Saturday, July 11, 2020

Recording

I spent the afternoon recording. I like doing that. My fingers are worn through from playing the guitar, and my ears are shot from listening.
I feel quite happy about my ability to record what I need to record, but mixing is a different matter and that's what I'm trying to do: not the 'getting it technically right' type of mixing, but the 'making it sound good' type. Getting a guitar and a recorded voice to sound just right is really hard. In the headphones they sound one way, over the speakers they sound another way and on the laptop... they sound crap.
Craptop.
It's an interesting puzzle to solve, and I shouldn't wish it would rain so I don't mind being inside doing it. The point is that once you get going, you get so absorbed in it that it's difficult to stop. I had crisps for my tea because I couldn't be bothered to cook because I was recording. That's how much it make you concentrate. I had to make myself stop because there's a certain degree of fatigue beyond which there's no point in carrying on: you have to stop nanoseconds before it stops being fun!
I've recorded two songs, one new one, and one that is so new I haven't even really finished the words and I'll have to change them any way because I mention Amazon and also say 'arsehole', which isn't terrible poetic, is it?

Respected Doctor


Friday, July 10, 2020

Songwriting Circle

This afternoon, it's songwriting circle. Katy Carr set this up years ago, and we've been doing it intermittently ever since. It started at her flat in Marylebone on Mondays, which meant a scrabble to write a song on a Sunday night. Then it rested for a while and now it's back, this time on Zoom, with two of the other 'originals', Rowen Bridler and Nadya Ostroff, joining in last week. One year, almost a whole album came out of it (this one: https://helenmccookerybook.bandcamp.com/album/take-one-download-only), and I think k that happened for Katy too. Sometimes it's just about a creative exercise, flexing your song writing muscles and perhaps writing something that just passes the time fo day in a creative way.
Whatever, it's great to have something to look forward to: a mini project every week that stimulates that part for the brain that other things can't reach. The cabbage soup Katy made isn't there, but the humour and encouragement are, and that's much more important.
Katy has just completed Chris Difford's song writing mentor course so I'm sure she will be really fired up by that.
Got to go now and practice this week's song, and then this weekend I'm going to do some recording and remind myself of ways of working in sound. I have another project in the offing.

Thursday, July 09, 2020

Songs from the Kitchen: Set in Stone

Last Night's Dream

Last night's lockdown dream was every bit as complex as the one the night before, but it slithered away swiftly like a snake as I tried to grasp it and remember what happened. I
 just saw its tail disappearing into the distance and couldn't hang on to it.
Maybe that was a dream as well.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Lockdown Dreams and Frozen Fridges

I don't normally remember my dreams but during lockdown that have been vivid, exhausting and sometimes alarming. I wake up in the morning with what feels like a headful of panicking pigeons. A couple of nights ago I had to get a coach load of tourists out of a French chateau and back into the coach with half an hour to go before their ferry left. When I went to find them the stair carpet, which was made of cloth, came undone and I had to try to fix it back again on to slippy wooden stairs, all under the watchful eye of duchess Thandie Newton. I did manage to collect up the tourists but then had to convince the tour operator that we were in a hurry, and she didn't seem that bothered.
What a relief to wake up!
Meanwhile, there's a gap in my working life where my book was. I am going to write a book chapter on Oh Bondage! Up Yours but I know I need a couple of weeks of not exactly rest, but catching up on University work stuff. Online courses, you know.
Double meanwhile after a year I have finally admitted that it's time to defrost the lump of ice that my fridge has become. It has taken more than 24 hours to not melt and people have been recommending that I get the hairdryer out.
Sounds good. I think I will, but that might mean the kitchen smells of melted and pre-rotting food.
I have scrubbed away at the top bit with bicarbonate of soda. Some dill went mouldy in there and it's been very hard to get rid of the smell. That, and half-onions.
I think this is called 'domestic bliss'. I'm looking for the bliss bit: it's probably embedded in that huge lump of ice in the freezer compartment, I think.
Postscript: I got bored with the hairdryer hint pretty quickly. It's better to just wait.

Friday, July 03, 2020

Interview in PunkGirlDiaries Zine

This is a top-quality zine, lovely paper and ink (how can you tell I used to be a printer?). I was delighted to do an interview with them.
Issue 2 available now! https://punkgirldiaries.com
Also featuring an interview with Alison Statton from the Young Marble Giants and Weekend.


Thursday, July 02, 2020

Bandcamp Friday 3rd July

Bandcamp are doing a fee-free day tomorrow. This track will be up for 36 hours only. It's a song I will re-record for my next album, but this version will generate 100% of its sales income for Crisis, the homelessness charity, if you buy it this time around.
Please do listen to the rest of my music too, if you're visiting!

https://helenmccookerybook.bandcamp.com/track/all-i-want-is-the-sun-to-shine-for-you





Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Dreamings and Ramblings

I dreamt a song about pigs last night, and awoke to news of a new swine virus in China. It's hard to work out if we'd find things like this anywhere if we looked hard enough. I still remember our British infected chickens, the phenomenon that Edwina Currie drowned in, eventually.
Go to work on an egg, they said.
Meanwhile, I'm drowning in Mick Herron. Rather craftily, he doesn't give you enough information about his spies to allow you to visualise them completely: just bits and pieces. This means that when it's made into a TV series, the actors chosen to play the parts will 'become' the characters unimagined in the mind's eye of the existing fans. Brilliant strategy. The man should be a spy!

I thought today was tomorrow, and I thought that yesterday too. This means I have an extra day this week, which is a nice feeling given the way that the entire year has imploded.
I have a task to do, one of those nice/nasty ones. The editor has finished and I'm ready to go, but she has recommended that I read through the book to check once more for typos before I send it to the publishers. Yes, I must. I think that will be a job for the rest of the week, because I have now become remarkably anxious and protective over the women that I interviewed. I know I have shown them in the best light they can be presented in. Would I read the whole thing, if I was one of the people interviewed? I hope so. There is strength not only in their sisterhood, which maybe not everyone was aware of, but also in the technical skills and the strategic thinking. Strategic thinking is a craft as much as any other sort of creativity: it's the imagination that makes us survive, and is also a threat to the status quo.

What else?
I did an interview for a podcast called Red Jumpsuit on Sunday evening. I was put in touch with them by Jerry Thackray a.k.a. Everett True, and big luv to Jerry for that. It was really good fun, and they say the podcast will be available in July so I'll post it here there and everywhere else when it's ready.
Last night, another nice thing happened, completely unexpectedly: David Gedge emailed with an invitation to contribute a song to the virtual Edge of the Sea Festival on the 15th and 16th of August. The Wedding Present host these festivals every year and I played a solo one in 2017, and one with Helen and the Horns in 2018, all down at Concorde 2 in Brighton. They have a devoted audience, who follow the bands alternately from one room to the other, and who were incredibly welcoming to me both times. First time, I have to say thank you to Rocker, who put my name forward for it. I had been having a difficult few months and it was one of the events that made me feel life was worth living again; I seem to have started from scratch more times than anyone else in the business, but being able to play to a room full of people at the festival who didn't know my stuff and just feel a wave of support and affection meant masses to me.
Apart from that, I am writing songs and they are pouring out like water from a tap. The pig one has a home (aaah!). I have still to finish editing and mixing the song Michel and me have written. I need to contact Robert and revive our collaboration. There's are other collaborations in the pipeline too (shh!).
Doodle-e-doo!
Postscript: the pig song has new lyrics, not about a pig any more.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Detective Novels to the Rescue!

I've reverted back to an old habit: speed reading crime and spy novels. Currently, I'm steaming through Mick Herron's books which are cruel, but full of little word-jokes that you miss if you're not careful. They also have interludes of sheer poetry, and I can imagine him wishing he'd been a poet instead of a spy novelist, a bit like comedy performers wishing they could sometimes sing a set of serious songs.
I have ordered a zine from female:pressure that consists of interviews with behind-the-scenes staff at raves, and I'm saving up for Desmond Coy's book, which I've already read but it seems churlish to have had the chance to read the preview, and not to buy the actual book.
The non-fiction pile is groaning, but having read nothing but academic articles and books for the past few months, the lightweights are a welcome relief.
That being said, I'm also halfway through Akala's book (thank you autocorrect for correcting that to 'Azalea'  and not being able to autocorrect 'Autocorrect'!), and Renni Eddo-Lodge's, and I have yet to finish White Swans, which is a fantastic read but it's making me want to travel, which is hard during lockdown. Not to China, but just to travel.
Katy Carr has revived Song Circle and we have been playing each other a new song every Friday. Rowen and Nadya will join us too, I hope.
I've started properly using my home studio, and I have been quite pleased by the results, which basically just involves me experimenting with reverbs, compression and EQ until the track sounds the way I want it to. It was a breakthrough to make a decent recording of an acoustic guitar through a microphone. I'll have to learn to make templates of the projects so I can copy them in future- I've found a particularly nice vocal sound with just a tiny bit of reverb to give it sparkle.
Anyway- that's odd- a digression from the digression. Back to the spies.

Friday, June 26, 2020

So Hot!

It's been to hot to sleep. Early this morning, I lay awake and remembered the lovely smell of bread that used to waft along the back gardens from the Victoria Bakery. Now it's closed down and I don't just miss their bread- I miss that awakening too.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Wood Art

These photos were taken in Hadley Wood. The little chair is lovely.
The other artwork did make me think of Simon Armitage and his poetry carved into rocks on the moor in Yorkshire, which felt to me like sanctioned graffiti.
Surely the point of isolated areas is to be able to feel isolated?
I feel completely differently about the Chewing Gum Artist, Ben Wilson, who is making ugly examples of urban human disregard for their surroundings into beautiful miniature paintings. Yet it was his work that was destroyed by Barnet Council when they ripped up the paving stones.