record a single, 'Born With The Century'. They enjoyed it so much they went on to record a whole album, 'Say It With Words', which featured the first ever internet single 'Hey Hey 16K'.
They were joined in 2000 by Tom McClure on violin and then by Emma Pattison on backing vocals. Emma's first 'gig' with the group was at her own wedding, singing a song she and MJ had written as a surprise for her husband Tim.
Their next album, 'This Is Not A Library' was named 'Record Of The Year' in 2003 by Rolling Stone's Well Hung At Dawn column. Even now, none of the band are quite sure how this happened.
In 2004 'Hey Hey 16K' became one of the world's first viral hits, when Rob Manuel of b3ta.com created a video for it. It had over two million downloads in its first fortnight of release and became an international phenomenon, was featured on television and in print all over the world and was even played at that year's Gay Pride festival in London.
Shortly after that Steve Lamacq invited MJ to become his show's European Football Championship correspondent, writing a new song every week. He returned to the show at Christmas to perform 'The Advent Calendar Of FACT' written specially for the occasion.
The next year The Validators released a 'Rest Of' compilation, 'Warriors Of Nanpantan' and MJ was approached by a major publisher to write his rock memoirs. Unfortunately the editor in charge was fired (for coming up with stupid ideas for books) before any contracts could be signed, but the stories collected would come in useful later on.
The band's third studio album, 'WE VALIDATE!', was released in 2006 to rave reviews and radio play. Artrocker called it '2006's most worthwhile album', The Morning Star said it was 'a manifesto for living' and The Word said 'MJ Hibbett should be a national institution'. The Validators performed a live Maida Vale session for Radio One and then headed out on a ten date national tour. Steve Lamacq played the session version of 'The Lesson Of The Smiths' as the last song on his final Lamacq Live show, which helped it get to number 41 in that year's Festive Fifty.
MJ played sixty gigs in 2007, including a storming Validators' set at Indietracks in Derbyshire and an appearance supporting Echo & The Bunnymen on ukelele at the Cornbury Festival. Ukeleles became a theme as he produced his first proper solo album, 'A Million Ukeleles', featuring Phil Wilson of The June Brides on banjo and mandolin. This limited edition album sold out within a fortnight, and tracks were played on Radio One, XFM, Dandelion, and various BBC local stations.
There were even more gigs - seventy two - over the course of 2008, including a highly successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe with the autobiographical show 'My Exciting Life In ROCK', based on the stories MJ had collected for his aborted autobiography.
In 2009 The Validators released 'Regardez, Ecoutez Et Repetez', the first record by an 'unsigned' band to be featured as Album Of The Day on BBC 6Music. They went on a self-booked national tour and were delighted to have their single 'My Boss Was In An Indie Band' make it into the lower reaches of the Dandelion Radio Festive 50.
While all that was happening MJ was back at the Edinburgh Fringe with a new show called 'Dinosaur Planet'. In 2010 he re-worked it into a two-man show which he and his friend Steve Hewitt took back to the Fringe and the toured around the country. Meanwhile The Validators had gone into the studio to start recording the show as a full-cast rock opera, a project which would take over two years of hard work to fully realise.
Never one to take time off, MJ wrote a new show for the 2011 Fringe, 'Moon Horse vs The Mars Men Of Jupiter'. Radio One described him and Steve, aptly, as 'like two drunk Dads at a barbecue', and once more the show took off on tour around the UK. Their final sell-out shows at the Leicester Comedy Festival were released as a series of podcasts, downloaded by thousands of fans.
The album 'Dinosaur Planet' was finally completed in late 2011 and released in early 2012. It was launched with a mini-tour of Germany and a gala show in London featuring most of the cast. Realising that the traditional music press might not be quite ready for an hour long science fiction rock opera concept album about space dinosaurs they reached out to the science and science fiction world, and had rave reviews in publications as diverse as The Smithsonian Magazine, SFX, The Word, The Chartered Institute Of Library Professionals' Magazine, Comics Alliance and The Peterborough Evening Telegraph. A string of videos went online, generating thousands of hits, and the band found themselves with a whole new following of under-10s who discovered it through their parents and YouTube.