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

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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

My Black Box

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The mid nineties. My former band Joyryde had a high-profile, well-paid, socialist festival gig coming up – supporting Tom Robinson and various other worthy acts on Clapham Common in London (being fronted by  women, Joyryde occasionally netted politically correct shows by default)

Joyryde Mayday 1996 - Between Songs

Joyryde Mayday 1996 – Between Songs

We’d recently taken on a singer, recruited via Melody Maker classified ads. Can’t say I was happy about that, but it did relieve me of vocal duties and let me focus 100% on my guitar while she did her leaping-about front-woman thing, shaking her dodgy perm as she went. However Madam not only chose to quit two days before our big show, but also  had her muso boyfriend ring up the organisers saying he’d “heard we had no singer – could his band step in?”  NO WAY!

I had 48 hours to relearn playing-and-singing-at-the-same-time on 15 songs. We  hadn’t rehearsed for over a month and my head was totally in the wrong place. I HATED that woman so-o-o-o  much. I tugged my black box of effects pedals and cables out from under the stairs, and opened it, releasing the beer, tobacco, and who-knows-what-else odours of the last show. Then came another, less-expected stink… a momentary but massive whiff of all the painful experiences, all the rejection letters, all the unreturned calls, all the humping-someone-else’s-gear-upstairs at five am, all that shitty underside of “being in a band”

My box, my box, my precious box – tell me what I did – Why my hands are soaked in blood each time I lift the lid

A defining moment in my love-hate relationship with rock’n’roll, and if nothing else came out of it, I got the germ of “Black Box” which I eventually recorded with Kathy X   Anyway I didn’t close the stinky old box. We went on to do a killer show and I was on a high for days.

You’re everything I wanted, everything I know – Wish I’d never seen you but I’ll never let you go

2014  The “black box” – though now containing substantially fewer pedals –  has somehow outlasted all the people who tried to come between us

Cheers! More about Jack Daniels…

” I like Jack Daniels and I ride fast cars…”

Fast Cars and Jack Danielsthe story behind the song….

Sounds  clichéd , but  the inspiration really did come to me in a dream.

A girl was playing a video game in a dark sleazy bar. With typical dream logic, the other drinkers were simultaneously the characters in the game.  They were NOT nice people.  She knew she’d lose. She was destined to play victim. The game was pre-programmed. She was mourning her future before she’d even got there.

 “And I  will pay, pay, pay for the punishment that is to come”

Woke up with a feeling of desolation and the song followed within a few days. The dream’s message ? Throughout a one-track pursuit of all things exciting, shiny and dangerous, deep down I knew it would all go pearshaped and that none of the fun came without a price tag…..

 “Don’t know where, and I don’t know when…but I know just how this story’s gonna end….

Fast Cars and Jack Daniels performed by Kathy X at the Schokoladen Berlin