Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Strange Times

Strange times in the big wide world, and strange times in the tiny personal one too. I got a lot done in the studio yesterday, but also had a very tearful moment at the end of one of the songs I was recording and had to take a sadness break.
When I got home I was so exhausted I slept for twelve hours; I'd been planning on doing a lot of academic writing this morning but ended up going for a long walk to wake myself up, which culminated in possibly the worst curry and chips that has ever graced a plate.
Or rather, disgraced a plate.
Afterwards, I did manage to finish the piece of writing (but had to miss out a fave price of research, which just didn't seem to fit in anywhere), and also do a bit of rehearsing for the Indietracks festival this weekend, where I'm due to do an unplugged set which means getting to grips with the difficult guitar that fights back when I try to play it. Trains and music- what could be better?
Gradually, I'm realising that I have to start to build up my own musical world again.
On another musical note, I was mortified to be too late to get tickets for The Zombies at The Water Rats. How come I didn't know about it?

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Writing About Gender In Recording

I have just spent two hours working on an academic article about gender in recording studios. As usual, I've gone over the beginning time and time again, but now have to move on from that into the middle part and most importantly, the end. Deadline, this weekend!
It is so very difficult to try to maintain any sort of objectivity when you're writing something like this. It needs to be readable by everyone, and I'm only human. As I write, angry steam comes out of my ears (luckily, not any other orifice) and neutral words must flow onto the page. It's important that a person who has been inside the music industry writes an article like this, but it's difficult to be scientific when all sorts of what-ifs, and memories of being frustrated by the lack of say in what I've recorded, come knocking at the door.
Despite the obvious empowerment of artists like Grimes, there's still a trail of people (actually, both male and female) who walk into a studio with their own vision and walk out having been buried under someone else's. That's the story of so many musicians' lives.
Two hours is a long time to be staring at a computer. I need to stop and have some headspace; I'll start again early tomorrow morning.
All that being said, I'm looking forward to going into the studio this afternoon to re-record some vocals and a guitar part that could be better. I feel so comfortable in recording studios: there is a feeling of continuity in there. Life has been fractured so many times, but somehow writing songs and recording them has provided a reassuring thread that seems to make sense of it all. 
See you later, crocodiles.

Monday, July 25, 2016

I Haven't Posted Something Boring

You're so lucky- I almost posted something incredibly boring just then, but didn't.
Here is something interesting for you: the new issue of Making Waves Zine will be available from the 1st of August.
I wrote an obituary for the lovely Vi Subversa for them. Keep an eye on this link to see when it's ready to download:

O Students....

O studnets, when you submit your work to be marked, please put your student numbers on it. It takes me twice as long to do if I have to mark it, and then go searching for your numbers so I can input the marks into the data system. You may be sunbathing, but I am not.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Indietracks Next Weekend

Next weekend I'm heading up to glorious Derbyshire to play at Indietracks. I have a new track on their compilation album, available here:

The Smartees at The Vault in Brighton

I pinched this from DJ Gremlin just now. I had completely forgotten that The Smartees had played in the Vault. He reckons this was 1978 and already we had stopped looking punky; by later on that year we'd split up. I remember wondering what to do with myself, then Carl came round and asked me to be in a band with him. I was shocked that anyone thought I was good enough on bass to want to be in a band with. He had already set one of my poems to music- Food. That's commitment!
Left to right: me and my Jedsen bass that I spent my BSA Bantam money on, Steve and his matching Jedsen guitar (both cream with white scratch plate), Carl with his red plastic guitar, and Tracy.
Joby (vocals) and Ricky (drums) are both missing. We always used to have loads of people come on stage and sing the songs with us.

The Mischievous Woman At The Party

''I've never eaten mussels before", remarked the Perfectly Nice Man at the party to the Mischievous Woman.
"Ah, they're very like jacket potatoes" she advised.
"First you eat the insides, and then you eat the shell".

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Blackbird

I think if someone told me this, I might not believe them, but it's completely true and I've just come in from the back yard to write it down.
I was feeling a bit down and hemmed in by the barbecues, the barking dogs, the lawn mowers: so I decided to take my acoustic guitar outside and make some of my own noise to mark out my own territory.
As I was pickin' away I heard a thump on the wooden fence just beside me and it was a blackbird landing; it peered at me from side to side with its little beady eyes as I was playing.
I carried on because I thought that it might fly off if I stopped and I segued a few tunes into each other so it could see that I wasn't a threat- and then it started singing along! Not normal blackbird territory song, but funny little chirrups, looking at me all the time as though it was trying to size me up, and listening to the guitar.
We sat there side by side making music for about fifteen minutes, until it hopped down in front of me and went to look for worms in one of the plant pots.
What a lovely way to spend Friday evening. It kind of reminded me of years ago when I had a neat little orange canary that used to sing beautifully when I did the vacuuming- except that wasn't quite so flattering!
I'm going out there tomorrow evening: same time, same place, to sit on the bench and see if it comes back to join me again. Me on guitar, blackbird on vocals.


You might have to look quite carefully, but here is some hope, springing eternal.

Dom Flemons' Music Workshop at Cecil Sharp House

First break of the morning and it's coffee time. I'm catching up on She-Punks admin this morning and the kettle is on.

What a treat last night- I'd discovered that Dom, who was one third of the amazing North Carolina jug band The Carolina Chocolate Drops, was playing a gig at Cecil Sharp House and I logged on to buy a ticket- then saw the workshop and decided to do that instead. I run lots of workshops and barely attend any, apart for the guitar workshops that Martin runs, and I thought it would be a great experience to go along especially because of the promise to teach us how to play bones.

It was a sweltering evening but Dom was a genial and gracious host; he talked about his way of playing and how it links into a good performance; he showed us some licks on both guitar and banjo, recommended books to read and music to listen to, and then finally distributed sets of bones, made in Vermont, and taught us all how to clickety clack in unison in a response to him.
I wasn't the worst (that's my way of saying that I was almost the worst), but it was really good fun and I reckon at least five people are going to take it up seriously after last night.
After a bit of prompting, Dom set off on a real bit of showmanship, showing us many different ways of creating rhythms with one hand, two hands.. could it be three?
With the speed of a juggler, he played 20s jazz rhythms, proto-spoons rhythms, all sorts of different styles and techniques. He told us about a chauffeur he'd met who had taken up the bones after seeing the Chocolate Drops and who had a set tucked into the top pocket of his uniform and did an impromptu demo for him in the street. Dom said that playing bones taught him an entirely different approach to playing guitar and banjo. It's a great sound: when it's done properly it sounds like tap-dancing.
I should have taken a photograph, shouldn't I? But it wasn't that sort of evening.
At the end, we had the opportunity to buy a set of bones and/or a CD and I didn't have enough money for both- although I did have an Anarchy Skiffle CD for him. He offered a CD swap, so I now have a set of bones and my poor neighbour will have to listen to a very strange clicking coming through the wall.
Good luck with the rest of the tour Dom, and thanks for a great evening!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

1-2-3 (Not Angela Though)

Drawing again, after a really long break from it. I could not concentrate, but also was writing songs.

MOT Pass!

Good old car, you get a reprieve: the thing that makes you stall at roundabouts is going to be fixed, you get taxed for another six months and you get to take the Offsprogs to Scotland via Geordieland in September.
One less thing to worry about; I can't handle trying to buy a new car at the moment.
I started drawing an eagle last night, which was a relief because I haven't been able to draw anything for a long time. It was the feathers and flight that did it, and finding some nice paper and more importantly, a cool pen.
Even before 7 a.m. it's hot. The plants are panting (planting?) and gasping, and looking pleadingly with their little beady eyes.
'Waarter! Waarter!', they moan.
Ok, ok, guys let me drink tea, tea and then I will water, water you, you thirsty blighters!
Lazily, I'd hoped for a thunderstorm last night to do the job for me but God wasn't playing, and so it's up to me again to soak the soil.
Pity I can't bribe the flies or the snails to do the job for me: now why don't scientists spend a bit of time working on that instead of making nuclear weapons or rocketing to Mars?
Just imagine: plant-watering plagues of locusts to rehydrate the desert, or snails carrying organic fertiliser in their shells to do as much good as they do damage. Mosquitos that inject anti-malaria vaccine. Flies that carry anti-bovine-TB serum.
See where we get when we're having a cuppa at 6.30 a.m.?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Dog Tag

I found this this afternoon- it's too hot to carry on working so I've been excavating tins of jingly things that I haven't looked in for years. This was made by either Milly, Mandy or Vicky: the three girls worked in a pet shop in Brighton and we used to call them The Pet Shop Girls (well before... you know). They were sixteen, and used to come to as many gigs by The Chefs as they could.
I suppose you could call this a case of reverse-merch. Alan (hello Alan!) later made a Helen and the Horns t-shirt under the same principle.