Friday, April 29, 2022

Daniel Takes a Train at The Troubadour

I have replayed this gig so much in the telling that I didn't write about it- and now it's a week later!

What fun this was. I'm only going to write about them quickly because I'm just about to head off somewhere and this post will be replete with spelling errors #dyslexia no time to check.

Well, the rowdies in  the audience were up and running before the band even came on stage. The Thunderbirds theme tune heralded the event, and arms aloft and Hawaiian-shirt-clad, Paul Baker strode on to the stage and off they went.

This band are 1980s sound encapsulated (the better bits) and what they really excel at are singalong choruses. This is what the rowdies came for, and it made for a tremendous atmosphere. Dancing, leaping, gurning and hugging at the front the rowdies waited and waiter for the choruses, trying to mime the verses and then ... BANG! There they were!! 

Paul's a fantastic front man. He went into the audience and sang along with them, completely unfazed by their joining-inning. Further back, older fans also sang along, some discreetly filming. The other Paul, who used to play sax in Helen and the Horns, played some fabulous sax solos and looked to be at the peak of joyful exuberance. The guitarist and bass player are full of beans, and I have to say that the drummer is absolutely excellent. Before lockdown, I did three years of drum kit classes and it has now made the role of the drummer (the drum roll, as one co-learner quipped) really fascinating. The musicianship of the band is superb (which maybe passed the rowdies by), but you can't deliver such seemingly effortless choruses on a broken-down vehicle.

It was such an enjoyable evening, not just because of the music, which rocked The Troubadour, but also because of being right in the middle of Fun with a capital 'F': an audience of young rowdies who added themselves to the mix and sealed the deal on a really great night out. 

Later this weekend I'll post a video and you'll see what I mean. 

Had to post my own little video fragment:

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Today It Was....

.... the man standing surreptitiously brushing his teeth in Green Park.

It's The Little Things

Oh, the man in a hi-vis jacket with headphones in Stratford wailing along to his iPod: 'You were always on my miiind, you were always on my miiind', oblivious to the commuting crowds heading in one direction and the shoppers heading in the other. The look of blissful happiness on his face! Perhaps he has just fallen in middle-aged love!

Meanwhile, one of my songs has flown to Ullapool for Anne Wood to contribute a violin part. I have such a great memory of walking up the hill with her, and there being a rainbow at the top. It must be difficult to be a mountaineer- probably like driving a long distance and being so busy concentrating on the job in hand that you can't appreciate the journey. Whereas climbing a hill is such a concise version of getting to a lovely view. 

Geography was one of my favourite subjects at school- the landforms sculpted by ancient glaciers, still showing their history despite the ravages of mankind. I found it comforting. But we have learned to split atoms, haven't we? We are now clever enough to destroy everything, and instead of playing God we are playing the Devil.

It is preying on my mind, it is preying on my mind...

So sometimes a little bit of happiness in front of your nose realigns your mood. I have learned to recognise these moments, and highlight them each day. A rose petal, a pine cone, an urban fox with lush fur scampering through the darkness on a mission. What a thing it is to be a human being. We have so much responsibility for our species network,, and we don't appear to know how to manage it. We can watch ourselves f*cking it up and tell each other we're doing everything wrong and try to fix it, but the unfortunate thing is that psychopathic people rise to the top and manipulate the lot of us. 

Up yours, Darwin! D'you think he was one of them?

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Literally Fine Tuning

I have to decide whether to edit and edit again, or whether to play the parts one more time. I've spent so much time listening today that I can't 'hear' any more and have shut everything down until tomorrow. There's a guitar part (very difficult) that needs to be played with more feel. I can only get through half of it before I start making mistakes, and it's not an easy one to cobble together from different takes. But every time I play it, it gets better. So the guitar is set up and waiting for tomorrow when magic might just happen. That's what all musicians wait for: magic. It's why we don't stop, and why we endlessly pursue elusive ghosts down dark alleyways. The thing about doing this all at home is that it's such a blast learning so much. Yes, the occasional swear word escapes my fair lips, and the callouses on the ends of my fingers (from playing guitar) are akin to rhinoceros's toenails. Housework's a stranger. But every day I learn more about timing and editing and yes, when it's the right time to delete the lot and start again. I did that yesterday- played a whole song with a different rhythm and picking style before deciding the original one was fine after all. It's like swimming through sound. I can't believe the majority of these tracks are less than four minutes long. They seem so deep!

Saturday, April 23, 2022

From The Troubadour

 At the end of my set last night, I invited Paul to play Freight Train with me. The whole night was really good fun. Proper posting later. I'm tired!

Friday, April 22, 2022

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Back In The Recording Saddle

My house is quite cold, even though it's sunny out there. The heating's off to save money, but no amount of energy crisis can unplug creative brains. Back to the mixing board (see what I did just there!).

First of all I went back to edit a song that had driven me mad a couple of days ago, as I shifted blocks of music about the screen trying to make it sound OK. In the end, I decided not to save the changes and resolved to revisit it another day.

I listened all the way through, and there's nothing wrong with it at all. My listening has become microscopically critical (which is really annoying when I'm in crowds of people because I start 'mixing' their conversations), and a certain amount of imperfection makes the music warmer. McDad used to love oriental rugs because they all had deliberate mistakes: only Allah is perfect. I understand this completely, and I want that in my recordings: not that they should be sloppy, but that there should be a tiny bit of edge to everything.

I have some very high up vocals to sing, and I might tackle them later on. Meanwhile, I've changed a guitar part to a song that I thought was a spare and which might turn out to be one of the better ones. I can't know till they are all done. I have one more song to record from scratch, but I might do that one next week.

I have invited Sarah Vista's double bass player Emma Goss to play on at least one of these songs. I want that woody, deep and grounded sound, and she has said yes. There aren't many guests this time around; the only one I have so far is Steve Beresford doing some electronics. Mostly it's me playing guitar and also bass guitar.

I have made tea to warm my hands up.

Ghost Town

How can a city seem like a ghost town even when it is thronging with people? For the past two days I've walked the city streets, negotiating colourful holiday crowds, past the wall of hearts that is heartbreaking every time you walk alongside it, past the queues at the big wheel, past the Royal Festival Hall, over the bridge. Or down through Covent Garden, with empty shops promising 'global brands coming soon' (ironic 'wow'). Lots of small jewelled niches have vanished off the face of the earth, ghosted in the triumph of 'let's pretend it never happened'-ism, and indeed, 'let's pretend it isn't happening'. 'Ha hah ha!', laughs everyone, and no-one in particular. 'What fun!'.

There is a hysterical edge to it all. There are still huge amounts of people getting ill, some with the original and very frightening Covid variant. I hasn't stopped evolving because it's a virus, and that's what viruses do. We are hosting its evolution while we lick our ice creams and travel mask-less on crowded trains and buses.

Little shops have gone up in a puff of smoke. It's a corporate victory: badly designed clothes and tech from afar, manufactured by frightened and overworked people in unsafe factories. We're all pretending everything has gone back to normal. That's entirely incorrect. It's gone back to abnormal. Am I the only person to see this?

Monday, April 18, 2022

Supporting Daniel Takes a Train at The Troubadour, Fulham on Friday


And here are your tickets:

Hew Locke, Tate Britain

We had a depressing conversation about politics before going to see this free exhibition at Tate Britain. It was completely cathartic to see what you have been feeling articulated so clearly through sculpture and collage. I felt happy- even though the subject matter of this is so critical. Essentially, it's a sculpture procession based on the evils of colonialism, with costumed figures displaying and wearing digitally-printed share certificates, currency, maps: you name it, it's there. Facial expressions are grotesque, beautiful, weary, alien, horrified, superior: every emotion and manifestation of feelings. Everyone is here, yet nobody is real. The child-size figures often aren't children and the 'adults' reference characters from Greek mythology, carnival, science fiction, children's comics: everyone you ever imagined in your dreams and nightmares, spilling through the hall in a riot of primary colours. Many of the figures ride on horses that have oddly knowing expressions on their horsy faces. Sometimes, you just feel glad that a particular artist exists: I certainly did today.

On the way there, I got locked into a housing estate in Pimlico. I heard a beautiful solo tenor voice singing in an African language reverberating across the whole courtyard from an upper floor, and I went through some gates to listen and record a bit of it. It was mesmerising. The gates slowly swung shut and locked behind me. I had to knock on someone's door to get out. Serves me right for being curious.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Exeter to London: Micko and the Mellotronics and The Monochrome Set

The couple in the adjoining room who were at it all night woke up far too early, and the man started moaning. 'I hate it here! I'm going home'. I'd thought they were young-people-nowadays, and was absolutely astonished to meet him on the stairs: there stood a greyhair, probably older than me! I couldn't wait to get out of the place.

It was a blessing in disguise because the train had been cancelled, but there was space on another one and I got home in time to spill an entire cup of coffee on the sofa, and various other mishaps. At the Lexington, the Mellotronics were waiting anxiously for their drummer, whose phone had broken and who had gone off to sort it out. They couldn't phone him to find out where he was, but he did reappear in time for their sound check, complete with a new phone which he could be found trying to work at various points in the evening.

The big room upstairs at The Lexington filled up quickly (thanks to my family for coming and also to Gina and Mike, Mandy, Katy and Alex, Shanne, Terry, Donna and Paul) and although I was tired, everything gig-related worked quiet well, and this night had a proper listening crowd. Nice to see Peter Tainsh out and about taking photos, and also Karen Gymslip and a few other people I knew. I felt appreciated and listened to. Being an opening act can be hard, but it really felt as though people had come out to listen to everyone on the bill. Best of all, normally The Monochrome Set don't watch the support acts but they were around this time, standing at the side and listening. It could have felt scary, but I was too damn tired to care and they weren't cringing, so it must have been OK.

Micko and the Mellotronics are a trio with a very snappily-dressed lead singer who has a strong line in shredder guitar parts. He plays a Thunderbird and is complemented by forceful bass playing by the woman counterpart next to him on stage. Their sound is tight and almost aggressive, although their material benefits from this rather than anything else. There was something of The Who about them.

And then of course, The Monochrome Set. I have been seeing them play since the 1980s, and they still come up with the goods. They invented a particular sort of sound: almost lounge-style singing over twangling guitar, bass straight through the ground and into the soul, rhythms that head down one route and back another, and keyboard. Bid's vocal lines arabesque and twirl, almost nodding to Lou Reed in places. I was particularly fascinated by one of the three (I think) new songs they played. It had this odd, delicate sound to it quite unlike anything else they have done. Afterwards, I told Bid how much I liked it and he was surprised, saying that they'd almost decided not to do it. But it sounded to me as though that particular song held the key to a possible future direction in sound for them. I know that's really nerdy, but I've become so absorbed in listening to bands and what they cook up with the same ingredients that I can't help but think of these things. They have a gig later in the year with founder-member Lester Square joining them on guitar and I can't wait for that! They played two encores and actually cracked a smile or two. Ha ha! What a great night to end a threesome of gigs.

And today I am a zombie. Offsprog Two woke me with a text this morning asking me how the gig went. She had forgotten that rock'n'roll breakfast time is roughly around 1 p.m., not 8.30 in the morning. I heffalumped out of bed and made some tea. Later, I scoured Barnet for a chocolate bunny and a couple of secondhand paperbacks, and that kind of sums up today. Entire chocolate bunny eaten, hot cross buns thawing, tea drunk and book half-read. Next gig is on Friday at The Troubador in Fulham with Daniel Takes a Train, which I'll take the Green Goddess to. I'm looking forward to it!

Photo by Peter Tainsh

3 Gigs In A Row

A miniature tour! How I love this life! Leicester was a bit of a rush because of the last-minute transport arrangements and all I really saw, apart from sound checks, was Lisa and Mattias's band Syndromet who I think play mainly in Sweden at the moment. They are wise and hilarious people, and excellent musicians as well. In this duo, Mattias plays scorching guitar and Lisa sings and wields drums sticks, dance-drumming while she performs. What a phenomenal energy ball she is! She belted out the songs at full tilt.

What a hard act to follow! Luckily, all the band people on this bill are really supportive and friendly, plus Ruth Po! was there down the front, and we'd had a good chat beforehand. The good chats are part of the fun- I loved her story about Leicester Council in the 1980s interviewing musicians and giving them grants to buy guitars! She got £300 and went off the buy an Epiphone, which eventually became hers after a few years of playing had gone by. Guitars have such stories to tell.

I managed to see one or two of The Science of Words songs before I left. They are a wall of guitar thrash: a high and loud wall- with lead guitar and vocals by Corinne. The sheer volume doesn't detract from the fine songsmithery, and I do like a strong guitar riff. I saw their whole set in Exeter and loved them.

Ah yes, Exeter next, through the throng at Paddington Station and stuffed into a seat on a very overcrowded train. I checked into my B&B and went for a wander in the town, which has suffered from an awful chain-store invasion. The aliens have landed everywhere: concrete and glass, Primark, H&M, chains of coffee shops and mobile phone shops. In some locations these abominations have died a death, but this one was quite busy. Somehow I missed the lovely park on the other side of it, which I found later while getting lost on the way to the venue. But lovely parks don't make money, do they? Maybe I should create a nice parks guide for touring musicians so they know where to hang out before gigs. I ate at a street food stall and wandered along searching for The Cavern, which is quite tucked away, but a cluster of musicians and amps on the pavement was a good alert to its whereabouts. It's a really funky subterranean venue, and they gave us all a very generous rider of food and drink before we sound checked. It has a good design for a venue, with a stage area and a separate bar and seating part that is adjacent to the stage so you can still hear the music but don't interrupt it if you're chatting. 

This was part of a weekend of female-focused music making and I spoke to the woman organiser after the gig. It was such an enterprising thing to do, and I recommended that she should hook up with Loud Women and try to do some exchanges. This night, I was the first one to play and despite some very loud drunken chaps, I managed to hold my own. They felt guilty afterwards and came up to apologise, and one of them gave me a brilliant complement saying that I remind him of Kirsty McColl, and bought a CD, so I forgave them. 

The Science of Sound are three guitars, a bass and a drum machine. This night, I heard their full set and really enjoyed their songs. Rocker (the catalyst for so much music at the moment, and a founder member of The Flatmates) told me that they used to be just in instrumental band and that singing is new for Corinne. It works really well though: kind of like a heavier version of Jetstream Pony, sound-wise.

The Flatmates were headlining, and Lisa hit the stage like an energy bomb: they were off! They had a new drummer for this gig, but they sounded well-rehearsed despite this. Underpinned by Rocker's Hammond organ, they roared through their set: new songs, old songs and even some singalongs towards the end. Pure pop, and pure perfect. Lisa is completely engaging as a front person and behind her, Mattias leaps and twists as he plays bass, while at the front Rocker holds the fort and the guitarist jangles with some very appealing chord smithery. Great sound, great band.

Afterwards I walked though the thick mist back to the hotel watching gulls materialise and depart like animated fog-spectres, and contemplating the joys of live performance, dressing-room bantz and indie pop music. Big thanks to Rocker for inviting me along!

The Science of Sound; dressing room (photo by Mattias); The Flatmates

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Lexington with the Monochrome Set and Micko and the Mellotronics Tonight

My set will be at 7.50: it's an early-running event scheduled to end at 10.30.

I'm just recovering from the double whammy of staying in a hotel with tissue paper walls and listening to my drunken neighbours unsuccessfully trying to bonk (with all the details), and my train to London being cancelled. I loved the Exeter gig, all 3 acts were really well received and The Cavern is a great venue. Tomorrow is recovery day and I might write more; I'll definitely post some photographs. Come along tonight if you can- it will be a good night! Tickets on the door now.

Friday, April 15, 2022

Late Night Carousers

I'd forgotten the chaos of late night tube journeys. Two years break, and I'm shocked by the noise and the volatility. I've just got back from Leicester- driving back had proved not to be possible.

At King's Cross station, there was a woman shrieking really loudly- apparently to herself. There was a lot of solo intoxication, especially on the tube itself. People were glassy-eyed and slumped on the seats and there was an overpowering smell of weed. One poor young woman was so fast asleep it was almost impossible to wake her at the end of the line. Her phone was loosely clasped in her hand, and her bag was perched unsteadily on the seat beside her. An only-slightly-drunk chap tried to wake her before giving up, and I tried too, but she was next to unconscious. I wondered what I would do if she had actually died. When the tube driver came along and rapped on the glass window really hard, she started to stir; between us we woke her and she stumbled off the train. On the way out of the station, a young guy had folded himself over the railings. 'I feel really awful!' he groaned to nobody, because he too was all by himself. Other passengers stumbled and zigzagged up the hill, and on the High Street a man (on his own) had flung his first floor window open and was singing at the top of his voice, a tenor bellow that rung down the road in a melancholy paeon to loneliness.

It was a nice gig, what I saw of it. Ruth from Po! and the Punkgirldiaries zine came along and it was great to meet her. Lisa from the Flatmates and her partner did a fantastic starter set. Blimey that woman is talented! She drums standing up and sings her heart out! Great songs, too. I'll see the bands properly tomorrow at Exeter and will write more at the weekend.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Leicester Duffy's Tonight

Off to Leicester today! I've just tested Covid-negative, although I have horrendous hay fever. I'm on stage at 8.50, having swapped with another band as I now have to get the train back to London instead of driving.

Usual gig nerves: Will the fingernails on my right hand hold out? Will what I've chosen to wear make me overdressed? Will I remember the lyrics? Will my fingers be a packet of sausages on stage and refuse to do what I ask them to? Will my guitar fall off? (it did that once at The Lexington) 

Just about to eat musician's dinner- huge and pie-based- so I don't get struck hungry and have to resort to café food in times of austerity.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Being Angry With The Fools

Today has been neatly divided between walking, recording and being angry with the fools.

The walk was nice, though a bit like inhaling a soup of pollen. I won't know until tomorrow whether my coughs and sneezes are Covid or hay fever: I'm going to test before I leave for Leicester. It is so very beautiful out there, and there seem to be even more birds than before. They seem to carry a bubble of silence with them even when they are singing. In the overall sound mix of the world, their vocals are turned up high.

The walk was a reward for doing hefty slab of marking. Oh students, students! I remember when I was an undergraduate, so sure that I didn't need the advice of the fuddy-duddy lecturers, even the ones who weren't fuddy-duddies. I thought they made things up just to make things difficult for me. Time and time again, I think of the five-year-olds convinced that the adults telling them to be careful of traffic simply don't understand that they will simply run away from a car as fast as they can (which is very fast, according to their little brains). How silly those adults are! Or when McMum told me all those complicated things about radio broadcasting and sound waves, and I simply knew the radio was full of tiny people. Silly lady, with her made-up ideas!

That's enough of that. 

So: recording.

Yesterday's vocals sound good, and I was convinced that I could tackle the Difficult Song today, but alas my wheezy cough takes me down in a rugby tackle every time I try. The melody line is pitched right up there in The Gods swinging from the curtains, and I need more headroom than I've got today, so I can land on the notes from above rather than swooping up from below. In time, in time. It's worth waiting until I'm in good voice, or perhaps not so self-conscious even of my critical self. The whole idea of DIY recording has been to avoid the anxiety of too many ears and too many opinions, but even my own two ears and one opinion seem overpowering at times.

I've done some replacement vocals for a song that didn't sound right (dull backing vocals) with an idea that it will have double bass on it, and I've also made a template for another song that I found on my phone, and played around with backing vocals for that too, but I need to re-record the guitar part for that next week. My hands are used to playing the guitar I'll be playing in Leicester, and I don't want to disrupt the muscle memory that I have spent all week drilling into my fingers (different neck widths and fret spacings, you see). Next week I'll be reverting to the guitar I'm recording with, in time for Friday's gig with Daniel Takes a Train.

Of course, much of today and last night has been reserved for Being Angry With The Fools. They are simply too narcissistic to let go of their limpet hold on power, and they don't realise that the longer they wait, the further they will fall. It doesn't matter how many cashmere hoodies their wife buys them, or how many times they get away with priapic behaviour; their places in the history books are already smudged with corruption, and no amount of money and sycophantic colleagues can buy them out of that.


Just confirmed, 6th August on the Acoustic Stage. Gina Birch will be there too. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2022


Someone has dumped a little shoal of pinkish-orange goldfish in one of the ponds on the common. They appear to have taking a liking to a particular mallard, very possibly because they think his orange feet are a big chief goldfish. 

They were following him around in a neat line, twisting and turning in the water as he slalomed across to the other side. I wondered if he would begin to find it a bit irritating having such devoted followers: everywhere he goes, ten little fish will be there too. And what happens when he clambers out on to the bank?

Gigs: Leicester, Exeter and London

Thursday, Leicester supporting The Flatmates:
Friday, Exeter supporting The Flatmates:
Saturday, London Lexington supporting Micko and the Melletronics and The Monochrome Set:

Monday, April 11, 2022

Not The Chefs Drummer

There's an article about Stomp! in The Guardian newspaper today, with a short interview with Luke Cresswell, one of the founders. Luke came to audition for The Chefs just before our drummer Russell Greenwood joined us. What was really happening was that Luke was auditioning us: he turned us down. A wise decision, because now Stomp! are franchised all around the world, and none of its founders need to work any more.

They are brilliant though.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Small Surrealisms From Weekend Walks

Yes, that's a miniature paper boat in the miniature house.

And the pine cone roses are the work of a squirrel.


Edit, Edit, Edit.

Editing sound waves is simultaneously boring and absorbing- and frustrating. You want to do it quickly but the program says 'no' and you have to plod though it all. 

However, it makes a massive difference and once you've done one part of the song and heard how much better it sounds, you have to finish it, and you can't rush on to something else.

I have also found out that I know even less about EQ than I thought I did. I can't bear the idea of Youtube tutorials (how can it work when every song is so different?) so I'm doing it by trial and error. One sound and position in the mix of the bass guitar made my ears actually hurt. I always knew bass was a weapon!

Gradually, the stock of finished songs is piling up. The computer is on the verge of crashing all the time and I'm having to remember to back things up regularly, although I can remember so much about each song that I could re-create them if I had to. 

My voice sounds better than it did six months ago (I'm not sure if that's a winter/summer thing, a health thing, or whether it's a sudden release of stress) but I'm re-vocalising songs that I thought already had decent vocals on. Sometimes it sounds a bit 'sine-wavey' but that's quite good for adding a reverb on. The sound engineer at The Shackleton Arms said I'd got a perfect vocal timbre for adding effects to; I think it was a compliment, but a sound engineer in a studio that I was recording in recently said he thought it probably wasn't. And that's why I record at home in my kitchen- it's horrible being undermined!

As songs pass the finish line, I start to wonder if they will fit together as an album and whether I should have recorded different songs. I might do another couple this week just to see what they feel like.

Meanwhile I've got a dodgy tummy, probably from eating Christmas Twiglets whose marmite spots look alarmingly out of focus. They still taste nice, though, so it's hard to throw them away and they are a good editing snack!

Friday, April 08, 2022

Recording An Impossible Song

I have been trying to get it right. First of all it got too clogged up with backing vocals, and I started again from scratch. Then I thought up a really jammy bass line, and as soon as I played that on to the track the guitar part sounded out of time. It will one day sound lovely, but I think I'm going to have to start again yet again and build it up from the bass line, which has a super groove. Although a lot of what I'm doing feels like hard work (micro-editing guitar parts and so on), once I've had a few days away from it, I can hear that I've learned a lot about how to record the songs. I've abandoned the idea of working at them all simultaneously to keep a 'sound', because some of the songs just seemed to have completed themselves, whereas others have barely started and sound as though they will be difficult to get off the ground. But those ones seem like intriguing puzzles, rather than impossible tasks. 

I keep finding other songs, as well. I don't think albums should have too many songs on them, but I'll record too many so there are a few to choose from.

Wednesday, April 06, 2022

Chef With Copper Pans, Covent Garden



I've just been resting my poor sore guitar-playing fingers by doing a bit of work in the back yard. But that's not really resting my fingers, is it?

Resting Between Bars

This morning, I re-started a song from scratch. I'd overloaded it, and didn't know what to take away from it to make it work. 

I halved the BPMS (beats per minute) because the metronome was too busy for the picking part on the guitar. The song still seemed slow, but I'd slowed the tempo when I first recorded it to make the lyrics audible. It had speeded up because it's the song I play when I pick my guitar up for fun-playing when I'm waiting for something, and it's become faster and faster as a result.

The guitar is sounding lovely. I did loads of editing and copying-and-pasting. This one is firmly in the 'pop' category and I wanted the sections of song with the best feel and the most accurate playing. I was actually sitting counting 1-2-3-4 out loud because there are gaps that have to be in the right place.

I did a guide vocal that sounded OK, and I decided to abandon the quirky backing vocals of the previous version and just play it straight, although I might try something later today after the ears-rest. I have started to listen to my music differently- as responses to silence rather than as expressions of sound. This is a bit like teaching Derrida at work by drawing a tree without drawing the tree: you just draw all the things around it, and hey presto! There it is!

I will never be able to process sound like Sophie or Nimino but I can be inspired by their approach and I can adjust the way I hear things as a response to their music. This is an interesting track to feel that way about because it includes electronics by Steve Beresford.

I'd clogged up the other one with a bass line that was too powerful. The whole thing needed to be more delicate, like a leaf skeleton. It's about mycelium linking trees together as a communications network. Here is the outdoor version, played too fast of course. There were people walking in the woods and I was scared.


It's probably not so strange: songs written during lockdown triggering all sorts of memories. In writing, you can choose to escape, you can choose to express your feelings, or indeed a lot of other things. I think it was re-doing vocals and feeling the emotions behind the lyrics that unearthed a lot of hidden feelings. 

Song writing is therapy for a lot of people, and sometimes has its own answers inscribed into the process. By making a concrete representation of how something felt, you have the chance to control it and to consolidate your own perspective of something that might have disturbed or hurt you. On the other side of things, if you can articulate a joyful feeling you can tap into that every time you sing the song. You can write a funny lyrics and lampoon a pompous person or a ridiculous situation, and position yourself as a commentator rather than a victim of the moment.

Through this I have come to the realisation that although destructive people move on, and perhaps even become less destructive as they mellow with age (or maybe not: who knows?), the things and people they have destroyed are still left with the legacy of their actions. Just as I write a personal history of life through songs, there are other narratives that don't necessarily coincide with mine which obscure dark corners that to me, are in plain sight.

Any sort of creativity illuminates reality, and crystallises out concepts and events with a clarity that is alarming in its strength. An arc light is switched on, and people shade their eyes.

Well actually, in my case it's more like a pencil torch, but you know what I mean. I'm going to record some 'happier' songs today. I think there is a beauty in the sadness of the others, but I don't want that burden on my shoulders this week.

Tuesday, April 05, 2022

Afternoon Sound

Motivation got me, and I sat down at the kitchen table and started editing some dodgy guitar parts on one of my songs. I think it's in the right place now: I had to chop the bits up and slide them along the grid to the bar lines.

Next thing, I set up the microphone to sing the most difficult song. The vocals on everything I've done so far sound OK, but I have realised that I need to pitch the mood exactly right for each song. So this one, high up in my vocal register, had to be sung really softly. I won't know if it's OK until my ears have had a rest. The next song had to be sung in one take, and I don't think I'm going to put anything like reverb on it because I want it to sound like someone speaking a song: delivering the lyrics to the melody as though it's coming out in a conversation. The third song had to sound really intimate, and I had  problem with the open-throated notes being really loud so I had to rein them in. 

Finally, I had to just sing a couple of words at the very end of another song, just to make sense of the lyrics.

I wore my voice out, so I swapped to guitar and tried to replace a guitar part. The click track (metronome) is too busy-sounding and threw me every time. That's a song I might have to re-do from scratch.

I'll do more tomorrow.

Fear Of Fairness

It's just a passing thought: how many human actions, especially the atrocious ones, boil down to a fear of fairness? Just imagine- you're not more special than anyone else! Maybe if other people had support and chances, and a bit of good luck (alas, luck has a lot to do with everything, including the circumstances you're born into), they might achieve what you thought you'd achieved on your own through 'sheer hard work'.

I'd love to see any member of the Houses of Parliament do a full, honest day's work in a hospital Accident and Emergency Department. Not a special set-up just for them, but the real work that NHS staff do: terrifying, blood-soaked, and humiliating. Being unable to save a person's life must be the worst feeling in the world. Experiencing that first-hand might be bit of a wake-up call, and trigger a little compassion. It might lead to an understanding that we are all human beings, and no single human being is worth more than another. Making sure everyone can afford food and everyone has a roof over their head, and a warm environment, might seem a little more important that squirrelling away millions of empty pounds into offshore bank accounts.

Of course it's entirely possible that instead of feeling compassion, the one-day worker might merely feel relief that they don't have to bother with such things, and that what they consider to be a lower order of person is better suited to jobs like that. In that case, let's toast the time when the psychopaths really do take themselves off to Mars. They will leave us with a big, dirty mess to clear up, but that's what we are used to, aren't we?

I'm Not Tired Any More

At five o'clock this morning, I woke up with a head full of urgent thoughts. I tried to get back to sleep but felt energetic: so here I am, writing at an unfeasibly early hour. It's been an odd few months with little time for reflection, and I suppose this is what's happening now.

Part of it has been stimulated by Jordan Mooney passing away. I barely knew her, although we had a really nice conversation in Manchester at the Louder Than Words weekend last year. She was in a relationship with a journalist friend in Brighton, and he must be feeling a lot of pain right now. I suppose because I knew a lot about her, she seemed like a three-dimensional person, and people like her leave a significant gap when they aren't there any more.

I was lying awake thinking about power, too: how easy it is to underestimate the power you have, and not to realise the impact of things that you say has on people. It is possible to feel entirely powerless, yet to say something that affects someone in a significant way. I have to make a resolution to think very carefully before I speak, always. I have always needed to feel spontaneous as much as possible, because life is so full of traps and prisons, even when things are within your own control. Sometimes, though, this can backfire.

Yet, on the other hand, Jordan's spikiness was inspirational. She wouldn't be folded up and put into a box: at the KISMIF conference in Portugal, she would not be a 'Feminist'. I don't blame her, because a lot of the time in my life I haven't wanted to be a woman, let alone a feminist. I became one of those out of necessity when for the millionth time I was backed into a corner by behaviour that was deemed to be normal (because that's what men do), and that behaviour was clearly utterly wrong. It's always upsetting when people won't join a gang that's formed to fight back, but it's also completely understandable. If you find a way that works for you, use it.

I was also thinking about how your parents dress you in attitudes when you are a child, and how removing these vestments carries on throughout your life. You might suddenly throw them off, causing immense hurt: that's the rebellious teenager deciding to be independent. You might gradually slip out of them and hang them up on the door of a room you are walking out of: that's the young person taking a different social or political journey from their parents. You might finally, wearily, shrug off a particularly heavy overcoat and leave it in a pile on the ground: that's acknowledging control and abuse, and refusing to carry it any more. And small things, attitudinal things. Learning not to tease and scorn; learning that a small step is good enough, for others as well as oneself.

It times in my life, like most people, I have found things very difficult. I have taken professional advice. The best advice anyone gave me was entirely genuine, which is probably why I appreciated it so much. 'Well done for surviving'.

Sunday, April 03, 2022

I'm Tired

The whole week, I've been tired. I have done three negative lateral flow tests and one ONS test, all negative. Yet I've had a sore throat, fatigue and headaches, and have been napping the the afternoons and sleeping for ten-hour nights. No social life for me- which meant missing the Asbo Derek gig in Brighton last night, not just the great live band side of things but also the social side. They have such a great audience: a real mix of people all drawn together by the weird mix of warmth and smuttiness that the band project. I had a few moments of thinking about their late drummer Brian Blaney yesterday, and his frustrated shouts of 'Get on wi' it!' as Jem rambled down some funny corridor of nonsense. What a gig to miss! The band had got together to commemorate Brian in the best way possible- by playing. I think there is going to be a next time, and I shall be there.