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

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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

Denmark Street, Corporate Barbarians, and Shiny Black Guitars

The accelerating destruction of one of my favourite parts of London is well documented elsewhere. I won’t even attempt the whole story, but here’s my synopsis: Denmark Street, a.k.a London’s Tin Pan Alley, and other parts of Soho, London are being “regenerated” (read: legally vandalised, offered to the highest bidder and/or destroyed ) and regurgitated as some brave new vision of fuck-knows-what. With profits going fuck-knows-where.

Me and Denmark Street, we go back a long way

I’m not about to go all sentimental here. Most of the guitars were overpriced and I never did meet any rock legends there. But Denmark Street was  simply a small yet important part of my life for as long as I can remember.  I liked the vibes. It was always My World and nothing to do with boring day jobs, or family problems, or anything in my life that was giving me grief.  I could just mooch around at my own speed, checking out the goodies and occasionally buying more than strings and picks. Back in the seventies – then based in Liverpool – I’d gone down for a weekend and returned with a shiny black Ibanez acoustic with a Fender-style headstock from Andy’s. Purchased from Andy himself.  Super cool when everyone else in the Pool had hideous generic jumbos that looked like they’d been made from a front room sideboard.

In 2000,  I bought my lovely  SG -I Gibson in a shop that to date is Macari’s, but was then seemingly owned by Rokas, later known as Rockers. Let’s  hope it won’t shortly be owned by 02.

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An uncharacteristically good deal for a West End guitar!

A wake-up call I ignored

I haven’t lived in London for over 14 years and for most of them Denmark street and the surrounding area was my default place to revisit. In my head – and only in my head –  it was still the same street I’d hung out in for three decades on and off,  before moving to Berlin. The demolition of the nearby Astoria, where I’d seen a pre-mega Nirvana and danced to the Reverend Horton Heat was a wake-up call that I ignored. I didn’t like the ever-increasing number of hoardings around the Crossrail project at Tottenham Court Road every time I visited,  but tried not to think about it.

Then petitions were appearing on Facebook and I realised just how bad things really were in my old stomping ground.When public opinion and petitions were totally and cynically ignored, and the eviction order served on the  legendary 12 Bar Club, with neighbouring shops and businesses under a similar threat, I was moved to write this song:

(words and lyrics copyright Kathy Freeman 2015 )

to finish off….. a photo from a show I did at the 12 Bar.  By the way I’m playing my Other Lovely SG. It lives in London to save the hassle of transporting guitars on planes. But that’s another story….

12 bar 19 07 13

I never played at the 12 Bar when I lived in the UK, but had a great time playing there in 2013

Kathy Freeman Songs: BANDCAMP

More about Kathy Freeman at KATHY-FREEMAN.DE

Ramblings about front room concerts, forgotten lyrics, and Amanda Palmer

Fact: Some people are invariably more into drink ordering, I-phone checking, hen partying or anything else under the sun than listening  to what’s on stage. Many musician friends feel deeply wounded by this apparent lack of respect. I’m not. Which makes me  totally Zen or totally in denial, or both. I just direct myself at the good folk who ARE listening and go with the flow.  And  corporate-type events  where I’m officially background ear candy are  actually great opportunities to experiment, and to improve on new or rusty repertoire.

However when I played a  Wohnzimmer (Front room) Konzert  two months ago near Chemnitz at the Scala Adorf  (official title of Micha and Kat’s front room, in the country village where they host monthly invite-only events) ……. something very different happened.

Everyone was listening in rapturous pin-dropping silence ……and that’s just while I looking for my plectrum. Ah, that’s what respect is! You have to truly deliver to deserve it. Time to  be totally focused, totally honest…. and to think on my feet.  I played the intro of one song, and then faced the singer’s ultimate nightmare – total lyrics blank. After 3 unusually long seconds, I announced that my subconscious was telling me not to play that song, and moved on. (and it’s still telling me, because I can’t remember which song it was) But the songs I did remember went down really well, we got that connection going, and I was firing on all four.  By the second set  it felt less like a poetry reading and more like rock’n’roll.

Cushion-cat watches me at the soundcheck.

Cushion-cat watches me at the soundcheck.

The Magic Carpet

The Magic Carpet

Micha is a massive Amanda Palmer fan, and this got me wondering how the evening would have gone with her at the wheel. Wohnzimmer concerts remove the filter of all those subplots that go on in traditional venues. It’s artist to audience undiluted. I’d read about how Amanda P had achieved total one-ness with her fans by letting them write all over her with felt-tip pens. While I got as far as encouraging them to sing along on a couple of numbers.  Maybe that’s why she’s made a million and I haven’t. But at least I didn’t have to stand in the shower afterwards for 20 minutes with a scrubbing brush and a jar of Swarfega.

My accomodation  was about six metres and a flight of stairs from the venue

My accomodation was about six metres and a flight of stairs from the venue

I can honestly say it was a great evening and I’m ready to do more like it! Especially if they make coffee like Micha does.

Farewell Scala Adorf (photo by Michael Reich)

Farewell Scala Adorf (photo by Michael Reich)

    You can hear some of the songs I played, and a shedload of other ones here at BANDCAMP

More about Kathy Freeman at  KATHY-FREEMAN.DE

I have plans. BIG plans…..

….they materialised from somewhere deep in that nebulous no-man’s land between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

It’s over two years since I experienced that curious mix of planning, luck, creativity and unbearable stress  a.k.a  Recording An Album at Home, and I’m about to do it again.

Time was, I’d go in a “real” studio with loads of gear and a massive clock on the wall, hoping we wouldn’t run into extra time. In a way, that got results. With a low budget indie label, there was a vanishingly small chance of redoing anything that wasn’t up to scratch, plus there’s nothing like a deadline to focus your performance.

Olstyn 2004 - Recording Ready for Anything

Recording “Ready for Anything” by Kathy X (Studio X Olstyn, Poland 2004) – had to concentrate VERY hard!

the desk was THIS big...

the desk was THIS big… according to our top-notch engineer Martin K

The 13-track Kathy X album took 5 days to record AND produce, and it still sounds good. Fast forward to now. I’m fortunate enough to be LIVING in a well-equipped home studio with my favourite bassist Mr Rob Raw – who also does audio-engineering. Yet it’ll be May earliest before the New Album – with a similar number of tracks –  is born. Why the time difference? The songs are no more complex.  Five chords will still be the height of sophistication.  It’s something like this:

A band is more than its members.     As a band, the members of Kathy X squabbled and argued and rarely rehearsed longer than 60 minutes a month,  but we pulled the rabbit out of the hat when it came to doing shows and putting down tracks. They all had that “band stamp”.  As a solo artist, recording with guest musicians who’ve rarely if ever played those songs live with me, it’s a different deal. Less arguing ….. less chemistry.  The onus is more on ME to work the magic, which takes time.  Without going into technical details… it’s akin to putting on make-up for hours to finally achieve the natural look.

Logistics.    I have up to three projects on the go at any given time, and so does Mr Rob Raw. It takes about two hours for me to get in the right headspace to record a single track, him up to two hours to get the sounds perfect before recording it, and between ten minutes and three hours to actually record it. Multiply that by all the tracks on all the songs, add production and mastering time, divide that by the amount of time we are both at home at the same time,  subtract a few hours for not having to travel, add them back on for answering the phone and emptying the washing machine….and you’ll be confused.

Anyway it’s more than five days.

 Decisions….    About artwork. About promotion. About pressing of physical copies. About all kinds of stuff that used to be decided by someone else or communally is now up to me, which is both liberating and a pain in the arse.

But it’ll all be worth it…so watch this space!

Studio 88 Special Effects Area

Studio 88 Special Effects Department

Kathy Freeman Songs: BANDCAMP

More about Kathy Freeman at KATHY-FREEMAN.DE

Shot to Dust with the help of a synth and a blue dress

For more information on Kathy Freeman go to the Website or Bandcamp

My video  Shot to Dust is safely up on You-tube with no hitches or glitches….and I can finally see it from the other side of the lens. I’m still taken aback by the process that got it to this point. I use the word “process” lightly, as a couple of lucky chance events propelled it into life.

The song was initially a half-hearted revamp of something I’d drafted in the nineties. Then I stumbled upon Setting 189 a.k.a Northern Winds on my partner’s ancient Kurzweil  synth and everything changed. My original concept of a quick afternoon shoot at Ceven‘s home studio to create a video I might release some time-maybe-whenever was out of the window…..we had a storm to create. As luck would have it we had access to the perfect location (as described in my last blog)

You can see and hear the Northern Winds on the video right now!

Northern Winds

Northern Winds

My other lucky stroke was finding the dress I wore throughout. A week before the shoot the song was screaming for something dramatic.  Designer labels were way beyond  budget. A thorough search of Neukoelln‘s finest Turkish wedding shops revealed nothing suitable (and would still have left me at least 300 euros out of pocket.) Dispirited, I was about to take the train home, empty handed. But something prompted me to have one last shot….I backtracked to an unprepossessing row of shops I’d not previously bothered with, and entered a generic looking unit crammed with an unnappetising mix of babyclothes, tracksuits and tacky lingerie. Hanging  randomly alone and unloved right at the back, still in a polythene wrap was MY dress….I just knew it had been waiting for me.  By now it was closing time and after the brief formality of trying it on, I took ownership – even getting a 3 euro discount as they didn’t have a card reader and I was short of the unbelievably modest asking price.

My Blue Dress. (The rosette had to go)

My Blue Dress at home (The rosette had to go)

indoor coloured

My Blue Dress on location

ranting at the elements

My Blue Dress on location (2)

Such is the impact of fairly random events on my life……

Shot to Dust

It happens that Steven Spielberg is in town working on his next big production. I don’t suppose the catering facilities look much like these:

Time for Tea

Time for Tea

But the humble nearby China-Bistro, a kettle that took ten minutes to boil, and an ancient woodburning grill were more than adequate for fuelling myself and my tiny loyal crew as we shot my next big production in a derelict former coalminer’s house circa four hours, two buses and three train-rides from the comfort of Berlin.

The plan: Overnighting meant an early start for filming  my next music video. One shoot in a desolate downstairs room.

Between Takes

Between Takes

The second under a towering glowering autumnal skyscape. Only it was the clearest, sunniest day for that time of year since records began….No matter, we found a place where the sun don’t shine

Swamp

Down by the Swamp

More on the whole adventure in my next blog – watch this space and don’t fall in any swamps…..

 Shot to Dust  refers to the song title in the upcoming video. For regular updates on me and my musical adventures join the mailing list.

P.S…..

I don't suppose Mr Spielberg's makeup people are busy tipping old makeup bags upside down in the hope of finding THAT postbox red lippy to save spending 4 Euros in Rossmann's on a new one

The makeup here took some organising! (Are Mr Spielberg’s makeup people busy tipping old makeup bags upside down in the vain hope of finding THAT postbox-red lippy?)

Don't Get Too Comfortable

Don’t Get Too Comfortable   The closest thing to a worksurface that came to hand.  But we weren’t fazed. Don’t ask me what the knife was for.