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!).
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.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Fine Tuning

I have spent a couple of hours finishing off bits and pieces to do with my book today- double checking web addresses and things like that. The editor, Sarah Raine, has been fantastic. And I also have to say that Sarah Killick was an absolute Godsend- everything got moving when she started transcribing the mountain of interviews I'd accumulated.
I have worked really hard at things during lockdown- two lots of article/chapter sub-edits to respond to, starting to finish the book, lots of music writing and recording, six online gigs... and marking and online courses for work as well. I've got another article to finish by September, and then I'll take rest from academic writing. I turned down a jammy thing- a chapter on women songwriters in London venues in the 1960s- that would have been wonderful to research and write about, but I am completely written out academically.
I have an animation to finish, but being animation, it is taking ages. I've been doing it since 2010!
Ironically, I've accrued rather a lot of holiday, and like most other people, won't be able to go anywhere. I don't believe it's safe.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Lime Trees

What a lovely fragrant flower they have.
The horrible cars have started roaring through our roads again, spewing smoke into the air, but it's not enough to interrupt the flow of lovely perfume emanating from the lime flowers on the hot summer breeze.
Breathe in!

Friday, June 19, 2020

Hooray! I Have a Title!

Writing an academic book takes a tremendously long time (especially if you are mildly dyslexic). More than ten years, in this case. There are still some edits to do, and then of course it will go to the sub editors, who are almost like cleaners who remove every speck of dust from your writing. I've just had two articles back that have sent me hunting through back issues of the NME and pleading in a Facebook group respectively (most of my books are still locked up at the University of the East).
I am very happy to say that this book now has a title! It is long-winded, but then its an academic book, and this time around I want to own my idea right from the start.
It will be She's At The Controls:  sound engineering, production and gender ventriloquism in the 21st century. 

Thursday, June 18, 2020

The Betsey Trotwood on Saturday

Look at this! We are all people who have played at this sweet London venue. Robert Rotifer is also contributing to this:

Bandcamp on Friday

This Friday, Bandcamp are donating 100% of their profits to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
I donate privately to other charities, but if you like my music and haven't bought any of it yet, here's the link to my Bandcamp page. I support their donations wholeheartedly.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Music to the Rescue!

Another article to be edited landed in my inbox this week. A missing title from the New Musical Express sent me burrowing through piles of cuttings until I finally found it- and realised that the journalist wasn't writing about Ari Up, but it was Poly Styrene they were referring too. The consequence of that was moving a paragraph from one part of the article to the other and then checking to se if it all still made sense. Through hay fever and lockdown stress, this felt really difficult, but I sent it off an hour ago.
In a more fun inbox, my friend Kenji has written a gorgeous verse to a song we are co-writing. There was something just so beautiful about it, the lyrics and his singing, that I began to cry.
Life is such a combination of brutal things (the chapter is on violence and punk women), and delicate things that affect your emotions in a positive way. Little Bruv remembered that yesterday was the anniversary of our mother's death. I didn't realise how much I needed to hear Kenji's singing till I heard it.
Long live music, the best invention of humankind.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Dedicated To My Daughters

Because I miss you both.

Miss Melody's Film

When you interview people you bond with them, and you feel gratitude towards them for sharing their stories. One of the producers that I interviewed, Miss Melody, was in the process of developing a new business in a building in south London when we spoke. Then suddenly, for no apparent reason, the landlord tried to take the building away from her. To cut a long story short, with a lot of tenacity and over a period of months and a court case, she managed to stop him and is now in possession of her building again. She is making an 8-minute film about her experience; more to come soon on this.
Yesterday I sent a (hopefully) finished version of the book to the editor. Putting true histories of women out there is absolutely vital. Something has to replace all those crusty statues.

Tuesday, June 09, 2020

Song Day

Today is going to be a song day. Retrieving the lost music yesterday was like pushing a boulder up a hill, but I got to a satisfactory point where I can have an ears-rest from that one, and start the backing track for another.
It's inevitable that such accidents will happen when you're sailing in such a sea of music. I have never written so many songs, all so different from each other: it's probably a release of pressure. Lockdown also has given me and  a lot of other people time to take stock and consider deeply what we think and feel. Sometimes I have felt uncomfortable about speaking out and acting on things that I felt were wrong, but I won't feel like that again. I also feel ashamed of people who have deflected completely reasonable and fair moves to make change in such a way that you could see they had their fingers in their ears, and were making faces at you: just that they weren't doing that visibly. Now perhaps they might listen more, just as we all listen more, and act on what we believe.
I so wish live gigs could start happening again. I miss the adventure and the two-way feeling, though the online ones have been lifesaving. That feeling of the flow of songs down your arms to your guitar, and out of your mouth singing is such a great sensation, especially when there are people listening with a drink in their hand and a smile on their face on their night out.
Come back, life!
I filmed a track in support of the Betsey Trotwood at the weekend, and their 'gig' is going to be on Saturday. I'm also taking part in an online discussion based in Liverpool on Saturday, which will be webcast at 8 p.m. and details will surely follow. How adaptable we have to be. After this, we will all be in different mental shapes, let alone our physical ones.
I drew this for someone's project:

Monday, June 08, 2020

Trapped and Angry

A flood of people have taken to the streets: the tipping point has been reached.
Successive governments (all Tory) have dumped on everyone who isn't a privileged straight white male, basically.
Eventually it had to come.
News channels and social media are buzzing with fury, and so are the streets. All that fluffy stuff about being kind has evaporated, all that 'neighbours clapping for the NHS'.
The fuzzy feel good ads on TV seem more and more redundant. In fact, as soon as Dominic Cummings 'went to Durham', that was the end of goodwill and into that vacated space, marched anger.
It is massively impressive to see this uprising of oppressed people. Trapped at home by the pandemic, I feel frustrated at not being there to join them, and agitated because I fear for them all. They are brave, but they feel like that because they have nothing to lose.
And who should come seeping out of the cracks but Tommy Robinson, always ready for a fight. He gets a large personal income boost from every conflict he stirs and inflames so here he is, thugs at the ready.
Meanwhile, I try to learn as much as I can and listen as much a I can, so that I can understand as much as possible. I'm keeping off Twitter now. There's no point in e-conflicts. I feel that it is better to talk to people face to face about the things that matter.

What should be soothing at home is utterly frustrating. Making music! I lost an entire mixed songs-worth of audio files yesterday and have spend most of today trying to reconstruct it, with everything else that was going to happen having to be pushed to one side. If my head hadn't already been full of buzzing bees, the added buzzing wasps make it feel as though there's a road drill going on in there. It's time to stop and get some fresh air, medicine for the soul.

Friday, June 05, 2020

Suburban Pastoral Available Now

From here, just in time to catch Bandcamp's no-fee day. 14 track with some groovy guest musicians!


Thursday, June 04, 2020

Suburban Pastoral on CD

I have found an unexpected box of Suburban Pastoral CDs. It was my first solo album and I thought I'd run out, so it was only available digitally on Bandcamp.
I'm going to put them up there tomorrow because Bandcamp are waiving their fees for the day. I have also reduced the price of the digital version to £5.00

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Online Gig From Last Month

More Geesetenders

The pond has shrunk to the size of a puddle, which is a bit worrying. A couple of days ago, Mr White Goose and Mrs New White Goose were there (their normally have their own pond, because Mr White Goose is so grumpy). The male mallards had all gone, all eleven of them, but the Egyptian geese were there with their brood of giant goslings, round the other side f the pond. Had Mr White Goose bullied them round there? Suddenly, they all started running round the side of the pond at once and began to take off! They are learning to fly!
They settled next to the white geese and just got on with their normal preening and wandering.
Up at the White Goose pond, a batch of men were shooting bread into the water with catapults, trying to tempt the fish. One man has set a dart board up in a tree and was playing a game of solo darts. The ground was decorated with beer cans.
Next day, the White Geese were back at their normal pond, but the Mandarin Duck had left and was scavenging down at the main pond, looking rather bedraggled and miserable.
We need some rain, and we need the pubs to open again so people have somewhere to go that doesn't damage nature, which is so fragile and lovely even when it has its own brutality.

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Thinking Like A Fish

I remembered a TV documentary on the coelacanth, an extremely rare fish, almost like a dinosaur. The crew spent a long time looking for one in the Indian Ocean. They are very hard to find, because they live at such depths. Day after day, the camera crew dived down, until eventually they found the huge fish far, far below the surface. As they shone their lights on it, it tipped up vertically and stood on its head.
The crew were astonished, and back at the boat they speculated about why the coelacanth had reacted in such an extraordinary way. Eventually, they concluded that it was so surprised by the situation that it had no control over, that it's reaction was the only thing it could think of to do.
In home prison, how do we demonstrate? It's dangerous out there, with a deadly virus stalking us all. Those who are demonstrating are desperate and very brave. I feel like I'm standing on my head.

Monday, June 01, 2020


Shouts to the chap at the top pond this evening with a dart board rammed into the fork of a tree, doggedly having  game of solo darts. Shouts!