21st Century Troubadour

I love my second hometown, Berlin. I also love getting out of it and discovering the rest of Germany.

I'm ready

I’m ready

A gig is a great way to do that. On October 3rd, I travelled southwest to play a show in the Halunkenburg;  home to a group of charming and committed creative folk who give their all to preserving, and giving new life to historic sites and buildings in the Hof area of Germany. They rescued this medieval dwelling from misuse and deterioration, and it now functions as home, living museum, kindergarten, exhibition space, meeting place and occasional restaurant…. plus film and music venue, which is where I came in.

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The Lady on the Landing (perceived disturbingly as a real person once or twice en-route from my bedroom to the concert lounge!)

At the start of the show, there was a conversation about medieval minstrels, and how I was continuing that tradition; playing a stringed instrument and singing songs which tell a story. But – Big Important Difference  – I wouldn’t have done it happily without my trusty Boss analogue delay pedal which, while admittedly ancient, wasn’t around in the 14th century. A bizarre medieval picture comes unbidden to mind….”My liege, what is this outlandish contraption at the feet of yon Bard? Forsooth it maketh the sounds of the Devil!” …but I digress…

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My Trusty Delay Pedal

I played a very enjoyable show to a respectful – invites only, if you please! – audience, with the help of a  reassuringly modern P.A. system . It happened that artist Michael Etienne was present and he did a grand job of capturing the essence of my set on paper, sketching some surrealistic cartoon images while I played.

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Welcome to my subconscious

Resident Mouser

Resident mouser took a shine to my suitcase

Among the songs which were captured in Michael’s picture: You, me and Alcohol, In the Ninety Nine and Three A.M – all available at Bandcamp. (Drawing as you listen is optional)

More about Kathy Freeman and her songs here on the Website or here on Facebook

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Hey, we LOVE your music!

Never trust people who are too effusive about your talent. They’re probably preparing to shaft you. I’d hesitantly accepted a gig offer from a man I met in a bar while doing another gig  (that’s life at the top for you. ) He was “Something-To-Do-With-Art” – big on dramatic gestures and statements, small on details. Naturally he LOVED my music. I was to play for a soiree at the obscure art gallery where he reigned supreme as creator, director, coordinator and all round bigmouth.   Eccentric patrons are par for the course in Berlin, and it should have been good fun – but this guy gave me the creeps.

Relax!…. Before I could even open my guitar case, I was ordered to ‘RELAX!” In a room with no chairs, with him leering at me.  He meant “Start drinking”. I didn’t get drunk. Only bored. Fast forward 60 minutes – I just – as ever – want to play a good show. People are there. People are interested. But he was hellbent on wrong footing me…….

There was the drawn-out “testing, testing” soundcheck routine – in  a room not much bigger than my living room -which could have been done on arrival. (see  My Thoughts About Soundchecks)  Then, the interruption of the first set, mid-song, with a blast of Hawkwind.  Artistic statement? Next, the “veggie meal part of the deal” …. While the visitors were happily tucking into to generous portions of Chile con Carne, inconvenient non-meat eater here gets a last-minute unbuttered bread roll with soggy tomato slices.

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Guten Appetit

But head and shoulders over these minor woes…..NO!  NO! NO! You DON’T have to embrace the performer and give her a sloppy kiss at five minute intervals because people are clapping. Throughout the entire evening he was drunk, overly gushing, and all over me. As a feminist I wanted to kick him in the nuts. As a performer I wanted to do my job. Couldn’t find a way to do both. Cue BURNING SHAME AND INNER CONFLICT….a real fun night out.

Adding insult to injury… Later,  preparing my exit, I get hauled into a toe-curlingly embarrassing public debate about what I should be paid and whose pocket it should come out of. The resulting underpayment was buried so deep in bullshit that I only realised on the way home. But hey – we LOVE your music…..

PS: The whole sorry experience was worth it because it inspired me to write this song, which features the amazing Chris O, queen of the Australian blues scene, playing some devilishly good slide guitar.

On air

My radio experiences generally boil down to the good, the bad and the ugly. More about the good in a minute.

The Bad was a phone interview with a one man station. He meant well but was so nervous that we were virtually swapping roles, with me trying to put him at ease. His stilted and irrelevant questions lurched me totally off-topic into a bizarre rant about Mrs Thatcher.

The Ugly: A more established internet music station had me do a live worldwide broadcast from a pub. Consisting of a lengthy interview followed by a full live set – no pressure there then….

Instead of sending someone who was interested in my music – indeed any music – I get Mr Dodgy-Sheepskin-Jacket-Sports-Reporter-Man. He must have read that I used to be in a punk band, because he was onto “punk” like a terrier with a bone for the duration, heedless of the torrent that has passed under the bridge since those days. “Why are you a PUNK?” “How do  PUNKS feel when they rehearse?” “what do PUNKS eat for breakfast?”  When I finally got to perform, the vocals were so low I couldn’t hear my own voice, despite flashy broadcast rig. Seems I was disturbing the bar staff who couldn’t take orders with background noise. As  a PUNK I should have trashed the place but I put it down to experience.

The Good

Here we go

Here we go

You probably get why I was wary before my guest spot on The Parsons Knows Local Music (Radio Verulam) But this was the Good experience – in a comfortable studio chair. With simple, to-the-point, relevant questions; no fumbling and no weird curves. Denise Parsons has been doing the show for barely a year but comes across as a seaoned pro, while genuinely loving what she does. Which made it so-o-o-o-o much easier for me .

Day Of The Triffids

Day Of The Triffids

Don't know what this is but it looks important

Don’t know what this is but it looks important

Heres a link to the the video taken by Denise’s studio assistant, Kevin.

or listen to the podcast on Soundcloud along with other regular broadcasts featuring a distinctly-higher-than-average level of talent from local acts.

Kathy Freeman’s songs are on Bandcamp. First featured song on Denise’s show: “You, me and Alcohol” Second featured song “Here it Comes” ( A new version on You Me and Alcohol will be on Kathy’s next album, due out in Autumn )

More about The Parsons Knows Local Music  on Facebook and more about Kathy Freeman on her website

They run a tight ship at Radio Verulam

They run a tight ship at Radio Verulam

Testing testing one two one two..zzzz

I’ve always hated soundchecking after the audience has arrived. My first Real Band, The Accelerators, was always late for the soundcheck.  Not my decision…as I was probably the one who’d hustled for the gig and vainly promised the promoter we’d be there at five for a show at nine. But an unmanageable cocktail of unready band members, traffic jams, overlong service stops, frequent van breakdowns and anything else under the sun invariably put paid to that.

Do we look like the kind of people who arrive on time?

Do we look like the kind of people who arrive on time?

I got that we needed to test sound levels and see if everything worked, but part of me would rather have been boiled alive than stand there in front of PEOPLE  going “one two one two” and giving limp renditions – sometimes one instrument at a time – of parts of songs. Songs we might playing for real within ten minutes. Now, decades later, I see why it distressed me, hard-nosed little punkette though I was. I couldn’t have articulated it back then, but now I know:

Actors don’t go out on stage before the curtain rises to test their lines. Playing half-arsed snatches of songs at volume 11 to the audience-to-be just didn’t cut it for me.

The others, as befitted the mood of that era, honestly didn’t care if people were listening to the soundcheck or not. But at that tender point in my development, punk or no punk, a show meant A SHOW – i.e. the ultimate reason for practicing downstrokes and Chuck Berry riffs in our garage till my hands were dropping off, or minutely perfecting my panda make-up with eyes sore from hard contact lenses.  I wanted to confront the audience with a proper surprise attack, not give half my powers away before even starting.

I wanted to confront

I wanted to confront the audience

Today the still-dreaded late soundcheck sometimes doesn’t even take place. Or I get away with two chords and a quick “Guten Abend”  But if I do have to take it further, there’ll be no half-arsed spoilers from the set and definitely no one two one two.

Check out Kathy Freeman’s songs on BANDCAMP and check out everything else at the WEBSITE

My sixty-hour weekend

The breakdown:

15 hours – watching Germany hurtle past a train window

21 hours – sleeping, trying to understand my new phone, and pottering around in the solitude of temporary bedrooms

21 hours – reuniting with old friends, making new ones, getting lost 50 metres from the first venue I was due to play at, strolling alone through spooky enchanted woodlands near the second, eating too much amazing food prepared by my generous hosts, some cursory sightseeing and soundchecks.

3 hours – the tip of this time-and-motion iceberg: One concert in Freiburg, and one in Waldstadt, Karlsruhe (about as far as you can get from Berlin without leaving the country) Both concerts were very informal and I was able to sing my own repertoire to a laid-back and receptive South German audience. Who really listened. My 1000 mile odyssey was well and truly worth it.   Big thanks to Lovis and Bella in Freiburg and to Matthias and Renate in Karlsruhe for hosting the concerts and spoiling me rotten.

Concert:  Photo by Matthias Jaehrling:

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Footnotes:

This audience member gets my songs! (photo by Mattias Jaerling)

This audience member gets my songs! (photo by Mattias Jaerling)

Finally tracked down the star of Kathy X album Life Number Nine (photo Matthias Jaehrling)

Finally tracked down the star of Kathy X album Life Number Nine (photo Matthias Jaehrling)

A gem from Matthias' vinyl vaults.

A gem from Matthias’ vinyl vaults.

you can check out LIFE NUMBER NINE and more on BANDCAMP  and read more about me on my WEBSITE

Banging on about drums

If reincarnation is true, can I come back as Viola Smith?  She seems to be having more fun with two sticks than I’ve ever had with six strings

I actually learned drumming for three years

If I was married to a guitar, drums would be my bit on the side….no – that sounds kind of weird, let’s try again.  Rehearsing with various bands during my long musical journey, there was always something highly seductive emanating from the unattended drum kit every time the drummer left the room. It would whisper “come on, hit me, you know you want to!”  But I was scared of either being torn off a strip by its owner for unauthorised use, or of sounding like a grade A non-drumming idiot. Or both.

One day in ’98 the affable and tolerant Stef X, (who drummed for a couple of years with Joyryde) offered me his drumstool during a rehearsal break and I had a proper go.  While I’d never played before, I had a thousand patterns stored from music I’d absorbed, and years of rhythm guitar-playing must have taught me something about timing. He was duly impressed by my not-too-badness on the first attempt. Soon the challenge of getting round a drumkit would become a welcome diversion from trying to be a rock’n’roll frontwoman (which then was more about hustling venues and labels than playing the goddamn songs)

By some God-must-have-planned-it coincidence, a work colleague was vacating his flat that week  and couldn’t take his drumkit (which up to that point I’d never even known he possessed) A Hayman kick drum, snare, floor tom, two toms,  a  rickety hi-hat stand and a few cracked cymbals were mine for a mere 100 quid a few days later. My miniature drumming oddysey had begun…….watch this space, more to come!

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The Red Beastie – in service today as a studio kit

Distinctive snaredrum

Distinctive snaredrum

You can check out my songs (but not my drumming!)  on BANDCAMP

More about me at KATHY-FREEMAN.DE

No Going Back

I announced my big plan to make a home-recorded album to most people I know. Not to mention posting a blog about it in January. So…. No Going Back! Going forwards is more complex than making a big mission statement, so when my heroic but nebulous idea had morphed into a list of  do-able tracks, I felt relieved.

When other musicians said yes, they’d help out, I felt more relieved.

When we rehearsed the rockier tracks  (rockier as in “more rock’n’roll!” ) with drummer Tom Peterson,  and it sounded okay. I was borderline ecstatic

 loosening up during a pre-production rehearsal

loosening up during a pre-production rehearsal

Now I’m down from the high and trying to remember all that  “what vocals where? which guitar when? which take and why?”  kind of stuff. My half-created tracks are like 14 or 15 little babies all clamouring for attention…..at least two will get thrown out of the pram before I’m done but I don’t know which yet. The loudest ones are getting too much attention. The quieter ones need feeding with fresh inspiration.

Analyse THAT!

 

Laying down

Drum ace Tom Peterson laid down five drum tracks in one afternoon a week after our rehearsal.  With able audio assistance from my partner, Mr Rob Raw, I’ll  lay down lead and backing vocals, rhythm guitar, lead guitar,  percussion overdubs and possibly keyboards.

For twice as many tracks as Tom, in fits and starts during whatever spare time I can brutally squeeze from our chaotic schedules.

Then I’ll lay down all the guitar and vocals that didn’t cut it the first time round.

And then I’ll lay down. Period.

To be continued. In the meantime: a solo demo version of one potential track